Bold as Love

May 22, 2002

Presentation Summary

An address to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Business today is not just about management and doing things right. And it’s not just about leadership and doing the right things. Kevin Roberts gives insights from working with some of the most exciting people in the world – to Graduate Students at Stanford University’s School of Business.

Golden Fog San Francisco

I was born in England. I’ve lived and worked in Casablanca, Nicosia, Geneva, Toronto, London and now I commute every month between New Zealand and New York. Stanford for me is a bit like dropping in at the local pub on my way home!!

I’m the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi and am also the CEO in Residence at Cambridge University’s business school, the Judge Institute of Management in the UK, and a Senior Fellow at the University of Waikato’s Waikato Management School in New Zealand.

My job there is to make sure the stuff they cram into their heads doesn’t muffle the sound of their hearts.

I care about business and I care about people. Business today is not just about management and doing things right. And it’s not just about leadership and doing the right things. It’s all about inspiration. Being the best you can be. Performing at your peak. Being, as my title suggests, as bold as love.

Today I want to share the five insights that have inspired me over the last 30 years. Each came out of the great businesses I’ve worked with. Each showed me something important about myself and the kind of life I aspired to.

Insight No.1: Always Remember What Made You Do It In The First Place 

When I started out in business in the UK in the late-1960s, the only places to be were the hippy heaven San Francisco and swinging London. I was just 20 but I knew I wanted to work for a business that was loved.

My first job was with fashion legend Mary Quant in London. Mary single-handedly invented the mini-skirt. She was the first person to operationalize the concept “less is more”!

How did I have the guts to pitch for a big job with a successful, high profile business? Same as I do today. Listen to my heart. I told Mary I would double her sales. And do it at half the salary she was paying the current guy.

Mary Quant set the direction of my working life. A passionate commitment to new ideas. A love of change. Restless energy. And I still love the cosmetics business.

I passionately believe in the transformational power of ideas. I have two ideas to offer you today. One for transforming organizations, the other for transforming brands.

These ideas which we call Peak Performance and Lovemarks come from the head and the heart. With them we are transforming Saatchi & Saatchi from an advertising agency to an ideas company. To the kind of company that could even think about using a convicted murderer to promote road safety.

Along with the power of ideas I believe in the power of change. More relationships die from apathy than argument.

The Chairman of Toyota Harry Okuda told me last year: “I am not at all satisfied with the current Toyota I see in front of me. Toyota doesn’t need to change itself – it needs to overthrow itself.” And this from the company with the No. 1 selling car in the US for four years in a row: the Camry. Okuda-san loves change as much as I do.

Insight No.2: Great Businesses Run On Emotion

When my Canadian Pepsi Team blew away Coke to become number one in the market we celebrated. How? By machine-gunning a Coke vending machine on stage at a conference. Our victory over Coke was not about statistics or even the better taste. It was about raw emotion. That’s the insight. Great businesses run on emotion.

Humans are powered by emotion, not by reason. It’s how we make decisions. Without emotion, rational thought slows – and then disintegrates. Our reason must have emotion to engage it.

In my business great ideas are killed every day by market researchers. I call them the research vampires. For all their percentage point certainty, they are still baffled by emotion.

Trying to work out what consumers want through better data gathering, tighter segmentation, sharper data mining adds up to more analysis, not better understanding.

What makes a difference now is inspiration and spirit. To be inspired means to “be in spirit.” The qualities that make an organisation special. Loved. All the emotion and passion twentieth century business got rid of. All the stuff we need to bring back to the center.

Insight No.3: Head To The Edge For The Best Ideas

In 1989 a job with Lion Nathan took me to the edge of the world. New Zealand. This is a country that even slips off the edge of some maps! But New Zealanders don’t give a damn. We know the edge is where the great ideas come from. Going to New Zealand is the best decision my family and I ever made. To become edge dwellers.

Kurt Vonnegut got it right: “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

Think competitive edge. Leading edge. Cutting edge. At the edge of your seat. New Zealander Richard Pearse flew before the Wright Brothers. There’s a provocation for you. It’s just that Pearse didn’t have the film crew there on the day.

Richard Pearse’s story proves to me that every edge is exciting and dangerous, whether it’s in art or science, landscape or thrills. The edge matters. Biology follows the edge rule. It’s where species start to evolve. Events are driven by what happens at the margin, not at the core. The average price is not important. The marginal price is. The margins are where the action is.

Many of Saatchi & Saatchi best creatives work in edge countries, cultures and cities. What makes them the best? They constantly hit the “I’s” and the “E’s”.

I – for Ideas, Imagination, Insight, Instinct – and most importantly, for Inspiration.

E – for Energy, for Empathy, for Excitement, for Emotion. And of course for Edge.

I am so convinced by the power of the edge that I produce a website called The New Zealand Edge. Check it out for edge attitude.

San Francisco is a classic Edge city perched on the Pacific. Anyone who lives on the edge of a great expanse of water knows it to be a place of constant change and drama.

This coast is one place I meet Edge people. People who see the world clearly and understand its changing face. People who are passionate about new ideas. And know what to do with them.

Insight No.4: Be An Inspirational Player 

As the CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi I also take personal responsibility for two global accounts. Toyota and Procter & Gamble. My relationship with P&G goes back to 1 January 1975. The day I joined. Geneva, Casablanca, London. Great times. Intense times. What can I say; I love P&G. Always have. That’s why you’ll never find Colgate toothpaste or L’Oreal shampoo in our bathroom. In fact I really don’t use much shampoo at all now!!!

I found out everything important I know about people, business and marketing at P&G. I love P&G’s scale. I love the ambition of the enterprise. The disciplines invented at P&G have shaped my life. It’s where I’ve made lifelong friends. It’s where I discovered the values of ideas. It is where I learnt the awesome power of advertising to create life-time love affairs with consumers.

And now I’m back home. Procter & Gamble are our #1 client Their CEO A G Lafley has committed P&G to Peak Performance. It’s new theory, methodology and spirit. Our Peak Performance team has presented four workshops so far in Cincinnati and Geneva with more scheduled. AG leads each session with me. AG believes that P&G’s # 1 priority is to let loose its Inspirational Players. To move from command and control to unleash and inspire. People without passion or emotion never became great entrepreneurs, great marketers, great anythings. This insight informs every element of PPO’s detailed organisational change model.

Along with colleagues at the Waikato Management School, we studied the world’s best team-based sporting organizations like The New York Yankees, the British Williams Formula One team, the US women’s soccer team, Team New Zealand – holders of the America’s Cup against all comers.

Why sports?

  • Sport inspires and unites but it also tough and failure is obvious. In the world of elite professional sport there is no place to hide.
  • Sport is about fun and excitement, imagination and instinct.
  • Sport is a huge business and this scale makes it relevant to large businesses everywhere.
  • And finally, sport is a global passion. 

Our key finding was clear. Peak Performance demands the conviction that an individual, a team, a company, all of us, can perform to the absolute peak of our abilities every day.

Today I want to look at one aspect of Peak Performance. Inspiration, the flame that turns up the heat. Inspiration awakens and arouses people to action. With Inspiration you can transform an organization. Without it you are stuck in the same rut.

Management is important. But today it only gets you a chair at the table. Leadership is good too. But there’s one drawback. What do all leaders need to succeed? Followers. Who in this room has “born to follow” tattooed on their arm?

Our research showed there are many ways people can be inspirational. This makes sense. Our traditional understanding of management and leadership have been very limited. No wonder women have found it so tough to fit the mould.

Change domains. Look at a family and how its members work together. Management? Maybe at a practical level if you stretch the point. Leadership? Not if you’ve got teenagers. Inspiration? Feels right to me.

  • Inspiration is a powerful cycle. Those who inspire are also inspired and can move up to greater performance peaks themselves.
  • Inspiration awakens people to what they can be and what they can do. It is never about command and control.
  • Inspiration is contagious. I’m not in my job to lead. Or to manage. My role as CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi is to inspire my people. And I expect them to inspire me right back.
  • Inspiration arouses people’s long-term commitment to exceed their personal best. Not to exceed the performance measures, not the competition, but their personal best. 

Most people never think of themselves as Inspirational. They cut Inspiration out of their lives and feel the lesser for doing so. It takes courage to accept the challenge of inspiring others.

More recently I have put PPO together with another powerful idea, Lovemarks. Which brings me to…

Insight No.5: Embrace The Power of Love

I came to Saatchi & Saatchi as Worldwide CEO in 1997. It was one of the best decisions of my life and it has been an exhilarating ride in a compelling direction. Towards Love.

At Saatchi & Saatchi we believe in the power of love. When I first said the “L” word in public three years ago, everyone squirmed. Now serious business people say Love without blushing. And mean it.

Great brands have always been created with love, with inspiration, with emotion. But brands are running out of juice. Even the world famous brands like Coke, Disney and Nike are being squeezed at the margins and risk commodification. Where once they stood alone there is a growing queue of wannabes.

Over the last four years Saatchi & Saatchi have developed Lovemarks as the future beyond brands. Lovemarks are about new language, new tools, new focus, new realism. New attitude.

And, as this spot shows, the right attitude can take you a long way.

We evolved Lovemarks from one simple insight: the Love/Respect Axis.


A fast, intuitive reality check. Put a group of people together and ask them to place brands, people, places …. whatever, on the Axis. The consistency is remarkable.

Start here with Low Respect and Low Love. Commodities like iron, oil, sand. Public utilities like Gas, Water and Drainage. Essential but zero brand heat.

Move on to Low Respect but High Love. A real mix: from the “we-love-them-but-won’t-admit-it”, to the “too-cool-to-survive” fads. From Bill Clinton to Tommy Hilfiger, Harry Potter to the Furby. Likeable, sometimes Raffish and unrespectable. But always desirable.

This High Respect but Low Love area is where most major brands fit. Great products, extraordinary R&D, solid customer research. But all fixated on the “e-r” words. Newer, brighter, stronger, bolder. But today everyone has to deliver to this level just to stay in the game.

Now turn to this uncharted territory: the Love dimension of the Love / Respect axis. This is where you break through the envelope into the clear air. Up here we can make deep emotional connections with customers.

Lovemarks are personal, they’re local. And they can be anything – a person, a country, a toothpaste, a car, an organization. Lovemarks stand out from the crowd. You know them instantly.

  • Harley Davidson, definitely. Suzuki? I don’t think so.
  • McDonalds is a clear Lovemark. Burger King has got the taste but not the Love.
  • The iMac? Definitely. IBM Thinkpad. Great product but not a Lovemark.
  • New York Firemen. Lovemark. New York Parking warden. Not yet. 

And which is the Lovemark: Harvard or Stanford?

Lovemarks are created from three elements. Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.

Mystery draws together the stories, metaphors and icons that give a relationship its texture. Complexity, layers, revelations, intuition, humour and excitement. Lovemarks tap into dreams and aspirations. Bill Gates had a dream to put a PC on every desk. New Zealand’s dream is to win the America’s Cup – again!. How impossible but perfectly simple is that!

Sensuality is a portal to the emotions. Vision, sound, hearing, touch, taste. This is how we experience the world.
Sensuality is a big idea that can change the way we see the world and relate to one another. Never pay a premium for anything that doesn’t thrill most of your senses.

You play all the human senses with Lovemarks. For taste, I take Apple computers as my guide. They took taste out of the mouth and into the heart.

Made their iMacs in gorgeous colours. Gave them tasty names: strawberry, lime, tangerine, grape and blueberry. And the message? YUM!

And thirdly, the warm breath of Intimacy. Empathy and inspiration lit up with passion. The intimate connections that are more important than ever.

Intimacy demands empathy. Can’t do without it. Without empathy you can’t do emotion and you can forget becoming a Lovemark. My friends at Toyota used to talk about selling cars as “moving metal.” “Stop!” I said. Talk about how “the metal moves you.” It was a small shift in language but a huge shift in the way Toyota now think about their business.

To me the spirit of empathy is humor. If you can get a smile, even when times are tough, you’re on your way.

So there they are. Five insights from working with some of the most exciting people in the world. Five insights that have shaped my life. Mary Quant showed me to remember why I wanted to do it in the first place. Pepsi taught me that great businesses run on emotion. With Lion Nathan my race to the edge was made real. P&G started me on my journey to Inspiration and with Saatchi & Saatchi I have embraced the power of love.

I want to end with an action list. Three ideas you can get started on right now. Three ideas to make sure you become living, breathing, loving Ideas people.

  • Fall in love with ideas. I work with ideas and ideas people all the time. Forget the Information Age. Forget the Age of Knowledge. We live in the age of the Idea. Act like a technician or expert and that is how you will be treated. Act like an ideas person and the world will open up before you.
  • Get intimate with Lovemarks. Check out my web sites and This is the new way. Get used to it.
  • Follow your heart. Feel it, don’t just analyze it. Scary? Sure, but that’s the way to make the best decisions. When my head bullied my heart I’ve made mistakes.

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