Friday, 2 November 2007

more rude book title action

This one is from John Parkin, formerly a copywriter at HHCL, now a spiritual retreat host in Tuscany - and an all round top bloke. I dont usually like new age self help type books but I really liked this one. It's not because of the swear word. But because it translates a very Eastern and traditional concept (letting go) into something living, modern and true-feeling :J

Thursday, 18 October 2007

titles and words

I passed this graphic in a shop window in the back streets of Shoreditch the other day. I've since discovered it is the title of a straight talking introduction to the world of being a professional designer. The thing that upset me at the time was not the rude word, so much as the wording. I'd have much prefered


(so that it sounded like a classical syllogism; eg like the famous ALL CRETANS ARE LIARS)

call me old fashioned


ps it looks like quite a good book though

Monday, 8 October 2007

Brand is for Beginner

Hello blog reader, I have sinned; it's been 3 weeks since my last post. Sorry it's been so quiet. mostly because my life hasnt been. All the action by the way is over at greenormal, in the run up to my new book launching:

There's a thought I have been musing which doesnt really fit the green blog though. It's the notion of 'brand' being for beginners; being a concept we need to use to gain easy acceptance in general audiences, but something which nearly always gets in the way of the real work of thinking through a strategy to connect your organisation well with people.

I was chatting to someone who markets a (new generation, relatively unknown) university. On the one hand 'we need to build our brand' is a consensus that gets him a budget. On the other hand this leads by a piece of linear thinking to the idea they need to spend this money on a logo, some ads talking about something generic to higher education ("a brighter future awaits at..."). Meanwhile everyone they want to speak to is on facebook, talking to real current students about real reasons for going there, eg they happen to have some of the best parties in the North West, the media course has really good links with a local broadcaster and loads of people get jobs there etc. You know - real reasons to choose this place.

I met several other similar new universities at that conference. With one I hatched a plan to pitch a documentary to C4 called simply "Freshers" (you can guess the rest) which was set on their campus. With another who has especially strong green credentials we talked about whether there were ways to leverage those in schemes and education campaigns which connected with young greenpeace members and similar.

I dont know about you but I expect a college logo to look something like the badge on a school blazer. And it really wouldnt matter to me if they had a 'better one'. I expect a university ad to feature a picfture of an ex student giving a testimonial, and/or to feature a stock shot type image of 'blue skies' with a headline like 'The sky's the limit at...'.

Educational branding is of course rather tricky anyway. But I'm just using it to illustrate a general point that has come up often recently. You use 'brand' to describe a 'need for spending' - a shortfall in public regard - but for god's sake (usually) dont use it as your strategy, as if it described the solution to that problem.

There's another side to this too. Brand as a concept overall in consumer markets is also for beginners. Coca-Cola in the 1870s and AOL in the 2000s both offer a certain kind of safe familiarity and certain quality in a new and chaotic frontier market - amidst (then) tainted drinks and (now) worries about data and credit card and identity security. They were 'for beginners'. But do not necessarily survive any transition to a more sophisticated, knowledgeable mindset; a move to juices and open browsing respectively. Just as in the wine market, only beginners buy safe well known brands (Piat D'Or).

Much to discuss here, just wanted to post something to dust off the cobwebs :J

Sunday, 16 September 2007

poetry 2.0

what follows is is the coolest thought virus I have been sent in some time (thx Helene) - apologies to those who've seen it already - and to those who havent, enjoy:

(via netlingo who reported it is a real story, although subsequent digging showed that these haiku originated in a competition link)


In Japan, they have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft error messages with Haiku poetry messages. Haiku poetry has strick construction rules, each poem has only 17 syllables; 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third. They are used to communicate a timeless message, often achieving a wistful, yearning and powerful insight through extreme brevity (and are much better than "Your computer has performed an illegal operation.") Here they are:

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek
Cannot be located, but
Countless more exist.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao - until
You bring fresh toner.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Having been erased,
The document you are seeking
Must now be retyped.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Is Facebook a waste of Time?

That's how it is being billed to employers, who are increasingly blocking access.

The TUC have taken a sensible line on this: general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Simply cracking down on use of new web tools like Facebook is not a sensible solution to a problem, which is only going to get bigger. It's unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work, just because they can't get their heads around the technology. Better to invest a little time in working out sensible conduct guidelines, so that there don't need to be any nasty surprises for staff or employers." bbc news(1)

Some HR consultancy firms are takling a more alarmist approach "Workers who spend time on sites such as Facebook could be costing firms over £130m a day, a study has calculated. According to employment law firm Peninsula, 233 million hours are lost every month as a result of employees "wasting time" on social networking. The study - based on a survey of 3,500 UK companies - concluded that businesses need to take firm action on the use of social networks at work. Some firms have already banned employees from accessing Facebook. Mike Huss, director of employment law at Peninsula called on all firms to block access to sites such as Facebook. He asked: "Why should employers allow their workers to waste two hours a day on Facebook when they are being paid to do a job?" He said that loss of productivity was proving a "major headache" for firms. bbc news(2)

I actually think they are both wrong. Facebook helps workplaces be more productive and innovative. A good starting point for explaining why would be the social life of information; a great book which explains why informal socialising within the workplace is the key not only to culture and motivation, but also to innovation; for instance as people pass on the implicit 'dark arts' of the job in pubs (or donut breakfasts at IBM was their example) more often than meeting rooms. Someone told me recently that there are 11,000 employees at the BBC on Facebook. That's of huge value to the BBC I would guess. Imagine they had to pay to build their own social network instead to encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas. I was at an innovation day at a major bank yesterday and one of the questions asked was why - having spent a whole day looking at trends like social networks - they were banned from using it themselves from work? What if they launched something in that setting - would they need to go home to view it?

Even if you run a call centre, the enlightened ones know that the secret of motivation and having a feeling for the culture is workplace friendships. there was a study recently which showed that the two values employees value most highly are integrity and work-life balance. And the irony is that they are the two things employers most ask people to compromise.

I did a search on Facebook for Mike Huss and (unless he is the Michael Huss listed as having no friends!) couldnt find one in the UK of the right age and employment background. Lets keep looking though, it would be brilliant to catch him with a random and perhaps slightly flirty friend request from an absolute babe (ie one of our friends), that he answered in his lunchbreak :J

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Does Anybody Know 'Guy Decoene'?

Quote from a two star review of my last book from Guy Decoene if that's his real name:
"The Sirco brand is a prominant exemple of new-marketing-branding-and-so-on... in this book. To bad the brand has been taken out of the market recently ... :-) "

Actually no the Sirco brand was an example which hadnt launched when I wrote, which I presumed would be marketed badly. The point in the book was what they should have done - which they didnt. He's based in Belgium, if you know him can you send him this as a two star review of his review? Maybe invite him to explain himself?

Or maybe it was someone with sour grapes about something, in which case why such a lame line of attack?

Lots of brand featured in business books dont maintain their success. There's that quote from Tom Peters saying the in Search of Excellence case studies may have failed; but it was "the right principles, just the wrong examples". I'd be more inclined to say that success is ephemeral and nobody (including business authors) are always right. Except in this case.


Folksy but Fake

You've got to wonder why this is 'okay'.

Last week it was revealed by the Wall St Journal that Marie Digby, the girl made successful by Youtube homemade videos with 2.3 million views has been signed with Hollywood records since 1995. Whereas on her myspace page until last week (when the label announced 'just' signing her) it said she had 'Type of label: None".

I know how it works culturally; she's pretty, the videos look and sound good and now she's famous and faking things is in some ways quite sophisticated, almost transgressive (like the banned video ruse)... so she's 'the next lonely girl fifteen' and any criticism and feeling betrayed is more than balanced by the fact she is a star.

But I dont know why it works legally. Isnt it blatant dishonest advertising. Not even the grey area of her blogging that ""I NEVER in a million years thought that doing my little video of Umbrella in my living room would lead to this . tv shows, itunes, etc !!!" when it's a two years in the making viral campaign by her label. But the outright lie of saying she had no label...?

I believe the technical term for this approach is astroturf (fake grassroots). The accepted line is it doesnt work. But apparently it does. Now YouTube will be inundated with fake (ie real, high quality, major label-grade) folk acts. And in a dramatic twist a 'real' (ie crap, unsigned) one will be 'exposed' as a fake, creating a paradoxical hit. And so on.

There's a real question lurking in here somewhere which is, should the media which are (only apparently) uncorporate and created by the people be exposed to corporate manipulation. Wikipedia thinks not and is rooting out PRs writing product puff pieces, a task made easier presumably by now being able to trace and track the source (the CIA on wikipedia story). If YouTube can remove anti-islam videos, pornography & so on, why not videos from 'fake real people'? just a thought - although the place where the most blatant lying was done was MySpace, but same argument applies. If when advertising something in the classifieds you fail to mention you are trade rather than a private individual I believe you can actually be prosecuted. Does MySpace constitute a classified advertisement...?

I'm going to put up a myspace page soon with some music I've been making over the summer in lieu of blogging (sorry about that but everyone needs a break sometime). I am not remotely tempted to invent a fake biography that rivals fatboy slim. Well okay remotely tempted, but I cannot tell a lie.


from wsj