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

Have Airlines Gone Bonkers Or Just The Passengers?
August 9, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Luxury, My Childhood, Planes, Singapore, Status

When I was young, I loved looking through the Argos and Innovations catalogues.

They were a window into a world I couldn’t imagine.

One filled with gadgets and toys I’d never see, let alone never own.

It’s partly why whenever I fly, I always look at the Duty Free catalogue.

Because outside of the sexist shit like ‘air hostess outfits for girls and pilot suits for boys’ and prices that never seemingly being any less than I could get in a store … there’s something magical – at least for me – in seeing what’s on offer.

Bad versions of expensive brands.

Updated versions of old products.

Endless amounts of perfume and questionable jewellery.

I love it. Hell, I’ve even bought things from it occasionally … though the mini-projector ended up being something I used precisely ZERO times.

But post-covid, the people behind these catalogues have decided passengers are super rich and super stupid.

I get why they would think that with the price of tickets these days.

But even then, I am wracking my brain to work out who would get on a plane and order this …

A bed.

A SG$24,000 bed.

Seriously, what the absolute fuck?

I know there’s a lot of bed companies these days offering ’60+ free nights’ … but this isn’t one of those.

This is the real deal … mattress AND remote control flexible frame.

For the price of a car. Or at least a second-hand car.

And they expect you to buy it, without trying it, via an inflight, duty-free catalogue.

I’d kill to know if any have ever been sold. I’d kill to know the reasoning behind why they did it.

And I’d kill anyone who ordered one.

Forget Duty Free this would be Brain Free … or, the new way to signal to people you have vulgar wealth.

Better than a Black Centurion AMEX or a Lambo with Pepper Pig.

Evolution sure works in some strange ways …

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Nothing Says Who You Are Like What You Do …

A lot of luxury brands, invite a lot of mocking.

It might be what they make.
It might be the prices they charge.
It might be the way they look at the world.
But whatever your opinion, at least they commit.

Walk into a proper high-end luxury brand and you see high-end standards and experience.


[The Netflix series ‘7 Day’s’ perfectly demonstrates this, as I wrote about here]

Innovation. Craft. Details. Service. Packaging. Training.

You might not like it.
You might not value it.
But you can’t say they’re not committed to it.

Now compare that to companies that like to position themselves as ‘premium’.

Sure, some live up to it … but my god, most don’t.

The only premium-ness is often only in their pricing and ego.

Big talking to the public, short-changing everywhere else around them.

Now I get you have to look after the pennies in business, but when you claim to be premium – it should mean you recognize the value of premium standards and service in those around you and with you. And if you don’t – or you don’t think the people you are dealing with offer that – then why the fuck are you dealing with them?

I’ve written about this before, but once-upon-a-time I was asked to work on a freelance project for a high-end German brand.

I submitted my estimate to which I was met with the following reply:

“Your fee is higher than other partners we use, please lower it”.

That was it. Not even an indication of the costs they were comparing me too.

Now while I value what I do, the costs weren’t excessive.

Infact they were a fraction of the cost of one of their lowest priced products.

But more than that, I’d agreed my fees with the CMO before I submitted them to procurement, so I thought., ‘fuck this’ and wrote the following response.

“Your products are higher priced than other brands I could choose, please lower it”.

I know … it was cheeky, but I just thought they were incredibly arrogant in their attitude, especially in the way they wanted to undermine my experience.

And guess what, almost immediately they replied with,

“We accept your rate and look forward to working with you” … which is the exact moment I saw through the hype.

Brands who value quality don’t benchmark costs against the lowest market rates.

I get it’s a negotiation tactic, but it also reveals their hypocrisy and insecurity.

It’s why my experience with Metallica was so shocking … despite the fact what they do and value all makes total sense but the way most business operates means it felt so bizarre.

Actually, Metallica are a great example of a brand that values who they are.

Everything they do is focused on respecting the quality of what they do.

For example, to make sure their vinyl is always of the highest quality – they bought the best vinyl printing press company in the world.

Same with their live shows …

To ensure their sound is of the highest quality, they had the highest-quality live speaker system in the world built.

Rather than approach investments in terms of ‘what can we get away with’, their attitude is to put highest quality first … which is why they buy stuff rather than lease it because not only does it ensure their creativity is given the highest possible quality [rather than the best they can get away with] it ensures they always have priority access to it. And when they don’t need to use it, they get people like me to work out how to make it pay for itself, which often ends up leasing it to other bands who don’t have the same needs/standards or values as them.

Metallica understand standards better than most brands.

But then they understand who they are better than most brands.

Which is why everything they do is focus up to the quality not down to the price.

That’s a proper premium brand … one who makes decisions that reflects who they are not who they are pretending to be.

Christ, I recently saw a rep from a coffee brand get into their gold Audi.

It stood out to me because it was a errrrrm, gold Audi.

And while some may look at it and say,

“If they drove a Prius, maybe their coffee prices were lower”

… not only are they unlikely to be people who buy their coffee, they are also unlikely to care about the difference of coffee.

That’s not a diss … I like Nescafe with Coffee Mate … but it also doesn’t mean that my taste is reflective of everyone else’s either.

Whether true or not, my impression of a brand giving their rep this choice of car was they had a different perspective on standards. Rather than give their reps the lowest priced car they could get away with, they found the most efficient car of the standards they live and operate in.

Of course many may slate or disagree with me for this view …

I also appreciate some may find their choice a reflection of their pretentiousness, which they find fucking annoying.

And in some way I agree with them.

However I feel a lot better about pretentious assholes when that’s who they actually are rather than those who do it to look like they’re premium when everything else highlights they’re anything but.

Commitment costs.

You might not want to pay it … you might not understand the reasoning for it … but at least you’re dealing with people who believe it rather than those who are exploiting you for it.

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Why Commitment Beats Interested …

I recently saw the above photo and immediately fell in love with it.

Not because it’s slightly bonkers – but it helps – but because I love the commitment of them.

Now I have no idea if they were booked to appear with that look.

I have no idea if they’re a real band, though I know ‘rock bands that play kids parties’ exist because the wonderful show Z Rock was based on one. [In fact the actors in the show, were the actual band]

And I don’t know if the music they play reflects how they look.

But I love it.

I love every bit of it.

Because rather than pander, they’ve committed.

Committed to who they are.

Committed to what they believe.

Committed to what they want to do.

There’s not enough of that. Oh we hear so many brands – and bands – talk about their ‘purpose’, but that’s just a PR headline because their actions often demonstrate the only thing they are committed to is whatever is needed to make money.

There is more authenticity in this trio of rock crazies than 99% of the companies who profess to be driven by their purpose.

But here’s the thing, commitment is about inconvenience.

Doing – or not doing – the things that reflect your belief.

Of course there are implications to that …

But while others may be more successful or richer, there is one thing you’ll have they won’t …

The ability to sleep at night.

And given we are also seeing more and more people choosing those who are committed to their belief, regardless of inconvenience, there’s a chance you could be more successful and richer too.

You can’t fake commitment.

You can’t be temporarily interested in it.

You can’t use it as a marketing platform.

Because commitment shows up in what you say, what you do and how you do it ALL THE TIME IN EVERY WAY.

Commitment achieves things interested can’t.

Commitment gives you standards, interested can’t even see.

Commitment pushes possibilities, interested will never understand.

Commitment wants you to succeed in ways interested will never get close to.

That’s the difference between the imposter purpose pedlars and the real deal.

It’s not something different every 12 months.

It’s not simply expressed through their marketing.

It’s not only doing things if you can make money from it.

It’s not changing direction when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Of course, that doesn’t mean people will only choose the committed. The fact is humans are all hypocritical beasts who like their moments of easy and cheap. However, in this superficial, short-cut, high-cost, hype world … commitment has a way of standing out in ways they will never even understand.

Which is why I love the people in this photo more than I do other kids entertainers.

Not because those other entertainers don’t have talent or a right to make a living … but because this trio of rock band musicians know who they are rather than are selling themselves as whoever others want them to be.

In a world where you don’t know who you can rely on, I say choose those who are committed, not interested.

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The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Neon …

One of the things I’ve found fascinating over the past few years is watching consultancies AND platforms mock the value of advertising and then increasingly try and enter that space.

And while you could argue it’s because they saw an opportunity to do it ‘properly’, the way they have embraced it – and executed it – has shown they seem to want to be more like the beast they wanted to slay than the beast they are.

What do I mean?

Go to Cannes and the whole place has been taken over by corporations.

All the best locations, beaches, hotels are the domain of tech, consultancies and platforms.

Now you could say that’s because they’re the ones with all the money – and that’s true – but what is amusing is WHAT they do.

Because rather than reflect ‘a better way to do what those ad agencies used to do’ … they seem to be doing the same thing ad agencies used to do.

Celebrity talks.
Expensive dinners.

In fact the only thing that is different is how desperately bad their attempts to show ‘they’re creativity’ actually are.

Nothing brought this home more than a poster I recently saw promoting an advertising festival.

An advertising festival representing the ‘modern’ world of the industry.

This was it …

What. The. Hell?

Seriously … what is it?

I’m not just talking about the design and colour palette that could make a 1987 acid house party feel embarrassed … I’m talking about all of it.

The email automation masterclass.

The ‘scale your YouTube’ talk.

The $15 million ad storytelling formula class.

And let’s not forget the ‘thumb-stopping’ direct response scripts.

Look, I get small business may get something out of some of this.

And I appreciate there are many elements to run a successful business.

But this all comes across as used car salesman shit.

Worse, used car salesman shit where their office is a portacabin on a muddy industrial estate in Slough.

In all seriousness, what I find astounding is this must be what the people behind this conference must think is creativity. And don’t get me started on what it says about the people presenting there.

I include Scott Galloway who said ‘brands are dead’ and then not only invests in elevating his own brand, but starts selling courses on how to approach better brand strategy.

[For the record, I respect Scott Galloway hugely but when he said that – like when Mark Ritson said his advertising course was a ‘mini MBA’, when it is nothing at all like a MBA – I couldn’t help but feel their focus was becoming more about building their own cult than building better marketers. In fact, given their approaches have now been so optimised, systemised and codified … you could argue it’s actually undermining brand building because everyone is following the same approach and the result is passive corporate conformity. But I digress …]

I guess what I’m saying is that for all the smarts of modern marketing, the people behind this conference – and potentially the people at it – are revealing they know jack-shit about creativity or culture.

And you know what? That would be fine if they didn’t pretend they otherwise.

But for all their big Cannes events … agency buy-outs … and talk about advertising, the reality is they view creativity as a ‘wrapper’ for their engineering type processes.

A belief there is a singular approach to engage and grow – regardless of audience or category. That the features around a brand are more important than the brand. Or as I told WARC, that the condiments are more valuable than the steak.

Do not get me wrong, advertising has a lot of problems.

It’s got a lot it can learn from platforms and consultancies.

But at our best, we know how to use the power of creativity and culture in ways so many of thehaven’t got a clue about.

Now some may say that statement shows how out of date I am.

How contemporary business doesn’t care about all that.

And maybe that’s right … but while I could point out the vast majority of brands who are infectious to culture were not born anywhere near a ‘consultants proprietary marketing playbook’ … all I have to do is point at the AdWorld poster and say, “Look at that shit”.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there will be a bunch of valuable stuff at the conference.

I am sure it will attract tens of thousands of people.

It may make the organisers a shit-ton of cash.

But for all the smarts appearing at Adworld, they sure as shit don’t have any appreciation of style. And I would like to point out that I say this as someone who was wearing an ironic Celine Dion T-shirt when I typed this.

And with that, I wish you a good weekend … which only gets better for you when I let you know there is a national holiday here on Monday so there will be no post till Tuesday [I know, I just had 2 days off for national holiday – deal with it] … so with that, I leave you with a sneak-peak of the Adworld virtual after party dance floor.

If You Don’t Know The Nuance, You Only Know The Cliche’s.

A client recently told me a story of a very successful client he worked with.

Apparently this person was a lover of cars and owned Ferrari’s and Rolls Royce’s.

My client asked him what the difference was between them.

Expecting some conversation about performance or comfort, he was surprised when he heard:

“When I pull into a hotel in my Ferrari, I’m treated like I’ve booked the Penthouse Suite. But when I pull up in my Rolls, I’m treated like I own the hotel”.

I really like that.

I like it for a whole host of reasons.

But the main one is the clarity in differentiating ‘success’.

So often, as an industry, we define things in absolute terms.

Good. Bad. Rich. Poor. Success, Failure.

But as with all things in life, there’s nuance and texture in there if you look closer.

Which is why planning – despite all the information that is now available to us – is still an outdoor job.

Going out to talk to people.
Listening to different viewpoints.
Watching how different groups react to different situations.

It’s not a ‘day out’. It’s not ‘superficial fluff’.

It’s the difference between doing work for people or about people.

I’ve banged on about the importance of resonance over relevance for years, but it’s never been so important … because with so much choice of who we can give our attention to, if we want to stand any chance of having people give a modicum of a shit about us and what we do/think, then we better be speaking their language and context rather than the language and context we think – or want – them to speak.

[A classic of utter bollocks is still the Gerard Butler, ‘Man of Today’ ad for BOSS. You can read the post I wrote here and see the ad it is referring to, here]

If the people behind the brilliant TV show, Succession, can talk to billionaires to ensure everything on the show reflects how the super rich spend their money – and how they act because of it, ie: they never bend their head down when entering or existing a helicopter because they travel by them so much, they know exactly where the propeller is in relation to their height – then surely we can go and spend some time with people to see what they do and hear how they think about brushing their bloody teeth or something equally inane.

If we want to get back to being valuable to clients, we’d go a long way towards that by stopping with audience generalisations – of which I am absolutely including broad – or even narrow – Lifestage segmentation – and knowing the real nuances.