the power of words

July 14, 2010

Well, on my poetry blog I posted this picture with the title, and we thought words were so important. Clearly you know these are not aborigines!

But I thought it might be a good time to drag out the good old Spell-checker Poem.

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

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Kingston University students Jessica Reynolds and Serena Wise have won the D&AD Student Awards with their simple, yet innovative approach to a brief by IKEA. The brief was to “promote their new catalogue by inspiring ‘a wave of boundless change in people’s homes’.” (Grandiose, or what?)

You can see from the above picture what the girls did: they applied the tried-&-true concept of a colour wheel to IKEA’s products. What they literally didn’t do was reinvent the wheel: they took something that works and adapted it for their purposes. Jessica Reynolds said: After observing peopel in store, we noticed Ikea customers have an immediate response to the colour of a product and often a favourite accent colour.” Their submission includes a sample interactive room, which you can use to try out different colours of priducts.

Geraldine Stewart of Ikea, who was one of the judges, said (slightly ungrammatically, but we aren’t worrying about that right now): “By grouping our range in an innovative way, they managed to turn how we could represent our range on its head.”

And Greg Quinton, chairman of D&AD, says (even more ungrammatically): “Like the original concept behind the flat-pack brand Ikea, the colour wheel idea was brilliant by simply and boldly challenging the conventions of the day.”

But my favourite thing he said is this:

“My advice to graduates is not to look to what’s trendy right now but to really look at the brief. The answer always lies within it.”

Hat tip: Creative Review blog.

Are you sure you are engaging the people you are direct-marketing to?

Here is the text of an email I just sent to a company I registered with briefly some time ago, then changed my mind and cancelled my account.I’ll tell you what I didn’t bother to tell them.: that I’d had to go into their website, remember which email address I’d signed up with, click on “forgot your password?”, go to my email to check for it, go back to their site, go into my account details, find preferences, unsubscribe, try to canel my accounbt (again) only to be told it was not active (!), and then spend another five minutes trying to find, among the small print, a way of contacting them.

They are a Bad Company. Here is my email:

Hi.

“Your records show that my membership is no longer active.” That is because I cancelled it over a year ago. SO WHY DO I STILL HAVE A SIGN-IN AND PASSWORD?

Why have I had to go through a huge rigamarole to stop getting intrusive emails from you? Why has it taken me ten minutes to figure out how to contact you? Why do you still hold all my details???

The very fact that I cancelled my account – at least I thought I did – should be enough to tell you I do NOT want you to email me, hold my details or in any other way remain in my LIFE. Just because you’re on the internet doesn’t mean you have some kind of right to have tentacles in me.

Your emails have been a constant irritation ever since I (thought I) cancelled my account. I have resisted putting the effort in that it was going to take to get rid of them, simply because you are a minor little thing and it didn’t even seem worth the effort. But now I’m doing it and guess what. I am SO glad I never PAID you for anything. UGH.

Please delete my information.

Thank you.

If I were them, I’d be wanting to make sure I didn’t get emails like that.

Today I was looking up matters to do with a book on living frugally. I found what I needed on the US website of a certain large bookselling chain that recently withdrew from the British market – withdrew, I say, after driving other local bookshops out of business wherever it went. But that’s a different story for a different day. It was a bit of a shock to see the familiar logo, though – a bit like seeing a ghost.

Here is what I read on the website:

[XXXX covers] a huge range of topics, from growing and cooking and entertaining friends and children to enjoying Christmas without debt.

So what I want to know now is, how do you entertain them after you’ve cooked them? And if you have to grow your own, just for a meal, is it really that frugal? (Mind you, as the blurb implies, you do save on the Christmas presents.)

But most shocking of all – even more shocking than the familiar, but locally defunct, logo – was the suggestion that this wholesome bookstore chain might be endorsing the eating of one’s own young!

ARSE (nsfw)

June 29, 2010

Here’s a scenario for you. I’m a PR manager. I work for a place with a very high-level brand, inspiring fierce public loyalty, but also a certain amount of mocking by detractors. It’s sad, because the first half of our name sounds like a rude word, and people use it as a rude nickname. It’s real schoolkid stuff. But then, most people do think we’re a bit crap. So we take it in good humour and encourage the intensity of our fans’ loyalty.

One way we do this is to build a gigantic new HQ, make it as ostentatious and in-yer-face as we can, and then line it with 20-foot-high branding. We’d hate anyone to miss us! We, like, OWN this neighbourhood, you see.

Well, one day I’m at work, and someone from the shop comes and says they want to hang a vinyl banner over the railings. I say, “Sure, okay.” (Why? Why do I say okay?) So they send a couple of caretakers, or work  placement kids, or shop assistants, or somebody off the street, to hang it up, and they hang it up. They hang it right over the giant, 3D statement lettering that is our signage. In fact, they hang it over the bit of our name that comes right after the rude word – so that it accentuates the rude word, making it look as if we, our “team”, think it’s a funny  joke! Cause, you know, we’re a bit crap, an’ all that.

They call me out to have a look. Or rather, they don’t – because these people never do, do they? The vinyl-banner-ordering ones. It’s my job to police the brand, so I make sure I notice it at the end of the day, as I leave through the incredibly prominent front entrance of the heavily-branded premises.

There it is, with our silver “arse” winking at me in the sun. Ahhhhh! A sight for sore eyes. When I get home I log on immediately and drop the shop a quick email, before I forget. “Hey, guys, I just saw the banner you put up! Great work,” I tell them.

This from the great Andrew Sullivan.

This sign in this dry-cleaners shop in Oregon just works in so many ways. First of all, it’s generous and human of them. In fact, it’s kind. It shows solidarity. I’ve seen nothing like it in London.

Second, it’s great PR for the shop, because how much money do they stand to lose doing this? Not much. And what you make up in good will, making people happy and just being quite impressive is incalculable. If I passed them by chance in my neighbourhood, and if I wasn’t unemployed and had money for dry-cleaning, I might start going there.

And thirdly, I just think it shows a lot of insight. It shows that when you’re without work you are up against it in a hundred little ways you yourself wouldn’t even think of when times are ‘normal’. I’ve had interviews in the past few months in peak hours; it never occurs to most recruiters that the time of day might have a cost impact. I’ve had interviews scheduled so inconveniently (but presumably conveniently for the interviewer! And one just says yes, yes, because one is after all a professional) that they involve not only peak fares but also the need for something to eat. It can easily cost £15 to go into town for an interview. Scary stuff when you have no money coming in.

And that’s after you’ve navigated the what-to-wear thing, always more difficult if you aren’t doing it all the time. You’re hardly going to pay to get your best stuff cleaned if you’re already struggling to manage the fare, the time-filling coffee or whatever, and your plummeting low blood sugar when you come out. (Also, think about this: you lose your job in, say, February. Next thing you know, you’re going to interviews in April. Then June. The season has changed and what have you got?) These dry cleaners in Oregon are clearly superior people. And now all their customers, and all their passing potential customers, know it.