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.

So you like it thick and slow…

Thick and slow is never a good a thing when I’m in traffic on the M25. And thick and slow is rarely something to be applauded. But thinner and faster is not always better as pointed out by Frijj who recently reminded me, on a trip around the M25, that not everything can be improved by an increase in speed and a reduction in size.

and available in many flavours

and available in many flavours

This got me thinking… as a guy I’m occasionally reminded by the fairer sex that some things indeed are better thick and delivered slowly… but I’d never quite made the connection to milkshake. So now that I have been enlightened I have a questions for you girls… do we apply the Frijj milkshake topically as part of a sensual massage or is it best served in a glass as a post climatic refreshment?

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.

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

Living the dream… but whose dream is it

I’ve recently returned from a holiday on a beach resort near Venice. I’ll not bore you with my holiday snaps or adventures but whilst I was there I did become curious about some of the beach traders and one in particular… Hasan. He walked up and down the beach tirelessly selling, of all things, beach towels… not an easy sell as everyone already had one. A tough job made much worse by the fact he seemed to be carrying his entire stock over his shoulder. And the temperature at the beach ranged from 32-38C.

Yes… the feet do belong to me!

Whilst he was delivering one of his hourly sales pitches which was largely a priced based affair – sounds familiar – I couldn’t help wondering… how did Hasan get this gig – there must have been a bit of marketing spin on that job ad. It got me curious about what the job ad must have looked like.

Yes pure marketing vomit… Hasan didn’t have a chance. And we’re all vulnerable to it, especially our own spin. Most of our decisions are made following a short commercial in our head justifying the actions we are about to take .  I don’t believe there are any worthwhile shortcuts in life… you might get to your destination quicker but it’s the journey that counts. Just ask Hasan about his boat trip.

David Sadler-Smith

Frilly knickers at the Autotoll

I’ve been commuting on the M25 for over 6 years and just like in life I’ve grown accustom to being told what I can and can’t do and recently a new instruction has appeared at the Dartford Crossing toll booth… is this sign for real. Exactly what is the speed limit through the toll booth?

My Health & Safety advisor might be doing cartwheels wondering how I managed to take the picture – I say cartwheels but I’d expect that would require a full risk assessment – so probably a forward roll. But worry not my health and safety guardians my car was stationary as it usually is at this part of my journey. I think the fastest speed I’ve managed through the toll is about 5 miles per hour and that can only be achieved by timing my approach correctly and a perfect presentation of my DartTag to the little camera attached to the booth – such a precise hand movement requires years of practice, over 2000 trips in my case… living the dream!!!

Crawling up to the toll reminded me of one of the worst experiences of my life… so what happens when you arrive at the toll with no credit or no exact change. That’s happened to me just the once, but I’ve been behind a few of the unlucky to be in this position. A warning to those to whom it has never happened – never ever and i mean ever put yourself in this position. In my case the situation began with the realisation that for some inexplicable reason I had taken my Dart-Tag out of the car the night before. I had no change or any cash and i was about 6th from the front of the Autotoll with no possibility of choreographing a move across to a manned toll booth. Realising my plight i began to feel panic beginning to spread through my entire body.

As I made my final approach panic turned into fear then to shame. The same shameful feeling you experienced when your dad walked into your bedroom and caught you pleasuring yourself whilst wearing a pair of your big sisters frillys. “Your tea’s ready son… I’ll get your mum to keep yours warm in the oven”. I’m speaking metaphorically of course. Anyway, you all know that feeling and for some of you it was probably much worse – one of those things that is never spoken about but never forgotten… feel free to tell us about your own experience.

Having no way to pay the toll is much worse however, because you have a bigger less forgiving audience, You can feel the hate and disgust coming from the queue that is beginning to form behind you… and you can feel the word tosser being burned on to the back of your head. So what next… nothing you just sit there waiting to be rescued by a Crossing Officer as your fellow road warriors’ rage turns into pure hate as they begin wishing for your premature death. Maybe it would be better if i got out of the car – never get out of the car – yes i felt like the tosser I had been branded whilst sitting in the car but once outside as i looked back at the queue i was now new feeling like some kind of kiddy fiddler with the crowd baying for blood and some taking potshots at me with their car horns.

At last i could see my knight in high vis armour walking towards my stranded vehicle … walking very slowly. God he looked smug… this is his reward, his moment, his bankers bonus that made up for what i guess is a pittance of a salary… though I’m guessing he got other perks, free crossings between Kent and Essex… nice. As he approached he looked into my vehicle… my BMW felt more like one of those police vans carrying the guilty to court for sentencing… i looked over at my McDonalds takeaway bag and wondered whether i could get it over my head in order to complete the pathetic picture. The Crossing Officer – is that really his job title – then looked at the baying crowd and gave them the ‘yes he’s wearing his big sisters frillies’ look.

After that it was got easier. The officer didn’t prolong my agony, he knew I had suffered and knew that if there was a next time I’d probably stop at the top of the bridge and throw myself off, his job was done. He gave me my ticket which required me to hand in the next time I crossed and pay the fee plus an extra quid.

The barrier went up and i was free. I accelerated hard; the last thing i wanted was to see any of the drivers who I’d held up. I was racing away… was that a flash as i passed another temporary sign reminding me that the traffic cameras are now working.

The Mid-journey Crisis

After a good start seems I’ve come to a complete stop. A bit like the M25, promises so much then no sooner you’re in top gear you’re hitting the breaks and then quickly milked of any optimism. So to get me going again I’m coming off the motorway and taking a diversion. A “mid-journey” crisis you might say…….. a bit like a mid-life crisis if I was looking for a metaphor. You know the best thing to do is stay put on the motorway, you know the jam will clear and you’ll be moving again shortly. But no, you’ve had enough, there must be more to life, there must be a better way so you fly down the clear slip road at the next junction and smile as you look at the other drivers who are thinking – I wish I had the balls to take a chance but I might get lost. You also catch the a glance of a smug looking bugger sitting in the slow lane who’s smiling and dishing out a knowing “you tosser, you’re gonna regret that sunshine” look. Bollocks to you I’m thinking.

It all starts so well. I’m feeling confident, unbeatable, I have a sense of freedom and I’m in control. I get to the roundabout at the end of the slip road …………. my sat nav is telling me to take the 5th exit back on to the motorway ……. that voice curiously now sounds like my mum … well not my mum, someone else’s mum…… my mum would be telling me about previous wrong turns and showing me the pictures. Back to the roundabout, I’ve got choices yes, great………. but I don’t understand any of them. Place names that I’ve never heard of road numbers that mean nothing to me. I know I’ll follow the guy in the Porsche who’s in front of me …….he didn’t get his Porsche taking the safe option, he knows where he’s going, he’s probably had many a mid-journey crisis. So off we go……… ‘do a u-turn in 100 yards’ barks mother. I turn her off, after all you don’t want your mum telling you what to do as you speed through the twists and turns of your new slimmer faster, better looking, b road. Oh yes we’re doing 55 I’m keeping up with Porsche guy. My wheels are screeching as we wind through the country roads my life is looking up. We’ve now been travelling for about 20 miles. I’m suddenly feeling a little anxious, I don’t recognise anything, and there are no big blue signs with familiar names, no matrix signs telling me to drive carefully, no hard shoulder in case of an emergency, no fellow M25 warriors for company.

Here I am out in the wilderness with the Porsche guy. Shit….. the traffic lights ahead change to red and Porcshe guy hits the accelerator and powers through – tosser. I can’t follow, i’ve not got the acceleration, my diesel engine is built for economy and safety and cruising on the motorway. Fuck …… I’m on my own.

What happened? I knew where I was going on the M25, alright it wasn’t exciting but it was safe and predictable. I knew my journey would take longer than I’d like, but I’d get there eventually.

So what do I do now ……. I turn mum back on……. “ take the next right and turn around”. I turn her off again, the lights change and I power ( I say power, I mean chug) ahead. I’ll not catch the Porsche guy, he’s probably a serial tosser anyway. But I’m not turning around I’m going to take in the scenery and meander down the country lane. I’m gonna be late, so what, I might even stop at a country pub for spot of lunch ……… who knows what might happen.

My advice……. if you feel you’re losing momentum don’t be afraid to take a different path, just keep sight of who you are. Don’t imitate others….. people will see right through that. Just like a great marketing strategy you need to surprise people occasionally, otherwise they’ll stop noticing you.

 

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