Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Marketing Workshops are powerful events.
As the group engine coughs into life you can smell creativity.
I’ve never failed to be amazed how inventive a group can be working on a marketing project. And not just how inventive they are – how assiduous they are too. No slouches are here. Across the board human beings want to work hard.
The stuff that belongs in the opening world of “monologue” is not that valuable; that’s the didactic end of the day; this is the bit where the fuel-bowser does its stuff. It’s the part of the day that’s about interaction where you get a group sharing and exchanging ideas that is always magical.
That magic lies in strange places.
One person in a group I ran recently confessed she found the experience alien; she said she was a left-brained person who was methodical and was being made to think outside her comfort zone; a colleague said she froze when she had to present.
But then their group produced an extraordinary piece of theatre that was creative, relevant and thought provoking.
The person out of her comfort zone was dreamily creative; an “I’ll be sick if I present” team member was a brilliant and engaging presenter.
Their project was “how do you create a production of Hamlet that is transformational and makes the play come to life in the 21st century?”
This was their answer.
No, in fact, this was their question.
“3D or not 3D?”

Monday, 15 February 2010


I was going to write about the problems with PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) and the threat to the Euro and the very existence of the EU but decided that was a bit like writing about British weather…a grumble leading to a moan…boring.
Although it remains an irony that the wisest minds seem permanently perplexed by the latest catastrophe.

This array of places where I’ve holidayed and generally had a great time were none of them likely to star as the superheroes in the recession-horror movie we’re living through called “Bust!”

And Greece had it coming just for the perpetuation of Retsina (a vile Roman invention in fact in the first place). Their current woes are, I believe, a direct thunderbolt from Dionysus for trying to pretend industrial strength paint stripper is something to sip with your octopus and warm cods-roe paste (aka taramasalata.)

Given the importance of their tourist industry (around 15% of GDP) and their volatility I can foresee our summer holidays being a touch on the grumpy side unless they heed my advice.

And here’s what they won’t want to hear - all of them are going to have to focus on super-customer service, hit new levels of competence, start loving their visitors and trying extra hard. Do not even think of going on strike Stavros – stop it!

I once went to Kalymnos (an out of the way Greek island) where an old waiter with a vile temper, prone to hurl food at you was dubbed Old Scrotum by the customers. Consign him and his like to the bin of history.

Nearer home customer service exploded in my face on Friday when I signed up to Ocado and when after that first tremulous shopping tour an hour and a half later I found they decided to reject mine and give me a new/wrong address off their own bat. Fury. Tears. Wrathful e-mails. Hatred never to be assuaged.

But within a few hours there was an ample apology and the problem was fixed.

Ocado 1 Hall 0

They really showed how to do great customer service.

So all you PIIGS pay attention and especially the land of the wine dark sea.

It’s how you behave, how you smile, how loveable you are that’ll get you out of this. The world needs cheering up and you could be the key to doing it.

But ditch the Retsina, the octopus and last nights Tara - OK?

Monday, 8 February 2010

I shouldn’t really tell you this but…

The power of rumour is extraordinary and the next marketing tool…”I shouldn’t really tell you this but Innocent dramatically improves your libido …the medical profession is terrified this will get out”….true or false? Neither. A rumour.

I heard recently about a big, global multinational under pressure that was successfully rearranging its lines of credit and held senior executive briefings. During the middle of one of these, a manager being briefed received an untrue text from a competitor saying the negotiations had broken down and that his company was toast. He and his colleagues, when he shared this with them, chose to believe this as opposed to the story being told by their boss (whom, incidentally, they liked, respected and thought was truthful.)

Rumour has never had greater authority.

As the John Terry story broke (the ex England Football Captain) a source (rumour) from the Capello camp (the England Football Manager) said“It wasn’t one thing with Terry. It was the rumours. It was getting worse every day.”

It was the rumours…not the facts… the rumours.

And it’s not just rumours and gossips that carry impact. It’s insinuations, nods and winks as well.
Rumour is the biggest aggressive marketing tool we have…and I don’t want to be the first one to say it but have you heard that Sir Martin Sorrell …

(Already the expectations about WPP have been raised and the bloodlust has been stirred and stimulated.)

The old adage “there’s no smoke without a fire” has become “where there’s a rumour there’s a story”…and where there’s a story there’s an audience. And where there’s an audience the bushfire spreads very fast.

And it’s hard to put out because we enjoy bad news and feet of clay.

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Many Tragedies in Haiti

I am hesitant to write something that I know will upset many people but here goes because I think this is really important.

If you give money to Haiti by all means do it to salve your conscience but not to do any real good because -

  • It isn’t needed (the USA has already put in more than $100 million and as much as it will take thereafter)
  • It won’t get to the people anyway – it never does – the Tsunami money (for instance) is still unused for the purposes intended although it’s helping the Indonesian economy
  • Money gets somehow…lost… in these situations …the Haitians themselves have a neat way of putting it “when a Haitian Minister skims 15% of aid money it’s called corruption, but when an aid agency takes 50% it’s called overheads”.
  • The NGOs are on a vanity show trying to prove how important they are (Andy Kershaw of the Independent savaged Oxfam for emptily conducting “assessments” as people died)
  • But the clincher is that the USA has put more troops into Haiti than we have in Afghanistan –20,000 it’s said - to maintain security. They fear a bloodbath could follow the turmoil with gang warfare.
  • So whatever we think has no weight or influence when compared to the US control of airport, aid, money, food, in fact - control of everything.
  • To understand the gangs in Port au Prince you don’t really need a lesson in this Caribbean island’s economic demolition by the Duvaliers (Papa Doc and Baby Doc and their Tonton Macoute militia.) and the hangover, after their removal.
  • Last and worst of all, the media. Sleek, well fed, sanctimonious and there in great and well organised numbers filming human misery commenting smugly and tersely and moving on. And you know I doubt if we can really trust what they say – 24 hour News Coverage and truth are not great allies.

I know little enough of Haiti – I haven’t been there although I hurt for all the suffering. But I have watched liberal and Christian money being hopefully used as though it were water being hosed over people dying of thirst. Except the money being given will predictably sit in some bank account until it’s too late to do much good or it’s irrelevant.

I have been frustrated and angry that money is seen as the answer.

It never is, alone.

And if it takes a catastrophe to awaken the Christian or the philanthropist in us, it’s a sad old world.

Haiti really needed help a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago.

Now it needs some really intelligent planning with the people in Haiti who matter – not the elite but most probably the mothers….the people who really know what is needed and, from what I read, the Mayor of Haiti’s second city, Cap Haiten, Michel St. Croix, who said: “this is a moment like never before for Haiti to start again”.

Most of all we hope the Americans so clearly running this show will execute the recovery in Port-au-Prince better than usual (or at least than Katrina). And that more of the brains of the world rather than the wallets of the world will be used to help plan the best solution possible.

As Lord Rutherford, the physicist originally said “we have no money so we shall have to think”…or as he might say, were he alive now, ”we have all this money. What on earth shall we do with it?”

Carry on thinking….and taking the advice of Haitian mothers and Michel St. Croix who sounds smart and honest.