Speaking at Blooloop Live

This was a little talk that my good friend Simon Egan and myself delivered at Blooloop Live – the best Industry event for themed attractions across the world. Whilst there is a bit of messing about in it, there’s lots of sensible points hidden in there too.

Fantabulous 3 for 2 offer at BeWILDerwood – October half term – BeWILDerwood voucher

It’s unusual to see an offer like this from BeWILDerwood, but it’s a good one with a 3 for 2 during the NORFOLK October half-term. Just download it and then bring it with you to get in cheaper. Just out of interest, it’s normally quieter on Saturdays as that’s the day that people are travelling to and from Norfolk.

Johnny Lyle - BeWILDerwood 3 for 2 October half term 2013

The beginning of the end for Apple

iPhone 5 is almost here, but does anyone really, really care?
iPhone 5 is almost here, but does anyone really, really care?

I was asked by my good friend Simon Egan today to comment on what I thought about this article on the BBC about Apple, which basically says they are no longer innovative and have become merely followers. And, despite being an Apple user for well over 20 years (before it was this widespread) I have to say, I agreed with it.

In fact, I completely agree. Apple is no longer special or surprising. It’s too ubiquitous to be different or sought after.

iPhone five with its new dock will annoy masses of people as it will render all their own kit worthless. I have a beautiful Valve based Amplifier that was totally designed around that very connecter. Admittedly I use it with my old style disk based chunky iPod and not my iPhone, but it means the end is nigh.

My sixteen year old daughter broke her iPhone (by dropping it down the toilet) and moaned for a few days but it’s all gone quiet. She is now using my old Nokia and has just stopped complaining because it’s a better phone and you can still text. The rest is a waste of time done better by other devices. I experimented a few years back and lived without my iPhone for three months. I enjoyed it and may well go back there.

Unless apple do something truly radical it will begin to fail. The new Televsion they are due to launch will give them a big positive blip but I can’t see them being able to do much after that. Most of our tech is covered and unless they invent a new category like they did with the original iPod, they may well be left high and dry.

They could obviously extend into Domestic appliances? But for me, that really will be the end. Look at Bugatti, Dualit and the other once great brands that have gone into pastiche brand extensions. That’s where apple will arrive soon enough unless they go back to where they should be and innovate.

The future of British education

Sir Ken Robinson - Educational super hero
Sir Ken Robinson - Educational super hero

I’ve had a pretty eye opening week with the education system and I have to say, that I am massively encouraged by what I have been seeing.

It started with the fabulous book ‘The Element’ by my hero Ken Robinson, lent to me by my mate Leanna the very clever General Manager and ex teacher from BeWILDerwood.

I’ve written about Sir Ken before and loved his TED Lectures., so I guess I was on the look out for particularly creative elements in education.

As I said previously, my kids are both at Rushcliffe School in Nottingham, which is a good state school that prides itself on its results, but also uses the theory that every child should be allowed to shine in any subject. What I love about this is that it means there is life beyond maths, english and a few science subjects. Teaching young people to pass exams, does not enable them to enter the world of work.

I was there this week for some presentations and not only saw some amazing musical performances by the pupils, but a headteacher Phil Crompton, stand up and openly say he disagrees with the idea of an English baccalaureate as it will restrict young people from being able to excel in drama, music and other areas that encourage their creativity.

At last. Ken Robinson’s thinking is getting through. Thank you Mr Crompton and your team, my children are in good hands.

And then on Thursday, I went for lunch at Antenna in Nottingham with the brilliant Craig Chettle. I just love the place. It’s a hive of creativity and is giving young people the chance to learn how to produce, manage and make music and TV. It is like a gigantic sweet shop for a geek like me with technology and creatives all jammed into such a inspiring space.

Antenna is part of the Confetti Media Group that Craig runs and has TV production, music studios and a really powerful educational element to it that I would love my kids to think could be part of their future. It just doesn’t feel like an exam based place, but feels like kids will naturally shine if they have it in them to take the opportunity.

They are both places that Nottingham should be incredibly proud of. Maybe some other cities should come to us and have a look.

Reading back over this post, it sounds like a press release sponsored by Ken Robinson, Rushcliffe and Antenna, but it’s not. It’s genuinely not.

I had a pretty seriously low opinion of the way education was going and between these three events, my opinion has changed.

I was lucky enough to be at a lunch the other day too, where some senior Labour politicians came and listened to our opinions of what we thought they should do in order to get things back on track. Unsurprisingly, I said that I thought they had to invest in education and educational infrastructure. It would be money well spent and help build the future of the country by allowing more creative and open minded people to enter work and not be afraid of making mistakes on the way.

Maybe, just maybe, this is starting to happen.

Some predictions for 2011 (and beyond)

Okay, I know it’s early for 2011 predictions, but after a good holiday, my thoughts were turning to what will happen when I get back to work.

So this is what I predict will change – or start to change – for 2011.

1. We will get bored of electronics
when we were on holiday recently, I was looking at six kids on a sofa with two iPads, six iPods and the TV on in the background with MTV blaring. This was in a house where the garden literally opened up onto the beach. As old men chatting, we asked ‘Are they really having more fun than we did as kids?’

And the answer is no.

Parents have to let children have a bit of slack again, take some risks and make their own mistakes. Electronics are not a substitute for play, they are a substitute for imagination and our children will be far duller because of it.

When they did go onto the beach, they were entertained for hours, with digging, building, wave jumping, skim boarding and even skimming stones. I don’t want to sound like a real old fart, but I honestly believe that it’s changing. We have enough electronic stuff.

2. Time is everything
We have so many different ways to take in our news now, be it iPad, phone, RSS, texts, or heaven forbid, newspapers. How do we choose? Mostly we seem to dip in and out of all of them, so delivery of great content across every platform will become vital.

But deciding when to take this in will also grow. Rather than just grazing and developing such a low boredom threshold that we never actually take any of it in, will stop, so I predict that long copy (if it’s relevant, engaging and well enough written) will make a comeback.

Twitter is fine, but it’s all a bit Chinese meal. You are left wanting more, without ever getting full. I’m a little bored of it myself and am tweeting far less than ever before.

So I’m going to be more defined about what I do and when.

3. Drinking will decline
Our generation of 40 somethings have become very lazy drinkers with a glass of wine or two with every evening meal and then a thrash at the gym to try and work it off.

The Telegraph and others reported this week that there has been the sharpest drop off in drinking since 1948 – and again, I’m not surprised.

The drinks we are now consuming have gone the same way as our food. Full of additives and designed to a price point. If they can’t make it naturally, then they make it un-naturally. Find me a wine without a Sulphite in it these days and you are way above the everyday drinking range. Is that good for us? I doubt it. Are we getting more aware of what we eat? Without doubt.

4. Gyms are a waste of money and we’ll finally see them close (or change hands)
The gym market is busted. People who join gyms, don’t lose weight. They may shift it about a bit, but it very rarely drops off completely. So what’s the point?

It’s much nicer going for a walk or a ride along the river on your bike, than sweating it out with beautiful people anyway, so why pay for the privilege?

There are two gyms near me that are breaking new price points. One at £10 per month, literally across the road from Purple Circle’s studio and the other, that I go to is down at The beautiful National Watersports Centre in Nottingham and is only £15 per month. Great if you want to hammer the rowing machine looking over a lovely lake, but crap if you want to be seen by beautiful people.

5. Lifetime warranties mean better products
Kia started it with Cars, Vauxhall have half-heartedly followed suit with a lifetime warranty that’s chock full of caveats (not if you sell it, 100k miles, only if we service it, etc etc etc.).

But for me, this means that things will be built better again. It’s no use offering a long warranty if you’re going to have to keep repairing it every few months. The only way around it is to build things to last, like they used to do, you know in the old days.

I hired a Kia on holiday to see what it was like. It was actually fine. A bit like a domestic appliance, but as a cheap and cheerful vehicle, it was just that, fine.

6. Make do and mend
there is no doubt that we are not out of recession in the UK yet. The government’s announcement of where their cuts will fall that is due later this month or in October is keeping many on tenterhooks to see if they will be out on their ear and that will continue to curb spending.

In a way this is related to the point above about warranties but I think it is more so.

People are making more considered purchases. Either buying fewer better things that they have thoroughly researched on the Internet to find the best price, or zapped using the RedLaser App. If they can’t afford what they want, they are not buying cheaper alternatives, they are not buying. Full stop.

I can see this continuing right through 2011 and maybe lifting the gloom for Christmas 2011.

7. Happy brands win
If all is doom and gloom around us, then we still want to feel good, so those that offer a dose of happiness will succeed, as long as it’s not too short term in its gratification.

I’m not talking just about sweets and crisps, but about those that warm the soul too. They make you feel good about your purchase and allow you to reflect with a warm glow into the long term.

Innocent still fall into this category as do the likes of Covent Garden and BeWILDerwood, but I think it will be a long, long time before we start buying Bernard Mathews or anything with an England Football logo on it – despite their win last night over Switzerland.

So that’s it.

I’m sure there’s more. Feel free to have a think and add your own thoughts. I’d love this list to grow and grow.

BeWILDerwood – The last few days of the season

I was over at BeWILDerwood yesterday on the last Friday of half term and their last day where they were expecting a great crowd before they close for the season on Sunday.

There were 1600 people in and an amazing atmosphere. The night before BeWILDerwood had been awarded the title of the best large attraction in the East of England, beating Duxford Air Museum and Woburn Safari Park at the regional Enjoy England for Excellence Awards.

All of us on the broken bridge

Having spent time there when it was that busy. I’m not surprised. The children were having a great time, swinging and whooping in the woods and the Twiggle Team had put on free lantern making sessions for all, leading to a giant lantern parade through the woods as the light fell.

The crowds are on to make your own lantern

It was a magical procession, with well over 500 people parading happily through a totally unlit woods on their way home. They were lead by a giant lantern bat called Snagglefang.

DoodleTic leads the lantern procession with Snagglefang the Lantern Bat

It seems so simple to get children to play again and for their parents to play with them, yet many get it so wrong. BeWILDerwood proves it can be done beautifully and elegantly and without breaking the bank. Seven of us ate and drank at lunch for £32 and we ate well, with the biggest hot dog I have ever seen, made from a beautifully tasty award winning Norfolk sausage. It was as good as if you’d barbecued it yourself, having made the effort to get lovely ingredients first.

The slides were brilliant too and you can see from the face of young Charlie here, quite how much fun he’s having.

Charlie at speed on the Slippery Slope

I know I’m biased because we’ve been involved in BeWILDerwood from the outset, but to see the way that my kids played and our friends kids played and how they all slept on the way home, it was an absolutely brilliant day out for very many families. I love this place, my kids love this place and my friends all love this place and I’m not surprised it’s been recognised as the best in the east!

Bring on the new season.

And how cool does it look at night?

BeWILDerwood at night
BeWILDerwood at night

I was at the DBA Awards last night and…

We won a gold award for our work with BeWILDerwood. For a little agency like ours, this is amazing for it to be recognised by the very top people in our industry and beyond. The awards are given for the effectiveness of the work, rather than just how good it looks. It’s always been our target to get one or two, so for our first to be a gold is just fabulous.

But we had to win, because Simon Egan from BeWILDerwood had his awards suit on. It looks suspiciously like the one he wore here.

Simon and Mich in the cab - as you can see, Simon has his award suit on
Simon and Mich in the cab - as you can see, Simon has his award suit on

We met our good friends from Hemisphere who won a Silver award for their work with Manchester Central Convention Complex.

Our good friends from Hemisphere
Our good friends from Hemisphere

And then after all the celebrating was over, we went back to the hotel, where I noticed that Simon Egan talks with his hands more when he has had a few drinks. This is a snapshot of one such conversation.

Simon gesticulating - Part One
Simon gesticulating - Part One
Simon gesticulating - Part Two
Simon gesticulating - Part Two
Simon gesticulating - Part Three
Simon gesticulating - Part Three

As you can see, I have my pint and a whisky and ginger in front of me too. I’m not sure from the way I feel today that I should have had that last one.

What is branding?

The Far Tree at BeWILDerwood - A truly embedded brand
The Far Tree at BeWILDerwood – A truly embedded brand

Exceptional branding is about creating and controlling every single element of the customer experience. The way you put these elements together is the way you are. It is you. It is what, who and why you are. It is your brand.

Branding is a way of being, a way of thinking and your way.

Wolff Olins, the agency that are widely seen as the creators of modern branding describe it as creating the situation where you become ‘one of one’ and not one of many. You become unique in your own market.

Bill Schley in his book ‘Why Johnny Can’t brand’, takes this a little further. He says that to create a brand, this could, or maybe even should, be in a market you have invented yourself in order to allow you to differentiate yourself clearly. More of this in bit.

The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has a rather different and remarkably narrow view on what constitutes a brand. To us it appears out of date and well wide of the mark of where current thinking is based.

noun [U]
The act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services:
Example. ‘The successful branding and marketing of the new beer has already boosted sales and increased profits.’

I’m afraid I take a different view again. A brand to me is a way of being, not just a new style of advertising and packaging.

Its more than the way you act, it’s the way that you are.

The dictionary view may be that it links to the marketing of a product, for me, its intrinsically linked to the whole outlook of the organisation. It sets the entire agenda for how the marketing should begin to behave. It is most definitely NOT just the ‘prettying up’ of the advertising and packaging.

Virgin, Nike and Google, to name but three, are not just about clever marketing. They are about being built on a brilliant basis throughout every possible touchpoint.

They set an agenda for how their brand should be perceived and work incredibly hard to ensure that wherever anyone comes into contact with them, they will get the correct Virgin, Nike or Google experience. What makes it even more exceptional with these three is that they are not even that paranoid about the logo being consistently used.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for all of us?

BeWILDerwood the Movie – Part two

Some of you may have seen this before, but I had to remove it because it had the wrong music on it and I was in danger of breaching someone else’s copyright.

Have a look and see what you think.

If you want to take your kids there, it is officially the best Children’s adventure park in the world!

The Drum Marketing Awards Pictures


The very lovely Laura from Aura PR in Scotland presenter of the first award
The very lovely Laura from Aura PR in Scotland presenter of the first award


John Lyle with Drum Marketing Award Grand Prix for BeWILDerwood
John Lyle with Drum Marketing Award Grand Prix for BeWILDerwood




John Lyle with Richard Draycott Editor of the Drum and all round good man
John Lyle with Richard Draycott Editor of the Drum and all round good man
Angela Lawrence of Itero Marketing - Emerging marketeer of the year - Who was my fellow Whooper at the awards as neither of us knew many people there!
Angela Lawrence of Itero Marketing - Emerging marketeer of the year - Who was my fellow Whooper at the awards as neither of us knew many people there!
Keith Vernege of the COI Publications - Chairman of the judges and obviously a very wise man
Keith Vernege of the COI Publications - Chairman of the judges and obviously a very wise man

As promised, here are the pictures from the awards the other night.

Firstly I have to explain the unshaven look. Its a lucky beard. We had an amazing few weeks, winning new business and both my daughter and son winning major football matches. It couldn’t have been anything else but the lucky beard, so it had to stay for these awards.

And the reason I have no dress shirt on is not because I’m trying to be cool, its because I forgot my cufflinks and had to wear the scruffy linen shirt i’d had on all day!

Considering I went to the dinner on my own, not really knowing many people, I ended up chatting to loads of people and having a thoroughly good night out. I guess it’s always better when you win stuff.

When I was standing around in the bar, nursing a beer on my own, Angela Lawrence from Itero came over and just started gabbing away to me. We agreed that if either of us was lucky enough to win an award, we would whoop and holler for each other.

We both won!

for even more pics, have a look here