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

Off On Communist National Holiday Duty
September 30, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

… which means you’re free from my rubbish until W/C 10th Oct.


That’s well over a week.


While you’re busy jumping up and down with unadulterated glee, spare a little thought for my poor wife who has to put up with me 24/7 for over 10 whole days.

Poor bugger.

Anyway, enjoy the peace, I know I’ll enjoy every second away from you lot.

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeee …

Nonsensical Meaning …
September 29, 2011, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that really gets on my tits is when I see communication using language designed to basically alienate the masses rather than attract them.

Acronyms … buzzwords … it’s like they’ve forgotten what communication is designed to do.

OK … OK … so there’s a school of thought that if you use language that represents the industry you’re talking to, you will resonate with them more deeply than if you used ‘normal’ language, however to that I say bullshit.

People who run billion dollar companies are still human.

People who develop technology are still human.

Accountants are [allegedly] still human.

Dustmen are still human.

I get that brands might want to make their specific audience feel special … more important … unique … but using language that basically makes them look like a bunch of cocks to everyone else who sees the stuff is hardly achieving their goal.

Have a look at this …

What the fuck does ‘The Limitless Power of Synergy’ mean?

What are they synergising? Why is it limitless? And who the hell is PTT in the first place?

Seriously, that line is even more bollocks than that ad and that is saying something.

OK, so they’re a company with lots of different divisions that all work together – why can’t they say that?

Synergy is one of those words that basically highlights you’re a cock. Like saying vitality. What the fuck does vitality actually mean?

I remember sitting in a Unilever meeting and asking what ‘efficacy’ meant – a word they were throwing around like it was confetti.

Of course they looked at me like I was mad, however when I pointed out that the average punter who buys their deodorant doesn’t talk like that and all they’re doing is letting their ego and need for self importance cloud their communication judgement, they accepted I might have a bit of a point.

How can an industry that claims to know how to inspire and attract the masses end up putting forward language that does anything but?

Of course we all know – because they core goal is to keep the CEO happy rather than the masses – but the skill we have is understanding how people think, believe and do and every time one of these corporate piles of bollocks gets produced, we’re demonstrating we don’t really have a clue.

Apple get it.

Their penetration of the business market hasn’t required them to start using tech terms … or corporate speak.

They know the people they’re talking to don’t require ads with big, pointless management-speak headlines featuring people wearing ties to be attracted to them … they know these people are the same as you and I, people who react to clear, simple, meaningful messages and copy – so next time you’re evaluating copy, test it on your Mum or Dad and if they look confused, get out the pen and start writing it again – not because they’re stupid, but because they’re human.

Cultural Projection …
September 28, 2011, 6:17 am
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Years ago, someone said to me that everyone needs someone to look up to – but more importantly, look down on.

They didn’t mean it in terms of specific individuals – though that happens as well – they were talking about whole regions, cultures and nationalities.

For example …

The English look down on the Welsh.

The Americans look down on the Mexicans.

The French look down on everyone.

However it can get much more specific than that …

People from southern parts of England often look “down” on people from the northern parts of England who look down on anyone from a particular city within northern England – like Liverpool or Newcastle – who look down on the Scots who look down on anyone from Indian or Pakistani communities who look down on anyone from Eastern Europe who look down on … well, you get the idea and it happens in pretty much every country/city around the World.

OK, I’m being incredibly generalistic so please don’t take me too literally or seriously … however the people who think/act in this way – of which there are many – adopt this attitude because it helps them justify their own situation and/or lack of achievement … in other words, it’s a byproduct of their inherent prejudice, ignorance and fear.

Adland could play a part in changing this however they either turn it into a joke which in their mind, somehow makes it all OK or – like Benetton – they exploit it in an attempt to gain eyeballs to their fucking garish jumpers.

I genuinely believe adland can play a significant part in making society better – or at least help give greater appreciation and understanding – however given the way the industry constantly seeks to smear pretty much everyone else within the industry, it’s no surprise trying to make things better is the exception rather than the rule so until human nature changes, here are some posters that help highlight the stupidity of our prejudiced society.

To Be Or Not To Be …
September 27, 2011, 6:11 am
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You’re quite successful.

You’ve had a good career and done quite well out of it financially.

Yet despite that, you still have not quite achieved the legacy that you feel you deserve – so what do you do?

Do you:

[A] Accept that you’re very fortunate to be in the position you’re in and appreciate and enjoy every moment of what you’ve got?

[B] Work even harder to achieve the break-through you know you’re capable of making … and 1,000,000 percent deserve?

[C] Get plastic surgery to look like someone who has unparalleled levels of respect?

If you chose [C], then you will probably get on very well with Chinese author, Zhang Yiyi who is planning to fork out US$153,000 to look like William bloody Shakespeare.

Wanting to look like someone famous is nothing new – as we have seen on the MTV “classic”, I Want A Famous Face – however Zhang is taking it to another level, even though there is the suspicion this is nothing more than another of his well documented publicity stunts.

I’ve written a lot about celebratory endorsement in the past – especially Asia’s fascination with it all – however wanting to change your appearance to resemble someone well known is beyond me, especially when the person you want to look like died so long ago, that few people would ever recognise who they are trying to be in the first place.

OK … OK … so maybe it has nothing to do with wanting to make other people think you’re someone you’re not, but in these cult of celebratory times, these sorts of actions and decisions are scary as it’s basically an evolution of the illusion and delusion elements that have been infiltrating society for the last decade or so.

Anyway I have to go, I’ve got to go and get surgery to look like a cross between a member of ZZ Top, the Unabomber and Dan Wieden.

A Bit Of Advice That You May Or May Not Find Useful On This Monday Morning …
September 26, 2011, 6:10 am
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… always do what you think is right, because someday you’re going to get fired anyway.

Processed Individuality …
September 23, 2011, 6:02 am
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One of my favourite books is The Time Wasters Letters.

Basically it’s a compendium of letters the author has sent to companies and organisations featuring stupid ideas, issues or considerations and the responses he gets from them.

I love it because apart from being utterly mad [“Did anyone hand in to your lost property department my shoe lace? It’s very sentimental to me.”] you get to see how brands handle situations where brand loyalty is in a make or break situation.

I’ve written about the time my brand new Golf had the gearbox fall out and the turbo blow up within months of owning it and that the dealer ensured I never bought another car from them again when they suggested:

“I get a bus, because they don’t have a policy for offering service cars in these situations and this was going to take at least 6 weeks”.

Fortunately for VW, I knew dealerships and the manufacturers were totally different beasts, so when I elevated my complaint to VW HQ on the grounds that “I don’t have a policy of spending tens of thousands of dollars on buying a vehicle that self destructs within months” they knew by acting quickly and decisively, they could make me a brand advocate for life – regardless of where I end up buying their cars – and they did just that by flying out a new gearbox so my car was back on the road within 48 hours.

In a little more than a few days, I went from being the unhappiest customer in the World to a confirmed brand fan and all because VW appreciated their customer service process needed to fit in with their customers satisfaction timeline and mindset, not theirs.

And that’s the thing, too many ‘customer service policies’ are cold, regimented and designed to protect the company rather that satisfy the customer. In short, there are robots that have more empathy and understanding than companies complaint procedures.

I remember Geoff Burch – the most cynical management consultant ever – telling me he was once helping a company who had major customer satisfaction issues. When he looked in to the matter, he found the problem was their service assistants weren’t empowered to do anything other than offer excuses and empty platitudes.

When he asked the company why … he was told that they didn’t trust their staff and so their strategy ensured they were able to protect themselves from unexpected and excessive costs.

After he pointed out that [1] if they’re getting so many complaints they should look at their manufacturing processes and [2] if they don’t trust their staff they should look at their hiring policies … he highlighted that failure to treat complaints in a way that lets the customer feel they are being heard and understood – even if you can’t fundamentally fix the problem – is the single most powerful way to destroy your relationship for good.

We all know this.

It’s human nature.

Just having someone understand where you’re coming from makes a massive difference to how you feel and yet so many companies ignore this in favour of policies that approach every issue with a standardised response that almost guarantees distain and disgust on the side of the client … and this is why I love how someone at Marks & Spencers responded to a complaint they received recently.

Bill Bennett had written to M&S asking for a refund after being overcharged for a salmon sandwich.

Ignoring the fact he seems a petty bastard, M&S responded by saying they would send him a gift card, however after it did not arrive for several weeks Bill wrote to the company again, this time asking for a …

“… hand-drawn picture of a smiley dinosaur to compensate for the inconvenience”.

After a few days, Mr Bennett received the missing gift card with a note that said …

“Unfortunately art was never my strong point, but I hope you will appreciate it.”

… and accompanying the card was this:


On one level you could say the person who drew this, customer service officer Steve Jones was taking the piss … but if I was in charge of M&S, I’d give him a big pat on the back and make him head of the department because this human approach to handling complaints made me – a person reading about the situation, not the person involved in the situation – like the brand far more than I ever have and highlights how customer complaints can be a major opportunity for brands to turn distain and anger into real societal belief & advocacy.

Thank You And Goodbye …
September 22, 2011, 6:12 am
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Today is a sad day for W+K and for me because the tallest man in China – and our MD – Kel Hook, leaves us.

Kel has been at W+K Shanghai since before it officially started – way back in 2005 – and has been pivotal in leading the company ever since, first as planning director and then as our managing director.

However, after 12 years of China craziness and 6 years of W+K highs, lows, magical madness and all manner of mayhem, he’s decided to move on … starting off, as you do, with a 3 month holiday in Costa Rica.


It’s an exciting time for him – especially as he just got married – however on a personal note, I’m very sad to see him go.

I’ve known Kel for about 5 years and he was – along with Nick Barham – instrumental in getting me to join the Wieden gang and for that I will always be eternally grateful for his faith, support, encouragement and – let’s face it – patience, ha!

Saying that, I don’t mind admitting that I will feel a hell of a lot safer going on business trips, because he had an amazing ability to ensure any trip with him was liberally infused with weirdness, danger, delayed/cancelled flights and immigration issues.

That aside, he’s a top man [for an Australian] who genuinely gives a shit about people, so as much as we’re all very happy and excited that the wonderful Jason White is returning to Shanghai to take over as MD after his time running NIKE globally, it’s still a sad day for us all … so to Kel, thank you for everything you’ve done both personally and professionally and you can consider yourself one of the pioneers of bringing genuine commercial creativity to the land of commercial communism.

Have a blast.

Bye matey!