Come to the Edge

Saturday, 7 April 2007 - Wellington, New Zealand

World's Edge Kevin Roberts

Presentation Summary

A speech to the U.S. Women Presidents’ Organization annual conference in Phoenix, offering eight ways to attract consumers in the coming decade. The WPO is a national forum for accomplished women presidents to drive their businesses to the next level.

Thanks to the Wellington City Council for inviting me. You’ve asked me to share some ideas about Wellington and its future in the world.

As someone who lives in Auckland and New York, this is a very interesting question, however I’m sure you too will be pleased to hear that currently in London, the last “A” in JAFA refers to “Australian”.

16 years ago Saatchi & Saatchi put the ‘Absolutely Positively’ in Wellington.

This morning is about the next level of positivity – radical optimism.

I’m going to focus on taking Wellington out into the world.

There are 428 metro areas on the planet with more than a million inhabitants. I get to about 10% of them a year.

They are all your competitors, and all of them your market, for talent, capital, products, services, content and experiences.

The city is the organizing idea of the 21st century.

Half the world now lives in cities. Countries are being sidelined by the mega-trend of urbanization.

Cities are dispensing with countries. China is now Shanghai’s hinterland – since 1992 foreigners have invested over $100 billion in that city.

I live in New York, not America. Most cities are a noun but New York is a verb. We interact and compete with London, Paris and Tokyo. New York’s GDP equals that of Canada, a G7 country.

But big is not necessarily best. Jet propulsion is less about size and more about seduction.

And there are multiple ways to become desirable.

Look at Dubai – where nothing succeeds like excess.

Singapore – where a disciplined approach brings global results for a tiny island nation.

Bilbao – which was a port town until Frank Gehry.

Seattle – a brew of Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon and Kurt Cobain.

How does Wellington become a player in this game?

It starts with language…all revolution starts with language.

Wellington is The Heart of the Edge of the World.

That’s a hell of a draw card.

… here where the world starts.

… in this jewel of a southern harbor.

ABOVE: Wellington City

There is no doubt, in this battle against being lost in global consciousness, that Wellington has superb people, attractions and assets.

World-leading industries in film and technology. Museums. Festivals. What happens in the Stadium is a sure sign of a happy city. A healthy heart.

It’s no wonder that Wellington tops “contentedness” surveys for lifestyle.

Yet it is precisely this civic satisfaction that is at the root of the challenge.

Where is the burning platform?

I know it exists, but it’s very quiet.

Contentedness is a problem for a capital city.

Wellington has changed the world in its history.

What about now?

Are your world-changing goals big enough?

How does Wellington help make the world a better place?

This is what you must articulate. Global and local relevance.

For our client Lexus, it’s all about the “relentless pursuit of perfection”.

When you’re #1, there is no “best” only “better”.

Self-satisfaction is an emotion not allowed in the door.

For Wellington, the first pursuit of perfection has to start with public service performance, because the civil sector dominates your economy.

Oddly, when the performance of Wellington is discussed, the civil service is divorced from the talk; it’s seen as being a national institution, not part of the Wellington world.

This week the ballroom dancer Michael Laws described Wellington as “Versailles”.

Why wouldn’t we wish that Wellington has the world’s best performing civil service? This is their own goal.

I’m less concerned with the number of civil servants than about how they feel.

The difference between policy wonk and policy “passionista” is what I am talking about.

What I sense is a reservoir of creativity and energy in our state service waiting to be unleashed.

We deserve a world class government system, and to achieve this we have to radicalize the culture of incrementalism.

The winning inspiration in the last election was “you’ll be better off with us”. Phew, talk about a motivational statement.

It’s time to light the beacons of Gondor. There needs to be a rebellion against the prevailing orthodoxy of civil service.

I’d love to see some spontaneous recklessness scheduled into every day (and not just from Trevor Mallard or Winston!).

To be successful, companies have to create organic growth of 4-6%, year in, year out. That takes creative combustion that travels to customers at warp speed.

It’s important for New Zealand to have a Peak Performing government sector, because it comprises about 40% of our economic activity.

This is Wellington’s #1 job as the Heart of the Edge of the World. All along The Terrace there should be outrageous goals that absolutely lift performance.

Strategies, reports, plans and platforms are survival table stakes.

Action comes from the “I” words – Imagination, Insight, Intuition, Inspiration and Ignition.

One revolution beats a hundred resolutions.

I’ve been asked to present ideas about Wellington’s role in the world. Having the right ideas is essential. Here’s how I view the world at Saatchi & Saatchi.

From Information Economy, Knowledge Economy, Interruption Marketing (aka the Mass Market), Permission Marketing, the Experience Economy, Attention Economy to the Attraction Economy.

The Attraction Economy is powered by emotion. Neurologist Donald Calne sums up: “Reason leads to conclusions. Emotion leads to action.”

Interruption Engagement
One-to-many Many-to-one
Reactive Interactive
Return on Investment Return on Involvement
Heavy users Inspirational Consumers
Big promises Intimate gestures
Marketing at Connecting with
Consumers People
Brands Lovemarks
  • Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are built on Love and Respect.
  • Brands create loyalty for a reason. Lovemarks create Loyalty Beyond Reason.
  • Great brands are Irreplaceable. Lovemarks are Irresistible.

Wellington is a Lovemark to Wellingtonians. It’s time to export this feeling to the world.

How do you get from Brand to Lovemark, from Irreplaceable to Irresistible? The three secrets of Lovemarks are Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.

Mystery mixes dreams, icons, symbols and stories to create the attractions of the unknown. This is why your city needs to be right on the edge.

Many of the 428 cities I referred to have branding campaigns. What is it that is globally unique about Wellington? As a term, “Creative Capital” is not a differentiator.

We position New Zealand as “the world’s edge”.

Radical stuff starts on the margins.

Change comes from the fringes.

Innovation happens on the edges.

Edge is biological and cultural.

Wellington is the Heart of the Edge of the World.

This is how you should be positioned, at the extreme end of the creative range.

To be a pulsing global magnet, you need to be a raging creative hothouse, with a dynamic attitude and a big heart.

Mystery demands compelling stories. The best stories are always about people, and many people from Wellington have changed the world in some way…

Wellington's Hall of Fame
ABOVE: Wellington’s Hall of Fame

The big three of science – William Pickering, Maurice Wilkins and Alan MacDiarmid.

The heroine of the Second World War Nancy Wake, literary rebel Katherine Mansfield, Glaxo entrepreneur Joseph Nathan.

Many people have followed, heroes in their own way: Ken Gray. Earle Kirton (well, he changed my world, being a first five eight from Lancaster).

David Lange. Roger Douglas. Jane Campion. Peter Jackson. Fran Walsh. Richard Taylor. John Psathas. Lloyd Morrison…

On it goes…to Tana, Jerry, and now Terry. Wellington is a passionate place.

Where does Wellington honor its extraordinary heroes? These great stories need to be pulled together, made accessible. A Hall of Fame at the airport, the main streets re-named – who was Mr Customhouse Quay? What about renaming Cable St after Russell Crowe?

Sensuality is the portal to our emotions. The five senses need to be fully amplified, packaged and distributed.

The Wellington sound is the place to start. A rich musical heritage loops through the town. Big fat classical pipes to global shape shifters Fat Freddys Drop and Flight of the Conchords on HBO.

What’s the scent of Wellington? The L’affare roast? Margaret Hema? Bottle it for Shanghai, Tokyo and LA. “Scent-vertising” is big. I want to “Scratch ‘n’ sniff” you in Nylon, Wallpaper and Monocle.

What is the touch of Wellington? Is it IceBreaker? Is it the Roaring 40s wind in your face?

And that vision as you sweep from the Gorge – bottle the feeling of that emerald harbor moment.

And Wellington’s taste? This is the Pinot Noir capital of the world. Home to 450 restaurants and cafes. I’m looking forward to lunch at Martin Bosley’s.

And the third leg of a Lovemark: Intimacy. It’s about empathy, commitment, passion and most important of all, connectivity. Intimacy is about connecting two ways.

To receive the attention and affection of others, you need to be very clear about what you want. I’m not sure you do this – are you simply content with bigger government or do you want regional HQs to come here? Thousands more tourists? Conferences? Students? Exporters? 24/7 global service industries?

The most potent piece of recent advice I have been given is: “when people know what you want, they will give it to you.” So Wellington has to be very precise in framing what it wants from the world.

For my part – and I’m a big consumer of Wellington intellect – the city gives me a unique global perspective, on-time delivery, can-do attitude and passion.

How do we package this? How do we summarize it? How do we share the dream?

The answer lies with what is truer than truth itself – Stories. Danish futurist Rolf Jensen: “The highest-paid person in the first half of this century will be the story-teller.” This translates directly to cities.

What connects fastest? The story of a city, or the strategy of a city? It’s the story that connects and builds. It is the story that shares the dream.

As you internationalize Wellington, the Edge story is how you bind tourism, migration, investment, sectors, exports, awards; everything needs to compel. Your advertising, your billboards, your badges, your talk and your walk.

And how can you make a difference as individuals?

Peak Performance and Lovemarks are simple messages, we’ve taken them into some of the world’s top companies, and they work.

You can get to the top of the world and sustain it there.

You can be a company, a department, a council, it doesn’t matter. You can’t command and control success. You have to unleash and inspire it.

Your job is to walk out there with a new job title: “Inspirational Player”.

Inspire everyone you connect with to share Wellington’s Dream and persuade everyone they touch to come to the Heart of the Edge.

And start now, before it’s too late.

How to Win in the Age of Now


Spanning creativity, leadership and execution, Kevin Roberts’ presentation to the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Wellington Chapter is an inspirational primer in: Wanting to Win, Ways to Win Now and Ways to Keep Winning – the secrets of Peak Performance so that winning becomes a habit.

Up, Up and Away – Rotary Newmarket


Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, talks to the Newmarket Rotary Club about Winning in the Age of Now, and how to turn a brand into an irresistible Lovemark for the next generation.

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Magic Time


In this presentation to EmoDay in Amsterdam, Kevin Roberts shares five key ideas on emotional innovations and creating Lovemarks.

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