Think Different


Today I gave a talk on creativity and branding, as I so often do.

I arrived at the venue early, it was 6.15am. As usual in waiting situations, I picked up my iPhone and looked on Twitter. This is what I read:

“There have been three apples that have changed the world: the one that Eve ate, the one that fell on Newton’s head and the one that Steve Jobs created.”

I don’t know who originated that quote, but I had to open my talk with it as soon as more tweets confirmed the sad news. I had to change the direction and tone of my talk too as it sank in. The vision of a man who had died that morning, a man whom, I had never met, had, in fact changed the way I live and work by providing the tools that made my business possible and enjoyable.

Apple is now the most valuable business in the world. It has more cash in the bank than  the USA (around $76 billion). It was Steve Job’s vision and creativity that got it there.

Certainly there were and are thousands of brilliant people involved in invention, in design, in engineering, in production and in marketing that all contributed to that success. But the fact that we know who Steve Job is shows how important he was. It’s rare that an industry leader gains so much respect, both from within their company and their industry and from their customer base.

To the dissenters, dismissers and envious critics out there: you don’t get it do you? Millions upon millions of people gave their hard earned cash to a company that provided tools that they love to use. It really is that simple. Steve Jobs wanted to change technological tools and gadgets from things that got in the way of enjoyment, expression and lifestyle to things that enhanced them.

Not only was his vision of customer satisfaction unique, his marketing powers were second to none. But perhaps his greatest talent was as a showman and raconteur. If you ever saw the unveiling of a new Apple product by him, live on stage, you come close to seeing why so many admire him to the point of cult status.

Steve Jobs’ lifetime contribution to our civilisation matters. It has impacted you if you’ve ever used a computer post 1976. It matters if you’ve ever used a mobile phone post 2007. It matters if you’ve ever listened to music that didn’t come off a spinning disc or magnetic tape. Whether you own or have used Apple products is irrelevant, the technology industry has been transformed by their influence like no other. Just look at how many me-too iPhone like devices are on offer now. The iPhone raised the game. What mobile phones offered before was just no longer good enough.

Although they didn’t invent them, we have Apple to thank for computers that have graphics  on the screen to operate them instead of just text. Desktop publishing, graphic design, printing and music production have Apple to thank for the methods of their use in business. For many years, Apple equipment was the domain of ‘creatives’ because they provided tools that did the job without dictating a way of using them that interfered with your creativity. Now, the products are for all, making the complex easy, allowing more and more people to be creative in ways unimagined just a few years ago. And doing it all in such a cool way.

As readily as Apple incorporated new techniques and invention, they weren’t afraid of dropping them for something better. We call that innovation. Other companies were scared to do it and missed the boat. The first iMac in 1998 shocked the industry by daring not to have a floppy disc drive. The MacBookAir doesn’t have a CD drive. The iPad doesn’t need a mouse or stylus. Our children’s children will find the idea of a ‘mouse’ unusual and quaint thanks to Steve Jobs taking the concept of ‘multitouch’ and making it work, making it easy and making it intuitive.

Steve Jobs personified the idea of the modern creative genius in a way few others do. It’s not too outrageous to say, as some have, that he represents a modern Leonardo Da Vinci by the way he, like Leonardo, recognised that true and powerful creativity is about bringing many disciplines together and getting them to work together.

Will Apple survive and thrive without Jobs? I think the answer is ‘yes’ and the reason is, something that Steve Jobs said a few months ago when asked, what was his greatest product? Was it the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, the iPad or something else? He reply was that the greatest product was in fact Apple itself. I believe he was right.

If Steve Jobs was Apple then the innovation and creativity died with him. But because Apple is Steve Jobs, his vision lives on in the company and we can, as Steve said a few weeks ago, look forward to its greatest moments that are yet to come…

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” 

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

– Steve Jobs

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Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
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Change, and not a moment too soon: How I started my own business 10 years ago


My first business card, front and back. The grey part was actually metallic silver.

I started my own business on 12th September 2001. That’s right, one day after 11th September 2001. On that fateful day I was flying back from the Caribbean after a two week holiday and had just landed at Heathrow when the first plane struck the North Tower. The next day I went back to work to find the company I worked for had gone bust (unrelated to 9/11). It was a very strange, unnerving and memorable couple of days.

I was creative director of a multimedia firm. Don’t let that title throw you, I wasn’t on the board and I had no insight into the accounts or general finances of the company. My job was mainly to manage and do the jobs in the studio. I did know, however, that the value of the work coming in couldn’t possibly cover the salaries going out, which had been propped up with loans secured against the boss’s house.

The company had been set up ten years earlier to build bespoke PC systems that were used for multimedia presentations. Most of that market had disappeared due to the advancement of PCs and the availability of straightforward software like Powerpoint which virtually did the job for you. Why spend thousands on a bespoke system when you could pay hundreds for an off-the-shelf one that was probably better?

As creative director, I saw my role as attempting to guide this outmoded offering into the much richer vein of design-led graphics. The company could easily pick up branding, print design and of course web design as well as still doing high-end multimedia such as CD-ROMS which were still in demand. My team created a new identity and marketing campaign along with a brilliant website, mostly due to the talents of Michael Reading (now running http://www.hello-design.co.uk) that I was sure could have attracted press attention, if not awards, had it been properly launched.

But the boss had put the brakes on. He just wasn’t comfortable with ‘creativity’ and ‘design’. He wasn’t comfortable with newer technology, especially things like the new Apple iBook that Michael has just bought and amazed us all by editing video on it. It was able to do exactly the same job that the bosses hot-wired custom-built three tonne editing suite could do, except that it was a lot faster and didn’t take up half the office. The boss would really rather be fiddling with PCs with their cases off and discussing servers over a pint of ale at lunchtime than creating better and more profitable ways of doing things. He was a great guy, but in the wrong role.

While I was on holiday I had come up with more marketing ideas and the concept of a ‘sub-brand’ that could be used to sell the new design portfolio without appearing to impact on the more traditional technical image the boss wanted to cling onto. I did a lot of thinking about creativity and how it can be used to solve our potential clients marketing and branding challenges and came up with ideas for names such as ‘Ideas Workshop’ and ‘Ding!’ (which I later put to good use).

So, although shocking, it wasn’t exactly a complete surprise that the company was no longer in business when I got back.

The next day I started my own company and began to put all the ideas I’d come up with into practice, except this time, for myself.

Many people have started their own business in this way: because they had to. Sometimes you need a kick in the teeth to actually take action and get on with things.

So why did that multimedia company fail? To an outsider it could have appeared to have everything going for it. All the ingredients were there (Except for clients of course.)

Inflexibility, stubbornness and fear of change were characteristics of the boss. He yearned for the good old days of 1990 when it was just him and his mate building custom PCs. He saw the market was moving, but couldn’t or didn’t want to follow it.

With all it’s imperfections, that business helped give birth to mine. To start with all I did was the exact opposite of what it did and hit the ground running with the rejected ideas I’d come up with that my gut instinct felt would work, and it did.

But all the time I was aware that it’s oh so easy to fall into the same trap that my old boss found himself in. He loved doing part of his business. But it became the part that no-one needed anymore. His business had become a comfortable slipper to wear, but the terrain outside had transformed into a rough and dangerous landscape.

Over the last decade, I’ve tried to keep my business flexible and in many ways it’s completely different to what I started doing on that day in 12th September 2001. My old boss has found his feet too, finding a role within a technology business where he can at last do what he does best.

So here’s to the next 10 years. Who knows what we’ll all be doing then!

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

How to Be Unique


I gave a talk at the Global Speakers Summit in Noordwijk in the Netherlands in April entitled, ‘Unique’. It was essentially about finding out who you are by looking at what you’ve always done. Below is 12 minute edited version. I discussed my realisation that what I do now with my work is exactly what I was doing when I was last given the choice, when I was aged 7 to 15. To find out what and how, you’ll have to watch the film.

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

Blow your own trumpet


Ayd Instone trumpet

My new trumpet

I followed someone recently on Twitter whose description included ‘award winning…”. Subconsciously I was impressed. I didn’t know the nature of the award, it could have been anything. I could have been irrelevant. They could have made it up. And yet in that split second my opinion of this unknown quantity was different had that phrase not been there. I even thought, just for a nano second, ‘I wish I was award winning’ before realising a moment later that I am.

But I never told anyone.

 

Ayd Instone Sunmakers Awards Business Wealth Club PSA creative marketing

My Awards

I work on marketing and branding for all sorts of companies and individuals including some global campaigns, to spread their message and expertise far and wide and yet when it comes to my own marketing I leave out some of the most important features. With so many of my clients I discover some secret fact, some achievement or accolade that they themselves have forgotten about, don’t value anymore or are too modest to shout about.

Here’s the secret to successful marketing; you have to blow your own trumpet. No-one else is going to blow it for you.

So pictured below are some of my recent awards. Two of them are actually for marketing, from The Business Wealth Club.

Ayd Instone Business Wealth Club Sunmakers Marketeer of the Year Award 2010 creative marketing

WOW Marketeer of the Year 2010

The picture at the top is my own trumpet. Every year I learn a new musical instrument and for my birthday I received this wonderful instrument. Nothing’s going to happen if I leave it in its box, it won’t make a sound. No-one will notice it there. It needs to be taken out and it needs to be blown.

And you need to do the same…

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

What I did when I was 7 – it’s what I do now



The Adventures of Boba Fett Star Wars

The Adventures of Boba Fett comic book

It’s obvious to me now. Obvious that in the work you do you should build into it what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. Today I spend my days creating brands and books for experts, giving talks on creativity and branding as well as writing and performing my songs.

But it wasn’t always that way. Or was it? Actually it was. It just took me a long time to realise it.

If you look on my website you’ll see a few of the books I’ve written for sale. But they weren’t my first books. Not by a long way. My first was called ‘Daleks in Vain’ written in 1978 when I was 7. It was bound like a book and had a cover which my teacher showed me how to laminate. I produced my own monthly magazines and created countless comic strips (about Doctor Who or Star Wars, the most extensive saga being the Adventures of Boba Fett). They too were produced as actual books with quizzes, facts, subscription information and dates and prices. I was doing back then what I do now.

English exercise book

My English exercise book with 12/10

I loved writing stories, whether I was tasked by a teacher to write them or not. Two of my English exercise book stories when I was in class 1M were given “12/10 Excellent!” By the teacher. This means just one of two things: either I was a literary genius, or my English teacher wasn’t very good at maths.

By age 12 I’d devoured The Lord of the Rings and was writing my own fantasy stories. Some took the form of those Fighting Fantasy ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books (“do you want to use the potion, turn to page 44” etc). Again, they were produced as complete illustrated books. My industrious work prompted the teacher to write a letter to my parents. It said, “We need to stamp out this indulgence of his with fantasy”.

How many of us have had a (sometimes a well meaning) slight or damning report on our creativity? How many of us have had our creativity and excitement snuffed out, our passion extinguished? I had no further support with my writing and drawing. It was slowly put to one side, deemed by everyone to be an unimportant diversion and a distraction from proper things like Chemistry, Physics and Maths. (Even though I was best at Technical Drawing and Art).

For good or ill I pursued an education in science and by some miracle got a degree in physics and physical science. But just as the degree came to an end, something happened that would change everything as I unwittingly made a decision that would bring my expertise full circle.

I ran for office for the Students’ Union to run the student magazine. Then, it was an 8 page newsletter that 8 people wrote and just about 8 people read. I turned it into a 48 page magazine that had the highest number of student contributors to a student journal before or since. We had 60 student contributing to it in some way each month. I was an editor, a designer, a writer and a performer (I hosted shows, did stand up comedy and performed my songs at events). But the job was about something else. It was really a question of motivation (and I suppose, leadership). I managed to inspire people who would never have got involved in such things to come to my office. “What are you good at?” I’d ask them. “What do you like doing?” One fellow replied that he liked writing poetry. “Great” I said, “You’re the poetry editor” (He went onto become a good friend, my deputy and later on, took the editorship himself.)

TLE the last edition Oasis Definately Maybe Oxford Brookes Students' Union magazine

TLE issue 305, October 1994

A girl came to the office. She said she was interested in bands and music. I knocked up a badge with the magazine logo on it (TLE – The Last Edition) and told her to take it to the Venue and they’ll let her in to review the bands. Take it to the record shops and they’ll give her singles to review. She came back a week later to report that it had worked. She’d done an interview with one of the bands and got some photos. It looked great, although I’d never heard of the band. She said they were going to be huge so we put them on the front cover. The band was Oasis and we had published an exclusive just before they hit the big time.

With that job, which lasted two years, I’d created an Eden, the perfect job where I was using all my skills. When it ended and I had to get a real job, it was a real jolt to the system that I was put in a corner and told to use such a small part of my skills and experience. I counted the days (which amounted to six years) until I had enough nerve to set up on my own and recreate that Eden again.

So here I am, doing the same things I was doing when I was 7. Sometimes we think our dreams are somehow ‘out there’ and distant from us. I’ve realised that mine we here all the time. It just took me such a long time to realise that my hopes, dreams and passions were with me all along.

Are you victim to the voices of decent that have manipulated you into thinking what you should be doing, not what you could be doing? has your creativity been dulled and dumbed down, your passions diverted? Or are you building into your working day who and what you are, what you’re good at, what you enjoy? I hope so.

Drop me a comment with your experience of self re-discovery.

Read more on www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

Don’t be modest or ashamed – always vote for your own brand


Ayd Instone and Joel Roberts

Ayd Instone and Joel Roberts

I was an attendee (and sponsor) of The Business Wealth Club networking group Open Day in Oxford last week. 150 business owners had gathered to see Joel Roberts, one of America’s top media coaches, give a talk about how to sell and present yourself to an audience.

To start the event and to have something to discuss over breakfast, our host Dave Griffin said we should all get out business cards out and vote on our tables for the best one. These will then be passed to the front and Joel will choose his favourite from those 15.

Business cards were distributed to everyone on our table and we held up our favourite. I help up my own. All but one other of the ten people held up mine too. One lady said, “but you’ve voted for your own?”. “Of course” I said. “I’m voting for the best one.” She then put mine down and held up her own. I still won of course by 8 votes to 2.

What would you do in a similar situation? Assuming there’s not an amazingly good card around like mine, would you hold up your own? If not, why not?

Are you too modest to vote for your own brand? If you feel unable to push forward your own marketing materials without feeling a bit immodest you clearly haven’t externalised your business brand: we need to talk.

Are you too ashamed to hold up your cheap, flimsy embarrassing cards that you’ve invested not time and effort in or that still has the old logo on, or are those free ones with the generic stock image every plumber uses? If so we REALLY need to talk.

You wouldn’t go out to a business meeting to see potential clients in a big bag, or still dressed in your pyjamas so why send your business’s brand out there dressed as a buffoon?

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

The Spirit of PSA


Here is the video with the title sequence and brand I created for the Professional Speakers Association Conference this year (1st-3rd October 2010). Yes, that’s my band playing the music.

For those that were there and saw this as it opened the convention – there are a few treats added in the middle.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

Why your business needs to enter the Total Perspective Vortex


Zaphod Beeblebrox

Zaphod Beeblebrox

Here’s one of the secret processes that you (and your business) needs to go through if your expertise branding and your marketing plan is to be a success.

You need to face the Total Perspective Vortex. According to The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (by Douglas Adams) it is the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected:

“When you are put into the Vortex, you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, “You are here”.”

It was said to be invented by Trin Tagula in order to annoy his wife because she was forever nagging him for having no sense of proportion. So he decided to show her what having a sense of proportion really meant. Unfortunately the shock of being placed in the Vortex destroyed her brain, but Tagula’s grief was tempered by the knowledge that he had been right and she had been wrong.

It is only by contemplating how utterly insignificant and redundant our worthless and meaningless skills, products, services, expertise and lives appear when compared to the whole of creation that we can (if we survive the shock) begin to create a plan to stand out, emphasis our worth, promote our expertise and offer meaning to a certain section of creation.

It reminds us that we can’t afford to be all things to all beings. We can’t reach out and market to the whole of existence.

It also reminds us that we often think we are more popular and powerfully influential than we actually are. This is why marketing campaigns fail and businesses go out of business. This is why no-one turns up to our events and no-one buys our products.

We haven’t put it all into perspective. We’ve set off with an erroneous view that what we’re doing is good enough when it usually isn’t.

After a glimpse of the Total Perspective Vortex (don’t stay there too long) we’re empowered to to do better. It forces us to search for ways that make us unique and important to others. We can then begin to package what we do to perhaps just a tiny portion of our galaxy and not bother wasting time on those people from Andromeda who don’t appreciate what we do anyway. It tells us to concentrate on what we do best and leave the rest.

In the mind-blowing infinity of the universe, being just a regular kind of guy, an average Ford, may help you to hitch a ride on Vogon Constructor ships, sneak onto mythical planet building worlds and get you a free lunch at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. But it won’t make you President of the Galaxy or help you sell your products and services.

To survive and thrive in business you need to stand out. You can either get yourself an extra head and a spare arm. Or you can focus on what’s already unique about you and let people know about it.

Answer these questions:

What can you (or your business) do that few others can – what are you really good at?

What do you know that few others know?

What are you really passionate about (and don’t say ‘serving our customers’ or some other tosh. What would you still do if you didn’t get paid for it? In fact, what would you still do even if you had to pay to do it? That’s where the passion is: what would you die for, what do you live for?)

And finally, what was the turning point that made you able to be you? What was the event that changed your destiny? Your uniqueness will be wrapped up within that story.

By answering those questions you will have survived the Total Perspective Vortex by actually defining your place in creation.

Don’t Panic.

And if you liked this article, please Share and Enjoy.

See more stuff on my website here.

(Note: Only Zaphod Beeblebrox is reported to have survived total immersion in the Vortex as he incorrectly assumed that the sign ‘You are here’ pointed to the fact that he was the most important being in the universe.)

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

My New Website: Part 5 – My crazy design idea


From the starting point of wanting my website to look like a magazine, I thought about how I could take that idea further. I wanted to come across as unique so what approach would be unique? What if I made it look like a comic rather than a magazine? What if I found a way of breaking down the ‘grid’ structure that every website uses? The comic strips I love the most are by illustrators like Dave Gibbons (Marvel), Frank Bellamy (Dan Dare) and Chris Achilleos (Target Books). But the one that struck me most for inspiration was the work of Ron Turner in the 1960s TV21 comic. The way he broke up the panels to make them non-linear was the perfect visual metaphor for my message, to be reflected on my website.

I plotted out the essential content and started to work out the shapes that I’d use to display the various clickable areas that would visually show the visitor what the website was about.

You can see the sketches below.

The next phase was to get new photography. I wanted photos of me (after all, it’s me the website is selling) but since there was to be so many panels, the photos had to look interesting and dynamic, almost like shots from panels of a photo strip. Working with Haddon Davies at his studio, we came up with a large variety of shots that could be matched up with the uses I had in mind. What I didn’t want is a generic portrait shot, that would have been no use to me. We shot the images on white and black backgrounds to make it easier for me to cut the images out and apply them to a variety of backgrounds. We were also keen to avoid clichés where possible and yet get the balance right between interest, irreverence and professionalism. Everything about my brand needs to capture my uniqueness, and that obviously has to include the photography.

See what you make of the result: www.aydinstone.com


www.sunmakers.co.uk

My New Website: Part 4 – The big questions


Let’s go back to the questions I posed in a previous article with my own answers:

1. What is the point of the website?

To attract visitors looking to book a unique and dynamic speaker on creativity and branding.

To convince those people who have met me or been referred to me that I have what they’re looking for and have the credibility to back it up.

To scream the essence of my brand: creative, exciting, dynamic, fun, different.

2. What do I want people to do when they are there?

To easily click through to the section relevant to them so they find the detail they need easily.

To watch my videos.

To sign up to my mailing list.

To contact me to book me for an event

To buy a product.

Any design I came up with had to fulfill those aims. The first question is stylistic, the second functional. (Interesting that the first is ‘right brain’ and the second ‘left brain’).

So now to the actual design…

Click here to see what I did next.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk