My name is David Sadler-Smith and I am a Genericolic

whiskey
I was putting together a bio for myself and reviewing a selection of my work trying to get a sense of what really sets me apart from others. An easy task I thought, so I started wading through the ad material, DM’s, brochures, PR etc. that I had created over the years looking for what stood out. It was during this self-examination (which is never pleasant as I tend to end up asking the question – what difference has my life works actually made to people?) I was taken aback by the amount of Generic content that I had created. Generic content …bloated copy lines, superfluous visuals, elaborate typesetting etc. etc. … all the stuff we use to frame and guild our story.
What really shook me was the Generic stuff seemed to be growing to the point where in some cases it appeared to be the story (non- story might be a more appropriate term)… I had become a Genericolic.

A good test for Genericolicism is to remove your name or logo from a piece of communication material (websites are particularly good places to start) and replace it with a competitors and see if you notice the difference.

It was after a quick scoot around online and reviewing others web content that it became clear to me that Genericolicism was widespread and I was in fact part of an epidemic. Corporate website and marketing material was awash with.

“an extensive range of strategies and solutions to unnamed problems covering every market sector. Putting the customer first and leveraging untold levels of expertise in whatever subject matter might interest you… your problem our solution… in partnership together”

Here’s a real one “We can help you to seamlessly integrate data to inform business decisions and actions in ways that allow your team to respond faster to evolving business priorities. We can advise you how to innovate using data and analytics, how to drive excellence in operations, and how to deliver modern data & analytics platforms.” … that’s IBM

Generic content isn’t a bad thing (thank god… as I seem to earn living creating it) and it is often an essential framing element to any communications. A story needs context and its relevance and usefulness needs to be easily decoded by the audience. What makes something different however, can be quite subtle and is easily choked by the contextual stuff and the so-what.

Whether you are on your way to becoming Genericolic or like me you have the full blown disease here are 4 things you should consider doing.

  1. Admit you are sufferer – only then can you truly separate out the Generic content from the Heroic stuff
  2. Don’t go cold turkey – Generic copy is not bad… it’s just not the story, not even the glue… it’s just a framework. Yes… build your framework but save your creativity for what makes your story different and useful to others.
  3. Apply the test for Genericolicism to every piece of work you do.
  4. Join the mailing list – there is strength in numbers and there’s always relief to be had when you learn about others that are suffering more than you.

As a sufferer it’s not all bad news. There maybe no cure and you may just have to accept that on occasions your prolific skill to spout marketing fluff will be leveraged across multiple communications platforms… oh shit, but like all good addictions you will be able to spot yours and the Generocism of others a mile off and it could be just that which sets you apart when you’re next presenting your ideas or life’s work to a prospective client or employer.

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Rescued on a wipe clean couch

I see this sign quite a bit at the moment on the M25. Free recovery… Await rescue. Kind of appealing in a non motorway setting… some might say a little romantic.

Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for

But if you’re unfortunate enough to be sitting in your chariot broken down on the M25 and feeling grateful for the prospect of a free rescue… you may want to think again.

Sitting in your car stranded in the road works is very unpleasant and you’d think I’d be grateful for a free rescue but as a guy, being rescued is emotionally a little uncomfortable…

…in “normal” life when things go wrong you tend to get some sympathy – warm looks and maybe a hug. But that doesn’t happen when you’ve inconvenienced a fellow motorway traveller by adding a 15 minute delay to his journey.

So I’m sitting there apologising to everyone that chooses to look, with their hate filled eyes, into my car as they pass me by. I’m mumbling expletives to myself as I patiently wait to be rescued. Eventually my knight in shining armour arrives… not on his trusty steed, he’s riding an over-sized tow truck, the kind of truck that tows other trucks. And my knight… he’s not wearing his traditional shiny armour his chosen protection is a thick layer of body fat squeezed into a grubby boiler suit which has been fully waterproofed by layers of grease.

“I bet you’re glad to see me” says Stevo. He quickly hooks up my ride to the Beast (the tow truck) – his words not mine – he gives me a wink and gestures me towards the front of the truck. I look back at my baby, she is now attached to the Beast’s giant hook. It looks as though she’s about to be dragged back to its  cave where she’ll be violated by a selection of greasy attachments belonging to Beast… not a romantic scene. And me… well Stevo tells me I’ll be riding up top! As I climb into the cab I could feel a wave of sympathy from other road warriors… yes death was the punishment they had wished for but this scene, and what might ensue, looked a little too harsh… after all it could be one of them next time.

Up top in the cab, it looks, feels and smells more like a beasts mouth. I’m sitting on what appears to be a couch upholstered in “wipe clean” black plastic…  a very convenient surface Stevo told me later. At this point I felt the need to remind myself that I too am a man… but did that actually matter to Stevo.

Fortunately there’s not much chat up top – not much anything infact – we just listen to Rod Stewart banging out “The first cut is the deepest” and “If loving you is wrong I don’t want to be right”. Stevo’s about the same age as me but that’s where the common ground ends. Clearly we went down different paths at a very early age. Stevo’s path was more a trip around the block than a journey, stopping off at the corner shop to get fags, picking up his wife Kaz at the pub and buying a scratchcard as an investment for his future. Whereas mine has been a path and journey that has taken me to the great unknown, a place where anything is possible and where dreams are made real… ironically the M25 has now reunited me with Stevo; we’re the same age and in the same place but I’m the one broken down.

Thankfully a motorway rescue is short affair… we pull into the next motorway service station, Stevo looks at me “there you go that wasn’t too painful was it” he jumps out the cab and lights up a fag. I gingerly climb out of the Beasts mouth and Stevo gives me a wink… really was that necessary? “Let’s get your girl off the Beast’s hook”.  I walk around the front of the Beast trying not to make eye contact with its headlights. The beast was huge and grubby… I’m sure it was smiling. We gently lowered my baby off the hook, which was now curiously very hot, and released her from the Beasts grip. It may have only been a 3 minute ride but she didn’t look the same girl. I got this feeling that she rather enjoyed being on the back of the Beast, bumping and vibrating along on his giant hook … would she ever be able to respond to me in the same way. Thankfully my own experience with Stevo was a little less traumatic… and maybe we’re a little more alike than I first thought, after all, I spend much of my time going around the “M25” block. Maybe I should invest in a scratchcard and some wipe clean material for life’s spillages.

What’s that smell…

HAPPY NEW YEAR… like most of us I spend way too much time trying to put meaning to things that have gone against me or not quite to plan. So to help me keep perspective this year I have a new mantra…

every dog will have its day

For me that means “get over it”… because someone will soon be along to give me a stroke and tell me that I’m a clever boy. In the meantime does anyone have any tips for dealing with piss stains?

Masculinity… the optional extra for BMW drivers

Increasingly in life what used to come as standard is now an optional extra… I’m not against this as I don’t like to pay for things that I don’t need or use. But some things are essential. As a man, for example, I want to feel masculine and just like any other guy I want that feeling as standard and not as an option. But my masculinity was recently challenged and maybe eroded slightly… forever.

Before I share, I need to give you a bit of background. We all know that car makers are well known for the optional extra and BMW, the maker of my particular chariot and the source of this story, has a history of making you pay extra for just about everything. I’ve never owned a BMW before and up until recently I was very happy with it – I think a car says something about its owner, a BM; sporty, well engineered, stylish… yeah… that’s me… arrogant… no.

Anyway me and my ego have enjoyed the car… but I recently had a puncture. No big deal I thought. I opened the boot, lifted up the carpet and looked down into the ample space that housed the spare wheel. But where was it; had they forgot to put it in… no, not the Germans… there sitting in its place was a little white box and a mini compressor – the emergency tyre repair kit. I can hear all you BM drivers shouting at me now telling me I don’t need a spare wheel, the emergency repair kit is all I need. Well, we may have swallowed the sales spiel in the showroom… I remember the salesman massaging my ego, spewing the features and benefits and telling me how well engineered the car was and what an inspired choice I was making… but when you’re standing there having been stroked for an hour, with a semi-erection, no man is equipped to make a decision about anything… at that point it’s all about the grunt and performance. So even when he’s telling me about the emergency repair kit we believe him, we believe there is no room or point for the added weight of a spare… after all why would you want to compromise on performance.

Well I’ll tell you why the spare is an essential and not and optional extra.

My puncture… It was dark, cold and wet. I was returning to my car in a Morrisions car park. And it was when I open the boot that I noticed my tyre was flat. Other than the inconvenience of a puncture, a wheel change is a standard piece of maintenance which is performed by the machismo side of my person… a challenge that reminds me of what it feels like to be a man. In control; I know what to do. Strong; lift out the spare. Technical; expertly jack up the car, remove the bolts and replace the wheel… job done. Oh yes, this is a blue job, one of the few opportunities that a man can and is expected to exercise his masculinity. But on this occasion I had been robbed of doing my duty and being a man… with the emergency repair kit things don’t quite run the same way.

It’s dark… I take the little repair kit out the boot and attempt to read the instructions… mmm, without the aid of my “middle-aged” reading glasses and in the dark this was a bit tricky. Then the first of the Morrison shoppers walks by, not marvelling at my manliness but wondering if I needed a hand reading the little label… I’m now feeling like an old woman. After managing to read some of the instructions I hook up the compressor to the cigarette lighter and the special gunk container to the deflated wheel. I was hoping not to draw the attention of anymore shoppers but then I turned on the compressor. Oh dear… the noise… it was like a beacon, I got the attention of everyone and was now beginning to draw a small crowd… the women in the crowd looked on with an ahhhh face “I wonder if he’s alright” and the men looked on with a “you tosser what’s the matter with you… can’t you change a wheel”. The little compressor didn’t have much puff and took a while to re-inflate the wheel. As the wheel inflated my ego was deflated. I felt a total “man failure” yes the repair kit worked but BMW had failed.

BMW promised that the car would say everything that anyone would need to know about me – well engineered, sporty, sexy, and technically brilliant. But when they took away the spare wheel they robbed me of my birth right… the opportunity to be a man… yes I was a still reflection of the car… but not the man I thought I was… I was now Gary, the middle-aged effeminate hairdresser who was fighting a losing battle with old age and refusing to except that he needed to wear glasses.

Procrastination… doing the dinosaur!

After long period of doing nothing I’ve recently got things moving with my blog… but this weekend I can feel an old demon sitting on my keyboard calling at me “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after. “ Mr Procrastination.

Oh dear I can feel the excuses begin to wash over me… maybe tomorrow… I think the ironing needs doing… I need to relax… I should call my mum… I really must dust the skirting boards… I’ll just check my email… a game of angry birds might get me in the mood.

Usually I barely recognise procrastination setting in… that is unless I take a look at the pile of unopened letters on my kitchen worktop. But I was alerted to its presence this week whilst on the Eurostar to Paris. Whilst I was surfing the net on my smart phone I came across an article on the bbc website about procrastination – ironically it had caught my attention because I had promised myself I would use the time on the train to prepare for the meeting in Paris and here I was having convinced myself that the preparation I needed for the meeting was to play with my phone and chill out – well it was 6.00am. The article wasn’t offering much in the way of advice to overcome the affliction; it was a list of reader’s tales of procrastination. This was far more therapeutic … there’s something comforting about knowing that you’re not suffering alone. One story in particular made me chuckle; I’ve recounted it below.

A friend of mine, who I’ll call “Dave” (because that was his name), said he would do anything to avoid A-level revision. At one point he infamously found himself weighing the cat, convinced that he would only be able to settle down to work if he had that data to hand. As a result, some 25 years later, the act of procrastination is referred to by my family as “weighing the cat”.

If you want to read the others on the bbc website follow the link.

Now where’s that cat.

51 shades of Grey

“Just do it”, “Think different”, “Never knowingly undersold”, “ahh Bisto” these are great taglines and have been backed over the years with millions of pounds. But not all taglines are born equally and most are not sired by an aristocratic brand leader or have the marketing budgets to get into our psyche. Some are dull or just a description of what a company or product does and others are lazy or just misleading. The M25 is full of such marketing masterpieces “the good”, “the bad” and “the pig ugly”. Having conceived and given birth to a few ugly buggers of my own, I’m always on the look out for amusing examples. A couple in particular caught my eye at the beginning of this week.

Seymour Transport a big red truck that I was parked behind on the M25…  the tagline… “Logistics Magicians”. Inspired… yes that’s exactly what I want from my distribution company a service that gives me a “Now you see it”, “Now you don’t”… and look “Now you see it at a location nowhere near where you were expecting it”… applause. Not quite tagline gold, though I am familiar with that particular type of delivery service. Luggage at the airport is a good example. Now you see it at Gatwick… then you don’t see it in Majorca… but just when you think it’s gone… hey presto it’s on the carousel in Chicago… more applause.  The empty luggage carousel is one of life’s most depressing situations, it’s a bit like looking for that £20 note you thought you still had after a night out and then comes the realization that you bought the last round of drinks including a few extra for some random Doris types hanging around the bar… a wretched thought… what was I thinking.

The other tagline that caught my eye this week was on the side of a truck. “Delivering the Gold” … how exciting… what was it promoting you might be wondering… well probably not what you might think… “Delivering the Gold” pertains to the new Gold Combi-Bolier from Potterton. Yes a boiler… the Potterton marketing team must have worked long and hard on the conception of that one. I say conception but I think that line was more likely the outcome of a finger fumble in the stationery cupboard.  “Delivering the Gold” sounds like an over promise to me… do they honestly believe people see a boiler as some kind of lifestyle or luxury purchase… picture the scene your girlfriend is just coming through the front door and you excitedly beckon her “Hi baby come into the kitchen I’ve got a surprise for you” just as she comes through the door you turn on the hot water tap… the Potterton Gold fires up and your honey is greeted by hot water filling the sink… a steamy scene straight from 50 shades of grey you’d think… but no… she hasn’t quite made the connection between a combi boiler and gold trinkets… panic; the Potterton marketing flunkies have really let you down and the only finger fumbling you’ll be doing tonight is when you make that call to Seymour, the Logistics Magicians, to request a Houdini like transportation of  your sorry backside out of there.

Potterton boiler

Couldn’t quite fit it all in and getting out of the car wasn’t really an option

David Sadler-Smith

Crossing an ocean

FRINTON-ON-SEA, Essex – 19th August 2012 (click to enlarge)

That’s a great quote and it’s one I try to remind myself of when I have a decision to take or, more frequently for me these days, when things take an unexpected turn.

And if you’re thinking about crossing an ocean, remember that as you get older your past has a habit of turning around and looking back at you…  so be sure to leave nothing important behind.