Is old-fashioned service dead?

I’m not a big shopper, but in the leadup to Christmas and during my holidays, I did have lots of spare time and indulged in a little retail therapy, for gifts and for me. Spending all that time in stores was also very interesting research. And led me to the question I have posed as the headline for this blog. Which is a rant. Because much as I would like to continue to support my local bricks-and-mortar stores…

There are times when I just can’t
• Like when I wanted to buy 4 pairs of shoes but was told that the order they’d placed for that style had never come through… so she guessed it looked like they wouldn’t be stocking them this summer.

• Like the fact that even when I want to throw money at a hifi store for a product, they’re not interested in taking my name and calling me when the stock comes in.

• Like the fact that so many stores don’t even have a business card to write info on but instead let their staff scrounge around for some scrap of paper. Seriously?

Online shopping vs bricks-and-mortar shopping
I may be wrong but in my book the MAIN thing that a bricks-and-mortar store has over online shopping is PERSONAL SERVICE. And when you can shoot a cannon through David Jones without hitting a staff member, it really sends a message that service has gone down the drain.

A big thankyou to Smokemart ColonnadesLavaLamp
I threw my old lava lamp out because it had blown a bulb (doh!) and wanted to replace it with one in the same colours. Couldn’t find one around anywhere. While I was buying another colour for a friend (no, I don’t choose friends on the basis that they like lava lamps, but it doesn’t hurt) I happened to mention I wanted a yellow one

The girls in the Smokemart Colonnades upstairs store started asking me questions. Did I need it before Christmas? (No, it was for me.) Did I want the old style or the new style? (Old style.) They offered to take my name and number and a month later, called me to tell me my lamp was in. Service with a smile. Thankyou. Maybe old-fashioned service is not dead, after all.


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Podcast series – Web, words, branding and design

My graphic designer mate, Shane Gill of KIK and I have been collaborating and we’ve come up with a series of 8 podcasts all about Web, words, branding and design. Basically, it’s Shane and me discussing and sometimes disagreeing about all sorts of things, like the topics listed below. They’re pretty short, sharp and shiny chats, most are about 10-12 minutes long so perfect to download and listen to in between doing other stuff.

Podcast Series 1WWBAD

• An intro to web, words, branding and design
• What good graphic design can do for your business
• Logos — how does yours stack up?
• Logo design and rebranding — what to look out for
• What good copywriting can do for your business
• Writing — how to get rid of the blank page
• 3 ways to test your writing
• Different reasons to have a website — what’s yours?

The first 6 are up, and the last 2 will be uploaded Jan/Feb. Last week I got an email from a marketing manager in the UK so we’ve officially gone global! I’m rapt.  :) If you’re a business owner who wants to get some inside information from a couple of horses’ mouths, have a listen. And if you have any comments or other stuff you’d like us to talk about, please do let us know.

Available on iTunes now.


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An ad with no actors, just real people

Every now and then an ad comes along that is not about buying the latest something, but about a message. This ad created by GetUp has what I think is a very important message to everyone living in Australia. There are no actors. Just real people telling their story. That renewable energy is vital to the survival of their region. And they do what good advertising should always do — not just tell you but show you.

From Goulburn to Adelaide
I sent this link to one of my copywriting clients, Yates Electrical Services. They’re a Riverland-based company involved in windfarm installations all around the country. Mark Yates emailed me back to thank me and to let me know that the project featured in the ad was one his team worked on.

A few months ago, I wrote the copy for Mark’s website. So, in a roundabout way, it turns out that a little bit of the money generated by work in renewables across the country in Goulburn has ended up in my bank account in Adelaide and helps my business. See, this is how it works. The flow-on effect is amazing and benefits us all. Maybe not in monetary terms like that but by keeping rural and regional areas of Australia thriving, the whole country benefits. Because we are all linked. The environment and renewable energy and jobs and the economy are all linked.

But don’t just take my word for it
No matter what your politics, no matter who you voted for, take a couple of minutes to check out the ad. Then, if you think these people are talking sense, please pass it on to your network. Thankyou.

The longer ad at the top of the page is the one that shows a number of people in the community. The one going to air on TV is at the bottom of the page and features Charlie, the farmer.

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Is ‘On The Run’ a bit of a misnomer?

I have completely lost count of the number of people who have had a whinge to me about trying to buy petrol. About having to stand in a big long queue at the petrol station, behind a whole ton of people who seem to want to do their grocery shopping or are waiting to get their coffee made… when all THEY want to do is just PAY for their PETROL and get OUTTA there. The same thing happens to me. Regularly.

So, the last time it did, when I finally got to the front of the queue after about 5 minutes, I thought I’d mention it to the guy behind the counter. Our conversation went sorta like this…

Me: “Hi there. Now, I know you’re probably not the person who makes all the decisions around here, but is it worth thinking about having an express lane for people who only wanna buy petrol? Kinda like the supermarket’s do?”
Him: LOL. Yes, he actually, really, laughed out loud. Then he said… “That’s not part of the On The Run mantra.”
Me: “Hmmm… that’s funny. I’m not sure if that really helps those of us who are On The Run.”

Now, I understand that they make stacks of money from people who are buying all that other stuff and getting that coffee made, but when it comes at the cost of good service to others, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. But I guess when you’re one of the big boys, you can make your own rules.


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Is technology making our lives more complicated?

I was at my hairdresser’s the other day and noticed her system for booking appointments. A big book, the size of a Kalamazoo ledger. (ummm… if you’re under 35, perhaps Google that.) Anyway, she got out the pencil and the rubber and changed an appointment in about 10 seconds flat.

I commented on her antiquated system and told her that it reminded me of my accounting system. Green 8 and 14 Column books, pencil and rubber. Yes, yes, laugh your head off. But after years of trying different bookkeepers, losing track of what was going on, deciding to get myself better informed, going to 2 MYOB sessions, getting 2 followup visits to my office to get it bought, installed, then getting my head around it all, and still failing miserably, I gave up. And went back to basics.

The really funny thing is, I used to be an accounts clerk. I’m actually really good with numbers. But my brain just wants simplicity. So I say, yes, try things, but don’t caught up in the hype that you have to do things the new, better, improved way or feel stupid because you can’t, or you don’t want to.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the internet! It brings me business. I Google everything. What did we do before Google???!!! I even have the 3 Chinese lucky coins stuck on the front of my Mac desktop, for good Feng Shui.

Back to (phone) basics?
I have a client who creates apps and I was helping him with some editing of his copy when he started talking a bit of geek-speak to me.

So I did what I always do when this happens – I pulled out my mobile phone and showed it to him. I am Smart-Phone resistant. I have a basic Nokia 110 that I bought last year because I only want text and phone calls. Because I want a small phone. And because I drop my phone regularly. It’s got gaffer tape on it. But it works just fine, the battery stays charged for ages, and it’s all I need.

My client, Glen, didn’t laugh at me like people usually do. In fact, he said he predicts a swing back to basic phones for a reasonable-sized segment of the population. When I showed my phone to a lady in a local shop later that week, she got all excited, asked me where I got it and was going to rush down there to buy one because she didn’t want a big Smart-Phone either. So Glen may be right.

Some stressed clients
The real reason for this blog is that I’ve had quite a number of conversations lately, either with my clients or with other business people who are having tech issues and getting extremely stressed out by trying to do everything and feeling like a failure when they can’t. To add insult to injury, they are comparing themselves with the people around them who CAN use technology well and who are saying ‘what’s your problem?’

It kinda reminds me of the days back at school when you’re sweating bullets, yet frozen, pen in hand, just glazed-eyed-staring-down at the exam paper in front of you, coz you don’t know the answer and everyone around you is happily scribbling away furiously.

Our Brave New World
I say we’ve created a world where we have to do lots of different things and be good at lots of different things in order to do well. Contrast this with the world just a couple of hundred years ago, when we were specialists. You were master of one thing, like a cook, or a blacksmith or a carpenter or a teacher. That’s what you did. That’s ALL you did. Now, I’m not saying that was a better world, I’m just saying that I’m sure that our brains weren’t built for so much multi-tasking. And research seems to be proving it.

Is multi-tasking bad for us?
I’ve seen a program that showed 97% of us cannot multi-task well. Even if we think we can, we actually get LESS done because we constantly have to jump from one part of our brain to another. Which of course, takes time. And slows us down. I saw an article the other day that said multi-taskers have less grey matter in their brains! So, my pledge to me is… less multi-tasking and more staying in the present and doing one thing at a time, well. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s technology that’s the problem. It’s just that we don’t know how to switch off.


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When choosing popular talent backfires

MirandaKerrI seem to be seeing a helluva lot of Miranda Kerr lately. Not in person, just her face.
On EVERYthing. From Swarzkopf hair colour to Clear Shampoo to Royal Albert china to Swarovski crystal to her own brand of skincare, Kora, it’s all making me a bit dizzy. (Actually, I just saw her Reebok ad online, so actually, yes a bit more than her face…lol) I forgot to mention Victoria’s Secret and David Jones… anyway…

I think the main winner here is Miranda, rather than the brands. Because I’m just getting to the stage where I see her face and think ‘Now what?’ Having a brand spokesperson that is beautiful, talented, well-known or well-liked is a wonderful thing but surely, sharing them with too many other brands can only dilute the message.


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Choosing the right talent

We can’t all afford big TV campaigns like Optus, but even if you’re just creating a brochure or looking for a stock library photo for your website, it’s important to make sure the people you choose to represent your brand are a good fit.

The first thing to work out is the personality of your business. Is it conservative and upmarket? Is it cheap and cheerful? Is it mumsy? Child-like? Maybe a bloke talking to other blokes, like the Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee ads? Or a mature female speaking candidly, woman-to-woman?

I’m not the target audience but I reckon Optus gets it right with their most recent series of ads featuring young Aussie comic, Josh Thomas. Now, personally, I can’t stand his stand-up comedy but I reckon he’s hysterically funny in these ads. Which I reckon will work gangbusters. Check ’em out and see what you think.

On another note, it may not be obvious at first glance but if you look closely at all 3 of the Optus TV ads, the subtle use of the Optus colours for clothing, interiors, scenery etc is a great example of good branding. Here’s a link for the first ad.

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Does being very graphic pay off?

Toilet cleaners. Slobbery dogs for Viva. Sanitary products. I’m sorry, but if I’m eating, which sadly I do in front of the TV (and I’m sure I’m not the only one), toilets and slobbery dogs are the last things I want to look at. As for sanitary products, I’m not a prude but I reckon the best place to advertise them is in women’s magazines. And I’m not the only one who has a problem with these TV ads. There were a lot of people who were offended enough to complain officially.

I reckon being too graphic will turn people off. Even a spider will make me turn away from the screen so whatever message the advertiser is trying to get across is completely lost. Of course, you can’t please everybody and sometimes being controversial gets ads talked about. Which the ad agency will probably justify with the saying ‘Any publicity is good publicity.’ Let’s hope the clients’ bottom line reflects that.

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Clever ads for OtterBox

Two very different ads for the same company, for two very different target audiences. Those who want design and practicality, and those who just want practicality. The first ad is for style, style, style. Cleverly, they’ve shot the ad so that you don’t see the faces of the dancers. There are two good reasons for this.

Firstly, as human beings, we are hard-wired to look at people’s faces. By not showing them, we are forced to focus more on the product. Secondly, when we look at people in ads, we ask ourselves ‘do I relate to that person?’ Most of this is subconscious, but it happens. If we don’t relate to the person in the ad, we are less likely to pay attention or purchase the product. Here’s the link for Otter’s stylish ad.

The second ad for OtterBox is for those who want practicality. Probably guys, probably tradies, so they have used a man who they can relate to. Demonstration ads work really well and they have been used for TV since the 1950s. Most of them are pretty boring, but this ad has found a great way to demonstrate just how waterproof the phone cover is.

The image on the phone cleverly relates to man’s best friend, and where the call is coming from gives him a really good reason to chuck the phone. It’s a clever use of humour that we can all relate to, which helps make it more memorable. The name of the product is easy to remember, too, because it’s relevant.


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Who gives a crap

Here’s a business that’s good for the planet and whose advertising is really clever. The name of the business is Who gives a crap and they make toilet paper out of 100% Recycled fibres to save on trees, water and landfill. Simple but effective, their messages make you smile. Here are just a few of them…

Good for your bum. Great for the world.
When it comes to saving the planet, we’re on a roll.
Together, we can make every wipe count.

You can find them at


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