Early in my financial marketing career, I did quite a lot of ads communicating companies’ financial results. This was lucrative work for the agency, but desperately dreary for the poor sods actually doing the work. Among the investment community targeted by this advertising, there was a recognised short list of coded expressions that were understood to convey precise and surprisingly detailed messages about the performance of the companies in question. “Poised for growth” meant “still losing money”, “strengthening the management team” meant “firing the CEO for underperformance”,” “steady progress” meant “dead in the water”, and so forth. It wasn’t necessary, or indeed useful, to try to come up with new or different forms of words: the aim was simply to choose the existing option which fitted the facts most accurately. (There’s probably an algorithm that does this these days.)
Perhaps the phrase we dialled in most often was the one in this blog’s headline, “encouraging progress.” This was about the blandest message available, the beigest colour in the colour palette, It meant things weren’t going too badly, but nor were they going all that well. You wouldn’t want to sell your shares in a panic, but you wouldn’t be queuing to buy more.
That all seems to fit pretty well with the tenor of this report on my last post, in which I urged the FS marketing community to respond more vigorously to my book on the subject, No Small Change, co-written with leading challenger banker Anthony Thomson. In response, the following things have happened:
- The book shot back up to about #10,000 on Amazon, although I have to admit that it has now shot back down again to about #300,000.
- It has now gathered a total of six Amazon reviews, and although that doesn’t compare too well with, say, the 2,000 or so received by The da Vinci Code, ours average out at 4.8 stars and Dan Brown’s only just over 4 (which I to say I think is absurdly generous).
- One estimable client has not only read it, but has also sent me a copy of his written critique, to be circulated among his team, which includes, for goodness sake, no fewer than 93 bullet points (the large majority of them positive).
- Another estimable client has also read it, and, perhaps even more admirably, invited me to discuss it over lunch.
That’s about it, and writing it all down like this I do wonder whether “encouraging” progress might be pushing it a bit. As I recall, the next level down was “solid” progress – perhaps that captures it better.