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


Could Everyone Associated With This Please Punch Yourself In The Face …

Have a look at this …

I’ve got to be honest, I think it’s one of the most amazing ads I’ve ever seen.

Not – of course – because it’s good, but because there’s so many things in it to hate, I don’t know which one I loathe more.

From the cliched photograph that is obviously trying to associate with street culture through to the absolutely fucking awful oxymoron/pun of ‘Future Retro’ and ‘Deja New’ … there is an endless amount of hate inducing triggers in this ad.

But even those things don’t come close to releasing my inner rage as ‘Time Tracker’.

TIME TRACKER!!!

It’s a watch. A bloody watch. Yes, they ‘track time’ but they’re attempt to make it sound like the future of watches makes me literally want to kill.

Oh I am thinking about how I’d do it.

Maybe a wooden post so I can smack them around the head.

Or maybe a canon, so I can shoot them far, far away.

Or maybe … oh hang on, I know what I’ll do … I’ll make them wear that ‘time tracker’ and refer to it in the same way, so their shame will be all encompassing and complete.

Time Tracker is a perfect example of something I’ve been seeing more and more of … repositioning that isn’t repositioning.

Repositioning is about helping culture look at your brand in a totally different way.

When Wrigley’s chewing gum moved from being a sweet to a dental care product … that is repositioning.

When Poloroid cameras shifted from photography to being a social lubricant … that is a repositioning.

When Old Spice moved from being used by men to being valued by women … that is repositioning.

A watch going from telling the time to tracking the time is not.

And yet I am seeing more and more work that is trying to position themselves as a catalyst for change when they’re doing nothing but re-articulating the category expression.

One of the categories doing this the most is the financial sector.

There are more new ‘banks’ than at any point in my life.

All with quirky names.

All claiming to be revolutionizing the industry.

All stating they are being developed around the needs of their customers.

And yet not one of them seems to realize that as much as they’re trying to be seen as disrupting the banking industry, they’re doing it in exactly the same way as everyone else.

Disruption but without distinction.

But here’s the thing, are they even disrupting … because so many of them are trying to communicate you can ‘trust’ them. I get trust is important wherever money is concerned, but it is also the backbone of the industry … so in essence, they’re saying ‘we’re different’ and yet they are communicating in exactly the same way as the establishment.

In essence, they’ve become the beast they claim they were created to slay …

But they’re actually worse, because not building any distinction into their offering or behaviour except their name and choice of pastel ‘brand’ colour means all they are really building is commodotisation.

Of course that’s probably because their business plan is to be bought by the establishment and so they don’t care about long term thinking, but this – just like the idiots behind that Nixon watch – is the new ‘best practice’ for brand and business strategy.

And we wonder why the business community questions our ability to talk business.



Bullshit Brand Bingo …

Years ago, there was an email that went around that invited people to play ‘Bullshit Bingo’, the marketing edition.

Included on the paper were words such as ‘synergy’ and ‘optimization’ and the aim of the game was to take this to your next meeting and cross off each word as someone said them.

The person who crossed off all the words first, won.

It was a tongue-in-cheek way to take the piss out of the marketing industry and it’s obsession with using words that are the absolute opposite of the words the audiences we try to have a meaningful connection with, say.

Well it appears there is a new version of this game in town … except some people haven’t realized it’s a game.

Worse, it appears they think it is a brand building bible.

Have a look at this …

I don’t know about you, but nothing says ‘brand transformation’ like bigging-up the fact you have decorated your reception area.

Don’t get me wrong, a brand should infect and influence every aspect of how you behave and express yourself but – and it’s a big but – it should be something that is truly distinctive to your brand, not just a bunch of brand mumbo-jumbo words and corporate colours that end up making you look and sound exactly like everyone else.

I wrote about this a while back when I said the best brief I ever received was from Richard Branson for his now infamous Virgin Atlantic London lounge.

I also talked this with Martin at Cannes.

The reality is too many companies aspire for best practice.

But the reality is best practice means averageness.

Fitting in not standing out.

Differentiation without distinction.

Staying in the middle rather than reaching for the edges.

I am amazed how many companies fear being different and yet claim to be.

I am even more amazed how many companies then shit themselves when someone comes along with a point of view that is genuine and authentically expressed and executed so that it attracts culture rather than tries to chase it.

Apart from being a law firm, I don’t know who Pinsent Masons are, but if they aspire for their new reception to reflect their bland brand value with words like ‘bold, connected and approachable’, I think I’ll survive living in my ignorance.



There’s Compliments And There’s Compliments …

We all like to think we do work others appreciate.

Work that others are compelled to tell us how it affected them.

Whether that’s a word of thanks.

Or a pat on the back.

Or a nod of appreciation.

Well, I recently saw a ‘review’ that has to be the best show of appreciation ever made.

How about that then?

As compliments go, that is outrageously good isn’t it.

Especially the bit that says, “Above and beyond anything that is yet to be written”.

That’s right, the reviewer is saying this book is better than anything that we will ever read for eternity.

ETERNITY.

Even Donald Trump doesn’t have confidence like that.

Now we all know reviews – or positive word-of-mouth – are very important today, so the question is, did the best review of a book ever made make me buy the book?

Nope … because the irony is when someone is too positive about something, it’s more likely to make you suspicious of their tastes than desperate to investigate their passions.

And that’s why I still love planning after so bloody long … because part of it is investigating the madness of humanity rather than selling the sensibleness of robots.

Even if clients would rather it was the other way around.



Viagra By People Who Are Massive Dicks …

As you read this, I’ll be on a plane to America – again.

Given I’m not back till Friday – and then there’s a long-weekend in the UK for Easter – that means there won’t be any posts till Tuesday. Hopefully I will have digested all the chocolate I intend to eat by then. Not to mention have got over the excitement of having my new car – which, is exactly the same as my old car – but that’s a post for another day.

Till then, I leave you with this …

So I recently saw this ad for a viagra type product on the tube …

How horrifying is that eh?

OK, it’s not quite as bad as the Eddie viagra ad I wrote about a while back … but it’s close.

From the terrible ‘When Harry Met Sally’ reference to the racially questionable ‘erect dreadlocks’, it’s the sort of rubbish you’d expect to see in a first year ad students book.

And I’m probably being unfair to first year ad students.

But even worse than that is that it comes from a company called manual.

Maybe it’s just me, but the words ‘manual’ and ‘viagra’ seem to be polar opposites.

I don’t know why, but when I see the word manual – in the context of intercourse – I think more of masturbation than copulation … and yet that is what they decided to call their company.

Weird.

At one point I was going to say that even that wasn’t as weird as ending the body copy of the ad with the words ‘Good News, Man’ … because I initially thought it another racist slur towards the guy with the dreadlocks … however having seen a few more of their executions, I see they say this in ALL their ads, even when it features a man without long hair.

Though I note none of them show their hairstyles pointing up.

Everything about this campaign smacks of a company that doesn’t know what erectile disfunction means.

From their ads communicating the effect of the product rather than the emotional benefit for the user, through to the fact the opening line on their website is, Hard Isn’t Always Easy.

I appreciate its an ad on the tube.

I appreciate most ads on the tube are even worse.

But this overly simplistic approach to communication is not building long term business, just a short-term transaction.

Maybe that’s fine for the founders … maybe they’re in it for a good time rather than a long time … but if you think how a strong brand can command a price premium and disproportionate audience loyalty, it blows my mind how few companies seem to care about this.

Oh they will claim they will.

They’ll say all the right things about thinking for the long term.

But the reality is to do that, you have to plant seeds [excuse the pun] for the future and many of these new companies are simply in continuous harvest mode.

Maybe they’re adopting the old saying of ‘make hay while the shines’ … I just hope they realize the other side of that is ‘prepare for your demise, because it’s coming’.

Happy Easter everyone …



You Can Tell How Much The Finance Industry Thinks Of Us By The Products They Try To Sell To Us …

OK, I know banking is an easy target but – as anyone who has read this blog over the years will know – I am more than happy to throw darts at them.

Recently I came across this gem from Nutmeg … one of those financial institutions who give themselves a cool name so they can pretend they’re ‘down with the people’ when everything they say and do demonstrates the opposite.

Have a look at this …

Apart from the fact that they say nothing about what they do or how they do it – because, let’s face it, compound interest is hardly a unique offering – I’m just surprised they are saying that if you leave £20,000 for 40 years you’ll get over £140,000 at the end of it.

First of all, £20,000 is a lot of money.

Secondly, putting £20,000 away that you’ll never touch is an amazingly big ask.

Thirdly – and I don’t want to sound a dick – but I don’t know if £140,000+ sounds that much after a wait of 40 years.

Sure, I wouldn’t say no to it and I appreciate it represents a huge growth on your initial investment, but after removing the £20,000 you put in at the beginning, that works out to be a return of £3,000 a year.

OK, that’s not bad, but it’s certainly not enough to live off and certainly not the ‘most powerful force in the Universe’ that Einstein supposedly said.

And let’s not forget that little bit of copy at the top of the ad that say’s ‘Capital at risk. Forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future performance’.

Yes, they really are saying that everything they’ve just said could be a load of bollocks.

Imagine what else you could do with that strategy …

“Eat chips 10 times a day and could be beating admirers off with a shitty stick*”

[* Your health is at risk. Forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future performance]

Or what about this …

“Buy this skin care and you will look 30 years younger*”

[* Your self esteem is at risk. Forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future performance]

Why hasn’t someone thought of using this cross-category before???

But getting back to Nutmeg … my question is who is this ad aimed for?

Is it for people who are worried about their future and will put all their life savings away to get £140,000 in forty years time – ignoring the fact, that in 40 years time, £140,000 will be worth around £2.77 in todays money?

Or is it aimed at the wealthy … who can afford the investment, but probably expect even higher returns?

Honestly I’m not sure, but one thing I am certain of is that a financial organisation who doesn’t tell me why I should choose them over every other financial institution that also claims if I give them my money for 40 years, they’ll [hopefully] give me more back – but no guarantees – doesn’t stand much chance of getting any of my money.



The Fine Line Between Ego And Desperation …

This headline came out in AdAge not that long ago.

For me, it says more about the state – and ego – of advertising than it does about the state of the environment.

Don’t get me wrong, a company who is doing something positive is a wonderful thing.

But when that company uses their action to promote themselves in an industry mag … well, that kind-of takes the shine off it.

Then again, when an agency is in the press more for what they’re doing – or plan to do – than what they’ve actually done or made, then you can’t help but feel their strategy is more to distract from the truth than to celebrate the good.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I am still a cynic after all.



Let Kathleen Turner Start Your Week With A Smile And A Bunch Of Food For Thought …

Kathleen Turner is an actress.In the 80’s, she was hugely successful – but illness, addiction and Hollywood studio’s hatred of women over the age of 30 – all contributed to her falling out of the limelight.

This interview is a few months old, but I recently read it again and I still love it.

Not because she is indiscreet about other actors … though that’s good.

But because of her ability to know who she is that has enabled her to acknowledge her faults, see her strengths and challenge the system.

There’s a bunch of gold in there – from how to deal with others [which is very similar to the advice Tom Hanks gives] through to how to deal with yourself – so whether you know her or not, I am pretty certain you will enjoy the read.

Hey, you might even come away asking yourself some questions about yourself.

It’s a good way to start the week and you can read the interview here.