Thursday 27 June 2024

Body Parts


I’ve spent the last quarter-century blabbing on to whoever will listen about the expression “the consumer” - here, here and here (and there’s plenty more). It’s dehumanising, depersonalising and creates a notion of “other” that we don’t need.

Unfortunately, I have no record of my valiant attempt around the turn of the century to convince P&G otherwise. Although this slide does survive from that Powerpoint of long ago:

I can still feel the disdain in those inverted commas.

It particularly annoys me when pronounced “the consoomer”. But that’s just me being pernickety and a bit of a bore.

This depersonalisation becomes even more yukky when “the poor consoomer” is dissected into various body parts. And pounced upon by over-avaricious marketers:

“Owning more hearts and minds.”

“Increasing our share of stomach.”

And with social media, and the focus on Attention as a metric, there’s a very nasty expression that conjures up even more grisly images:

“Capturing eyeballs.”

I shudder to think what new KPIs marketers for period products, condoms or loo roll have these days.

A couple of years ago, I heard mutterings about “The Ear Economy”, but that seems to have gone rather quiet now. Or I’m going deaf.

Yes, yes, yes. It’s only words and a figure of speech.

Does it really matter?

Probably. If only because each of us is far, far more than the sum of our body parts. 

Friday 14 June 2024

Hell’s bells!


I’ve been harping on about Purpose for nearly as long as this old blog has been going. There’s this post, and this one here, then this one about all those Whys and Hows and Whats and their chums, or this about the lack of humility demonstrated by brands (or their managers), and musing on whether brands can save the world. Or not. 

Or you can do a search, or press “purpose” on the RHS, and you’ll undoubtably find many more.

Author Nick Asbury has been way smarter about his thoughts on Purpose, formulated them all into a coherent story, and published a book which was officially launched last night.

Here’s a review I did earlier.


“Your business is none of my politics”

This book is the story of how the idea of a mandatory “higher social purpose beyond profit” gripped the corporate world, especially those involved in brand marketing and advertising. And the result: how purpose leads to bad marketing - and a worse world.

It’s a view, a perspective, backed up with substance, not an academic paper or text book (thank goodness). A lot of the argument resonated with me personally. Although I don’t agree with every word (which would be weird), this book has been an immense help to me in working out why I’ve felt some unease in my work as a freelance brand consultant over the last few years.

I guess everyone who works in brands or marketing has taken their own byway to Nick’s “Road to Hell”. Setting up as a freelancer in 2003, I was interested in how to reconcile integrity and responsibility with business. CSR was the buzzword of the time. Two ex-colleagues of mine from Saatchis, Giles Gibbons & Steve Hilton, had recently set up a consultancy called Good Business and written a book with the same title, described as a “radical manifesto for capitalism.”

To cut a long story short, I supported the concept of corporate (maybe not brand) purpose for many years, until I noticed that it had been hijacked and metamorphised into something else. In the book, this politicising of brands is covered in detail. I still remember the days when I worked for major brands who prided themselves on being “for everyone” and made a point of actively discouraging communication that could be perceived as political.

“The Road to Hell” is free of finger-pointing, preaching and ranting. It’s written with intelligence, charm, humour - and, most importantly, hope. There is redemption - it’s up to us to follow the pointers and find it. And not be too proud to retrace our footsteps.

I don’t buy business books often these days. So many of those lurking in airport bookshops tend to go stale very quickly. But “The Road to Hell” is one that will stand up to re-reading in years to come.


As an interesting aside, that’s the version posted on Goodreads.

I tried with my friends at Amazon.

They told me to go to “H-word place” with my disgusting review.

No comment. 

Gone are the days when they lauded me as a Top1000 reviewer, but today they only really rate ratings.

Thursday 6 June 2024

RETROWURST: World Cup Beer June 2006


A bit of a funny this time - a World Cup with a difference ...


Well, it is certainly a funny old tournament with a few surprises so far. Whoever would have thought that Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Spain would get knocked out in the first round? Or that the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Tunisia would make it to the quarter finals?

Some results have been a bit more expected, with Saudi Arabia, Angola, Iran and Trinidad & Tobago making a rapid exit with no points scored, or France sneaking though to the semi-final. Or what about the England: Germany clash in the first round of the knock-out stages? Expected, perhaps, but for England to get through against such an overdose of German pride and tradition on their home ground? Commendable, but then the tragedy of being beaten by an unexpectedly strong Sweden in the quarter final…


The stars of the tournament, as expected perhaps, are the Czech Republic but the dark horse has really been Serbia and Montenegro who have knocked out Holland, Portugal, the Ivory Coast and those pesky Swedes on the way to their place in the final.


Well, you’ve twigged, haven’t you? I’m not talking about that World Cup. But can you guess on what basis this “alternative World Cup” is? It’s not too difficult: Germans as we know pride themselves on their beer and someone at Stern magazine had the bright idea of testing the beers of the 32 World Cup football finalists.


Despite some difficulties in securing products- with tales of bottles exploding en route and non-alcoholic beers being held up at the border for alcohol tax, beers were obtained for all 32 participating nations, except Togo, where the beer from the Ivory Coast went to test twice, once masquerading in a Togo shirt! The beers were tested blind by four Sternjournalists plus one beer expert from Austria (who apparently did the tasting in full Austrian traditional costume).


The beers that made it through the first round were:

GROUP A: Germany (Beck’s), Poland (Masuren)

GROUP B: Sweden (Old Gold), England (Old Speckled Hen)

GROUP C: Serbia & Montenegro (Jelen Pivo), Ivory Coast (Flag)

GROUP D: Mexico (Corona Extra), Portugal (Sagres)

GROUP E: Ghana (Akosombo), Czech Republic (Budweiser)

GROUP F: Japan (Asahi), Croatia (Karlovacko)

GROUP G: France (Kronenbourg 1664), Togo (Flag)

GROUP H: Ukraine (Obolon), Tunisia (Celtia)


The quarter finals were between England and Sweden, Serbia/Montenegro and Ivory Coast, Ghana and Czech Republic and France and Tunisia.


England got kicked out at this point, with semi-finals between Sweden and Serbia/Montenegro and Czech Republic and France, leaving this as a very European contest at this stage.


The final featured two teams from the former Eastern Europe, Czech Republic and Serbia/Montenegro. It was a close-cut thing, but the favourites won in the end with four points to Serbia/Montenegro’s three.


The comments that the judges made about the beers are interesting. The Argentinean beer, “Quilmes” was described as “like water with beer flavour” while the Iran beer, “Golden Delster” was described as “alcohol-free with milk sugar – and it stinks of old hay.” The English beer, “Old Speckled Hen” was described as “amber coloured, lovely note of hops, light toasted aroma” and England fans will be pleased to hear that this beer kicked out Beck’s (the beer, not the footballer) 5:2 at the quarter final stage.


Note, of course, that it was the original Czech Budvar Budweiser that won and not the pale US imitation. The USA, by the way, was represented by “Miller Genuine Draft” and failed to progress beyond the group stage.


On another note, the Germans were the masters of anti-hype about their team here in the build-up. The team that has now gained that so-familiar horrible unstoppable momentum of efficiency that always ends in tears at penalty shoot-outs were all-but-written-off at the start of the tournament (“we’ll be really pleased to get through the first round”) and Stern even published a consoling article for fans should the team make an early exit: Things Germany is World Champion of. Some of these are predictable: in export, in number of tax laws, in submarine construction – but did you know that the Germans are also World Champions in running backwards, donating to charity, robot football (well, perhaps we knew that…), spitting cherry stones or the quaintly-named Arschbomben-Springen der Damen (“Ladies’ Cannonball/Divebomb)?


It’s enough to make you reach for a Jelen Pivo!


I do wonder if this influenced me 14 years later, in the midsts of Covid, to hold an alternative Eurovision - with wine. And if I remember rightly - difficult in the circumstances - Italy won that one!