Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Rant, Pant, & Marketing

I started to write a post the other morning that was very rude about people who compiled lists. You know the sort – Twenty-Three Ways to Wash Behind Your Ears. They irritate me because they are a gimmick much beloved by direct marketers. The number is a lie. It infers a precision to what is about to be revealed. Everything you need to know is here, it promises; we know because we counted.

I don’t like lists. Unfortunately, they work or they wouldn’t be so out and about and counting the number of steps it takes for them to get to work. Forty-Nine Steps: All You Need to Get to Work.
What bought on my early morning, it’s too early for me to be polite, it’s about time someone said something about this, rant was the imminent completion of my book, Only the Gulls are Content.

It’s going to need marketing. Read Julie Korzenko’s article on the How Publishing Really Works blog. (At some stage, I shall have to tell Julie how advertising really works. To quote: ‘You’re telling a friend about a commercial you like, and when they ask, “What company was that for?” you say, “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”’ – How many times did I hear that when a copywriter? I shall have to count.)

That small gripe aside, she makes many sensible points that we wannabes will need to address sooner or later.

The most inventive and relevant piece of marketing I have seen has been for Caroline Smaile’s works. First came the map thingy for In Search of Adam, then the pure genius of The Black Boxes gizmo. I would like to claim credit for the latter but Gary might come to Brighton and slap me with a wet fish. (A short anecdote: a mediocre copywriter, a colleague in the same agency I was then working for, stuck a commercial for Cadbury’s Amazin chocolate bar – directed by Ridley Scott; slogan: It’s Amazin What Raisins Can Do – on his showreel. When challenged, he, having had nothing to with anything, defended himself by saying, “Well, I was in the room at the time,” i.e. the time when someone else came up with the slogan. On that basis, I believe I can take credit for the Black Boxes gizmo having been in the same country at the time, the design of Concorde and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.)

So back to challenge of marketing Only the Gulls are Content; as Julie highlights, repetition is important. (I trust you understand I am talking about my book, Only the Gulls are Content.) Presently, I am doing the strategic bit of defining what needs to be done. Long experience teaches me the more time devoted to this phase, the one of stapling down precisely, without numbers, the potential audience, the reasons why my product might appeal and how I may reach them, in other words, the tighter I make my brief, the more creative will be the solution. (Ball-crushingly obvious, but one that may make one squeak on a more piercing octave.)

I have a feel for what might be a good idea. I sense it drifting on the wind far above my head, much like a gull - now I come to think of it, much like a gull as in Only the Gulls are Content.

The process brings back memories of my youth when I could smell a good idea but knew to reach out and grasp it prematurely would be to crush the butterfly. A good idea needs to be allowed time to alight before being snared.

This is not the idea, and maybe something I will do anyway, but I am thinking of giving away a limited edition of the finished drawing, of which these doodles are the inspiration, with the original as first prize.Gulls and bondage: spooky, but not half as spooky as the finished work will be. It will be full figure and something to frighten the grandchildren with. But don't be spooked, there is no bondage in Only the Gulls are Content. It is a pastoral novel of love, romance, sweaty palms and long sighs - all in full view of the governess.

Amy! Katie! Grandpa's coming! x

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