Change and influencing folk
|Dylan Cotter on Eugenie Harvey's talk to ICAD members about one of the world's fastest-growing new brands – and made hardened cynics feel all warm and fuzzy inside|
Mercifully we are no longer what we eat, which must come as a relief to what was fast becoming a nation of paninis. In 2006, Eugenie Harvey says, we are what we do. That is the title of the movment Harvey co-founded with David Robinson in London.
Judging by sales of the associated book, Change the World for a Fiver, it is a message that huge numbers of people are buying into. The movement was inspired by a famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
The book is a kind of idiot's guide to putting that theory into practice. It contains 50 simple actions that each of us can perform in our daily lives, which put together will make the world a better place. Happy clappy, hippy dippy, wishy washy?
Maybe, but in its first 100 days, the book sold 100,000 copies. In the 400 or so days since, it has been adapted for publication across Europe and in such places as Canada, Australia and, most recently of all, in far-flung China.
The movement has been blessed (cursed?) by such luminaries as British Chancellor Gordon Brown and the Swiss entrants in this year's Eurovision. Its inventiveness was hailed by the D&AD awards and the Financial Times Creative Business 50.
ICAD had a number of good reasons for inviting Harvey to address members in Dublin.
Design-wise, Change the World for a Fiver is remarkably inventive and engaging, transforming what could have been a dull and worthy list of dos and don'ts into a treasury of lively surprises. Each action is communicated clearly and brought to life in an inspiring, useful way (No.7 comes with its own packet of Scots pine seeds).
The book was produced with the help of many people from the creative, entertainment and publishing industries in the UK, people who obviously took item number 50 to heart.
The project is instructive, providing insights into the many ways in which curiosity and word-of-mouth can be fostered and harnessed locally, nationally and globally.
Harvey and Robinson are so unselfish with their 'brand properties', preferring to see the list of 50 actions borrowed, adapted and disseminated further, rather than stubbornly keeping control. You cannot help thinking that if more conventional brand owners were a little less litigious and trademark-bound, their brands might prosper all the more.
But on the night, it was not really the design, advertising or marketing lessons of We Are What We Do that struck the most resonant chord. More so, it was the air of inspiration that surrounds the whole movement and fuels its growth.
In these industries more than most, it is always encouraging to see a simple idea, intelligently nurtured, doing so amazingly well. Inspired? What follows is the full unabridged list of 50. Noel Dempsey got as far as No.1…
50 SIMPLE ACTIONS
- Decline plastic bags wherever possible
- Read a story with a child
- Fit at least one energy-saving light bulb
- Learn basic first aid
- Smile and smile back
- Take public transport when you can
- Plant a tree
- Have a bath with someone you love
- If it says 30mph, do 30mph
- Turn your thermostat down by one degree C
- Get fitter, feel better
- Turn off appliances at the mains
- Recycle your mobile phone
- Spend time with someone from a different generation
- Register online as an organ donor
- Give your change to charity
- Try watching less TV
- Learn to be friendly in another language
- Learn one good joke
- Find out how your money is invested
- Turn off unnecessary lights
- Use your will to good effect
- Have more meals together
- Put your gum in the bin
- Use a mug not a plastic cup
- Give blood
- Pay more when you buy at charity shops
- Seize the moment
- Recycle your computer
- Bake something for a friend
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
- Do something you think you are unable to do
- Recycle your books
- Buy fairly traded products
- Write to someone who inspired you
- Take time to listen
- Let at least one car in on every journey
- Don't overfill your kettle
- Shop locally
- Join something
- Hug someone
- Recycle your specs
- Grow something with a child
- Report dumped rubbish to your council
- Give your phone number to five people in your street
- Use both sides of every piece of paper
- Buy a copy of this book for a friend
- Send us an action
- Learn more, do more
- Do something for nothing
More details can be found at http://www.wearewhatwedo.org/
Dylan Cotter is vice president of ICAD and a copywriter at Irish International BBDO