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


Big Enough To Matter, But Not Big Enough To Count …

Recently I was reading an article on Brexit when I came across a comment that stopped me in my tracks.

The reason for it is that in a few words – literally a few – it not only highlighted the issue with many of the shortsighted fools who voted for leaving the European Union – and likely voted for the election of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – but also could be used to explain the decline of so many companies, institutions and individuals.

This is it …

What a perfectly constructed sentence.

A devastating set of words that places you perfectly in a corner you can’t get out of.

It’s almost a Hollywood movie line it’s so crafted in its underlying viciousness.

But of course, the people it challenges won’t accept it.

They will continue to refuse to acknowledge their complicity in the situation millions now face.

Because as I’ve written before, people has difficulty understanding something when their credibility and reputation depends on them not understanding something.

It’s why they will continue to cast blame on everyone else.

Why they will continue to claim the opposition are more dangerous than the government they voted in … the government that has brought an entire nation to its knees.

But let’s be honest, the reason for their attitude is even uglier than not wanting to own up to what they contributed to. Because for all their claims of wanting a ‘better Britain’ … the real reason behind their choice was to create a barrier between them and people they think are beneath them.

A way to feel socially, morally, professionally superior to those around them, while conveniently choosing to ignore they were either given great advantage from birth over the vast majority of people or seek to mitigate their situation by blaming everyone else for what they have not achieved, despite starting from greater advantage.

I get it. It’s kind-of human nature. It’s also the unspoken truth of democracy – where the reality is we tend to vote for what works for you rather than what’s right for the nation.

Of course the unspoken truth is still better than the alternative … however given the way politics and business are increasingly allowing spin, vitriol and lies, it seems we’re seeing ‘post truth’ as an accepted and embraced business strategy.

And that’s why the independent voice has never been so important.

Not just in the public domain, but within organisations, governments and individual groups.

Not to attack, destroy or dethrone – as is the current trend – but to protect.

To ensure the people making decisions – or the people asking to decide on the options – are aware of the range of possibilities and outcomes that could occur rather than just blindly following a blinkered promise of what will happen.

Not delivered with hyperbole or exaggeration, but with quiet, informed context and facts … delivered by an individual or organisation without political affiliation and respected for their independence.

It doesn’t mean it will stop things like Brexit happening, but it will ensure people who knowingly bend the truths to suit their own agenda or were deliberately ignorant to the choices they made are held to account. Because without that, we carry on down this sorry path where governments, organisations or individuals can choose to ignore previous choices they made, ignore the passing of time that changes the context of everything and ignore the realities others may have caught up and left us behind.

I am under no illusion that the truth hurts, but delusion damages us forever.

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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.

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Dumb Luck …

There’s a narrative that to be rich, you have to be smart.

Or very, very lucky.

Whether that viewpoint is true or not is probably more an individual take than a general view. But what isn’t talked about very often is how success can make you stupid.

The comedian Billy Connolly once said the world smells of fresh paint, because wherever the Queen walks [RIP] … 20 feet in front of her is someone painting the walls white.

Or said another way, wherever successful people go, ‘yes people’ follow.

Never did I see that more in action than when I lived in America.

OH MY GOD.

The ‘manage-up’ attitude was incredible to witness.

Basic thoughts were met with an ever increasing amount of fawning responses …

“That’s a brilliant idea”.

“Genius”.

“You’re so clever”.

And all this resulted in was leaders thinking they were Gods … walking on clouds thinking the world was looking up and worshiping them … pushing confidence in their own voice to greater and greater levels, so they spouted even more ridiculous viewpoints that they packaged-up as next-level Yoda statements for their entourage to fake swoon over.

I say this because I recently saw this …

WHAT THE HELL?

I mean, what does ‘the smartest praline in the World’ even mean?

Does it have Alexa inside them?

Or maybe the new iWatch Ultra?

Or did they get Einstein’s body, crush it up and placed fragments into each nut.

Seriously, what the hell are they going on about???

Well it gets worse.

No, really.

Because when you watch the ad, ‘the smartest praline in the world’ translates to the ability to be a sexpest on public transport … I kid you not.

The good news is this ad is apparently old … but it still perfectly demonstrates nothing can make you more egotistically stupid, than being successful.

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If You Want Sustainable Success, Don’t Hold On Too Tightly …

Brands love to say they know their customers.

They love to go on about the research they do to ‘get’ the needs of the people who use them.

And some genuinely do. Looking to understand how people live not just how they use, choose or buy their brand or a competitive product.

But sadly this group seem far more in the minority these days … with the preference being to outsource research needs to a ‘for profit’ external partner, who are asked to provide answers to drive immediate sales rather than to build long-term understanding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of research, but I’m reading far too much that seems to be about telling the client what they want to hear rather than what they need to understand.

To be fair, that is also true of agencies as well, and so much of that is because a lot of companies have already decided what they want to do and say and they expect everyone else to fall in line with it. And I get it, in a quest to streamline process and maximise productivity, that makes perfect sense.

Except it doesn’t.

Because as George used to say ALL THE TIME, it’s like going to the doctor and prescribing your own medicine. And as much as people/brands may think they know what’s wrong, that doesn’t mean they know how to fix it …

Agencies and research companies should be paid for their independent thinking and approach to solving problems NOT paid to execute what someone else wants the solution to be. The great tragedy of brand communication these days is that somehow, independent thinking has been labelled as dangerous when the real danger is when there isn’t any.

When solutions are decided by financial hierarchy rather than expertise – and by expertise, I mean that in terms of what an organisation is actually an expert on, rather than what they think they are – you tend to end up with a pile of shit that then ignites a game of blame storming.

Here’s a perfect example of it …

Now I appreciate printer, photocopier, fax [?!!!] sales must be very difficult.

I get companies may only give them a second thought when they go wrong or run out of ink.

But … but … who the fuck approved this shit?

I mean, it’s bad enough they say they know what we need – which makes them sound like some sleazy office colleague – but then they come out with this gem of bollocks.

“Like twins who understand each other completely”.

What??? WHAT???

Apart from the fact it’s utterly, utterly pants. if they really had a telepathic understanding of ‘what we need’, surely they wouldn’t have to pay to have this shit printed in a magazine and they’d just turn up at their customers office with the requirements of their machine – even before their customer knew they needed it.

But that’s not the case because they don’t know their customers, they don’t know what they need and they sure as shit don’t know how to communicate to them.

I get people think communication and creativity is easy.

I get people think they know their customers better than anyone else.

I get they want everything to be as efficient as is physically possible.

But if anything should tell them what they think and what is true are very different, it’s rubbish ads like this. And while I appreciate this is especially bad, there’s a whole lot more expensive versions of this wherever you look.

Great creativity and research is born from independent thinking.

A desire to create value by giving you what you need not what you want.

Which is why companies who place greater value on what they can make their agency partners do – including how they do the job, how many people can do involved in job and how long they’re allowed to do if for – the more complicit they are when things are less effective than they could be.

I’m not saying agencies and research companies are perfect.

And they sure-as-hell aren’t all the same standard and quality.

But they’re much better when they can give you truth and possibilities than blind complicity.

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Pitch vs Reality …

We’ve all been there.

Being promised the world.

Amazing service.

The involvement of the most senior members of the team.

Promises matched by effort.

So you agree and then …

Damp squid.

A cavalcade of unimpressive under-delivery.

From feeling important to feeling an irritant.

Now sometimes that is met with a ‘corrective’ intervention. A chance to get everyone back on track. Though they’re rarely as explosive as the time the account director at Saatchi & Saatchi called in the executives of their newly won Black & Decker business and told them:

“Your account has been in this agency for only a few weeks and it’s already a joke account here. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because you’re acting like a bunch of cunts.”

For the record, that’s apparently a word-for-word articulation of the conversation as captured in the wonderful Chutzpah & Chutzpah. While one of the clients supposedly fell off the end of the armless sofa they were sitting on, apparently the showdown did the trick and Black & Decker went on to become a very successful, award-winning client for them.

Now ad folk and estate agents often run a tight race for who is the least trustworthy …

To be honest, I’ve not met many who were like that, however in terms of false promises and social manipulation, this has to be one of the very best/worst I’ve seen.

Here’s the estate agent pitch …

Sounds good, doesn’t it.

You’re interested. In fact, screw the interest … you’ll just buy it.

It sounds exactly what you want and you know you have to be quick these days.

And the estate agent is so kind and helpful.

Running around getting you all the information you need for the bank.

Brilliant.

Everything is going so well.

As ‘moving in’ day approaches, your excitement rises.

The removal people carefully pack up your house into their lorry and you all drive towards your well presented, detached bungalow near the local golf course.

Then you pull in and you see this.

What. The. Absolute. Fuck.

OK, at least they didn’t say ‘close to ammenities’ in their ad but still …

That motherfucker estate agent.

Also known as a pitch vs reality moment.

[For the record, that house did sell … and for hundreds of thousands of quid. Cancer included]

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