Category: Language

I’m sorry. I’m about to change the world

We need to apologise more in business.

We need to be prepared to apologise more.

And we need to mean it when we say it.

Many, many people in business refuse to say sorry because they assume it means they accept full responsibility. (To be fair, there are enough people in business who are very much prepared to let someone else take the fall, so there is that.)

Saying sorry means they have something to apologise for. It means they stuffed up. Which makes them a failure. Which means no one will ever hire them. Which means their career is rooted. Just because they accepted responsibility for being five minutes late to a meeting.

It must be someone else’s fault.

In those situations, it’s very easy to create an environment where, for me to be right, you must be wrong.

For me to win, you have to lose.

All of which creates a very black and white environment.

Like the current political conversation. Or the environmental question.

It’s great for an argument down at the pub.

But arguments at the pub aren’t supposed to go anywhere. They’re supposed to go round and round. That’s what makes them fun.

Business doesn’t have that luxury.

All we have to do to change it is accept responsibility for our actions.

Offer genuine apologies, not buck passing acknowledgements.

Try it.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I didn’t get that done. I said I would, and I didn’t. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the frustration I’ve caused.

I’m sorry if you carried that frustration.

I’m sorry if I buggered up your day.

I’m sorry. I now see you were right.

I’m sorry. My lack of communication caused us to triple the work load – and I’d like to apologise for that.

I’m sorry I’ve been uncontactable when I said I would be.

I’m sorry. I’ve changed my mind. If I’d done it earlier, we could have all got some sleep. I’m sorry for that.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for blaming someone else when it was my responsibility.

I’m sorry for blaming you.

I’m sorry for being a twat.

“I’m sorry” changes the conversation from one of blame to one where collaboration can start taking place.

“I’m sorry” allows people to reset their emotions.

“I’m sorry” might just put us all on the same team.

It might just be the two words that change the world.

And if it doesn’t, I’m sorry.

And if it does, I tell you what. I’ll let you take all the praise.

The garbage that is “modern advertising theory”.

The reason most people say they don’t pay attention to advertising is simple. Advertising doesn’t give them anything to pay attention to.

I saw this ad yesterday.

Before I start kicking the idea to pieces, I’d like to apologise to the writer.

I’m assuming it’s not your fault.

Whoever is responsible for this, you need to know it’s bad. Not the kind of bad that further curses advertising with the stench of opportunistic, trite and shallow commercialism. It’s not that noticeable. It’s bad in an “I-don’t-believe-someone-actually-spent-money-on-that” kind of way. Whichever gang of monkeys decided to drag the original idea into a committee room and bludgeon it to death with marketing wisdom should hang their heads in shame.

I noticed it because I’m in the market for a new car.

So new cars are on my radar.

This seems, to this idiot anyway, the sort of poster which has been put through the mincer of “best practice” and has turned out another reason (if one were needed) why most marketers should probably have nothing to do with advertising.

The theory says, “show the car”.

The practice says, ‘This ain’t no super model”.

A possible solution, put your energy into making people remember the name.

The theory says, “front three quarter.”

The practice says, “Is that the best you’ve got?”

A possible solution, show only part of the car – the part most people will find most interesting – maybe even the view from inside.

The theory would say, “Nobody reads long headlines.”

The practice would prove people read what interests them.

A possible solution, write a headline which is the engaging part of an advertising idea.

A hard-earned thirst needs a big cold beer.

From where you’d rather be.

When it absolutely, positively needs to be there overnight.

Three highly memorable lines which engaged the reader and remain trapped in the brain. Three lines which modern advertising theory suggest would be better written as; “cold” “from here” and “overnight”.

It’s a trap formed by an evil coalition of unskilled art directors and focus groups.

And a trap most committees gleefully run into because it stops them having to really think about what the customer wants, and what the customer will truly engage with.

People read what interests them.

If young people don’t read long headlines, why do they spend so much time reading the 125 characters in most Instagram posts?

(A sentence which, by the way, contains 125 characters.)

By keeping the headline short, the clever committee have simply removed any capacity for the writer, and art director, to use their skills to create an ad people will remember.

Alliteration. Metaphor. Juxtaposition. Repetition. Rhymes. Spoofs. Parodies. Playing with reality. Over-promise. Under-promise. Reframing. Perspectives. Stories. Alternate uses. All proven effective time after time after time.

If you’re going to interrupt someone’s day, hoping to get them to buy what you’re selling, make it worth their while.

If you can’t make it worth their while, don’t run the ad.

Happily, later in the day I saw the latest Repco campaign. “It all starts with the parts”.

Memorable. Interesting. Engaging.

I don’t even know what a spare part is.

But I think I know where I’d start looking for them if I did.