Celiblogcy (or 20 months of ‘dead blog’)

Posted October 22, 2009 by tunnyfish
Categories: marketing

Well, to lift a quote from the late great Lowell George of Little Feat fame, ‘it’s been a year since I’ve been away, I guess that guitar player sure could play’… except it hasn’t been a year, it’s been longer.  Shocking really.  I’ve been watching the gap between the present and my previ0us post grow with curious fascination.  It has given me plenty of food for thought to see how my attitude towards my own blogging apathy has shifted and mutated.  Finally I thought I’d share with you 20 months of thoughts on not blogging and the questions it raised for me.

First the gap was down to a kind of humbleness spiral along the lines of  nothing to say = wait = bigger gap = feeling that something really momentous would be needed to break the gap = definitely nothing to say etc.  This is intriguing to me.  It revealed a whole bunch of suppositions about what constitutes a blogworthy post and, I must confess, that it raised some questions that I am still wrestling with.

Here are a couple to begin with:

Q 1 – Are blogs about announcing ‘news’?

Frankly it is unlikely that I will know about anything in the blogosphere before a good many others.  There are loads of better connected people than me and anything I know which might be genuine news, I am professionally restricted from announcing.  Added to this, I have a slightly jaded view of ‘news’ and newness in general which is pretty much in accord with the nothing new under the sun maxim.

Q2 – Are blogs intended to be profound?

I feel a little safer with this one but not much.  I don’t mind admitting that I can be quite the bar room philosopher with a sufficient head of steam.  I can even convince myself of being of above average insightfulness without floating my brain in a bath of beverage.  However, I come a little unstuck in a world where there are just sooo many genuinely profound thinkers.

Back to my digital slumber.


Political brand values

Posted January 9, 2008 by tunnyfish
Categories: marketing

I wonder if Barack Obama’s people have caught this video of a US reporter for the UK based Guardian newspaper trying to interview the anointed one’s campaign volunteers. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Here we have ‘the next Kennedy’ lighting people up with the sort of enthusiasm for the political process that I for one thought was long gone. Barack is the guy who ‘stands for change’, able to tap the desperation of honest Americans and a candidate who would appear to offer a real chance of reversing the neo-con lunacy that has undoubtedly contributed to his popularity. However, here we also have campaign organisers whose grasp of the fundamentals of free speech seem more than a little shaky.

As the reporter found out, control and intimidation are difficult habits for politicians of any flavour to break. What are we to think? Should we judge them on what they say or what they do? There are clearly some people who haven’t yet ‘got’ that they need to walk the talk or, nowadays more than for a long time; the truth will find them out.  This brand appears to lack authenticity.

C’mon Allan’s, c’mon

Posted January 7, 2008 by tunnyfish
Categories: marketing

As a long time amateur musician, I have often had cause to notice the lousy levels of service found in musical equipment stores.  When I was a young ‘stratling’ these places were plain intimidating; populated as they were by rock star look-a-likes who seemed to feel customers were simply there to practise sneering at.Things have improved over the past 30 years or so, but music gear, especially when combined with one of the maddening things about Australia – the extent to which retailers routinely ‘dis’ their customers with high prices and sloppy service – still attracts those who carry more than a whiff of superiority in their dealings with the customer.So, it is with great pleasure that I am now able to walk out of an unresponsive store that is charging at least $150 over the odds for an item, confident in the knowledge that I can buy it with a few clicks from overseas and save significantly even after adding postage and duty.

However, I would be happier still if retailers realised the extent of the revolution that is happening all about them and worked a little harder to keep my shopping real rather than virtual.  I can’t help thinking that Australian retailers (and Allan’s Music in particular) are in for a rude awakening.  So c’mon guys, how about a little less greed and bit more recognition that the world is not as far away as it used to be?

An elevating thought

Posted September 2, 2007 by tunnyfish
Categories: marketing

I reckon that there is one area where the summation of mankind’s endeavour combines to create a truly cross-disciplined creation – the elevator.

Have you ever been to a country and seen a relatively simple idea that could and should be implemented elsewhere?  Or, conversely, have you ever despaired of one culture’s seeming inability to learn from another?  These, I’m sure, can be read as rhetorical questions.

Worse than failed cross-cultural learning is a single culture’s laziness consulting its own body of knowledge – I’m assuming that there is such a thing as a ‘single culture’ for the moment, I know that it is arguable.  Classic examples are found all the time in marketing; usually when there is a major disconnect between a marketing initiative and basic understanding of psychology or sociology.

However, elevator manufactures have really rolled up their sleeves and looked for inspiration.

Engineering is the obvious starting point; making the thing move in an gentle, unobtrusive rather than fairground kind of way is essential.

Then there is the software that tells a lift how to behave; the floors to hang out near at particular times of day and how to get from A to B without driving occupants mad with frustration by stopping at every floor.

Interior decoration is another one.  Providing an environment that is utilitarian enough to take the water cooler delivery knocks yet redolent enough of luxury to sooth the savage business person.

In order to deal with the awkward silences and to provide something other than a floor indicator to look at, entertainment is finding its way into lifts.  Some lifts now feature the news headlines, weather or stock prices – customisable content most relevant to the company concerned.

On that note on floor level indicators, have you ever noticed how your floor indicator is synchronised with the deceleration period?  When this is implemented well there is absolutely no sense of waiting for the lift to slow down: a really neat example of applied psychology.

I suggest that if the same determination that lift manufacturers put into confronting the ‘dead space’ of the elevator experience were to be applied across the board, then we would be living in a far better world

Marketing Lego – modular vs. craft values

Posted July 29, 2007 by tunnyfish
Categories: Market research, marketing

When I first started out on the qualitative research path, my boss and mentor (an eminent qualitative guru of the time), instilled a rule throughout her company which was this: when writing a project proposal, we were NOT to refer to previous projects from which we might draw inspiration.

This will undoubtedly strike many as odd. What could be more natural than leveraging company experience to create a competitive proposal? Why reinvent the wheel every time one sits down to design a project? Why go through all the thinking again when there is more than a fair chance that the answer will appear startlingly similar to that which has already been written?

These were certainly my first thoughts and I recall voicing the questions. The answer was succinct and powerful – ‘you are cheating on previous clients, the client you are designing the project for and you are cheating on yourself’. In other words, by using shortcuts I was encouraging mental laziness.

By not approaching each project from the freshest possible perspective and thinking through every aspect for each specific client, I would be limiting the creativity of my approach and not engaging fully with the issues. Even though such shortcuts might produce a slick looking document, she informed me, it would be a design without heart; a lapse in discipline leading inevitably to a drop in output quality.

I wasn’t immediately convinced. However, ‘when in Rome’ and all of that, so it became my modus operandi. Now I am extremely grateful for that discipline. Over the years I have seen some dreadful research practices where research designs and discussion guides have been recycled on a near ‘search and replace’ basis. This means that the researcher isn’t acknowledging the client’s unique values, the client doesn’t get the quality they should and we move the world inexorably towards a sort of universal brand pyramid where differences become increasingly blurred.

It seems to me especially important in a ‘cut n paste’ world to champion craft values when it would be so much easier to ‘go modular’ and bolt project designs together from the proposal ‘spare parts bin’. We need to celebrate and engage our markets with differences rather than aiming everything at the same point in the bell curve. It is simply not possible for every brand to ‘own’ ‘authenticity’ or ‘comfort’ and neither is it desirable.

Qualitative research is an ‘analogue process’ – it doesn’t lend itself to digitisation, reductionism and modularity; that is what quantitative research does. Like it or not, there IS a ‘black box’ in the qualitative analysis process and it cannot be taught. Marketing skills, psychology, sociology and life experience all help, but ultimately you either get it or you don’t, and that should be perfectly okay. It would be helpful if those teaching qualitative research to college graduates would bear this in mind – please.

Manners maketh the career

Posted July 24, 2007 by tunnyfish
Categories: Market research, marketing

For a short time after Uni I was involved in social work. After realising that I was now despised by all – clients, media, employers and public – I decided that I had better things to do with my time and left to become a qualitative researcher. The transition from public to private sector was a little challenging. I needed to lose the 9-5 thinking and adapt to a whole raft of different norms regarding competition and the like.

However, there is one pre-private sector principle that I continue to hold dear and that is the notion that a company should be based upon the realisation of mutual interest and co-operation rather than internal competition and back-stabbing. I still refer back to the original meaning of the word ‘company’ – a band of travellers on the road to somewhere who help each other to a shared goal and by working together achieve more than they might individually. I feel this is a good and noble thing.

When I am working with a client, I regard myself as temporarily part of that company. Helping them on the road is my task and mutual co-operation should be the order of the day. This, sadly, seems to be a minority view. Far more frequent are internal power struggles, micro-management of suppliers, power posturing on a pathetic scale and rarely any praise for one’s efforts (there are many reasons for all this but I will resist digression).

I think it is possibly a character fault in qualitative researchers that we are so ridiculously pleased by praise, but fault or not, I have found it to be true of myself and many others. For us, it is especially gratifying receive some acknowledgment, beyond the cheque – some human reaction suggesting that the blood sweated, weekends worked and night’s spent waking and scribbling insights are not in vain. And when those kind words are copied to colleagues, we become appreciated by an even wider audience.


It really doesn’t take much to acknowledge the efforts of those around us and it is so much more effective at producing the results that many ultra competitive execs desire. Instead of dissing, undermining or ignoring those you are working with, I suggest trying appreciation and watch how appreciated you become in turn.

Go on, thank a quali today.



‘Old fartism’

Posted May 18, 2007 by tunnyfish
Categories: Market research, marketing

I recognise that I may be teetering on the brink of ‘old fartism’.  Before finally accepting having taken an irreversible plunge towards old age proper, I thought I’d have another rant about use of language, a topic fast becoming a bugbear, in order to check my bearings with possible passers by. 

As a qualitative research person, I see an awful lot of project briefing documents (and thanks be for that).  However, it is now rare that I read one that doesn’t require re-writing in order to make it intelligible.  It is as if research buyers are cutting and pasting phrases they think sound good, stitching them together in a haphazard order and just punting out a brief to see what happens. 

I don’t expect most people to be elegant or poetic in business communications (although it is a pleasure when they are), but I do expect coherence.  I was always taught that to rewrite a brief in one’s own style would be appreciated by a client because it indicated that one had read the thing and was making an effort to demonstrate the fact. 

The sad fact is that, in many cases, I have to rewrite the brief in order to be sure of understanding what is being said.  However, when I do this, I feel a nagging suspicion that the original author will perceive me as trying to make them feel stupid when I am really just trying to clarify the issues.

Sometimes I wish I could just not give a shit, but this would mean giving up on quality and that, for me, would make what I do meaningless.  Am I an old fart?