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

Happy Halloween …
October 31, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Halloween is supposed to be scary.

This new fangled trend of treating it as an excuse to dress up in anything that takes your fancy is, in my book, both wrong and disrespectful to ghosts, witches and Conservative ministers.

So to try and bring things back on track, I have made a horror movie for your watching pleasure.

I call it ‘The Campbell Witch Project’ and I guarantee it will scare you shitless, but sadly for completely different reasons than I intended.


PS: Oscar nominations will be gratefully – if unlikely – received.

PPS: Keanu, if you’re interested, I do give acting tips. Call me.

Less Is More Than More, It’s Also Less Chance To Look A Tool …
October 30, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

When I was in the UK a few weeks ago, I passed a DR Marten’s shop and saw this poster in the front window:

Now putting aside the fact the ‘self expression’ message they’re pushing doesn’t really resonate with me – and not just because I’m a Birkenstock fiend, but because it feels weak … though I admit my frame of reference for the brand is still linked to skinheads kicking someone’s head in – the bit that really bothered me was that they had expressed it as, ‘Creative Self Expression’.

Maybe it’s just me, but who talks like that?

I could [sort-of] understand if they said it was about creativity.

I could [sort-of] understand if they said it was about self expression.

But creative self expression?

What does that even mean? Isn’t any act of self expression, creative by default?

OK, so I bet there are a ton of people who could talk for hours about the difference between self expression and creative self expression … but while that is a [potentially] valid point, the real issue is that’s not how the public think or talk and so it creates a barrier between audience and brand that doesn’t need to be there … which is especially mad given advertising has a hard enough time to ‘cut through and engage’ at the best of time.

For me, that headline/quote just smacks of either a clients pushiness, a planners ego or a researchers myopicness.

I can just imagine the creative team presenting ‘self expression’ only for someone to say …

“That doesn’t quite capture what we want to say, we’re also about creativity.”

“OK …” say the creatives, “… what about saying ‘we’re about creativity?”

“No …” the client/planner/researcher replies, “… that might not speak to the people who want to express themselves but don’t think they’re creative.”


While I obviously think work should always be informed by the strategy, it should never be executed literally … not just because it ends up looking and sounding like shit, but because people buy things for themselves and so you need to connect to them on their terms.

That doesn’t mean you have to dumb down or be sycophantic, but advertising should be encouraging, inspiring, involving and informing so [1] using words you wish people would say back to you about your brand or [2] talking rather than making people feel … ends up creating reasons why people should ignore you rather than explore you, even if it might make you feel more comfortable in the campaign development phase.

Oh and finally, for the people that say, “but there’s plenty of brands that are hugely successful who don’t adopt that approach”, I’d say they are mistaking convenience, habit and/or distribution strength with true brand appeal.

And yes, I know ‘brand loyalty’ often doesn’t translate into consumer habits – at least to the level many brands delude themselves into believing – but if you’re not liked [for want of a better word], then you’re not in the consideration set & at that point, you may as well give up.

Marriott Madness …
October 29, 2013, 6:06 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back, I stayed at the Marriott hotel in Detroit.

I found Detroit really interesting.

Despite being basically a bankrupt city – while I was there, auctioneers were evaluating the value of the exhibits at the local museum – the people were warm, welcoming and friendly.

Anyway, this isn’t about the Motor City, it’s about the Marriott hotel chain, one of the most confused brands I’ve seen in a long time.

On the positive, when I went back to my room at the end of the first day, I found this:

OK, OK, so a couple of cheap chocolates, a crap drawing and a little message scrawled in a 3 year olds handwriting shouldn’t impress me too much, but it was a nice touch.

Admittedly, whether this was a living, breathing example of the brands ‘Leave a trail of genius’ positioning is a matter of opinion, but [1] I quite like the ‘leave a trail’ thought [even though the ‘genius’ bit is pure corporate ego wank] and [2] it’s still better service than I got at a very poncy hotel in Beijing recently … where a man woke me up by knocking loudly at my door AT FOUR IN THE MORNING, handed me a bottle of water then fucked off.

So you get the idea the brand is a bit schizophrenic … it has genuinely good intentions to make guests feel a bit loved but it also has delusions of grandeur, and nothing demonstrates that more than this sign that was left in their reception on September 11th:

Jesus Christ.

Now I honestly believe they weren’t trying to exploit the situation … like the crappy note and chocolates, I genuinely think they had good intentions, but in terms of utter inappropriateness and insensitivity, this is one of the crappest things I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Hell, they’re not even full sized muffins!!!

Rather than leaving a trail of genius, I can’t help but feel this leaves a trail of brand destruction … it’s bad, mad and more misguided than Harrison Ford doing the new Expendables movie with Sly Stallone.

So to Marriott Hotels, sort yourselves out.

You are not 5 star but you do make your guests feel a bit cared for when they’re away from home – which is more than most of the 5 star brands manage to pull off – so drop these over-the-top gestures, because it actually works against you rather than for you.

Worse, if you fall into the trap of ‘gesture inflation’, you could end up in a situation where you focus on the ‘news worthiness’ rather than the guest benefit and then all your hard work can disappear in the blink of an eye – like the career of the person at the Marriott that approved this idea.

Crisp Inflation …
October 28, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Look, I know I’m old.

I also know I have been living away from England for the past 20 years.

However, when I was back in Nottingham a few weeks ago, I was utterly shocked when I saw this.

For my international ‘friends’, my shock isn’t because the UK has a crisp brand called ‘Snaps’.

Or that they have a shit dragon on the front of the pack.

It’s not even that they’re ‘spicy tomato flavoured’.

No, it’s because they cost 39 pence.


Now I know to some of you, 39p is hardly the end of the World – and I suppose in the big scheme of things, it isn’t – however I remember when Snaps were the ‘cheap crisps’, where a packet of Spicy Tomato or Tasty Cheese would set you back a whole 7p … which was a good 3 pence cheaper than a packet of Walker’s Cheese and Onion, so to see them now at 39 pence is a massive shock to the system.

Yes, I appreciate the price I’m remembering is over 30 years ago, but a 557% price increase is insane, especially when their other ‘cheap crisp’ competitor – Space Invaders – is still, as it always was, only 10 pence.

Actually, the fact it has maintained it’s price over 30 years is an even scarier fact now I come to think of it.

Anyway, while it’s always wonderful to have a rendezvous with a treasured part of your history [yes, I did really say a once cheap crisp brand was a treasured part of my past, deal with it!] nothing reminds you how old you’re becoming than a dose of price nostalgia.

Yes, I know it’s pathetic that I’m moaning like a bastard about a packet of crisps costing 39 pence … especially when I think nothing about spending 100 quid on a robot ball.

That I’ve only used once.


But [1] that’s the sort of screwed up individual I am and [2] that’s the sort of pointless rubbish I write on this blog.

PS: Talking of crisps, when I was in the UK, I got a delivery – via a courier – of a family pack of pickled onion flavoured Monster Munch.

My absolute favourite.

And do you know who sent them to me?

The very lovely – and a bit suspect – John Dodds.

I know … and I’m not even an impressionable, hot 21 year old babe!

He claims it was a [very] late birthday present … personally, I don’t care why he sent them … the fact is they’re the ultimate. Yes, even better than Spicy Tomato Snaps or Walkers Cheese and Onion.

Sadly I couldn’t eat them at the time, but the good news [for me] is that they’re so full of chemicals and e-numbers, they’ll still taste fresh when I’m next in the UK.

That is if my Mum doesn’t throw them out thinking – quite rightly – they’re a weapon of intestine destruction.

Nothing Grabs Your Attention Than Trying Not To Get Your Attention …
October 25, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

In these highly commercial times, companies do all they can to either [1] maximise their revenue potential or [2] protect their revenue potential.

What this has resulted in is companies doing all they can to ensure the only brands that get exposure are the ones that pay for it.

Now I understand the reasoning behind it, but the problem is, in their eagerness to execute their ‘revenue guardianship’, they are inadvertently encouraging people to pay more attention to the brands they don’t want them to look at rather than the ones they do.

What do I mean?

Well, have a look at this …

Yes, it’s an ad for Johnnie Walker … but because they wanted to ensure their brand stood out most of all, they removed all the logos of the products surrounding it which – ironically – made me spend more time trying to identify who they were than pay attention to the whisky brand.

The same happens when TV shows blur out brand names in their programming. I get ‘why’ they are doing it, but it always ends up making me focus more on who the brand is they ‘don’t’ want me to see, than the one they are shoving in my face.

OK, maybe I’m the exception, plus in the case of the Johnnie Walker example, the fact is, [1] the only reason I noticed it is because the watch in the ad is the one I own and [2] I don’t drink so the chances of me ever buying a bottle was going to be small … however I can’t help but feel we tend to forget the way people often consume communication – and information – is through contextual cues and so in our attempt to ‘protect’ our clients investment, we actually end up doing the opposite.

Business decisions might be common sense, but people’s decisions often aren’t.