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


When Marketing Goes Mad …

I found this photo in my old files.

It’s about 12+ years old.

But based on what the sticker says, it shouldn’t matter should it?

Except it does, because it’s bollocks, especially where technology is concerned even though Moore’s Law is coming to an end.

While I appreciate the World moves so fast that many people just want to have something that they can rely on forever, any brand that promises lifelong relevance is either utterly delusional or a bigger conman than Bernie Madoff.

When will brands learn great marketing isn’t about fabrication but authenticity,

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Devil In The Details …

I appreciate me – and this blog – being back, constitutes the worst Monday ever, but deal with it.

Hong Kong was as it always is … busy, noisy, energetic, proud, flamboyant.

Fuck I miss Asia.

Well, I miss lots about Asia, but one of the things I don’t is the bullshit bank advertising.

Where every company tries to convey how prestigious they are and – as a byproduct – how aspirational their customers are, even though what they show is the sort of tacky success you tend to see in a z-grade reality show contestants house.

Case in point this stuff from UOB Bank.

Introducing Singapore’s first diamond embellished, metal card.

No, seriously.

What a load of bollocks.

But what does ‘diamond embellished’ even mean?

Is it that minute square in the card … to the right of the chip?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, I think it is, because nothing says success like having a credit card with some cheap ass specks of diamond that even Ratners jewelers would turn their noses up at.

But it gets better …

By ‘better’, I obviously mean worse.

Because not only have they launched a credit card for the most insanely idiotic and egotistical customer on the planet – or at least Singapore – they’ve shown their true tacky colours by making one of the worst copy mistakes I’ve seen in ages to accompany the cards launch.

“For those who value exclusivity in its most extinguished form”.

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Dickheads.

I love it, because nothing says class and sophistication like a lack of basic language skills.

Now while I’d love to extinguish the people who came up with this card and who want this card, I think leaving things exactly as they are is a much better solution … because not only does it make the people at the bank look the sad, shallow, idiotic wankers they are, it also ensures anyone who pulls this card out looks the sort of pathetic, egotistical, insecure and unsophisticated asshole they truly are.

That’s what I call a WIN:WIN in my book.

I will always love and miss Asia with all my heart, but I will always hate the lazy, contrived, aspirational bullshit that the marketing departments of so many companies continue to peddle.



Moore’s Law Won’t Be Law For Much Longer …

Moore’s law – created by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel – states that computer power will double every two years at the same cost.

Since he said this in the later 60’s, he’s been proven right, but having listened to a professor of computer engineering on the radio last night, it appears it’s coming to an end.

The reason I am saying this is because to prove his point, the Professor said 3 things that have blown my mind.

1. The iPhone has 4 billion transistors in it. FOUR BILLION.

2. There are now more transistors in the World than their are leaves on all the trees across the entire planet.

3. Some transistors are so small – separated by a distance of just 14 nanometres (nm) – that they are invisible. And when I say invisible, I mean it because they are smaller than the wavelengths of light human eyes and microscopes use.

What I loved about the talk the Professor gave wasn’t just his ability to articulate the incredible journey of innovation that the tech industry has been on for almost 50 years … nor was it his view that this rate of innovation was going to be impossible to maintain given the micro scale the industry is already operating at … it was that he felt this obsession with precision was stopping craftsmanship to flourish.

Now I must admit, my initial view was getting 4 billion transistors into an iPhone would be the ultimate demonstration of craftsmanship, but no … this Professor was saying that in our quest to automate our lives, we are doing it at the expense of celebrating and expanding human skills.

For him, craftsmanship is when a human manufactures a product by hand … they use dedicated human reasoning to work out the kinks during production to make a high-quality, functioning piece.

These pieces attract and inspire those around them, attracting more people to both value the products and want to create the products, helping humanity both evolve and appreciate what we are capable of creating and becoming.

Now of course we could say computers have done a similar thing, but this Professor was saying ‘perfect precision’ was overshadowing ‘human precision’ and while there will always be a need for technology to do heavy lifting for us, humanity is at its best when it is can satisfy and appreciate what we as a species can do and right now, we are outsourcing that to technology.

It’s an interesting argument – especially when you think of what so much of this new era of tech is being used to do from a human interaction perspective – but ultimately I believe the argument is that if we don’t get back to teaching tech what to value, then tech will start teaching us.

It already is.

In their quest to get AI accepted in households, many companies are building applications to cater for the lowest common denominator of needs. The low hanging fruit, as it were. Now that would be fine if they then evolved their offering, but as this is a fierce, commercial race, I am pretty sure most companies will end up focusing on trying to automate as many simple tasks as possible in a bid to show their ‘usefulness’ which means over time, they are educating us to value speed over quality, convenience over experiences, virtual over reality and information over understanding.

Some might think that is OK, but as Andy said in a comment a few weeks ago, the implication are frightening …

“The fucked thing about all this tech assistance isnt that its making us lazy, its that its making us selfish and dismissing anyone or anything that doesnt do what we want immediately. The arts are going to be fucked over by this shit till people work it out and by then it will be too late or they just wont care.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love tech.

I love what it does and I love what it has allowed us to do.

And it goes without saying I love that it has helped me satisfy my love of gadgetry.

But if this is all at the cost of humanities appreciation of humanity, that’s quite a price to pay which is why if the end of Moore’s law means we get to teach values to tech rather than have tech teach us our values, then I for one am all for it.



Nothing Says Thought Leadership Like Outsourcing Your Thought Leadership …

Anyone who has ever read this blog would know the last thing I’m about is thought leadership.

Maybe thought rambling, but not thought leadership.

However a company recently reached out to me about that very subject.

Not to hear my perspective on a particular subject, but to offer to tell me my perspective on a particular subject.

Is this AI on a whole new level?

No, it’s a company who apparently doesn’t like small talk and wants to get straight-to-the-point about offering me the chance to have them write an opinion piece for me and then get it published.

Not my actual opinion, I should add … but one they know they can shove in any random magazine because they’re desperate for content and get me to pay them for the privilege.

Oh, they drop some great magazine names.

Fast Company. Forbes. Tech Crunch.

But we all know the reality is 99% of the articles will be in stuff like the West Bridgford Gazette and the Illawarra Mercury.

I would love to know how many of these things they do?

How many ‘thought leaders’ are actually thought outsourcers?

And I guess I will because I’ve written to them to say ‘this looks amazing, please can you give me more information’, even though the reality is I already feel enough of an imposter without paying these bastards to rub it in.



Building A Positive Office Culture Is Easy …

There is so much written about building an office culture.

There’s been books written on it.

Films written about it.

And consultants earning a fortune from it.

And I get it, because a good office culture is bloody important.

In the past I thought it was just about the people in the organisation rather than the organisation itself … but thanks to my experiences at HHCL, cynic and Wieden, I realise it’s as much about what the company stands for and how it behaves as it is the people they hire.

But recently I saw something that boils it all down to a very simple essence.

An essence that would mean those books would become pamphlets … those movies would become ads and those consultants become unemployed.

And why? I hear you ask.

Well, because the answer is simply this …

Can you see it?

It’s 4 words.

DON’T. BE. A. DICK.

OK … OK … I appreciate this might appear hypocritical coming from me, but that’s all it takes.

Don’t be a dick means respecting your colleagues.

Don’t be a dick means respecting everyones standards.

Don’t be a dick means respecting that everyone is trying to get to a good place.

Don’t be a dick is the simplest articulation of how to build a positive office culture.

Not just in terms of pleasantries.

Not just in terms of togetherness.

But in terms of the work you do as an individual and as a group.

It’s easy to get.

It can apply to every person in every situation.

It defines the standards of behaviour you should expect and give … from personal interaction to collaboration to making work.

It’s bloody brilliant.

So next time someone asks if they should hire a consultant to improve the office culture, just look them in the eye and say, “Don’t be a dick”.



Silent Sexism …

I need to rant.

You see I’m totally fucking over subtle sexism.

Don’t get me wrong, I am over overt sexism as well, but this subtle shit is doing my head in – especially in ads.

On face value, it’s nothing.

It almost feels normal in fact.

But when you stop for a second, you see the little digs.

The references to women loving shoes.

Or the colour pink.

Or some other cliched, sexist bullshit … like doing anything for doughnuts.

Oh they’ll say it’s “all in good fun”.

Or “… it’s not meant to be real, it’s advertising”.

They’ll claim you’re being too sensitive or that you “can’t say anything these days”.

Implying there was absolutely no other way they could approach the task they were given.

As if we’re bloody idiots.

And while some simply don’t get it – having spent their life living in the bubble of another era – deep down they know.

Or at least suspect.

The reality is they just don’t want to admit it.

Even if that’s just to themselves.

So they say this shit. Write this shit. Produce this shit.

And many will let it pass.

Mainly because they’re not paying close attention to the ads.

But it still seeps in.

Leaving it’s message.

Not the one the client wanted, but the one the old, conformist, sexist guys did.

And that’s why I think it’s the most dangerous sexism of all because when it’s done quietly, it affects slowly … creeping into the ears, eyes and minds of those who are exposed to it, while those who are aware of this shit, hear it like a scream.



Is Innovation The Fast Track To Corporate Fucking Stupidity?

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how so many of the great ideas I’ve seen have come from the minds of designers rather than adfolk.

Where so many in my industry look to create eye-candy, designers are approaching their task in terms of solving the clients fundamental problem in the best and most visually interesting way.

There’s a lesson for many of us to learn in that.

However it’s not all great for designers.

Like that Pepsi bullshit from years back, there’s still examples where designers are taking the piss more than a catheter.

For the latest example, may I present to you Vodafone.

Whether we like them or not, our lives are very dependent on the telecommunications industry.

Sure, we might not use their service to make phonecalls anymore, but our smartphone addiction means we need their data so we can instragram our food at every possible moment.

Now obviously the telco industry doesn’t like being seen as just a ‘service provider’.

Part of that might be because of corporate ego, but the main reason is likely to be that for them to grow, they need to be regarded as an innovation company … someone who creates the future as much as serves it.

Whether you think that’s bollocks or not is up to you, but the reason I’m saying it is because that’s kind of the explanation Vodafone used for creating their new logo.

“What new logo?” I hear you cry.

This one …

“No Rob …” you reply, “… you’ve made a mistake, that’s the old logo”.

Oh no it isn’t folks, that’s the new one.

No seriously.

I swear to God.

Oh hang on, I don’t believe in God … OK, I swear on my heart.

Still don’t believe me?

OK, if you want absolute proof, here’s the old logo for comparison.

“But … but isn’t that basically the old logo just with the colours inverted?”, you stutter.

Well, I would agree with that assessment however we would both be wrong because apparently it is a new logo and, when you hear how the people at Vodafone describe it, it represents a new dawn for the company and it’s role and goal in society.

Here’s Ben Macintosh, Vodafone Australia’s customer business director …

“The changes represent the company’s ability to ‘innovate for the future ‘and supply choice for customers. The wants and needs of our customers have changed, and with that we’ve changed too. We challenge the status quo and push the boundaries to give people something that they won’t find anywhere else.”

I swear to god this is not an April Fool.

This really is their new logo and Ben Macintosh really did say that.

Look, I get Apple generated billions in extra revenue by simply adding a small ‘s’ to their otherwise near-identical product but this is a whole different scale of idiocy.

For me, there’s only 2 possible scenarios …

Either the branding company [which, let’s be honest, is not a design company] are fucking delusional or Vodafone is.

Whatever the truth, if I was a shareholder in the former I’d be buying more shares in them for their ability to charge millions for taking 10 minutes to literally invert the colours of their clients existing logos and if the latter, I’d be selling my shares as fast as I could possibly get rid of the worthless bastards.

On the bright side, I’m about to make a fortune as a branding consultant and my 1997 copy of Microsoft Paint.