Hiding the truth, trying too hard and reading it one last time

“Go on,” whispered my friend, “they’re so busy they won’t notice. You’ll never get caught.” But there was always the off-chance that I would. Yes, the Woolworths pick & mix counter was tempting to a nine-year-old like me, but the image of a hand on my shoulder, and being frog-marched to the slammer put me off. No gobstopper was worth that. Perhaps that reaction has kept me out of trouble all these years. Or maybe it’s caused me to miss countless adventures I would have had living on the wild side. Whatever. At least I can sleep at night. Which is probably more than the marketing bods at Nokia can say. Their recent high-profile launch of the Lumia 920 hit the headlines, though not in the way they’d hoped. It’s one of their glitzy new Pureview cameraphones, with a state-of-the-art Carl Zeiss lens that gives you crystal-clear video. Now I still have a Nokia N73, and I can vouch for the fact that Mr Zeiss sure knows how to make lenses. My trusty old not-so-smartphone takes great photos. But back to the Lumia. The promotional video showed a girl on a bicycle, apparently being filmed by her boyfriend, cycling alongside her. The phone boasts OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser) technology, so even on a bike, there’s still no camera shake. Except she wasn’t being filmed by him on his Lumia 920. Or any Lumia, in fact. Or by him, come to that. And certainly not from a bicycle. As she passes a mirror, there’s no sign of her camera-wielding friend in the reflection. Instead, we see a white van, its sliding door open, and a professional cameraman complete with TV camera – firmly anchored – capturing her frame by frame in glorious HD. No wonder there was no camera shake. Nokia’s ethics and compliance office is now working on a report “to understand what happened”. A Nokia spokeswoman said it showed “poor judgement”. No kidding. But then, the choice of name for the phone showed equally poor judgement – if you live in Spain. For lumia is Spanish slang for a prostitute. Or a call girl, perhaps more appropriately. Lesson 1: if in doubt, don’t steal the gobstopper. And don’t call in a camera crew – use the smartphone. You’ll sleep better at night.

Knowing me, freaking you out

Going the extra mile can sometimes mean you step over the line, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors. Sure, you want to anticipate your clients’ needs, but not if it becomes invasive or downright creepy. A friend of mine – we’ll call her Jane – freaks out when I answer her call on my landline with “Hello Jane!” I’m not psychic, nor am I doing anything exceptional. My desk phone has her number programmed in, and just like a mobile, it flashes up her name when she calls. And although she knows mobiles do this, she has an old-fashioned landline phone where every call is a surprise. Consequently she’s slightly unnerved when I know it’s her phoning, simply because she’s not expecting it. Expectations are important when it comes to marketing. And especially customer service and how you deal with people. It’s something that British Airways learned to its cost recently. Their latest blue-sky, outside-the-box, sit-around-in-an-energy-circle idea was to compile a dossier on passengers, including photos of them culled from Google Images. Assembling all of this could would help them greet passengers personally, anticipate their needs, know their preferences, and provide better service. Except it all began to feel a bit Big Brother-ish. The ‘Know Me’ initiative quickly raised the hackles of privacy campaigners, and was none too popular with passengers. So something that started with the best of intentions – improving the customer experience – ended up having exactly the opposite effect. Lesson 2: get close to your customers, but not too close.

Word for wrod

Last but not least, a subject that’s dear to my heart, and not entirely unrelated to the last lesson. Just as you should check your Big Ideas to make sure they’re really that big, you should also check everything you write before it goes public. Word blindness can strike us all at any time, without warning. I’m still smarting from the clanger I dropped several years back when my copywriting tips included the invaluable advice ‘Features, not benefits’. A classic example of my 0-60mph mind reading what I should have written, rather than what I wrote (in case you’re still wondering, it’s ‘Benefits, not features’). We’ve all been there. In fact, we’ve all experienced first-hand just how easily we can skip over mistakes. Like me, you probably derived endless pleasure at school from tricking classmates into reading something like this:
Yesterday was my birthday and and my aunt gave me a £10 book token.
Did you notice the repetition of ‘and’? Lots of people don’t, as their minds blank out the duplicate occurrence. The same thing happens when they’re focusing elsewhere, and miss an obvious mistake. How about this?
How many of each animal did Moses take on the ark?
If you said ‘two’, as I did when I first saw it, then bad luck. The answer is none. It wasn’t Moses who took animals on the ark, but Noah. But we’re blindsided by the focus of the question (How many…) to the point where we don’t see the trap. As camp Romney did a few months back when it proudly launched an iPhone app in advance of the US presidential election. They were so focused on getting it out the door that they blanked out the obvious error: A Better Amercia, ran the tagline. Amercia? Oh yes, that would be America. They quickly corrected it. As they also did with the following:
“As president, Mitt will work to expand and enhance access and opportunities for Americans to hunt, shoot, and protect their families, homes and property, and he will fight the battle on all fronts to protect and promote the Second Amendment…”
Hunt and shoot their families? I don’t think so. Lesson 3: proof-read it, then put it away and do something else. Then proof-read it again. Or better still, give it to somebody else to read. Find out more: