How to win friends by alienating people
The most harmful phrase you can use in search of a new idea is: ‘without alienating….’
Whoever introduced this (greedy) instruction into briefing is responsible for lots of business folk wasting loads of shareholder money. They have single-handedly - I’m certain unwittingly – given our world some of the blandest, ‘beigest’ ideas we have seen. Ideas that are incapable of moving anyone. Except perhaps to flee the scene, flee the channel, or whatever other activity the idea barely interrupted.
And then had to compensate by banging away with bigger budgets - trying to breathe life into something that had little chance of success in the first place.
Here’s my plea to you – and I hope you can infect other people with this thinking:
Please make sure your ideas alienate some people.
The truly great brands (and ideas) in our world stand for something distinctive. They have a point of view. A clear guiding philosophy. A very strong sense of what they believe in. That, in turn, informs how they do (and don’t do) things; what they choose to do and choose not to do.
Typically, great ideas and brands polarise. They have some people for them. And some people against them. Which is a darn side better than the alternative - having no one care much about them at all.
The great research companies are replete with cases proving this. Why, you only have to think of Apple, Nike and Google to realise that as much as their detractors dislike them so their fans love them to a corresponding degree.
My all-time favourite example is a wonderful campaign from the UK for the processed meat stick Peperami. The brief was reputed to be: ‘Piss off vegetarians’. And the resulting advertising was pure, joyful anarchy. See one of the ads here.
In my time on Meat & Livestock, the then CMO was the gutsy David Thomason. Brave enough to tell people that the difference between man and ape was the decision to eat Red Meat (or not). Brave enough to approve a brief that was essentially: ‘Take the piss out of Hare Krishnas’ (here). Did it work? You bet it did. It was part of a trilogy that won the Grand Prix of the Effectiveness awards. At the same time he encouraged a competing Agency to do the popular Sam Kekovich rants (here). Also an award winner.
Imagine what these brands and their fans would have been denied had someone - filled only with goodwill toward their fellow woman (better include ‘or man’ in order not to alienate anyone) had asked just that of their Agency - please don’t alienate anyone…
For me, the short story is not a character sketch, a mouse trap, an epiphany, a slice of suburban life. It is the flowering of a symbol center. It is a poem grafted onto sturdier stock.
William H. Gass (via writingquotes)
Never hire a research company again
Here are 2 blunt truths about marketing research (in all its forms):
People in research don’t say what they mean and don’t mean what they say.
Much of what passes for marketing research is simply pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo
Which, in turn, means you need to hire the absolute best researcher your money will buy. Unless the outcome’s not that important. In which case, bank the money and go with your gut – better than a charlatan doing something half-baked in the name of research.
It’s not that respondents are deliberately dishonest in research. Well, some actually are. But a good deal of the time, we – that’s you and me, and people just like you and me – have no real idea why we did what we did. Why we thought the way we thought. Why we felt the way we felt. Often it’s ‘just so’.
When pushed hard enough – in front of a group of strangers – who could be blamed for blurting out a complete untruth? Better that than look a fool. And have you noticed how rational our thinking becomes when among strangers (actually, even when we’re completely alone)? We hate admitting to being driven by forces we don’t quite understand. That most of our decisions are ‘feels right’ or ‘feels wrong’.
The very fact of talking about System 1 - where the bulk of our decision-making takes place - as our ‘primitive/reptilian brain’ makes it harder for us superior animals to admit that we avoid thinking wherever possible. That we rely on short cuts. That we’re anything but rational.
So it needs a darn good researcher. The best your money can buy. The good ones are highly talented folk. They’re open and able to discuss their way of working; their belief in what makes humans tick and respond the way they do. Truth is they’re in short supply. They aren’t everywhere. They’re pretty special.
They’re not companies. And not all companies have them. And they’re not ‘black box processes’ – no matter the amount of validation.
So please, pick the most talented person you can afford. And much as you might enjoy participating, observing, taking copious notes, drawing conclusions and making inferences please remember this (and I say this with utmost humility):
You’re likely paying a very different brain to yours to do something you probably can’t do well - work out what people really mean when they don’t mean what they say. When they, themselves, are not entirely sure what they mean.
The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all these things into symbols, into music, into something which can last in man’s memory. That is our duty. If we don’t fulfill it, we feel unhappy. A writer or any artist has the sometimes joyful duty to transform all that into symbols. These symbols could be colors, forms or sounds. For a poet, the symbols are sounds and also words, fables, stories, poetry. The work of a poet never ends. It has nothing to do with working hours. Your are continuously receiving things from the external world. These must be transformed, and eventually will be transformed. This revelation can appear anytime. A poet never rests. He’s always working, even when he dreams. Besides, the life of a writer, is a lonely one. You think you are alone, and as the years go by, if the stars are on your side, you may discover that you are at the center of a vast circle of invisible friends whom you will never get to know but who love you. And that is an immense reward.
How bizarre, the day I discover Borges, Borges appears on my feed talking about symbols.
At 19, I read a sentence that re-terraformed my head: “The level of matter in the universe has been constant since the Big Bang.”
In all the aeons we have lost nothing, we have gained nothing - not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over.
Each baby, then, is a unique collision - a cocktail, a remix - of all that has come before: made from molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra’s breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms.
When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes - we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely face of our existences. The honour of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don’t you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don’t you dare.
Caitlin Moran (via scatteredandshining)
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
Words, man. Words.
Writers are forgetful,
but they remember everything.
They forget appointments and anniversaries,
but remember what you wore,
how you smelled,
on your first date…
They remember every story you’ve ever told them -
but forget what you’ve just said.
They don’t remember to water the plants
or take out the trash,
but they don’t forget how
to make you laugh.
Writers are forgetful
the important things.
John Wesley (via surbeat)
I BET THAT IF TWO KIDS LIVED IN THOSE TWO HOUSES THAT THEY WOULD COME OUT ON THEIR ALMOST CONJOINING ROOFS OUTSIDE THEIR BEDROOM WINDOWS AND TALK AND BE BEST FRIENDS AND FALL IN LOVE.
I will not write fluff to that. I won’t. No.
LUCY I FOUND IT
But what if instead of two kids, it was, say, a kid and an old woman? And at first they just ignore each other and keep their blinds down and curtains shut, but then the kid climbs out onto the roof one spring morning to get a frisbee and she’s got the window open bc it’s so nice out and she tells him to cut that out, it’s not a jungle gym and maybe the kid shows off a bit and nearly falls, and the old woman catches his arm…. anyway, so sometimes they leave the windows open and the kid’ll show off his comic books or asks what rhymes with ‘beautiful’ (and it’s totally for homework shut up), and the old woman tells him about all the protests and marches she took part in, and asks him the name of that one cute pop star (it’s absolutely for her crossword now shush). And the old woman gives the kid relationship advice, and doesn’t tell when he tries a bit too much of his parents’ liquor cabinet one time, and the kid comes over and shows her how to use the smartphone her daughter bought for her, and doesn’t tell when she sneaks a cigarrette out of said daughter’s bag. And when the weather’s too bad to open the windows, they tape silly pictures or notes to the glass for the other to see (the kid makes sure to make his extra big so she doesn’t have to admit her eyeight isn’t what it used to be), and when it is nice the kid will sneak over and leave seashells on her windowsill, because the old woman said once she misses the sea, but she can’t travel like she used to. And one day he peeks in her window and sees her on the floor, and calls 911 and basically saves her life because she had a stroke and nobody would’ve known in time otherwise. And when she finally gets back from the hospital, just for a while because her daughter’s talking about a retirement home where she’ll have plenty of medical care and lots of friends her age, the kid comes through the window and then pulls another kid through the window who he introduces as his boyfriend, and says he wanted her to meet him. And she sniffs and interrogates the boyfriend in proper elderly relative fashion, and then declares him worthy of her boy— barely. And when she finally does have to go to that retirement home, the kid still comes to visit her, and always leaves seashells on the windowsill.
reblogging for the story ^
REBLOGGING FOR THE STORY ^
The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”