Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to manage The Big Reveal

They've been unveiling the Olympic mascots tonight. Unveiling is a game you can never win. I haven't seen these mascots but I feel sorry for the people who had to do the unveiling and submit to the instant reaction from the web. This is particularly trying on Twitter, where people's fingers are walking long before their brain has arrived at any opinion.

I've spent long hours of my career standing in front of board meetings, investors and other interested parties and I've done everything in my power to avoid the moment of the reveal, whether it's a name, a design or the most nebulous concept. The reveal transfers the power from the people who've done a lot of thinking about the problem to the people who haven't. If the latter group are less than convinced they don't do the sensible thing, which is to reserve judgement; they instantly form themselves into a hanging jury and condemn the solution out of hand.

Two people can make a design decision. One to do and one to comment. Three can manage it if they've got good chemistry. Any number greater than that is asking for trouble. If you're going to do a reveal you should make sure that you've got a handful of key opinion formers on side long before you lift the curtain. The rest will wait a mini-second before uttering an opinion and will fall in behind the tiny minority whose opinion counts.


  1. Yes, but Wenlock and Mandeville? Most of the world won't be able to spell them, much less pronounce them. Nor will much of Britain, come to that.

    They should have called them Seb and Ovett and been done with it.

  2. Archie: wenlock and mandeville are fairly phonetic for english names and they can be shortened to wen and mandy too (which was probably planned). The francophone world will cope with Mandeville no probs.
    Also the little stories behind the names will repeated by a thousand eager foreign tv presenters all doing their filler pieces so job done really.

  3. When the thing being revealed is so trite and trivial - as in this case - and yet the fanfare and fuss of The Reveal is so disproportionately large, surely instant derision is the only sane response? If people give virtually no thought before hooting and pointing, perhaps that's because it's all the thought these pointless cartoon icons require? The idea that design consultant spent many thousands of pounds, and weeks of time to arrive at such trivia is rather absurd.

  4. It's a peculiarly British phenomenon that we feel criticism (rather than support) and cynicism (rather than enthusiasm) demonstrate insight and/or intelligence, Hence the negative opinions which greet most reveals.

  5. There's an entire craft around what's called the "pre-wire" of a meeting or presentation; the gist being that you never go into a decision meeting, or a new-information presentation, without having done your behind-the-scenes work making sure that you have key people in the audience already on your side, by showing them what's in it for them or making unimportant concessions of your agenda to mesh with theirs. Sounds like you've already brushed quills with that porcupine already!

    "Would you persuade, speak of interest, not of reason." — Ben Franklin