Whenever I’m a bit stuck for something to write about, one obvious option is a bit of myth-debunking. There are so many myths around that there are plenty of targets to aim at, but the one that comes to the top of my mind today will be known to pretty much everyone, agency and client side, involved in marketing and communications: the idea that if the opposite of any statement or proposition is obvious nonsense, then the statement or proposition isn’t worth making.
I hear this all the time: in fact, rather unexpectedly, I heard it on the Today programme ealier this morning, in an interview with a Tory politician about something or other.
In fact, though, it takes about 17 milliseconds to realise that it’s total rubbish. I’m not sure if my headline really proves the point: it’s true to say that I’m not very likely to write a headline that admits to being absolutely hopeless. But there are hundreds – nay, thousands – of point-provers to be found in the wider world. It would obviously be nonsense for a short-haul airline to claim to be extremely expensive: does that mean easyJet is wrong to claim to be extremely cheap? It would obviously be nonsense for a mortgage lender to claim to process mortgages incredibly slowly: does this mean that, say, Charcol Online is wrong to claim to process them incredibly quickly? It would obviously be nonsense for a lager to claim that it’s best when extremely hot: does this mean that Fosters is wrong to claim that it’s best when extremely cold? The fact that I can come up with examples like these much quicker than I can type them only serves to highlight how stupid this idea actually is.
What baffles me is the way that such self-evidently idiotic ideas can possibly prove so potent and last so long. Do people simply not realise they’re talking rubbish? Or, more likely, do they have a sneaking suspicion that they are, but lack the confidence to back their own judgement? I don’t know. But I do know that in the world of marketing and communications, virtually every idea that’s big and famous enough to become a cliche will turn out, on reflection, to be completely and obviously wrong.
Next in the series: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” I can think of at least six reasons why that isn’t true. Can you find a seventh?