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


Nothing Says Privilege Like …
June 28, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Corona Virus

Covid.

A pandemic that will live in history for centuries.

Hundreds of thousands dead.

Millions ill.

Job losses … income losses … educational impact.

And the woman who made – and sold – a candle that smelt like her vagina thinks eating bread was her lowest point???

Bread!

While this news could be a great ad for a baker who wishes to celebrate the ‘comfort food’ credentials of their loaves, this is the sort of tone-deaf, white privilege bullshit that explains why Los Angeles is called LaLaLand.

While being fucking nuts is not exclusive to LA, they definitely over-index in it. As does anyone who buys anything from Gwynnie’s GOOP ‘health company of lies’.



It’s Not Hard To Make A Difference …

One thing that actually angered me throughout COVID was the attitude supermarkets adopted over the Christmas break.

Don’t get me wrong, they did an amazing job to ensure food supplies were maintained but they also did it because they were making incredible profits at the same time.

I’m cool with that.

I’m less cool with how some still lobbied for government benefits, made whole departments unemployed – looking at you Sainsbury’s – failed to use the Christmas period as a time to ‘give back’ to essential workers [ie: their own staff] and just ran bog-standard ads [even though they were generally pretty poor] … all the while claiming they were a version of ‘ one of us’.

Which is why this little gesture by the Co-op made an impression on me.

It’s very nice.

Not bombastic. Not chest beating. If anything, it’s almost silent.

But it’s impact for those suffering from isolation could be huge.

I really like this. Not just because it more needed than many think, but because I can imagine there are a lot of possible implications on their business should their customers take them up on it.

I have no idea how many customers Co-op delivers to each day, but if each customer just wanted a 5 minute chat, that means the subsequent deliveries will be 5 minutes late.

The more customers, the more deliveries get impacted in terms of time.

That can add up to something significant and potentially make other customers frustrated.

Maybe they’ve put on more delivery drivers to off-set this.

Maybe they’re only going to offer this for a limited time.

Maybe no one will actually take them up on any of this.

But even then, I can see a lot of reasons why a lot of companies would say no to this idea.

The cost.

The impact.

The potential for logistical nightmares.

Which is exactly why I think the Co-op have done something pretty great in doing it.

Because while words, money and countless bloody ‘purpose statements’ may make a company feel they’re doing valuable stuff for the community, its actual acts of action that proves to the community you actually care.

It’s not that hard to make a difference. If you actually want to make a difference.



When Commericalisation Goes Too Far …

Covid.

A virus that has – at time of writing – affected 7 million people worldwide and killed 220,000 in the US and 43,000 in the UK.

Given brands pathological fear of being associated with anything negative, this blows my mind.

Now, I must admit I don’t know if this is real.

It looks it, but who knows.

However, assuming it is, there are so many questions that need to be asked.

First is ‘what the hell are they thinking’?

Seriously, what’s going on?

Did Walmart offer the tie-in with Pepsi?

Did Pepsi ask Walmart to sponsor the signs?

Is the COVID-19 testing centre anything to do with either of them?

Could anyone please explain the rationale for doing this?

Now … I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that if it is indeed true, some of the justifications will likely read as follows:

1. We’re providing hope and happiness to people at a worrying time in their life.

2. We’re removing the stigma of COVID by embracing it with positivity.

3. We’re about American families and nothing is more American than Walmart and Pepsi.

[Please note, I haven’t even considered that Pepsi or Walmart deny the existence of COVID]

And while I accept this tie-in may say more about the people who enjoy those brands than the brands themselves, it still seems shockingly bad taste to try and make it sound like a family event when over 200,000 people have died from it.

But then, as we have seen from the past, Pepsi’s have a lack of judgement in terms of what is good for their brand.

No doubt we can expect a Pepsi/Walmart tie in at cemeteries in the near future … justified by targeting ‘a captive audience’.



Showing You Care Is More Important Than Saying It …

Throughout COVID, we’ve been inundated by companies saying they care.

Banks.

Supermarkets.

Pharmaceutical companies.

At the beginning, it made sense … we were in a new reality and everyone was trying to work out what the fuck was going on, let alone what we should do.

But now, coming up to 6 months into this thing, we’re still seeing companies say the same thing.

We care.

We really, really care.

Honest, we really do care.

And frankly, it’s all becoming shit.

Because while we always suspected it was empty words, now they are proving it … because the fact of the matter is this is the time they need to put up.

To do stuff.

To actually show they care.

Which, contrary to the multinational who is spending a lot on advertising right now, does not mean you can consider yourself a kind and generous organisation simply because you make and sell a large range of disinfectant products that are especially important right now.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting charity.

Making money is not a bad thing – and right now, companies need to do it to help keep employees employed. But adding something extra … something that can genuinely benefit the people you rely on would go a long way.

Not just because a lot of people need it right now, but because investing in your audiences wellbeing is investing in your own.

Take Timpson’s.

It’s a family-owned business in high streets and supermarkets up and down the country.

While they do a bunch of things, they’re most widely known for key cutting and shoe repairs.

That’s right, KEY CUTTING AND SHOE REPAIRS!!!

Of all the companies around the World, I would say this Key Cutters have led the way on how you should treat your people and customers in a crisis.

First of all, they made the decision to close all their shops – over 2000 of them – when COVID took hold. They wanted to ensure their staff were safe as not only do they deal directly with the public, all their stores are very small so social distancing would be almost impossible.

However, rather than making people redundant or putting them on government subsidised furlough, they covered the wages for every employee.

In full.

Every employee. Full salary.

To add some more texture to that, Timpson’s employ 5,500 staff … of which 650 come directly from serving a prison sentence … and their weekly wage bill is £2.5 million.

That in itself is amazing.

But then they’ve done something else.

Something aimed at their customers … specifically the one’s who have not been as fortunate to work at a company that takes care of their staff like Timpson and may now be struggling due to redundancy or loss of pay, hours, opportunities.

And what have they done?

This …

How amazing is that?

A genuine investment in their past and future client’s wellbeing.

Not empty words, something that will cost Timpson’s money – both in terms of time and cash.

Maybe it’s not a huge amount, but when you have all these huge corporations shouting their empty words in an attempt to look like they care, Timpson’s actions shows them up for who they are.

A long time ago there was a Michael Moore documentary called ‘Roger And Me’.

It was about the General Motors car company and them pulling out of Detroit.

There’s one bit in it that sticks in my memory.

On the production line, there were people being interviewed about what they’ll do when the factory closes. One guy – who was making one of GM’s most expensive cars – said this,

“What I don’t understand is if companies keep firing their workers, who do they think will be able to afford their cars?”

While I know there are many issues companies face, I know this.

The actions of a key-cutting, shoe repairer has resulted in me having more emotional connection and loyalty to them than I‘ll ever have towards multi-national organisations, spending millions of pounds on ads that attempt to show they care [read: express their designed-by-marketing ‘purpose’] but are so obviously self-serving, you can almost see them rubbing their hands in greedy glee.

Not because they want to make money to protect their workers.

Nor to look after the employees of their supply chain.

But to look after themselves and their shareholders.

And to them, I say this.

Your real ‘purpose’ is showing.

Try harder.



When McKinsey Turns You Into An Influencer, You Get To Feel Your Privilege, Not Just Experience It …

So a few weeks ago, I saw a tweet that asked about ‘most awkward’ presentation.

Given I’d just read a terribly superficial [and out-of-touch] document they’d written on China, it reminded me of something that happened with me and McKinsey in China a few years ago.

So I wrote this:

As soon as I posted it, I knew it had hit a nerve as my phone was continually buzzing – but whereas it normally stops after about 4 seconds, this carried on. In fact it got more intense. So intense in fact that within 48 hours, it had achieved this:

22,000 likes.
5,500 retweets
300+ comments

In addition to that, I got contacted by people in the US, Mexico and China who said I had set off a vibrant debate in their respective countries via their respective versions of Linkedin, Instagram and Twitter.

Hell, I even got contacted by Consulting Humour [which is apparently ‘a thing’] who wanted to post it.

MADNESS.

But what’s even more mad is that almost everyone who commented was nice to me.

Even the people who disagreed with what I’d written.

And yet, despite all that, I found it overwhelming … like being in a car that’s on the edge of going out of control.

It got so uncomfortable that I had to delete my Twitter for a few hours so I could catch my breath.

But what was obvious was a lot of people have a lot of issues with McKinsey and consultancies as a whole.

The main issue seemingly being they get paid a fortune for their advice but don’t have to take any responsibility for what they recommend.

This was the message a huge range of people working in a huge range of industries said … from small businesses to multinationals to entrepreneurs to ex-McKinsey consultants.

Now I am under no illusion that McKinsey won’t give a shit about what I said – and I don’t blame them – but I do think they should be a bit nervous that an innocuous tweet could create such a shitstorm of commentary and engagement.

However on the off-chance that last sentence encourages the McKinsey lawyers to come after me, I should point a few things:

1. The talk I referred to in the tweet was not a presentation claiming advertising was better than consultancy. It wasn’t even about advertising … more about how cultural innovation can achieve more distinctive brand growth and business optimisation. I think.

2. And while it looks like I pissing on the value of consultants, I wasn’t. I accept, in the right situation, they offer incredible benefits to business … however, when they have no skin in the game – or are offering analysis on cultural behaviour without ever actually interacting in culture – then the effect of their advice can be called into question.

3. But most of all, while I was a cheeky shit in the presentation I gave in Shanghai all those years ago … I definitely said it with a twinkle I the eye and the audience knew that … rather than looking at me thinking I was purely an antagonistic bastard.

Emphasis on ‘purely’.

So while this viral situation was an interesting adventure, I learnt something even more valuable than ‘consultancies’ are the silver bullet to influencer status.

I’m not talking about the grudging respect I might have gained for social media influencers.

Nor the fact I am worried so many people aspire to be one, without maybe realising the mental anguish they will face and the pressure they will place on themselves to perform even better.

No, it’s this …

There are so many people out there who face abuse, judgement and prejudice just for being who they are.

Not just in social media, but in every aspect of their lives.

I can’t imagine having to deal with that level of scrutiny … hell, I couldn’t even deal with 2 days of it and my experience was good.

This not only highlights their strength, but also my privilege.

Of course I knew I had that – but this situation helped me understand it in a way I could feel rather than just understand.

I honestly think it would be worth every white, middle class person to experience … especially the Karen’s of this World, who have the audacity to claim being in their comfortable homes to protect them from catching a deadly virus is equivalent to slavery.

You think I’m making that last bit up don’t you?

I know, it sounds utterly insane to think that could be true.

But in America, insane is often normal.