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


When Life Gives You Angostura, Make A Cocktail …

Recently I read the story behind Angostura’s strange bottle.

For those of you who don’t know what Angostura is, it’s a bitters used in cocktails.

For those of you who don’t know what is strange about their bottle, it’s this:

Yep, that’s their normal product.

A bottle, hidden inside fucking massive packing.

The story – as told by Abraham Piper – is the business was taken over by the founder’s sons in 1870.

To help grow its awareness, they decided to update the ‘look’ and enter the finished product into a competition in the hope the exposure would drive the business.

They didn’t have much time so to maximise efficiency, one brother designed the label and the other, the bottle.

One slight problem … they didn’t discuss the size.

Another slight problem … they didn’t realise until they brought both sides of their work together and by then, they didn’t have enough time to alter things before the competition was due to commence.

So they decided to enter it anyway.

Unsurprisingly, they lost.

Except one of the judges told them they should keep it exactly as it was because no one else was going to be stupid enough to make that sort of mistake … which means it was unique and would stand out.

So they did.

And that dumbass mistake – the sort of dumbass mistake that captures Dan Wieden’s classic Fail Harder philosophy, perfectly – was the foundation of a business that continues to evolve and grow to this day.

Now there is a chance this is not true.

They don’t mention it in their history timeline on their website for example.

But history is littered with happy accidents … from making Ice Cream to making Number 1 hit records … so there’s just as much chance it is.

And if that is the case, I’d bloody love it.

Because in this world where everything is researched to within an inch of its life, the products/brands that gain a real and powerful role and position in culture – not to mention whatever category they operate in – are increasingly the ones who keep the chaos in, rather than actively try to filter it out.

Whether that’s because they know it’s better to mean everything to someone rather than something to everyone is anyone’s guess. There’s a good chance they’re just lucky-accident dumbasses. Or they might understand the value of resonating with culture, rather than being relevant to the category.

Whatever it is …

The brands with the strongest brand attribution, assets and audience are increasingly the ones who never have to talk about it, let alone spend their marketing dollars trying to create it.

Comments Off on When Life Gives You Angostura, Make A Cocktail …


Peak Customer Service From Uber …

When COVID was in full swing, Boris Johnson was called out for his mixed messaging.

One of his great moments was when he said this ridiculousness:

“Anyone who can’t work from home should go to work. But if you can’t observe social distancing, you should stay at home. But if you are at work and you feel ill, you should stay from home. But if you’re well and can’t stay at home, go to work.”

Well, I can only assume he has gone from Number 10, Downing Street to Uber HQ because recently I received a message that could only come from the BoJo school of confusion.

Now I know Uber have a lot to be desired in terms of looking after anyone but themselves, but trying to make me an ‘Uber Member’ with the promise I may … or may not … save some money is blatant to the extreme.

They don’t even bother explaining what I’d be a member of.

So while Uber and BoJo seem made for each other, a little reminder about the rules of communication.

It is not on the receiver to translate what you’re saying, it’s up to the communicator to make it understandable. Though I also appreciate in Uber and BoJo’s case, confusion is part of their business strategy.

Comments Off on Peak Customer Service From Uber …


Hello, End Of Days …

Artisan.

A relatively recent addition to the marketing lexicon.

The attempt to make an everyday product sound special.

The goal to appear you are offering individual craft and care.

The ambition to charge a premium for the smallest possible addition.

And that’s why we now have artisan burgers, cakes and now fucking peanuts … even though the reality is one has swapped a bread roll for a [bought] brioche bun, the other has put some hand-piped icing on the top of some cupcake and a packet of peanuts have had some salt and pepper chucked on top of them.

They’ll be claiming the artisan experience extends to the lorry drivers who chuck boxes of nuts in the basement of the local shop. Though they’d describe it as ‘our highly trained delivery operatives gently hand deliver our artisan nuts to establishments of repute, allaround the country, to maximise the taste experience and customer accessibility’.

This sort of shit does my head in.

What’s worse is it works. At least for some people and brands.

Not because people believe it’s really an artisan product, but because they want to believe they’re special and worth the ‘extra’.

Which says as much about the state of humanity as it does the state of marketing.

Comments Off on Hello, End Of Days …


We Need More Bob. [Hoskins, Not Campbell’s]

First of all, as today is 11.11, I want to acknowledge all the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the world had peace.

Given the state of where we’re all at, there is the potential it was all in vain, so I hope sanity prevails and tyrants are dealt with.

OK, now I’ve done the mature bit, I want to talk about Bob Hoskins.

No … not because I have more than a passing resemblance to him … but because I read something recently that reinforced why I liked him so much.

For those who don’t know who he is, he’s the now deceased British actor famous for his roles in movies such as, The Long Good Friday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, TwentyFourSeven [by my mate Midlands mate, Shane Meadows] and errrrrm, the iconic tragedy that was Super Mario Bros … the first ever movie based on a video game and notorious for how terrible the filming was, let alone the final product.

[More on that last one in a minute]

However where my appreciation of Bob started was not in a movie but in an interview.

He was on a chat show and they asked him …

“How hard is it to film back to back movies?”

He could have gone on a rant about the demands it takes out on him.

Not seeing his family.

Not being home.

The physical and mental exhaustion.

But he didn’t, he said this:

“I’ll tell you what’s hard. Nurses jobs are hard. Single parents lives are hard. Working in a factory is hard. I’m well looked after and well paid for pretending to be someone else on a screen, My life isn’t hard compared to those people. They’re the one’s who deserve the adulation, not me”.

And he meant every word, because not only was Hoskins notoriously self aware, he also found the Hollywood machine very uncomfortable. He loved acting but he hated the fawning.

Nothing sums this up more than his involvement with the movie Super Mario Bros.

The full disaster of the filming can be read here or here … but this quote by Hoskins probably sums it up best:

“The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Bros. It was a fucking nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks, their own agent told them to get off the set! Fucking nightmare. Fucking idiots.”

However after the movie he said something that not only summed up his love of his children and his chosen career, but captured why the advertising industry – for all its faults – can still hold magic.

Sure, not what it once was.

Sure, with it having huge implications on its future.

But something that I can’t imagine many other industries having.

And while we strive to be taken seriously as a discipline in the world of commerce, it might be with worth us remembering its the ridiculousness that made/makes us special. For the work it lets us create. For the influence on culture we can shape. For the way we can make brands something people want to know more about rather than just ignore.

It may be stupid.

It may not always make sense.

But at our best, it’s the ridiculous ways we see and operate in the world that can help business achieve – and mean more – than they ever imagined.

It’s time we remembered that.

It’s time companies remembered that.

Because when you see the vast majority of work put out at enormous expense – researched to within an inch of its life and judged by ‘gurus’ who generally have never actually created anything in their life [other than their own sense of self-importance] and have a limited view of what creativity is and can do, you can’t help but wonder if it is there to push us away rather than pull us in.

Have a great weekend.

Make it a ridiculous one.

Be more like Bob. Hoskins, not Campbell.

Comments Off on We Need More Bob. [Hoskins, Not Campbell’s]


Collabs Are Becoming A Circle Jerk …

Before I start, I’ve been a huge fan of collabs over the years. Seeing what happens when two different artists or brands or artists and brands come together has been fascinating.

And for every terrible LG x Prada phone, there’s a Nike x Ben & Jerry’s sneaker.

But … but … it feels we’ve moved from collab to labelling.

Where it isn’t about what two parties can create with each other, but just renting space for another brand to slap their logo on.

Take these Travis Scott x Playstation x Nike sneakers …

Jesus Christ.

Where the Ben & Jerry’s felt crafted and cared for this is just … well, put it this way, it feels more like a bad promotional item than something that represents a true collab.

And the thing is, this approach is happening more and more – across all manner of categories – which is why I kinda love what Nobuaki Kurokawa has done with their first product launch from their CUGGL label.

Let’s be honest, they’re taking the piss.

Like, blatantly and unashamedly.

Not only does it look like it say’s Gucci, by making the design resemble graffiti, it feels like they’re also sticking two fingers up at the terrible and contrived Gucci/Balenciaga collab.

The Gucci x Belenciaga is especially horrific because individually, they’ve not really laid a foot wrong in building the value and position in culture of their brands. And then they do this.

Lazy.

Fake.

Obvious.

Out-of-date.

Dad at the disco rubbish.

Basically, the fashion industry version of this.

Which is why I like what CUGGL have done so much.

Punking the brands pretending to be punking fashion.

Of course, Diesel did something like that before – though their mischievous eye was aimed at the counterfeit industry [even though it kinda said ‘fakes may be real’, which is the last thing they needed to do] however in terms of greatest accolade for mischief, that prize should have gone to the band Blink 182.

I say ‘should have’ because they ended up pulling out of potentially the greatest burn ever.

In the early 2000’s, Axl Rose was making a new Guns’ n’ Roses album.

It was unique because the only original member of the band was Axl himself.

He had fired all the band and was basically at his most indulgent ego best.

The only thing he’d announced was the album was going to be called ‘The Chinese Democracy’.

For years and years nothing came out.

The album postponed time and time again.

At one point, his record label, Geffen, pulled funding … and yet the recording still went on.

Enter Blink 182.

They announce they were recording a new album and guess what they were going to call it …

That’s right, The Chinese Democracy.

Better yet, because Axl was taking so long to release his version – they could be sure they’d be first, so history would always make it look that Guns n’ Roses copied Blink 182.

Alas they went cowardly on the idea, which is a shame … because that would have set a benchmark CUGGL and Diesel could only dream of reaching.

Comments Off on Collabs Are Becoming A Circle Jerk …