22 Sep

Try stuff out, AKA ‘the Dr Pepper route’*

*What’s the worst that could happen?’

I remember, some years ago, being in a room full of advertising students (as much as you can actually ‘study’ creative advertising), being beasted – verbally – for five hours, by Dave Trott.

Aside from putting a mock gun (two fingers) to my friend’s head and saying ‘get a job now, you c***’, and telling us that ‘only 1 in 20 of you will make it in advertising’, he also said something that’s stayed with me ever since; ‘if you think you’ve got a good idea, never ask for permission – just go ahead and do it’.

A little while later, I remember coming across TBWA’s ‘Disruption technique’, which is, essentially, about brands doing something different or unexpected to get noticed – something that could be deemed ‘risky’, but something which none of their competitors are doing.

Wherever I can, I still like to apply this thinking. Granted, I can’t do it too often with clients who are entrusting me with their money (‘honest – a dancing ostrich viral is just what your law firm needs’), but I can do it with another ‘brand’: me.

I went to a business networking show last week, where there were several stands, several important speakers, and around 1,000 visitors, all whom could be seen as potential clients or collaborators for me.

So, did I book my ticket in advance? Yes.
Did I get my travel sorted and know how to get from the station to the event? Yes.
Did I look at who would be speaking and at what times? Yes.
Did I get there nice and early? Yes.
Did I dress for the occasion? … kind of.

Here’s what I wore:


Two onesies: one is leopard print, with a leopard’s head for a hood. The other is a bright orange kangaroo onesie – kangaroo’s head for a hood.

Before I went to the show, I told a friend about my plan and his response was quick and simple; ‘don’t do it mate, you’ll look like a right d*ck’.

Fortunately, I’m not very good at taking advice.

I didn’t just wear the onesies on their own, with no explanation – they had laminated signs attached to them.
The signs read ‘Are you giving the right impression to your target audience?’ (because obviously a bright orange onesie, at a business show, clearly isn’t) and – underneath that –
‘That Writing Chap

*Content writing
*Tone of voice work’

Some people just didn’t get it and either frowned at me, shook their head, or simply told me; ‘sorry, I don’t get it’.

However, the greater proportion of people told me it was ‘smart’ or ‘clever’ or ‘different’… or just laughed.

Generally, it acted as a good conversation starter, and one person told me they thought it was ‘a brilliant idea’ and all but smothered me with their business card.
(there were also a few pictures of me plonked on social media platforms, by people with far greater reach than me).

Something else to consider: I met two other copywriters who were wandering around this event. Both wore the standard uniform of checked shirt and trousers/jeans. In fact, I was wearing the very same thing, albeit under a leopard print/orange onesie – who do you think stood out more?

In terms of being remembered, I also got three bites of the cherry:
1. my actual name

2. ‘That Writing Chap’
3. That bloke/nutter in the onesies

I’m sure many of you will still be thinking; ‘hmmm, okay – still sounds like you looked like a bit of a t*t though’.

Well, I collected 15 business cards from people I spoke to, directly (aside from many other informal conversations where no cards changed hands). Three of those exchanges involved people who were genuinely interested in how we could work together.
I spoke to two of them on the phone today, and said my name, then ‘That Writing Chap’, then ‘the bloke in the onesie’… at which point they laughed and said ‘oh yeah, that’s you’.
One of them would like me to look at their web copy, with a view to working on it. One of them would like to have a further conversation, over Skype, on Thursday.

If either one of these conversations results in direct business, I will have covered the costs of my ticket, train fare, and accommodation for the show, and made a decent ‘return on investment’.
Not bad for dressing up like a fool, with a relevant message attached…

Sometimes it’s best not to ask for permission or validation, but to just do things – things that disrupt the thinking of others. Things outside of the conventional. Things that stand a chance of being remembered.

Sometimes it’s good to just try stuff out…

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