February 2016

You can’t build a wall with words

You can't build unless you actually start building

This morning, I started building a wall.

I’d been thinking about it.

Planning it.

Talking about it.

Even spoke to Uncle Trev about it.

Uncle Trev is a builder.

He likes doing.

He’s happy to chat.

But he’s happier doing.

Last time I spoke to Uncle Trev, he asked me how my wall was going.

I told him I was still trying to figure the finer points.

Whether to have a raised bed or not.

Whether to have a dry stone finish or a render to match the house.

Whether it should curve around the garden or just along one wall.

Told him how I kept changing my mind. Raised bed? Render? One wall?

This morning, Uncle Trev had his mate Des drop a heap of concrete blocks on my lawn.

To build a wall, you have to start building

He’s a man of very few words, Uncle Trev.

But he has a way of finding the simple route to the heart of an issue.

As marketers we can over-think things.

We can’t help it. We deal in words and ideas.

But you can’t build a brand by just thinking about it.

You know what needs to be done.

You just need give yourself permission to start.

The idiots are at the barricades

It's an old gag, but I like it.

There was always a handy distance between people who like to intellectually engage with an idea and people who take things literally.

The way I see it, the world needs both.

People who take things literally are more likely to do the constant, precision work required to actually get things done.

Pedants often fall into this group.

And people who like you to know they know “the right answer”.

And psychopaths.

People who like to intellectually engage with ideas are more likely to think of new things to do.

Into this group we can safely put flibberty-gibbets, airheads, Steve Jobs and (I’m just guessing here) the French.

Their problem is often not the seeing of what needs to be done, but the seeing of a different way of doing things. Then slipping between the two options and seeing yet another way of doing things. And then getting choice confusion. Or getting an even bigger idea and seeing a different way of doing that.

Or maybe they’re just lazy.

I always liked people who are prepared to engage in an idea.

To throw it around, chuck it against a few sacred cows, fill it with dynamite, light the fuse and roll it up against the walls of political correctness. Just to see what happens when it explodes.

Mostly it involves humour.

“What if you made a Monarchist the first President of an Australian Republic?”

“What’s your favourite kind of chaos?”

“If an ad falls in the forest, and there is no internet, does it win an effectiveness award?”

Humour breaks down the walls of logic.

My defence was always, it’s just an idea. They’re just words.

Turns out, some people take certain words very seriously.

While they’re all for finding new ideas, they’d prefer it if you didn’t use certain words while looking for those ideas.

Maybe they believe an idea to cure cancer is less pure if it crawls up from the ooze of racism.

Or whatever.

As I see it, it comes down to the use of humour to explore an idea.

All humour is based on pain.

Someone or some stereotype or some mindset, is used as the point around which the perspective of the humour turns.

And, however broad minded we are, everyone has something they take seriously.

Everyone has something they’re prepared to get angry about.

Everyone can think of a topic that just isn’t funny.

And the internet means they can track down any mentions of their pet topic.

And, if they don’t like what you say, they can tell the world about it.

Then the townsfolk who don’t like your perspective can get angry and come knocking, with pitchforks and fire and righteousness.

It’s like the whole world is waiting to slap you back into line.

So, we become more circumspect.

We become less glib about the things people find offensive.

We talk around a problem because the system says this can’t be a problem, so it isn’t, even though the problem exists.

We don’t mention the elephant in the room.

We don’t even joke about the elephant in the room. Or ask what colour the elephant is. Or if the elephant plays golf. Or if it’s ever been in a bunker.

Because, you know, Hitler.

We build internal filters to ensure we don’t offend anyone.

And we start using those filters everywhere.

And then we wonder why the whole world starts to sound the same.

Malcolm Turnbull says we should get excited about ideas.

I’m with him.

Hopefully, we can break down the barricades before the pedants tell us to stop.