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


When Nothing Is Something …

Otis LOVES McDonald’s, so before we left the UK, we decided we’d have some for dinner.

He’s a bit particular about how he likes his Happy Meal, so with that – and the social distancing rules – we used their app to order.

As I was customising his burger [no sauce, no pickles] I discovered the option of having no sauce was unavailable.

THat’s right, you couldn’t, couldn’t have sauce.

Of course it was just a glitch in their system but it did remind me of the time I was in Xiamen in China on a NIKE get-together.

It had been a long and challenging day.

Not with work, but because we had stupidly left our bags, computers and passports in the back of the cab and needed all our powers of deduction and negotiation to get them back.

Trust me, in a city of nearly 4 million people and no details of the cab that had our stuff, that was a pretty big task, but thanks to the brilliance of Charinee and Jenny, we achieved it … so after that drama and then running a workshop for the NIKE Running team … we went back to our hotel tired and hungry.

We decided to have a drink in the bar and order some food.

After looking at the menu, we quickly ordered 2 cheese and tomato pizzas.

“Sorry …” they said, “… we only have pepperoni pizza available”.

By that point, we had set our heart on pizza so I looked at the waited and replied,

“Could we order the pepperoni pizza but without the pepperoni?”

They nodded yes and soon we were munching on our pepperoni pizza … without the pepperoni … with smug smiles on our faces.

And now I’ve told that story, it’s reminded me of the time I used the same logic to get one over on IKEA Hong Kong, who were trying to fuck me over with a new sofa we bought.

Which all goes to show, the best way to beat a process is to use the process against itself, because for all the ‘experience design’ processes that is all the range right now, most of them are built to protect the company rather than satisfy the audience.



Polishing A Turd With Words …

Recently I saw this ad for British Leyland cars.

British Leyland was a – surprise, surprise – British car manufacturer formed in the late 60’s.

As you can see, they made a huge array of cars but the joke was they weren’t very well made.

If I remember rightly, there was a joke that said:

“Buy British … they fall apart more quickly so you can buy a proper car”.

I don’t know if that was true – though the way British manufacturing has fallen by the wayside, suggests there could be some truth to it – but I do know I thought the TR7 and MGB, the two cars at the top of the pile, were cool.

But let’s look at that ad for a moment.

Cramming four different models of vehicle on a single page is bad enough. But when it has been art directed to look like they’re all on top of each other – resembling a scene from a scrapyard – is hardly the best way to sell ‘British’.

And they are selling ‘British’ because if you look at the very bottom of the ad, you see it’s got a New Jersey address, which suggests this ad was for the US market.

While I get the reason they would want to do that [the US market was huge and the amount of ‘foreign cars’ available at that time was small] I don’t know if that image would make the average American want to give up their GM or Chrysler … especially when the justification British Leyland have for ownership is ‘their appeal is reflected in their recent sales performance’.

Hahahahahahahahaha.

What makes it worse are those words associated with each model.

Bold.
Lively.
Practical.
Legendary.

It all just smacks of early brand consultant bollocks doesn’t it.

And while I kind of get why they chose those words – though labelling the Jag, ‘a legend’, somehow makes it feel old rather than cool – I can’t help feel sorry for the Marina, tagged ‘practical’.

At least those other models have words that suggest some element of energy and dynamism to them, but ‘practical’ just sounds like they’re trying to say ‘shit’ in a more polite way.

To be fair, they’re right. It was shit.

My Dad had – for a short while – a Marina.

In mustard yellow and brown.

It was utterly horrific.

Even though his was the ‘fastback’ model, I still remember being utterly embarrassed by it.

The colour, The shape. The everything.

I was so glad when he got rid of it, though I have a horrible feeling he changed it for another yellow car – this time a Fiat 128 – but at least that had 4 doors, which made it feel a step up.

But imagine how a Jag owner would feel after spending thousands on their car, only to see that piece of Marina engineering shit was ‘on top’ of their premium priced motor.

British Leyland always seemed to have a knack of fucking things up.

Continually chasing others success with bad interpretations of their own.

It’s a bit like small film studios …. who on seeing another movies success, launch a tsunami of similar themed films, all with names that are derivatives of the original, in the hope people may get confused and see their’s instead.

British Leyland totally adopted this strategy.

The TR7 was the Fiat X/19

The Marina was the Ford Cortina

And in 1980, the Mini Metro was their version of the Mini.

Oh my god, I remember the launch of that car.

It was heralded as the pinnacle of the British car industry and launched with one of the most jingoistic ads you’ll ever see.

Did you see it?

Jesus christ … it’s like it was written by the Far Right.

Or the Daily Mail.

I still remember when it got unveiled and just thinking, “it looks shit”.

Well, while it didn’t end up ‘taking over the world’, it was successful in the UK and even saved British Leyland from bankruptcy – for a while – but what it all ends up reminding me is how many companies forget that just because something is successful in one country doesn’t mean it will work in another.

I’ve seen – and worked in – too many organisations who think they are the best in the World.

That their worst is better than everyone else’s best.

That sort of thinking is a recipe for disaster.

Not just in terms of encouraging laziness, but it’s one thing to think you’re good, but it’s another thing altogether to think everyone else is just a lesser version of you.

The amount of companies I saw crash and burn in China was amazing.

Thinking that by simply being ‘Western’, they would be appealing.

Maybe that worked before, but what they failed to realise is that in a nation where everything said something about you, it quickly became the most brand literate nation on the planet.

The old premise remains.

If you want others to respect you, respect them … and it starts by not just trying to sell something because it convenient to you.

Amazing how few people still seem to understand that.



When Is A Logo Not A Logo?

Well I told you I wouldn’t be writing any posts for a while and I have to say, I’m as surprised as you that I managed to stick with it.

Obviously a lot has happened in the past few weeks – including learning how nothing tests how good your family relationships is, like being cooped-up in a small hotel room together for 2 weeks, 24/7 – but we’re happy, excited and up for adventure.

Before I begin, I have to say how amazing the New Zealand organisation is.

So clear, consistent and compassionate.

For someone who had a very privileged covid lockdown period, I was amazed how much it had affected me when I came to a place where I didn’t have to worry about mad decisions and u-turns.

Anyway we got through quarantine, already bought houses and cars [I know, I know] so this week is about stretching our legs, getting Otis a school, ensuring Rosie – the cat – gets to complain as much as she likes and generally getting our bearings of the city before starting at Colenso.

But that’s all for another day, today I want to kick-start the regularity of this blog with this piece of rubbish.

Now I know the re-design of the Burger King logo is not new news.

And neither is what I will be writing about, as I talked about it when it happened.

But while I like many things about the new/old BK design, the thing I like most is how perfect it is for the emoji universe.

Seriously, look at it. It’a the most emoji thing ever.

Sure, I could talk about how clever the B and K fit together.
Sure, I could talk about how I’ve not seen a logo that made me smile since since SONOS.
Sure, I could talk about how it’s as squidgy as sinking your teeth into a Whopper.

But I’m not. I’m going to say how perfectly it would go with other fast food emoji’s already available.

🍔 🍟 🥤

Come on … you so can see it fitting in with that group can’t you.

Now imagine how it could be used to communicate BK’s food menu?

Or, better yet, how it could be used for TikTok/Whatapp order functionality?

Imagine being able to order BK delivery simply by emoji on whatever platform you’re on?

When I was at Deutsch, they tried something like it for Taco Bell using Slack.

Obviously it wasn’t in emoji form and there’s questions how successful it actually was – but it showed there’s more ways to order food than simply going on a website or app.

If that wonderful BK logo was turned into the emoji it begs to be, it could be a really interesting way to drive delivery using the platforms and iconography of culture.

McDonald’s had to pay Travis Scott millions to deepen their connection with culture. BK could do it in an emoji. Their emoji.

OK, I know that is easier said than done and emoji’s are carefully controlled, but given BK’s love of trying to be controversial to be noticed, here is something they could do that has a real benefit and value to all, not just the BK PR department.

Maybe.

I also know some people are slagging the logo off.

Saying it makes the brand look as old as their food or that they need to get their stores looking clean before relaunching their brand design. But apart from those people making the classic mistake of being subjective rather than objective … I’d love to see the work they’ve done recently that proves their actions rather than their words.

God, that was feisty wasn’t it?

I’m definitely back and rested.

But all that aside …

While it’s really nice to see a brand using design to be both distinctive and authentic – versus the corporately beige approach that seems to be the norm for so many – I really hope they see the opportunity for it to be more more than just a static image. Because I have a feeling if they embraced the way culture uses social and platforms, that logo could be more than a branding device, but something that dramatically drives revenue.

You’re welcome BK.



Forever Connected By An Invisible String …
March 9, 2021, 7:30 am
Filed under: Comment, Death, Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad

When Otis was young, we bought him a book called The Invisible String.

It’s a delightful book about family … love … and connection … and helps kids understand the idea of being together even when their parents aren’t around. Whether that’s because they’re at work or have sadly passed.

I write this because 6 years ago today, my wonderful, beautiful Mum died.

It seems so long ago and yet I can remember every second of that day.

From waking up early to see her before her operation … to the rise of worry as she was in theatre for longer than the person before her … to the relief when she came out and I could sit by her side … to the confusion I felt when the nurse asked me to sit somewhere else as an alarm started to sound … to the horrible, painful moment the doctor and nurse told me the worst thing that could happen, had happened.

And like when my Dad died, the memories of her are consumed by the moments of this day.

However, also like my Dad, I know that will eventually pass to be replaced by the moments of love, happiness and wonder I shared with her.

She was an amazing woman.

Her capacity for compassion knew no bounds.

I felt – like with Dad – loved and supported, even at my most ‘difficult’ times …

Her loss was – and still is – a huge hole in my life.

She never got to meet Otis.
She never got to know we had moved to America … then England … and now NZ.
She never got to see the beautiful garden at our house in Herefordshire or the mad treehouse in Auckland.

But I know she would be happy about it all.

And that makes me happy for very different reasons.

Because while for her, it would be that her only son was enjoying his life, for me it would be that I am making my Mum proud.

That’s all I want to do.

Always.

I miss you Mum.

I can still feel our string.

I hope you’re holding hands with Dad and laughing at my jetlag.

Love you.


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