Middle marketing is a painful waste…

My parents are big believers in keeping windows open to let fresh air in, even when there’s frost on the ground outside. I’m not sure if I was any healthier, particularly when using the bathroom early in the morning/late at night, but it’s meant that given the choice, I’ll always prefer somewhere to be on the cooler side.

Meanwhile my partner grew up in Sweden, where the freezing temperature outside appears to mean that any indoor space should be kept at shorts and T-shirt temperature no matter what. When we lived apart, I’d actually feel a wall of heat escape when someone opened the door of her student house.

My point, besides explaining why I conform to the dad stereotype of constantly turning down the central heating, is that neither of us particularly enjoy the bit between our two preferred temperatures. What’s right for me isn’t right for her, and vice versa.

Which is why the new Clover advert is a bit painful to watch.

I know margarine isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, and I get that it’s a lot like butter but with half the saturated fat. But I can’t imagine any time in my life I’d wander down the dairy aisle and stop to pick up a tub of comprimise. Or want to create a sandwich for lunch that’s completely and utterly average.

And although people have wildly different tastes, and one man’s delicious curry could be someone’s spicy hell, I bet even those with a plain cheese and tomato sandwich don’t aspire to be average – in fact, the butter could be the most exciting part of their lunch!

Like Minds: Measuring Social Media conference

Commuting is a reminder that there’s live outside of London, and it’s amazing how many great events and conferences can slip by if you’re not looking beyond the capital.

One case in point is the inaugral Like Minds conference, taking place on Friday, October 16th, in Exeter, Devon. The topic is ‘Measuring Social Media and making it sustainable‘, including measuring social media ROI, carrying out online campaigns to compliment an offline mix, how to target and best engage online audiences, and turning customers into brand advocates.

Not bad for £35 (discounts for students, unemployed and freelancers).

And there’s a great line-up of speakers, including a couple I can personally recommend. The full list is: Trey Pennington, Olivier Blanchard, Darren Forsyth, Dhaljit Bhurji, Nick Tadd, Andrew Ellis, Laura Whitehead, Andrew Davies, Rick Waghorn, Carl Haggerty and James Barisic.

I’ve shared drinks and chatted with both Darren and Rick, and spent a lot of time chatting with Andrew Davies about the magazine and publishing industry – particularly as I’ve closely followed the start-up he co-founded, idiomag.com.

In fact, I’m feeling a bit hard done by – a chat with Andrew normally involves buying a couple of drinks at London prices. But with 11 speakers for £35, you’re getting each one for the price of a pint. And it’s compacted pretty tightly into just four hours, and after-party drinks – and it’s easier to get out of work for a half day at the moment than it is for a full day of talks. Check out alikeminds.org for details of the venue and booking.

Two adverts that irritate the s*** out of me

It’s the perfect time for ranting as I’m still feeling a bit poorly, so I thought I’d highlight two television adverts currently irritating the hell out of me.

First up, is the PG Tips homage to a Morecombe and Wise sketch, mainly because it’s so completely irrelevant to me, but seems to be on constant repeat at the moment on the channels I tend to watch. Especially Film 4, completely distracting me from whichever movie I’m watching.

  • I’m in my (very early) 30s, and Morecombe and Wise had pretty much peaked before my time
  • Even then, the PG Tips ad isn’t as good as I remember the original sketch being.
  • But most of all, I don’t drink tea, and neither does my partner.

I realise the last point marks me as being outside of the target demographic of the tea industry, and so they won’t count me as being a huge loss or influential. There are currently two packets of tea in the house, both of which have probably been here since we moved in – one posh packet which my parents probably brought with them out of desperation, and one cheap packet for any guests who didn’t fancy the posh stuff.

But the fact I’m not a tea-makers target is exactly my point. I’ll never buy it. I’ll never talk to anyone about buying it. And I don’t have the necessary technology to avoid it. So why inflict it on me?

But that’s just a case of traditional irrelevance – there’s a far worse offender out there:

Oh Sweet Lord.

It comes from Norwich Union, soon to be renamed as Aviva, as it’s part of the Aviva group and known under that name internationally. So changing the name might make sense from an efficiency point of view, particularly when job cuts are being repeatedly announced.

But what I don’t get, and I’m trying not to use the word ‘brand’ to join Mark Earls, is the way it has been done. For starters, they’ve had to pay Bruce Willis, Elle MacPherson, Alice Cooper and Ringo Star to talk about how they wouldn’t have had fame and fortune without changing their name.

That’s right. Forget starring in Die Hard, or being part of the Beatles. Or any inference their stardom is down to talent, luck and making the right career choices. After all, if only Molly Ringwald had changed her name, rather than turning down the lead roles in Pretty Woman and Ghost, for example. I won’t even mention Engelbert Humperdinck.

Or the fact that most actors in the UK change their names due to Equity rules stating there can’t be two performers with the same name.

We get a voiceover telling us how changing our name can allow us to become who we want to be, and that Norwich Union is becoming Aviva after over 200 years of the same name. (My first thought was the confusion with the bus company, Arriva, that served my hometown)

But what it doesn’t tell us is what NU/Aviva wants to be.

There’s no reasoning, no belief, and nothing to make anyone think this is more than an attempt to save money on headed stationary.

Why couldn’t they use the name change to publish a clear belief which might benefit consumers, and could be easily said and repeated? ‘We’re changing the name, and making sure you never wait longer than 30 seconds in a phone queue’ for example, or ‘We’re changing the name be more efficient, so we can lower our prices by 5% when you renew’. Or even just some honesty ‘We’re changing the name to save some money and stay in business in tough times – so you don’t lose your insurance cover when you might need it’.

Has no-one else ever watched Crazy People?