December 20, 2006

By George, I've (Almost) Got It

Was visiting Limerick earlier this week where I was working with the owners of the just-opened My client suggested that I sample the lunch offering at another new arrival, the boutique George Hotel, on my way back to the railway station.

Given the style and profile of the George, I expected it to be awash with bright young things. Instead, it was jammed with bright old things (myself amongst them). I think I’ve been guilty of falling into a trap alongside most of my fellow marketers. Why wouldn’t a sixty- or seventy-something fancy the oh-so-cool interiors of a boutique hotel? One senior at a table near mine confessed to her lunch-companion that she had been “dying to try the George since it opened three weeks ago”.

Like me, I’ll bet the developers of the George never anticipated such a broad appeal in their new place. I wonder what other opportunities we’re missing when we take such a narrow view of our customer?

December 14, 2006

Have Your Cake...

Just spotted an impressive magazine ad for South Africa, which featured a view over the plains from a lodge-type spa and suggested that here is where 'Spoilt Meets Unspoilt'. And I asked, is it really?

Whilst a favourite parlour trick of the great brands is to resolve apparent contradictions (think Nike which allows Couch Potato to meet Athletic God), I’m not so sure that the Spoilt can meet the Unspoilt too often and get away with it. Here in Ireland, Guinness Lite ran into a similar brick wall some time ago. I also believe this particular contradiction is a little played out in advertising for the world’s great beauty spots.

But there are lots of other great brand contradictions out there. The classic Golden Pages’ ‘Let Your Fingers Do The Walking’ is one of my favourites – what’s yours?

December 10, 2006

Someday My Prince Will Come

In turning an eye and ear occasionally to what's happening in the online world, I'm inclined to ask: "Where do they get the energy?". The activity out there is extraordinary. There are new places being created for people to congregate every other minute and each has its regulars.

I recently tuned into the Lincoln-backed My Dream where visitors are invited to share their dreams and 'create, achieve, embark, transform and give back'. It's teeming with the projects, wishes, ambitions and pipe-dreams of hundreds of people from around the world.

Places like this put me in mind of the French short story where the bachelor sister and brother apparently find their perfect match through the personal ads. They agree to meet only to discover that the other is the dream lover of their correspondence. I recall Barry Manilow had a song along the same lines (Do you like pina colada? etc).

Whilst I can't see us all decamping en masse, I wonder whether these social sites will in time find us living in silence alongside neighbours and family whilst daring only to communicate our deepest desires to virtual strangers? Or whether they'll simply provide us with richer and more varied ways in which to speak to each other?

Where do you see it headed? And what do you think are the implications for your business?

December 02, 2006

And That's Final!

Stung a little by the absence of comments to all but one of my previous posts (Emma, take another bow), I wrote to a small number of colleagues inviting them to join in the conversation.

A client and friend of mine, Paul Lanigan (who's also a keen blogger: see his Clear Thinking Straight Talking) got back to me to say that my blogging experience wasn't uncommon and that people generally prefer to observe rather than participate. He also suggested that I might encourage more commentary if I were to finish each blog with a question (much like a call to action) rather than an observation.

That makes such a lot of sense. Why bother to comment when the writer seems to think he's had the last word? (No, that's not my question to finish - I think Paul meant something more than a rhetorical question!).

Here it is: Anyone know of any other ways in which I might encourage readers to get involved and make this blog much more than a one-way conversation?

Now you've no excuse. Over to you!

November 28, 2006

Ah Mr. Brand...We've Been Expecting You.

I watched Casino Royale over the weekend and whilst I enjoyed the film immensely (and found Daniel Craig a great addition to the pantheon), I couldn't help feel that it wasn't on-brand.

Many of the ingredients we've come to expect of the 007 series were missing and the film played like any other superior action flick of the last few years (think Bourne Identity), with plenty of beautifully choreographed high-speed chases and set-piece battles.

But where was the evil maniac, thirsting for world domination from his fantastic island headquarters? Where were the gadgets? Why deny us the classic 007 music until the very end?

Whilst there appeared to be some effort to take us back to the very beginning, when Bond became Bond, I doubt very much that the franchise would have survived forty years on such conscientious storytelling. So what if Bond had become faintly (or not-so-faintly) ridiculous! So what if its producer Barbara Broccoli felt that "maybe things had got a little too fantastical"!

A great part of the appeal of 007 James Brand lies in that fantasy. Its owners shouldn't be lulled into believing that they can get away with playing all grown-up and earnest with the Bond legacy simply because the drawing-power of the brand continues to fill cinemas worldwide.

If Casino Royale is followed by another in the same vein, then I suspect the brand will find itself on a slippery slope and will require more than a suave, smooth-talking agent with a license to kill to rescue it.

November 18, 2006

Lightwait, I'm Afraid

Regular visitors may have remarked the absence of updates on my reading of Penguin's 'The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters' (see my previous posts: Worth The Wait In Gold? & Wait Lifted), which was launched to great fanfare in October.

It's left me distinctly underwhelmed to the point where I've falled behind in my reading by two or three episodes (the publishers had me believe I'd be eagerly awaiting the next episode to arrive) and I couldn't care less what happens to the various characters.

I mentioned in a previous post that my teenage diaries strike me now as self-conscious and contrived. Dream Eaters suffers the same weakness. The most recent book arrived with an invitation to go online and share my experiences with other readers but I can't be bothered.

I really loved the original idea but don't believe it's been delivered successfully. What a pity.

I'm The King Of The Castle

Watched the entertaining film 'Starter For 10' last night in which Rebecca replies to Brian's "That's a joke" pronouncement with "I'll be the judge of that!".

As brand owners, we often forget that it's not we who decide whether our brand is funny or important or relevant. The customer is the judge of that too. When we keep that in mind, we're far less likely to come out with boastful claims that are just begging to be punctured.

November 09, 2006

Sometimes, Three's A Crowd

Denny Hatch, in his latest Business Common Sense argues that marketeers should steer clear of humour in pitching to customers ("with very few exceptions, humour in advertising doesn't work").

His argument is that it's not enough to draw attention to your offer, it's got to be the right type of attention. I wonder whether the same thinking mightn't extend to much of the excitement about numbers that currently dominates discussions about the internet. There's no doubt that many websites and services are drawing a crowd - but is it the right crowd, in the right frame of mind to listen to your pitch?

As always, it comes down to the quality of the relationship that your customer is looking for. It's no good playing to the crowd when your customer is looking for something a little more discreet. Check that the numbers add up before rushing into a stadium when a more personal approach is what's required.

November 06, 2006

Sparkles Like Diamonds

Arrived before my lunch-date at Fallon & Byrne in Dublin’s city centre and was shown to my table where I promptly ordered some fizzy water (living on the edge, that’s me). Whilst sipping on my drink, I received a text that I was in the wrong place – we were to meet instead at The Winding Stair Café across the Liffey.

Not a little abashed, I made my way to the maitre d’ to let him know that I was headed elsewhere and how much did I owe for the fizzy water? Without missing a beat, he told me that the drink was on the house and asked was I going anywhere nice for lunch? When I said where I was headed, he said he’d heard great things about The Winding Stair and invited me to enjoy my lunch (which I did).

What a star! Rather than sulk because I was taking my business elsewhere, my host chose not to see me as a fly-by-day customer but as a guest at this table, however short-lived.

Needless to say, I’ll be back (and for more than a glass of fizzy water on the house).

October 30, 2006

Wait Lifted

The first episode of Penguin's 'The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters' (see my previous post 'Worth Its Wait In Gold') arrived in my mailbox during the week and I got stuck in as soon as I could. The book itself is a slim volume, closer to an old-fashioned magazine in shape and size - making it quite exotic in the modern context - and I enjoyed the sense of anticipation with which I turned to the opening page.

This first book tells the story of Temple, a woman whose fiance cuts off their engagement without explanation, prompting her to disguise herself and follow him to a mysterious country house where she witnesses all sorts of strange goings-on. I found the writing style a little irritating at first but settled past that to enjoy the story, which finishes rather abruptly as promised with all manner of things unexplained for now, and left me hanging on for the next installment.

I suspect it's a little early yet for me to judge how successful the approach is. I've certainly found myself wondering in the meantime about Temple's adventure and where it leads and am looking forward to the arrival of the next discreetly adorned white package.

I'm enjoying the experience although in a fairly self-conscious way. It reminds me of keeping my diary as a child - when I was always mindful that somebody, someday, would read my entry and edited accordingly. When I read it now, it strikes me as contrived and careful. I'll have to relax a little more into the next book and just let it sweep me away.

October 23, 2006

The Unfriendly Skies

Here in this part of the world (Ireland), Ryanair's recent bid for our national airline Aer Lingus has been the talk of the town. Analysts have looked at the proposed takeover from almost every angle but, as far as I know, no-one has asked what this means for the Ryanair brand.

For me, this makes for a fascinating sub-plot. Despite being one of the world's larger airlines, Ryanair has long relished playing the part of underdog taking on the fat cats but, in baring its teeth and menacing the much smaller Aer Lingus, I wonder whether it's lost its grip on that position forever.

In the short term, I suspect this matters little, but over the long haul, Ryanair may regret moving in for such a public kill. Could it be that Michael O'Leary has finally bitten off more than he can chew?

October 16, 2006

Clap Hands

Fairy Liquid's new print ads for their dishwashing 'active bursts' feature a clever riff on one of the more memorable taglines of the past twenty years: Fairy Liquid - For Hands That Don't Do Dishes.

The original For Hands That Do Dishes worked so well for me (and presumably for everyone else too) because it had that grain of everyday language running through it that seems to mark almost all of the truly great campaigns: Guinness Is Good For You, Beanz Meanz Heinz, Let Your Fingers Do The Walking etc. The new ads play on that very nicely indeed.

It's not as easy as it looks though - sometimes the hardest thing to do is to keep it simple, particularly when the temptation is to try and say it all.

October 09, 2006

Box Of Tricks

The power of music in helping to set the scene, whether at an event or in a restaurant or hotel lobby, is often underestimated, so I was delighted to happen upon Pandora whilst pulling together the soundtrack for our Smile Conference.

Pandora offers me the tools to create a playlist based around a particular song that I like and uses the individual characteristics of that song to suggest other songs that share those characteristics. I listen to each suggested song and give it the thumbs up or down, which helps Pandora refine its search further.

Apart from being a lot of fun, Pandora has allowed me to make a soundtrack based around Simon & Garfunkel's 'Mrs.Robinson' that taps into the particular spirit of that song (which in turn has tapped into the brand profile of the conference itself).

Seems to me that this approach offers event organisers and venue hosts the opportunity to set the scene in a way that's much more likely to strike a chord with their own visitors than the bland muzak that's usually served up.

October 04, 2006

King For A Day (Or Two)

Travelled by train to Mayo and to a client of mine, the Westport Woods Hotel, where I was treated like a king rather than the hired hand and reminded how blessed I am to work for the likes of my host this evening, Michael Lennon. Despite the late hour, Michael travelled in from his home to shake my hand and make me welcome. He had better things to do, I’m sure, but he made the journey all the same.

Michael’s in good company. Other clients of mine, Sean Buckley at the Arbutus Hotel in Killarney, Martin McCaffrey at the Hole In The Wall Pub and Conor O’Kane at the Quality Hotel, the last two both in Dublin, are men who share the same natural generosity of spirit as hosts. It goes beyond what can be prescribed by a brand consultant like me as something that might offer an edge, some commercial advantage. It comes from a different place.

As someone on the receiving end, I can tell you it feels different. Sean greets me at the airfield and bids me welcome to the Kingdom, Martin offers me a bottle of wine to take home and “tell me what you and Christine make of it”, while Conor stops by my table to share an observation and, as I discover only when I go to pay my tab, treat me to lunch.

For this hired hand, it doesn’t get much better than that. This stuff can’t be taught but it’s something that many another business might do well to learn.

September 30, 2006

Reasons To Be Cheerless

Read a piece just now from the always-thought provoking Whisper branding agency that really hits home as I prepare to do some work with a client on the branding of a town.

The people at Whisper caution against the dangers of cheerleading rather than branding, something to which tourist authorities are particularly prone. Beating our chests always plays to our audience as self-serving, yet most destination taglines make this their first resort. Something for me to bear in mind as I ask my client the all-important question: "Why will people come?"

September 19, 2006

Worth Its Wait In Gold?

I've just signed up to what its promoters insist will be this year's most exclusive and unique reading experience (mind you, you could argue that every reading experience is both exclusive and unique, apart perhaps from read-aloud, but I nitpick...).

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters is a "sumptuous Victorian adventure fit for our digital age" which is to be published in ten installments and posted directly to me over ten weeks. Subscription is limited to 5,000 worldwide and I'm guessing that Penguin hope this exclusivity will prompt a frenzy of interest amongst readers across the world.

My own interest is mostly in getting to read a story in serial form, much as the readers of Dickens & other Victorian writers first read some of the great novels of the day. We are promised an 'utterly compelling gothic adventure story'. Will it deliver? Check in with me sometime after October 16th when the first installment is issued and I'll have one great wait lifted off my shoulders.

September 13, 2006

London Bridge

Am delighted to be in London which I always find to be a curious mix of the foreign and the familiar. I especially enjoy riding the Underground and the mix of great names on the various stations: Moorgate, Seven Sisters, Chalk Farm and Pudding Mill Lane. Not to mention the world-familiar Greenwich, Marble Arch, the two Circuses Oxford and Picadilly, Hyde Park Corner, Baker Street and others. These make every journey something of an adventure.

It reminds me of something I read when researching a name for our own company (Islandbridge), how Churchill said: “Broadly speaking, the short words are the best and the old ones best of all”. I took that to suggest the old Norse and Saxon words in particular that litter the English language, many of them to be found in the station-names of London’s Underground.

Apple, Virgin and Riverdeep follow this line and rumble underground in the same way. There are worse places to start when naming a company or putting words on an idea.

September 07, 2006

Honey, I Shrunk The...

Heard Seth Godin discussing his latest book a couple of days ago where he talks about how 'Small Is The New Big'.

Here in Ireland, we've traditionally been small to the global big but I wondered if we had somewhat recklessly discarded some of that smallness in the frenzy of the last ten years, much as Irish pubs ripped out their traditional interiors in the '70's and '80's only to scramble (and pay through the nose) to recreate them when trends turned full circle.

Mind you, Seth talks too of the importance of big companies acting small so perhaps we can perform a 'diminutive but big-thinking, small-acting' balancing act?

This world is growing more and more like the one that Alice found down the rabbit-hole. 'Drink me' and we're done!

September 01, 2006

Ten Green Bottles

Matt Haig in the first few pages of his Brand Failures: The Truth About The 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes Of All Time (gasp!) tells me that nine out of ten brands fail.

Well, not around here they don’t. Nine out of ten of our client’s brands succeed and that yawning gap in statistics is less to do with our approach (although I’m always happy to bask in reflected glory from any direction) and much more to do with the fact that Haig writes about what I call ‘celebrity’ brands, often operating in categories where the customer really doesn’t need a new cola flavour or technical feature or variation on a variation on a theme.

We don’t take a lead on how to live their lives from celebrities (mind you, I would love to learn to pout like Kylie) so why should we take a leaf out of the books of celebrity brands? Most big brands fail because they live in a world so far removed from their customers that they lose touch with what those customers really want. Our clients are typically more inclined to get close to their customers and offer something that they really want and need. It follows that their brands stand a much greater chance of success than one in ten.

And I suspect that’s probably true of most brands that operate in the real world.

Technorati Tag: Matt Haig, Brand Failures, Celebrity Brands

August 26, 2006

Just An Old Sweet Song

It was Ray Charles who sang about what it was that kept Georgia on his mind (an old sweet song, as it happened).

Came upon a cautionary tale from US branding agency Whisper which suggests that some people don't know when they've got it made: Out Of My Mind

Seems that a couple of agencies charged with rebranding Georgia replaced the timeless Georgia On My Mind with the inane Put Your Dreams In Motion. The world is already littered with similarly innocuous taglines.

Beware an agency that is mostly out to make a name for itself and feels obliged to uproot whatever was there before (no matter how valuable) and replace it with something else simply so that they have something to show for their efforts.

Technorati Tags: Georgia, Destination Branding, Whisper

August 20, 2006

Much Ado About Nothing?

Am just back from a family holiday in Seignosse in the southwest of France and am reminded of an old school-teacher's sarcastic take on my daydreaming: "Sometimes I just sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits."

I find it relatively easy to switch off but it's funny how difficult it is to take a holiday and do nothing at all - most days I just relaxed and read thrillers but a little voice occasionally urged me to see significance even in my idling. It's a blessing for commercial brand-builders, of course, but nowadays, it seems to me that it's impossible to do nothing. Somewhere, a bank or a tour operator is labelling that nothing as 'Paradise!' or 'The Great Escape' or something of the sort. Even where we choose to do that nothing - at home in the back garden or in Seignosse or on a deserted island - insists on saying something about who we are, what our values are etc.

It probably wasn't helped by my reading the utterly absorbing Pope's Children by David McWilliams, which traces the trends and behaviours of the Irish through the Celtic Tiger explosion and beyond (and proposes that we all fall into membership of one tribe or another through our impulses and responses to the changes around us).

My own holiday experience suggests that choosing to say or do nothing doesn't enable us to opt out. What is it the songwriter said in another context: 'We say it better, when we say nothing at all"?

Technorati Tag: David McWilliams, The Pope's Children

August 04, 2006

Twinkle, twinkle...

I’ve been scanning the blurb on some books I’m planning to bring with me on holiday. Much of it is offered up by business leaders who profess to have been inspired by the writer in some extraordinary way. Very impressive stuff. Until I check out which companies these leaders head up and see amongst them some very uninspiring companies. “Inspired you how, exactly?”

Which suggests to me that as brand-owners we need to be very careful about who we invite to bear witness on our behalf. Glowing reports from big names are all very well but if those names add only a dull or tarnished sheen to our shining examples, then we’re better off letting our work speak for itself.

July 29, 2006

Halt! Who Goes There?

Now, don't worry, I'm not about to go all technical on you but I have been catching up with the excellent (if rather grandly-titled) Thought Leaders podcast over the past few weeks and particularly enjoyed the Interview with David Sifry, the founder of Technorati which tracks the content of blog discussions worldwide and makes them 'searchable' in a similar way to Google.

I did tune out a little when David got too technical but my ears pricked up when I heard him say that he thought Blogs (as the successors to Bulletin Boards) had made electronic conversations much more thoughtful. He argued that the way in which we can identify more immediately with the person hosting a blog meant that we are much more likely to be polite and friendly when exchanging comments, ideas or even hotly-contested differences of opinion.

That's my sense too. Bulletin boards have always struck me as being more akin to public graffiti (which I find almost invariably hostile). My few tentative efforts at participating left me feeling rather exposed. Blogs, whether they're generated by contrarians or corporations, feel to me more personal and real.

For brand-owners who wish to begin a lively and friendly electronic exchange with their customers, a blog seems a good place to start.

Technorati Tag: Technorati, Thought Leaders, David Sifry, Blog

July 23, 2006

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Following my visit to Galway and the House Hotel, I found myself visiting the website of the Morrison Hotel in Dublin The Morrison, which describes itself as "probably the coolest and most luxurious city centre hotel" in Dublin.

Whilst I’ve never been able to lay claim to being cool myself, I can just about tell when somebody or something else is cool (no, really!) and claiming to be cool usually disqualifies in my experience. So, Morrison Hotel, fun to visit and luxurious, certainly, but coolest – I don’t think so...

Technorati Tag: Morrison Hotel

July 18, 2006

Let's Play House

Am writing this at the artfully-named House Hotel, which has recently opened in Galway. They tell me that they aim to take care of me as a houseguest rather than a visitor and have taken this idea for a walk through their brand mark (a cat curled up asleep) and the playful language in which they describe the various parts of the business (The Den, The Parlour Bar & Grill) whilst the Do Not Disturb signs have been replaced with Cat Napping!

(Thankfully, I was directed to the washrooms rather than the litter-tray...).

It always appeals to me when a brand manages to be both stylish and friendly at the same time; too many brands have one at the expense of the other. You could say that the House left me purring!

The Boy In The Bubble

Was rear-ended in a minor car accident (“Does my bum look dented in this?”) and found that I spent the last few days driving around town and daring other drivers to squeeze through narrow gaps in the traffic. Or at the very least not caring too much if they come too close. Another scrape between now and my return to the repair-shop will make little difference. I feel strangely brave, almost untouchable.
I’ve sometimes sensed this same faint belligerence in service staff who I suspect are probably on a last warning or about to finish a holiday job: “You can’t touch me!”
Seems to me it’s far too dangerous to entrust your brand to someone who’s daring the world to land a blow on them. When someone couldn’t care less, it shows, and the customer on the receiving end is only too quick to take his business elsewhere.

July 15, 2006

I'll Huff & I'll Puff

Heard someone from the European GSM Association, which represents the mobile phone operators, defending the awful roaming charges that his members levy on their customers. He argued that the relatively inexpensive entry charges to mobile accounts, typically achieved through subsidised handsets, somehow justified higher charges elsewhere.

He added an extended ‘buyer beware’ (“we always publish details of our roaming charges”) that strikes me as the type of “read the small print, sucker!” retort that you would expect from a shyster rather than from a group of companies that cosy up to the prospective customer at every opportunity with the suggestion that they have your interests at heart (‘How are you? See what you can do. Your world, your way...etc).  As a customer, I don’t want to read the small print. I want to buy from companies I can trust to deliver a good service and charge a fair price. Companies that lure me with sweet deals and then catch me unawares when my guard is down are hucksters and leave the market wide open to a new entrant who truly has my interests at heart.

Technorati Tag: Mobile Phone Operators, European GSM Association, Roaming Charges

July 07, 2006

After The Ball Is Over

Read a report in Media & Marketing in the Irish Times that suggests that sports sponsorship in Ireland is enjoying only limited success in terms of recall amongst consumers. In particular, the link made between Permanent TSB and their sponsorship of the Irish Rugby Team (which has just come off a successful Six Nations campaign) was poor, whilst other sponsors only fared slightly better.

I wonder whether it's because the sponsor really hasn't established any credentials in terms of the relationship that's touted. It's one thing to hang out with the coolest guy in the class, but the other kids soon see through hanging on to someone else's coat-tails in the hope of catching some reflected glory. Guinness, on the other hand, strike me as having done a much better job in terms of underlining their relationship with the game of hurling: Guinness Print Ad.

Technorati Tag: Brand, Guinness, Sports Sponsorship

July 04, 2006

Over The Hills

I've had some enquiries from people looking to track down our previous blog, which ran for a few months last year and followed the branding of Paul Lanigan from both Paul's and my point of view.

You'll find it not so far away at Paul Lanigan Opens Up whilst you can keep up to date on what Paul did next at Paul Lanigan's Website.

Technorati Tag: Brand, Paul Lanigan

...And I'll Eat You For Supper.

Learned just now that Scottish tourism is losing £286 million due to midges. It's hard to believe that a little creature like that (barely a millimetre long according to the report) can take such a big bite. And I thought the only monsters in Scotland were to be found in Loch Ness.

Mind you, it makes you wonder what little unseen nasties might be taking chunks out of our own tourist industry. Misleading roadsigns, grasping charges for broadband and the under-the-breath protests of increasingly resentful staff..?

June 30, 2006

We're Not In Kansas Anymore...

I'll confess to mixed feelings about some of my recent adventures in the land of the podcast and blog (at times, it's difficult to take seriously this new wave of activities that sound like something dreamed up by Lewis Carroll: `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did blog and podcast in the wabe...'). On the whole, it's exhilarating but I sometimes can't help feeling that these games played behind the looking-glass are just a little self-indulgent, cut off as they are for the time being from what the rest of the world is getting up to.

I listened in to a recent podcast Across The Sound as its author Joseph Joffe exchanged observations through Skype with another podcaster whilst the pair of them played as 'avatars' in a virtual, online world, Second Life, with other players from different parts of the real world. Layers upon layers and a tantalising glimpse of a future state of play most probably, but listening to the two players was like watching jazz and I couldn't help but hear shades of Harrison Ford struggling with some of the lines in Star Wars, "you can write this stuff but you can't make me say it!".

At the same time, I know some of this stuff is going to be very important and I've recently committed to trying out as much of what my customers are likely to be offered as possible (so long as it's legal!). And I do believe that podcasting and blogging are the ways to go but still... I'll feel a little less self-conscious when more of my colleagues step through and I'm not one of the few in shirt and tie whilst the rest stroll about in fancy dress.

Click your heels three times, dear, there's no place like home.

June 24, 2006

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo...

As we watched one of the soccer games from the World Cup on television last evening, my older son, Aidan, remarked on how difficult it must be for the commentary team to remember the names of so many different players from one game to the next. Yet as we watched the ball being transferred from one to the other, sometimes at breathtaking speed, the names seemed to just roll off the tongue of the commentator. How do they do that?

I remember hearing how the human mind is confused by too much choice, yet here you have the option of ten outfield players on each team, often with little to distinguish them and seen from a distance, and somehow the commentator picks out the right one every time. (Or perhaps they simply call it with such confidence that we believe they must be right?). I know they rehearse the team-list before the game, but still...

I wonder whether it'’s something to do with the personal element? Perhaps the human mind struggles to make a distinction between more than three objects or ideas but revels in the variety thrown up in a typical group of people? Fans of TV series such as The Soprano'’s or Lost seem to have no difficulty following the wide array of characters and their back-stories and jumping from one plotline to the next.

Maybe that'’s it? Maybe that'’s why brands that rely on listing functional strengths and benefits are largely forgettable whilst brands that add some touch of personality and tell a story seem to be more easily remembered?

Mind you, I'm not so sure that explains why TV commentators can distinguish between one horse and the next, simply by their racing-colours. Perhaps the pundits simply have unusually sharp eyes and power of recall..?

Technorati Tag: World Cup, brand

June 17, 2006

Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

I'm looking out on blue skies (very unusual for Dublin), the morning after they finally put Charles Haughey in the ground. It reminds me of a scene from a story, the day after the storm when the world seems new again. I'm a child of the seventies, a time when Charles J. was in his pomp. Instinctively, I didn't like him, was afraid of him even.

There was something rather terrifying about Haughey. Despite the efforts of various political rivals and enemies, nobody seemed able to drive a stake through the heart of this awful figure, who ruled our world as surely as the witch or the big, bad wolf rules in children's stories.

Recent pictures in the papers show him much smaller than I remember him. This is a man who brought his own brand to Irish politics, and even his own tagline, what came to be known in our country as GUBU - Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre & Unprecedented. From a distance, he seems a two-bit dictator of a tin-pot republic - it's easy in these celtic tiger days to forget the bleak wasteland which he ruled - but he was very real indeed and threw a dark shadow over the island.

People argue over his legacy - some say he led us to a promised land or at least took us on the first few faltering steps - but I believe he stands for something very wrong at the heart of Irish society, something that continues to stalk our relative successes. Our current first politician stood at the tyrant's grave yesterday and delivered an oration. It was like a scene from The Soprano's. This is still a place where grasping, greedy men determine too much of what happens next.

It's difficult not to greet news of the departure of one such man with a sigh of relief. Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead...

Technorati Tag: Haughey

Here goes...

Even as a child, I was always reluctant to make the first marks on a new copybook. Now I find myself wanting to make these first blogging notes striking or memorable in some way. Which kind of defeats the purpose, if what I read about Blogs and how they work is anything to go by. I'm told that what matters more is to be real and immediate, to publish and be damned. Hopefully those of you who follow my progress will find more gut-reaction and less head-conscious as we go...more probably, we'll end up veering between one and the other. But I do promise to spend less time looking for the right word and a little more following the ideas as they strike.

Go on! You can relax now, the first marks have been made. Things always got easier after that.