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


There Is No Normal, But There Is A Hell Of A Lot Of Ordinary …

One of the things I hate is when I hear someone say ‘normal’ in relation to people.

What are they going on about?

There is no such thing as normal.

There may be habits or tastes or behaviours that are common, but that doesn’t make the people undertaking them, normal.

Ordinary perhaps … but not normal.

Our industry is obsessed with trying to sell mass.

I get it – clients want to reach as many people as possible – but while it sounds more efficient for a clients marketing investment if you talk about people in terms of ‘normal’, it doesn’t mean it is more effective.

If anything, quite the opposite.

As I have said countless times, we need to stop thinking relevance is the win and start aiming for resonance.

Of course to do that, you have to be comfortable with uncomfortable – and that’s why I think we’ll be seeing terms like ‘normal’ and ‘relevance’ for decades to come.

Until most of us don’t exist anymore.

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Careful, Your Manipulation Is Showing …

So a few weeks ago, I received this email …

As soon as I read that first line, I just switched off.

Not because I’m not interested in new business, but because it’s so obvious anyone in business is.

I also don’t like the tone …

As if they just care about my best interests.

Everything about this email pissed me off which – as introductory emails go – is the opposite effect they should have.

I get it’s hard to cold call someone.

I get it’s difficult to grab their attention.

But maybe someone should tell them the secret to making anyone care is getting them to buy rather than just trying to sell.

Or said another way, finding out what your audience need rather than selling them what you want them to want.



Victorian England Is Alive And Well …

A few weeks ago, my family went on what we call, ‘a family adventure’.

All that consists of is getting a map, pointing to a place around a couple of hours drive away and heading there to investigate and explore.

It’s nice to discover something new all together and it’s a precious time for us.

If we go on a Sunday, we tend to stop off at a pub for a legendary ‘Sunday Roast’.

After 2 and a half decades away, I have missed them immensely and there’s something heart-warming [literally and metaphorically] shoving some chicken and roast potatoes in your gob.

To be honest, we have had quite a range of quality.

Some of it – I swear – was a microwave version of a roast, given the grey color of the food and weird temperature range.

But some of it has been exquisite … though I appreciate that means nothing from a man who wears Birkenstocks and supports Nottingham Forest.

However what I’ve found even more interesting, is the range of pubs we have gone in.

The UK pub industry is facing incredible headwinds right now.

Huge amounts of them are being closed down – either due to a lack of trade or an increase in rents – so you’d think they’d be working hard to make people feel welcome.

And a lot are.

There’s one in Hitchin where the landlady remembered us and our orders from the second time we went in. Sure, that might have something to do with the fact Otis was wearing a full-on Spiderman costume on our first visit … but it’s still impressive.

However some are quite different.

Like this one near Winchester …

Oh I get a good joke.

I appreciate on face value, it’s funny.

Except it isn’t really is it.

It’s saying ‘kids need to be quiet’.

It’s saying ‘kids need to be controlled’.

It’s saying ‘kids are not welcome’.

It wasn’t just this sign either … there were notices everywhere:

Don’t make loud noises in the garden.

Don’t runaround in the garden.

Respect the pub grounds.

Look, I get it … you want to make sure everyone can enjoy the business you’ve worked hard to build up, but maybe they need to appreciate the difference between welcome consideration and jobsworth dictators.

While social media is awash with amusing pub signs, the landlord of this establishment needs to understand there is a huge difference between celebrating the ‘benefits’ of alcohol in our harsh world and insulting customers who have kids with them.

Or said another way …

Appreciate what you find funny may not be what others find funny.

I get ‘regulars’ may find kids annoying.

I get kids make noise and run around and around.

I get parents sometimes would like a break from it all.

But if you don’t want them coming, don’t advertise yourself as a ‘family pub’ …



When Naming Strategies Aren’t A Strategy …

A brand name can make a huge difference to the success of a brand.

Don’t get me wrong, the product has to be good or none of it matters – but the brand name does have an impact on performance.

Maybe this is why I have seen so many companies talk about their ‘naming strategy’ process … even though most of them then come back and say their first stage of the process has resulted in 10,000+ names.

TEN THOUSAND!!!

What sort of strategy – a process designed to ultimately create sacrifice – delivers 10,000 options?

But I digress.

While names can evoke all manner of feelings and emotions, there is a whole host that shows the imagination of a dead badger.

I wrote about how Singapore in particular is good/bad with their ‘say what you see’ approach to naming brands, products and stores … but there is a type of brand name that drives me even more crazy than the obviousness favoured in Asia and it’s the crash-together name.

Crash Together?

Yeah … where a brand takes 2 separate words roughly associated with the category and smashes them together.

There’s a bunch of these, such as Playtex, but I saw one recently that was bottom-of-the-barrel scraping …

Pregnacare.

PREGNACARE!!!

Christ, is that really the best they could do?

I get being pregnant is both wonderful and fearful, but Pregnacare is the most clinical name you could get.

It captures none of the wonderful and just hints of the fearful.

Plus it doesn’t – in any way – explain what it actually is, which given they’ve decided to go all mechanical in name choice, seems a rather ridiciulous situation.

I get naming is hard.

I get naming isn’t the be-all and end-all of a brands success.

But if you want to be seen as some sort of friend to anyone who is pregnant – which, judging by the photo, Pregnacare do – then you might want to choose 2 words that when smashed together, don’t sound like a visit to an upmarket gynecologist.



Don’t Mess With The Chocolate …
August 12, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Attitude & Aptitude, Chocolate, Culture

A while back, there was a twitter thread about how hormones affected women’s attitude and behaviour.

Because it was written by women, I felt I was intruding reading the comments – but they were brilliant. Not just for their self awareness and openness, but for simply talking about something rarely discussed.

Or at least, rarely discussed with men, mainly because even the most stupid bloke knows that referring to anything to do with female hormones increases the odds of getting a karate chop in the throat by about a million percent.

Anyway, as I was reading, I saw this one …

I don’t mind admitting, it made me laugh out loud on the tube.

Not because I found it stupid, but because I found it utterly relatable.

[Though divorcing someone over it might be a little exterme]

Don’t get me wrong, chocolate buttons are awesome … but they’re not the sort of thing an adult wants when they’re craving for chocolate. As a little unexpected treat – they’re fine – but to satisfy a craving, they’re about as useless as watching Forest when you want to see a really good game of football.

That said, as funny as the lady in questions reaction might have been, it does highlight that maybe Fry’s were on the right track with their chocolate ads from the 30’s and 40’s.

As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same.



Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

So a few weeks ago, in a Starbucks in Epping, I saw this man …

For those who don’t know who he is, it’s music icon Rod Stewart.

I appreciate his best days as a singer are over but the fact he’s 74, still has hit albums and sold out concerts and looks pretty much like he did 40 years ago, means he can look back on his life as pretty bloody successful.

There’s lots of stories about Mr Stewart.

His love life.

His happy feud/rivalry with Elton John.

His tightness.

But what isn’t talked about much is his love of his family.

I saw it when he walked into Starbucks.

In came his wife and a bunch of his kids – young and old – and they all sat together, chatting … laughing and sharing coffee and croissants.

I know this is something we see everyday, all around the World, but there was something lovely in seeing an international Rock Star act like the doting father and husband he obviously is.

I’m not denying he has made some pretty shit mistakes in the past … but without wishing to defend that … sometimes good people make bad mistakes and whatever happened in the past, at least he seems to remember what is truly important.

Nothing says this more than an interview he gave this year …

I don’t know about you, but I think this is wonderful.

It’s also weird his brothers and sisters are NINETY YEARS OLD.

But what I love most is that it is apparent for all his wealth, he feels his family is what truly makes him rich.

Even his ex-wife, Rachel Hunter, doesn’t really have a bad word to say about him.

Their divorce wasn’t because of infidelity, it was because she was young and after 13 years of him being a doting husband, she felt she wanted to go out and live more.

And even then, she – and he – made sure everything was both amicable and respectful.

The reason I’m saying this is because work/life balance is under greater pressure than ever.

Sure companies are talking about it more than ever before, but in the main, what they really mean is ‘it’s important to have a home life but make sure you do your work first’.

I also accept, it’s much easier to have work/life balance when you’re a multi, multi millionaire because when Mr Stewart was starting out, he was so in debt, his manager and record company pushed him to go out on tour so he missed a lot of his oldest kids early years.

But here’s the thing.

If we all appreciate that work/life balance is important [even if that is simply because it makes you more effective at work] and mental health has become an issue that has been accepted as a real issue, how come this isn’t included in any procurement demands from clients or agencies?

Maybe it is, but I haven’t heard about any.

I have heard of contracts that demand female representation.

And I have heard of contracts that demand people of color inclusion.

But nothing on mental health or work/life balance.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that issues of gender and background are being forced into contracts [but I’m so sad this is what it took to have it happen] but what about making sure these people are looked after once they are there?

Why isn’t that part of the deal?

Why is that not a key criteria of what we are all talking about?

Why is that something shareholders don’t demand of the companies they invest in?

I think we can all guess, but if you’re still not sure, head over to Corporate Gaslighting and read what some people have discovered are some of the reasons why.



Home Away From Home …

So I’m back.

I survived and no one died.

I have to say that while I love China, Beijing is not my favourite place in the World.

It’s also one of the most user-unfriendly … with everything located miles apart and the heat being utterly oppressive.

But that country still has my heart.

Every time I go there, I leave with an ache.

It will forever be a very special place to me.

Not just because Otis was born there.

Or that – in some ways – it changed my career forever.

Or my wife found a group of people that gave her a greater sense of community than she’d had in decades.

Nor even the fact I was there at one of the pivotal times in its modern history.

It’s just because in all the crazy of the country, I felt I found my spiritual home.

I appreciate that sounds mental.

Even my Chinese friends can’t work out why I love it so much.

But I do.

The people are warm, fascinating and interesting.

The culture is rich with history, modernity, complexity and beauty.

The hunger and ambition is unparalleled with anywhere I’ve been to prior or since.

I love the sense of connection and isolation that China makes me feel about myself.

That sense of returning to a place I truly felt was home for 7 wonderful years while also realizing that period might as well have been 10,000 years ago given how quick the country has changed.

And while I acknowledge there are some very questionable decisions being made by the leaders right now – decisions that undermine the potential of millions – the people within the country have been nothing but kind and compassionate to me and my family and for that, they will always have my heart.

Wherever my family are will always be the definition of home for me.

But China is the one place where that rule has some flexibility in it.

Which is the greatest compliment I could ever give a country, though if I still dislike Beijing.