Too many words

You’ve probably noticed that the Tesco colour print campaign is back for a second wave, and you may well also have noticed the two significant changes since the first wave:

-  much less amusing headlines;

-  addition of a hundred words or so of body copy.

There’s a story about a young copywriter asking some creative legend or other how long the copy should be in advertisements, and the legend answering “Long enough.”   I do appreciate that for the author of this blog to criticise the length of a piece of copy is about as pot/kettle as it gets.  But in the Tesco second wave, much as I regret the new-style boring headlines, I regret the intrusion of pieces of copy a hundred words longer than they need to be even more.

Wants vs needs: the rematch

I know, I’ve been here before, but I have a new angle.  Dropped in to Tesco Metro on Camden Road on the way home last night, fighting my way in, as usual, past the huge Krispy Kreme donut stand that blocks the route into the store a couple of feet back from the doorway.  And realised, not for the first time, what a dietary nightmare Tesco Metro actually is.

True, there’s a reasonable selection of fresh fruit and veg, laid out modestly in an aisle towards one end of the store.  But that’s not where it’s at, or indeed where the customers are at.  Apart from the Krispy Kremes, where the customers are at is around the huge displays of carbonated drinks, the whole aisle devoted to crisps, the cakes and buns in the large instore bakery, the takeaway pies, sausage rolls and sandwiches, the bucketloads of cheap booze and, inescapably, the long queuing track up to the checkouts which takes you past more carbonated drinks, mountains of discounted confectionery (and, to nourish the inner person, piles of slebmags fronting pics of Cheryl Cole).

Tesco, of course, knows its market very well, and I’m sure that amid all these empty calories almost all its customers find what they’re looking for.  (It’s only when a foodie twit like me turns up looking for fresh coriander and burghul that disappointment is guaranteed.)

But the thing is, Tesco picks up little or no flak for the fact that the store is single-mindedly focused on giving its customers what they want, not for a moment considering what they might need.

It’s not a trivial matter.  You see morbidly obese people staggering round the store with baskets stuffed with donuts and special offer Doritos, and you wonder whether they’ll actually make it home before they have the heart attack.  And as you get your phone out of your pocket just in case an ambulance is needed urgently, you ask yourself whether, as and when it happens, Tesco has any responsibility for the situation.

If you ask most people – if you ask Society At Large, whatever that may be – the answer is clearly “no.”  Which is funny, because if you ask the equivalent question about financial services providers and toxic financial products, the answer is clearly “yes.”

Since financial fashions change, it’s difficult to imagine exactly what would be on display in a similarly toxic financial services shop.  Some years ago, where the Krispy Kremes stand in Tesco, there’d have been a tottering tower of tech funds.  During the credit boom, there’d have been yards of cheap self-cert remortgages, and credit cards offering short interest-free periods and rates six or seven times base rate thereafter.  There’d be precipice bonds, the financial services industry’s equivalent of Haagen Dazs ice cream – a delicious short-term sense of wellbeing, followed by an anguished realisation of the long-term damage done.  And on the way to the check-out, what else but a big, bold special offer on super-sub-prime mortgages, offering the local social housing community an easy, affordable way into….medium term financial ruin.

Yes, in the same aisle where Tesco put the fresh fruit and veg, there’d be a modest selection of ISAs, Child Trust Funds, protection products and so forth.  But very few shoppers would venture into it, and most of the buyers would surely come from the comfortable middle classes.

Of course none of this could ever happen.  Unlike Tesco, the financial services industry is believed by everyone – including itself – to have a responsibility to sell to needs rather than to wants.

But where this gets a bit complicated is that as any good salesman knows, it isn’t difficult to dress up what are actually wants so that they look extraordinarily similar to needs.   During the last decade we all heard the argument, for example, that people with poor credit histories need access to the mortgage market, and so the industry is doing the right thing by providing them with appropriately risk-priced loans.   Or, back at the turn of the millennium, that retail investors need the same kind of access as institutional investors to the fastest-growing sectors of the stock market even when those sectors are populated by small, illiquid companies often listed on secondary or tertiary markets, so it’s appropriate to offer them packaged, high-cost tech funds which allow them to run risks they have no idea they’re running.

As a result, even though pretty much everyone in and around the industry would strongly agree that Tesco-style toxic tactics are totally inappropriate, the reality is that over the years our behaviour hasn’t been all that different.

It may be that as seems quite often to be the case in this country, the current rather dishonest compromise is the best available option.  Allowing the hedonist tendency to swing the pendulum the full way over towards “wants” is surely inconceivable.  But equally, putting the Calvinists in complete control and going balls-out for unmitigated needs doesn’t sound like the best idea ever, not least because it would take the remaining traces of consumer interest and enthusiasm out of an industry that desperately needs more, not less, of both.

Pondering this dilemma, one’s inclined to ask oneself what Tesco themselves would do in the circumstances.  Judging from current reports about the way they’re working behind the scenes to build up their financial services business for a major and imminent relaunch, we may be about to find out.

Financial tweeting still muted

In recent weeks, I seem to have been writing myself into a new role as a sceptic about the commercial potential of social media.  I’m not at all sure why I’m doing this:  it’s a role that’s very largely at odds with what I really believe.  In fact, I’ve been saying for a couple of years or more that a) probably the single most important thing about the Internet is the way it enables people to communicate sideways with each other and to form themselves into “communities” of one sort or another, and b) this aspect creates enormous opportunities for financial services providers, who need to think hard, and fast, about what they should be doing about it.

But it’s not the conceptual arguments that I’m sceptical about.  What I’m sceptical about is the extent to which brands, and their marketing and communications activities, are likely to penetrate online social media which exist, and succeed, for quite different purposes.

Yes, it is possible to come up with amusing and entertaining ideas that can go quite spectacularly viral, whether it’s Evian’s dancing babies on YouTube or Aleksandr the meerkat’s fan club on Facebook.  And it may be possible – although harder – to “monetise” these ideas (not the world’s most elegant verb):  the dancing babies allegedly did wonders for Evian sales, although they say the meerkat-loving kids and teenagers in Aleksandr’s fan club are way off-demographic for comparethemarket.com’s customer acquisition purposes.

But anyway, despite these and many other high-profile forays, I still think that users’ willingness to allow brands and marketers to colonise their social media is likely to remain distinctly limited.  Certainly they will allow some brands to become part of the social media landscape, but only a very small number which are behaving in an exceptionally engaging and entertaining way.  At any one time, the overwhelming majority just won’t be doing anything interesting enough to earn much attention or support.

For example, I’ve heard several times in conference presentations recently that everyone with any responsibility for any brand should regularly search brandname#fail on Twitter, to check out the level of flak tweets it’s taking.  But the truth is that in financial services, searching on the very biggest names in banking reveals mere handfuls of negative and mainly incomprehensible tweets, while searching on other names – even big ones like Direct Line or JP Morgan – reveals nothing at all.

Similarly, if you search a financial brand name on Facebook, you may well find a surprisingly long list of mentions:  but on closer examination you’ll find that all, or nearly all, are entirely uninteresting and innocuous.  Search BUPA, for example, and you’ll find 7,800 listings.  But as far as I can see (I haven’t clicked on all of them…) 98% of the time the name only appears within people’s biographical details, as a current or past employer. 

This may all change.  People enduring any kind of bad experience from a financial services provider may launch immediately into vituperative tweeting.  Large groups may form on Facebook dedicated to vigorous discussion of cash ISA rates.  (At the moment, possibly as a result of poor searching technique, I can’t find anything for ISA or SIPP on Facebook at all.)

But I must say, I doubt it.  All the evidence from elsewhere in the world is that brands are allowed into people’s personal spaces, but only to a limited extent and only on terms that are acceptable to the people occupying the spaces.   Somewhat reluctantly, we accept advertising on television and radio, but have always been uncomfortable with overly blatant forms of product placement;  we don’t object to beer mats in the pub, but might be a bit surprised to find sample packs of washing powder on the tables;  we expect to see perimeter advertising at football grounds, but wouldn’t like to see our team’s captain pick up a microphone and deliver a message about, say, an aftershave brand before kick-off.

In the same way, it seems to me that we’d quickly become very unhappy if,  whenever we logged on to Facebook or Twitter, we found a seething hubbub of brands jostling so noisily for our attention that we could barely discern the presence of the friends and family members we actually went there to engage with.  (In fact, on Facebook, I’ve recently Removed As Friends a couple of organisations that I decided I was hearing from altogether a bit too often:  I could hardly find anything from anyone I actually knew among the endless blizzard of messages from the organisers of the Marciac Jazz Festival.)

In short, I think that if commercial organisations want to use online networking for their own purposes, on the whole they’ll need to set up their own networks and communities rather than hijack ones that people have built for other reasons.  There’s huge potential for this – still very largely untapped – in financial services.  When there’s a financial issue on my mind, I’d be delighted to be able to go somewhere to talk about it with other people in the same position.  But that’s a million miles away from believing that writing, or reading, daily tweets on the same subject will ever become part of my routine.

OK, OK, it’s a fair cop, I’ve no idea how any of these things are going to develop.  Anything I say on the subject is almost certain to be wrong.  

But, at least as far as social media are concerned, I’d like to think perhaps no wronger than anyone else.

Can anyone tell me the point of not being interesting?

Congratulations to our old friend and current client James Budden and his colleagues at Baillie Gifford on the launch of their new website which provides an online counterpart to their established offline investment trust magazine, Trust.  You can see it for yourself at http://www.bgtrustonline.com/.

Whether offline or now online, its name is in fact by some distance the least interesting aspect of what is generally a very lively publication – well-conceived, well-designed and generally well-written.  I can actually imagine investors in the Baillie Gifford-managed investment trusts being quite pleased when the latest edition lands on their doormats.

As such, it’s a member of a very small minority of “house” publications whose envelopes may actually be opened during their brief journey from letterbox to bin.  (Also among this elite group I would include accountants BDO’s excellent publication 33 Thoughts and a beautifully-designed and well-written customer magazine with a sadly unmemorable name from Coutts, neither of which, come to think about it, seems to have dropped through my letterbox for some while now.)

For obvious reasons concerned with what I do for a living, I throw away very little marketing communication unread.  But, on the whole, I make an exception for customer magazines and newsletters.  Even when they’re not actually criminally dull, they’re still almost always very dull indeed.  And the thing is that like an awful lot of people, I have such a ridiculous quantity of material that I could and indeed should read that there’s no way I’m going to bother with anything optional unless it’s quite exceptionally interesting.

You might imagine this is a point so obvious that there’s no need whatever to make it.  But keep an eye on the rubbish coming through your letter box and you’ll realise it still needs making very badly indeed.  I’d estimate that 90% of all copies of all customer publications are thrown away unread, rendered useless and pointless by their catastrophic uninterestingness.

The regular reader of this blog (who he? Ed) will recognise that the financial penalties resulting from uninterestingness are something of a pet theme of this blog.  I bang on about them a lot in the context of advertising and direct marketing, so much so that I fear I may myself be losing interestingness through excessive repetition.  Still, in broadening my scope to embrace customer publications, at least I’m doing something slightly livelier.

Even if not quite as lively as James’s excellent new online initiative.

“I warn you not to be….odd”?

Remember Neil Kinnock’s spine-tingling anti-Thatcher speech?  “I warn you not to be old…I warn you not to be ill…I warn you not to be poor”?

In the somewhat unlikely event that instead of having a pop at that barmy old bat he was actually advising you on how to get a half-decent level of service out of today’s major financial services providers, then rather than age, infirmity or poverty, I think he’d be warning you mainly against being in any way odd or different.

The trouble is, the systems just can’t cope.  They can barely deal with totally straightforward vanilla transactions.  But as soon as it gets in the slightest bit tutti frutti, then it all falls over.

I could tell you all about the desperate efforts of my wife and my father-in-law to re-invest the proceeds of his maturing Santander fixed-term investment.  I won’t, because I promised long ago never to try your patience with these dull personal sagas.  I’ll say only three things.

1.  To give themselves any chance at all of a satisfactory outcome, my wife is having to make two trips from London to Swindon to visit the branch in person.

2.  The whole experience has been just as deeply frustrating for the branch staff, grappling with a hopeless computer system, than it has been for Judy and my father-in-law – in fact, Judy says, on her last trip to Swindon it was the woman in the branch trying to sort it out who was on the verge of tears, not Judy.  Or indeed her father.

3.  For all this travelling and emoting, it doesn’t look as if there will be a satisfactory option in place when the existing investment matures in a few days, and if that’s the case then my father in law says he will end a relationship, originally with Abbey National, that goes back over 60 years.

What’s at the bottom of this?  In a word, crappy old computers.   (OK, in three words.)  Two of the businesses Santander now owns, Abbey and Alliance & Leicester, were, as I recall, legendary for the complexity and antiquity of their systems.  Now they’re all being crunched together, with Bradford & Bingley thrown in for good measure, I can imagine it’s like trying to establish clear communications between three separate towers of Babel.

With jets of steam hissing from the pipework and plenty of staff digits thrust into digital dykes, the organisation can just about cope with clearing a cheque.  But as soon as you want to do anything a little bit different or complicated, well, boy, are you asking for it. We’re talking meltdown – not just of a load of 70s mainframes, but also of all human beings, staff or customers, within a 50ft radius.

What’s interesting is that as far as I know, there’s nowhere that we can check up on this.  There are lots of places, on and offline, where we can compare product features, interest rates and charges.  But I’m not aware of anyone who can tell us which institutions’ systems stand, at any moment, closest to complete collapse.

Common sense tells me that generally speaking, younger and simpler organisations will have newer computers and more fit-for-purpose software than old, complicated organisations.  (Unfairly, even though that’s generally true, they can also suffer from particularly tricky glitches:  poor old Judy, again, is dealing with one insurance company which has a clever and I think unique way of allocating individual members of staff to each customer as a personal relationship manager, which is a good and positive idea until that individual member of staff is unavailable, which for one reason or another he or she usually is.  At this point, someone else who knows nothing about your case and cares less picks up the phone and – again if you want anything remotely difficult or complicated – proceeds to screw everything up.  Once this has happened three or four times, your file has become so corrupted that it would be much, much easier to close your account and start again with a blank sheet of paper and an empty file elsewhere.)

Anyway.  Think of this not so much as a tiresome personal rant, but more as free and useful advice for anyone wanting to get one step ahead in the comparison site game.  For customers presenting with any kind of oddness or complexity, how likely is the system to fall over?   You could express the answer on the 10-point LORJTTOF scale -  Likelihoof Of Reducing Judy To Tears Of Frustration.

Official: it’s not in the least bit like baked beans

Big day for me yesterday.  A few months ago my friends at that admirable organisation The Financial Services Forum (www.thefsforum.co.uk) asked me to set up another in their family of Special Interest Groups, this one to concentrate on brand strategy, and yesterday was the group’s first event.  The title was Just How Different and Special Are Financial Services Brands?, and we had three excellent speakers addressing the question from three different angles:  Mike Hoban outlining some of the key issues involved in building brands in non-financial service markets (airlines, retail and so forth);  Tim Pile doing the same with a focus on fast-moving consumer goods;  and Justin Basini concentrating on financial services.  We continued this compare-and-contrast format in a good hour of discussion with the 100 or so people who turned up.

I must say, it all seemed to go very well, and as chairman of the proceedings I was extremely grateful to the three speakers who all did make excellent presentations and, equally important, didn’t over-run – and also to all those attending, who kept up a steady flow of questions and comments and spared me from any trace of anxiety about the whole session drying up and coming to an embarrassing close half an hour early.

Anyway, it seemed important to try to fabricate some conclusions from the discussion, so at the end I asked for some shows of hands – particularly on the question of whether building brands in financial services is a) harder than, and b) different from, building brands in FMCG or in non-financial services.

When it came to the comparison with FMCG, absolutely everyone thought financial services are harder and over 95% thought they’re different. And when it came to the comparison with non-financial services, everyone thought financial services are harder or equally hard, and about two-thirds of those voting thought they were different.

I was pleased with these results.  Way back in my early days as an FS specialist, I used to go on about all this a lot – in fact, I think I may even have once written an agency brochure on the subject called Not Like Baked Beans, my not-so-hidden agenda obviously being to discourage clients from being irrelevantly seduced by non-specialist agencies’ work for other clients in other markets.

After a while, I got bored, partly because almost everything gets boring after a while but also because clients paid this line of argument no attention whatsoever.   Still, with definitive and quantitative new evidence available, maybe I should summon up some new enthusiasm and try to relaunch the whole issue.  I could hardly be less successful with it than I was last time.

Welcome to Rostov

Long-standing readers of this blog (sit down, you must be exhausted standing all that time) may remember that I like words, names, web addresses and so forth that you can word-break incorrectly to mildly comic or confusing effect.  (My favourite is the sight-seeing tour bus company BigBusTours.com, or was that BigBustOurs.com.)  We need a name for these, and I suggest WordBrokes.

On the 134 bus there are ads from the operating company, Arriva, promoting a website seemingly welcoming visitors to that large river in the Caucasus, ArrivalOnDon.co.uk.  Or maybe not.

Comparing the comparison sites

I’ve written more than once before now about the knock-on effects of Aleksandr the Meerkat, and the way that he’s had all the other major price comparison sites rushing about like headless chickens looking for campaign ideas of their own that can create as much engagement as he does.

With the three biggest rivals now well into their own meerkat-fighting responses, the dust has now settled and we can see how things have turned out.

There are in fact no headless chickens – the closest that we had, the call-centre chickens in Swiftcover’s “no clucking call-centres” campaign were replaced some while ago, in an unexpected move, by Iggy Pop.

But elsewhere, to sum up, GoCompare’s GioCompario campaign is absolutely horrible, but probably reasonably effective;  Moneysupermarket’s Omid Djalili campaign is solid and reasonably likeable, but suffers from cripplingly weak brand attribution;  and Confused.com’s “save a pair of jeans” campaign is a total misfire, not making sense at any level.

All in all, the meerkat’s supremacy remains unchallenged, although as I’ve also written before on this blog it’s a bit disappointing, considering just how supreme he does remain, to find that in fact comparethemarket.com is still only the No.4 price comparison site, with a market share less than a quarter of Moneysupermarket’s and less than half of GoCompare’s and Confused.com’s.

Framing an agency pitch brief, or indeed an agency pitch, purely as a response to a single named competitor is, of course, a recipe for disaster.  All that happens is that people’s frame of reference shrinks down to a single focus, so that they lose all sense of what an idea’s overall strengths and weaknesses may be and see it only in terms of how it compares to what that named competitor is doing.

You’ve heard me mention the example of Direct Line before, and the way that I personally have been briefed at least a dozen times over the years – maybe more like two dozen – to come up with an equivalent of that wretched red phone on wheels.   Over the years, there has been one surprisingly effective outcome from this brief – Churchill’s nodding back-shelf dog – but also a lot of toe-curling misfires (Admiral’s admiral, Elephant’s elephant, Hastings’s warrior, eSure’s mouse, Lombard Direct’s blue phone etc etc).

It’s funny the way that sometimes, a campaign from one brand in a category defines the catgeory so perfectly that whether they want to or not, its competitor brands can’t help thinking of it as the benchmark against which their own efforts must be measured.  I can remember this happening in health insurance with BUPA’s “You’re Amazing” campaign;  in credit cards with Mastercard’s “Priceless” campaign;  in roadside resue with the AA’s “4th Emergency Service;” and, longer ago, with great classics like Heineken’s “refreshes the parts” and Benson & Hedges’ surreal gold pack shots.

For these benchmarking-setting campaigns, this situation represents a double victory – success in their own right, and a copycat obsession that dooms rivals to failure.  And to the list above, it seems we can now add comparethemarket.com – both for its success in its own right, and for that damaging copymeerkat obsession that it’s set off among its rivals.

If you want directions, ask an immigrant

If someone tells me that A is much the same as B, my hackles rise.  Au contraire, I reply.  B could hardly be more different.  There may be a few superficial similarities.  But on closer examination, well, chalk and cheese doesn’t begin to do justice to the gulf that exists between them.  Chalk and, I don’t know, maybe woodpeckers, more like.

But then, of course, if someone tells me that A is in fact very different from B, guess what.  Not to me, it isn’t.  There may be a few superficial differences.  But on closer examination, two peas in a pod doesn’t begin to do justice to the resemblance.  Two cloned sheep in a pen, maybe.

I suppose these two reactions position me a a contrarian.  And one of the things that brings out the contrarian in me is this digital natives vs digital immigrants thing.

Of course I accept that there is now a generation, reaching young adulthood, for whom the digital world is home turf. They’ve known it since they were very small.  They’re entirely at home there.  They lead large chunks of their lives online.  Their online and offline lives co-exist.  Marketers who want to reach them should think about ways to engage with them online at least as much as offline, if not more.  Engaging with them online is fairly different.  And so on and so on.

But what I don’t really accept is that in almost all of these respects, they’re really all that different from older people – including some much older people – who work in offices.  Yes, it’s true that I started my working life right at the tail end of the era of manual typewriters.  Then there were great big whirring clunking electric typewriters.  Then word processers with green type on black screens.  Then desktops.  Then laptops.  Then blackberries.  Then cloud computing which only needs a keyboard and an internet connection.  But the thing is, that may make me a immigrant rather than a native – in fact, it may make me a somewhat rootless expatriate, roaming across technologies like an HSBC international banker roams across territories.  But is the place where you’ll find me today all that different from the place where you’ll find, say, my 16-year old son Oliver?

I am, of course, online from the moment I get to work till the moment I leave, and even after I leave there’s the mobile, the Blackberry, the laptop downstairs beside the sofa and the desktop in the study.  When I’m out and about, there’s the Blackberry and I very much hope there’ll be wireless internet:  when it was down on the East Coast Main Line the other day, I was so lost that the only thing I could think of doing was going to sleep.

On this machine, here at the office, I keep at least three browsers open, each for different websites that I use throughout the day.  One of those is the middle-aged businessman’s social networking site du choix, LinkedIn:  I do Facebook minimally, but I link in a lot.  I blog, and read other blogs, many of them written by people at least as old as I am.  I engage with hundreds if not thousands of brands on the internet, not least because I do 98% of my non-food shopping there.  I don’t tweet much, because I’m too verbose, but I do follow a few people who have brief-but-interesting things to say.  And just like Oliver, I live in online and offline worlds simultaneously:  while he’s texting on his phone in an English lesson, I’m doing my emails on the Blackberry in a research presentation.

Ollie does online gaming and I don’t, but apart from that I can’t see  any fundamental difference in the way that we balance our online and offline lives.

Sorry that this all sounded so me me me.  I didn’t really mean “me.”  I meant us.  In all the respects I’ve just described, I don’t think I’m any different from several million other office workers.

And if that’s right, two questions arise.

First, behind the similarities in our behaviour, does the fact that Ollie is a digital native while I’m an immigrant imply some underlying differences between us?  If so, it’s hard to see what they are.  Those days of electric typewriters seem a million years ago to me now.  Or the days when if you wanted to buy something, you had to get off your arse, go out of the house and visit something called a “shop.”

Vice versa, I should also say that Ollie’s digital nativeness (?) doesn’t mean that he can’t relate to the offline world, or that he relates to it in some odd and digital way.  On a Saturday afternoon he could watch the football live online, on some pirate Romanian website.  But in fact we traipse up Tottenham High Road to White Hart Lane just as previous generations have done, the only difference being that during the game we keep up with BBC Live Text on phone screens rather than listening to radio earpieces jammed in our ears.   If there is a significant difference at any level between native and long-established immigrant, I can’t see it.

But then second – and, you’ll be pleased to hear, last – if there isn’t a significant difference, then what about all this stuff we keep hearing about how brands need to engage in completely new and different ways with young, digital native markets?

It’s certainly true that teenagers like Ollie relate to a lot of brands that mean nothing to their 50-something parents.  It was ever thus.  And it’s certainly true that the Internet presents gazillions of new ways, and new opportunities, for brands to relate to their target groups, more or less whoever those target groups may be.  This is big, and important, and wonderfully exciting.  But are there special rules which brands have to understand if they want to engage with Ollie – rules that don’t apply if they only want to engage with boring old me?  If so, I can’t see what they are.

There are brands that Ollie engages with very closely – Tottenham Hotspur, Nando’s, Audi, Lucozade Sport – that he encounters almost entirely in the offline world.  There are others that he encounters only online – and quite a few that he encounters in both.

The same goes for me.  Some of my strongest brand relationships – Aston Martin, Red Stripe, Wisden, Waitrose – exist only offline.  Others – I suppose Amazon is the obvious one – only online.  And many in both.

Enough already.  If I haven’t made my point by now, I never will.  The digital world provides wonderful new opportunities for brands to engage with consumers.  In many areas – perhaps financial services in particular – we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what these opportunities may be.  Most of the best, and most exciting, will be new, and different, and specific to the interactive nature of the medium.  I’m loving all of that.

What I’m not loving is the idea that all these possibilities should be focused wholly, or largely, on the upcoming generation of digital natives, to the exclusion of other target groups who in fact blend offline and online lives in virtually identical ways;  or the idea that if you are targeting the digital natives then online is now the only game in town.

I don’t love these ideas a) because I don’t think they’re true, but also b) because they seem to me to try to create distinctions and compartments and separations where none really exists.  Whatever we’re doing, and whoever we want to engage with, we have a hugely-expanded – and expanding – range of ways to do so.  Comparing us to previous generations toiling at the brand, marketing and communications coalface, that’s the really big difference – chalk and woodpeckers, indeed.