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Sunday, 27 November 2011

What kind of customers do you have? New audio series, Virgin's banking plans, Spain and Northwestern - and an old video

If you want to persuade people, you'd better understand them.

So here's a tip: read the correspondence.

Many years ago I wrote copy for a pain reliever called Cephos. The fact that people used put it in warm water to sooth their aching feet told you a lot about what they were like. We used strip cartoons in the advertising.

When I was working on American Express I was impressed by the fact that the top people - in the U.K., anyhow - used to listen in on customer calls.


Currently there is heated discussion on the Citywire site about a speech made by Nigel Farage, the UKIP man, about the European situation.

A man with the pseudonym "Dislexic Landlord" proves he's not kidding when he writes "the sooner we leave this curcus the better". But he is not alone. At least half the people writing in are ignorant and semi-literate. The other half are pretty well-informed and write well.

Schizophenia rules, I guess


I promised a week or so ago to start a series of audio seminars on creative and marketing.

It's amazing how long it took me to get round to doing it, as so many people like to listen to stuff in the car. Anyhow, having decided to give it a go I thought I might do it properly for a change and ordered a decent microphone.

This arrived on Thursday - but I was immediately thrown into a panic because my partner Al was rushed into hospital with a punctured appendix. He's O.K. now, thank God.

However, abnormal service will start this week.

I was not sure if I should have two separate series or just one. The reason is that I don't really think you can be much good at the communications if you don't understand the business. On balance I think one makes sense.

I will try and base it on my two books - Commonsense and How to Write. I suspect more people buy than read them.


I read somewhere that Richard Branson promises to shake up the banking industry the way he shook up the railways.

This is more of a threat than a promise.

For years Virgin Trains were a complete bugger's muddle. I remember having to spend a night in some dire hotel in the middle of nowhere because my Virgin train from Manchester to London broke down - and their fare structure is as impenetrable and outrageous as everyone else's.

What's more, as a friend pointed out the other day, the Virgin financial services, after a fine start, are now not much better than anyone else's - nor are their marketing messages. I believe that internally they have the same initiative-crushing deadheads running things as their competitors.

On the matter of the great Spanish copy day, we are looking at the end of March in either Alicante or Malaga. And someone in the U.S. suggested a second day for the determined.

Re: Northwestern University, that looks like taking place in January. I'll keep you posted about these two events.


Last, for a bit of light relief I just found this interview I did 30-odd years ago with Leo Toralballa, then a top banana at American Express in New York - and a very funny man.

I asked him for the secrets of success, and his reply was utterly unplanned and unexpected.

If you can't see the video above, try clicking here.

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