Category

BUSINESS

Category

Alfie is 18.

And from Clitheroe.

Entrepreneurialism.

If (the right kind of) entrepreneurialism is (at least in part) about self belief, working really hard, vision, likability, straightforwardness, kindness, managing fear, tenacity, trying the impossible (for example, a settee (see the link)), doing things your way, overcoming barriers and operating outside your apparent authority (for example, potholes (see the link)).

Plus a big dose of not giving a shit what other people think or say.

Then Alfie.

Who is all of those things .

Is the most entrepreneurial guy I have ever come across.

Alfie.

Even if you’ve seen this before.

It is definitely worth another 8 minutes of your time.

It’ll set you up for the week: https://www.50odd.co.uk/alfie/.

I met a guy from IBM this week.

Quite a senior guy.

Clever.

Challenging in his approach.

A team leader.

A man keen to push, push, push his teams to the absolute limit.

A man keen get the most out of his people.

Tactic. 

He revealed to me and to the other people in the room.

The most important thing he did with every single team member.

Every single week.

In order to wring every last drop out of them as team members.

This is what he did.

He emptied half a day of all of their diaries each week.

And sent them out of the office.

Out of Office. 

He sent them to a hotel.

Or a cafe.

With no phones.

And no computers.

And no tablets.

Just each other.

He encouraged them to talk to each other about what they’d experienced in the other four and a half days of the week.

To digest it.

Together.

To describe how they saw it.

To help each other.

To explore how they were actually going to apply what they’d learned that week.

And that was that.

Downtime.

The right kind of downtime.

Even at work.

Is important.

Time to pause.

And think.

And digest.

Or you just end up consuming.

Doing.

Gorging.

Packing all this stuff into your hours and your minutes and your seconds.

Not tasting anything properly.

Not processing anything properly.

Not thinking about anything properly.

Not pausing to work out what’s good so you can do the good things more.

And not pausing to work out what’s bad so you stop doing them.

And this is all wrong.

Pause.

So pause.

Pause in a fixed pattern like the guys at IBM do.

Make the right kind of downtime a habit.

You – and your uptime – will be better for it.

Look.

I don’t do it on purpose.

I do it because is bothers me.

It really bothers me.

It bothers me how big businesses tell us one story.

And deliver us another.

I think it is disgusting.

And that is why I write about it.

Waitrose. 

This short story is dedicated to Lucy Sermon.

A lady kind enough to comment on yesterday’s 50odd story when it was reposted to Linkedin.

Here’s the story: https://www.50odd.co.uk/dragons/.

And here’s what Lucy said about my story on LinkedIn yesterday.

It sounds like you’re anticipating disappointment Michael?!

I really hope you’re not, it would be such a shame.

Will you fill us in when you’ve visited? 

I wish I lived nearer to one to find out for myself 😉

Lucy was commenting because I said that I really, really hoped that after John Lewis and Waitrose had raised my expectations.

With the delivery into my home of such a polished and high quality visual story.

A Christmas advert.

I hoped that the experience would extend to an actual store visit.

Otherwise.

All that John Lewis are doing.

Is spinning total and utter bullshit.

They’d just be incompetent liars.

Because by their investment in advertising.

This is what I, as a consumer, hear:

We will invest millions of pounds on conceptualising and crafting a beautiful story and experience for you and your family.

A beautiful story and experience that you can enjoy in your own home.

The implications of which will be that.

When you actually visit our stores.

You will experience the same love, care and beauty.

The story and the experience will continue.

Because that is the right and honourable thing to do.

Both for you the consumers.

For our team of front line people.

And for our shareholders.

Little Waitrose. Kings Cross Station. 

The photograph accompanying this story is the checkout that I was asked to use at Little Waitrose.

At Kings Cross Station.

Yesterday.

Take a look: https://www.50odd.co.uk/waitrose/.

It’s fucking disgusting.

It’s filthy.

It’s surrounded by piles of magazines still wrapped in the plastic straps that hold them together for transit.

The fliers that are there for customers to take and carelessly thrown into their containers.

(As staff stand motionless.

Unable to see or care about any of this).

There is a laughable, crude sign sellotaped to the top of the self-serve checkout.

Created by a pig-thick staff member that thinks good enough is good enough.

Scrawled in blue ballpoint pen.

On a torn piece of paper.

The piece of paper shouts:

‘CARDS ONLY’.

And just at the bottom of the photograph.

If you look closely.

And I do encourage you to look closely.

(I have left this photograph full colour).

Is the worst thing of all.

You can see a sticker that is brown and black with shitty fingerprints.

And the sticker is about 40% worn away.

Almost half of it is completely worn away.

The result of thousands of filthy fingers and hands passing over it.

And I am expected to put the sandwich that I am buying from Waitrose on there.

Food.

Fucking food.

A Message To Retail. 

Get your priorities right.

That disgusting, filthy sticker will have been there for weeks.

You will have looked at it.

And you will have ignored it.

Every morning.

Every afternoon.

And every evening.

Shame.

For endless reasons at the moment I sometimes find myself ashamed to be British.

Largely because of our self-serving politicians.

But I have to say that if this is what the (apparently) best retailers in the UK think is acceptable.

Then my shame deepens.

It is vile.

You are vile.

And it is disrespectful.

Endnote. 

As an Endnote I want to mention Hotel Chocolat.

A retail outlet less than 100 yards from the filthy, thrown-together shithole that is Little Waitrose in King’s Cross Station (see the photograph with this story).

Hotel Chocolat is beautiful.

Clean.

Masterfully assembled.

The three lovely young people working in there yesterday were excellently presented.

Polite.

They cared.

I felt like I mattered.

They looked at me when they spoke to me.

They hustled.

They helped.

Hotel Chocolat is a retail hero.

They get it.

And as a consequence.

They get my custom.

Where as you, Waitrose.

You don’t.

The little dragon in the 2019 Christmas John Lewis (and Waitrose) advert is a lovely thing.

It’s clumsy.

And friendly.

And it has nice eyes.

Nice eyes are important for an animal that doesn’t exist and that can’t speak.

Because nice eyes help us to sense what it’s thinking.

So yes.

The little dragon in the 2019 John Lewis (and Waitrose) advert is a lovely thing.

Gut. 

This review is my gut reaction, by the way.

I know nothing of the budget.

Other than it must have been bloody big.

And nothing of the backstory.

I wanted to comment on the 2019 John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas advert as a consumer.

And as a dad.

Is it any good?

So is it any good?

Well, even though I wrote that question.

I am not sure of the answer.

I suppose it depends who is asking and how they are measuring.

It ticks the ‘sugary’ box.

Which is no bad thing.

Niceness is nice.

Families will watch it together.

And I suppose a woven-in-message is that everyone’s foibles can be strengths given the right circumstances.

That’s a good message.

So, OK.

If it’s me that’s asking if it’s any good.

(And it is).

And if it’s me that is also answering.

(And it is).

Then, yes.

It’s good.

Kindness. 

Kindness is a theme too.

With a sprinkling of tolerance.

And patience.

I like that.

Customer Behaviour.

Will it make me pop to John Lewis or Waitrose for my Christmas shop, though?

Will the behaviour of this particular consumer (me) be influenced in the way that they want?

You know what, it just might.

For two reasons.

Reason One.

First, I am interested in how they have integrated the loveliness in the advert that they delivered to my home.

Into their stores.

So when I pop in (with Izobel) to check, one of three things will happen.

Izobel and I will either be:

  1. Delighted.
  2. Underwhelmed.
  3. Disappointed.

And if Izobel and I are anything other than number 1, that’s really crap.

John Lewis and Waitrose will have failed.

It would mean that yet again a brand is fishing for customers with big budget advertising.

And at the point of delivery the experience just doesn’t match up.

Let’s see.

Reason Two.

The second reason I might go to John Lewis or Waitrose as a result of this advert is because the advert is a superb quality piece of work.

On every level.

I like quality.

And the advert makes my little brain think this:

This brand is clearly committed to quality in the stories they tell.

And in how they tell them.

So they would be worse than idiotic to give me anything less than as good a quality experience in their stores.

Because to raise expectations to a 10/10.

To then deliver at an ordinary and lazy 7/10.

Is quite simply a worse kind of shit than saying I’ll get an ordinary and lazy 7/10 and delivering at an ordinary and lazy 7/10.

At least that’s honest shit.

Such under delivery would, in the longer term, be suicidal for any brand.

Izobel and I.

So the advert has done it’s job.

I will take Izobel (and my credit card) to John Lewis and to Waitrose.

To see if the TV experience extends to the physical environment.

To see if the store itself is doing as good a job as the advert is.

Because such clumsy misalignment would be crazy, right?

Merry Christmas.

(Here’s the ad: https://www.50odd.co.uk/dragons/).

 

Not a lot of people know this.

But there is something (so I am told) very, very unusual about Always Wear Red.

I never anticipated it happening.

But I’m endlessly flattered that it has.

(I’ll let you know what it is in 30 seconds.

It’s to do with just one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap, pictured here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-three-rs/

So keep reading).

The Three R’s

Always Wear Red is a D2C (direct to consumer) brand.

That way, I can operate at lower margins and pass as much value and quality to the client as possible.

Because no one between me and them takes a cut.

(It’s Always Wear Red.

Then it’s you. 

And that’s it).

However.

Even with this simple model.

The shadow of The Three R’s still frightens me.

  • Returns.
  • Rejection.
  • Rethinking (changing your mind).

Returns. Rejection. Rethinking.

The cost of things coming back to a business can be catastrophic.

And it can happen for many reasons.

I think that reasons include:

  • The customer not knowing about and caring about the brand and the change it is trying to make.
  • The customer not knowing about and (to some degree at least) caring about the people behind the brand.
  • Crap product quality.
  • Crap packaging and point of sale materials.
  • The customer being generally underwhelmed by, and indifferent about, the whole experience.
  • Ordinariness.
  • An uninteresting experience.
  • Carelessly processed and executed packaging, so there is clearly no consideration of the unboxing or gifting experience.
  • The customer being made to feel that once the sale has taken place, the brand does not give a shit about them any more.
  • The product not delivering on the quality promise that was made at the online store.
  • The product and the brand not making me feel how I thought it would make me feel.
  • The brand not saying thank you to me – personally and sincerely – for me choosing them.

There will be more.

The Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

OK.

So now to this one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

Pictured here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-three-rs/.

What’s so special about it?

After around 1,000 individual relationships with Always Wear Red customers.

Why is the customer relationship around this one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap so significant?

Well – it’s because it was returned.

And more specifically because it’s the only piece that has ever been returned to Always Wear Red since we launched on Valentine’s Day 2016.

Our returns rate is 1.

Not 1%.

1 piece.

And it’s this, one, Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

(The average returns rate for an e-commerce business is 30%.

And it’s 9% in a bricks and mortar store).

First Time. Every Time.

Always Wear Red is imperfect.

I work hard to be better tomorrow than I am today.

It’s because I want to be extraordinary in everything I do.

First time.

Every time.

For just one reason.

It’s because if I don’t aim for extraordinary.

There is only one other description for me.

And no one but no one should ever, ever be comfortable being called that.

Your category.

The segment within which your business trades.

Or the segment within which your employer trades.

How are you taking your category forward?

How are you progressing it?

How are you changing your entire category for the better?

What is it you’re doing that makes the rest of the category sit up and listen?

What are you doing that makes the rest of the category feel like they have to ‘keep an eye on you’?

Impressed by your foresight and your endeavour.

My Brands.

For the avoidance of doubt.

Here are examples of categories.

My categories.

Always Wear Red is in an existing category called Premium Hand Knitted Jumpers.

ANGELFYSH is in an existing category called Brand Communications.

50odd is in an existing category called Personal Blogging.

(I state ‘existing’ because categories can be created. 

But you need an entirely different approach to, well, virtually everything if you create a category.

That’s another story).

Pioneering.

There is a reason that I am asking you about how you are taking your category forward.

It is because someone or maybe a few people will be being pioneering in your category.

Right now.

I say a few people because categories can be progressed in several ways at the same time.

More than just one person in a category can be hungry to change the category.

And I was just wondering whether one of those people was you?

And how you articulate, and work to deliver on, the change that you want to make?

Take It Forward. 

I am taking the Premium Hand Knit Jumper category forward by changing the relationship people have with the clothing they buy and wear.

I am taking the Brand Communications category forward by behaving like an un-agency. I am doing the opposite of what most agencies do. Flushing out bad and outdated practices where the client loses.

I am taking the Personal Blogging category forward by leading by example. Blogging to as high a standard as I can. Every single day. Telling my story. So others are encouraged to tell their story too.

Passion Plus. 

When you know how you are taking your category forward.

It feels like ‘passion-plus’.

It feels like a moral responsibility.

You look people in the eye when you articulate the change you’re trying to make.

And they are interested.

Because you are interesting.

You stand square-on as you talk to them.

You gesticulate.

Your eyes widen as you speak.

And you are consistent.

You are laser-like with your language.

You are bullet proof with your reasoning.

Because your planning is thorough.

And considered.

And professional.

And smart.

And complete.

Because you care.

Because the change you care about making matters to you.

And it matters to them.

Care.

So.

Your category.

Which category are you in, first of all?

And how are you taking it forward?

Over to you.

Forrest Gump said he started running,

…for no particular reason.

And that’s good enough for me.

Reasons.

A new ‘why’ does appear later in the film, actually.

When Tom Hank’s lovely character says,

You need to put the past behind you before you can move on.

That’s neater I suppose.

The idea that Forrest started to run because his mum had just died.

Or because Jenny had just left.

And as a consequence he was looking to put distance between then and now.

Nevertheless.

I prefer the first reason.

…for no particular reason.

Justification. 

Justification for decisions you make.

Sentences you feel you have to muster.

Sentences to quieten the frowners.

They are not necessary.

Honestly.

They aren’t.

For so many things in life.

There is no need for justification.

50odd.co.uk

You are reading this because I decided to write it.

I decided to write one story.

Every day.

For 10 years.

So I’m a bit like Forrest, I suppose.

Only he ran.

And I write.

A Thing.

And so here’s a final note about doing a thing.

Any thing.

And your reasons for doing a thing.

Basically, some people will understand the reasons why you’re doing a thing in a heartbeat.

And some people will never, ever understand the reasons why you’re doing a thing.

But the most important thing to remember about peoples understanding or misunderstanding of your reasons for doing a thing.

Is that neither opinion matters, really.

Because such reasons are personal.

Because you’re doing it for you.

People don’t look.

They don’t look freely, I mean.

And they don’t talk.

They don’t talk freely I mean.

And it’s a bloody shame.

Looking & Talking. 

People don’t look freely because they’re not interested enough.

Or imaginative and hungry enough.

Or wide-eyed and adventurous enough.

And people don’t talk freely enough because they are worried what people will say about what they say.

They are worried about being judged.

Or laughed at.

Or being ridiculed.

And that’s so restricting!

You. 

By the way.

Unfortunately.

I am probably talking about you.

Because you probably don’t look freely.

And you probably don’t talk freely.

And you should.

Just like Freddy Anzures.

He looks freely.

And talks freely.

Toilet.

Freddy looked freely when he went to the toilet on an aeroplane.

And he talked freely about what he saw there when he got back to work.

At Apple HQ.

And because he looked freely and talked freely.

What Freddy saw in that toilet is now in the pockets of about 1.4 billion people.

iPhone.

A work problem that Freddy had to solve was how to lock the iPhone.

In such a way that the phone wouldn’t trigger accidentally.

He saw the answer in the toilet.

Click here so you can see it too: https://www.50odd.co.uk/looking-talking/

It is as much a surprise to me.

As it may be to you.

When I hear back a podcast I’ve done.

Because I can rarely remember what I’ve said.

Zest.

Anyhow.

If you want to listen to me chat on for 27 minutes.

In October 2019.

To a bright young thing called Ashleigh King.

On a podcast called ‘Nurture Your Zest’.

Please pop here:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/nurtureyourzest/michaelowen?utm_medium=widget&utm_source=user%3A11583462&utm_term=episode_title.

And if you want to hear anyone else in the series.

Please pop here:

https://widget.spreaker.com/player?show_id=4077194&theme=light&cover_image_url=https%3A%2F%2Fd3wo5wojvuv7l.cloudfront.net%2Fimages.spreaker.com%2Foriginal%2Fbd00a10c6135477c0ffb2845dbc6f555.jpg&playlist=true

Here’s what you can expect from me:

Join your host Ashleigh King as she chats with Michael Owen, multi-talented creative, business owner of ANGELFYSH, Always Wear Red, and and writer of the 50odd daily blog.

You’ll discover:

  • How he finds the inspiration to blog every day.
  • How he pushes past fear.
  • Nurturing creativity and the meaning of true creativity.
  • Imposter syndrome and why you really ARE good enough.
  • His simple sum for proving why you DO matter.
    Celebrating and embracing your differences.

Thank you.

Back in the 1990’s.

Working for Universities and Enterprise Agencies.

I told stories about brand.

Even before I knew what brand was.

Behaviours. 

I told stories about how a clearly positioned brand would influence the behaviour of customers.

And a study I came across that communicated this really well.

Was about littering.

Littering.

Basically.

In the early 1990’s.

The two places in the UK that people were least likely to drop litter.

Were churches.

And Marks & Spencer.

Things Change. 

And this is particularly interesting to me.

Because of how things change.

And because 30 years later.

In stark contrast to consumer perception and behaviours in 1990.

The 2019 M&S in Kings Cross is like actually being stood in a great big fucking litter bin.

Observations and Advice.

Some observations and advice for the great big litter bin called M&S in London’s Kings Cross Station.

  1. If, when you are unloading big trollies, you spill sticky stuff on the floor, clean it up instead of continuing to unload more bottles of sticky stuff. That way, customers don’t walk the sticky stuff around the store.
  2. If you have a really small M&S store, don’t have more than one pallet of stuff unloading at the same time. That way, we stand a better chance of getting a ‘Premium Shopping Experience’ as opposed to a ‘Being Stood in a Fucking Warehouse’ experience.
  3. Train ‘back-of-house’ people so they realise that when they wander ‘front-of-house’ (unloading pallets or whatever) they are no longer ‘back-of-house’. Train them so that they appreciate the fact that they are contributing to brand perception.  For instance, when a customer (me) asks them, “Excuse me, are all these drinks included in the meal deal?” – they answer more elaborately than, “No”. Before turning away to carry on unloading pallets.
  4. There is a difference between, ‘Reduced items’ and, ‘Items that are in such a shit state that they should be thrown away or redistributed in some sensible humanitarian way (but not sold for actual money)’.

The Crescendo.

Anyhow, here’s the crescendo of all of the above.

I am standing at the self-serve terminals with my ‘meal deal’ and some reduced melon slices.

I scan the items to reveal that the meal deal is not a £5 meal deal at all.

But £8.04 for a sandwich, a bar of somethingorother and a bottle of fizzy somethingorother.

I’ve done something wrong.

But as I believe in good design.

I should not have been able to do something wrong.

However, I decide to let this go.

Until I scan the melon slices.

Turning them on their side.

To introduce the barcode to the scanning thingy.

And at the same time splattering melon juice all over the checkout terminal.

Because the package had burst.

Brand & Behaviour.

I ended my visit by gently laying all of my unpaid for items down in the sticky mess I’d made.

Picking up my bags.

And leaving.

I was not proud of this.

But what I said earlier is true.

The bit about how a clearly positioned brand influences the behaviour of customers.

M&S, these days, is not a clearly positioned brand.

And this is manifesting on the front line.

And it’s affecting my behaviour.

Because M&S has shifted from the second least likely place to litter in the UK.

To the biggest litter bin in King’s Cross Station.

In a little under 30 years.

‘Quite an achievement.