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

Talking About Death Can Be A Sign Of Love …
January 28, 2011, 6:06 am
Filed under: Comment

So in my job, you often find yourself fighting against endless debate relating to single words.

A friend of mine has spent – no word of a lie – THREE YEARS helping his client encapsulate their brand pyramid in a way that they feel comfortable with.

Now I appreciate words are important … but three years???

Surely the World will have changed significantly enough in that time to mean that whatever they come up with may not be as relevant as it once was.

And then there’s the fact that whatever ends up being shoved on the powerpoint slide [which will literally never be seen by anyone again] has to be translated and may not have a naturally fitting local alternative, the culture and make-up of that country may mean that even if things can be translated perfectly, they may not be culturally relevant.

As I said, I appreciate the importance of these things – at the very least, in terms of encouraging/ensuring consistency – however isolated words without any form of context will never convey everything you want to capture because at the most basic of levels, their interpretation is dependent on the person reading them and to counter that requires the adoption of the most bland, rational, category-cliché definitions possible and even that is no guarantee of success.

Sadly I sometimes get sucked into this sort of thing and so rather than end up having endless arguments about role, value, definitions and relevance [that doesn’t mean I don’t have them, I just have an inbuilt limiter], I tend to do two things.

1/ When we are defining words, we add + and – elements to help shape the meaning.

So for example, if the word under discussion was ‘fun’ [which most clients love to have in their brand pyramids, despite the fact they are almost universally devoid of it] we would say:

+ Spontaneous, Playful, Inclusive.
Vindictive, Violent, Dangerous.

2/ To back this up, we create a mood board [or preferably a mood film] that captures the spirit and meaning of everything being said, with the instructions that they should never be seen by in isolation.

[I’d love to show you some, but that would get me in trouble because obviously the ones I have are all associated with a client I have either worked with or work with and they’ll be some rule about it, even if it’s years ago or thought it was shite]

Now you might think that makes it more painful and difficult, but trust me, in the bigger scheme of things it isn’t.

You see not only does this approach actually speed up the whole process because the +/- element allows people to not get so lost in words … but the mood film allows people to be emotionally involved and engaged by it all so by the end of it, the outtake is a more universally understood set of words, both interms of their definition but – even more importantly – what they emotionally represent.

Of course it’s not perfect – there’s still a degree of subjectivity behind it and I still question how/why some brands do this sort of thing, especially when they seemingly prefer it to actually ‘doing stuff’ – but at least when someone see’s the stuff we’ve developed, there’s a greater appreciation of what is being expressed than a seemingly random bunch of words that have been shoved inside a triangle.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that when you are in a position where you are being asked to do stuff that you feel has some flaws, don’t blindly go along with it – find ways that will let the client feel they’re getting what they want, but better than they ever expected because not only will this highlight your particular talent, skills and value, but longer term, more people.

32 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Given that customers ultimately decide or ratify what you stand for, then it seems to me that rather than take shelter in endless workshops, shouldn’t companies just instinctively know when it’s right? They could even use that as a mantra. It’s the sort of thing a copywriter might come up with anyway.

Comment by John

dodds seems to be the fucked up impression that workshops are pointless. how he can come up with that fucking view when they let you spend hours drinking tea, eating sweets and making collages that even a 3 year old kid would be fucking embarrassed by is beyond fucking me.

Comment by andy@cynic

there is a fucking good reason why companies dont know what is instinctively right by their customers and thats because they dont fucking know their customers. not that theyd say that. oh fucking no. they think having some sales data, out of date or out of fucking context focus group research and an insight manager who was a failed researcher from some shitty local company and does nothing except fucking brief companies on doing shit that will at best keep them exactly where they have always been or at fucking worse doesnt ever fucking happen makes them an all seeing all knowing gurus.
but it doesnt. it makes them wankers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Consistency doesn’t come from diagrams, it comes from a passionate belief in what one is doing.

Comment by John

thats where its all going fucking wrong dodds. companies think that because their people are turning up to their grey office cubicles each fucking day, theyre passionate about the direction and beliefs of the company when the only thing that gets their heart beat up is fucking in the fire escape, snorting coke off their bosses desk and having a huge shit. goes back to campbells post of yesterday. fuck me, im endorsing something campbell wrote. it was a bad day to give up the meths.

Comment by andy@cynic

this post has fucking worked me up. not in the way that the girlfriend of that little twat cristiano ronaldo works me up, but with fucked offness.

ive had to sit in these sorts of bollocks campbell describes way too fucking often and 95% of the time theyve been shit, pointless and basically a fucking jolly for middle management clients. or someone trying to justify their job. its all political correctness and lowest common denominator shit where the biggest conversation is about the shit sandwiches rather than the task at hand.

the only reason i dont say they are all 100% shit is because of campbell. yes i know the guy is a planning fuck who ruined my life but workshops with him mean that i dont autofuckingmatically reach for a gun when im asked to attend.

he most fucking definitely puts the work into the shop. give him a room full of eager beaver people and he becomes mr fucking domantrix telling them to keep to the point, shut the fuck up or prove whatever drivel thats pouring out their mouth is right.

he poses fucking real challenges and bastard questions and refuses to accept everyone has a good idea and will cut them off in mid fucking breath if they start talking dreamland stupid shit and wasting time.

despite treating them like his bitches and saying things like brand pyramids are best left for dead egyptians they fucking lap it up which is why he gets things out of these time vampire sessions that harry fucking potter couldnt magic up with 50 wands and 3 wishes from a fucking genie and i dont get sent down for 30 years for mass fucking murder.

this is a good post campbell. i still havent worked out why because its about planning and the worst parts of advertising but at least your ego wont let you do shit or embrace shit if your name is going to be attached to it and thats probably the best fucking advice anyone could fucking get.

i need a fucking drink and your twatty mate who has spent 3 years writing words in a fucking triangle needs a fucking life. or some fucking balls.

Comment by andy@cynic

Feel better now?

Comment by Rob

Someone on Twitter has just said you’re his favourite commentator. I feel ill to the pit of my stomach.

Comment by Rob

not as much as i do about people who use fucking twitter. so who is this fucker with good taste.

Comment by andy@cynic

You should do more of these posts Robert, they’re excellent and will highlight to readers how they have the power to turn any passive corporate process into an outcome that has real value and influence over the company, it’s associated partners and the final product produced.
Andrew is right about how you handle workshops, it’s poetry in motion except with swearing and loud voices.

Comment by George

poetry in fucking motion? only if youre fucking comparing them to your car crash workshops. lets not get too over the fucking top here auntie, its a good post, he has one semi skill but he still spends more time sucking the life out of people than giving them the fucking horn.

Comment by andy@cynic

Ahhhh, back to normal. That’s quite a relief, I was starting to get worried.

Now why is everyone talking about workshops? This post isn’t about workshops – not in the ‘brainstorms’ kind of sense or have I missed something I didn’t even know I’d written?

Comment by Rob

And congratulations to Andrew for maintaining comment focus. A first for you I believe.

Comment by George

and congratufuckinglations to you for growing some balls. theyre fucking insignificant balls, but at least youre on the fucking road of manhood. till mary comes home anyway.

Comment by andy@cynic

Sorry George, but he got you good and proper there …

Comment by Rob

My idea of a bucking good ruck is a fight over the difference between imply or insinuate with the client. Locked antlers, long stringy drooling saliva…. the whole gig.

BTW. Are you recycling my posts that I nicked off you in the first place now?

Comment by Charles Frith

which you both fucking stole off hhcl.

Comment by andy@cynic

Good point.

Comment by Rob

Shameless I know.

Comment by Charles Frith

Seems I got transported to an alternate universe today because Rob has written something interesting and people are being nice about it.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I share your confusion Billy.

Comment by Rob

I might not comment so much anymore but I’m still visiting and I think this has been one of your best weeks of posting. Valuable lessons and reminders for everyone.

Comment by Bazza

Thanks matey … hope you’re doing well. You’re missed around here.

Comment by Rob

Great post, and good ways to mitigate the drudgery of ‘words in shapes’.

In the past I’ve used the ‘what it is/what it’s not’ slide to help refine what we’re talking about, but the +/- strategy is probably better…

Comment by Felix

Trust me Felix, what you’re doing is exactly the same as what I’m doing so let’s not say +/- is “better” because it’s not, it’s just another way to say/do the same thing.

Comment by Rob

Not sure what to say now that everyone is being complimentary. Don’t want to agree but I have to.
Andy, help!!! Forgot, he’s gone fucking soft too!

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

I can imagine you do run those horrid, fucked up, workshops well Rob. And a mood board or film to show the spirit is great.

But I hope ending up with…

+ words that make people feel better but don’t actually help define
– words that make people feel better but don’t actually help define

…is a last resort. I’m sure it is. Stick with Mr Dominatrix – it’s a better solution.

I hope we can educate clients to just define a purpose or a role or similar or just have one word that they stand for that is ownable OR have a few words that actually mean something, rather than do these shit pyramids. Even if I do love a good chocolate biscuit. Why are the fruit platters always full of rockmelon though??

Comment by Angus

Hello lovely, how are you?

I assure you that my starting point is always “why are you doing some pyramind thingy” before doing all I can to at least give it some real meaning and value – but even then, it’s always with the focus for it to do something and by that, I don’t mean keeping middle management in a job.

And I like the rockmelon, so don’t start a petition against that please.

Comment by Rob

The memory still gives me the shivers.

Comment by Lee Hill

It was tough love.

Comment by Rob

fuck him lee, if any bastard needs charity its me so 2 upper class round the fucking world tickets by monday please.

see. I even fucking said please.

Comment by andy@cynic

Ignore him Lee. Oh you do already don’t you … ha!

Comment by Rob

Leave a Reply