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

Marketing Explained In A Picture …
June 29, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Marketing

Yes, that really could be the shortest post I’ve ever written. Of course it would be shorter had I not written all this extra stuff but I’m ignoring that point. Like I’m going to ignore the impending fourth of July.

Can I have a knighthood for saying that your majesty?

Anyway, now I’ve started writing, I may as carry on.

However don’t get too downhearted because it’s only to inform you that this will be the only post of the week.

Yes, you’ll be free from me for a whole week because as you read this, I’ll be on my way over to Portland for a few days of [hopefully] nice chats, clean air and utterly pretentious coffee.

What’s funny is that as much as I’ve always loved that I get to travel for work, now I have Otis, it’s become more of a wrench.

I know on hearing that, Jill and Rosie will be thinking, “what about us, you bastard”, but as much as Jill was stupid to marry me, she’s not so stupid to read this blog and cats can’t read, so I think I will get away it.

And with that, I wish you all a wonderful week … which is almost certain now you know you have some peace and quiet.

PS: Happy birthday to Rosie who turns 8 on July 1st. Yes, she’s a cat. Deal with it.

Was Groundhog Day A Documentary On Chinese Advertising Strategy?
June 26, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Campaign Magazine, China, Culture, Insight, Planning

So before I begin, I should point out this post appeared in Campaign magazine.

The reasons I feel I can re-post it are:

1. I wrote it.
2. I forgot I wrote it.
3. I actually think it’s quite good.

So now I’ve got that out the way, let’s get on with something that – sadly – is as relevant today [for once] as it was when I apparently wrote it sometime last year.

Aspirational toilet paper.

Aspirational chocolate.

Aspirational coloured pens.

In China, it sometimes feels there is only one strategy adopted by brands and agencies, and that is one that offers ‘status by association’.

Of course there is a reason for this and it’s because the need to progress is inherent within the cultural value system. But this singular strategy of ‘buy this and look successful’ is both wearing thin and ultimately becoming less and less relevant to many in society.

Don’t get me wrong, it still works because there are millions upon millions out there who are enjoying opportunities that were beyond their wildest dreams as recently as five years ago. However if every brand follows this strategy—and many do—I continually wonder how commercially viable it is to base your differentiation on the simple claim that your brand offers proportionately more ‘status’ than your competitors.

Or said another way, is it really that smart to put all your hopes on claiming your brand offers more than the current aspirational inflation rate?

So what else is there?

Well, contrary to what many in the West say, people here have far more hopes and dreams than simply ‘to be rich’.

Yes, money is regarded as a tool to achieve—and show—progress, but to think that is the sole goal of 1.4 billion people is both misguided and insulting.

Besides, more and more people are starting to realise that the ‘good life’ they seek is getting harder and harder to achieve as more folk go after fewer opportunities.

So it’s little surprise that there are hundreds of millions of people who are looking to connect to things that offer them more emotional value and range than simply material status.

In 2012, we did a campaign for Nike during the London Olympics called ‘Greatness’.

It didn’t say ‘buy this and look rich’.

It didn’t claim you would get envious stares as you walked down the street.

It didn’t even say you would join an elite group of the rich and famous.

In fact, it did the absolute opposite.

It simply said that greatness was about giving your all, regardless of the result.

And in a culture where that word was almost exclusively associated with ‘achieving success at the highest possible level’, many said that would be social suicide.

Except it wasn’t, because it tapped into the emotional needs of a generation to feel they are good enough. That not eating aspirational chocolate, using aspirational toilet paper or writing using aspirational coloured pens was ok … which is possibly why it went on to become China’s biggest success story of the year, embraced, engaged and adopted by millions – literally millions – all across the country.

So while I totally appreciate the effectiveness of associating brands with ‘material status’, it’s amazing what you can achieve when you stop treating society as sheep and start treating them as people.

Money For Nothing [And I’m Not Talking About Planning]
June 25, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

For someone who loves music [yes, Queen does count as music thank-you-very-much] I’m surprised how little attention I pay to the lyrics.

I’m way more focused on the melody of the lyrics than the lyrics themselves.

That’s always been the case … even when I was writing songs in my own band.

I remember once we were in a studio recording an album [that’s how long ago it was] and being handed a piece of paper with the lyrics of the song we were about to record and being amazed at what they said, despite me writing the music about 10 years earlier.

In fact, my obsession with melody over lyrical content only really started to change when I started incorporating song lyrics into my planning ‘process’ … but even then, I tended to go back to my normality when listening to music purely for my enjoyment purposes.

I highlighted this a few months ago when I “heard” the lyrics to Foreigners ‘Hot Blooded’ song and was shocked at what they said.

From being a song that I always loved listening to in the car, to now being something that is synonymous with dirty old bastards trying to have an affair with some 17 year old babe.

Bloody hell.

Well, recently I came across another ‘classic’ that I listen to properly.

Before I begin, I have to take you back to 1985.

I know, some of you who read this blog weren’t even born yet … but there was a hell of a lot of you who were.

Anyway, 1985 was an interesting year because there was a new technology that was just starting to get some traction.

The CD.

The CD had been heavily promoted as an indestructible, high-sound quality music platform.

They said it couldn’t be scratched. It wouldn’t jump. It would last for years.

Obviously we now know that was all a load of bollocks, but the album that best typified this new generation of music format was Dire Straits, ‘Brothers In Arms’.

I was never a big fan of Dire Straits.

Sure there were a few songs I liked, but overall, they were the sort of band favoured by the BMW driving, bank working wanker.

Or at least they were in my mind.

However this album was different. Not only was it the first big hit on the new CD platform, it featured a song – and video – that was made for the modern music generation.

The song?

Money For Nothing.

Let’s remind ourselves of the track … and video … and guest appearance by Sting:

I loved the song.

Part of it was because it had a guitar upfront and centre but the other part was it had a super-recognisable riff that I quickly learnt to play on my Fender copy, which immediately impressed all the kids at school which meant for once – and only for a fleeting moment – I was semi-cool.

Zoom forward 30 years – THIRTY BLOODY YEARS – and I recently heard it again on a film.

At first I loved it.

The build up, Sting’s voice, the opening guitar riff … it immediately took me back to a great time of my life … and then the lyrics started.


Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free
Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb

We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these color TV’s

See the little faggot with the earring and the make-up
Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot he’s millionaire

We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these color TV’s

I shoulda’ learned to play the guitar
I shoulda’ learned to play them drums
Look at that mama, she got it stickin’ in the camera
Man we could have some fun
And he’s up there, what’s that ? Hawaiian noises ?
Bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Get your money for nothin’ get your chicks for free

We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these color TV’s, Lord

Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ get your chicks for free
Money for nothin’ get chicks for free

Look, I know lyrics don’t always have to mean stuff – look at Bohemian Rhapsody – but this is utter tripe.

It’s like they threw open a book, randomly picked out some words out, shoved them together and sang them to a backing track.

And what’s all that stuff about ‘little faggots’?

I swear to god the kids of 1985 only liked it because it had the words MTV repeated ad nauseam all the way through it.

About fifteen years ago, I decided I would try to buy any film or TV show that had made a significant impact on my life.

Some of these turned out to be as wonderful second time round – like ‘The Wonder Years‘ – but sadly, the majority turned out to reinforce I had even less taste as a kid than I do now and that’s saying something.

On the positive, it taught me 2 valuable lessons.

1. All this talk that lyrics/films/games can corrupt the young mind is bollocks.

2. As tempting as it may be to go back. Don’t. You’ll only feel totally and utterly ripped off.

So Mr Knopfler … you might be an amazing guitarist, but your lyrics are as shit as that headband you used to sport around head.

Some People Use Tinder To Find People To Handcuff Then F**k Them For A Few Years …
June 24, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment, Sexism, Social Media, Technology, Tinder

So a few weeks ago, I saw an entry on Facebook from a friend of mine who is a policeman in Nottingham.

This was it:

I have to be honest, I love it.

I don’t know if they found the guys profile because there’s a copper at the station who is looking for dates rather than robbers – or whether it is part of their overall approach to finding [alleged] criminals – but I think it’s ace.

It’s a bit similar – but not very much – to that story from years ago where a US Police department sent some fake “you’ve won money” letter to the homes of criminals that had avoided capture.

They were betting on the fact that someone in the house would let them about their ‘good fortune’ and let them know they did, because on a particular date, at a particular venue, they turned up to collect their cash only to collect some handcuffs and a prison sentence.

In one day, a bunch of crimes were cleared up simply because the cops knew people find it hard to turn down something free – especially when it’s valuable [and especially when you’re a criminal who does that sort of thing for a living] and that trying something different was worth giving a go when so many traditional approach end with nothing.

Lovely stuff.

But back to Tinder.

So for the last 12+ months, I’ve been on Tinder talking to men and women on Tinder about their experiences.

[Don’t worry, the wife knows and I say on my profile that I’m a happily married man. Besides, with my face, who the hell would swipe right on me?!]

I have to be honest, it’s been fascinating, especially when you start seeing the differences of the audience when you compare who is on it in say, China, to those on it in say, Portland.

I’ll be writing this all up in the next few months, but frankly, if you are a woman – and it’s mainly women – who enter the crazy world of Tinder dating in the hope of finding ‘the one’, you may end up feeling more disillusioned and disappointed than when you were at home on a Saturday evening eating Ben & Jerry’s in front of the television.

Watching Bridget Jones.

You see while Tinder makes it easy to “search” thanks to their gamification operating system, it appears that within hours of usage, people [read: men] forget they’re dealing with humans and their emotions and go cold – either in how they judge a potential match or what they do when they’ve connected. [Which seems to involve either asking for sex, sending a plethora of ‘dick pics’ or not making contact at all!]

Of course not everyone is like that and there’s been many relationships formed through an initial interaction with Tinder, but the evidence so far suggests there’s far more disappointment being created between people than emotional fulfilment. At least if you are going on there for pure reasons.

We shall see how things turn out over the next few months – as well as if this finding is something that is relative across geographies or more prevalent in certain countries [which definitely seems the case at this moment in time] – but like with everything in life, for every product that is hyped as being ‘revolutionary’, there is often a dark side that exists, even if it takes a few hours/weeks/months/years to present itself.

By all means am I not knocking what Tinder does/has achieved, I’m just highlighting that behind the headlines, you often find a far more interesting bunch of stories … as Nottinghamshire Police are also demonstrating.

That said, the Tinder for kids names – developed by, I think, an ad agency creative – is sheer bloody genius.

I wish I’d known about it when we were choosing Otis’ name … though I doubt I’d of managed to convince Jill to go with Ziggy, even if she had flicked right.

Which she wouldn’t have.


Foot In Mouth Strategy …

So there’s a big debate in the UK at the moment about whether Heathrow airport or Gatwick should expand.

The reality is the UK is no longer equipped to handle the vast increase in air traffic and the implications of this could be vast and serious. Not just from an airport perspective, but from a national economic and a global influence perspective.

Obviously the competitiveness between Heathrow and Gatwick – the UK’s largest airports – is intense because the winner ensures they will become the predominant national airport for 30+ years, which is why Gatwick have been running a series of press ads highlighting the benefits of choosing them over their London cousin.

This is one of the ads:

Now I am sure this wasn’t their intention, but that ad basically says that the owners of Gatwick airport care more about the wellbeing of the people who live around Heathrow, than the ones on their doorstep.

Or in other words, ‘Don’t upset the 683,000 people who live near Heathrow – they’re nice, kind, happy folk – come ruin the lives of the 36,000 folk who live near us instead. They’re all unemployed scum and should consider themselves lucky having a roof over their head in the first place’.

Of course I am exaggerating the point to make the point, but if I was one of the Gatwick families who are potentially going to be affected by the expansion, I’d regard that ad as a massive slap in the face.

Or worse, a reason to come together and try to spoil their plans.

Will the vast majority of the population interpret that ad this way?

Probably not.

I would imagine they don’t give a damn which airport is expanded as long as it’s not near them, but this all goes to show that when you are trying to win favour – or convince the passively involved – it’s not purely a case of amassing a bunch of facts and data, it’s about understanding what you say, says as much about who you are as it does what you do … and purposefully ignoring the ‘human element’ to not open a potential can of worms may ultimately do the complete opposite.

And to think some people think ‘an ad’ is just about shoving some pictures & words on a page.