For at least the last decade, Innocent Drinks’ cosy-chatty-witty tone of voice has been the default voice for lazy brands to rip off. But that's changed....Read More
You hardly need another precis of the whole saga. So let’s get down to it: No, NERC shouldn’t actually name their vessel Boaty McBoatface. Why? Cos like a novelty pop song, it won’t bear repeating...Read More
What’s in a name? Well, lots. Otherwise we wouldn’t spend ages agonising over what to call our children. Or, indeed, our companies. And it is agony...Read More
A few days ago I got stuck in a tunnel clogged with people.
Me and about a million others were changing from the Bakerloo line to the Central Line at Oxford Circus. If you’ve ever done it, you’ll know the interchange: there’s a looooong foot tunnel. We were jammed into that, shoulder to shoulder. We were moving at a shuffling pace.
Nobody really seemed to mind that much. Every so often, someone would hold their phone over their heads and take a picture of our predicament.
Then, into earshot, came a busker. He was way up ahead. (There's one of those TfL 'official busker points' in this particular tunnel. There was guitar strumming.
And what happened next was fascinating. We (and by ‘we’ I mean the group of commuters who all heard the busker at the same time as me) had almost identical reactions at almost exactly the same time:
- A tiny ‘ha!’ in response to the situational comedy of the moment
Here we are, a huge, slow-moving, captive audience, and him a busker. The chap next to me even said to his friend ‘good day to be a busker, eh?’
- Relief that he actually sounded quite good.
We couldn’t actually tell what he was singing yet, but his voice was deep and mellifluous. He was playing some interesting-sounding jazzy chords. Thank God. There is, after all, nothing more excruciating for the English than trying to ignore someone doing something you don’t like in a confined space.
- A sort of bemused WTF-barely-perceptible-shake-of-the-head.
This was the moment when something awful happened. This was the moment when we worked out what song he was singing:
I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself — what a wonderful world.
Oh no. Oh dear. What’s this? Oh this is awkward! How has this happened? Suddenly we’re all becoming painfully aware of how not-at-all-wonderful this is — despite the fact that just a few seconds ago we were actually doing just fine. Perhaps it’s some kind of satire? No. He’s being really sincere. His eyes are closed.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces, of people going by…
Seriously? Are you ACTUALLY KIDDING? Are you even on the same planet? Our faces are not rainbows. Our faces are the cold-eyed monochrome of the walking dead. And you have made this painful truth completely inescapable. There are clearly no rainbows here AS YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO TELL! We are now embarrassed and ashamed. Oh, Mr Busker, we thought a moment ago that we were all in this together, but we were mistaken. You are not one of us. We shufflers are in this together. You are a clueless fool.
Like I say, all that was expressed through the smallest head movement it’s possible for the human body to make while still counting as a tut/eye-roll/shake.
By the time we passed the busker, he was utterly dead to us. Nobody looked at him. Nobody gave him money. We refused to acknowledge his existence. He had managed to embarrass and humiliate us and make it impossible somehow for us to acknowledge his skill and talent without betraying our tribe, the shuffling commuter tribe. We were separated by an impossible gulf.
If he’d have said something, anything, to even nod towards the irony of singing that song, at that time, in that place, I’m convinced he would have cleaned up. If he’d have started playing, oh I dunno, ‘Trapped’ by Bruce Springsteen, or REM’s ‘Can’t Get There From Here’, it’s possible we’d have buried him under a mountain of pound coins, such was the initial goodwill towards him.
Perhaps he was relishing his own bloody-mindedness. Perhaps he went home cursing what a stingy thankless bunch today’s crowd were.
Perhaps I’m wrong about all of it, and this was only how it appeared to my over-active imagination.
I don’t think so though. I think we were a well-disposed audience, and by not realising we were giving off subtle feedback vibes, he inadvertently shut us out.
The lessons here for everyone who creates work for clients or audiences of any kind are obvious. You don’t need me to spell em out.
I used to read these with a sense of smugness, thinking Ha! Who’d be fooled by this gibberish? If scammers only took the trouble to get their tone of voice right, they’d get a much better response rate! More fool me for thinking it was sloppiness on their part...Read More
The other day I went to the bathroom in Prufrock’s coffee shop on Leather Lane. (Amazing coffee. Mixed feeling about the ‘latte art’ course). The toilet had a big flush handle on the side. And on the top of the cistern was this sticker...Read More
we use the word ‘disruption’ like it’s something we’re in control of doing to the world. but it’s possible we’re just using it to console ourselves that we’ve unleashed a monster…Read More
First Great Western, the people who run trains out to the West of England, are doing the ‘brand refresh’ thing. It’s been building for a while: there have been stories on posters about people in hard hats who are ‘Great Westerners’; They have an on-trend flat design website, and now — ta-da! — they’ve changed their name back to Great Western Railways.Read More
If you’re a brand trying to maintain a trusting relationship with your customers through an end user agreement that’s the length of a novel and the complexity of Shakespeare, you’re mad. It’s like trying to have an intimate conversation with someone down an extremely long toilet roll tube, while speaking in a silly voice…Read More
We could use the £2 million Railtrack have been fined in so many more imaginative ways to improve our daily commute…Read More
Dear Apple, I have a challenge for you. There’s a bit of user experience out there in the world that really really sucks. And it’s not just ‘out there in the world’ — it’s in every single one of your products.
I’m challenging you to change it. Everyone else is acting like this is basically impossible. And, well, we all know you have form when it comes to doing the things nobody else can.Read More
The world is finally waking up to the fact that writing really can ‘nudge’ behaviour in remarkable waysRead More