Why the deaths of Prince, Bowie and others in 2016 are so shocking

Prince“No, no, no, no!” On learning that Prince had died unexpectedly at just 57, the response of almost everyone I know yesterday was the same.

It was awful news. It was a complete and utter shock. It seemed faintly unreal. That it was just the latest in a seeming unending line of celebrity deaths in 2016 merely compounded the hurt.

David Bowie, Terry Wogan, Ronnie Corbett, Victoria Wood to name but a few.

But why are these deaths so shocking? In Prince and Victoria Wood’s cases it was their relative youth (57 and 62 respectively), but that could hardly be said of Ronnie Corbett or Terry Wogan.

The simple reason is this: for a generation of 30-50-somethings, our childhood and adolescent memories and heroes are being eviscerated. Continue reading

Why tone and voice is so important

Our Hotpoint dishwasher of 10 years has finally given up the ghost. Fortunately, we’d taken out extended warranty, so a replacement is on its way.

Having ordered the new one, we got a text within hours:

Hotpoint welcomes your Dishwasher order. Your Journey starts here and our teams will be with you until completion, providing updates along your journey.

I don’t know where to start with this. It’s all kinds of wrong and highlights the apparent difficulty that so many large brands have in creating a consistent and credible tone and voice.

To begin with, why is ‘Hotpoint’ doing the welcoming? Shouldn’t it be ‘we’, quite aside of the dodgy use of ‘welcome’.

And then there’s the tiresome, hackneyed use of ‘journey’… I’m only waiting for a dishwasher to be delivered, for God’s sake.

The thing is, I understand the broad intention of Hotpoint. Providing a friendly, customer-centric buying experience is crucial to how you build up advocacy and repeat business. Continue reading

Forget the big idea – start with the user

Steve Jobs
We think of Apple as being the great modern-day innovators, but actually what they do is take an initial idea – more often than not one that a competitor has created – and then improve on it, based on customer needs.

Even in 2016, this is something that so many brands still fail to do.

In her book Meaningful: The Story of Ideas That Fly, Bernadette Jiwa starts one chapter with this spot-on quote from Steve Jobs.

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it … And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer, where can we take the customer?’ Not starting with ‘Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then [ask] how are we going to market that?’

Steve Jobs