Monday, 26 March 2012

What are The Two Things about the business you work in?

I came across a fascinating website the other day. It’s called The Two Things and it’s a kind of discussion board where anyone can post The Two Things.

So what are they? Here’s the story.

Economist and academic Glen Whitman walked into the Lava Lounge bar in LA in 2002. He soon got talking to another guy in the bar.

The man asked him, “So, what are The Two Things about economics?"

"Huh?" Whitman replied slightly baffled.

"You know, The Two Things. For every subject, there are only two things you need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just isn’t that important."

Whitman thought then replied: "One: incentives matter. Two: there's no such thing as a free lunch."

"Ever since that evening," Whitman wrote later, "I've been playing The Two Things game. Whenever I meet someone who belongs to a different profession or knows something about a subject I'm unfamiliar with, I pose The Two Things question."

When he blogged about it, hundreds of people added their own Two Things covering all areas of human endeavour. You can read them on his website here:

Whitman likes The Two Things exercise so much because it forces people to cut through the flannel, verbiage and irrelevant minutiae in any industry and get back to basics.

In short, it can serve as a useful reminder of what’s important in your job. And what’s just peripheral.

So, contributions to Whitman’s site and some of my favourites include The Two Things about:

Stock trading – ‘Buy low’ and ‘Sell high’

The theatre – ‘Don't forget your lines’ and ‘Don't bump into the set’

Project Management – ‘The schedule will slip’ and ‘It's about how you manage the schedule slippage’

Driving a car – ‘Don't hit anything’ and ‘Don't let anything hit you’

Flying an aeroplane – ‘Airspeed is life’ and ‘Think ahead’

Women – ‘When complaining, they don’t want your advice, they want your sympathy’ and ‘Don’t you dare tell them you can sum them up with just Two Things’

Parenting – ‘There's no such thing as too much affection’ and ‘It's not so much what you say, it’s what you do’

Star Trek – ‘Don't beam down if you’re wearing a red tunic’ and ‘You can always talk evil computers into destroying themselves’

Being a house husband – ‘That can wait until tomorrow’ and ‘That can too’

So what would your Two Things about marketing be? Two suggestions from Whitman’s site are:

1. Know your existing customers
2. Recruit more customers

Or even:

1. Find out who is buying your product
2. Find more buyers like them

So what would your suggestion be for marketing, social media, copywriting, the internet or absolutely anything at all?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ever written an off-the-page ad selling sex toys?

When a client phoned one day a few years ago and asked if I wanted to write a ‘sex ad’ I was horrified.

Is this the kind of work I want to be doing? Isn’t it a bit sleazy? What would my Mum say?

But I was young, foolish and needed the money.

After all, aren’t they just products?

Haven’t they got features that I can turn into benefits? Don’t they need short, punchy selling copy and captions that create a response? Aren’t there punters out there that want to buy these products?

So I wrote a couple of them.

Looking back now, the copy isn’t bad. But if I wrote them now, I’d have a lot more fun with it.

A bit more innuendo, a few more double entendres, a large dollop of sauce.

Not because I want to be self-indulgent. But because I think this would make the copy a better read, more engaging and would encourage people to respond.

Finding these ads also got me to thinking if there was an account I definitely wouldn’t work on, for moral, ethical or religious reasons.

I’ve since written mailing packs for both the Labour Party and the Conservatives, so for me, political sensitivities obviously don’t come into it.

But I wouldn’t touch anything to do with tobacco, or lethal weapons systems being marketed to unstable rogue states or a certain Nottingham-based football club.

How about you? What do you draw the line at?

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