The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

When Positioning Statements, Actually Position …
April 18, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that bugs me with so many brands these days is how bland their positioning lines are.

If I see another that says something like, “Your _______, Our _______” or Your _______, Your _______, Your _______”, I will scream.

What those sorts of lines are really communicating is, “we will be anything you want us to be because we’re so desperate for your business, we don’t want to risk saying or doing anything you may find unappealing”.

To be honest, it’s the absolute opposite of positioning because anyone who comes into contact with it is left without any distinct impression of who you are, what you do or what you believe.

Of course the reality is they should be able to understand this by the product or service they execute rather than just the advertising they make, but you get the idea.

I’ve always loved positioning that leaves you in no uncertain terms what the brand is or does or believes.

If anything, they either polarise or sacrifice … ensuring they actually mean something to the people they want to engage rather than some bland, boring rubbish that could represent anyone or anything.

And when I say ‘mean something to people they want to engage’, I mean it in terms of more than simply being defined as men or women aged 18-54.

That’s why I always loved the AA stuff at HHCL [To our members, we're the 4th emergency service] or the one we proposed to Punch Magazine [Keeping libel lawyers in business since 1841] … however I saw one recently that might have become my new favourite:

How good is that!?

Not only does it have the critical elements of being clear and concise … but it’s amusing at the same time.


I suppose that’s why I always quite liked seeing how Church’s position themselves – even if it’s only via the sign outside their premises – because they weren’t afraid of having a point of view and weren’t afraid of committing to it through thick and thin.

In this world where brands go on about how important it is to build ‘loyalty’, it’s amazing how many approach this goal with boring people to death rather than doing something that will attract them.

But then when you strip the arrogance of business away, you realise they are frightened little children who are scared and desperate to be liked and don’t want to risk doing anything that could jeopardise that.

Maybe they should watch the movie ‘The Quiet American’ … a movie that was [name drop time] directed by my wife’s uncle … because there’s a great line in it that say’s …

“At some point, you’ve got to decide which side of the fence you’re going to land on”

… though maybe the more appropriate quote is from Malcolm X …

“If you don’t stand for something, they’ll fall for anything”.

While my view of what a brand is may be different to many other peoples, I still believe it’s about having something that has an irrational hold on people’s hearts, minds and habits.

With that view, it is physically impossible to be a brand if you embrace being bland.

Why Husbands Are Better Planners Than Planners …
April 17, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

It only takes a look.

A twitch of the eye.

A minuscule curl of the lip.

A slight change in posture.

It speaks volumes.

In that instant, you know whether you’re in the good books or the bad.

But sometimes it’s not as simple as that.

Words are said.

Comments are made.

And yet you know that what’s being communicated is not actually what they want to communicate … and better yet, you know exactly what’s being said, even though it isn’t being verbalised.

It’s the ability to translate the unspoken words and mannerisms that allows you to be a good husband. Or at least a husband that doesn’t get a swift kick in the balls every night for doing something wrong that they didn’t even know they’d done because women have an ability to remember – and recall – at a whim, every fault you’ve ever made for the last 60 years.

Seriously, marriage is better for keeping your brain on it’s toes than Sudoku.

But I digress.

You see the thing I can’t work out is if husbands know the best way to understand their wife is to see and hear what is trying to be said – even though they’re not saying it – why do so many planners want their audience to literally ‘spoon feed’ them the insights they want to use in their communication.

I’ve met more than a few planners who have a total inability to read subtext … believing that only if someone conveys their feelings and opinions is it a valid feeling or opinion.

Who teaches them that way of thinking?

I can only assume their bosses were robots because few people do that.

Not – as Henry Ford suggested, because they don’t know – but because they either cannot articulate or convey their thoughts/feelings/opinions in a way that is clear and concise or they actually want to hide it for reasons best known to themselves.

So if you know a planner who thinks insights are something that are openly shared and spouted by the respondent, the best advice I can tell you to give them is to ‘get hitched’, because where marriage is concerned, survival isn’t – as Darwin suggested – of the fittest, it’s actually being able to read what isn’t being said.

Should The Lion State Be Renamed The Nanny State?
April 16, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

I love Singapore, I really do.

I also admire the place, because what they have achieved in 50 odd years is amazing.

So much of that is down to Lee Kuan Yu – Singapore’s founding father and patriarch – a man who had the vision, drive and resolve to drag the country to the place it currently occupies, a place that is the role model for so many other nations, not just in Asia but around the World.

Of course the way he did that was almost dictatorial … and while the place claims to be a democracy, anyone who has lived there knows it is anything but.

That said, the amazingly positive effect his leadership has had on the country and its citizens cannot be denied, but the cost of that is rarely discussed.

There are many byproducts of this sort of dictatorial approach to building a nation and Singapore is currently going through some of them.

From cultural arrogance to the obsession with materialism to the collective sense of entitlement to the divide between rich and poor, Singapore’s success has created some less desirable traits however the one that is – for me – the most alarming, is the dumbing down of decision.

Everywhere you go, there are signs and messages telling you what to do and how you should think.

From signs in malls reminding people it’s wrong to steal to campaigns ridiculing kids who act in ways the government view as inappropriate, this spoon feeding mentality prevails.

However I saw something recently that even shocked me.

A new low in treating the population like fools.

Come on Singapore … really?

What next, road signs on the pavement for which direction you should be walking.

If they really want to do a sign on the escalator, it shouldn’t be where to put your feet, it should be to tell people to stop stopping at the bottom/top of the escalator as you decide where to go, when there’s people coming up/down behind you.

Years ago we used the business consultant Geoff Burch for a project.

He told us that he once was working with a car company who was suffering from a lot of customer complaints.

He suggested to them that their after-sales people were empowered to make some decisions, only to be told that if they allowed that, they would exploit the system and give away too much to anyone they wanted to help.

Geoff looked at them and said 2 things:

1. Maybe you should be hiring better people.

2. Maybe you should make your products better.

I can’t help but feel that if the Singaporean Government feel it necessary to tell people where to place their feet, they should look at what sort of nation they’re building, nurturing and celebrating.

Sure, they have – and continue to do – amazing things for their small country, but there’s no point having a population of very educated, very smart people if they can’t think or make decisions outside of their core competency.

Unless, of course, that is the master plan to keep your unique form of democracy in power.

Costa-Packet …
April 15, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So recently I was at Singapore Airport – the best airport in the entire Universe – and given it was an ungodly hour and I was up, I needed a coffee to survive.

Spotting a Costa Coffee, I popped over to grab myself a cup of hot coffee flavoured liquid, but before I ordered, I spotted this:

Can you see it?

It’s the names … Medio and Massimo.

Unsurprisingly, medio is Italian for medium but massimo isn’t Italian large … oh no, … massimo is Italian for maximum.


As in ‘no more can be physically poured or consumed’.

Though I bet $100 that within a few years, when they realise that ‘portion inflation’ has made their current biggest sized coffee a small size in the future, they’ll launch the ‘Grande Massimo’ to get back in line with the competition … especially Macca’s whose current small cup used to allegedly be their large size 15 year ago.

But that’s not what is bothering me – though it should [and it's something I'd be getting diet companies, like Jenny Craig, should be fighting against if they really care about helping their customers lose weight] – it’s the fact Costa bloody Coffee is an English brand.


They’re about as Italian as a can of Heinz spaghetti bolognese and yet there they are, playing the mighty Italian card when they are absolutely nothing of the sort.

The other way of looking at it is Costa Coffee are liars and thieves.

Yes, liars and thieves … pretending to come from a nation that is renowned for their love of coffee so they can steal SG$14 of your money for a crappy latte and a small lemon muffin.

Yes, SG$14 … or about £7 in real money, a bloody disgrace.

Why a competitor brand hasn’t called them on this is anyones guess – probably because they’re as complicit in this coffee nation bullshit as the rest of them – but before anyone thinks I’m being too hard on them, you can relax knowing they got their own back by calling the Police when I accidentally left my bag at the cafe and walked off … only for me to return in a panic 45 minutes later [I told you I was tired] and found the place had been cornered off and there were 15 officials from various official departments going through my bag.

The smug look on the barista’s face as I was taken away for an hours questioning was priceless, almost as priceless as the cops face when he saw my passport and realised I was wearing exactly the same clothes as I am in my passport photo, despite that being 3 years old.

The Daily Mail Knows The Big Issues …
April 14, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

What do you think the biggest issues in the World are right now?

The economic crisis?

The political unrest around the World?

The unanswered questions of doomed flight MH370?

Maybe it’s something closer to home …


The budget?


Well if you said any of these you’d be wrong.

How do I know?

Because an international newspaper – in fact, an international newspaper with one of the highest visitor rates of any website in the World – say’s so.

That’s right, the good ol’ Daily Mail … the paper that says it fights for the big issues [as long as they play to their prejudiced agenda] produced a front page that showed the World we’re all fools for worrying about death, war, destruction and loss of hope, because the news that should be on top of all our minds is this:

Yep, make-up tips to look like Kim bloody Kardashian.

Though to be fair, they never once mentioned you should look like you’re made of plastic or that you should appear in a porn movie or even have a Mum that will shop you around like a gypsy trying to sell some pegs door-to-door.

So well done Daily Mail, you’ve shown the World what a real news story really is and for the life of me, I cannot work out why people think you are a home for tabloid hacks who wouldn’t know quality journalism if it came up and smashed you in the face.

The Worst Job Description, Recruitment Ad In The World …
April 11, 2014, 5:52 pm
Filed under: Comment

If you are a mid-level strategist, which for me means having worked in planning for an absolute minimum of 6+ years, run an account and can show work you have been directly responsible for helping create … have an irrational, ridiculous and passionate love of watching and playing sport … have made 3 momentous fucking mistakes in your career … don’t pretend you know what you don’t know … think advertising doesn’t mean just doing advertising … can prove you’ve pushed, cajoled and inspired others to explore the exciting … are open, collaborative and – when necessary – stubborn as fuck … like digital beyond just instagram updates … love NBA … regard chaos and madness as friends, not foes … laugh a lot … can think on your feet as well as you can think in your head and are up for a totally ridiculous, mental, incredible, wonderful, frustrating, stupid and memorable adventure, then let me know.

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When Good Intentions Go Bad …
April 11, 2014, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

A few weeks ago I had dinner at a Hard Rock cafe.

Once one of the ‘must visit’ venues, it is now a dinosaur trying desperately to maintain relevance.

They’re not doing a great job of it.

Now I know rock music is not as popular as it once was, but seeing the sweatbands of Selena Gomez’s drummer doesn’t do them any favours.

Apart from the fact Selena Gomez’s fans are all about 5 years old, she is to Rock n’ Roll what I am to style and sophistication.

And that’s the thing, I think they should go firmly back to their rock roots. Because as much as the musical genre might not be as popular as it once was, it still is the genre that brings the World the real Rock Stars – the ones who have glitz, glamour, flamboyance, drama and filthy, wonderful stories – and where a night out is concerned, especially a celebratory night out, those are the attributes that have real appeal, especially when the alternative is sitting inches away from a bandana that was once worn by the bass player of Girls Aloud.

But I digress …

The thing that really bothered me about the Hard Rock was when I was handed the menu.

It wasn’t that the prices were utterly extortionate [though they were] it was this:

Yep, on a menu for overpriced food was a statement asking you to ‘imagine there’s no World hunger’.

I admire their ambition … I admire they will give some money to someone hungry for every meal purchased … but putting that on the front cover of the menu seems a bit weird to me.

Why couldn’t they just hand that over when the receipt came … telling you that what you’ve bought has just helped feed someone who is hungry. If they did that, it would make you feel good about what you’ve eaten rather than guilty about the gluttony given you feel there is a small island currently pulsating in your stomach.

Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad if their portions were smaller … but saying ‘imagine no World hunger’ when their desserts are the size of a small planet and could feed 5000 seems like totally mixed messaging.

Have a look at this.

That is supposedly for one person.


I know American’s are big, but that is ridiculous.

As I said, it’s hard to knock them because they seem like they genuinely give a shit – and that’s good – but the way they are executing it seems misplaced, especially when there are so many other ways they could have done it and helped … from lowering food portion sizes [and giving the money saved in lower produce purchase costs to the needy] through to simply handing out all the food left over at night to the local homeless.

I guess, when you try and make a charitable action into a marketing activity, you sometimes lose sight of how to actually solve the problem because the allure of advertising your association is too compelling … especially when you are desperate for news and relevance.

And in an instant, all the good things you’re doing are lost because people end up commenting about how you’re doing things rather than why – which means the much bigger issue fails to have as much impact as it could. Or should.


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