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


A Brand Is Ultimately Defined By Culture, Not Owners …

I have a confusing relationship with Amazon.

I use them a lot.

I admire what they do.

I appreciate how they operate.

But I don’t know if they’re a great brand.

Without doubt they’re a great company and have created a clear role in people’s lives … but in terms of brand, I’m not so sure.

That’s weird, because in many ways, they have achieved all the things a great brand requires, but at the end of the day – I have no emotional relationship with them, it is entirely functional.

Does a brand need to have emotional value to be great?

No. But I think it is the difference between being seen as a great transactional brand and a great brand.

But what surprises me most is Bezos understands business and brands better than many.

Not just CEO’s, but marketing folk … exemplified by this statement he made.

Which leads to the point of this post.

Brands.

As I’ve said a billion times, I’m an unashamedly huge believer in them.

If done well, they enable differentiation, cultural connection and economic power.

But the emphasis is ‘done well’.

And frankly, I don’t see a lot of that.

What I do see is a lot of companies spending of an awful lot of time and money on what they want to talk about.

What they think people should care about.

What audience should buy their product.

What they want their product to be used for.

What they want people to discuss about them.

What words they want people to associate with them.

What they want people to view as a threat or a competitor.

Them. Them. Them. Them. Them.

Now don’t get me wrong, you have to know what you stand for. What your values are. What your role is and why you do what you do, well. Not to mention what your point of view on the World is.

But you don’t just churn them out like some political manifesto brochure. Boring people into submission.

And yet that is the practice of so many … minus the point of view, which would at least make it relevant to culture instead of using a ‘proposition’ that is like a cement block, standing firm regardless what the headwinds that surround it are.

But it gets worse.

Because often what they do is wrapped up in some contrived ‘purpose/manifesto’ message in an attempt to make it look like it’s not all about them, which doesn’t convince anyone because it’s all about them.

Everything.

And it comes across exactly like that.

Self serving. Self indulgent. Self important.

Because the people behind these campaigns live in a bubble of corporate complicity.

Where ‘real life’ is closer to a sitcom sketch than anything resembling reality. Where families are always perfect and together. Where there is no problem that can’t be solved with [insert brand here] and their [insert meaningless ingredient]. Where the undertone of the work is to scare/shame/blame audiences into purchase submission – regardless how happy the soundtrack is or how saturated the images. All backed up and reinforced by a research report that has been specifically designed to fit in with the clients processes than representing truth.

Welcome to the world of marketing truth – a parallel universe to real truth that exists next to the Marketing solar system.

And that’s why, love him or loathe him, you have to respect Bezos.

Yes he has a world of data. Yes he has a universe of information.

But he knows it’s what people say when you’re not watching or listening to them that really reveals what they think of you.

At a time where so much work is done behind the desk, there’s never been as important a time as to get out, talk to real people, understand the texture, nuance, and chaos around the category … so we can help our clients with the most important foundation you can have in getting to great work.

Truth.

Of course, it is not always easy for clients to swallow.

Of course, they may prefer agencies that pander sweet bullshit to them.

But as Mr Bezos knows, you don’t get culture to truly buy into you, if you don’t know what culture really thinks of you.



Some Scams Might As Well As Have A Neon Sign On Them, Flashing Scam …

Just like great PR is never seen.

And great conspiracies, always feel plausible.

Great scams should never let you doubt their validity.

Yes, I know a while back I wrote that Bernie Madoff had said that success is as much down to the individuals greed as the scammers ability to appear legitimate … but fundamentally, if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Which is why the ad above is probably the criminal equivalent of infant school.

Let’s face it, you don’t call yourself ‘Mystery Shopping’ if you’re going to tell everyone what they’re getting and the likelihood that SONY would allow an external company to promote to all and sundry that you can play on their yet-to-be-released new gamer machine is – and I appreciate I may be being a bit cynical here – ABSOLUTELY ZERO!

On the bright side, it does show clients that as professionals in communication, adland is much better at manipulating people than criminals. Or at least amateur criminals.

So at least we have that going for us. Ahem.

Sorry gomysteryshopping.co.uk, you’re going to have to up your game.

Or at least not make such stupid, basic mistakes.

Wait for all the consultancies that will now approach criminals with proposals to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Now they’re definitely not ‘amateur’ criminals.



If COVID Has Made You Work From Home, You Have Likely Revealed Your True Self …

I’m back.

OK, I know I’ve written a few posts in the 3 weeks I’ve been away, but I’m officially back.

And I want to say a big thank you to everyone who reached out after my news.

I appreciate it very much and can assure you I’m fine.

For now, hahaha.

I was overwhelmed by the generosity I received and I actually have a bunch of news to announce soon, however I need a little longer before I can do that due to the usual dotting i’s and crossing t’s – but, as some of you already know, one of the reasons has to do with this …

More of that soon, so until then, let’s get on with now shall we?

I should point I wrote this post a while ago.

So long ago, I had a full time job.

But it is important I point out the title of this post is not a euphemism for ‘self-love’.

No.

It’s about the feelings many people are going through as they start to realistically think about returning to work.

By which I mean an actual office rather than in their own home.

I don’t know about you, I’m a bit nervous.

As I’ve written before, the situation with COVID has been a very different experience to us than it has to many, many people.

I absolutely recognise my privilege in that statement.

I would happily not have had this time if people had not had to suffer.

I truly mean that.

But working from home has had a profound effect on me.

I sleep longer.

I am not doing 2+ hours of commute a day.

I am here for lunch and dinner with my family.

I am being much, much more effective in what I do.

I love being able to wake up, put on some shorts and a t-shirt and walk into the room that has now become my office.

Seamless.

But the idea of going to an office is making me nervous.

Any office.

Not just because the COVID rates are on the rise again, but for other reasons too …

Will I be able to function once I’ve given up all the lovely things I’ve discovered?

Will wearing long trousers and not eating a packet of Quavers everyday undermine my effectiveness?

Will it affect the energy and fight I have for the work I do?

Then someone sent me the image below and I realised that working from home hasn’t made me a lesser version of myself, it’s revealed how I truly like to work and I feel much better about myself.

And before anyone says it, yes, this is an extremely long post of utter bollocks just so I could use this image.

Sue me.




We Are All Hiding Something …

So much for not posting for 3 weeks eh?

For what it’s worth, I officially start writing my rubbish again on Monday.

What’s the difference between the posts I’ve been writing and the posts I will be writing?

Apart from the fact I’ll allow you all to insult me in the comments?

Errrrrm, that’s it.

But this one is quite important because it’s something I hear talked about a lot.

Imposter syndrome.

Every industry has people who suffer for it, but right now, I’m hearing a lot of planners talk about it. Doesn’t matter if they are top of their profession or new into it, somewhere along the line they feel it.

I know I do.

And while I know it can be massively destructive – undermining your confidence and self belief – it isn’t all bad.

I know, that sounds mad … but hang in there.

Recently I was talking to one of the best planners in the world. Yes, I appreciate that’s a subjective comment, but if you knew who I was talking about – saw the work they have consistently been a part of – you’d probably agree they’re in the top 5 globally.

Anyway they were telling me how they felt imposter syndrome. That they were going to get ‘found out’ any day soon and then their career would be over. Cast aside by an industry who would point at them and laugh and then use their name as a warning to any new entrant into the industry of what not to do.

And then I said, “maybe that’s what makes you so good”.

That shut them up.

And when they asked me what the fuck I was talking about, I said that maybe that was part of the reason they were so brilliant. That they were never so comfortable with their abilities and title that they would ever take their foot off the gas … that they would ever stop exploring every possibility … that they would ever not write a million different versions of the same brief until they found the one they thought had the most creative potential.

Silence.

Then they said, “but it can hurt so much”.

And I acknowledged it can. But I then added that I imagine being as good as them does not come without pain, sacrifice, tension, scars and sheer utter graft … so while they experience times where they wish they didn’t have to feel that way, the thing they should really worry about is if they didn’t.

Now please don’t think I am advocating pain and suffering. I appreciate how demoralising and destructive it can be. I also think it’s a subject that should be talked about more to both destroy the stigma and help people feel they are not alone.

I can tell you for a fact it is something I have – and continue to – suffer a lot.

However, until you feel confident to speak about it or get help for it – and you can get help for it, because it’s a real situation with many different expressions – maybe you can reframe what it is doing to you.

Not bringing you down, but possibly pushing you further.

I’m here to chat should anyone wish to.

_________________________________________________________________________

There’s a big difference between imposter syndrome and gaslighting.

One is where you are involuntarily undermining your own self-confidence, whereas the other is driven by others doing it to you.

Both are debilitating, so ensure you know which one you are dealing with to get the appropriate help.

For those experiencing the latter, there is Corporate Gaslighting … a place where you can see you are not alone and start taking steps to changing your situation. I am also here for that should you need or wish to talk.

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Martin Scorsese Explains Why Holding Companies Can Be Bad For Creativity …

This post kind of carries on from two I have previously written.

1. The benefit of independence.

2. You can tell a company by how many slices of pizza they want to eat.

I should point out I’ve worked for holding companies in the past.

I may well work for one in the future …

And while my experience with them has been generally good, my experience at independent companies was better.

More emphasis on the work.
More emphasis on the culture of work.
Less fear that you are going to be fired to hit a shareholder dividend.

Now this doesn’t mean holding company agencies can’t make great work or be great places to work.

There’s some amazing examples around the World of just that.

Agencies that I genuinely regard as some of the best in the business.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with the usual suspects [read: Wieden] with a history that is equally as long.

If not longer.

But it’s fair to say, they tend to be the exception rather than the rule … often used as the shiny ‘jewel in the network’ crown to attract big business, rather than a role-model for how the rest of the network should behave.

Again, being part of a network does not immediately mean it’s bad.

There’s a hell of a lot of brilliant people I know who are working in them for a start, which means they have a level of talent in the organisation that would be the envy of any agency.

Plus there’s a whole host of different types of network, so to tar them all with the same brush would be wrong.

But the reality is there’s some who just don’t give a fuck about the industry they’re in.

Of course, they will never admit that, but for all their claims about caring about creativity, they care far more about profit.

I get it.

Money is important.

It keeps tens of thousands of people employed.

But the reality is if they could make more money selling carpet cleaner, they would.

Which explains why they sold the value of creativity down the river in favour of process, scale, convenience and whatever buzz-term is fashionable with the big corporations they covet at any given time.

And this is where the title of this post comes in.

Recently Martin Scorsese was asked about his film making.

Change the word ‘films’ for ‘advertising’ and you have a pretty good overview of how a lot of modern adland operates.

You can make great work.

But it’s way, way harder than it should be.

Because too often, the focus isn’t on the quality of creativity, but the quantity of cash.


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