I was looking at a very bad headline recently. The headline said ‘HURRY, GET THE UK’S BEST VALUE CAR INSURANCE RIGHT NOW.’  Well, for the sake of client confidentiality, it didn’t say ‘car insurance’ but it did say ‘Hurry’ and ‘Right now’.And then, a few days later, I saw this sign at a Yo Sushi!


Perhaps the only instruction missing from this charming and subtle sign is ‘GET LOST’ – in day-glow orange, of course. Why not go the whole hog? ‘EAT. PAY. PISS OFF.’

The tone of the actual sign isn’t too far away from my exaggerated version.

I’m often astounded at just how many people working in advertising and marketing seem to think this is what effective marketing looks like. The logic seems to be: “We need to sell more widgets so we must command people to buy widgets. If we tell them to do it and shout at them, they will buy widgets. Lots of widgets.”

Both of the above examples reminded me of this brilliant Aesop’s fable:

“The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.”

We advertising and marketing and folk can learn a lot from Aesop. That’s why there’s a brand agency named after him:

What Aesop – who was writing 2,500 years ago – knew better than many of today’s marketing professionals is that  persuasion requires charm and ingenuity. The art of persuasion is just that – an art. It must start with positivity – rather than an imposed sense of urgency and bossy, aggressive commands. In Aesop’s story, the sun ‘shines in all his glory upon the traveller’ – it’s a positive energy that prompts the traveller to take his coat off.

One of the reasons for marketing communications that lack charm, subtlety and warmth is, I believe, the rationalised, dehumanising culture of marketing. People become ‘consumers’, ‘segments’ and ‘target demographics’. All too quickly, marketing becomes a cynical revenue extraction process. And when the pressure is on – revenue needs to be generated, ROI needs to be shown, it can be all too easy for clients and agencies to default to ‘HURRY, BUY NOW!’, ‘SALE MUST END SATURDAY!’ sledgehammer marketing. We ask people to ‘Pre-order now!’, ‘grab and go’ and sell them crisps in ‘Grab Bags’. “Just hurry up!” we keep shouting.

What’s more, I very much doubt that people respond well to it. If you were on a first date and, having paid the restaurant bill, you turned to the lucky man or woman you were with and said: “Have sex with me. Now! Hurry! Evening must end soon!”, I suspect your bold approach wouldn’t quite achieve the desired outcome.

  • Patrick Sychowski

    That is why the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster has become so ubiquitous – activation at its best. 

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