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


Premium Disaster …

So before I begin with my post, I have some good news …

This will be the last post for 13 days.

THIRTEEN!

I’m in China all next week and then when I return, I’m having 3 days off – of which one of them is to celebrate Otis’ 5th birthday!

Five. Can’t believe it.

Anyway, I know I’ve just made your impending weekend more enjoyable so have fun and see you when I’m back on the 12th … though there will be a special birthday post the day before for my little one.

So now back to the post …

One of the things I hate is when a client mistakes being premium priced for meaning they have premium customers.

That just isn’t true, even more so now with the access to finance. Seriously, it’s like banks deny the 2008 crash never happened. Mind you, when you’re bailed out by the public, it didn’t.

Anyway …

Being premium priced – especially when the brand is in a mainstream marketing and comparing themself to mainstream competitors – simply means you cost more.

There may be reasons for that cost premium.

Great and valid reasons … but that doesn’t mean the audience who are buying the products are more sophisticated or educated.

If anything, it might be the opposite.

Some may be doing it to overcome their insecurities.

Some may be doing it to satisfy their delusional ego.

Some may be doing it because it represents something they’ve worked – and work – hard for and want to protect or defend or nurture.

But whatever the reason, the vast majority of people who choose these brands are, in the main, everyday people who justify the price premium because they offer something additionally appealing – be it professional, functional or emotional.

There is nothing wrong with this.

There is nothing unappealing about this.

In fact, it is an amazing, given we are talking about people making decisions that cost them more because something is so important to them.

And yet so many marketers want to feel their customers are the wealthiest and most discerning of all, ignoring the fact that if that were true, then their product wouldn’t be premium priced, because for the wealthy, it would be cheap.

I recently had a meeting with someone from a mainstream, mass market brand who tried to convince me their customers were the 1%, despite all evidence proving otherwise. They also tried to claim their marketing was ‘high-brow’ as it meant only the wealthy would truly ‘grt it’.

That’s right, they were suggesting intelligence was linked to wealth.

I know a lot of people may believe that, but even if it were true – which it isn’t – they are mistaking wealth for opportunity … which I appreciate is becoming more and more influenced more by being able to afford a private education given governments are underfunding state options, ignoring the fact an educated population creates greater possibilities for the entire nation.

I digress.

Again.

Sorry, it’s just these are subjects that make me so angry and upset.

Anyway, I cannot tell you how much fun I had putting them right … how much I enjoyed explaining to them that their audience were far more in line with average household income than the 1% … but at the end of the day, I know it was all in vain because every single day, I look at ads and see ‘premium priced’ brands acting like their customer base are better than everyone else, which ultimately demonstrates marketing is less about understanding your audience and more about comforting the boardroom ego.



The Bigger They Are, The More Fragile Their Ego …

I appreciate I’m the last person to be saying this, but recently I’ve been exposed to some people who can only be described as having a very healthy ego.

You know the types … they say “I” instead of “we”.

They claim sole ownership for everything they’ve been a part of.

They talk about how their way is the way everyone will eventually adopt.

They are very in your face, view anyone who has a different point of view as the enemy and tends to align only with those who are of a similar make-up or are unfiltered in their adoration.

This does not mean these people are not good or clever.

They are.

Whether they are as good or clever as they think they are is another thing altogether.

But here’s the thing, working with them can be a nightmare.

You either play their game or you get discarded and slandered.

The amount of people who have written about these sorts of people on Corporate Gaslighting is incredible … and yet, because of their ego, they see their actions as ‘decisive’ rather than bullying and because they get stuff done, companies often view them as stars rather than grenades.

But here’s the thing …

The bigger the ego, the more they’re hiding.

An insecurity.

A past wrong.

A lack of knowledge in an area they should know.

At this point I should say you shouldn’t try to find what they’re hiding and then exploit it because then all you’re doing is being as bad as them, but there are also times when that is the only alternative.

And here’s how to do it without being a complete dick.

Listen.

Listen very, very carefully to what they’re saying.

Ask for clarification on points that may be ambiguous.

Give examples of situations where a different approach was successfully used to hear their perspective on it.

Don’t attack.

Don’t antagonise.

The point is there are always alternative ways to approach every problem and anyone who suggests otherwise is wrong.

The bully may believe their approach is the best. They may think that what they did had greater effectiveness than all the alternatives. But the reality is so much of that is subjective so if you let your ears do their job, then I guarantee you they’ll hear things that will allow you to offer an alternative that they themselves, will have created.

It’s not easy.

Even done gently and calmly it can be intimidating.

But it can work and the beauty of the egotist is that as much as they want the spotlight, they’re petrified of anyone who has the power to take it away from them, so they ensure that in the future, they’re also given a starring role.

And if none of that works, then you can always try Tom Hanks advice which is pretty good.

Or leave.

Because there’s never going to be enough room in any company for anyone if an individual believes they are the company.



A Better Waste Of Time …
November 26, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Confidence, Culture

So I like going down YouTube rabbit holes.

When I’m traveling, I find myself in the middle of the night – jetlagged – spending hours seeing where I end up.

There’s some places I normally start in ….

Football … Video Games … Abandoned Buildings … Fail Army … How Ridiculous … or even People Telling Their Parents They Are Going To Become Grandparents … but within an hour, I’m in all manner of weird and wonderful places.

Recently I came across ProducerMichael.

Funnily enough, he is a UK music/film producer who is living the life in LA.

He appear super successful and basically makes my spending habits look utterly amateur … and yet, even though I should hate him for his over-the-top lifestyle, you can’t help but like him.

Part of it is the enthusiasm he approaches everything.

Part of it is the sense he can’t believe his luck he’s living this life.

Part of it is he is a Brit who has wholeheartedly embraced the American dream.

I wish I’d been able to do that when I was in LA.

I wish I could have just let go of my cynical side and embraced the World where the more you have, the better you are.

But what I like about ProducerMichael is that while he does all that, he still seems pretty open to express both his vulnerabilities and his grandiose idiocies.

Yes he is trying too hard with his earrings and conspicuous consumption.

Yes you never quite get what the relationship is between him and the videorgrapher.

But weirdly, despite the obvious try-hardness to stay relevant, the fact he was obviously successful compared to the countless other YouTube wannabes, he’s a breath of fresh air.

And by that, I mean a more enjoyable waste of your time.



Sometimes, Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Insult …
November 25, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Audio Visual, Comment, Differentiation

I’ve written a lot about the Getty image lookalike who is robbing me of the profits from my face.

Yes, I got my own back at Cannes, but he seems to be doing a lot better than me in earning cash from my ugliness.

But recently I was sent something that is even more unnerving.

Someone who looks even more like me than Getty man … and he looks so like me that my wife actually once mistook him for me.

Or that’s her excuse anyway.

If you think your Monday is bad, imagine how this guy in the band ‘In Deed’ will feel when he discovers he looks like me. Worse, that we also both play the guitar. Your worst nightmare?

Indeed …



WTF?

OK … so the posts so far this week have been pretty serious – at least by my standards – so to make sure no one thinks this is going to become the norm [and let’s face it, no one thinks that] I thought I’d end the week on a low.

Near my office is a cafe.

It’s very similar to Jamaica Blue, the cafe I used to go to daily when I was at Wieden+Kennedy … in so much as it sells food that looks OK but basically tastes like boiling hot cardboard and – despite me going in there every day, eating the same thing every day – the staff never remember what I have and have all the warmth of a limp salad.

You may be wondering why I go in there then?

And the answer is because I’m lazy and pathetic.

However there are 2 other reasons … reasons that even the mighty shite that was Jamaica Blue couldn’t muster.

One is that they charge me a different amount for the same thing every single day.

EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It’s not a huge amount different, but it’s different and the only reason I don’t tell them is that I get quite excited wondering what it will be each day.

Not only that, it’s still not as shit as my last week at Wieden, when I went into Jamaica Blue and discovered that they had been overcharging me for my breakfast for 7 years.

SEVEN FUCKING YEARS.

But the other reason is that my local London cafe has food combinations that even the weirdest experience in China couldn’t match. And I’m talking about a country that once put a piece of broccoli on some ice cream as they couldn’t find a leaf of mint.

What am I talking about?

I’m talking about this …

Watercress.

WATERCRESS.

Not only is it the most pointless, tasteless accompaniment to the delicious carbs of pasta and cheese … you have to wonder who the hell would want it as a tasteless accompaniment to the delicious carbs of pasta and cheese.

Maybe it’s like my old Diet Tango campaign … created to offset the guilt of your bad food weaknesses … but surely, if that’s the case, they could have offered something more comprehensive.

A whole salad perhaps?

Whatever the reasons, the fact is that regardless what prices they charge … whatever mouth-melting temperature they serve their food at … whatever alternative cardboard simulation they have on display … I’ll still find myself going in there, handing them my money and then hating myself for it while also feeling strangely comforted by it all.

Which means the post I wrote about brand loyalty a while back missed one vital characteristic.

Because while I stated that true brand loyalty is when you have an almost irrational connection to a brand so you do whatever you can to have it or be associated with it [regardless of cost, access or competition] there is an alternative situation when someone feels they are not worthy of having something decent so actively make choices to choose things they don’t really like or value because they feel that is all they deserve.

Let’s call this self spite loyalty … and given my love of Jamaica Blue, Birkenstocks, Queen and countless other rubbish things, I seem to have it in droves.

Happy weekend.



Professional Prick …

Let’s be honest, I’m a prick.

Especially if you have the misfortune of working with me.

I know all the things I do wrong as I’ve had them told to me 10,000 times.

I distract people from their work.

[But get pissy if they distract me]

I take a steady stream of horrible instagrams of colleagues.

And revel in posting them. On EVERY social media platform ever created.

I buy stupid, passive-aggressive, humiliating gifts.

I have opinions on seemingly everything. And everyone.

I can get needy and emotional.

Basically, I am a liability and yet – despite this endless stream of work violations – I have been blessed with amazing colleagues and team mates who, despite all I do to them, give me nothing but support and their talent back.

Idiots.

But every now and then they fight back.

A photo of my stupidity here.

A shitty/wonderful present there.

And while they think it teaches me a lesson, the fact is I love it.

I love it for a bunch of reasons …

I love it because of the effort they put in to it.

I love it because it means we have an openness that allows it to happen.

I love it because it means we see each other as humans, not one dimensional robots.

Which is all a convoluted explanation of the picture that heads up this post … created and given to me by one of the R/GA strategists – Divya – who felt it was the scariest thing she could produce for Halloween and – lets face it – she was right.

I still stupidly hope that one day in the future, all the people I have worked with can come together and chat – not because I want them to compare notes of what a prick I am – but because I’ve been very fortunate to have brilliant people in my life and I would love to see them all together and witness the magic they could create together.

As long as it’s not a class action against my professional exploits.



Argos Is Christmas …

When I was younger, I discovered the ‘Argos’ catalogue.

It was at my Grandparents house and it was a bloody revelation.

For those who don’t know what Argos is, imagine Amazon.com before Amazon.

A place where you can buy a huge array of products, all of which were featured in an annual catalogue which you could take home and peruse at your leisure.

[It’s also famous for little pens – now pencils – that you would have to use to fill in the forms to get the products when you went into the store. Pens/pencils that I would say everyone in England has ended up keeping at some point in their lives]

But for me, it only had 2 uses …

1. To get a glimpse at the future of technology.

2. To choose what I really, really wanted for my birthday/christmas.

Every time I visited my grandparents, I would run to where they kept the Argos catalogue and spend hours going through all the pages, gazing lovingly at digital watches, calculators, the emergence of hand held ‘electronic’ games and – eventually – computers.

Every year the catalogue came out, I would be see the advances of tech in front of my eyes.

But more than that, for the right money – I could have it.

Of course I – nor my parents – had the right money except maybe at Christmas, but a boy could dream … and boy did I.

I still remember the excitement the first time I saw Astro Wars … a handheld version of the video game Galaxian

It was like the impossible dream.

A full sized video game shrunk into a small box.

What sort of weird wizardry was this???

I still remember how a bunch of us at school saw it at the same time and we all knew it was the ‘must have’ present for the year.

I was incredibly lucky to get it that year … and while it was a bit crap, I still utterly loved it because to me, that was cutting edge tech.

[As an aside, I just discovered it cost £28 in 1980 – the equivalent of £100 today, so I am utterly gobsmacked I got it given my parents would have had to have saved up for months to afford that. So thank you Mum and Dad, I never realized it was that pricey]

Anyway, the reason I say all this is that Argos have recently digitized all their old catalogues.

And while you may ask yourself, “why?” and “why would anyone care?” you’d be wrong … because if you’re a person of a certain age, the Argos catalogue was not a book of products available for purchase, it was a place of imagination and possibilities and while the stuff inside the late 70’s/early 80’s catalogues are full of the sort of tat even a ‘Everything for £1’ store, would turn their noses up at, looking through them all again, I can honestly say it ignited the excitement I had back then.

Truly.

And yes, that means I really have spent hours trawling through them all.

Again.

And what’s more, I don’t care how sad that makes me.

It was a magical journey down nostalgia lane.

More specifically, nostalgia that was specific to my life, not just everyone else’s.

America may have had Disneyland.

But us kids in Britain had the Argos catalogue.

You can explore the history of 40+ English imaginations, here and you can see why I think the Argos Christmas campaign – which links to the nostalgia theme of the old catalogues – is already the winner of 2019, below.