Finding Balance


BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov, who lived and worked in China for several years as the Global CMO for the Volkswagen Group of Companies, comments on the importance of “value plus.” Value Plus In trying to find distinction, we all too often create a great deal of confusion and kerfuffle; a bit like those fast-turnover restaurants that simply cannot just give you the steak and fries that you ordered. Instead, piling up your plate with all manner of greenery, fruit pieces and slices of other unasked-for debris, so as to hide the mediocrity. Noise and layers of incidental dressing may fool us some of the time, but hardly ever twice. We do remember and seldom forgive… Complexity does not guarantee success. In fact, speak to almost any successful person and they will tell you that they try to have as few rules as possible, but as much scope to do the right thing. Easier said than done, though! It takes acute sensibility and care. Jon Moulton, the well-known British equity investor, owned up to the fact that the best returns he ever made for his partners were those that were uncomplicated, yet there was always a relentless desire to go […]

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The Difference Between Want and Need

BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov, who lived and worked in China for several years as the Global CMO for the Volkswagen Group of Companies, comments on the important difference between what we think we want and what we really need. THE FABLE OF THE CARROTS Whilst I was living and working in China I was fortunate enough to meet many fine people, many of whom came with lovely stories and anecdotes. Like people all around the world, the Chinese certainly enjoy their fables and their wisdoms. One of them that stuck with me dealt with the difference between how a Chinese mother might deal with a child who would not eat his or her carrots and how a Western mother might deal with the same challenge. According to the storyteller, the Western mother might say to her child: “Don’t you want to grow up big and strong? And don’t you want dessert? Because if you don’t finish your vegetables, you’re not going to have either one! So eat your damn carrots!!” The Chinese mother, on the other hand, might say: “You must eat your carrots, my child, because if you don’t, that poor farmer who works every day just for you — […]

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The Beginning of All Wisdom

BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov, formerly CMO of Volkswagen Group China and CEO of the RAPP global agency network, reflects on the concept of “giving time to time.”  GIVING TIME TO TIME I recently read that people like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are ultra-successful because they have cultivated the habit of reading a lot – up to 3+ hrs a day. They have made reading a way of life – constantly seeking, constantly searching, constantly feeding their minds and souls. They are giving time to time – taking the time to choose what they like to do away form the swirl of their business life and consequently they come out the other side the richer. As it turns out many people in the world have benefitted from those moments when they have been in a reflective state. And that makes me think… In ancient Rome, many Patrician dwellings adorned the arches to the front door with the two heads of Janus. It served to remind family and visitors, alike, of the wisdom of reflection and the promise it held over the future. What I have learned is that the polarities of work, rest and play are actually inextricably linked and are crucial in mastering the business of life — and […]

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Friendship without Borders

I write this on behalf of all the children and all the youth of today. I am neither young nor am I old. Every year of my life is a chapter. The years may be gone and yet– the memories are not lost, like an age ring etched in the wood – my life continues. Some days I return to that boy of 8, bullied in the playground until I learnt that to fall was harder than to withstand. I can still feel the first blush of love at fifteen and how it flowed through me like a warm and uncertain stream and at seventeen the frozen lake of despair when I was rejected for another. I live in the present and yet I am often a visitor to my past. We call it memories; we are made by them. Some of the moments give us strength and hope for the future, yet others hold us hostage, filling us with despair and endless fear. There is that saying; ‘from hardship comes strength’ – but I am somewhat uncomfortable with this. It suggests that success should always be the measure, when I think the true watermark of any life should be the […]

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The Power of Motion

Life could not exist without motion. Motion is everything. The oxygen that we breathe, the water that we drink, the food that we take, the sun upon our shoulders – none could be so, were it not for the infinite and persistent dance of matter. So is with us – you and me – the beat of heart, the race of pulse. We humans are in constant flow – the indispensable energy that gives life, and proves life, beyond the pulse of our mortal bodies. So, too, the rivers of our emotions – sometimes a symphony, other times, a swollen cacophony of competing thoughts and feelings. Always changing. Never still. The eternal juxtaposition of heart and mind – it is what makes us, if not perfect, certainly unique. But, often, we are too still – not allowing the best opportunity to happen because we find ourselves, inert. Inertia born from fear, lack of self-belief, maybe, the spite of others that can run through our very veins like lead. If we allow it, inertia can hang heavy about the very neck of our hopes, dreams and fullest potential. But those who, with good hearts, seize the day by confronting the paradigms thrown […]

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The Wonder Drug of Sociability

BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov, ex-CEO of RAPP Worldwide, puts forward six primary conundrums in support of the Forrester conference on the changing face of digital and the challenges of social values and ‘Life Blur’ (Shanghai, China).

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Loyalty: A Sum of All the Parts

BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov, a world-renowned expert in automotive marketing and agency turn-arounds (most recently with the digital / CRM agency RAPP), discusses the importance of an authentic customer experience in a world riddled by lazy marketing. Clients — and in turn their customers — judge with ruthless and surgical precision, and they believe through the power of their purse that they have that right. They may speak well of good things, but they absolutely will scream loud and wide if they believe there is an intensive, dramatic story to tell. Trust is such a crucial part of empathy — indeed, without it, it is meaningless. Mistakes will happen, but it is in the manner of how they are acted upon that separates chaff from wheat. Most times, it is the people who are employed by the brands who do all the damage — little moments of pique, moodiness, carelessness, rudeness — and all the work and effort that came before, gone in a flash. Happy people inevitably “glow,” whilst those who are disaffected invariably go on to upset the balance. There can be no greater damage to a brand than misplaced promise and tardy customer experience.

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Tips on Positive Anxiety

BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov, formerly a senior executive of Volkswagen Group and a specialist in the marketing of branded goods, reflects upon a discussion with colleagues on the divide between marketers and their agencies. Scaring your clients into buying into an idea is never a good idea. Fear is rarely the answer to anything in business. However, I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of positive anxiety — a well-articulated and well-documented risk or competitive threat that compels a client to rethink the status quo, introduces a healthy amount of self-doubt, and creates those nagging questions in the back of the client’s mind: “what if,” and, inevitably, “why not?” All too often, agencies think that giant global groups like Omnicom (NYSE: OMC) or organizations like Volkswagen have all the knowledge. They don’t. Trust me — the executives in these organizations need help like any other, despite size and circumstance. Following are some practical tips for nurturing positive anxiety with your clients: One can never breath a client’s air for them — but an agency can give them a whole lot more oxygen. Don’t try to be them and don’t try to assume, but always be ready and prepared to go the extra mile — with anxiety comes greater need. Take them off […]

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Think Fast, But Respond Carefully

BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov, formerly CMO of Volkswagen Group China and CEO of the RAPP global agency network, reflects on the wisdom of “slowing down to gather pace.”  At first reading I loved this; it has so much power to it. And then a very gracious and wise friend of mine added a new dimension: He suggested that the word “react” should be replaced by the word “respond.” As he succinctly put it: A reaction is what controls you. A response is how you control it. Such a simple but important inflection that only comes from slowing down and thinking deeper. A wisdom that also only comes with the ages of time and experiences. All too often, we are far too quick to react. Indeed, how many times have we said something or done something only to wince the following day, wishing we had given more time to what our response should have been? Some of you who know me well are waiting and have been waiting for me to react to certain things that have happened in my life in the last punishing few months. But I have chosen instead to reflect and at the right moment to respond in a way that […]

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A World Where Fish Are No Longer Required to Climb Trees

BY ALEXEI ORLOV Mr. Orlov reflects on a wonderful and provocative piece of social content by Prince Ea, an American spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker. Firstly, I ask you to please watch the whole of this video. This is more than what I see as an authentic challenge to education and how incredibly backward it is — pretending to be forward-thinking and accommodating. I say this as the father of two young men who have traveled the world following my international career. Situating themselves into the American system — and before that the Chinese system, and before that the English system — has been an incredible challenge. And whilst some might say cruelly that it has been character-forming, as a father looking in I see it for what it is: curricula created by people who either simply do not get a changing world, backed by too many oceans of righteous and over-puffing institutions who want to do it ‘just their way’ so that it accommodates their fixed structures and their goals, regardless as to whether it captures the singular essence, design and authentic capability of the individual. Individual. It means the whole person in and of themselves. Not the person […]

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