Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Posts Tagged ‘marketing

Castigate Shortsighted Responsibility programmes

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Today I received my first Christmas card in the post!! As I opened the envelope to reveal the scene therein (a typical English winter countryside – tree bereft of leaves and covered in snow), with the salutation ‘Season’s Greetings!’, my blood began to boil. Who had been ridiculous enough to have sent a Christmas card at this time of year??? What was the world coming to? Would we soon be seeing decorations in shops and on streets in March!? I mean, it’s not even as though we’ve managed to have ANY summer this year, I don’t want to be thinking about Christmas already… Oooh some people…

I then opened the card. It is from a project called Carbonsmart and is, of course, focused on getting businesses to reduce their carbon footprints and generally think about what we are doing. My ire vanished and I ended up thinking – what a very clever piece of direct marketing. It’s just a tacky Christmas card at the end of the day, the sort you get from many suppliers and companies over the festive period. But they got the timing just right – long enough before the Christmas season to gain a passionate response (undoubtedly anger in most recipients, like me) but not stupidly long enough before to have people see straight through it as marketing. Of course, once you are emotionally engaged with something (even if that emotion is anger) you just *have* to open it to find out who it’s from. Which I did. Once I’d found out that it was marketing (the point being, of course, that the season’s are being shifted due to climate change – something that anyone sitting around London for the last 6 months can very well attest to), I was then still hooked because my anger had turned to a bit of admiration.

So I pottered over to the website to see what it was all about – again the marketing people must be patting themselves on the backs for driving through my traffic! On the website I was informed that there was a 6-point programme for companies to carry out to help them examine and deal with their carbon footprint correctly. “A six point plan? How splendid”, I thought. Then I looked at the plan and they (the marketers) lost me. Guess why it’s a SIX point plan? No go on guess. How many letters are in the word CARBON?

Yes, that’s right, the whole exercise was promptly trivialised by the marketing (and PR) world’s seeming obsession with coming up with plans and programmes that spell out names. C – Calculate (hmm, yes good start, like it); A – Audit (when is a convenient ‘A’ near the start or end of a word ever anything other than audit??); R – Reduce impacts (hmm yes, probably a bit early for you to ‘report’, so reduce is good); B – Begin…action (a bit late in the programme for us to start, surely? But then of course it wouldn’t have fitted anywhere else), O – Offset (ah yes a critical word for any carbon-programme – it’s just lucky its not spelt ‘carban’ or we’d have been in trouble), N – Network (I think they just ran out of ideas by the end…).

It just left me feeling that the whole exercise had no value, that it was marketing puff and another example of CSR run by and for marketing. Such a shame, they HAD me there for a minute…



Written by pilotlight

17/09/2007 at 6:03 pm

Posted in Business, PR, Uncategorized

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Economics lesson at Paddington Station. With coffee.

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Famous with the L.A. crowd.

Herd behaviour is not unknown in either consumers or markets and can readily be observed in the wild. Many times I have seen a multiperson queue in front of one cash machine of several, before getting to the end and realising that the other machines were perfectly operable. This is before one gets to the fact that people ahead of me in most queues seem to be either under some form of heavy sedation or have a very obscure, exacting and potentially mental purpose. Like the woman at the Post Office who needed a collection of differently priced stamps in different designs according to a massive list, which was checked again and again after every purchase while I wondered if the definitions of self defence had been tested to the full in Law.

So needing a caffeine dose with minutes to spare before catching another train at Paddington I went into the charming retail area to swim in the unimaginative mainstream of Starbucks. Bad idea – the queue looked Soviet in its sweating intensity. A quick glace at ‘Café’ Whatever revealed the same…Getting one on the train would be shameful and expensive so? Aha. Krispy Kreme. They have a real espresso machine and the place has less people in it than a dark corner in a horror movie. Got a marginally cheaper and perhaps better coffee in two minutes flat but why was I alone?

Functioning markets depend on information, but consumers get trapped by habit and peer pressure. Why had the manager not stuck up a simple sign saying something like ‘Coffee without a queue!’, ‘Famous for our COFFEE, not just the donuts…’, ‘Don’t miss the train, get a coffee from us instead!’ etc etc. Maybe they were not allowed to do so, which is sad. But it made me think – that is the real contribution of marketing to making things work – giving consumers information so that they can exercise choice better. It’s a mouthful but could come in handy the next time someone comes out with the tired, Bill Hicks (who I still love) inspired ‘If you are in marcomms, kill yourself as you destroy everything good in the world you liars, spinners, blah blah blah.’

We certainly don’t always get it right (and sometimes get it very very wrong), but without marketing, markets just don’t work and everyone suffers. Like the herd of independent minds sweating in a Starbucks queue before trying to jump a train like some stuntman in a Western.


Written by pilotlight

12/06/2007 at 3:14 pm

Posted in marketing, PR

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