Hi, my name is Brendan McMahon. I was born in the UK but with a very proud Irish heritage, I have been living in Asia for the past 20 years – yes, 20 years – working in big agencies and client side managing brand strategies. Check my portfolio section to see some of the stuff I have been responsible for. Lots of stories and some pretty good outcomes for the most part.
My Japanese wife Nori and I love Asia and I love working in Asia with exciting businesses and brands. The landscape is constantly changing and keeps me busy and I have made lots of friends along the way. I speak Japanese and some other languages which do not help as much as I would like – French and Spanish.
New brands come. Old brands slow down and wither. Some live on to fight another day. And what I really like is seeing and helping new businesses and brands arrive from countries like Georgia and Croatia. Conversely, there are some really exciting Asian brands out there too. Somehow, the Chinese market is big enough for all their needs so you may never see them in Europe or other markets outside Asia. But you may see the owners enjoying the fruits of their labours in the capital cities of Europe on holiday.
As for TaoSquare, it’s mainly me as the way I like to work is to find projects where I can make a difference and work hard on them for as long or as short as it takes to make an impact. You will note that I spend a lot of time working with SmoothWeb, one of my favourite companies. The innovation on digital content management and delivery and the hardware and cloud interface are insanely good.
I was MD there for a while after leaving Diamond Agency, large Japanese Ad Agency. It is always a challenge to execute on those projects but very rewarding. Check out the Digital section in the portfolio and the retail case studies for more information or head over to www.smoothweb.com to learn more.
If you need a team, I can find find other consultants and experts in my network or I can work with your agency of record. But the objective of TaoSquare is to build valuable sustainable brands that are relevant and offer positive experiences for all those who interact with the brand. Simple, right. Well, there is more to be said on that. Let’s move on.
What does ‘TaoSquare’ mean? In Asia, ‘Tao’ means path or way. Brands are on a never-ending journey along a path. The path may meander and there are often forks in the road but if the journey is well-managed, the experience is unforgettable. And why ‘Square’? Well, this is a bit of a play on words. A square is a solid equal-sided shape and I see the balance of business, innovation, brand and experience as complementary elements forming the square. Also, there is a nod to the power of 2! As for the logo, that came from the notion that ‘squaring the circle’ is a way of putting a strategy around a creative concept. And we all know that is the secret sauce of brand consultants.
What do we do? Well, as I said, we build value. The mantra is simple: Find a way to differentiate your brand in the marketplace by making it credible, relevant and sustainable. Offer the best experience you can consistently and your customers will love you. Is there a methodology? Absolutely! Check out the case studies in the Portfolio section for more details for real cases but all projects need a mix of the following four elements: A strong business strategy and vision for the company to rally around; the ability to innovate up and down the value chain and overcome fear of failure; a pervasive commitment to brand thinking and brand management and live in the brand; finally, the strongest brands will create an experience at the point of consumption and live in the mind as well as in the heart. Sounds logical and simple. Dang! It is hard work. But when you get it right, uplifting, rewarding and you deserve to be rewarded.
Operating from a base in Hong Kong, Asia has been my heartland for the past 20 years but I have also worked on projects in London and as far afield as Georgia and Croatia over the past 10 years. I have been in and out of Japan regularly since I left there in 2007. And, yes, the China mainland has become a regular destination. I moved to Beijing for one project for 6 months and next to Hong Kong, Guangdong province is full of amazingly innovative technology companies. There is a lot to learn from China and there is a lot of knowledge capital as well as technological innovation that has not reached the west.
Moving forward, I am as ever, ready and wiling to work wherever the excitement is. Tokyo looks like the place to be with the upcoming Olympics but London has a lot to offer in terms of opportunity given the Brexit impact. And I am willing to bet Hong Kong will be as vibrant as ever as the folks next door on the mainland assert their inimitable stamp on business and culture in the coming years.
Yes, it is definitely more secure to be part of a global organisation with teams and partners, friends and support systems and a regular source of income but the work I have done, the places I have been, the people and new friends I have met has definitely been worth the ride to date. Some projects I have taken on as pro bono just to give me a glimpse into a new world or to get access to a world whose doors are normally closed. I also have been bookkeeper, project manager, sales manager, marketing manager, project director and brand consultant all in the same day. And there is the constant need to keep up with trends and new practices thought leadership. Never mind ‘Stay Foolish”, ‘Stay Hungry’ is my preferred motto.