Monday, March 30, 2009


This CAN work!

Back at the start of the project, in 2005, I wrote a planning document, where I set out what Massar was aiming to achieve. Citizenship, responsibility, pride, empathy, choices, action, ownership of issues, contribution; these were all things I stated that the project wanted to build in Syria's young people. To be honest, it all sounded very much like wishful thinking - warm, fluffy, unquantifiable stuff.

Today I've just watched a video of interviews with young people in Lattakia with whom Massar has been working. This was uncoached, unprompted feedback about what they now think about their place in the world. And it's all there! The choice to be creative rather than destructive. The value of helping others. The discovery of one's own potential. The need to do something within the community. And best of all, this has been their own process of change and discovery, with Massar enabling rather than steering.

It's always difficult to measure the impact of what a programme like Massar does, but if ever anyone asks how we know if we're making a positive difference, from now on I will sit them down and show them this video. It's just completely inspiring to know we can make this happen.

Some clips from the video here:


Thursday, March 26, 2009



Some of my thoughts from a current online branding discussion.

I look on branding as more akin to PR (what others say about you) than advertising (what you say about yourself). A brand is also (because unless it represents some fundamental truths it is purely cosmetic) essentially stable: it can't be ripped jeans one moment and pin-stripes the next - unless your brand is schizophrenic of course. So I find myself a bit at odds with the notion of a brand story that can quickly and reactively be recalibrated. This sounds to me more like re-casting the product proposition in response to changed market conditions. Your brand is essentially who you are, and if that can suddenly change overnight then either it's not a brand at all, or you have been horribly wrong all along, or customers should perhaps be worried. Right now, I think a lot of people will be looking for certainty as a desirable brand component.

I don't for example believe that the McDonald's brand has very much to do with what is on the menu. To me McDonald's is (or wants to be) about convenience, welcome, cleanliness, dependability, familiarity (or perhaps universality) and various other factors that create the brand wrapper for their product offering (which is a different if connected thing). Maybe I'm making meaningless distinctions.

Yes, brands can and must evolve, but they can't flip-flop about implicitly making one promise one day and a different one the next. Constantly heaving at the brand's tiller as one wave or another hits the boat is to me a sign of brand weakness and irresolution, just when the opposite would seem to be most desirable. It smacks of brand as mask rather than brand as soul.

I think it all depends on what your definition of brand is. For me, the Apple brand is that thing that makes everything "clearly and identifiably Apple", not its environmental activities or its product line-up. These are things that can change rapidly as circumstances demand, can be re-calibrated. But the Apple "thing" is much more deep-rooted than that, way down in culture and ethos, in conversations about what they are and what matters to them most. Apple's brand is the equivalent of its magnetic north. Apple can recalibrate its compass from time to time, and may choose to steer a different course, but north stays north. And Apple's remarkable success is due in large part to its brand consistency throughout its significant changes in product and market. I don't believe Apple has changed its core brand values at all since Jobs got them back on track (they lost sight of their magnetic north a bit while he was away). Nor do they need to. They may well adapt in all sorts of ways to external forces, but Apple are not, and I suspect never will be "about" the environment. The environment is not something that makes Apple what it is. So any responsive moves by them in that area are doubtless smart business, and may be wholly sincere, but they're (in my humble and uninformed opinion) not about the Apple brand.


Thursday, March 19, 2009


What we're saying about Massar

Massar Backgrounder March 09


Good feelings

The celebrations at the end of the marathon


Monday, March 16, 2009


Charity marathon in Lattakia

A group of young Massar volunteers (middle picture) came up with the idea of organising a charity marathon to raise money for kidney dialysis machines. It took place on Friday in Lattakia and over 1500 people took part. It looks as if we may have already secured three dialysis machines, and money is still coming in. What a fantastic example of what Massar is about!


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