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


When Companies Deserve A Kicking …
February 22, 2007, 9:07 am
Filed under: Comment

I recently wrote about companies who give out cheap shit under the guise of caring about their customers [the photo of the mouse mat was deleted by my Flickr hackers] … however I’ve just come across the World’s greatest piece of tat and want to share it with you.

Ladies and Gentlemen … allow me to introduce you to the CitiBank ‘Business Card Holder’.

Look how cute it is … it’s just like a briefcase – except it’s the size of a box of matches and has ‘CitiBank’ written on the side.

Marvel at how the locking mechanism really works.

Gasp at the ingenious way it transforms into a business card holder. Or a briefcase for midget business rabbits.

I kid you not, this is a real giveaway. For the financial representatives of CitiBank!!!

I cannot imagine how embarrassed you would be if you met a new client and had to reach into your cheap polyester suit to pull out a miniature briefcase containing all your uber-professional business cards.

Lets be honest … would you buy ANY financial product from a person who used this item? 

Do you think it conveys professionalism? Do you think it represents success?  Do you think it is the item of someone ‘in the know’?

Someone … somewhere … thought this was a good idea because I have been led to believe they ordered thousands to be given away at some internal conference.  Let me tell you, if I worked for CitiBank and was given one of these, I’d either resign on the spot or just find a quiet corner to cry/slash my wrists.

Companies go on and on about conveying the right image … ordering their ad agencies to instil cliché-driven images of professional, successful and suave men and women into all their communication … and then they go and order some of the most cheap, nasty and embarrassing shit ever created, without a second thought as to what it could be conveying to their clients and staff.

I’ve said it many, many times that it’s the little things that make all the difference and this is a perfect example of it.

Despite CitiBank spending literally billions on their communication every single year, this stupid little item has the power to undermine all they supposedly stand for in an instant. 

Sure, someone in the company thought it was probably a ‘cute’ idea, but then some people think Austin Allegro’s, Crossroads and George Clothing are cool … which leads to my point, who has the responsibility for the development of these sort of things?

At cynic, we have a philosophy that says if it has any direct interaction with consumers, we want to be involved with it … which is why apart from ads, we’ve been involved in things as varied as Jumbo Jet interior design, consumer packaging, sales kits, content creation, [none harmful] military hardware development, new distribution opportunities, NPD, brochures, on-hold messages, clothing etc etc … however in many big organisations, it would seem the marketing department relinquishes responsibility when it comes to areas they believe are ‘unimportant’ … often things like internal/external ‘leave behinds’.

Why is this?

As I said … it’s these little things that can really reinforce a brand and its values to employees and customers. Sure they may seem inconsequential, but as the crappy business card briefcase shows, they also have massive power to ruin a brands carefully constructed image. 

I appreciate some companies like giving other departments a chance to ‘express their own creativity and choices’ … but what I find interesting is that this only tends to happen where marketing is concerned – if someone suggested a brand manager could ‘have a go’ at R&D, I’m sure it would be met with outrage.

Why is marketing given so little credit?  Why is it something that is seen as a ‘treat’ for people to do rather than a specially crafted discipline?

Sure, by the standards adopted by a lot of companies, you’d never guess there was any skill or discipline in the creation of consumer communication [whatever channel it may utilise] … however in the right hands, it’s role in helping forge a particular image is vitally important and yet it is so often just passed over to someone who sees it as a ‘bit of fun‘.

Don’t get me wrong … I am not saying marketing and communication is a science – sure, there are some elements to it – but in essence it’s a pretty simple job. The skill is knowing what makes consumers tick, what’s really on their mind – not just in terms of the category, but interms of their life and culture … so with this in mind, handing it over to someone who thinks marketing and communication is just pictures, logos, templates, promotions and giveaways is probably one of the most daft business decisions you can make. 

Actually there is another daft business decision made quite often … and that is employing mediocrity in the Marketing Department.

Too many of today’s marketers are either ego maniacs [driven by the insecurity there job is not respected within their company], process managers [where they just ‘follow orders’ and offer no influence/direction to moving the company forward] or simply underqualified in terms of real, practical marketing practices [they know all the marketing books, but don’t appreciate that many of them are based on 1950’s philosophies and not as relevant for the modern age as they would think]

When you combine these 2 issues … the general standard of marketer and their ability to relinquish anything they deem not really important enough to even less qualified individuals … is it any wonder that brands, marketing and communication are so ignored by the masses?

It’s time to get real … treat consumers with the respect they deserve and not continually undermine your brand via tacky giveaways and/or misguided communication campaigns because in the right hands, marketing can help you truly be a force to be reckoned with, however in the wrong, it not only screws you over but makes your competition happier, healthier and richer.

Bring consumer needs back into business considerations … because when you do – not only can real creativity, imagination and expression come to the fore, but you actually achieve results that gets you respected again.

Now wouldn’t that make for a nice change?


67 Comments

poor suckers – citibank kids get mini-briefcases as a ‘pick me up’ (pun intended), cynic kids get mini dvd players and 20 movies to watch.. i’m sure billy feels much better knowing that too..

Comment by lauren

when you write shit like this, it reminds me why i love you, why i love cynic and why i love our clients.
to paraphrase the beastie boys, “youve gotta fight for the right for a consumer to like” which is why we do stuff that motivates people where most others do stuff that just ignores people.
anger is our energy plus it would make your dad proud. keep it up.

Comment by andy@cynic

good point lauren. maybe we should take the cost of billys “gifts” out of his next pay. isnt that what a real company would do? at least our financial director would be happy.

Comment by andy@cynic

shit! sorry billy…

Comment by lauren

thank you lauren

Comment by andy@cynic

Andy you are obviously jetlagged … and don’t worry Lauren, our get-well-soon gift won’t be charged to Billy … we’ll simply remind him of it when we need him to work above and beyond the call of duty. [Cue: Evil Laugh!]

Comment by Rob

yeah – like the next round in the carnivore project. with no gall bladder, he’ll have to vote against bacon anyway and we can all have some kind of passive aggressive revenge. [cue: Evil Laugh]

Comment by lauren

You’re good … you’re really really good.

Oh, when I say ‘good’, what I really mean is ‘evil’.

Comment by Rob

stop creeping to lauren, youre engaged for fucks sake.

Comment by andy@cynic

You are a sad, sad, sad, sad man my dear Andy.

Comment by Rob

andy, i could unleash a gender divide/sexual politics diatribe on you right now, but instead i’m going to say this:
jealousy is a curse andy…

Comment by lauren

That won’t work on him Lauren … he’s immune to all emotional, verbal and physical attacks after multiple marriages, engagements and jobs.

Even Superman couldn’t dent him. [But that’s because he’s as ‘bouncy’ as the Michelin Man]

Comment by Rob

and equally as full of hot air?

Comment by lauren

The sad part is if you ever met him, you’d probably love him because he has the capacity to be one of the most astoundingly charming, compassionate, considerate and interesting men in the World … which explains how he has managed to snag some of the most stunning women to be his ‘partner’.

Well, that and the fact he’s also a millionaire! Ha.

Comment by Rob

There’s a marketing conference happening in Miami in a few months and I’ve been asked to talk about the CPB approach.
If I can make it happen, would you like to come and present at it because it will be interesting and provocative (about 100 Marketing Directors will be there from loads of different companies) plus it will segway perfectly into my bit presentation on how “everything to do with a brand communicates” to the consumer in some way.
Let me know and if you can’t, maybe Andy or George could do it instead?

Comment by Pete

Good post. Poor discipline on the comments. Excellent.

Morning.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Good to see we don’t need suasages to descend into tittle tattle.
By the way, I get annoyed with clients who think their crafted messages are the only form of marketing. One culprit has very good ads, and a diabolical instore experience..they don’t see a problem.

Comment by NP

Ryan Air manage both NP.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Great post Rob, when are you opening a Melbourne office dammit!?! We NEED more companies like yours here…

Comment by Age

Pete … let me know the date/s and I’ll check our schedules with Katerina and get back to you. I’d love to do it … and maybe I can test ‘perform’ my new presentation entitled ‘The Rise Of Badvertising, Sadvertising, Padvertising & Ladvertising’ – which covers all the points I’ve mentioned in this post but with abit more ‘humour’ in it. Let me know.

NP … you are sooooooooooo right.

One of the things we love about working with Virgin is that they truly appreciate the importance of a consumer ‘brand memory’ – which is why we spend so much time looking at every possible contact point for a consumer – from the lounge right through to the tickets and inflight blanket etc.

The thing that gets me is how it seems few companies truly understand the importance of brand personality. Most seem to just ‘execute’ their ideas cold and efficiently – meaning the brand doesn’t leave a lasting impression on the consumer which inturn, means no affinity or loyalty is built up.

My fave is that when Branson was having the VA Lounges built, he briefed the designers to make them so “Passengers Wished Their Plane Was Delayed”.

Doing this meant that instead of having a lounge that felt cold and calculated [like most other airlines offer] you ended up with something that stood out and made consumers feel great … where a functional room in an airport was also a brand communication tool.

Of course there’s brands like Singapore Airlines where the actual experience is a trillion times better than their communication – but hopefully once they’ve appointed a new agency from their current pitch process, that issues will be resolved once and for all.

Have to say though, I’m not holding out too much hope of that happening because the one thing I do know about SIA [they have a 49% stake in VA] is that as forward thinking as they are interms of their business and service levels, where comms are concerned they are firmly ensconced in the 1970’s.

Years ago I bought a brand new Golf and within 6 months the turbo, gearbox and engine fucked up.
Even though VW’s advertising goes on about them being ‘RELIABLE’ I appreciated these things happened and simply asked for a hire car while mine was being fixed.

Imagine my surprise when I was told they don’t “DO” hire cars and that it would take at least 6 weeks for the repairs to be done.

It was at this point I went mad.

Having got hold of VW’s international marketing director [my Dad’s traits coming to the fore], I pointed out that selling a new car is relatively easy … however getting a customer to re-buy is the really hard bit so the next decision they make can either ensure a customer for life or [if they continue to treat me like shit] they can kiss me goodbye for ever and a day.

My car was fixed in 72 hours and I was given a hire car inbetween those times.

Sure it left abit of a nasty taste in my mouth but to be honest, it wasn’t with VW, it was the local dealership who initially handled my complaint… however when VW got involved and accepted the blame and actually did something to sort it out – they ensured me as a loyal customer for life.

It costs a lot of money to win a customer … it can cost a hell of alot more when you lose them.

It ‘ain’t rocket science … which is why I find it so amazing so few companies still really ‘get it’.

Speak up NP … find ways to prove their stupidity and if I can help in any way [and I mean that – either interms of things you can do or examples] just shout.

Right, I feel soooooo much better now that’s off my chest.

Comment by Rob

Munich/Berlin before Melbourne I’m afraid Age.

Comment by Rob

better bloody be Munich.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Yes … well we’ll just have to see how Mr 3 Stripes treats us won’t we!

Comment by Rob

quite.

Do you think Niku will be cross? I have been gentle.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Niku is seriously a truly wonderful, wonderful man … and he’s bloody smart but in a normal, human way – he’ll take it well. I hope … ha.

Comment by Robert

Have you seen that John Grant has posted Sacrum Naked application?

Comment by Marcus Brown

So many companies seem to forget that these pieces of communication represent them just as much as any ad does. Its that sense of high up people believing their brand will make any piece of tat look good, whereas in fact the absolute opposite is true.

Dont forget NP that you also have a client who has a good instore experience but (usually) poor ads, but we both know thats not really your fault!

The VW story isvery true. So many companies absolutely fail to understand the cost of losing and regaining a customer. I cant understand why mobile companies continue to penalise their customers and offer rewards to new people! Only O2 seem to be learning…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Marcus … you are proving the World’s gone PC mad. [And I don’t mean ‘Personal Computer’]

And John should know better …

Rob you are so right … why the hell haven’t you been snapped up yet? It’s bloody ridiculous especially when Marcus/Sacrum can get meetings left, right and centre. The World’s gone mad … mad I tell you!

Comment by Rob

It is insane that Mr. Mortimer hasn’t been snapped up yet. INSANE!

Although it does hurt a little that you find it ridiculous that I get meetings rob. Smarts that. Like a chinese burn.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Oh come on … you know what I mean.

Niku has just emailed me and asked if I know you -ie: Sacrum.

I am in a quandry what to say … so I’ll follow my usual habit, do nothing.

He’ll get it in the end and be tops with it because the guy truly is a legend – but I don’t know if John will be as happy about it, ha!

Comment by Rob

I’ve just done a screen shot of JG’s blog. He’ll get his knickers in a twist and take done the post.

Tell Niku it’s me. I’m fine with that. He was so nice it won’t be as much fun doing follow ups etc. Remember the agency I wanted to do yesterday (the one where you’ve got an axe to grind)? I’d like to move onto them. Just say hi etc.

Comment by Marcus Brown

OK, I’ll tell Niku – you’d really like him as well, he truly is a top bloke who is so, so smart. God, I’m gushing – what a knob!

And as for the axe-to-grind agency … go for it, can’t wait to see how they respond.

Comment by Rob

Marcus, have you got the Timewasters Letters book? If you haven’t, you should, it’s genius and very similar to what you’re doing. Oh dear, I have insinuated you are not original. Oh well, you’re a big boy, I am sure you can handle it.

Comment by George

Aw shucks!

Got some people to meet next time im in London, and I still haven’t got a reply from Naked! Must be about 8 months now…

Its amazing how many communications agencies are very slow at communicating!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

George … I’ve sent him the Timewaster Letters [1 & 2] as well as ‘e’ as part of our ‘Cheer Up Marcus’ survival/gift pack.

Given you’ve just slagged off his originality, maybe I should have organised some Prozac to have been included as well!

Comment by Rob

And as for the timewasters book, my brother did something similar; he wrote to loads of b-list celebrities to invite them to do stupid awards ceremonies (I believe he asked Timmy Mallet to present the “Morty awards”) and then find out their fees and requests!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Do you want me to write to Niku for you Rob – he’s tops and would definitely see you.

I personally apologise the two ‘John’s’ have been so slack.

Comment by Rob

George, I’m fragile at the moment…but I can take it. I believe timewasters is on it’s way ala Amazon.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Oh good, he’ll love it and it’ll make him smile again.

Plus it will have the added benefit of reassuring him he is better off as a printer rather than an ad man. Unless of course our meeting goes well in the Deutchland.

Comment by George

I think you meant ‘Deutschland’ but then it’s ridiculously early over there so I’ll let you off.

Comment by Rob

If it’s no trouble that would be useful thanks! Not sure when I will next be in London yet though (apart from for the FMS)

Comment by Rob Mortimer

OK … emailing him now. BCC’ing you!

Comment by Robert

Mr Mortimer – if Naked calls, you go. Simple as that.

Comment by Marcus Brown

I’ve apologised per mail.

Comment by Marcus Brown

I would say so as well, i’m just trying to stop using all my holiday days before april, but I will see what Niku says and try and plan around that…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

George, scrubbing stairs with a toothbrush is better than what I’m doing now.

Comment by Marcus Brown

You poor bastard, lets see what we can do to make it better, starting with the care package winging its way thanks to Mr Amazon and cynics credit card.

Comment by George

Rob … email sent and I’ve BCC’d you.

Fingers crossed …

And George, it wasn’t Cynic’s credit card, it was mine … but don’t worry, I’ll be claiming it in full on expenses, ha!

Comment by Rob

Whoops … I used a capital ‘c’.

Sorry … take it out on me via my expense claim.

Comment by Rob

Just got a very nice mail from you friend at Naked Rob. What a nice chap.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Told you … what did he say?

Comment by Rob

Lets just keep that little slip up between you and me. You should be glad Andy is now up in the clouds or you’d never hear the end of it.

Comment by George

God bless having clients in Dallas!

Comment by Rob

here’s the mail….

“Hi Marcus

No apology needed. Sacrums approach is way more entertaining than the usual stuff!

So, how can I help you?”

Comment by Marcus Brown

that’s nice isn’t it?

Comment by Marcus Brown

See … he is a fucking diamond … and an amazing furniture builder too. Seriously, he is one of those sickeningly talented people AND NICE TOO! How did he get so lucky!

Comment by Rob

I think you’ll find his ‘luck’ is probably based on the words ‘talented’ and ‘nice’… 😉

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Damn him.

Did you get the BCC incase he writes to you directly?

Got to go – but let me know if you hear anything and I’ll do the same.

Comment by Rob

I did thanks, i’ll let you know!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

This has moved on a bit.. but I may just take you up on that Rob.

I’d love a world where Marcus and Mortimer work in the same agency, and you don’t know if it will be Sacrum or Marcus at his desk this morning.
By the way,I’ve started one of those twitter things, I don’t quite see the point but I’m having a go

Comment by NP

NP – trust me, if I had my way, that would definitely happen – just need to open some more offices around the World or it’ll cost the guys a fortune to get to the office each day.

I guarantee within 10 mins our US Finance Director will call me up about this post. Bless him.

Comment by Rob

Mr Mortimer … Niku has got back to me and said he has already heard of you and while they have nothing at the moment, things are changing all the time and would like to maybe chat to you sometime in the near future.

I’ll sort something out and then put you both in touch.

Comment by Rob

Munich rocks… everyone is talking about Berlin being the new European “it” city of the future, but Munich has just got that feeling. I was there for the world cup and it was just AWESOME.

Plus you can go surfing in the park at lunch time (http://www.surfxchange.net/spots/munich.html) cool!

If “3-stripe man” is what I think it means then wow, that’s cool. Best to you all Cynic team, that’s massive. If I’m thinking the completely wrong thing then fuck it, best to you all anyways!

Comment by Age

Ah excellent. Thanks!
Must be good if people i’ve never spoken to (even on blogs) know who I am!

Who wouldnt want to work with Marcus, all those complimentary sausages in the office..!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Age – GO TO BED FOR GODSAKE!!! And maybe your powers of deduction are right, I’ll let you know for sure in a few weeks, ha.

As for you Mr Mortimer – yes, your fame precedes you – let me sort out how Niku is fixed and hopefully you guys can meet and at least have a chat – which is how all great things start.

Now I am going to bed – just bought some new ‘gadgets’ and need to have a fiddle with them. Ooer.

Comment by Rob

morning. you’re totally right rob – apologies andy – claws were out. shit week.

Comment by lauren

Don’t be silly Lauren – Andy has been abused by people far nastier than you could ever be.

It’s Friday – so it’s the end of the shit week and the start of the top weekend.

Comment by Rob




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