Intelligence gathering, pattern seeking, culture watching, early warning wanting, this is the name of the game for everyone in the creative space.
But it is one thing to gather this knowledge, and another to put it to use.
One interesting case study here is Midori House, which I visited last year. (I am rolling it out now because I am on the road and serving up topics I have written about but not yet posted on.)
“Being Tyler Brule is a full time job,” says the intern, with a touch of irritation. Tyler Brule (pictured) is the head of Monocle and Winkreative, this kid’s boss, and a man not to be crossed. I wonder if the intern understands what this indiscretion could cost him. Or perhaps, young and impossibly handsome, he just doesn’t care.
The intern is giving me a tour of Midori House. It stands in a London courtyard, about 90 feet long, 40 feet wide, and five stories high. It’s about the size of a ferryboat or small cruise ship.
I am here to be interviewed on the Monocle radio station. This surprises me because I thought Monocle was a magazine.
And Monocle is a magazine, quite a famous one, in fact. But it is also a design studio, advertising agency, strategy consultancy, and, yes, a radio station. Typically, we see these 5 functions spread over 5 separate companies. Bringing them altogether into so small a space would, in the old days, have brought a charge of indecision or promiscuity.
These days it’s a smart thing to do.
All of the Monocle bits and pieces run on the same thing: a knowledge of, and a feeling, for the state of our world. Indeed, I found myself wondering if there was a pipe in the basement through which intelligence comes pouring into Midori House.
Let’s say someone in the design house is working on a project for Burberry, the clothing brand. They go to the basement and pour off a pint size container called “the latest thing in luxury clothing.” Someone working for the ad agency is looking for information on the way housewives think about breakfast. The pipe provides here too. The book review man for Monocle, is always on the look out for new books but for that great cloud of ideas and sentiments that make our culture now.
It sounds a little complicated, but there is a big idea here. In fact, Monocle has found a way to maximize its return on investment. What flows in from that pipe is used 5 times, as design, advertising, strategy, print on the page and words in the air. Everything it learns, it turns to advantage. If the print client doesn’t want something, the strategy client will. And sometimes, a single understanding of the world pays off in all 5 of the Monocle faces. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a robust ROI.
And this is no simple “pass through” model. Monocle accelerates what it learns. Inevitably, the people designing for Burberry end up talking to the ad people. The ad people reply with their latest learnings. And everyone listens to Dan, the book reviewer, because he knows what’s happening in the world of arts, letters and ideas.
And together the Monocle team members multiply their knowledge until Midori House rises on a tide of intelligence that may not exist anywhere else in London. And this is a city famous for its sensitivity to the new. London is filled with watchers of culture and makers of culture, people trying to divine and deliver the new. Accelerators of the Midori House kind, there could be something to this.