— blending the mix

June, 2007 Monthly archive

Peter Jones, ex-Dragon of Dragon’s Den, purveyor of all things "successful" has a new show out called "Tycoon". Under Peter’s guidance,  6 extremely average individuals with 6 very average ideas and some spectacular Boardroom Bullshit attempt to make a go of their business ideas. It is car crash TV at its very worst.

I quite liked Peter in Dragon’s Den. He always seemed to tell it how it was and was quite astute (and undoubtedly successful and capable) but that was Dragon’s Den. A lady I admire greatly, and another former Dragon, Rachel Elnaugh (whose new blog is starting to take great shape – go Rachel!) has a great summary about the problems with this show:

As the show progressed, while Jones’ teeth got whiter, his cufflinks got bigger and the Bentley got shinier, Jones personality got thinner and thinner. By the end of the episode I was left feeling that this was simply another TV vehicle for his now monstrous sized alpha male ego.

The penny finally dropped when we saw the last frame and realised that the show had been created and produced by Jones’ own TV production company Peter Jones TV. Like his Max Clifford co-client Simon Cowell, Jones clearly sees TV production as his latest way to make some much needed money.

The success of Dragon’s Den came from the "mystery" surrounding each Dragon. Each created/owned a major UK brand. We didn’t really know how much they were worth or how they worked and what they did. Jones’s £120 million seems paltry compared to Sugar’s £800 million and as such (when combined with some seriously dodgy and often contradictory advice to the candidates) seriously affects his credibility and that of the show.

I can’t help but feel the show would be a greater success (average 2.3 million viewers at PEAK time) if the individuals involved were not clearly so groomed for their looks and personality rather than their business idea.

A former glamour model (who, of course, we see in a photoshoot EVERY week) a spectacularly incompetent ex-bodyguard selling a cotton bag for carrier bags, an emotional-wreck whose only credentials are a £60k salary and a half-decent guy selling a helicopter that seems to be all over the shops already, all combine to make the show utter rubbish. It is a Big Brother house for "business" people.

"What mix of incompetence, glamour and stupidity can we combine to make people watch the show?" seems to have been the modus operandi, rather than watching credible people with credible ideas make a go of their dreams.

I think this is one reality show that needs a does of reality.

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An incredibly insightful comment on this blog from an existing Waterstone’s employee shed yet more light on the scurilous practices adopted by Waterstone’s – this time behind the scenes.

Further searches reveal these blogs are also reporting the horrible way the public are being duped and are even showing that other retailers are doing the same thing.

It seems obvious now that bookselling and freedom of choice is not the democratic process it once was…like my commentator suggested, maybe we should all be voting for booksellers with our feet.

I think we should be voting with our Macs and PC’s. [tag]Waterstones[/tag], [tag]WH Smith[/tag]…you can keep your paid-for positions. Years of exposure to Google Adwords has taught us to ignore paid-for listings – you are no different.

We are now wiser consumers; more connected and have more choice. Make YOUR choice – get us involved or get left behind. Your compeititon is but a click, a forum, a wiki or a blog away.

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David Brain points to an incredible story in The Times about how, many (if not all) the books we see in Waterstone’s window and “Hot Points” are paid-for places. Paid for by the publishers themselves – up to £45,000 a time.

I was taken aback by what to me is the total deception of the buying public. With Word of Mouth proving to be a successful and growing method of purchasing everything from service to books, I can’t help but feel utterly beytrayed by [tag]Waterstone’s[/tag] approach.

We trust their judgement, we believe that any book that makes it through to the shop window is the best of the recent releases – alas it seems that Publisher A has more money than Publisher B.

Heather neatly sums it up:

“The selling of a recommendation undoubtedly affects the credibility of suggestions by Waterstone’s. If I remember correctly, wasn’t its original brand built on the value of endorsement from staff who were informed about books?”

If this were happening on the internet, [tag]Waterstones[/tag] may as well shut up shop now.

I can’t help thinking it draws parralels to the Wal-Mart blogging “scandal” a couple of years back.

The force-feeding of recommendations caused a riot.

There surely has to be a danger if this story goes viral, that this will affect those online retailers promoting books legitimately – now THEY need to come out and say so. These revelations have the power to undermine a whole industry (or at least one of its significant sales channels).

That said, as David points out:

“I guess, the trade off (and they work on thin margins) is the cash for being front of house vs the extra profit from more sales if they promoted books more likely to be popular”

So where do they go now? How do they stop the rot?

There surely has to be an opportunity for book shops to engage with communities (or focus groups at a push!) by creating book clubs that would review books for them. The end result ends up on display. Engaging with the book-buying community, bringing yourself closer to the customer is surely going to create a more positive brand image as well as providing more consumer insight than a random survey might!

As Heather mentioned (quote above), Waterstones was founded on the premise that the people who worked there were smart, well-read and could offer credible advice on literature of interest.

There’s no getting away from the fact that they probably still are, but how much has this sordid story damaged these people’s credibility? Can we ever trust them to give us a balanced judgement again?

Most retailers struggle to get people to stay in store for any serious length of time. The longer you are in there, the greater the chance that you are going to spend money. In my experience (as a customer) many Waterstone’s customers spend up to an HOUR in store – and tell me a retailer who wouldn’t want people like that in their store (unless you were McDonalds!).

Waterstone’s is in a unique position to engage with people who WANT to be in their presence and who would no doubt feel hurt by being misled.

For me, the best way to re-build this loss of trust is to have them involved, make them a part of the business by giving them a voice. Create a community.

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So as you well know, my job search continues! With a broad mix of experience from direct mail right through to online and web 2.0 bits and pieces, part of me wonders what do other people see about my experience?

If you too want to consider where others see your skills, try this:

1. Open Gmail and comose email

2. Copy and past your cv into the message box

3. Save as draft.

4. Click again on the red draft text

5. See the Adwords ads that pop up on the right hands side!

 OK, not exactly rocket science but it does make for interesting reading!

 More updates soon (hopefully!) as I am working on the mother of all texts with a Cluetrain Manifesto piece…are you sitting comfoprtably…!

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Guys, due to the inability in this mordern age of BT to transfer account details from one postal address to another in less than 10 days, and the ISP (Tiscali) taking another 10 days to re-register my new details too, I am likely going to be offline for a while unless I can make regular trips to the library!

That said, I do have occasional access (such as today) and am amazed at the support I have received from so many visitors recently.

Unfortunately, the situation is still the same and I am STILL looking for that ideal job…fingers crossed!

Catch up with you soon, but for thoise depserate enough to take an interest, follow my Kaiju button on the right handside of my blog…the wonders of SMS-based micro-blogging.

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