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

Good News Sydney …
April 30, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

… I’m staying in Melbourne for this trip.

Better news, there’s not going to be any blog rubbish for the whole week.


Enjoy … especially as you can be safe in the knowledge that Melbourne’s reputation for understated, classic style and elegance is being destroyed by a bald bloke in Birkenstocks as you read this.

Consider it my gift to all of you in NSW for letting me live there.

Opposites Attract …
April 27, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So yesterday, I spoke with my good friend, Charles Wigley – Chairman of BBH Asia – at the Asia Marketing Effectiveness conference.

While effectiveness is obviously a serious subject, we decided to approach it from a different angle, which was to basically attack some of the blatantly false ‘truths’ adland likes to bang on about because [1] they think that’s the cool thing to say [2] they only like focusing on the new and fashionable because that’s what they think/feel makes them look hip and relevant or [3] they haven’t bothered to look into the details.

Pulling it together was fun mainly because as much as Chaz and I are old friends with similar views on stuff, our approaches are quite different [read: his is professional, mine is shaky and shonky] so rather than just pull my usual stunt of making a presentation of pictures with a few words on each slide, I had to be a bit more detailed.

I’m sure you can imagine how traumatic that was for me.

Anyway, I think it came out rather well and while you won’t be able to necessarily tell what we’re going on about – especially the ‘piss taking bits’ – I thought I’d upload it anyway, if only for the fact this might be my first, and only, semi-serious presentation of my career.

It’s pretty big, so if you’re suffering from amnesia, may I suggest you get settled in your bed and then pull out your laptop, because by slide 3, there’s a good chance you’ll be in the land of nod, living the dream.

[An ever-so-slightly misquoted review of our presentation – featuring a 7 year old photo of yours truly and a very stylish Nottingham Forest calendar – can be seen here]

Oh, one last thing …

So tomorrow I’m off to Australia to go and insult the intelligence of even more people, so that means you’re free from my blogging rubbish for one, whole glorious week … so enjoy the peace, I know my colleagues will.


See the presentation bigger here.

PS: This is a low-res file because Slideshare only lets you upload 10mb for free and quite frankly, I’m not going to pay US$19 per month just so you can have a fancier looking preso that you won’t pay the slightest bit of attention to anyway.

If You Don’t Stand For Something, You Might Fall For Anything …
April 26, 2012, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

I stole this picture from the very wonderful and very talented Jon Howard.

It’s hopefully pretty obvious that it’s not the picture that I really like, it’s the words because it conveys a point that is both true and often forgotten.

I have sat in too many meetings where amazing opportunities have been cut at the knees simply because a client has focused on who might be upset, rather than who it could inspire and attract.

I appreciate you don’t want to go out and upset the masses, however if you accept that a strong brand has a strong point of view, then it’s only natural that at some point, you’re going to upset someone.

However there is a massive difference between upsetting someone as a byproduct of your beliefs versus going out of your way to target, humiliate and ridicule [which is why I’m talking about ads based on a provocative belief, not ads based on the goal to be controversial and shocking]… which is why I get upset when I see a brand back down as soon as some small consumer group gets their knickers in a twist over something they’ve done or said.

Sure, if they have genuinely fucked up, then fair enough … but too many companies approach their communication with the view that no one – literally no one – should be upset, offended or challenged by a message which ultimately means they end up churning out wallpaper where no one is moved, challenged or motivated by their messages.

In short, they are literally throwing their money down the drain.

Listening to your audience is different to pandering to your audience.

Understanding your audience is different to mirroring your audience.

While I salute the role and goal of some consumer groups, that doesn’t mean they are always right … and just because say, 100 people are offended by a commercial doesn’t mean a corporation should scrap the ad and issue a fawning apology.

In fact, if the brand genuinely believes in what it’s doing, it should come out and stand their ground.

I know many PR people would say that is corporate suicide, but in this day and age of political correctness and bland pandering – I think society wouldn’t view them as bullying, but as standing their ground.

Of course that would depend on what the issue is, how they expressed it and whether the consumer group in question is being petty or not – but standing up for what you believe goes both ways which is why the greatest demonstration of your beliefs is seeing how you react when someone calls it into question.

If brands want to stand out, there are 3 ways to do it:

1. Shock.
2. Have a strong point of view.
3. Brainwash with media spend.

If a brand wants to mean something to someone, there is only 1 way to do it:

Have a strong point of view.

That might end up upsetting some people, but even Harry Potter has his enemies and at the end of the day, this approach creates a much stronger platform for cost effective communication in the future than either of the alternatives.

With love, comes hate.

With hate, comes love.

With nothing, comes little … or an over-reliance on distribution and routine.

We Need More Imperfect Solutions …
April 25, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

We live in a World of ‘tailored solutions’.

Food … finance … clothes … friends … apps … books …

You name it, we’ve got it.

But is it doing us any good?

Is having all our needs/wants/tastes met, helping us in the longterm?

Of course it’s nice when you receive something that suits you – but what about those things that, on first impressions, don’t match your usual tastes?

What about those things that when you experience them, take you to somewhere new … somewhere interesting … somewhere great?

What about those things?

A book … a film … an outfit … a food?

The good news is that currently, the technology that companies rely on to match their products to their purchasers are – appropriately enough – imperfect, but this will only diminish over time as things get smarter, better, quicker and more invasive.

And while convenience is well, convenient … isn’t it all a little bit, boringly comfortable?

As my Mum said, everything is good in moderation – but we’re not getting tailored solutions in moderation are we, we’re getting them – or attempting to get them – in excess.

The irony of planning is that we are contributing to this.

For all the talk about helping brands be more powerful, differentiated and interesting, we are ultimately paid to help them ‘fit in’ with people’s lives

What’s worse is the way the discipline does this, is to place a huge emphasis on what people are doing now and then try to find a gap – or a way – to put ourselves in-front of all our competitors offering.

In other words, it’s not about finding ways to nudge/encourage/push people into the unknown and exciting – a place where they may find things fascinating and interesting – but keeping them firmly where they are, albeit with a slightly different slant on what has gone on before.

I know … I know … ‘commercial realities’ mean this is what we have to do.

But is that what actually happens?

You could argue that if all you’re doing is fighting within the existing category, you’re basically fighting in a limited pool where your only hope is to steal a bit of share from one of your existing competitors.

And that’s why I have always been a massive advocate of thinking about culture, not just the category.

By understanding what is going on in their hearts, minds, fears and thoughts … looking broader, not just deeper … you can find an underlying tension that can be the basis for you to challenge a broader audience to take notice and start to care … a mass of people who might start to consider you an option, not just as a brand but as a category … a group who could go on a journey of discovery and push things even further because you’ve appealed to their values not just their habits.

Planning is very important, we represent the views, needs and opinions of the masses … but if we want to make a bigger difference – to them, our clients & our industry – it’s time to stop just focusing on what can be the ‘perfect fit’ and more on what people can grow into.

Don’t Be A Confidence Vampire …
April 24, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

So I was in a meeting, talking to a client, when they said,

“You said something I found quite interesting …”

Before he could finish what he was going to say, I responded:

“You only found one thing that I said interesting and then it was only ‘quite’ interesting?”

He laughed.

OK so I was being an ass – and maybe I had only said one thing that was mildly of value – however it occurred to me how often we say, or hear, little things that have the potential to undermine the confidence of others.

Of course in the main we don’t really mean them to come across that way – they’re just figures of speech – however without wishing to sound all Oprahesque, we have to be mindful of these incidental slurs, because they can act as ‘confidence vampires’ and the last thing we need are our colleagues – and clients – believing they can’t think, dream or explore big.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting giving false feedback, far from it – that is absolutely essential – but we need to be mindful we’re not accidently contributing to our industries obsolescence to business because quite frankly, they need a great version of us as much as we need a great version of them.