A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times














FOR HALLOWEENSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



The small print reads..... Tommy was a cat belonging to my Aunt.
When they first got him there was considerable debate as to what he should be called.
In the end he was named.... Tom Tommy Thomas Kitty Puss.

Sadly he passed away earlier this month.



TOMMYSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


 

I was walking through the town centre the other day, when I took a quick step to the left to avoid a pile of doggie doo dahs. It caused the bloke walking behind me (who was walking just a little bit faster) to check his stride to avoid bumping into me.

As he came alongside me, he started to speak (or rather shout!)...

"Where'd you learn to walk you F****** W*****." At the same time he made a circle with his thumb and index finger and flicked his wrist up and down vigorously in my face. His expression was one of sheer hatred.

Does that shock or surprise you?
My guess is that it probably does.

Okay, let me switch the scenario a little. I was driving to work today when I swerved slightly to avoid something in the road, causing the car behind to brake. As I looked into the rear view mirror I could see the driver mouthing "You F****** W*****... where'd you learn to drive." I could see he'd made a circle with his thumb and index finger and was gesturing vigorously.

Does that shock or surprise you? My
guess is that it probably doesn't!

Now it probably won't surprise you either to learn that I made the first scenario up, but the second one (or one very like it) has happened to me and most other drivers around the world numerous times.

So what? I hear you say. Well I'll tell you in a minute, but first I want to tell you about something which really did happen to me on the way to work a few weeks ago.

I was sitting in a traffic jam. And a lorry was attempting to join the queue from the left, but it was early morning, everyone was in a rush and nobody would let him in.

Now one solution I've seen employed by lorry and bus drivers is to simply use their bulk to barge their way into the queue. But this lorry driver had a far more subtle approach... one that at first I thought was accidental and incidental to what subsequently happened, but one which I've since found to be deliberate and 100% effective.

So what did this lorry driver do to
'force' the next driver in the queue
to let him in?

He simply wound his window down! When I saw him do it, I thought it a little strange because it was below freezing outside. But sure enough, as the window came down, the very next car in the queue stopped to let him in. And here's something even more interesting...

I've tried the same thing (even in cars that
usually guarantee you won't be let in anywhere) and it
works every single time.

So what's going on here, and what's all this got to do with the first story I told you? And perhaps even more importantly, what's it all got to do with the important business of making  money? I'm glad you asked!

People behave towards other drivers in a way they would never behave towards other pedestrians, because of the barriers created by their cars. The car isolates and separates them from the human beings sitting in other cars, and acts to negate the rules and mores which usually prevail when one human being comes into direct contact with another.

A pedestrian would never be so abusive to another pedestrian who made a simple mistake (unless they were insane and wanting a good hiding) but introduce the metal barrier created by cars, and when the same two pedestrians become drivers the outcome of a comparable scenario is very different.

The simple act of winding down a car window, and removing part of the barriers between two drivers, causes the second driver to behave more in the manner of a pedestrian/human being... and that means showing courtesy and giving way to the first driver.

Broadly speaking, the more barriers there are
between two people, the more negative and less
courteous are their actions and reactions
likely to be towards each other...

And of course, the opposite is true... the fewer the barriers, the more positive and courteous the interaction is likely to be.

So when you're attempting to sell your products and services to other human beings, this information has some quite profound implications... because the more physical barriers there are between you and your customers the more difficult the job of selling anything will be.

How I've got some experience of selling things in a variety of different ways, and the hierarchy is very clear... if you approach 1000 people with your product, you will sell to more of them face to face than you will over the phone... more on the phone than you will by mail... and more by mail than you will on the internet.

As the barriers increase, and in effect the isolation
of the individual, so does the negativity and resistance...

And mirroring the pedestrian/driving relationship, so does the abuse!

The person who will listen, and then tell you politely in a face to face situation that they're "not really interested thank you very much", will be the same person who says "I'm too busy to talk to you right now!" before slamming down the phone, and the same person who scrawls 'Bollocks!" across your mailing piece before returning it in the pre-paid envelope... and exactly the same person who emails you back to say "Go F*** yourself you as*****!"

So you should always try to
sell your wares face to face then?

If only it were that simple! You see, a face to face meeting could cost you tens of pounds depending on the location and length of the meeting. A phone call can cost at least £2-£5 when time and phone charges are taken into account. But a mailshot will typically cost you less than 50p. And an email promotion... Next to nothing!

So removing the barriers is effective in increasing the positive response to your message... but it's also effective in increasing the cost of each contact you make. The decision on which barriers to remove therefore, is a complex one...

The price and nature of your product, the size of your market, the location of your audience, and the extent to which those particular people respond to the absence or imposition of any barriers will all have a part to play in determining how you approach people.

Obviously I can't give you a definitive answer for your product and market... you know your own customers far better than I ever can do and you will have to find your own mix. But my objective with this posting is to help encourage you to think about the way you communicate with your customers and potential customers, and the effect of any of the barriers that are there...

Oh, and to give you a foolproof way of
getting let out of junctions which you can now use, 

free of charge for the rest of your days.


Let me know how it goes.......



BARRIERS IN BUSINESSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



I’ve just finished reading two books which I can heartily recommend. This is surprising for two reasons. The first is that I rarely manage to get to the end of one book, let alone two in a row. And the second is that they’re both written by columnists for The Guardian, a newspaper with which I struggle to find common ground in a number of areas.

Anyway, the first book is called ‘Bad Science’ and is written by Dr Ben Goldacre. Essentially it’s an expose of how science is misused and manipulated to sell products and ideas to the public. The second is ‘The Pig Who Wants To Be Eaten’, by Julian Baggini. This is a series of 100 thought experiments exploring moral and philosophical problems. It’s designed to make you think. And by heck, it does.

Businesses and lone entrepreneurs face moral and ethical dilemmas on an almost daily basis. But doing ‘the right thing’ isn’t always as obvious or clear cut as you might first think it is. With apologies to Mr Baggini for nicking his format, let me give you a fictitious example of what I’m talking about, inspired by some of the material in Ben Goldacres book. I know this has parallels in many fields.

“Rupert is a businessman. He runs a company which develops and markets alternative health therapies. One of his products is a battery operated, electrical device which fits on the wrist and is designed to lower blood pressure by emitting a mysterious force field which widens the blood vessels. Rupert has a very persuasive information package which explains the ‘science’ of how and why it works.

The device is a huge success, generating massive profits for Rupert’s company. Over 80% of people who use it report a significant fall in measured blood pressure.

Everyone seems happy until Dr Johnson comes on the scene. He’s a medical expert and debunker of charlatans, and he’s not impressed with the device at all. He claims that Rupert’s explanation for how it works has no scientific basis. He asks Rupert to show him the proper controlled scientific trial data for the product.

Rupert concedes that he has done no scientific trials on the device. All the evidence he needs for its effectiveness comes from his customers who are delighted with it and report medically measurable drops in blood pressure. Dr Johnson counters that this is almost certainly due to a placebo effect and the device is doing nothing at all.

Rupert is unmoved. His argument is that he doesn’t care how the device is having the desired effect. The important point is that it is. To succumb to scientific trials may possibly show that the device alone doesn’t work, and that as a result, his customers would be robbed of the medical benefits. And of course, he would be robbed of his profits.

So there’s the ethical dilemma. Is Rupert right to continue marketing a product that he probably knows in his heart of hearts, doesn’t work in the way he’s claiming? Or should he remove it from the market, subject it to strict scientific tests, and in all likelihood, destroy all the benefits which he and his customers are getting from it?”

I think for some people, at first glance, this is a pretty straightforward question. You should never lie, mislead or deceive people, no matter what. It’s a golden rule. But it just isn’t as simple as that is it? Anyone who’s ever been asked by their child whether their painting is good, or by their wife whether a dress makes them look fat, will testify to that! We all lie and deceive from time to time. The question is to what extent and to what ends, if at all, can it be morally justified. Indeed, can it be argued that to stop deceiving people would be morally wrong in certain circumstances?

But in this case, what Rupert is offering is beneficial. It may not be working in the way that people think, or Rupert describes, but it’s improving his customer’s health. One of the big misunderstandings about the placebo effect is the belief that it’s an exclusively psychological phenomenon. It just makes you feel better. But read Ben Goldacres book, and you’ll see that this is far from the extent of it. The effects can often be very real, tangible and scientifically measurable.

Rupert might argue that the physical product is only a small part of what he’s offering. The whole package also encompasses the expectation he creates around his product through his clever marketing, and that it is this whole package which should be looked at when judging the effectiveness of what he’s doing.

But then this marketing may be based on something that probably isn’t true... an untruth which once accepted has a beneficial effect on the customer.

Does any of this matter though – if the marketing and product combination has the desired effect? Should Rupert submit his product to scientific trials and almost certainly rob it of the psychological benefits which are enabling its users to walk around at less risk of a heart attack or stroke?

And then, if this deception is somehow acceptable, doesn’t it open up a whole new ‘can of worms’ because there may be other instances in which a deception is perpetuated which isn’t in the customers interest, purely because a principle has been broken for a product that is.

To add to the dilemma, Rupert’s main motivation in doing this is profit. Does that make a difference? To answer that, imagine how you might feel differently about this whole thing if Rupert was operating from a non-profit organisation, or even giving all his profits to charity. Would that change how you feel about the deception?

So when is it acceptable to deceive people in this way? You may answer:

Never?

When it’s to their benefit?

When it’s to their benefit and there’s no benefit for the deceiver?

When it’s to their benefit and also that of a third party, but the deceiver doesn't benefit?

If you answer “never”, then you clearly have a strong black and white moral code. But there are consequences to that, and they’re not all necessarily good ones. You have to consider that in this case you could be robbing someone of life saving benefits, and perhaps a charity of much needed funds. Isn’t that hard to justify, morally?

If you answer “when it’s to their benefit”, then you’re entering a whole world of complex ad hoc case-by-case judgements which will never be straight forward. You’re moving away from fundamental principles towards something quite fluid, woolly and subjective.

And if you give either of the other two answers, then perhaps you have cause to question whether you have an objection to deception at all, or whether you merely have an objection to someone making a profit from a deception. The sin is to make money from deceiving or misleading people, not from the deception itself. The upshot of this position is that it’s preferable to put someone’s life at risk than have someone else make a profit from helping them. Now that’s an interesting moral position, isn’t it?

And what if all those previously earned profits were ploughed into developing something with ‘real’ scientific benefits? How would that change your current stance?

I find all of this quite fascinating, and I hope you do too. I think a lot of us go through life thinking about issues in very black and white terms. Dilemmas like this demonstrate that issues are rarely so easy to pin down, once you start to really think about them.

It may seem strange to be talking about morality in a blog post from a business owner, because many people seem to assume that business is an immoral activity anyway. I don’t believe that at all. I think most of us (although by no means all) have an underlying desire and aim to do ‘the right thing’. The purpose of this posting is to alert you to the possibility that the ‘right thing’ may not always be as obvious and clear cut as it appears at first sight. Sometimes you have to dig well below the surface to decide for yourself what the right thing really is. And those taking the moral high ground are often on a very unstable perch.

I’d love to know what you think.



DECISIONS, DECISIONSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



With the current spate of birthday celebrations amongst the many people around me, I felt compelled to pay homage to certain individuals in celebration of their making it through another year on this planet. So with that on my mind, I put on my thinking cap and used the writers best friend, the question "What if?" And this is what I came up with. Happy birthday people... Hopefully you know who you all are.

"It's a good thing that Saint Valentine's Day has dropped out of vogue for this household," said Mrs. Winterton; "what with Christmas and New Year and Easter, not to speak of birthdays, there are quite enough remembrance days as it is. I tried to save myself trouble at birthdays by just sending flowers to all my friends, but it wouldn't work; Amy has eleven green-houses and about thirty gardeners, so it would have been ridiculous to send flowers to her, and Janet has just started a florist's shop, so it was equally out of the question there. The stress of having to decide in a hurry what to give to Alison and Janet just when I thought I'd got the whole question nicely off my mind completely ruined my Karma, and then the awful monotony of the letters of thanks: ‘Thank you so much for your lovely flowers. It was so good of you to think of me.' Of course in the majority of cases I hadn't thought about the recipients at all; their names were down in my list of ‘people who must not be left out.' If I trusted to remembering them there would be some awful sins of omission."

"The trouble is," said Andrew to his aunt, "all these days of intrusive remembrance harp so persistently on one aspect of human nature and entirely ignore the other; that is why they become so perfunctory and artificial. At birthdays you are emboldened and encouraged by convention to send gushing messages of optimistic goodwill and servile affection to people whom you would scarcely ask to lunch unless someone else had failed you at the last moment; if you are supping at a restaurant on New Year's Eve you are permitted and expected to join hands and sing ‘For Auld Lang Syne' with strangers whom you have never seen before and never want to see again. But no licence is ever allowed in the opposite direction."

"Opposite direction; what opposite direction?" queried Mrs. Winterton.

"There is no outlet for demonstrating your feelings towards people whom you simply loathe. That is really the crying need of our modern civilisation. Just think how jolly it would be if a recognised day were set apart for the paying off of old scores and grudges, a day when one could lay oneself out to be gracefully vindictive to a carefully treasured list of ‘people who must not be let off.' I remember when I was at a private school we had one day, the last Monday of the term I think it was, consecrated to the settlement of feuds and grudges; of course we did not appreciate it as much as it deserved, because, after all, any day of the term could be used for that purpose. Still, if one had chastised a smaller boy for being cheeky weeks before, one was always permitted on that day to recall the episode to his memory by chastising him again. That is what the French would call reconstructing the crime."

"I should call it reconstructing the punishment," said Mrs. Winterton; "and, anyhow, I don't see how you could introduce a system of primitive schoolboy vengeance into civilised adult life. We haven't outgrown our passions, but we are supposed to have learned how to keep them within strictly decorous limits."

"Of course the thing would have to be done furtively and politely," said Andrew; "the charm of it would be that it would never be perfunctory like the other thing. Now, for instance, you say to yourself: ‘I must show the Richardsons some attention at Christmas, they were kind to dear David at Bournemouth,' and you send them a calendar, and daily for six days after Christmas the male Richardson asks the female Richardson if she has remembered to thank you for the calendar you sent them. Well, transplant that idea to the other and more human side of your nature, and say to yourself: ‘Next Thursday is Nemesis Day; what on earth can I do to those odious people next door who made such an absurd fuss when Rover bit their youngest child?' Then you'd get up awfully early on the allotted day and climb over into their garden and dig for worms on their tennis court with a good gardening fork, choosing, of course, that part of the court that was screened from observation by the laurel bushes. You wouldn't find any worms but you would find a great peace, such as no amount of present-giving could ever bestow."

"I shouldn't," said Mrs. Winterton, though her air of protest sounded a bit forced; "I should feel rather a worm myself for doing such a thing."

“You exaggerate the power of upheaval which a worm would be able to bring into play in the limited time available," said Andrew; "if you put in a strenuous ten minutes with a really useful fork, the result ought to suggest the operations of an unusually masterful mole or a badger in a hurry."

"They might guess I had done it," said Mrs. Winterton.

"Of course they would," said Andrew; "that would be half the satisfaction of the thing, just as you like people at Christmas to know what presents or cards you've sent them. The thing would be much easier to manage, of course, when you were on outwardly friendly terms with the object of your dislike. That greedy little Helen Smith, for instance, who thinks of nothing but her food, it would be quite simple to ask her to a picnic in some wild woodland spot and lose her just before lunch was served; when you found her again every morsel of food could have been eaten up."

"It would require no ordinary human strategy to lose Helen Smith when luncheon was imminent: in fact, I don't believe it could be done."

"Then have all the other guests, people whom you dislike, and lose the luncheon. It could have been sent by accident in the wrong direction."

"It would be a ghastly picnic," said Mrs. Winterton.

"For them, but not for you," said Andrew; "you would have had an early and comforting lunch before you started, and you could improve the occasion by mentioning in detail the items of the missing banquet — the pork pies and the egg mayonnaise, and the curry that was to have been heated in a chafing-dish. Helen Smith would be delirious long before you got to the list of wines, and in the long interval of waiting, before they had quite abandoned hope of the lunch turning up, you could induce them to play silly games, such as that idiotic one of ‘the Lord Mayor's dinner-party,' in which everyone has to choose the name of a dish and do something futile when it is called out. In this case they would probably burst into tears when their dish is mentioned. It would be a heavenly picnic."

Mrs. Winterton was silent for a moment; she was probably making a mental list of the people she would like to invite to the charity picnic. Presently she asked: "And that odious young man, William Rice, who is always coddling himself — have you thought of anything that one could do to him?" Evidently she was beginning to see the possibilities of Nemesis Day.

"If there was anything like a general observance of the festival," said Andrew, "William would be in such demand that you would have to bespeak him weeks beforehand, and even then, if there were an east wind blowing or a cloud or two in the sky he might be too careful of his precious self to come out. It would be rather jolly if you could lure him into a hammock in the orchard, just near the spot where there is a wasps' nest every summer. A comfortable hammock on a warm afternoon would appeal to his indolent tastes, and then, when he was getting drowsy, a lighted smoke bomb thrown into the nest would bring the wasps out in an indignant mass, and they would soon find a ‘home away from home' on William's fat body. It takes some doing to get out of a hammock in a hurry."

"They might sting him to death," protested Mrs. Winterton.

"William is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death," said Andrew; "but if you didn't want to go as far as that, you could have some wet straw ready to hand, and set it alight under the hammock at the same time that the smoke bomb was thrown into the nest; the smoke would keep all but the most militant of the wasps just outside the stinging line, and as long as William remained within its protection he would escape serious damage, and could be eventually restored to his mother, kippered all over and swollen in places, but still perfectly recognisable."

"His mother would be my enemy for life," said Mrs. Winterton.

"That would be one greeting less to exchange at Christmas then," said Andrew.



NEMESIS DAYSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



To the best PR a man could ask for.

"TOO MANY CANDLES ... TOO LITTLE CAKE"

I disappeared round your birthday time
you'd have thought that was a nasty crime
But while you're thinking I was slacking
My talents here were far from lacking

A testament to last forever
I've made these film clips stick together
And as you think, it can get no worse
I wrapped them up in sloppy verse

Your BIRTHDAY now, has just been blessed
By your simple minded, loving pest



HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRINCESSSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



Regular readers of my blog that take any kind of notice, should by now be aware that I don’t do lunch...

Now I don’t mean that in a Gordon-Gekko-Lunch-Is-For-Wimps type of way. That’s just so 1980’s. No, what I mean is that I simply don’t go out for lunch anymore – at least not on working days that is.

This has got nothing to do with diet, and even less to do with saving time. It’s simply a matter of my own self preservation...

You see, the area around my office is a De-Culinarised Zone, a Gastronomic Dessert comparable only to the Sahara. It’s impossible to go out and eat anything which hasn’t either been microwaved in a bag, marinaded in lard overnight, or served up by a baggy arsed, dermatologically challenged youth in a purple baseball cap.

For instance, at our local pub (and I swear this to be true) the most expensive thing on the menu costs just £2... and that’s 50 pence more than the next most expensive item! And while I’m no expert on the economics of the catering industry, I strongly suspect this sort of pricing structure does impose a few restrictions on the quality of the majority of the ingredients.

Further up the road, is another pub which offers a free meal with every five pints of beer consumed. I’m maybe being overly suspicious here, but I can’t help thinking that the landlord has assessed the culinary discernment of the average person who’s already drunk 5 pints of strong ale, and prepares his meals accordingly. So for obvious reasons, I still haven’t tried that one.

All of this is my roundabout way of explaining why instead of spending every lunchtime dining on rich foods and fine wines... having my every whim attended to... I tend to spend my time here, at my desk - with a sandwich and a newspaper.

And the newspaper I read over my lunch isn’t one of the highbrow broadsheets, and it’s not one of the middle of the road tabloids either. No... when I’m eating my lunch you can bet your last cheese and pickle sarnie that the paper I’ll have in front of me will have a red top...

And it will probably be The Sun.

You see, I don’t care about all the Sun reader jokes, or the inferences made about the intelligence of its readers, because there are a couple of things I know about The Sun (apart from the fact that it takes the same time to read as it takes to eat a salad sandwich) which makes it ideal for lunchtime reading...

Firstly, it’s the most popular daily paper in the country. A large proportion of the population is being exposed to the messages it contains every day. Did you know for example, that it has more readers from the A/B occupational groups than The Times does?

No matter how you judge the cause and effect issue, it’s a barometer on what people are interested in most and what they’re talking about. It doesn’t really matter whether they’re interested because they’re reading about it, or the newspaper is writing about it because they’re interested. The end result is the same.

And secondly, it’s a daily demonstration of how ‘ordinary’ people are accustomed to (and comfortable with) receiving and reading information.

So why is this of any interest?

Well, if you’re marketing products and services like this blog to real people, it makes sense to get fully in tune with what they’re interested in, what messages they’re accustomed to receiving, and how they like them to be presented.

And you’re not going to learn any of that from the bloody Guardian!

I really can’t for the life of me, imagine any would-be entrepreneur of any type reading The Guardian. Everything from the presentation, to the left wing stance, to the sneering intellectually superior ethos of the thing is the total antithesis of self reliance and entrepreneurship. Just reading the depressing public sector job advertisements for Lesbian Outreach Workers and Refugee Settlement Officers is enough to snuff out any entrepreneurial spark in anyone.

No... I’m afraid if you want to go where the real money is... if you want to learn how to market products and services to real people (Guardian readers don’t buy anything which isn’t knitted or crawling in ‘good’ bacteria anyway) then you need to get your hands dirty with popular culture. You need to find out what the masses are doing, are exposed to and are thinking about, and there’s no finer place to do that than in The Sun.

So what exactly can you learn from the most popular paper in the country?

Well obviously, this is going to change over time... the trends and fashions of the moment... but there are some vitally important marketing lessons I gleaned from the general content and presentation of the paper, which don’t ever change...

The first lesson concerns the way the paper is presented. Everything is geared towards its ease of handling and easy reading. It’s a handy size... no old fashioned oversized clumsy pages which don’t fold easily, and there are no long, difficult-to-read tracts of text.

The front page usually carries a massive headline and attention grabbing photograph. There are probably a few paragraphs of copy - written in simple, easy to understand language, perhaps with a few teasers about what’s to be found inside. It all serves to ease readers into the paper... to persuade people browsing at newsstands that they have to buy it and discover the exciting stories within. There really is no point in making them think it might be heavy going or boring.

And when you get inside the paper, it’s exactly more of the same. The text becomes a little denser, but there are still plenty of headlines, sub headings, paragraph breaks, and photographs to break it up into easily managed chunks.

The whole presentation encourages its reading...

And that’s precisely the sort of effect you need to achieve if you’re to make your communications as effective as possible. If your potential readers can’t be bothered to read what you have to say because it looks too daunting - they can never act on it. If they switch off from what you’re saying because you’re long winded and boring, you’ve lost your sale. (Mmmm, maybe that’s why I still don’t have the readership I would like).
The second lesson concerns content...
The Sun contains articles, information and reports on the sort of stuff which Joe and Joanne Public want to read about most. This does change over time, but there are certain themes which come up again and again. Several of them are encapsulated in what is probably the most famous Sun headline of them all...

Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster!

Aside from being a great newspaper headline, this 5 word gem also contains all the elements of a great advertising headline. So what are the perennial areas of human interest contained within that headline?

The most obvious is ‘celebrity’. People are fascinated by celebrities... what they do, where they go, how they spend their money, what they like, who they’re seeing, what they do in private. Everything!

Now... if you can work ‘celebrity’ into your writing, then you’re going to have a head start. That could be...

- a celebrity endorsement.
- a story about a celebrity using your product/service.
- a story about a celebrity which you can link to your product/service in some way.

...or maybe even something else (I can’t do all the work for you!). The important point is that people are very celebrity-conscious, and you can use this to very great effect in all of your works.

The second word in the headline is ‘ate’. This is a powerful word because it describes an activity which every single reader is familiar with. What’s more, it’s an activity which has a whole raft of emotions tied up within it. Just the mere thought of eating different things can evoke a reaction so strong that it becomes physical. So make that thing a hamster, and you can be sure you’ll have some attention... and a significant reaction too!

Can you imagine anyone reading that headline and not being compelled to find out more?

Did he really eat a hamster? What were the circumstances? Why did he do it? Was it alive or dead? Was it raw or cooked? What happened afterwards?

If you’re sitting there thinking that you wouldn’t be the least bit interested in such trivialities, and can’t understand why anyone would be, then I’d like to commend you on your good sense and intellectual superiority... and then advise you to never go into any business which involves pushing products and services to real people, because you’ll starve!

You might not like what turns people on... but if you’re to market anything to its full potential it’s vitally important that you understand it.

There’s one more word in that Freddie Starr headline which I haven’t mentioned yet. It’s such a small word that you might think it’s unimportant. The truth is that it’s of central importance... and is in fact the key to the success of thousands of print and TV advertisements...

And that word is ‘my’...

Freddie Starr didn’t eat ‘a’ hamster - he ate ‘my’ hamster! The use of the word ‘my’ indicates that this hamster belonged to someone, and the story you’re about to hear... if you read on... is a real person’s story.

Can you see how much more interesting ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’ is, than ‘Freddie Starr ate a hamster’?

The difference is ‘human interest’...

People are simply fascinated by other people almost as much as they are by celebrities... who believe it or not, are also people, but you know what I mean! Study stories in tabloid newspapers like The Sun, and almost every one focuses on the people behind the stories being covered. In political coverage, the personalities often take precedence over the policies. If there’s a weather story, it’s demonstrated through pictures of attractive people scantily clad or well wrapped up, as the conditions dictate. If there’s a new product being launched, it’s presented from the viewpoint of ‘ordinary people’... preferably with photographs again.

People are just more interesting than events, policies or products.

If you really want to interest and involve people in your work, then you need to stop talking about your product or service so much, and start talking about the people using it.

Potential ‘customers’ are far more interested in hearing of how real people are using your product, than reading about what it does. They’d rather see a picture of someone using your ‘thingamajig’ than the ‘thingamajig’ on its own. They’d rather hear your simple honest story of how you discovered or developed your wotsit... the hours you worked, the sacrifices you made, the failures you had along the way... than read some slick brochure about how great it is.

They want to know about the human aspects of what you do. You see, people are interesting. Products aren’t!

The bottom line is this...

1. If you’re going to make a great deal of money (and in the absence of some hitherto undiscovered talent) you’re probably going to have to market either a product or service to ordinary people.

2. There’s no place for snobbery of priggishness in any kind of marketing. You need to communicate with people using the things that interest them, and in a way which they will accept. You have to make it easy for them.

3. Most of us are much more ‘base’ in our desires, interests and motivations than we would have other people believe. Your potential customers... yes yours... aren’t quite as sophisticated as you may think.

4. There’s a great deal to learn by examining how the popular media communicate with their audience... what they say and how they say it. The people being exposed to that media on a daily basis are the same people you’re trying to reach out to.

Your potential ‘customers’ may not read The Sun, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be responsive to the sort of populist content and presentational themes which that paper, and others like it, typify.

So, if your slick and sophisticated approach isn’t getting the results you want, now could be a good time to experiment with getting your hands dirty.


P.S.   Just want to make clear that when I refer to ‘ordinary’ people, I include myself and just about everyone else I know, in that description. It’s not meant as an insult. Fact is, you don’t have to scratch far below the surface on any apparent sophisticate before you find the greed-driven, sex crazed, social climbing, star-struck self-centred animal lurking underneath.

Or maybe that’s just me!


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