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Sunday, 21 September 2008

Underpants and Aussie politics - a fond reminiscence

Your're not going to believe this, but life really is stranger than fiction.

My second wife, Anna, was actually born Aroha Te Paora, and was a descendant of chief Honi Heke, the last man to start a shooting war with the Brits in New Zealand.

I can't recall if I have mentioned her before, but she was startlingly beautiful, and, she left New Zealand and went to Australia to seek her fortune. There, after a series of improbable adventures, she became involved with Lionel Murphy, a lawyer and politician.

Lionel, with whom I once had a drunken lunch in the Bistro in Sydney, became Attorney General in the Whitlam government. He and Whitlam, in the great Labour tradition, hated each other and eventually Lionel got thrown out of his job becoming, if memory serves me right, Chief Justice on New South Wales.

New South Wales has a great tradition of corrupt politics, and Lionel was accused of doing something dodgy and about to be hauled up for it when he died. Having seen him on the sauce, I'm surprised he lasted that long.

All this sprang to mind when I read about Matt Brown the minister of police in the current New South Wales Labour government who has had to resign because, as the party leader said, there had been "too many reports of you in your underpants for me to ignore". It seems the sprightly fellow had mounted the chest of fellow MP Noreen Hay and simulated the sexual act.

After wondering fleetingly if Noreen has big tits, I thought how much more fun politics are over there. I haven't been since February. Must hurry back before I miss anything else.

Over here all we get is a lot of chat about which mug will inherit the Brown "legacy" aka a mountain of debt from the king of financial prudence.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

"If their brains were gunpowder they couldn't blow their noses"

As a lover of the well-turned phrase, I've always liked that one, but I'm just re-reading P. G. Wodehouse and being reminded just how funny he is.

He summed up one character's I. Q. thus: "Had his brain been constructed of silk, he would have been hard put to it to supply sufficient material to supply a canary with a pair of cami-knickers."

That being the case, the chap in question - one Archibald Mulliner - would probably been ideally suited as a senior marketing man in one of our dwindling number of banks.

This occurred to me when I saw, a few minutes ago, a commercial touting the mortgages offered by one of these lumbering behemoths - Natwest, to be exact. Is it possible that any of those responsible have their heads so firmly jammed up their arses that they don't know that people in this country are not exactly gagging for mortgages, or indeed anything else the banks have to offer.

Of course their advertising agency will a) be happy to make the money, and b) too idle or stupid to give them good advice; but don't they know that when you have demonstrated to all and sundry in the most spectacular fashion possible that you couldn't run a brothel on a troop train the wise course is to keep quiet until everyone's forgotten. God, what idiots.

Incidentally, a few years ago when I was handling American Express the head of their bank commented to me that he had never met so many stupid people as he found at the top of the U.K. banks.

And now that we're on the subject, I remember asking Robert Heller over lunch one day why he thought the banks were so useless at marketing. He said they should have stuck to what they were supposed to do - managing money. But of course the sad bastards can't even do that properly.

Mind you, they're all still up to their dirty tricks. Barclay's just ripped off one of my flastmates £44 for being £8 over her limit. They really have mastered the art of negative PR, haven't they? The way they behave their reputations must be at about the same level as paedophiles'. But more stupid.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Comedian of the week ... He-e-e-e-r-e's Patrick!

Email marketers, doncha love 'em?

Step forward, Patrick McGlone of cvent.com who sent me the following quite astonishing message, headed (unbelievably):

Lunch Seminar - Best Practices for Event Management, Web Surveys and Email Marketing

This strikingly imaginative heading was followed by Complimentary lunch seminar and then a rather curt greeting:

Charles, (Er, who?)

I hope all is well at Drayton Bird Associates Ltd. Cvent has enjoyed having you as our customer and we look forward to continuing to work together in the future. We are very excited for the upcoming year, as we will be releasing several new products and services.

As a valued customer, we'd like to invite you to a complimentary Cvent luncheon and product seminar in Greater London. While this is primarily a sales presentation, hundreds of our existing customers have attended and told us that these product seminars have helped them to discover new product features and enhance their use of the Cvent system.

So this is best practice?

Apart from the way they are so excited about what's happening to them - a sort of corporate masturbation, because who gives a shit ...

... I have never heard of Cvent. If I have ever done business with them, I can't recall it. And they certainly don't know me, because my name is Drayton. In fact just to help out cretins we call our firm Drayton Bird Associates.

This all prompted me to wonder what worst practice might be. Could it be starting messages with something more creative, like "Hello, Fuckwit"?

Anyhow, this majestically useless piece of incompetent drivel (which they sent me not once but three times) ends with the following dangerous suggestion: Also, please do not forget about Cvent’s Referral Program! If you refer a colleague or associate to us and they become a Cvent client within 6 months, we will extend to you a £125 reward of your choice.

No doubt this inspired approach to the concept of best practice gets plenty of mugs to come along, but to me it looks like spam, and I am trying to think of three marketers I really hate ...

For instance there is a man called Paul Liesching who ripped us off big time a couple of years ago with a thing called Teddiphone ... but he's too smart to fall for this, I'm afraid. He was certainly too smart to pay us what he agreed.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Advice from two millionaires

I greatly fear my old boss thinks I’m an idiot – so I’m going to change, starting now

A while ago I went to have dinner in New York with him. He was CEO of the Ogilvy Group when I adorned the worldwide board as all-round buffoon and trouble-maker.

He asked me:

“Do you make any money out of your blog?”

I replied, “No, I just do it for fun.”

He gave me that special look he reserves for idiots. I gathered that (not for the first time) he thought I was making a mistake.

Since his apartment alone is worth about twenty times more than me, he's probably right.

So I thought I would tell you about the www.eadim.com course we ran in Brussels two weeks ago. (If you're not in marketing, stop reading here)

We never promoted this event much outside Europe – not even in the U. K. – though I did ask people who read this blog about it.

Anyhow, to my astonishment, two people flew in from Australia, and one from South Africa to attend, so I guess that was a mistake on my part (again) – not promoting it in more countries, I mean.

It was such an exhausting experience (and we have a fair amount of work to do for clients anyhow) that it's taken us this long to recover and look through the comments

One delegate (who actually runs the direct marketing association in Latvia) said:

“Extremely valuable week. Probably the second most valuable after I learned to read and count”.

The same man commented that if the week had ended on Tuesday (after two days) it would have been worth it.

“Thank you a lot once more for such a nice week. I could not sleep yesterday because of all these ideas were rushing in my mind” – a senior Credit Card Manager from Austria

“It was the most valuable week of my life. I learned a lot and I’m very pleased that I had the opportunity to be in Brussels together with so talented speakers.” – a PR executive with Volkswagen in Romania

“I liked the top quality and experience of the speakers from so many different places and backgrounds and how amazingly consistent they were. No contradictions or ambiguities.” - a senior car insurance marketer from Portugal.

"I was humbled by the level of expertise and entrepreneurship on the course ... and that was just among the students! EADIM is for people who are serious about wanting to get ahead." – an English copywriter

“It was a great opportunity to network with the best in the industry.” - an Australian entrepreneur

There were pages of comments like that. It reassured me that there is a market for people who realise there is more to direct marketing than pumping out a stream of "who else wants to be a squillionaire in three months" e-mails, getting your friends to do the same and sharing the spoils.

I suspect that what people liked was the fact that they saw speakers who are just not on the circuit.

One of the best liked (and the average rating was just over 90%) was Rowan Gormley who has started three businesses with Richard Branson. His description of his first conversation with that gentleman and how they worked together was just hilarious.

For me the most interesting contribution came from someone who was not actually there. The week before on the spur of the moment I went and did a 58 minute video interview with Peter Hargreaves, chief executive of an investment firm worth about £780 million.

He and his partner started it in his spare bedroom with a borrowed typewriter. The day I interviewed him his results were 42% up - as the rest of the world of finance was collapsing.

What a fascinating and very funny man. He's written a book which I've read in draft, but which is not yet out. What he had to say about big companies, banks, meetings and how to handle people was worth the week on its own.

And guess what? He still writes a lot of his own copy - which is one reason why I've never been able to get enough work out of his firm.

If you want to know when we plan the next event, tell me and I'll keep you informed. Who knows - you could even get a good deal.

Numbers are limited to 40 maximum because people liked getting to know the speakers personally. We hosted a dinner for a different group of delegates each night so they could do so.

The downside, of course, was having to listen to my dire jokes.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Eurostar blazes! But not with any competence, believe me

Well, I bet you thought you'd got rid of me - no blog for quite a while ... and just as you thought it was safe to come out, here I am again.

For the last week I've been in Brussels doing our first EADIM seminar. It's been the best of times and the worst, because the speakers have been magnificent - and the delegates far more knowledgeable and sophisticated than we ever expected. What's more, two came from Australia and one from South Africa, which is pretty encouraging.

But today we finish ... then we have to get back to London ... via Eurostar ... if it's running. It is the worst of times. We have nowhere to stay. Plane flights are a major rip-off. It costs £900 to rent a car and drive back to London. Thanks Hertz.

I have no idea what will happen, because the monkey at Eurostar in charge of telling people what's happening is 100% bloody useless. Their website tells you the square root of f**k all. Their phone service is studiously vague.

Welcome to the information age, where everyone has the technology - but nobody has a clue.

Maybe they should hire an astrologer to predict the time when trains might run again.

No wonder the damn trains are practically empty. Wankers.