“Ok, now what I’d like you to do is take this brown paper bag full of fruit, various, stand in the middle of the room, hold an apple in your other hand, and…look at it. And….Action!”
(During the France v Germany match):
Liberté, égalité, penalté
One recurring theme in these musings has been my appreciation of and enthusiasm for new words – more generally, the infinite potential offered by a language that is not afraid to expand, to absorb, to adapt and re-use. Such neologisms owe an awful lot to chance. Consider the recent referendum, and the massive advantage a single word gave the leavers’ cause.
It’s a great word. The ‘Br’ immediately evokes ‘Britain’, ‘British’ and the whole iconography that so unites and empowers the “Proud to be Bri’ish!” constituency. And the word as a whole has a punchy, decisive ring to it – it’s the kind of noise a Lee Enfield makes when you slam another round into the chamber.
Compare ‘Bremain’, which never gained any traction. Not hard to see why. A limp, flaccid, blah of a word, which sounds if anything like nothing so much as an over the counter remedy for an embarrassing ailment.
Words. The power they have. For good or ill.
Yet another posting on my favourite cycling forum from someone bewailing the absence of a pack of Haribos from their Wiggle order. For those unacquainted, I should explain that Haribos…
…are little bags of sweets, available from any good cash ‘n carry for somewhere shy of 10p a pack.
One of the UK’s main players in the hotly-competitive world of online cycling retail – Wiggle – have long been in the habit of adding a pack, for no apparent reason, to the goods they send out. A stroke of genius, you might think: for under 10p, they significantly boost that positive vibe, and generate reams of social media good coverage. But no. That’s just smart marketing. The genius is that sometimes they send a pack without any Haribo in.
No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever been able to establish whether this is policy, an oversight, Wayne getting lost on his way back from from the cash ‘n carry, or what, but either way the upshot is the same: another post to the forum, setting off another little thread that puts the name ‘Wiggle’ back in front of the eyes of Wiggle’s core target audience for a few more days.
I just did a search on Haribo, which turned up almost a thousand posts, going back to 2011.
A little imagination (and a little bag of sweeties) can go a long, long way.
A client sent me an interesting quote t’other day:
“So, yes, Apple’s product lines have become more complicated. But really, are they that complicated? The company’s entire selection of products can easily fit on an average-size table. When a company cares about simplicity, it offers the right choices – not endless choices.”
At first glance, you think ‘Interesting…good point, well made.’ Then you interrogate it a bit further and you think, well actually, the kitchen table thing has more to do with size than complexity. The Morgan car company has only ever made one product – how simple is that? But you couldn’t get it on a kitchen table. Not unless you had, like, a rilly rilly strong kitchen table. Intel’s entire product line could probably fit in a cigarette packet, if not a match box. But no-one’s touting simplicity as a core brand value for Intel. They just happen to make small things.
But then, there’s that initial impression. Let’s face it, how many people ‘interrogate’ statements? Fact is, first impressions count, vivid images stick, and even individual words can be endowed with engaging attributes and associations such that they instantly evoke a specific company whenever encountered. The power of words, combined with that of images. Simples.
Opening up my Guardian on Saturday and what should drop out but one of those lifestyle ad-mags – all high-quality stock, bright colours and clean, plenty-of-white-space design. Positively reeked Waitrose. But no. Lidl. One of our brace of German stack it high sell it cheap retailers moving confidently out from the beachhead of decent quality at low prices, looking to establish a presence in the hearts of the nation. Or at least, the pockets of Guardian readers.
Done a good job too. The only slightly jarring note being the garish cheap ‘n cheerful logo, whose days must surely now be numbered.
A post recently appeared on a forum I visit:
In Tesco, two women mulling over the various toilet cleaning chemicals, such as harpic, domestos etc couldn’t make their minds up, until one of them decided they should “just get the bog standard one”.
I seemed to be the only one that thought it was funny.
Shortly after reading it I suddenly caught myself thinking ‘I really need to get some new boots – these are on their last legs.’
Out wi’ t’hound on t’heath again, I passed a couple of friends who were discussing work-related matters at the kind of volumes popular among young North London go-getters. I found myself flinching as one declared indignantly that she had ‘transitioned the workload effectively.’
“That’s just not right, is it?” I said to the dog. “‘Transition’ is not a verb. Is it?” She nodded sagely, and we continued on our way, shaken but not stirred.
On getting home, I checked. Maybe language had once again changed while I was out. And there it was:
“verb NORTH AMERICAN”
And increasingly, it would appear, NORTH LONDON.