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Thursday, 19 July 2012

This is the end, beautiful friend, the end ...

Actually it's not so much an end as a new beginning.

You know, "The blog is dead.  Long live the blog" ...

Or something like that at any rate.

What you need to know is that the blog hasn't gone - it's moved.  To here:

Please click on the picture, or the link and bookmark the page.

Some of you have been clever (or is that foolish) enough to subscribe to my musings.

So - by invitation - my latest ramblings invade your inbox once a day.

You don't have to re-subscribe.  One of my pointy-headed colleagues has done battle with the technical and won - you're already subscribed.

And with that I shall bid you farewell from here.  And look forward to greeting you over there.



How are many firms dealing with the recession? Nothing seems a popular option. Why not take Sir Francis Bacon's advice?

What are firms doing about the recession? I suspect many are hiding under the bedclothes and hoping it'll go away. Or maybe they're like this deer.

I get this impression from one fact and one observation.

The fact is this.

Firms are sitting on big piles of cash and doing nothing with it. As Sir Francis Bacon remarked in an essay, "Money is like muck. Not good except it be spread."

It is a cliché that the best time to act is when all your competitors aren't.

That is the case in a recession. Your money will get you better deals. You will have a greater share of voice.

And so on. Boring, boring, boring - except that this simple lesson seems lost on those who should have it off by heart.

The observation I refer to confirms what the effects of the fact are.

The other day I went to a big do at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I shall write about when my hangover recedes and I am less mystified.

I spent a little time talking to a colleague who, like me, built a big direct marketing agency in the days back when and sold it for (I hope for his sake) loadsamoney.

I asked him how things were. "Tricky. Clients say they're going to do things but keep delaying and very often end up doing nothing," he replied lugubriously. 

Those piles of cash are losing value every day.

Put them to work.

REMINDER: I'd hate to lose you, but this blog is migrating (has migrated, actually) to Wordpress.

We are trying to move everyone with us automatically, but my experience is that in Cyberspace everything that can possibly go wrong will.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Mysteries of the universe: who on earth approves this sort of thing, and why?

The question I asked when I saw this was not "why not?". It was "why on earth?"

I saw it on the platform at Henley Station, just after I had finished interviewing Tony Laithwaite of Laithwaite's and goodness knows how many other wine businesses.

Tony is very modest considering how successful he is. It was only almost as an aside that he admitted he has created what is probably the world's largest wine merchants' business.

The question is, what is that glass of wine doing on the poster? Did they put it there as a subtle tribute to Tony, whose office is not far away?

Since they sell insurance was it perhaps a roundabout reference to the number of glasses of wine you should drink every day if you want to stay alive?

Was the red slash a cunning echo of their logo, in the fond delusion that would boost their sales? Couldn't they have found a more boring headline?

Is there even the slightest scintilla of a fraction of a ghost of a chance that it will do any good?

Tony told me that he gives his new people copies of my Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing. Like Peter Hargreaves, another successful businessman I have interviewed he has never spent a penny on image advertising.

What do they give new people at AXA and their agency to read? Alice in Wonderland?

Just as a reminder and because I don't want to lose you, I'm moving this blog to Draytonbird.com soon.

If you go there and think it's a bit of a mess: I agree. It has a huge amount of advice and other stuff yet to be plonked onto it.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

On Chinese charm, Ling the Unstoppable - and to hell with the internet experts

Is it politically incorrect to say this? I fear so.

I prefer women to men, always have.

They look nicer, are more entertaining and far more practical. They need to be, to cope with men.

It is probably even more politically incorrect to say I like Chinese women - but I do.

Before that gets me into further trouble I should explain this is nothing to do with sex. It is to do with personality.

Over the years I have worked with a few Chinese ladies. The first was Moy - back in 1958 in my first job in advertising. She was funny and charming in a way I can't quite describe, but she had a directness I loved.

The same applied to Alice, who worked for me about 15 years ago. I lost her because someone who also worked with me was a pain and lost me one or two good people including her - but Alice went on to do well. She too had this charm and directness.

But none could compare, as you will see, with Ling.

Yesterday somebody sent me to her site - http://www.lingscars.com/talks.php.

I was utterly transfixed. Especially when I saw a speech made by the master - is it OK to say mistress? - of that particular universe.

The site is the sort of thing that most marketers would find appalling.

It was voted one of the world's worst websites. But I bet that people spend ten times more time on it than they do on any site produced by people who think they are experts in building websites.

But none could compare, as you will see, if you go and watch Ling. This is 100% what you need when leasing cars. It is a living, moving example of a great car dealer's ad - but with the magic of Ling added.

The car marques build the brands: Ling shifts the metal. Great stuff.

Ling did very well on Dragon's Den, which I never watch as I see so many silly people on it. This is my favourite episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmlx-e_u0i8.

Serve and volley - a profitable Wimbledon afterthought - and a reminder that this blog is moving

A while ago I confessed that for my first six years in this business almost all the copy I wrote was rubbish, but I sold it very well.
The best person I know when it comes to face-to-face selling is Andy Bounds. 
He has written a book you will often find on airport bookstalls called The Jelly Effect. Don't be put off because he mentions me at the start. It is a good book, and he tells me he is writing another.
Here's some advice he sent me this morning. It is good.
A powerful technique to help people think differently is to use what I call “serve and volley” – two questions that work as follows:
  1. The serve – a simple question that everyone knows the answer to; and
  2. The volley – a second, related question that provokes people into realising they need to change their mindset
For instance, I recently addressed a conference audience I knew hated networking.  So, I used “serve and volley” with them, asking these two questions:
  1. Do you feel uncomfortable when you are networking?  (90% of the room put their hand up)
  2. Do you think your discomfort is worse than other people’s?  (Again, 90% put their hand up)
I then made the point:  “Well, you can’t all be right.  After all, you can’t all find it worse than everybody else.”  Once people realised their feelings were similar to others, it was easier to improve their confidence, safe in the knowledge that they weren’t the “only one”.
Another example:
  1. Is your product good or bad?  (Everyone says “Good”)
  2. Given how good your product is, do you win as many sales as you should?  (The only answer people give to this is “No”)
Conclusion:  It’s not what you sell that’s the problem; it’s how you sell it.  So, let’s look at how you can win the sales you should be winning.
And another:
  1. Do you hate reading presenters’ wordy slides?  (Everyone says “Yes”)
  2. Do you use wordy slides when you’re presenting?  (If you do, you are doing to others what you hate people doing to you)
Conclusion: you really ought to take some words off your slides!
See how it works?  If so…
  1. Might “Serve and volley” help you change people’s perceptions?
  2. Do you think it’s easy to master, or not? 
Action point
If your answers to these two questions were “Yes”, then “Not”…
… Think of someone’s mindset you want to shift. Then work hard to identify two related questions you can ask to get them to see things differently.
As I mentioned the other day, this blog is moving over to Draytonbird.com - which at the moment looks like a building site.