Saturday, 24 October 2009

Wake Up and Smell the Roses

This week I was invited to spend a morning working with business students, pushing them to invent a new product to raise money for a good cause, and create the campaign to go with it. Our two hours were organised chaos, just the way I like it, and by the end of the session we had three decent ideas which I can present to the Lush creative team (if the students remember to email them to me). One man was the bounciest, noisiest and most enthusiastic; he got his idea through by sheer determined but good-humoured domination. When I worked as a lecturer, I was always told to make sure everyone got an equal hearing. In real life, if this had been a Lush recruitment session, he would have been the one who got the job.

That evening, I was in the smart end of Victoria, Belgravia perchance, at the delightful little posh scent shop, Les Senteurs, for their 25th birthday celebrations, Marie- Hélène Rogeon of Les Parfums de Rosine and her expert perfumer, François Robert, came to talk about their range of rose scents. Marie- Hélène has a passion for roses which she grows in her own garden. She also has a perfumery heritage; her great, great grandfather made Eau de Cologne for Napoleon III. When she recreated designer Paul Poiret's 1911 perfumery, she invited François - already a respected 'nose' - to develope fragrances to match the widely varying scents of her own roses. As they talked about their different rose perfumes - one that smells of oranges and lemons (and roses of course), another of mint, then ginger, saffrom and even chocolate - a picture developed of their creative process which goes something like this.

Marie- Hélène: I've a rose that smells of lemons.
François: That's impossible. Roses don't smell of lemons.
Marie- Hélène: No really! I'd like you to create a scent that matches my lemony roses.
François: Roses smell of rose.
Marie- Hélène: I'll send you some of them.
François (as he opens the box of roses): OK, I see what you mean.
Result: Un Zest de Rose, a fresh, light lemony rose fragrance.

After going through a similar process with the ginger scented roses, the sand roses that smell of sea salt, the mint ones, the blackcurrant and the ginger ones, François Robert was convinced. Roses don't just smell of roses.

So, after a couple of glasses of Les Senteurs' delicious champagne, I asked M. Robert if his advanced technical training had shackled his imagination. He laughed kindly and explained that in perfumery, there are two rose scents: absolute and essence. Rose absolute is light and fresh. Rose essence is deeper and heavier. Both are excruciatingly expensive. Working with Marie- Hélène had obliged him to accept that the rose's natural fragrance is rather more intriguing and variable than he had imagined. He's off to visit David Austin's extraordinary garden soon but said that his favourite is the simple rose that grows at the roadside in hedgerows. He also thinks that unscented roses are pointless, no matter how beautiful they look.

Marie- Hélène and François make up a creative team which works beautifully. Passion, inspiration and confidence, matched with technical pefection, skill and even more (but quieter) confidence, Marie-Hélène knows what she wants and François Robert knows how to create it. The result: works of art. (IMHO.)

There are three parts of creativity: ideas, skills and the ability to get it done. Sometimes they exist all in one person. Sometimes it's a duo, sometimes a trio. When it's successful it can turn into a whole company. Occasionally creative people are criticised for not having all three. Don't let that put you off. Spot your strengths and find people you can work with who have the ones you lack. Then things start to happen. What you do need, like Marie-Hélène or my bouncy business student is the determination to go get 'em.

Footnote: If you think that wearing scent is a trivial luxury, bear in mind that the world of fine perfumery fills fields with flowers, bees and birds employs Europe's travellers to pick the petals and changes our mood for the better. Put one one your Christmas list. Don't buy a big bottle of the cheap stuff instead; get a small, precious pot of the real thing.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Quoting Mr Jim Alfonso Laurel

I don't usually nick other people's words to fill up my own space - in fact this is a first - but Jim Alfonso Laurel (this may be his pen name) deserves credit. When I'm working with writers my aim is usually to get their work read and acted upon. How can you make your writing interesting enough for your reader to start at the beginning and keep going until the end, then do what you want them to do? In fact, I shan't be doing what Jim Alfonso Laurel wishes, but I couldn't help reading to the end. His is only a slight variation on a theme with which most of us are unfortuantely familiar, but I do like his approach. Back soon with some of my own words. I just hope I can make them as compelling as Jim's.

Don't call him though.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Before I proceed, I must first apologize for this unsolicited letter to you. I am aware that this is certainly not a conventional way of approach to establish a relationship of trust, but I do have limited choice. My name is Jim Alfonso Laurel a Solicitor working with HMCS(HER MAJESTY COURT SERVICES), London United Kingdom. Actually, I got your contact address from the internet while searching for a reputable business partner in your country's public records. My Late client, a business mogul who had casinos and restaurants, lived in Spain for many years, my client, his wife and their one child were involved in an underground train crash in the eastern city of Valencia as Victims of the Tuesday, 4 July 2006, Incident that befall the Spanish You can confirm through this website


Before his death, on my advice as his lawyer he deposited One Trunk Box, containing the sum of $7.3M (Seven Million, Three Hundred Thousand US

Dollars) as a family valuable with a security company here in London, on a highly security form but he did not disclosed the content of deposited consignment to the Security company, for security reasons. The security company has mandated me to present any family heir/next of kin for claims, before the consignment gets confiscated or reverts to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, as unclaimed consignment. So I decided to search for any of my late client's relative which has been very difficult for me, as he did not declare any other person, address, partner or relatives in the official paper works of his consignment deposit. He was my private client.

I will not like you to involve any third party in this transaction, just me and you .Besides I am doing this on my own personal capacity and do not wish t o bring my office into it.

Against this backdrop, my suggestion to you is that I will like you as a foreigner to stand as the next of kin to my client, with my position as his lawyer, I will now appoint and recognize you as the heir/next of kin.

I will obtain every relevant document from the probate to make your claim legal. Note that this process is not risky in any manner and it is completely legal but might not be justified morally.

Once the deposit is released to you, I am proposing 20% of the total sum to you for your involvement.10% would be set aside for any expenses that could be incurred during the transaction. I would retain 50% for myself.

Note that when the whole documents are ready, I will direct you on how to approach the security company and make application for the release of the consignment to you.

If this proposal does offend your moral values please pardon me otherwise reply via my private email address: for further clarification. Please be kind to get back to me if you are not interested so that I can further my search for another partner.


Jim Alfonso Laurel (ESQ)

+44 704 570 4325

+44 704 577 1083

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

When Marketing Turns to the Dark Side

This week I got a text message that said:

FREEMSG: Our records indicate you may be entitled to 3750 pounds for the Accident you had. To claim for free reply with YES to this msg. To opt out text STOP.

So my first question to myself was, "If I text STOP, will they do so?" I thought, on balance, not. They'd already lied to me. I haven't had an accident (let alone an Accident) and I'm not on their records, unless you count them gleaning my number from somewhere public. So, their records can't show I've had an accident so that's lie number one. Would they charge me if I texted STOP? It doesn't say, so I suspect the answer is yes.
Would they charge me if I text YES? They say not, but I'm guessing that they would. All we know about them is that they are liars.

Another question was , "Shall I forward this to my friend Dave in the Met's Fraud Office?" I wonder if the police can do anything about scammers who earn £1 or £5 or who knows how much, by sending out mass texts.

Question number three is, "How many idiots are there in the world who would text back YES in the hope of being awarded 3750 of our British pounds for an accident they haven't had?" Enough to run a company? Or are they hoping to make money from the decent people out there who next STOP in order to prevent the scammers from trying again.

I've had cold calls from people offering to help me claim for "the accident I had recently", from companies who ignore the telephone preference service list that restricts my number. They try to talk me into "remembering" that I have had an accident. If not me, then perhaps a family member has had one, they suggest. A former neighbour spotted a dent in my vintage Saab (done by a large tattooed man wearing a vest and driving a truck) and told me he could get me £3500 compensation for my injury. "But I wasn't in it at the time." I said. "You just say you were," he told me. He said it was a "Win win." For him perhaps. Not for all of us who pay monthly to insure our cars, it's not. Not for me either, because even if I'd had the extra £3500 in the bank, I'd know that I'd stolen it and that would make me feel guilty and hence miserable.

It's calls, conversations and texts like this that tempt us to believe that business is all run by money-grabbing charlatans and marketed by crooks. But it's not. There are many of us out there doing business and being fair, working for organisations we're proud of, Let's not allow the scam artistes to take over marketing. By all means make a profit - how else are you to stay in business and pay the bills? - but let's be fair and honest and hold our heads up high. It's time to reclaim marketing for decent people. If you've got good examples, let me know. In the meantime, I'll report on the ones I spot, on the dark side and the bright, with the occasionally merely murky one along the way.