Sunday, June 29, 2008

'The easy way to stop being an ego driven, all consuming sap on the environment'

Selfridges has lots of good ideas, even to the point that they can turn the big brash sale signs that they use into an art-form. Fashion loves irony because it creates exclusivity i.e. are you in on it or are you one of the uncool people who don’t get it. In this case its the quasi-religious nature of shopping in modern life that is being sent up.

To the the greater extent its just smart humour but it must say something about the condition itself that it does not stop people in their tracks. I was there over the weekend and like everyone else I was not questioning why I was there or what I really needed. And like everyone else I was a little caught up in how much money was there to be ‘saved.’

The double irony is that looking around the signs are pretty close to the truth. To be held in the grasp of wanting more stuff is the natural disposition that keeps the economy burning. And its hard to image what will replace it in the future though replaced, modified and reshaped it surely will need to be. I am starting to see it like smoking.

-Short term chemical compulsions i.e. adrenalin, the buzz, the instant gratification,
This acts like a nicotine deficiency and regularly wants to be topped up.

-Coupled and blurred with an array of longer term mental addictions which keep ticking over in the background i.e. I will look better and be more successful if i buy this.
This is not unlike the smokers phycology that tells them they need to smoke to have a good time or to enjoy a meal.

I gave up smoking using Alan Carrs book ‘The Easy way to Give up Smoking,’ that takes the opposite approach of most methods. It does this by ignoring the reasons why you should not smoke which everybody knows anyway, and isolating, explaining and ultimately revoking the reasons why you do. I am probably in the top quarter of people who actively learn about and try to change their behavior in order to live more sustainably yet frequently succumb to fast fashion. In other words I fully understand why sustainable lifestyles are necessary but this does not always translate into actions. Perhaps the other side of the coin i.e. isolating the reasons why you feel compelled to spend a Sunday in Selfridges would be more powerful. After all smokers know they are killing themselves quite imminently and directly but it fails to stop them. When I have worked it out ‘the easy way to stop being an ego driven, all consuming sap on the environment,’ is the book I would want to write to explain the process.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Counter intuitive thinking and a $1000 incentive to quit the company

It is not very often that you hear the company where a person works described in a really enthusiastic and positive light. This could be part of the national cynicism of the British but I’m sure its pretty universal. Its one of the few bastions of a sense of community feeling to be able to share in the berating of the place where you work on a par with things like reality TV contestants.

So what if your company started to offer you incentives to leave. If you really meant all of the moans you'd take them up in a shot. Otherwise you would have to start to admit that actually you have got it pretty good and on balance its where you want to be.

Zappos, which for people outside the US is the Amazon of shoes, offers all new recruits $1000 to leave after they have completed their initial training (from an interview on the HBR ideaCast.) And as the company has been growing so has the amount offered to quit. The result being that the people who stay do so after interrogating and renewing their conviction, and the one’s that don’t have the desire or the energy leave the company with its full blessing and something to tide them over while they think about their next move. It makes perfect sense knowing that one of the big problems with big companies is the lower concentrations of motivated and passionate people than in small companies.  However I had to hear the explanation before I fully agreed and understood. Therein is the problem because anything that needs explanation to sound sensible is always going to struggle in the modern company where ideas have to survive based on only the partial attention of all the people necessary to carry and execute them.

It’s a far harder sell to get people to implement the opposite of what seems to make sense rather than the obvious. Even less so in consumer facing decisions such as brand communications which often come from outside partners who have even more incentives to put simplicity first. There must be plenty of instances where the opposite of what seems to make sense is a much better option…


-Grown-ups telling young people not to do things like smoke and drink usually has the opposite effect. Wouldn’t it be better to do something like brand them as brilliant fun for the ‘sad’ and middle aged.

-The hard sell also puts up barriers rather than takes them down… why not communicate how hard your product is to find or make your audience go to special lengths to get hold of it.

-By selling sex to men to promote a product like deodorant (aka LYNX,) you are essentially part of the problem that stops young men getting what they really want i.e. attracting and affirming the behaviours of the kind of men who put pictures of topless women on their wall. Wouldn’t it be better to be the kind of brand that helps men appreciate that if they really really like women that much then would it not be much better to avoid doing things that repel them like giant images of Carman Electra in their uni flat. This may not seem counter intuitive to most women but to the 18 year old male and the marketing director it might well be.

I' m back...

Sure I'm back down to ZERO on the number of people who find their way here... work won the battle for my time but hopefully the balance has now resumed.