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

Design Memories …
January 20, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Family, Focus Groups, Insight, Mum & Dad, Research, Sentimentality

I have written a lot about the hypocrisy and complexity of humans.

For all the claims that we are generally consistent and sensible, the reality is we are simply good at hiding our truth.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was on a plane from Zurich, flicking through the duty free catalogue.

To be honest, I do this all the time – never buying anything – just looking at the tat that is being flogged at 30,000 feet.

But that all changed when I saw this:

Now, as you may have guessed by the quality of photo, this isn’t the picture from the catalogue, it’s actually the picture I took of the product after I purchased it.

Now you may be wondering why I bought a clock?

Or why I bought a clock from a plane?

Well, contrary to popular belief, it is not because I have an insatiable need to spend my money … nor is it because I have an obsession with knowing the time … it’s because it reminded me of the Braun alarm clock my parents had when I was a kid.

Yes … I appreciate that means I’m a sentimental old fart – not to mention Braun are a bunch of lazy bastards in terms of design updates – but the fact is, with my parents gone and my family home totally refurbished, having things that connect me to my family life are becoming even more precious and important to me.

Yes, I know people say ‘but you have your memories’, but frankly – at least for me – that’s not enough, I crave something more tangible, more real, more in the present.

I can’t actually remember how or why my parents got their clock. Part of me thinks it was a free gift when they enquired about some insurance policy or something, but regardless of the reason, it cemented itself in my consciousness.

I remember how my parents used to use it as their alarm clock, placed on Dad’s side of the bed so he could hit snooze in the morning.

I remember how I would always hear it’s distinctive alarm tone from my bedroom. Followed by the slap of a hand on the snooze button before it repeated itself 8 minutes later.

I remember how I would go into their bedroom at weekends and move the ‘alarm hands’ so I could set the sound off over and over again.

It might be a small thing, but to me it’s a big thing because I don’t see it as an alarm clock purchased on a plane from Zurich, I see it as a memory of my past that I’ve been able to bring back into my present and that makes me feel good, warm and – in a bizarre way – a bit safe.

I know there’s no logic to that, I know it is all in my head, but people are funny like that.

Regardless what moderators in focus groups might say.

In A Marketing Department Sadly Not Far, Far Away …
January 19, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Brand Suicide, Comment, Crap Marketing Ideas From History!, Marketing Fail

So yesterday I talked about the Yoda complex so it seems a perfectly appropriate time to talk about the recent Star Wars campaign for ‘The Force Awakens’.

Now I have a very vested interest in the Star Wars franchise, not just because it is one of the most iconic movies of my youth, but because my Mum was involved in the making of the first one. Sure, it was a small role, but it made her the coolest Mum in the universe.

Including galaxies far, far away.

Now if I’m being honest, those good feelings were tested to the max when George Lucas decided to launch the car crashes that were episodes I, II and III – especially as he incorporated the most annoying character since Scrappy Doo, Jar Jar Binks – but somehow, and to be honest I’m not exactly sure how, he came through without me wanting to kill him.

Hurt him, yes.

Kill him, no.

Years pass and Disney buy the rights to the franchise.

To be honest, I didn’t know whether to be happy or concerned.

Sure, I loved that a story I held in such high emotional esteem was going to be brought back into my life but there was more than a worry that the owners of Mickey might screw it up because let’s be honest, they bloody love their cuddly characters don’t they.

But then they announced the director was going to be no other than J J Abrams.

Sure, he’s not the greatest director in the World … in fact he’s a bit overrated … however he has an energy and edge that ensured that the chances were it would be more in the family of the original movies than the dumbed-down, uber-diluted prequels.

Early signs were good.

The trailers were exciting … there was a reintroduction of old and new characters and THERE WASN’T A CUDDLY ALIEN IN SIGHT.


And then the promotional activity started.

Look, I know it’s an important film.

I appreciate it was hideously expensive to make.

I get it’s a competitive marketplace so you want to stand out.

But how the hell does that justify this in Singapore …

… or this in the US …

… or this in China, a country that doesn’t even support Christmas …

I thought Hello Kitty, Ferrari and LG were brand whores, selling themselves to whoever hands over the cash, but this is a whole other level of ‘selling out’.

Fortunately the movie wasn’t as bad as their promotional activity suggested – though that could also be because their promotional activity set such a low bar, even Jar Jar Binks would look good in comparison, but being honest, I loved it. Every single second of it – however this ultimately shows the 2 sides of the Disney organisation.

The amazingly creative, craft obsessed, imaginative geniuses.

[Of which this is another example of when they’re brilliant]

And the supermarket publicists.

[Of which this is another example of when they’re scandalous]

Or said another way, the Force and the Dark Side.

God, I hope the Force wins as the franchise moves forward or I expect to see a Yoda vibrator at Ann Summers sometime in the future.

The Yoda Complex …
January 18, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Context, Craft, Egovertising, Insight, Perspective, Prejudice

I once worked with a planner on an architectural project who suggested we should “fuck off the architects, because we could do this ourselves”.

While this guy was a delusional idiot, he was not – sadly – an anomaly.

I am getting increasingly frustrated by people who claim to have the answers to everything and anything when it is based almost exclusively on their own, clouded, personal perspectives.

They don’t care about the details … the issues … the nuances … the real problems … they think they can solve everything simply because their opinion represents every opinion, regardless how tenuous their knowledge or experience.

Sure, it is possible for some people to get so ‘lost’ in the details that they take you down dead-ends … but that doesn’t mean everyone is like that, so to have the attitude that you can blindly ignore people with specific knowledge and experience or that you don’t need to seek out greater understanding of the nuances of the situation because you think you know everything already, is – at best – naive and – at worst – the work of a destructive imposter.

Professionalism doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit and a tie and carry a briefcase to work every day, it means you have an inherent desire to do the best work of your life each and every time which means you can’t sit on your pedestal of delusion and prejudice with your eyes closed, ears shut but poisonous tongue very much alive.

By all means have a different point of view … but base it on the real issues and problems, not what you want the issue and problems to be.

Or instead of working for someone else, go start your own company and see how far you can go on your own. At least earn the right for your arrogance.

Happy Monday.

The Proximity Of Absence …
January 15, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Dad, Death, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad

Tomorrow is the 17th anniversary of my Dad passing away.

It’s also the 1st anniversary of my Mum & Dad both being gone.

I suspect this will mean the day will have a different effect on me from previous years.

I’ve written previously how it took me 10 years to come to terms with my Dad passing.

And how an event on the 10th anniversary, changed everything for me.

But tomorrow will be different.

I don’t know if that will be in a good or bad way, but it will be different.

It’s strange, but my year is now split into 2 halves.

The half when my parents passed away [the first 6 months] and the half when my parents had their birthdays. [the second 6 months]

That isn’t meant to sound as depressing as it does, it’s just how I now work out where I am in any given year.

Of course there are many other ‘pointers’ … happy, positive, pointers … but that doesn’t take away the sense of utter loss I feel not being able to see or talk to my beloved, wonderful parents. Especially on these days of significance.

But they would not want me to feel depressed, even though it is a sign of how much they mean/meant to me.

Well, maybe my Dad would – but only because he could be a cheeky chap.

So to acknowledge tomorrow – the first time my parents will be together on the anniversary of my Dad’s death – I want to tell a little story of my Dad.

My Dad was a wonderful man, but he had ‘his ways’.

He was the slowest eater in the history of the universe.

He would literally cut his peas in half before eating them. PEAS!

He was also in possession of the most twisted ‘dessert’ creations ever known to man.

Some were tasty, but the fact is, he combined flavours that just sounded wrong together.

He was a kind, generous, intelligent man but there were definitely some ‘quirks’ to him that meant we occasionally clashed.

But despite that, I never wanted for love and support. He made sure I knew how much I meant to him and I will never forget the level of care, compassion and encouragement he – and Mum – gave me.

One day sums it up more than most.

Actually, there’s lots of ‘one days’, I could talk about, but I want to tell you about the time I crashed his car.

So I was 17 and my Dad had a Toyota Celica.

He was very generous in lending me his car, probably more generous than I deserved … though there was the time he rang Paul’s house at 11pm demanding I brought the car back immediately, which was made even more embarrassing by the fact Paul and I had a couple of ‘female friends’ with us, which meant we had to get them a taxi home rather than driving them back ourselves.

Anyway, one day he lent me his car and I drove down to Central Avenue … which was West Bridgford’s ‘high street’.

I can’t remember the reason why, but I do remember looking to my left at something before the terrible sound of crushing metal hit my ears. Yep, I’d hit another car.


Of course it was my fault, but what made it worse was the whole community seemed to come out and started shouting at me as if I’d just tried to murder the person in the other car.

Fortunately no one was hurt and even though I was in a daze, I was able to ‘swap details’ with the other driver before the slow drive home.

Dad’s car was in bad shape.

The whole front side was smashed in … which says more about the standard of Toyota’s manufacturing in the 80’s than my driving, as I wasn’t going very fast.

I was badly shaken.

Apart from the fact it was my first crash, it was in my Dad’s car.

I had ruined my Dad’s bloody car.

I slowly drove home and as I pulled into the drive, I could see my Dad was in the front room with a client.

I got out the car, went into the house and knocked on his door.

He obviously hadn’t seen the damage as he called me in to say hello and to meet his client.

I burst into tears. Massive, uncontrollable sobs.

He immediately got up to hug me and asked, “What’s wrong?”.

I told him.

“I’ve had a crash. I’ve smashed your car. I’m so sorry”.

He asked me if I was alright and how it happened, then said we should go see the car.

It was bad. Really bad.

And do you know what he said?

He said I should get back in it and go to Asda to buy some milk.

Instead of being angry, he was concerned that the smash would stop me from wanting to drive ever again.

He wanted me to ‘get back on the horse’ as quickly as possible so I would realise an accident doesn’t mean a disaster.

I still can’t believe his generosity and compassion.

Sure he was upset but he didn’t lose his temper, didn’t tell me I was an idiot [even though I was] … he just focused on ensuring I was OK both at that exact moment and for the future.

Sure, when things had calmed down we talked about what happened and what I had learnt from the experience, but even then, it wasn’t about ‘telling me off’ or limiting my use of the car … it was about ensuring I didn’t do it again because he loved me and didn’t want me to ever get hurt or feel that terrible again.

That was how special he was as a father.

How wonderful he was as a human.

I hope I can be half as considerate to Otis when he does something like that to me.

Dad … I hope you’re holding hands with Mum and laughing.

I love you.

I miss you.


Swiss Air. The Airline That Will Scare The Shit Out Of You …
January 14, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Crap Campaigns In History, Marketing Fail

So a few months ago, I flew Swiss Air for the first time.

To be fair, it was pretty good … but the thing that got me was the poster in Zurich airport before I took off. This poster …

Look, I get Switzerland is full of beautiful scenery.

I get Switzerland is famous for very expensive, highly engineered, watches.


No bloody wonder their logo looks similar to the bloody Red Cross [yes, I know the real reason, so ssssssh] because based on this poster … they’re saying their pilots fly like fucking lunatics and you may crash and need saving.

From a mountain.

In the snow.

I totally understand most airline ads feature generic photos of a plane in the sky, and showing a plane inches from hitting a mountain peak in the middle of absolutely nowhere definitely differentiates them from the masses, however – and it’s a relatively important ‘however’ – I don’t think it does much for them in terms of audience appeal.

Then it doesn’t do much for promoting the ‘precision’ of their very expensive watches either.

Mind you, given Zurich is so horrendously boring, maybe a plane crash would add some much needed excitement to the country. Maybe.

What Futurists And Egotists Can Learn From Bowie …
January 13, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, Death, RIP, Stubborness

So as we all know Bowie died this week.

Given few people knew he was ill, the news of his death – especially given the release of his latest album and birthday – was particularly shocking.

I loved Bowie.

Not, believe it or not, because he once sang a duet with my favourite band … but because in addition to his music, I loved his commitment to reinvention.

Whereas people like Madonna seem to flock towards whatever trend can help them appear relevant, Bowie did it because he was interested in the unknown.

He never did it in the quest for sales, he did it because he was interested in it … stubborn in his resolve to always do what intrigued him, what he believed in.

Sometimes that incurred the wrath or the laughter of critics – people judging him by their standards, not his – but he didn’t care, because he believed life was about experiences, experimentation and exploration and if people didn’t understand what or why he was doing things, he didn’t really care.

Some may argue you can act that when you are rich, but the fact is he always lived that way.

He never felt he had to convince others of his choices.

He never chased others approval.

In essence, he was the embodiment of ‘his own person’ which is why whatever he did always felt authentic and – to a certain extent – effortless.

Lots of people have written lots of amazing things about him and the response he has received from society – especially in his hometown of Brixton – has been amazing, however if anything highlights how he embraced the future, especially the unknown, the untapped, the unexplored … it’s this comment he made about the music industry back in 2002.

When I look at the ambiguous twaddle so many ‘futurists’ spout, Bowie is articulate, clear and very focused.

You sense that his beliefs were born from serious consideration – never a quest to exercise his ego – which is why he was a refreshing counterpoint to the statements made by so many modern artists today.

Mr Bowie, you have left the World a less interesting place than it was before but we would be in a far worse position had you not been here at all.

The ultimate legacy.

Would You Trust This Man?
January 12, 2016, 6:00 am
Filed under: Brand Suicide, Communication Strategy, Egovertising

It’s a genuine question … would you trust him?

I don’t know Mr Haman … he popped up on my Linkedin feed a few weeks ago and I’ve been sort of fascinated with him ever since.

I’ m not exactly sure why.

It could be the photo he used.

It could be that he’s given himself a rather fetching ‘middle name’.

It could be that he claims to be the most connected man on Linkedin. In the World.

The reality is I have no idea about his credentials as an innovator, solution provider or trainer … but my question is, if you were looking for an innovator, solution provider or trainer, would this profile actually make you want to know more or run?

That is a genuine question, I’m not judging or being condescending, I’m fascinated by him and would love to know what your first impressions would be or – if you wouldn’t hire him – who do you think would? Thanks.