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


When Your Confidence Shows Your Insecurity …

So I was in San Francisco Airport recently when I saw this …

Putting aside the fact there is a Christian bookshop in an airport, I find their attempt to validate their religion through the use of the word ‘science’ hysterical.

Of course they’re not the only one who do it … ad agencies have a long history of labelling departments with pompous monikers to give it an air of validation. Or importance.

But here’s the thing, adding the word ‘science’ doesn’t make any religion scientific … just like adding the word ‘innovation’ to a media department doesn’t mean their media plan suddenly rivals the output of Silicon Valley.

In fact, a religion using the word ‘science’ is particularly offensive given they have spent decades basically declaring war on any scientist who has dared to disprove the things they believe without question.

Look, I’m all for people following a belief system – and I appreciate there’s times where getting others to embrace what you follow is valuable – but when you use terminology that represents the opposite of what you believe, all you’re doing is creating more walls rather than less.

Of course there may be another reason they did this.

Maybe it has nothing to do with winning others over and is simply to make themselves – and the people who follow them – feel even more important.

And if that’s the case, then they doubly deserve the ridicule they get, because anyone who believes the only way forward is to ignore the views of others has no idea how to truly make a difference in the World.

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I say all this but maybe there is a God because there will be no blog posts for you to suffer on Monday and Tuesday as I’ll be traveling. Now you can really enjoy your weekend, can’t you.



If Your Brand Voice Is Your Weapon …

… then many brands are killing themselves with theirs.

I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m shocked how few brands really understand ‘tone’.

They either confuse it with a template look or using a corporate monotone full of buzzwords.

Brand voice is not a look.

It’s not even a tone.

It’s the expression of your individual values and beliefs, communicated in a way that resonates with the culture around your category.

Of course NIKE is probably the best example of this.

Regardless what they do.

Regardless what sport they’re talking about.

Regardless how an execution looks.

The moment you see or hear it, you feel it.

And ‘feel’ is the key word here.

That is no accident.

In fact, I’d say we often spent more time on the voice than the strategy.

They know the athlete so well that it is reflected in all they do.

And maybe that’s the problem so many brands face, because they don’t know their audience very well.

They define them in broad, ambiguous ways that are convenient for the brand to embrace.

It’s either that or the fact many brands seem to have values and beliefs that are designed to not alienate any potential customer … without realising they don’t resonate with anyone either.

There’s only one thing worse than a brand patronising it’s audience and that’s one that doesn’t even realise they’re doing it which is why brand voice – or tone – isn’t something you get by just scribbling some random words on a creative brief, it’s a commitment to finding it and then doing it right because to paraphrase Dan Wieden, great brands don’t discover the power of advertising, they discover the power of their own voice.



Why A Bin Is Better Than Earth Hour …

I’ve written about my skepticism of Earth Hour.

And while I appreciate any bit of good is good, I feel the problem with Earth Hour is that it lets people off the hook for the remainder of the year just because they turned their lights off for a few hours on a single day.

Recently I saw this …

Yes, it’s a bin.

A simple bin in the airport.

But what I love about it is the fact it says LANDFILL, rather than rubbish.

Maybe this is nothing new – maybe this is just a byproduct of having lived in China for the past 7 years – but by ensuring I knew exactly what was going to happen to what I put inside it, it made me look at what I was doing.

I’d like to think I give a shit about the environment, but I can honestly say that bin had a stronger effect on me than Earth Hour. Not only that, but that bin won’t let me off the hook for the rest of the year. It will be there – every time I pass it – reminding me that my choices will determine how much I poison the planet.

The other thing this does is highlight my big problem with adland … which is that it loves to communicate problems rather than solve them.

When a bin [and let’s remember, this is not the first time this has happened] produces more effective solutions than much of adland – and certainly what adland awards at shows like Cannes – maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what we view is creativity.

Please don’t think I am pissing on the power of communication or ignoring the importance of craft and exploration – of course I’m not – but for an industry that celebrates the freedom of creativity, it’s amazing how limited we are in our execution of it.

Of course part of that is our ego – because not only do we like to think that we can solve all the problems of the universe, but we feel simply ‘renaming’ something is beneath our creative brilliance, despite it potentially being more effective than a Worldwide campaign asking us to turn our lights off for the night.

I think this is why I loved Fearless Girl and Mr Parking Ticket Nerd because at the end of the day, they have understood our industry is at it’s most powerful when we’re at the creative end of business rather than the business end of creativity.



I Know They Say Too Much Coffee Can Be Dangerous But This Is Ridiculous …

When I was younger I loved pocket knives, especially swiss army knives.

Not because I was a mugger – though I am from Nottingham – but because I found the way all the different elements came together in one small package, fascinating.

While I have grown up since those days [as have Swiss Army Knives, judging by this monster] I still find my eyes drawn to them when I see them, which is why this caught my attention.

But then, I looked a bit closer and saw it was a special edition.

And then I looked closer still and saw it had a picture of something that looked like a bloody Nespresso pod on its blade.

There’s a simple reason for that, because the image is supposed to be of a Nespresso pod, because this knife is made from recycled poncey coffee pod packaging.

I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to make of this.

Without doubt, one part of me thought it was bloody awesome, and yet another part of me hated it because by pointing out the specific material they recycled to make their product, I felt it was some sort of ‘official’ alliance and suddenly it was less about helping the earth and more about exploiting it.

Of course I knew I could be wrong – as I usually am – however when I looked into it, I found this descriptor on the Victorinox website:

“Two Swiss innovators, one directional collector’s piece. Meet the Pioneer Nespresso Livanto: a Swiss Army Knife with sustainability at the heart of its design blueprint. The second limited edition from this unique collaboration between Victorinox and Nespresso, it fuses a solid eco conscience and heritage with intricate engineering. This utility piece features scales crafted from 24 recycled coffee capsules in a striking bronze hue. It’s where green living meets coffee culture and intrepid adventure.”

… and in an instant, Victorinox and Nespresso left a horrible taste in my mouth, even worse than their coffee but – thankfully for them – not as bad as their ads.



The Truth Is Hard To Find …

Many years ago, I was in a meeting where a client was using their ‘data’ to explain why they wouldn’t be going with our idea.

At the heart of the clients issue was the fact they felt the audience we were going to engage was too niche and they wanted to go as broad as possible.

Putting aside the fact you should never have a target audience of ‘everyone’ – not to mention the fact by targeting the core of a culture, you find they pull the broader culture up with them – what we hated was the client was [incorrectly] using data to hide behind their fear.

Up steps Andy.

“Have you ever used a prostitute?”

Unsurprisingly, the client denied this strenuously.

“That’s interesting …”, said my evil ex-colleague, “… because for the oldest industry in the World, I’ve never met anyone who admitted to using them.”

Of course what he was trying to say is that what people say, isn’t always what they really think or do – especially when there is so much evidence to prove it if you’re just willing to look under some rocks – and while we didn’t win that particular argument with that particular client, it does highlight an important point that I believe is becoming even more difficult today.

It’s hard to find the truth.

I don’t mean that purely in terms of just exploring it – though that’s fucking tough – I mean it in terms of the client often being unwilling to accept it or, more specifically, admit it.

OK, so part of our job is to find a way to make that happen however sometimes – and it feels increasingly so – there’s a blinkered approach to discussing truth, where the corporately agreed narrative is more important than the facts.

There’s a bunch of reasons for this … job security, insecurity, a lack of corporate diversity – both in terms of culture, lifestyle and opinion – and an attitude where middle management believe they are only empowered to say ‘no’ … but fundamentally, we are entering a period where the biggest thing holding a brand back is their reluctance to know who, and what, their audience are really about.

Oh they know the general stuff.

How much they earn.

How much they buy.

What their family consists of.

But get to anything where you understand how this audience thinks or does stuff … and it’s more bland than a James Blunt album.

“They like spending time with their family”.

“They don’t like cleaning, but it makes them feel they’re being a good parent.”

“Safety and security are important for them”.

Nothing highlights this like the recent election results we’ve had.

Brexit.

Trump.

May.

Sure, some people saw the signs, but the vast majority – with their traditional, designed-for-convenient-answers methodologies, chose to ignore them – preferring to stick to the pre-agreed narrative. And given I heard this quote by Geoff Norcott recently noted …

“Voting conservative is like buying a James Blunt album. You know for a fact millions of people do it, but you never meet anyone who admits to it.”

… it seems things haven’t changed that much from Andy’s observation.

Though I’d argue talking about James Blunt is worse than talking about prostitues.

But then I would say that wouldn’t I.



Taking The Piss, Literally …

I survived my first July 4th.

To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult given it was basically spending the day eating hamburgers wrapped in stars and stripes napkins.

In fact, I’m quite looking forward to next years already.

Anyway, when I lived in Sydney, there was this myth about someone called ‘trough boy’.

The legend goes that during the Mardi Gras festival, he would wrap himself in clingfilm, lie in the trough of pub urinal and beg people to piss all over him.

I never found out if it was true, but I bring this up because recently – while seeing George at Google – I saw this in their toilets. [Sorry, I mean ‘bathrooms’]

Now you might be wondering what I’m talking about – and I accept it’s not nearly as cool as the million other posts I’ve written about toilets – but what struck me was the high level of branding on this anti-splash toilet aid.

OK, so it works on a similar principal to the ‘fly’ that a Swedish airport painted on their urinals so men would aim their piss at it rather than let it fly all over the place [which was costing them a fortune in cleaning bills] but I must admit seeing their brand name proudly embossed on their product feels strange.

Actually scrap that, what feels weird is their name/logo looks like it suits a tech company more than a hygiene company … which says more about my prejudices than it does about them.

And so I decided to look into them and found out AirWorks is a product, not a brand and it’s made by a company called Hospeco who – if you look at their website – have an image much more in keeping with what I would imagine them to be.

And where am I going with all this?

Well, as normal, nowhere except to say in a world where brands are absolutely petrified of incurring any negative commentary from society, imagine being a brand where your objective is to literally have society piss on you.

If that wouldn’t lead to the greatest creative work ever, I don’t know what would.



Out Of The Times …
June 22, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, Marketing, Marketing Fail, Positioning, Sport

The Times.

One of the icons of newspapers and journalism.

Not just in the UK, but across the whole World.

Sure, there have been scandals along the way – not to mention the Murdoch ownership – but overall, it is still a paper that commands huge respect which is why I found this recent ad of theirs on Facebook rather baffling.

Yes, I know football is a global sport worth billions of pounds a year.

Yes, I know The Times have a football writer, Henry Winter, that is highly revered.

Yes, I know that Facebook audiences may be more likely to react to a football story than a journalism story.

But …. come on.

It’s the fucking Times.

And while having a global perspectives has never been so important as it is today, I’m not sure football – or Jose Mourinho for that matter – is going to drive the subscriptions they crave, especially when there are so many more topical [and important] issues they could push against … whether that’s the politically motivated movement to promote anything that challenges a claim as false news or even the tragic terrorist events that have taken place in London in the last few days.

While I appreciate the need to broaden your audience base is vital, chasing them never leads to long term success because ultimately you are handing over your destiny to people who could change their allegiance in a heartbeat, especially when there are so many other alternatives all vying for your attention.

As I wrote a while back, if you don’t commit to what you were created for, then how can you ever expect your audience to commit to what you stand for.