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June 2019

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When you watch these two versions of this song.

It looks like a man that has turned into his own father.

James Taylor.

When James Taylor sings Fire and Rain live – I melt a little bit.

The first version is in 1970.

I was 2.

The second version is in 2007.

I was 39.

And I melt a little bit more.

And am reminded of the importance of music.

When I see user comments on YouTube:

Missing my son, since 12-22-2017 I always thought I would see him again.

The Song. 

I just think the song sounds like a beautiful, soothing story.

And it is noted by many people that, in his early years James looked so sad as he sang.

In the later video, there is a half smile.

I hope that means he’s happier.

Go here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/fire-rain/

 

 

This really did happen.

A couple of years ago I placed an online order from ASDA.

I ordered sprouts.

Other things as well of course.

But on the webpage that contained sprouts I added the number ‘1’ to sprouts.

And on I shopped.

Sprouts.

The following day, the order came.

There were eight carrier bags I think.

All stacked in those big plastic trays on your front door step for you to unload and carry in.

And in the bottom of one of the carrier bags I, eventually, discovered my sprout.

And it was just one sprout.

In a semi-transparent plastic bag.

With a sticker so big that it wrapped right around the bag and the sprout.

Before sticking to itself around the other side.

The Sprout.

I was alone in the house when the delivery arrived.

So, once I had discovered my sprout, I stood still in the kitchen.

Silently.

The sprout sat in the palm of my left hand.

Me, prodding it with the index finger of my right hand.

So that I could roll it around to see what was written on the sticker more clearly.

I pulled my glasses down from the top of my head.

Sat them on the bridge of my nose.

And zoomed in to the sticker on my sprout.

8p.

Sprout Man.

From their corner of ASDA’s business, ASDA’s sprout man (or ASDA’s sprout lady) didn’t have the authority to override what had happened.

He or she will have known that I wanted one pack of sprouts.

As opposed to one solitary sprout.

But, I imagine, there as nothing they could do.

Because in another corner of the business.

The bit where someone had created something on a website on the Internet for people like me to click.

Something had gone wrong.

Which led me to ponder two things.

Firstly, I wondered how many businesses out there were built in ways that excluded common sense and disseminated authority and permissions to get business done accurately and well.

And second, I wondered how many other men and women were stood silently in their kitchens.

Staring at one carefully packaged sprout.

The sprout sitting motionless in the palm of their hand.

One sprout.

One bag.

One label.

For (about) 8p.

And I smiled.

I want to be the ‘me-ist’ me possible.

And you?

I suggest that you work hard to be the ‘you-est’ you.

You-est. 

Because if you concentrate on being the ‘you-est’ you that you can.

Or in other words, the best version of you that you can.

Life is much nicer.

And better.

And happier.

And more relaxed.

Because if you choose most other ‘ist/est’ words you have to do something that is always corrosive.

You have to compare.

Examples. 

Here are examples of what not to set as your goals.

Because, if you do, you have to compare yourself to others.

And that’s never good.

  • Richest.
  • Slimmest.
  • Happiest.
  • Biggest (house, car…)
  • Prettiest.

And because many of these things are subjective and/or really tricky to measure.

Because everyone’s reference point and taste is different.

What’s the point anyway?

Then layer on top of this something that is particularly prevalent on social media (but in many other social situations too).

The fact that people lie.

And it really does show how daft comparing actually is.

Summary.

So, in summary, here’s why comparing is stupid:

  1. Everyones perspective and taste is different.
  2. All things are actually measured differently (because of 1.).
  3. People lie.

So there you go.

If you do continue to compare, you’re the stupidest person I know.

(‘See what I did there?)

Rick thank you for supporting me as I build my relationship with the University. If there’s anything I can do to help you with anything you are doing – just shout. See you soon. M.”

Helen thank you for the invitation for Friday. And for taking the time to chat with me today. It was great to learn more about you. Bye for now. M x”

Carlo thank you for sending me the ‘Shore Thing’ link. That’s interesting. Sometimes, I’ve helped brands to run disruptive campaigns that ‘reposition the competition’. But that’s normally by making a unique claim that raises (implied) questions about what the competition does or does not do. What you’ve highlighted here is pretty amazing! I’d not thought of that. Thank you.”

Debbie thank you for looking after the boys this week. It helped us to get a lot done.”

Katie thank you for popping to see me. It was nice to get closer to your idea. I hope my pointedness about brand was not a complete waste of your time. I suppose I just wanted to point out that, in my opinion, your unique proposition will weaken as more and more people appear in your category with similar sentiments. Good luck with whatever next. M.”

Dean thanks for chatting earlier this week. Your point about the market as a whole not being fatigued by, or indeed tuned in to, what the finer points of ‘doing good business’ actually are – is valid. And it’s a useful and timely reminder for me. See you in a couple of weeks. I do want to help you if I can. I think you deserve to do well, and to be paid well, for who you are. M.”

Gratitude.

  1. Open your diary.
  2. Choose one, half hour block each week and add a recurring meeting – with yourself. At the same time each week. Fridays are good.
  3. Call it ‘GRATITUDE’.
  4. Inside each meeting, simply send a stream of texts to people who have helped you, or who you helped. That week. Aim to send 12. Thank them for helping. Or thank them for listening. Either works. Texts are best for this. So they can read them twice. If they want.

Thank you.

If I were to suggest a decent (very) short-form Brand Communications objective for almost any business.

In an unwordy way.

Around which to develop a strategy.

This would be it:

Promise, then do something that matters.

Then nurture the engaged community that builds around it.

It’s because some consultants.

(Actually –  most consultants).

Overcomplicate things.

Because over complicating can, in the mind of the consultant at least, create the illusion that the consultant knows more.

I say illusion because, almost always, if someone is trying to make something sound complicated, it is because they know less.

Jargon.

So they use jargon and wear jargon like a badge.

Forgetting that jargon only serves to do one of three things.

Embarrass.

Confuse.

Or annoy.

Goals.

So if you are a consultant.

With a strategic goal to either embarrass, confuse or annoy your clients.

Use jargon and overcomplicate.

Otherwise, just keep it simple and – as a start point at the very least – advise business to:

Promise, then do something that matters.

Then nurture the engaged community that builds around it.

(Easy to say.

Hard to do.

But worth it for everyone involved).

This lady came up to me the other day.

She was quite – well – big.

She was large.

She’d overheard me talking about bigger women.

And I’d, apparently, used the word ‘fat’ as a descriptive term.

She said to me,

I heard you talking about bigger women.

And you used the word ‘fat’.

You shouldn’t say that.

It’s ‘fattist’.

I glanced over at the lady and, noticing that she herself was quite large responded:

Fattist?

I’m not the fattist.

You’re the fattest.

Now; that didn’t happen.

Because it’s a joke.

Written by Jimmy Carr.

But it’s still quite funny.

At least – I think it is?

The Line.

There are a set of words that I avoid.

A set of words that describe approach, attitude and mindset.

These words include:

  • Nasty
  • Bitter
  • Cruel
  • Bullying

Anything said or done that is driven by one of these things or similar is, I think, wrong.

Because of the intent.

However even if there is no bad intent then, sometimes, something can still be wrong.

The wrong side of The Line.

The line of what is, and what is not, acceptable.

Tricky. 

It’s tricky though.

Because I happen to think that Jimmy Carr’s ‘fattist’ joke is the right side of The Line.

I think it’s fine.

But you know what, would I tell that joke to a larger lady that I didn’t know that well?

No.

I wouldn’t.

So maybe, in actual fact, this joke is the wrong side of the line after all?

This is very confusing.

Is the rule (something like) if you wouldn’t say something to anyone, any time then it’s the wrong side of the line by definition?

Or – as an adult – can I use my discretion?

Or – because I may use discretion yet the person I tell my joke to may not – does that mean that I shouldn’t tell the joke?

For fear that it will be retold inappropriately.

Hmmm.

I am not sure what the answer is.

I don’t want to say nothing at all.

I love creativity in all things.

Including writing and storytelling.

Free flowing picture painting to make people smile or cry or think.

So, for now, I’ll avoid those words I mentioned earlier and carry on telling stories.

Conscious that, I think, stories that sit on or around The Line are very often the best stories of all.

I was in Finland 6 or 7 years ago.

On holiday.

Away from the control freakery of my day-to-day.

Away from the environment where I tried to control my businesses and every one and every thing in it.

Instead, I had reluctantly handed myself over to the control freakery of the travel agent.

The travel agent was looking after things now.

The Agenda.

There was an ‘agenda’.

An agenda!

On a fucking holiday.

My worst nightmare, really.

Because I like to do what I like to do.

And this agenda included Husky Running.

Something that I had not even processed as a ‘thing’.

Husky Running.

What was the point?

Husky Running.

When my Husky Running time came – I went along.

I complied.

I became the passenger.

And it was transformative.

It is one of just a handful of things in my whole life that has changed me permanently.

Trust.

I was immediately subordinate to an established, complex team of beautiful, perfectly synchronised wild animals.

They just knew what to do.

They just knew who should do what.

They were ‘doing their thing’.

And it was one of the greatest privileges of my life.

To be looked after by animals in this way.

To let go.

And to trust.

The Passenger.

That day, I learned to be a passenger.

Properly.

The huskies just did what they did.

I had absolutely nothing at all to add.

In fact, if I had tried to add anything at all, the experience would immediately have become a lesser experience.

So I remained silent.

The passenger.

The Point.

And the point of this journey through the snow?

Was that it was just that.

A journey.

Every half second, because my senses were heightened, and because I was just experiencing instead of controlling, I noticed something amazing.

The 28 magically synchronised feet of 7 dogs.

The horizon.

The new, terrestrial clouds of powdery snow that the dogs made, to cool and freshen my face.

The trees.

The mixture of barks and squeaks and telepathy that fused the dogs together as one driving force.

All of this was new.

And beautiful.

And unforgettable.

And the only way I could enjoy the experience and the show to the maximum was to become a passenger.

Which was new for me.

I had to become a true spectator.

To forget my ego.

To lose my control freakery.

To control my fear of things going wrong.

And simply trust.

The Journey. 

I try to remember this today.

To enjoy the journey.

And to be led by those that know much better than me.

In a way I never could.

And to leave them to do their thing.

In business.

These days.

If you’re in the middle.

You’re in trouble.

The Middle. 

‘The middle’ means trying to appeal to everyone.

It means riding on coat tails.

Playing safe.

Re-hashing.

Being boring.

Not innovating.

Not evolving.

Not being creative.

Not thinking differently.

Not standing for anything.

Having no strong, clear, consistent opinion.

Not leading in – well – anything.

Or over-leveraging a brand ‘here’ just because it worked ‘there’ so it becomes so diluted that it is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Jamie Oliver, for example.

The middle is rubbish.

Supermarkets.

Waitrose I get.

They say:

Hi. We’re expensive. So we’re not in the middle. We’re at the top. We believe in paying a bit more for a bit more. We’ve been at the top since day one. We know what we stand for. We’re authentic. So if you want a treat, come to us. We’re good quality. We’ll continue to innovate and be ready for you when you do come. And if you’re worried about spend, pay for us from your ‘going-out-leisure-pot’. Stay in a bit more. Leave the expensive restaurants alone for a while.

Aldi and Lidl I get.

They say:

Hi. We try hard to be cheap. We believe in cheap. We’ve been trying since day one. We’re authentic. It’s cool over here at the bottom. We’re so bloody good at being cheap these days though that you find some really great quality and interesting things at our place, too. We can sacrifice margin even further in some key areas now you see, because we’re increasing volume so effectively. You’ll find some real diamonds that you can’t get anywhere else. We’re funky and interesting. You might come for your weekly shop and walk out with a bloody tent or a multi-story carpark for matchbox cars at some strangely low price. It’s fun at our place! A bit crazy and unpredictable in every way but one – we’re still cheap!

ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are in the middle.

They say pretty much the same as each other.

They copy each other.

They try to launch their ‘back to the eighties’ pricing images before one of the others does.

They’re tactical.

Because they have no discernible strategy.

They react to what they think we want.

So they don’t come across as authentic.

I don’t know what they believe in.

Because they’re in the middle.

So they flick-flack from one boring, expensive, blend-in campaign to the next.

(Unless they’re trying to buy each other of course.

Thinking that scale will help).

The Middle.

Don’t sit in the middle.

It’s lazy.

It’s ordinary.

And it’s average.

And when markets get bored.

(As they will).

Because you have nothing new or interesting to say.

It’s a really bad place to be.

Just ask Jamie Oliver.

Freddie Mercury died aged 45.

In 1991.

So 27 years ago.

(That’s twenty seven years ago.

Twenty seven.

I know that sounds unbelievable.

Well, it did to me.

That it was such a long time ago.

So I checked and checked again. 

And it’s right. 

24th November. 

1991.

Kensington).

Freddie.

Freddie Mercury is, unfortunately, still dead.

But if you were to wander past this studio and, from a half open door, hear Marc Martel singing.

And then take a look at Marc (there’s a resemblance).

And checked out his mannerisms.

And heard him play the piano.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Freddie was back.

Here’s Marc: https://www.50odd.co.uk/45-2/