I Hate Christmas

I Hate Christmas

I hate the crass commercialisation of it, that sees people get into debt to buy their kids toys that will be ignored, forgotten, or broken within three months, to buy family members, spouses, partners as many gifts as possible, using bright paper and financial exhaustion to say what should be said with gentle laughter, in a kiss, in the holding back of hair as someone suffers from infection or over-indulgence, in the small things we see in the charity shop, at the market, on our everyday travels, that make us think of those who hold the centre of our heart, in the jobs we do even though we’d rather be doing something else, in the quiet and eternal support of ambitions and dreams, in the celebrating of achievements, however big or small, and in the silent comfort offered in the aftermath of rejection or failure.

I hate the inevitable rows over “whose festival is it, anyway?”, the anger, hatred, ridicule and intolerance hurled from all sides, at anyone whose beliefs or philosophies dare to differ from one’s own.

I hate the habit of giving money, because “I don’t know what you want” (mainly because you never asked.)

I hate the consuming of quantities of food that are not needed, just “because we can”, while more than half the world starves.

I hate the way we’re forced into extended communion with people who have ignored us, as we’ve ignored them, for the past twelve months.

I hate the way the people in whose lives we are most involved are rarely around – forced to spend the holiday with people who are not involved in their lives, or who feel obliged to spend the holiday with people whose lives they’d rather not be involved in – I hate the way friendship is trivialised, made “less important” than blood, or romantic love.

I hate the endless arguments between so-called family, and the way no one will ever have the grace to say “I think it’s best if I go home now – I’ll call you when I’ve had a chance to calm down a little.” I hate this grim determination to “be a family at Christmas”, when we’ve not been one the rest of the year, not been one when it mattered – when a member was unemployed, struggling financially, homeless, lonely, when they wanted someone to be proud of something they’d achieved, when they wanted someone to share their sorrows and fears with.

I hate the focus on “What am I getting?” from people who already have more than they need.

I hate the way children are indulged, rather than taught that you live within your means, and are grateful for small pleasures.

I hate the way simplicity, and the joy a simple meal, simple companionship, simple gifts, can bring are dismissed as “a poverty mindset”, and “not entering into the spirit of things.”

It’s not about who you celebrate – which deity, pantheon, or force – but who you care for. Do you do what you can for those whom society has forgotten? Those without homes, without family, without friends, without the money to celebrate in even a small way? Those who are ill or alone?

It’s not about what you celebrate, but why you celebrate – are you celebrating and honouring the relationships that have sustained you through another year of triumphs and disasters, are you celebrating the steady, reliable presence of the earth, nature, and their provision for you, are you celebrating love, friendship, and genuine joy – or are you just celebrating the fact that you’ve got more “stuff”, a week off work, the chance to parade your religious beliefs around, to mass approval?

No one has to do everything – there are no superheroes, no single individual, or even small group of individuals, who can “save the world” – but we can all do something.

Before we unwrap the new “stuff” others have bought us, we can donate some of our old “stuff” to charity shops, and to services that support the most vulnerable in our society.

Before we tuck in to our feast, we can donate a bag of groceries to a local food bank appeal.

Before we splash the cash on food, drink, friends, family, presents and decorations, we can make a small donation to organisations who work tirelessly, year round, to improve the human condition, and to help leave the world a little better than they found it.

Before we set out on journeys to visit distant relations, we can journey within ourselves, and identify the work we need to do in the coming twelve months to become a little better as human beings – the things we need to leave behind, the things we need to embrace, the attitudes that don’t serve us, and the talents that do.

I hate Christmas – but I love the other things we can do, celebrate, give, and focus on at this time of year.

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Marketing: Keep It (A Lot More) Simple

Marketing: Keep It (A Lot More) Simple

I realised something last night, in bed, while I was reading Adam Morgan’s “Eating The Big Fish” as a way to switch my mind back to reality after completing a piece of fanfic, for a long-since-stopped-broadcasting programme, that had been inspired by a lively discussion my wife and I had had earlier that evening (don’t worry, I won’t post the fanfic – I write fanfic for myself and my wife, as we share similar interests, and an equally bizarre way of thinking. I also write it very, very rarely), and thinking back over the day, including the impulse purchase of a Christmas gift for my wife (which I won’t post here, as she reads this blog!)

I don’t do impulse purchasing of anything other than books.  When Christmas or other gift-giving occasions roll around, I will have identified two or three things that will be appreciated, and got them at least a month ahead.  Clothes – I get what I need, when I need it. Music, DVDs, etc? YouTube or Vimeo first, then I’ll see if I can find it on Ebay or Amazon.

It’s not just purchases – I’m simply not an impulsive person.  I don’t like coming downstairs and switching on the laptop to find an empty works email box – not only because no work means no money, but also because I literally won’t know what to do with myself for at least a couple of hours, until I remember I have blogs that need updating, personal writing I could be getting on with, a house that needs tidying, dogs that would appreciate a longer than usual walk. I can’t just think “Great, no work – let’s have a day out somewhere!”

So, for me to make an impulse purchase, especially online (it has been known to happen, usually to my wife’s benefit, in charity shops), the marketing of this product must have been really something, right?

Wrong.

The marketing was, in fact, invisible. (I’m not naive enough to believe there was no marketing going on at all, but it was done very well, and disappeared behind the product, as all good marketing should.)  On a Facebook group I’m in, which centres around the Goth subculture, shared from a page that predominantly discusses urban legends and alternative news, was just an image of this product.  No strapline, no story, no celebrity endorsement – not even a “buy it here” link to click. Just the image. It wasn’t being sold by the page that shared it, or by the group it was shared to (at least not overtly.)

I liked the product. I Googled a short, simple description,  and a website selling it at a very reasonable price headed the results. Add to basket. Pay with PayPal. Checkout. (Wonder why it hasn’t arrived yet! Lol.)

It’s a well-publicised, and much-lamented. trope that peoples’ attention spans are getting shorter – many people will already have given up on this post, if the reports are accurate – TL;DR.

Short attention spans don’t want  your engaging, evocative backstory. They don’t want 500 words extolling the virtues of your product.

Short attention spans, and their purchasing behaviour, can be summed up as: saw

That’s your job, as an advertiser, retailer, entrepreneur – you make sure people see a product they’re likely to want, and you make sure they can get it.

Advertising in the 21st century, and beyond, is going to be far more simple than advertisers currently think it is – and so simple that it’s actually quite complex to pull off successfully yourself, if you’re not experienced in advertising and marketing.

The future of advertising is the way this product was advertised: the SEO was sorted long before anyone would see (and want) the product, so that, when they did see it, and want it, a quick Google search would enable them, within about 2 minutes, to get it.

So: you have a product. You set up the SEO – for very basic descriptions, as well as the clever and witty ones that’re in your head – and make sure it’s directing to your site/s. (Yes, you definitely should have more than one site – we’ll get to that.) You want your site/s to be at the top of Google’s organic ranking – people tend to skip past paid-for placement, in these cynical, sceptical days. (“If it was that good, they wouldn’t need to pay Google to promote it, would they?” – yes, it ignores completely the way the worlds of retail and marketing work,  but you can’t do much about peoples’ assumptions.)

You should have at least a couple of distinct, clearly differentiated sites – one which is general appeal, and sells your product/s at your “realistic target” price, another which has a more boutique or luxury feel, and sells at your “aspirational” price.  You also want to list a “bargain price” version of your product with Ebay and Amazon, for the people who genuinely are focused on price.

Then, you set up a social media page that is nothing to do with you, your product/s, or advertising. Make sure your page has a mass appeal, and make sure it is well promoted across networks and channels – it’s probably worth paying to promote this page.

You’re going to be updating this page with quality, relevant, social-media-optimised content regularly – as in, throughout the day. So, make sure you’ve picked a mass appeal area you can actually handle posting about that often!  Every so often – but no more than once a day at the absolute maximum, simply post an image of the product you’re selling or promoting – no strapline, no link to buy, no spiel – just the image, maybe a short(3-5 words) personal comment as your page.  Make sure the product is relevant to the page audience, and bear in mind the time of year – customised candles sell well at Christmas, for example.

People will see your product. If they want it, they’ll Google it. They’ll happen across your website – they’ll get the product (and you’ll get the money.)

If they don’t want to pay the price on your website, they’ll probably head to Ebay or Amazon, looking to find the same thing, cheaper – and, of course, you’ll have obliged them.

Your print advertising, which is usually the most expensive, should cite your “luxury version” website – you don’t actually have to do anything differently with your product: different demographics are happy to pay different amounts for exactly the same thing, as long as they see it in a place that resonates with their self-referential identity.

Even with the Ebay and Amazon “bargains”, make sure you’re making a small profit on your costs – not as much as you will be on your “realistic target price” website, but something. Never, ever, try and compete purely on price – there will always be some people for whom any amount is “too much”, but the majority of people are reasonable – they understand  that things cost money to produce, and that the people making and selling things need to eat and pay bills, too!

This is the future of advertising, and I like it – I admire the complex simplicity of it. (I like things that appear effortless whilst, in fact, taking a lot of background work.) Now, I just need to work out how to apply it to a service, rather than a physical product – or, more accurately, how to make a service into a product.

TL;DR?

1. Sort your SEO before you do ANYTHING about promoting/placing your product.

2. Multi-channel – distinct websites targeting different demographics/income brackets, Ebay and Amazon “bargains”.

3. Place your product from a position of not an advertiser – place image-only, once a day max, in high-traffic social media groups; ideally, set up a mass appeal social media page discussing something completely other than marketing, advertising, you, or your product/s, and share from that page. Remember: Content throughout the day, advertising no more than once a day, max.

4. Organic, Organic, Organic – you’re looking for organic (or seemingly organic) reach.

5. Think digital age word of mouth. (Word of web? Bray of browser? Talk of tags?)