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

2016: Holiday #1
February 5, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Holiday, Otis, Parents

So today is the last day of work for a week before the Chinese New Year holiday.

I know … I know … I’ve just come back from my Christmas holiday, but this has been going on for 6 years so I don’t know why you’re surprised.

Last year, Chinese New Year was the start of a horrible time.

Mum was rushed into hospital and I flew back to be with her.

She recovered – and even thrived – but 10 days later, when she had her heart operation, it all went terribly wrong.

I’ve written a lot about that so I won’t say anymore for now, but this holiday will be different and I am sure my Mum would be happy about that.

Family is very important.

Sometimes we take them for granted.

We don’t mean to, but pressure and expectation occasionally distracts us from what’s really important and that’s why holidays are so important, because you don’t just get to let go of the distractions, you get to spend uninterrupted time with the people who make you feel fulfilled.

I’m not going to lie … holidays are very different now I have a son, but they are still magical, just in a different way.

When we were in Sydney a few weeks ago, one of the things we did was take Otis to the beach … Balmoral Beach to be precise.

Watching him play in the sand and the sea for the first time in his life was very special for me.

Seeing the joy on his face as he engaged with nature with his Mum and Dad was something that affected me deeply.

China was never going to be our home forever, but being able to easily compare against another way of living – albeit in the bubble of a holiday – certainly brought home what we now view as important.

That doesn’t mean things are going to change immediately – the fact is I still love my job, my life and China – but it does mean the things we want to explore and experiment with in the future have to fit in with certain environmental requirements that we never previously viewed as important. What’s even more amazing is that I no longer see this as a restriction of opportunity, but a sign my life has grown in ways I never previously could imagine.

That would make my parents happy which means that makes me doubly happy.

So while it is true that I am going to have another holiday just weeks after my previous one, it is no longer about me being a work shy, lazy bastard, it’s about spending time with the most important people in my life and even you couldn’t begrudge me that.

OK, you can, but I’m choosing to ignore you.

See you on the 15th.

Happy ‘year of the monkey’.

Bugaboo Declare War On Me …
February 4, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Babies, Comment, Marketing, Marketing Fail

I’ve written a bunch about my hatred of pushchair companies – hell, I wrote one just last week – but those bastards keep pushing me.

Just yesterday, I saw this …

If you think “The Pushchair” is boastful, wait till you read the body copy …

“Twenty years ago, we designed the World’s first modular pushchair so you and your youngest travellers could explore the World with absolute ease. Iconic, innovative and loaded with functionality, our pushchairs ensure a smooth and smart ride. Built to last, they can be endlessly upgraded to suit your mood, style or journey. Life is truly a great adventure …”

The way they go on about themselves, you’d think they’re selling a Land Rover rather than a fucking pushchair. Yes, a pushchair … something designed to simply transport a kid between home and some other place.

I’m not denying they are good products – I have one for Otis – but all this ‘explore the World’ bollocks does my head in.

Sure, you might take it with you when you’re on holiday but the way they go on, you think they are the tool for every adventurer … from Columbus to Bear Grylls.

I can see it now, Bear is stuck halfway down a mountain … the wind and rain is relentlessly battering his body and he knows he has seconds to make a life changing decision.

Mustering the very last of his strength, he reaches behind his back and after a little struggle, pulls something out of his pack.

It’s an iconic and innovatively designed Bugaboo pram.

He’s saved!!!

By jumping into “The Pushchair” he knows he is now safe, warm and able to roll down the huge mountain side without any fear for his life.

Thank god for Bugaboo.

OK, I’m taking the piss, but they started it with their marketing bullshit.

And if they can be endlessly upgraded, can someone tell me how come they don’t offer an option to turn it into a car when the kid hits 17?

Given the cost of the bloody things, it’s the only way any parent will be able to help their kid buy a real set of wheels.

See, more marketing rubbish from the pushchair federation.


Standards And Opinion Are The Only Thing That Separates Us …
February 3, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Brand Suicide, Point Of View

One of the things I hate about marketing is how it now chases customers rather than attracts.

They pander.

They crawl.

They basically say – or do – whatever it is their research says people want from them.

Which not only makes entire categories look, act and behave the same way, but it ultimately undermines the whole point of marketing in the first place.

Sure, every now and then you’ll get a ‘manifesto ad’ where a brands talks about what it believes … however, on closer inspection, you realise most of them are saying nothing whatsoever or are so contrived in their expression, that you realise they’ve been designed to blend in rather than stand out.

Great brands sacrifice.

Great brands polorise.

Great brands stand for something.

Great brands are stubborn bastards.

That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the people who embrace them, they do. The reality is their success is born from not trying to appeal to everyone, but to mean everything to someone.

Where loyalty is disproportionate.



But sadly, at least in terms of marketing, those days seem to be over.

Sure, there’s the odd brand out there that still proves the power of a strong point of view – the brands who were born from the culture they operate in – but in the main, the majority of communication out there is a bland, pandering, message of pleading beige.

The equivalent of a teenage boys begging an uninterested girl to love him.

I say this because I recently saw an ad for a wine merchants that gave me a modicum of hope.

Sure, they end it with a bit of a ‘sell out’ exclamation [but they still link it to the standards and quality that they believe makes them different to the competition], but at it’s heart, I like that they’re saying they know their shit and when they think you’re potentially going to make a mistake, they’ll tell you.

A focus group would claim this attitude ‘alienates the customer’.

That the brand is ‘condescending’ to its audience.

That the tone could ‘put someone off from going in the shop’.

That they should talk about their ‘royal seal of approval’ not their attitude.

But I say this … would you rather spend your money at a place that will happily let you walk out with something you might hate or a place that has the knowledge and experience to help you find something that will give a better experience than you originally imagined?

For that alone I congratulate Berry Bros & Rudd.

For ignoring the blandification of the focus group, I stand up and mightly applaud.

Everything Is A Medium …
February 2, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Brand Suicide, Comment, Crap Marketing Ideas From History!, Marketing Fail

I was at the doctors when, while waiting for my prescription, I saw this …

Now you may think it’s a magazine rack.

A simple, not very attractive, magazine rack that is holding a range of out-of-date periodicals.

A simple, not very attractive, magazine rack that is holding a range of out-of-date periodicals in the vicinity of a bunch of ill people who are waiting for their medicine to be passed to them so they can go home and have a cup of tea.

But you’d be wrong, because apparently it’s a highly targeted media vehicle, designed to appeal to Shanghai’s most affluent individuals.

And adfolk wonder why so many people think we’re a bunch of twats.

Just Do It …
February 1, 2016, 6:17 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment

Legend. [And not just because I’m 5 years off being this man]

Confidence. Separated By Water And Definition.
January 29, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the biggest differences between Brits and American’s is confidence.

Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s American’s ability to overtly express their confidence without any sense of irony.

I remember the first time I worked in the US and being shocked when I heard someone say, “I’m really good at my job”.

Now the fact is, they were … but that still didn’t change the fact I found it alien to hear someone talk in those terms.

Part of that is, as I said, I’m British.

Those sort of statements are just not said.

Not just because we are brought up to believe you prove it rather than say it, but to ‘big yourself up’ is seen as a sign of ego, not confidence.

That said, years later, I found myself making a similar statement about my abilities as a planner to a client.

On one hand I was surprised to hear myself say it … on the other, I felt a sense of liberation that I had never had before.

It might be wrong to say it, but it felt good.

It was like I was drawing a line in the sand.

Letting the other party know I won’t tolerate any bullshit so be careful how they go ahead.

And it worked.

You’d think with that, I’d of said it again, but I haven’t.

Part of this is because there’s been few times where it was even called for, but the other part is that I still feel it’s a massive statement of ego.

And then I watched this.

Yes, it’s Brian Clough making his now infamous interview after being fired by Leeds United after just 44 days in management.

It was this event that led him to becoming manager of Nottingham Forest where he went on to change the history of the club – and my childhood – forever, but that’s not the point of this post, the point is what he says between 18 minutes 50 seconds and 19 minutes 50 seconds.

It may be worth going back to watch those 60 seconds.

For me, the bit that is the most powerful is when he say’s to Don Revie – the incredibly successful manager he replaced at Leeds – “I wanted to do that and I wanted to do it better than you”.

OK, so it’s not exactly the same as saying “I’m really good at my job” because lets face it, he’s not talking about his abilities but his hopes, but still … to say this on television having just been fired from his job is a massive statement of self belief.

But what I love the most is that he said he wanted to win ‘better’ rather than ‘more’.

That for him success, wasn’t purely about quantity, but quality.

In essence, he’s saying his standards are even higher than the person before him … the person who won so much with pretty much the same team.

That’s ballsy in itself, but to say it to the face of the previous manager is potentially suicidal.

Now the fact he had achieved incredible success prior to Leeds with Derby County meant he couldn’t simply be labelled an egomaniac … and the fact he then went on to achieve even greater success with my beloved Nottingham Forest meant he proved to be someone truly special in Football Management … but as this sort of behaviour is very ‘un-British’ – especially back in the 1970’s – I wonder if his approach acted as some sort of self-inspiration.

That the fear of public ridicule drove him further rather than held him back?

That being outspoken was his insurance policy of giving it his best shot.

On face value this is quite an American way to behave but I think there’s a difference.

You see in America, I feel the focus is not just about the end result of your ambitions but acting ambitious.

It’s almost as if being humble means you’re seen as lacking the drive to succeed so people don’t believe in you.

Of course that’s not really true, but it just comes across that way. At least to me.

But in the UK, it’s different.

If you say something, you’re judged by it.

It’s why we are deeply skeptical of people who talk a big game but haven’t yet achieved stuff. We tend to view those people as loud-mouthed wankers rather than people we can believe in … and yet Clough was adored.

Sure, some regarded him as a walking egomaniac, but generally he was loved by the British public.

Again, part of that was because he had won stuff, so he could back up his claims … the other was that he tended to talk in terms of ‘hopes’ rather than ‘ambitions’ which meant it was more about what he’d like to happen rather than stating what will happen [a subtle, but important difference] and finally it was because he was slightly eccentric [See below *] so he could defuse situations as quickly as he could ignite them.

But, in my opinion, the secret to his success is that his outspokenness wasn’t to impress or shock others, but to push himself to succeed.

By knowing the skepticism the British have for big talkers, he knew that once his words left his gob, he was going to be judged and that gave him the fire he needed to push harder and go further.

Not just to win, but to win right … which in my opinion was to ‘succeed in a way that earned his team the respect from the opposition and their fans’.

In a World where winning is judged by speed, I love that he – and years later, the technical director of the Belgium football team – saw the value in craft.

There’s a lot we can learn from Clough, of which expressing your hopes – especially if you’re British – is one of them.

* When Brian Clough bought Trevor Francis – the first 1 million pound footballer in England – he turned up to the press conference holding his badminton racquet, claiming he had just come from a game.

It’s said the reason he did this was that he didn’t want his new signing to feel extra pressure to live up to his price tag by the press so he ensured their focus would be drawn towards the eccentricity of his actions.

If you like that story, then you have to watch the documentary ‘I Believe In Miracles’.

It chronicles Forest’s amazing rise from second division averageness to Kings of Europe and – arguably – the World, between the years of 1977 and 1981.

For me, it was a trip down memory lane, for you, it might just be a very entertaining 90 minutes.

To tempt you, here’s the trailer:

Another Example Why Marketing Directors At Pram Companies Need To Be Arrested. Or Aborted …
January 28, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Babies, Comment, Corporate Evil, Cunning, Daddyhood, Pretentious Rubbish

Maybe pram advertising has been horrendous for decades.

Maybe I only started noticing it because I recently became a father.

[As you can see here and here]

But whatever the reason … the way they market their products makes me ill.

I’m not saying it’s not effective because, let’s face it, lots and lots of people buy it … but what really fucks me off is that they never talk about the baby, just the contrived lifestyle and status cues it represents.

The latest example of their fucked-up thinking is this …

Yes, it’s supposedly a pram for parents who run.

Except it isn’t is it … because if it was, they’d do more than just create a tricycle, they’d fit it with things a parent who runs would value.

Like a tripometer.

Or a drinks holder.

Or an alliance with someone like NIKE.

Or technology that connects to your smartphone to give you valuable data.

Or something that keeps your kid amused – and safe – while you take them out on the busy streets and roads because life is all about you, isn’t it. You selfish dick.

But they don’t because this pram isn’t really for parents who run, it’s for people who want to convey a lifestyle image that doesn’t include being seen as a good, caring, parent.

I cannot tell you how much I utterly hate how this category conducts itself.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s others who are equally as bad, but there’s something about this industry than feels even dirtier than banks … and that is saying something.

But what gets me is how they seem to think people should have multiple prams to satisfy different needs in their day.

The pram you push when you want to exercise.

The pram you push when you need to ‘off-road’.

The pram you push when you need to attend that fashionable party.


Seriously, if I ever met someone who actually bought multiple prams for lifestyle requirements, I think I’d report them to the authorities … though to be fair, that’s much nicer than what I’d do if I ever met a marketing director at a pram company.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,021 other followers