Kevin May breaks the mold – Episode 11

Have a peak into the time I spent in Seattle working at a very different little consultancy called Sticks with Kevin May. I love how he has collected smart people with a breadth of expertise and pulls together small salons of 4 or 5 to push a problem forward in a couple of hours. I had the chance to participate in 5 or 6 and we got to new questions and ideas far faster than we ever would have staring at our screens for days. Plus it was a real pleasure to work this way.

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Meet Brian Millar of Sense Worldwide – Episode 10

Had a coffee and a chat with Brian about some of the things I have learned at Sense Worldwide. This is a company that is getting beyond every solution being a nail. They work in brand strategy, communications, product innovation with intriguing methods to get at new solutions. You should all aspire to work here when you grow up.

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The Planner Survey is Live

Hello Planners,

The Planner Survey is happening this year and it’s happening now. Everything you need to know is in the survey so click away:

Please help spread the word on twitter, facebook and blogs.

You can follow me at @hklefevre for updates.

As always, thank you for playing,

Heather and the Survey Team

If you have come across the survey here and did not receive an email then you are not on my list. To be added to the list and receive the results directly, make sure to add your info here:


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The Edinburgh Experience

My two weeks in Scotland were fantastic for a number of reasons. First off, Phil Adams and his family were lovely to me. We had so much fun I am still waiting for my application to join their family permanently to be approved.

Phil has four daughters.

And a wife.

Add me and we’re talking serious estrogen overload.

But somehow the dynamics worked gracefully.

The work week is a hectic proposition at their house. And I witnessed “back to school” in the last few days I was there. Phil’s commute is right at an hour door to door from his landed gentry estate surrounded by horse paddocks without a neighbor in sight. There’s a drive to the train station, a train ride into Edinburgh, and then a walk up a nice hill past the taunting sausage roll shop before you find yourself at Blonde.

Here’s the trip home in the car.

Phil already wrote a thoughtful post about the way we worked together. This was an evolution from the other places I’ve worked so far where I’ve mostly been given tasks or asked to attend meetings and share in group discussions. We actually worked together. We sat and did the stuff you would normally do by yourself, together. And it worked really well.

I learned loads from Phil. He’s a really good planner. Not least because he approaches life with openness and a willingness to learn that is inspiring. He’s a humble guy, but get him talking and you’ll hear about a donkey that got hit by a car and did a cartwheel while he was traveling across Asia doing the Mongol Rally. And it’s not just cool pub stories. Phil is full of useful ways to approach work. I gathered a few choice tips and tricks as well as some longer stories about the work he’s done that I learned a lot from.

To give you an idea, here’s one thing I learned. Phil has a workshop technique that he calls “The Totally Tough Tone of Voice Challenge.” I’m pretty sure you have to announce it in a “Let’s get ready to rumble!” voice.

The technique is for those meetings when you’re debating the brand personality words. The idea is that you cannot suggest a word where the opposite is not a viable choice for some brand as well. For example, we always hear marketing folks say their brand is authentic. In this exercise, this word would be eliminated because no brand would be purposefully inauthentic. I thought this would be a helpful tool.

I’ve been to 5 places already. It’s really hard for me to believe. I have another 5 people I’ll be working with in the coming months. And I’m still looking for volunteers in India, Australia and Argentina for sometime early next year. For now, I’ve got my head in my laptop. First item on the to do list is launch the planner survey, so expect to see that in the coming days.

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Rob Campbell Reflects – Episode 7

Many of you know Rob Campbell from his blog and the often time audacious opinions he bandies about. Or the zealousness that accompanies the commentary there.

I hope this will give you a small peak into what one of the best planners in the world is really like. The thumbnail says a lot all on its own. Thank you Rob and W+K Shanghai for having me over.


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On a man hunt – Episode 6

When I heard about the Marriage Market in Shanghai, I decided I wanted to participate. Parents put out ads for their children or browse the ads for a good match for their child. Luckily, Erika Brenner was up for helping me. She’s a junior planner who moved to Shanghai from Brazil and has spent the last two years studying Chinese. She’s now fluent and was brilliant as my surrogate parent.

Here was my ad, number one priority was for someone taller than me (I’m six feet tall/182 cm if you didn’t know.)

While we were there, we met a lovely Chinese-American English professor, Dr. Jiang, who was browsing the options for his son who lives in LA. He showed me an album full of pictures but sadly, his son was much shorter than me. Too bad! Dr. Jiang will make an excellent father-in-law.


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Uncovering Human Kindness

My last day in Beijing there were severe thunderstorms that began in the afternoon. I managed to get a taxi over to rOobin’s apartment and he, his girlfriend Katrin and I spent the evening having great conversation and trying to get his very cute two year old son to go to sleep.

At 11 I was ready to get going. I was staying in an apartment near DMG on this leg. So rOobin and I go to the lobby of his building and ask for a taxi. We take a seat and start t0 chat. The rain has finally slowed after about 9 hours but no taxis are turning up. We sort of lose track of time and an hour passed. We decide perhaps we should walk to a busier intersection to have better luck. Another hour passes. Beijing taxis have clearly given up and gone home and when you read the articles after the fact, that was a wise move.

But what’s a girl to do when her train is leaving town in 9 hours? Walking isn’t a viable option unless rOobin goes with me and then walks himself home – which would likely take 2 hours. His scooter isn’t an option either as the roads could be too deeply flooded. As the pickle I’m in begins to set in, a chinese family of six in a Honda minivan pulls over and offers me a ride. A 24 year old girl is a student at USC and speaks english. I manage to get home via the kindness of strangers and witness that the plausible but improbable sometimes does just go ahead and happen.

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