Archive for April, 2010

Wanted: Senior Solutions Designer

Monday, April 19th, 2010

So I’m thinking I might have to launch a separate blog entirely devoted to “solutions”. Thanks to the reader who forwarded me this hilariously vague job advert, which I hereby add to my ever-growing pile of “solutions” submissions.

Senior Solutions Designer, City of London – London City and West End, London

My client is currently recruiting for a Senior Solutions Designer. This is a senior position in the Solution Design team, working closely with external clients and all internal teams. Key requirements: Key to this role is the ability to quickly understand, analyse and document business and user needs across industries and functions. Applying your experience and attention to detail, you will be required to design innovative user centric solutions to these problems, working closely with internal application development teams in an agile environment. You will be able to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of Microsoft based Web 2.0, SOA and OLAP technologies in large scale deployments.

The last line makes me think it’s something a bit computery, but I’m still not sure what the person they hope to employ will be expected to do. Are they looking for a chemist? A mathematician? A professional cruciverbalist? What do you think?

Exclusive to all readers: the ultimate list of iconic marketing hyperboles!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

I know you want to give your business the best possible chance, but please don’t resort to describing it in the clichéd, exaggerated terms that every one else out there seems to want to use. Spend five seconds contemplating the literal meanings of some of the words on this list and you’ll realise exactly why they’re so awful.

1. Ultimate
Modern life is fraught with danger, courtesy of the “ultimate burger”, the “ultimate rollercoaster”, the “ultimate flooring”, the “ultimate detox” and the “ultimate ethical meal” (to cite just a handful). I’m particularly intrigued by the the progressive approach to population control that is the “Ultimate Day” – “an exciting competition exclusively for 16 and 17 year olds – to win an Ultimate Day!”

2. Unprecedented
I’m willing to bet that most business people use “unprecedented” when what they really mean is “quite good”. Before drawing on this word ask yourself if what you’re describing really has never happened before. I’m only willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the US mortgage broker that claims to have “demonstrated unprecedented professionalism” when creating home loans for hundreds of clients. Presumably, all their competitors were sub-prime sharks.

3. Innovative
It’s not enough to be merely competent these days. To stand out, your product or service has to be the ground-breaking, boundary-pushing, edge-cutting child of your (no doubt unprecedented) creative thinking. Estate agents, bankers and lawyers all now claim to be innovative. Still like the sound of it?

4. Iconic
What do an overpriced lip gloss, an impractically tall lemon squeezer and a squeaky voiced, not terribly bright footballer have in common? Yep, they’ve all been labelled “iconic”. Thinking about elevating your product to the status of icon? Just to let you know: since Melanie C took on the “iconic” role of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, the word has been equated with a fictional woman you’ve never heard of, from a musical you’ve never seen, played by the least-famous former Spice Girl, whose existence you’d forgotten about until now.

5. Stunning
Stunning food. Stunning cars. Stunning houses with stunning wallpaper. It’s time to replace this hyperbole with a synonym whose meaning hasn’t been eroded by overuse. I vote for “stupefying”.

6. Exclusive
A label invariably attached to the overpriced tat proffered in Sunday magazines by exploitative “collectables” firms. Use it if you want to be associated with such distinctly unexclusive items as the Kitten Dreams Fabergé-inspired Jewelled Musical Egg, which features over 125 hand-set ‘gems’ (inverted commas theirs) and the inscription ‘Kittens Leave Paw Prints On Our Hearts’.

7. Designer
Want to part from their money the people who are middle-class enough to sneer at the people who buy Kitten Dreams Fabergé-inspired Jewelled Musical Eggs, but who are still insecure enough to want to fill their houses with overpriced tat? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “designer radiators”, “designer sponges”, “designer cleaning fluid”, “designer water” and, yes, “designer tampons”. All paid for with a “designer mortgage”, no doubt.

What would you add to the list?

Keep your turnkey away from my touch points!

Monday, April 12th, 2010

A reader forwarded the following copy to me, hoping I could explain to him what the company responsible for it actually did. They lost me at “turnkey” – can anyone else help?

Your Turnkey Source For Highly Customized Internet Marketing Solutions

Plug into a proven source of interactive success through xxxxx, your dedicated partner on the Web. Rely on us to provide a full spectrum of Internet marketing solutions, precisely engineered to meet your needs. At xxxxx, we treat each and every phase of your interactive marketing program as a meticulous science – leveraging the latest technology, resource tools, and consumer trends to maximize your return on investment. Because the success of our clients is so pivotal to our own continued growth and vitality, we strive to deliver the highest level of service at every touch point.

Whatever they do, I think I’ll pass on the invitation to be part of their continued growth and vitality. Because impressed as I am with their meticulously scientific, precisely engineered, full-spectrum, solution-filled, resource-tooled and highly leveraged approach, I’m quite choosy about who I let near my touch points.

Innovative solutions 0, vampire squids 1

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Usually, I write about bad copy on this blog, but today I give you one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read.

If you’re interested in the goings-on on Wall Street (which is to say, if you’re interested in whether you’ll still have a job this time next year), you’ll know it:

“The first thing you need to know about G****** S**** is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” – Matt Taibbi, “The Great American Bubble Machine”, Rolling Stone, July 2009

Brilliant, isn’t it? The urgency of “the first thing you need to know”, and its implication that this is just one of many things the author will reveal about his subject. That startling, unforgettable and now famous image of the vampire squid, which I’ve quoted numerous times at dinner parties and which is up there with chunks of Prufrock in my list of lines I could roll around my tongue all day. It’s an opening that screams “read on”.

Even better, Taibbi’s words have stung the bank that we all (even – or, rather, especially – other bankers) love to hate. Released this week, G****** S****’ 2009 Annual Report included a letter to shareholders, in which the bank defends itself against Taibbi’s accusation that it bet against its own clients.

The document reveals a G****** S**** that dances with the elderly, takes children to the zoo and “makes a meaningful contribution to the growth of businesses, local communities and the global economy” (is there any more meaningless adjective than that “meaningful”, which crops up 11 times in the document?).

A G****** S**** whose “client-focused”, “performance-driven” employees understand that “engagement furthers sustainability” (no, I’ve no idea what it means either, but it does sound vaguely like the sort of thing I’d find in a leaflet from my local Council – deliberately so, I’m sure).

Forget about the G****** S**** whose dodgy deal bankrupted Greece. This G****** S**** sprinkles its financial fairy dust on the needy of all nations. It’s a G****** S**** whose “innovative solutions” and “culture of commitment” have defended UK pensioners, built schools in California, lent a helping hand to the US’s troubled motor and aviation industries, and saved thousands of jobs in India. A G****** S**** that does what you might expect your government to do (did they not realise that when people call them Government S**** that’s not, like, in a good way?).

The document tries to depict a non-vampiric G****** S**** whose “first priority” is serving clients. But 178 pages of defensive, corporate cliché-ridden prose later and I can still picture that blood funnel, still smell that money.

Copywriters, there’s a lesson there somewhere.