Category Archives: Guerrilla Marketing

Your Empathy Amuses Me…

Mid-way through a particularly dry conference call one of the participants fell down a flight of stairs. The sound quality was unusually crisp and we heard ‘…We should be able to hit the milestone, but a note of cau…CHRIST [Two category A swearwords] followed by a tumbling ‘Huhhh,’ then silence.

We already knew the speaker was in the fire escape as he’d told us moments before.

The guy running the call said ‘Hello?…[NAME]? Oh…well I guess he’s gone…shall we carry on?’

‘Are you two in the same building?’ I replied.

‘Yes.’

‘How bout maybe checking he’s OK?’

‘No, I’m sure he’s fine.’

‘Probably, but let’s take five minutes to be certain.’

‘I’ve only got ten minutes before my next meeting.’

‘Seriously?’

Yes, I thought, you definitely said that out loud.

My mind wandered to a TV programme many years ago featuring Phillip Schofield talking with a circus knife thrower and his ‘fabulous female assistant’ strapped to a spinning table. After a big build-up the man threw his first knife straight into the woman’s head. Rather than help her Phillip stood directly in front of her to shield the garish spectacle from viewers – The consummate professional / massive prick! Others scrambled in behind him to untie the woman (who was later revealed to be shocked and scarred, but otherwise OK).

The incident annoyed me a little. At what point did it become OK to place making a sale over the well-being of a colleague?

When five minutes became ten I thought: Yep, definitely dead, or else hideously deformed.

But when we finally reconvened it transpired that the man in question had suffered minor cuts and bruises and had broken his phone. We were now free to find the whole thing hilarious / mock and abuse him.

Proper etiquette MUST be observed.

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My Tuba Shame…

In 1989 I rocked a stone-cold mullet and whenever I walked into a room heavily coiffured heads would turn. I was thirteen years old and the world was my oyster / toilet. I had no mobile phone (they existed, but were the size of microwaves, cost a gajillion pounds and were only used by YUPPIES (Young Urban Professional (Take that you acronym obsessed Millennials – LOL))). In the evenings I generally pootled around on my Grifter bike, taped music off the radio, or wrote actual letters to my actual girlfriend with an actual pen (steamy smut about how I wanted to ‘hold her hand’ and other such filth). At weekends I’d rifle through LPs in a second-hand record shop, sit waiting for blocky games to load on my Spectrum 48k or hang around with an annoying kid whose dad owned a sizeable cache of video nasties and porn – the hiding places of which weren’t fooling anyone. I made things, played the clarinet, knew the location of dens…

Then one day it all changed, or rather – it didn’t.

In the 80’s it was compulsory for all Catholic schools to have comedy names. Ours was called Blessed William Howard (or ‘Blessed Bills’ to the initiated). One Autumnal morning me, my mullet and my fellow hilariously dressed classmates were shepherded into the ALF  or ‘Active Learning Facility’ (Couple of tables with some state-of-the-art ‘personal computers’) to be introduced to something called ‘The Information Super-Highway.’

Our teacher – “Mr quotey-fingers” proceeded thus:  ‘The “Information Super-Highway” or “World-Wide’Web” will “revolutionise” the way in which we view and share “bits and bytes” of “data.” Instead of seeing this computer as a single machine, try imagining it as a “node” on a “network.”‘

He turned on the screen and (once it had warmed up) a pre-Google / Lycos / Ask Jeeves white DOS-prompt flashed before our eyes.

We were asked to type in a phrase or “keyword” and see what came up.

I went first – ‘Boobs’ – nothing! (Can you even IMAGINE? (the horror)). A couple of guys followed suit – ‘Willies’ (nothing), ‘Kylie Minogue’ (nothing), ‘fart-face’ (nothing). Something said ‘try just fart‘ (nothing) etc. The kid next to me had tried ‘nipples’ and ‘poo’ all to no avail.

‘Try typing The Gross Domestic Product of China,’ the teacher encouraged.

We duly obliged and were rewarded with a string of text (no pictures) and links to incredibly stodgy academic papers.

‘I hope this demonstration shows you how the world as we know it has irevocably changed forever,’ he concluded.

‘What was that bullshit?’ someone shouted as we filed out (earning themselves a detention and 400 Hail Mary’s (Protestant kids these days don’t know they’re born!))

One thing was for certain – It would never catch on.

Anyway, I told this story to a grad last week and it was like I was talking about my hardships during The Great War.

My tuba shame‘Computers used to operate with less memory than is found in today’s lowest resolution photo,’ I proudly divulged like a luddite neanderthal banging on about the glory days before wheels and fire. ‘And data used to be stores on flimsy five-and-a-half-inch floppy discs.’

‘How did they fit in the USB socket?’ I was (genuinely) asked.

‘We used to roll them up and wedge them in,’ I replied.

Later that evening, tormented by the ridiculous notion that I might be old, I perused through a few photo albums and found that a good twenty-percent of my childhood pictures were in black and white…and that I was wearing flares in all of them!

Twenty years from now someone will be explaining cloud-computing and reality TV to a young person born in 2016 and they will be laughing their arse off at how quaint it all was back in the day…

…but enough reminiscing for now – granddad needs his nap…

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Work/Life Balance…

…Every three weeks the project I’m managing awards someone the title of ‘Team member of the iteration.’ It’s a nice idea – whoever wins receives the adulation of their peers and has a photo taken for the board in which they smile whilst holding an item associated with the company’s brand – an umbrella. This time around we decided to give the award to a group of people – the offshore software testing team, working out of an office in Chenai, India.

In the last week Chenai has been hit with the worst rainfall in over a hundred years. The city has experienced flash floods that submerged whole suburbs and turned its river into an ocean. In the face of this hardship the testers were literally forced to flee for their lives and relocate to another city hundreds of miles away. With the very real possibility that their homes had been destroyed they nevertheless focused on making up the time they had lost and diligently worked through the weekend and evenings to catch up…

…and then we got them to pose with umbrellas and took photos of them.

Travelling to work the next morning I imagined the train being derailed,  waking up in a hospital bed having had both legs amputated and my first priority being to balance a laptop on my stumps so as to pick up wifi cos that progress report wasn’t gonna write itself, to later have a grateful colleague present me with a Thomas the Tank Engine duvet and a card declaring ‘You’re a Winner!’

‘Oh my God, we’re monsters!’ I announced to the office. The general consensus was that it probably wasn’t that bad. I unleashed my Thomas the Tank Engine analogy, but not being aficionados of Ringo Starr’s difficult second album the cultural reference was lost. (At the risk of appearing too heroic I should point out that I wasn’t that vociferous in my assertions as they are keeping my project on track).

Over the years I’ve worked with many offshore teams, and the two things they all have in common are i. Uber-politeness, and ii. An insane work ethic.

I met an old friend for coffee and the subject came up.

‘Do you think maybe we’ve (I’ve) been monumentally insensitive?’

In clear earshot of the baristas, all of whom are either African or South American exchange students he replied, ‘That’s what outsourcing’s all about.’

White people…Jeez…

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Guff & Gubbins…

Imagine an embryo in a suit sitting at a desk in a cubicle disguised as an adult. Somehow it has made its way into central London on a grad scheme; the main responsibility of which appears to gravitate around the concept of making me feel old and decrepit. More pressingly (he) is now occupying the room that houses the cabinet in which my work shoes reside. I tap on the glass and open the door.

‘Hi, do you mind if I just get my shoes?’

All the blood drains from of his face. The transformation is quite dramatic. ‘Yes.’

‘You do mind?’

‘Yes I do…sorry.’

‘Oh…well I’ll jus-‘ The wall of stench hits me. He was been breaking wind – a lot. It’s a very tiny room and he clearly wasn’t expecting company. I am physically repelled and contain the outbreak with a hefty slam of the door.

Given a moment to think I realise that I probably should’ve handled that better – maybe acted as if there wasn’t a paint-stripping reek assaulting the inside of my throat and calmly returned later. I smile through the glass to show him that there are no hard feelings and that I shall retrieve the aforementioned footwear in due course. Shortly thereafter he scurries away.

4084833608a5daa7c93e65460d0af83b885b907724ee782c48b0b2c36307d596d5ad42c7Later I am returning from lunch when I see the lift doors closing. I make a dash for it and step inside. There is already someone within – the graduate! He seems mortified to be in a confined space with me. The lift takes an eternity to begin its accent, and we are only moving for a few seconds before a robot announces ‘Emergency call activated.’ The graduate steps forward. A red light is flashing in the space recently vacated by his ass-cheeks. He becomes flustered.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I reassure. ‘It happens every other day. They should probably think about relocating the button. Someone’ll ring through in a minute and we’ll be on our way.’

…And then the stench hits me – worse then before! We are in an even smaller room. There is no escape. Embryo won’t look me in the eye. His suit looks highly flammable. He is taking a very great risk. This is too glorious an opportunity to pass up.
‘Seriously, there’s no point squeezing one out stealthily. I’m the only other person in here and I know it wasn’t me.’

‘What wasn’t you?’

Come on!’

‘How do I know it wasn’t you?’

What wasn’t me?’

‘…Whatever it is you’re talking about.’

‘How do you know? Cos it was you. If there was one other guy in here then there might be an element of mystery, but as there isn’t, there isn’t.’

Before we descend into a he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it territory a muffled, metallic sounding voice comes from the lift’s side panel. ‘Can I help you?’

‘Yeah, you can let me out of this dutch oven before I asphyxiate.’

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Summon the Posh

There’s nothing more skank-ass-ho than a man walking through a park at 8am wearing a tuxedo. And it’s not like I didn’t take every precaution to prevent this from happening. I left the Christmas Party at a reasonable time, caught the train, cranked up my headphones to drown out two Gen Y girls who were engaged in a competition to see who could be the least socially aware (‘I’m such a free-spirit that men can’t handle me…’), shared some ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ type vibes with fellow passengers (‘We all did it!’), got delayed, commenced the walk home, saw my car at the midway point, knew for certain that I was way too drunk to drive, got into the passenger seat just for a minute, just to rest my eyes, just to get a bit warm and then – BAM – right in the middle of the school run and kids faces at the window and ‘Mommy, is that man dead?’ and ‘No darling, he just doesn’t have his life together’…oh, and the judgemental eyes of the upwardly mobile middle-class like I’ve stumbled into the hood and am gonna get stabbed up or barred from Waitrose or both…

I looked at the dashboard clock – too late to go home and change before dropping my car off for its MOT. An image of the queen popping out of Buckingham Palace to buy some fags was firmly ensconced in my brain as I rucked up at the garage – lop-sided tiara and foie gras stuck between her teeth. My deodorant, impressive though it was, had long-since given up the ghost and my waxy skin / stubble combo spoke only of shame.

Various overall wearing staff made no attempt to hide their amusement as I stumbled up metal steps to a port-o-cabin and heard a voice that sounded like Eartha Kitt’s demonic transgender uncle mumble that I was here to drop off the Audi.

‘Why are you in a tuxedo?’ the man asked

‘Why are you not?’

‘Fair enough.’

Then came the annoyance of him asking me complicated questions like ‘Is this your address?’ and ‘Has your phone number changed?’ and all I could think off in response was: I am an aristocrat in decline, I’m going to be spectacularly overcharged, Where can I purchase the healing elixir that is bacon? 

With both hands I reached into my coat pockets to retrieve the car keys and came upon the handles of a set of maracas (which I already knew were in there from when I got out the car, but for some reason had failed to stow in the glove box).

The man could see them (and hear them) and now I was off the chart crazy. An explanation was surely forthcoming. Should I use the real reason (So that I’ve got something to do when I’m waiting at the lights)? No, of course not:

‘It’s how we, The Elite, identify ourselves to each other in public. I usually use a French horn, but my butler’s having it polished.’

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Rabbit Stew

A man and a woman get set up on a date by a mutual friend. The man isn’t me, nor have I ever met him. The woman and I know each other well. They are each given the other’s phone number and, in the week leading up to the date, an impressive level of banter & flirtation is reached. The date is a roaring success – both say as much, and they continue to flirt solidly for a further thirty-six hours.
But then…radio silence.
I join the story 24-hours into this silence.
The woman asks: ‘As a man, why hasn’t he written back?’
‘Could be any number of reasons,’ I reply, ‘Maybe he’s playing it cool, maybe he’s giving you space, perhaps it’s that work deadline he was telling you about.’
‘Or maybe he’s not interested?’
‘Possibly, but probably too early to say – Why don’t you text him?’
‘I texted him last.’
‘OK…’
A few hours later she’s climbing the walls – Why hasn’t he replied? – He seemed interested – I guess not – Maybe I’ll text him? No, there’s a principle at stake – Why hasn’t he replied…
I figure she needs her mind occupying so I say, ‘I’m driving up to the midlands tomorrow to see my dad. Fancy joining me?’
She does.
During the two hour drive north she phones / texts [EXAGGERATED NUMBER OF PEOPLE] to ask for their advice, and is rewarded with comments like ‘Let him go – he doesn’t deserve you,’ and ‘move on’ and ‘that’s out of order.’ Meanwhile I’m saying ‘just text him,’ and she’s like ‘No,’ and I’m like ‘Why not?’ and she’s like ‘Because then he’ll know I like him,’ and I’m like ‘Isn’t that the idea?’
Next she calls the women who set them up in the first place (who we’ll sinisterly call The Instigator). The instigator starts apologising for matching her with such a douche-bag and saying how he seemed like such a good guy and what the hell’s wrong with men and why aren’t they straight forward like women are, and I’m driving and nodding sympathetically and saying ‘Alternatively you could just text him?’ and she’s saying ‘NO, IT’S HIS TURN!’
We get to the midlands and she asks my dad his opinion which (as I’ve warned beforehand) is an epic mistake.
‘Yep, definitely not interested,’ he says with his customary diplomacy, ‘time to move on, next.’
We have a great day walking in the forest, visiting a stately home etc, and all the while her phone’s buzzing and a sense a cyber-outrage is building in the online community that this man has dared to pretend that he enjoyed a date when all the while he was planning on not texting back.
It’s getting dark when we begin the journey south. It’s been 48-hours without a reply and even I’m starting to think that maybe the man’s not interested when suddenly the woman declares ‘My mobile data is switched off!’
She switches it on and instantly gets a day-old text from the man that begins ‘Hey beautiful – about that second date?…’
Now she’s ecstatic and waving her arms around, and I’m thinking: Maybe I should surreptitiously get this guy’s number and warn him?
I asked permission before writing any of this. When I mentioned the proposed title it was relayed to me that ‘I AM NOT A BUNNY BOILER!’
This blog might alternatively have been condensed to: Man goes on date with woman, likes woman, asks woman on second date, blissfully unaware of insidious support network, wonders why woman hasn’t replied…

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…So long and thanks for all the mammaries

My usual dentist was away on maternity leave and had been replaced by a woman so voluptuous that it was almost suspicious, (the gratuitous drawing of attention to her figure is an essential detail!) Having talked me through the process of removing a broken tooth and replacing it with a temporary crown she leaned over, whereupon one of her pendulous breasts slapped firmly against my face; engulfing my right eye and settling against my cheek.

She seemed not to have noticed and diligently went about her work. With my one good eye I tried to signal to her assistant (‘Is this normal?’) She too appeared ambivalent, (either that or she didn’t speak eye-mind).

For 40 minutes (seemed longer) I lay under the warm weight of her heaving bosom – a strangely emasculating experience if truth be told. I hadn’t needed any anaesthetic as there was no root to offend, but by the end of the procedure my face was completely numb.

Afterwards the dentist (surely we should’ve been on first-name terms by this point) asked me if I’d like to keep the mould they’d made of my jaw. I couldn’t see any practical use for it, but it was going in the bin otherwise, so I said yes and took receipt of a macabre looking little plastic bag – Exhibit A:IMG_0822

‘How soon before I can eat anything?’ I asked.

‘Oh, straight away,’ she replied.

Having failed to ask for her phone number I left the surgery and went to a local supermarket in search of lunch. At the check out, whilst trying to retrieve my wallet, I succeeded in fumbled the aforementioned item out onto the conveyer belt.

Even I had to admit that it looked like something you’d find in Jeffrey Dahmer’s fridge. It would be an exaggeration to say that the cashier screamed, but she did press the help (panic) button, prompting the appearance of an equally bemused looking colleague.

‘I haven’t murdered anyone if that’s what you were thinking.’

Evidently they were…

On an entirely unrelated topic I’ve just started uploading some of my songs to:

https://soundcloud.com/martincororan

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What price morality?

An independent author’s quest

 

Does spreading the literary word ever justify law-breaking?

 

The scenario: You’ve written a book, lovingly given a year of your life to honing narrative and plot, subsequently been unable to get an agent for love or money and lounged in dejection for a while before finally deciding to finance it yourself. Shelling out seemingly endless cash you’ve overseen design, hired an editor and typesetter, met with printers, chosen paper quality, cover finish, filled your tiny house with thousands of paperbacks and proudly mailed all your friends to brag about your achievement.

    Six months on you’ve picked up some great reviews (as well as one that’s truly abysmal), and blagged your way onto local radio, but only shifted a few hundred copies. You still can’t get into the spare bedroom for fear of being killed in an avalanche of your own creation, and you’ve been rumbled by every online forum in the western world for shamelessly touting your own wares.

    What to do?

    Surely fortune will shine on you and reward your gutsy bravado?

    It’s at this point that the protagonist (in this case – me) asks ‘OK. You’ve come this far. Now, what are you prepared to do?’

    It’s classic character-arc – like the cop on the edge throwing down his badge and going after the psychopath alone, the bank-robber lured by one final job, or the poet going after a forbidden love no matter the consequences – only with books and spare bedrooms.

    Growing up in the 80’s there was an anti-smoking campaign featuring a villain called Nick-O-Teen. His tag-line was ‘Go on…just one…one won’t hurt.’

    I hear his voice the night I illegally fly-poster the London Underground.

    Back at home feeling excited about this minor infraction as only the middle-class can, I tell myself ‘No real harm done. It was actually a good thing if you think about…being daring and going after the prize.’

    A few days later I am discovered Blue-jacking mobile phones in Piccadilly Waterstones with messages suggesting that people go up to the first floor and check out my novel. I hide in the toilet until the heat is off before making my getaway.

    Go on…just one…one won’t hurt.

    I inhale. It feels so good.

    But do the ends justify the means?

    Imagine the scales of justice. On one side there’s the belief in my own work and the positive feedback from readers who have submersed themselves in The Melting Pot. On the other hand you have swift, metered, unflinching punishment.

    Not to be overly-dramatic – this is hardly the stuff of adrenaline junkies. To date my punishment has been restricted to chastisement by Daily Telegraph readers for corrupting their blog with blatant marketing, and the worst of my crimes would only ever result in a fine of some description. On a guerrilla marketing scale I doubt Che Guevara would give me the time of day.

    But then comes ‘Bustagging’ – zig-zagging through traffic and slapping posters on mobile billboards, and ‘Brandalism’ – unabashed copyright infringement. Where will it end? Hostage-taking? (‘Buy my book or the pretty blond gets it.’)

    And here’s the nub of it. I could make the statement, ‘It’s not as if I’ve murdered anyone,’ and justify my actions by saying that in the grand scheme of things my actions are pitifully small. But if this is the case then where am I on the moral-sliding scale? ‘Fathers-For-Justice’ recently ran a publicity campaign by dressing up as super-heroes and breaking into heavily guarded buildings such as Buckingham Palace. As far as they were concerned the law-breaking justified the message they were trying to get across. If I dress up in a gorilla costume, wander over to Westminster and ambush the culture minister can I claim the same?

    Do you see my dilemma? If guerrilla marketing isn’t as bad as murder, then what is it equal to – a mugging, mild sexual harassment, giving someone a Chinese burn? It’s a moral conundrum in which I’m flying blind.

    Or am I merely looking into this too deeply?

    Or is this in itself a form of marketing?

    Are there no depths to which I won’t stoop?

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Freudian Ship / Slit / Slap / Slut…

For the last ten years or so I’ve been trying to teach my mother the following joke:

Bloke 1: Did you hear about the man who drowned in a bowl of muesli?

Bloke 2: No.

Bloke 1: Apparently he was dragged down by a strong current.

Unfortunately her brain works differently from most people and she feels compelled (mostly at  parties) to blurt out variations on ‘Did you hear about the current…oh…forget that bit…did you…something about muesli…erm…oh…etc.’

Similarly the joke ‘Two seals walk into a club,’ transmogrifies as ‘There’s a club…no, not a club – a seal cub…a seal walks into a bar…not a bar…a club.’

I’ve written before about accidentally typing ‘retards’ instead of ‘regards’ on letters to publishers. I have now superseded this with a phone pitch that went:

‘Hi, I’m ringing to enquire as to whether you’re taking on any new authors?’

‘That was a very wordy introduction. I hope you’re writing is better.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Don’t be – goodbye.’

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Corporate monkey…

True story…

I’ve been interviewing recently for a Project Management role. The last question I ask is always ‘what are your hobbies?’ I do this for two reasons i. No one puts them on their CV anymore, and ii. It gives a good insight into what a person is really like.

On one particular occasion the candidate replied with ‘scuba and sky-diving. I’m an adrenaline junkie and love danger and excitement.’

After the interview my colleagues and I agreed that the man in question was a nice, competent guy, and decided to offer him the job. The following morning he declined the role stating that he had been mugged outside the office, and that Southwark was too dangerous a place to work!

A few days later another candidate was asked the question ‘How do you deal with conflict?’ to which he replied ‘I don’t. I avoid it like the plague. I’m a politician. I weave around conflict.’

‘But surely there are times when conflict is unavoidable – for example – when you’re dealing with a poor supplier or a lazy employee?’

‘I disagree’

‘Well there you go. You’re in conflict with me now.’

‘No I’m not.’

‘What are your hobbies?’

‘I’m in a theatre company.’

‘Oh great – What was your last role?’

‘I was a clown.’

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