…from Starbucks, Eurostar, Tesco and play.com

marketing promises

Four things happened to me this week. OK, more than four things, but since you haven’t got all day, I’ll give you the short version.

Extra strong – with wings

First, I hung out at Starbucks, which is better than any serviced office I’ve ever seen.  You can stretch one cup out all afternoon, as you huddle over your laptop. But this time, I decided to leave my comfort zone. No, not my favourite armchair by the window. But my coffee. You see, I normally opt for a grande, skinny, decaf, sugar-free hazelnut, extra-hot latte – enough to give any barista RSI as they scramble to tick all the boxes. But this time, I decided to change. A regular coffee seemed an appropriate departure, so I consulted the board. Americano, I thought. That’ll do the trick. But wait…what about Freshly Brewed Coffee? It was much cheaper, and that was enough to tip the balance. So that’s what I ordered. And instantly regretted it. Americano is basically a diluted espresso, made on the spot from achingly fresh coffee beans. Whereas Freshly Brewed Coffee is, well, not really fresh. The barista pivoted round, flipped the tap on a big silver urn, and filled the cup with tired old dregs. So that would be Freshly Stewed Coffee. Lesson 1: don’t stretch language beyond its limits.

Next stop Paris

From there, where else could the week go? Upwards was the only way, and yesterday, Eurostar put a smile on my face. I live in Cambridge, and every week, like it or not, the local freesheet newspaper lands on my mat. Usually, it goes straight in to the recycle bin. But not this time. Paris – An all hours guide, the cover (which wasn’t really the cover, but a advert wrap) said. Pull out. Fold up. Pocket it. The inside is crammed full of useful listings – places to eat, relax, and boogie on down. The back has a handy map. There are even Cambridge-Paris train times (via King’s Cross/St Pancras). And coolest of all, a handy origami-style diagram showing you how to fold it all into a pocket map. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Why? It’s targeted, it’s personal and it’s useful. Even if I don’t want to go to Paris tomorrow, I’ll keep it for when I do. And so Eurostar has achieved the Holy Grail – an advert I’ll never throw away. Lesson 2: think smart, think targeted, think like a reader.

Bag for life (not)

Tesco delivered my internet shopping this week, all  neatly packed in carrier bags. Re-use this carrier bag and collect Green Clubcard Points, each bag cried out at me. If only I could. At least half of the bags had the handles knotted – double-knotted. And they’d been lifted into the crate at the store, then out of the crate on to my doorstep, then again to my kitchen. Each time the knot got a little tighter. In the end, the only way I could open them was with scissors. You see the green problem. When I pointed it out to Tesco customer service, they said they’d put a note on my account. But what about all the other shopping packed at that store? In fact, at every store countrywide? How many bags were being wasted, I wondered.  Surely they could feed it back to somebody who could change things? Silence. Then they said they’d put a note on my account. So I dropped it. Some battles you can’t win. Lesson 3: make sure everybody in your company shares your values.

Game over

This week I ordered a DVD – La Vie en Rose (it’s known as La Môme in France). It’s the fourth French film I’ve ordered in as many weeks, so play.com have a pretty good idea of my tastes. Perfect for marketing purposes. Or so you’d think. On the invoice that came with the DVD, they’d conveniently printed a list of other bestselling and upcoming titles. Clever. But also not so clever. For their titles included Knocked Up: Extended and Unprotected Special Edition, along with Hellboy and Superbad. Oh, and Death Note: Limited Edition. It would have been a simple bit of database programming to pull out the upcoming French titles. Lesson 4:  try selling what your customers are buying. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.