Humour Is Everywhere – If You Know Where to Look

Humour Is Everywhere – If You Know Where to Look

How’s your sense of humour? Try this for size… Do you find The Trump funny or laughable? Amusing or risible? And are you puzzled sometimes when people find things funny and you’re left scratching your head? Humour is often in the eye (and ear) of the beholder. In the UK, ‘Monty Python’ splits people into two camps. As does ‘The Office’. The late Bob Monkhouse was too ‘American’ for some. And Les Dawson too ‘northern’ for others. Is Billy Connolly too lewd for you? Or Laurel and Hardy just too silly? Comedy – particularly of the sarcastic, sardonic and cynical strain – is now bigger than ever in Britain. Once upon a time, it was slapstick, innocent, accessible. Nowadays, it’s darker and targeted, in a heat-seeking-missile kind of way. Whilst a common thread throughout the ages might be about cutting others down to size – to wit, ‘Blackadder’, Edwardian music hall or plays featuring some of Shakespeare’s more pompous characters – some would say that every subject is fair game as far as humour is concerned. Others would argue that today’s cynical brand of humour reflects our harsher, more selfish and divided society where identifying with the social mores of your own tribe is essential for making sense of society’s complex mess. One thing’s for sure: people laugh at wildly differing things. Some fall around watching ‘Jungle Book’. Others dissolve at the mere mention of ‘Fawlty Towers’. But is laughter all about humour, jokes and ‘Keystone Cops’ knockabout?    The Language of Laughter  Apparently, laughter is equally about sending social signals to those around us. It reinforces group values... Read more...
Spotting ‘Scalability’ – And How to Avoid The Elephant Trap of A Lifestyle Business

Spotting ‘Scalability’ – And How to Avoid The Elephant Trap of A Lifestyle Business

If you’ve watched the TV programme ‘Dragons’ Den’, you’ll know that scalability is an important factor when it comes to investing in a business.   Scalability is all about having a business that delivers future rewards exponentially as a result of the time and money invested. Without it, a business is going nowhere – and yet, many would-be entrepreneurs don’t stop to think how many years may be wasted in chasing a dream that will always be just that. So, can scalability be achieved against all the odds? Or does there have to be an almost pre-ordained likelihood that it’s there from the start? And if scalability can be achieved when a fledgling business doesn’t appear to ‘have it’, what are the tools an entrepreneur can use? The tired aphorism (and back-handed compliment) that Britain is ‘a nation of shopkeepers’ must stem in part from the realisation that so many people who achieve their dream of being self-employed are, in reality, setting up a ‘lifestyle business’. Some would say that these aren’t ‘real’ businesses. If you can’t employ a dozen or so people in the first couple of years, you’ve probably got a lifestyle business on your hands that will never grow to the heights you dreamed of when you first set out on your glorious venture. Dream On  What are the pointers to look out for when you’re first starting out? Or when you may be tempted to go into partnership with someone? Or even become a business investor, Dragons’ Den-style?! We’ve all heard of ‘economies of scale’. Applying the concept in real life does in fact have some... Read more...
Brochure Copywriters – Are They A Lost Tribe?

Brochure Copywriters – Are They A Lost Tribe?

COPYWRITING SHORTS #106 You won’t find many copywriters up the Orinoco. Then again, the locals’ need for printed brochures probably isn’t what it was. (That’s assuming of course that online marketing has permeated rain forests far and wide.)   You’ll certainly see many examples of online brochures here in the UK. Their offline cousins are still in play, but they’ve been relegated to a more supportive role in the marketing mix. It wasn’t always thus. Right up to the 1990s, B2B companies used suites of brochures to flag-up their product ranges. Holiday companies churned out door-stopping editions to cater for every season, whilst estate agents could always be relied upon to excel in the brochure department. Nowadays, you’re more likely to see brochures as PDF attachments. Many of the same offline copywriting skills are used – not to mention the stock photography and graphics which have always been the minimal mainstay of a half-way decent brochure. What were once regarded as ‘sales aids’ in their printed format are now very much an adjunct to a company’s website. Having a capacity to go into great detail on any particular topic has always been a great strength of brochures. For example, you can always get a feel for an attractive property for sale on the Rightmove website. For a full-cream version, however, there’s no substitute for a well-produced printed brochure. Plenty of marketing people overlook the power of brochures, hence the latter-day put down of purely informative websites as being merely ‘brochure sites’. And yet, they’ve always been a tangible treasure you could whip out – anytime, anywhere (to paraphrase Martini!).... Read more...
Property Copywriter Eyes Global House Prices

Property Copywriter Eyes Global House Prices

  As a property copywriter and former Sydney resident, I take more than a passing interest in the Australian ‘property bubble’. In recent months, I’ve also been watching how house prices have risen in other capital cities.   If you think UK prices are unsustainable, take a look at places like Hong Kong, Auckland, Vancouver, New York and – yes – Sydney! In Australia, they blame the Federal Government for limiting land supply. This is a bit rich when you consider that around 90% of the huge Australian landmass is virtually uninhabited! In Hong Kong, you can see what the problem is. This small part of China is ridiculously over-populated – much like the Chinese mainland itself of course. What about New Zealand? The South Island is all big skies and National Geographic – so what could possibly be the issue there? Is it to do with everyone seeing Kiwi-land as the most civilized bolt-hole on the planet? Or is the reality more to do with Chinese investors piling into Auckland?   What About Affordability? When it comes to house prices, why hasn’t ‘the affordability factor’ kicked in? Why haven’t we seen any price crashes? Surely one day the markets will wake up to the fact that ordinary residents of the world’s great cities (as opposed to the migratory super-rich) can no longer afford to live and work in these places? In cities like London and New York, we’ve seen the steady gentrification of former working-class areas where house prices have rocketed and local cultures emasculated. This strange form of ethnic cleansing has seen established populations driven out by... Read more...
Skyscrapers or Bungalows? How Dense Can You Get?

Skyscrapers or Bungalows? How Dense Can You Get?

We’ve all heard the joke about ‘Bungalow Bill’, the well-endowed lover who doesn’t have much upstairs. What we don’t hear much about is how the single-storey staple of 1960s house builders became a virtual laughing stock barely half a century later.     Instructive in understanding this phenomenon is to look back, not so much in anger, but in suspended disbelief. When it came to house building in the 60s, Britain dreamed big. It also dreamed gentle. The competing notions of thrusting modernistic tower blocks conflicted culturally with sedate single-level bungalows. In those days, of course, there wasn’t the same pressure to build as many homes as possible on whatever land was available. Housing density simply wasn’t an issue. Having said that, the idealism that reigned in some local authority quarters made a massive impact. ‘Building high’ came straight out of Central Planning where town hall apparatchiks had likely gorged on too much Aldous Huxley. Bungalows, on the other hand, were for dreamers of a different ilk – earnest, almost-middle-class types, fattened on a televisual feast of stateside colonial clapboard and a picket-fenced Stepford Wives utopia. Fast forward 60 years where we inhabit another world. Today, the multi-storey concrete-slab temples of Bauhaus-inspired civic pride are hugely discredited – despite still featuring prominently in urban planning future-scapes. For totally different reasons, the bungalow (on the face of it) looks like a spent shilling. To confirm its apparent indigence as a design concept, the National House Building Council tells us that only one per cent of homes built in the UK in 2014 were bungalows.   Why So? It wasn’t always... Read more...