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

The Art Of The Upsell …

I’ve always been fascinated by the art of the upsell.

The ways different companies attempt to psychologically increase the average order size of their customers.

One of the most famous is McDonald’s … who basically have kept the classic ‘small, medium and large’ sizes but over the years, have changed the volume of what each represents. So what is now McDonald’s ‘small’ was once McDonald’s large, meaning they get more liquid into their customers mouths, even if the customer is continually buying the ‘same size’.

But where I get the most intrigued is how companies label their small, medium and large sizes.

That doesn’t have to always be in terms of portion size, but also proposal.

One of the most common approaches is ‘Gold, Silver and Bronze’.

Even though the intention is so transparent, it is amazing how often it works because ultimately, the goal is to upsell people from bronze than downgrade people from Gold.

But the best one’s tend to be in Asia – where they tap into all manner of cues to influence the decision making process.

One of my favourites – if that’s the right word – was this Valentine’s Day ad in Hong Kong from years back.

Positioning the ‘wife’ as worthy of only the smallest sized jewellery and the mistress the largest – with mothers in-between – was definitely a unique approach. Though arguably, it may also have been the most honest given the proliferation of mistresses in certain parts of Asia.

But recently I was in Chengdu airport and I saw a worthy new competitor. This.

Vintage, Rare, Precious is all kinds of genius.

Because unlike other approaches, you don’t feel you’re being a complete cheap bastard regardless what version you buy.

Of course, that could also be seen as a flaw, however given in China, everyone knows everything you do says something about you – and the underlying message of these options is old, limited edition and show-off – I think it works in ways other approaches can only dream of.

Which means, as often is the case, China leads the way and maybe … just maybe … Western companies and brands could start giving them credit for stuff they’ve been doing longer than we have been a civilisation.

[Which I covered off years ago in Sydney when I spoke at the Mumbrella conference. You can be bored by watching parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 here]

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Terrifying Tuesday. That Is A Thursday …

So I’m back.

And after an October where I went to Fiji, Australia, China and America … November is wonderfully static.

Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling … but that was ridiculous.

For all the talk of how COVID would change the way companies would work and interact, I’m meeting more and more people who are travelling more than they did pre-pandemic.

And that’s scary for a whole lot of reasons.

Personal, environmental, commercial.

Scarier than the that day where ghosts and ghouls are supposed to come out and haunt us. Also known as the day kids keep coming to your door demanding sweets.

Yes … that’s a terrible link to the point of this post, but I wrote it to originally appear on Halloween, but then I went to the US and missed my chance, so here we go.

Halloween in NZ is definitely less full-on than the US.

Oh my god … they love holidays and Halloween is one they embrace full-on.

When we lived in Manhattan Beach … it was like a community event.

The whole street would basically come out, all dressed in god-knows what, embracing the mood and the moment.

Obviously I hate that level of sociability … but even I got caught up in it, buying a ridiculously sized baby head from a shop, which I tried on in the car before casually looking to my right and seeing [1] I was next to a bank and [2] I had a security guard looking at me as if I was going to rob the joint.

Good times. Ahem.

Anyway, to keep with the ‘scary’ mood, Otis recently became the proud owner of these …

Yep … Crocs.

Fucking Crocs.

I know we talked about them recently in our ‘Strategy is constipated, imagination is the laxative’ talk … I know I have some sort of grudging respect that they are cool with charging $8 for each ‘personalised attachment’ you can add to the shoes … I know, with Otis’ dysgraphia, they are much easier for him to put on than many others … I know I can’t talk with my love of Birkies … but, but, but THEY’RE FUCKING CROCS.

Seriously, compared to them, Birkenstocks are liked pieces of art.

And yet they continue to live.

To thrive.

Like cockroaches of the footwear category.

Which means I have to salute their brand management and imagination.

Which is better than 99% of brands out there.

Which is why we put them in our Cannes talk.

And why I felt scared enough to put them in a post that was supposed to appear on halloween.

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The Bank That Doesn’t Do Itself Credit …

Another day … another rant.

Whereas yesterday I went off at a brand I love/d, today is different.

It’s a bank.

Not just any bank … but a bank who once made me fly from Singapore to Sydney because they insisted they could check my passport ‘by sight’ before they released our funds for us to buy our house.

I should point out they weren’t our mortgage lender … they just wanted to make life very difficult for us and when I rang their ‘helpline’, I was told:

“No one is going to help you here”

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about ANZ Australia.

A bank only second to my nemesis – HSBC – for terrible behaviour, which for anyone who knows the hell that HSBC put us through when we lived in China, will know this means ANZ Australia aren’t too crash hot in my opinion.

So what have they done this time? This …

Why the hell are they writing like they’re doing their customers a massive favour saying they’ll keep paying them interest – “even if you make a withdrawal or can’t make a deposit that month” – when your base rate is 0.01%.


To put that in context, if you had AU$10,000,000 … you’d make $1,000 over a year.

Banks charge you for holding your money.

They charge you for using your money.

They close branches to give worse customer service.

They ask you to deal with your own financial issues via the internet.

They find any reason and way to be able to increase their fees.

Many got bailed out – or helped – by our tax dollars.

And then they offer you an interest rate that is so below the current rate of inflation that their ‘financial advice’ equates to literally having less money than you started with and they act like you should be grateful to them for it.

What the fuck?

Either they don’t care or they’re totally delusional.

No wonder people are open to things like crypto … because however much of a risk it is, at least there’s a chance – however small – you may get something out of it, which 0.01% is not going to offer.

Seriously ANZ Australia … stop taking your customers for fools.

As the old adage states, ‘action speaks louder then words’ and your actions continually reinforce you’re about the money not the service. And you know what, I think everyone would have a better opinion of you if you just owned up to that.

We need you and you will charge us for that privilege.

I get it. And – ironically – I’d think more of you for doing that than this ‘helpful and considerate’ tone you’re trying to present. Or even more bizarrely, maybe believe.

I get no one wants to admit they’re an asshole, but regardless what your ‘brand tracking’ and focus groups say, most people think you’re a great dump of calculator catastrophe.

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If The Woods Are Burning, The Streets Are Screaming …

Hello daaaaarlings, I’m back.

What an amazing week.

I met so many incredible people and not one of them looked too disgusted at my outfits … except the designer from Celine, but then I was wearing a t-shirt featuring an image of my cat.

She literally asked, “which designer is that” … and when I told her it wasn’t a designer, it was my 16 year old cat, she smiled a smile that failed to convey her utter fear – to which she made her excuses and got the hell away from me, hahahaha.

That aside, the conference was a celebration of creativity and the stories that inspire it … which may explain why I loved the tweet – from Nick Beggs, at the top of this page – so much.

For those who don’t know who Nick is, he’s the virtuoso bass player who was once in the band Kajagoogoo.

This is what Kajagoogoo looked like.

For reference, Nick is the blonde spiky haired guy in the middle.

And for those who don’t know what the ‘Too Shy’ he’s refereeing to is … it’s this.

Oh – and finally – if you’re wondering why I called him a bass playing virtuoso, it’s because of this … playing with another 80’s icon, Howard Jones./font>

But the reason I love this tweet is not because I’m a fan of Nick or Kajagoogoo or even Howard – it’s because of that photo he posted.

Look at it.

A nondescript flat.

Nothing fancy. Nothing grand.

A place like millions all across England.

Filled with everyday people from all walks of life.

Likely struggling to balance the never-ending demands of life.

And yet, in 1982, some young guys got together and wrote one of the iconic songs of the 80’s.

Changing their life and creating a legacy.

And that’s what I think is so fucking fantastic about it …

A reminder that while so many in our industry like to talk about the processes and eco-systems, the reality of creativity is its born from environments – both physical and personal.

We are in danger of forgetting that.

We will be – and are – worse off for following that.

Hiring an ever-ending production line of similar people.
Putting the same set of case-studies on the same pedestals.
Following the same group of ‘best practice’ models that get us to the same places.
Forcing creativity to fit inside structures designed for convenience rather than connection.
People in power valuing duplication, rather than originality.

It’s why creating the conditions for creativity to thrive is not some sort of superficial vanity.

It’s total, fucking sanity.

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Who Are You?

OK, I’m back.


And this time, I’m not going to be going away for …. hmmmmm, actually let’s not go there.

Let’s move on shall we?

So before I start, there’s 2 things to say.

1. Some may have seen this before, because I accidentally put the wrong publish date on it.

2. This is a week of long and – for me – serious posts. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The good news is that on Friday, you’ll be rewarded for it, with some news that benefits you as much as it does me.



OK, so one thing that drives me nuts is when brands talk in totally different voices to different audiences.

But there’s something that gets to me more, and that’s when the brand in question has tried to position themselves as some sort of ‘brand of the people’.

Case in point, Reddit …

I really like Reddit.

I think their ‘front-page of the internet’ is a brilliant place to play.

And then I saw this …

‘Where Engagement Meets Results’.

What the fuck is that about?

Oh I know what some will say …

“They’re trying to reach business people who discount Reddit as a commercially valuable platform”.

And maybe they are. But the irony is the easiest way to discount Reddit as a commercially valuable platform is having clients on there who only can communicate in the corporate monotone of the meaningless mission statement.

How insincere is a brand who speaks to their customers one way and business another?

How crazy is it that some think business people are a different species to ‘normal’ people?

How badly will Reddit’s audience react to work from companies who only speak business?

Now some may think I’m going over-the-top … they will remind me that we all ‘change’ our tone and personality dependent on who we are talking to.

And that’s true … to an extent.

But this isn’t a tonal change, this is character.

I read that and it’s a brand I don’t recognise …

Feels more like they should be called Beigeit rather than Reddit.

The ability to adapt your voice to different audiences shouldn’t mean changing who you are.

People who play golf have a dramatically different view to sport than those who play football … but Nike still do it in a way where you know and feel it’s them. Just like CTO’s in major corporations has different requirements to those who want a laptop for home … but you never feel Apple changes who they are to communicate with them.

Brands who fundamentally change their personality in a bid to engage different audiences literally don’t know who they are. Worse, their customers may start to question that too.

Reddit are amazing.

Their audience is diverse, engaged and productive.

And while I appreciate some in business may not understand that, if you have to alter who you are, do you want them anyway?

Years ago I was doing work for Triple J … a government funded, youth radio station in Australia.

Unlike other ‘government funded’ media, Triple J was someone with real credibility, driven by championing and breaking new artists, discussing topics commercial radio wouldn’t touch with a barge pole and absolutely no advertising.

So when they came to us asking for help, we knew straight away that whatever we did had to ensure their current audience didn’t feel Triple J was selling out by advertising for more listeners.

While you may think this meant we went niche, we did the opposite.

Built off an idea we called, ‘enemy of the average’ … we went into mainstream media with messages that challenged audiences about the mediocrity they were engaging with.


Wherever mainstream audiences were, we were there too.

And while many hated our work [it was even discussed in Australian Parliament] it not only attracted the largest audience increase in Triple J’s history, it reinvigorated their existing audience because they saw the brand they love stay true to who they are, despite wanting what they didn’t have.

I get we’re in different times.

I appreciate the idea of any risk is unpalatable for so many.

But nothing is as dangerous as changing who you are to attract people who aren’t your audience.

The brand voice is more than how you talk. Or look. It’s how you look at the world … and if you’re consistent with that, then you can express yourself in a million different ways and always be yourself.

But too many brands, despite what they say, don’t want to be distinct.

They see it as having the potential to alienate an audience.

To which I say this …

While you may think being something to anyone means you can engage more people, the fact is, the most power to build the value of your brand is when you are everything to someone.

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