Archive for October, 2009

19 Branding belongs to me

Posted in Uncategorized on OctoberFri, 23 Oct 2009 11:54:17 +01005423am09 24 AMpFri, 23 Oct 2009 11:54:17 +010054Friday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

I have recently returned from Glasgow. That in itself is an achievement, given the breakfast I had at the hotel. Among the coronary-inducing, self-electing choices were: fried eggs, fried bread, potato scones, haggis, bacon, round sausage and square sausage – this last an extraordinary rendition of the laws of science with regard to how an apparently solid object can, on the prod of a fork, turn into 100% liquid fat before your eyes. Reader, I devoured them all.


Because I belong to Glasgow. My first twenty years were spent in dear old Glasgow town. This greatly surprises the people I meet in the parlours of the south, who assume that all Glaswegians sound like Billy Connolly humping a goat in Sauchiehall St on a wet Friday night.

It’s interesting how much people know about Glasgow, even people who’ve never been there. They know all about the Gorbals. And that European Capital of Culture thing (Glasgow followed Athens, Florence, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris). And how this spurred a pavement cafe lifestyle that overnight replaced the razor gangs, much to the chagrin of the Daily Express. These days, Glasgow’s a cultural wonderland. Everyone knows about the glittering thread of art galleries and theatres and Lord Foster’s fabulous Armadillo auditorium darling. Glasgow’s Miles Better.

Bollocks. Glasgow’s Nothing Special. Every city in the UK has enjoyed a cultural renaissance in the past ten years, if by that you mean a multiplicity of multiplex cinemas, Niketowns and shiny anodyne arcades.

Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds have all had their architectures tickled recently. Where hasn’t? But one Harvey Nicols does not a city make.

Yes, yes. Where is all this heading?
See youz, you’ll see. Last week in Glasgow, I noted that for every sparkling Starbucks a grisly Poundland remains. Which has nothing to do with the credit crunch, it’s just the way UK cities are. Outside Central London, that is.

And it’s like that because for all the glinting steel and glass hotels, for all the doppio frappelattes that we suddenly can’t live without, regional cities and the people who live in them don’t really change.

Glasgow, for example, looks rubbish in sunshine. It was built for bad winters. And all Glaswegians are born with rain in their heart. They are immensely welcoming, they are hard-wired bigots, they are brilliant self-loathing comics. In other words, to use a uniquely Glasgwegian adjective, they are gallus. This has nothing to do with vanilla-flavoured coffee beans.

And how this relates to business is…?
The Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign that kick-started things in 1983 received international awards for its success in rebranding the city. But it only worked because it was authentic. Created by ad man John Struthers who returned from London to his native city, the campaign spoke in the language of Glasgow and – therefore – articulated something simple but genuine about the city back to its citizens.

Identity is not something you purchase, it’s something you grow. Companies who think they can buy branding off the shelf end up with manufactured pap.

Free advice?
Decline all invitations from management consultants and branding agencies to synthesise your corporate identity indicators into a customer-attractional communication paradigm. Don’t sit in boardrooms scratching your heads and scraping the barrel in search of your USP.

Just ask the post-room guy what he thinks. Involve a real cross-section of staff in open discussion groups, and you’ll soon hear all about your company culture. That’s ultimately what makes your customers buy, what differentiates you from the competition. If it’s not the story you were hoping for, you won’t change it without the active support of your people. And you won’t tell it convincingly if it’s not in their language.

Man walks intae a cake shop, says whit’s that in the windae, is that a cake or a meringue? Wee wifie says no ye’re right enough, it’s a cake.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

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18 Miracle cure for managementitis

Posted in Uncategorized on OctoberMon, 12 Oct 2009 15:00:48 +01000012pm09 24 PMpMon, 12 Oct 2009 15:00:48 +010000Monday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

So I’m like you got to be jokin? Because when he like calls me back right? He’s like so where was you cos I was waitin? And I’m like I was waitin? For like half an hour? Like I’ve got nothin better to do? With my life?

For the life of me I can’t imagine what on earth when it comes down to it all things considered fair enough at the end of the day to tell you the truth you’ve got to hand it to them to be fair it’s all very well but given the way things are in the current climate in all honesty you can never tell.

What on earth are you on about?
Just doing my job as a manglement consultant.

What? Don’t you mean management consultant?
Management consultant? What kind of low-life insult is that? A manglement consultant by contrast performs a useful social function. In this case by sitting on a train, recording verbatim, drip by drip, how our language is being vegetablised by empty-headed adolescents and grown adults with stunted vocabularies.

Maybe it’s just this train. Where the young woman opposite has opened a book called The Complete OCD Handbook and has begun rearranging the coloured bookmarks she put in it five minutes ago, slightly. Thank God it’s the complete version, or we could all be in trouble.

But you know it’s not just this train. It’s every train, tube, bus, shop, pub and shopping mall in the land where this havoc unto the language is being wreaked. Don’t get me wrong. I would be delighted if you would write to advise me that language is a living organism that must mutate to meet the needs of the changing day. I would be delighted, because that’s exactly the message I impart in workshops to people who wonder why using words such as hence, forthwith, furthermore and thereafter, or phrases such as I am writing to inform you, should you require and please do not hesitate are linguistic relics worthy of derision.

You know also that this absurd habit wot today’s yoof has adopted of upwardly intoning every other statement as a question will be as short-lived as the equally absurd affectation of an earlier generation (mine) of addressing the world in general as man. Yesterday’s right on is today’s well bangin, and tomorrow’s child will snigger at the quaintness of both.

At the same time, I remain a recidivist git who will happily break up any squat rave crack party, to which a proper invitation has been received, with rants about how Latin should be taught in schools. Because Latin is one linguistic relic that helps children to grow their vocabularies and therefore their capacity to express the subtle details of their ideas. This may not be obvious when you’re 13 years old, staring at a blackboard and chanting the dative plural of an Etruscan hunting hat, but kids know nothing of the devasted future.

And how this relates to business is…?

Business is not immune from the cliché-driven mouthings submitted as evidence in para 2 above that spill lazily from the vox of the populi. And since cliché is second-hand language, proof not of communal thinking but of absence of thought, it doesn’t exactly chime with any claims your business makes about embracing innovation. And the problem for business really begins when you add a layer of mumbo management-speak on top.
If you work for a proactive, hands-on, solution-based provider of customer-facing interventions – if that’s the kind of language favoured by your business – how come your customers haven’t closed you down?

Here’s the logic. (1) It’s your customers who keep you alive. (2) Your professional credibility depends not on what you do but on how your customers perceive you. (3) How you are perceived depends on how you communicate. (4) Words like proactive have no credibility any more.

If language is a living organism, it’s time to kill off phrases that were once fresh in the 90s and long past their speak-by date today. We need to stick proactive in the shredder and say we’re energetic and know what needs to be done. We need to stop being hands-on and start being fully involved every day. We need to stop thinking customers are persuaded by mangled management-speak and start articulating authentically again.

If we don’t, we may end up with time on our hands and not many jobs on the books. Then what will we do? At the end of the day. With our lives?

Nielsen Dinwoodie

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