Monday 24 November 2008


Know your target group

'Harrold, how's that lube ad coming along?' Vanessa stops me in the corridor when she's about to enter meeting-room B. She's wearing a crisp skirt suit and has her long Asian hair put up like a geisha.
'About that,' I say, 'Would you mind walking to the coffee machine with me? I've got this massive idea!'
She pushes a big pile of reports against her chest and glances at her watch. 'I've got three minutes before I'm meeting a new client. Can it wait?'
She's testing me. She's been doing it since she became Head of Marketing, two months ago. Not because she doesn't believe in me – on the contrary, I'm her best employee. It's an incentive to bring out the best in me. I know that, because she saves this treatment for me only. I appreciate the privilege, don't get me wrong, but right now, I hate her for it. There's no need to continuously keep up the performance. She knows I'm good and an informal chat would bring across my innovation just as well. And anyway, I haven't prepared an elevator pitch.
Perhaps she just doesn't feel comfortable being my superior. You know, being a woman and all. Not that I've got a problem with that. Not even though I was hoping for a promotion when Mr. Battleman retired. But a woman may feel things that way. She's too young to be a feminist.
'Three minutes will do.' I take up the challenge. Chickening out would disappoint her. 'We can increase sales by a factor of ten, I figure, if we rename the product and don't just advertise in the regular erotic catalogues, but aim for the complete Durex-generation. I'm thinking big. I'm thinking MTV, Cosmopolitan and FHM! I've sketched this really flashy new dispenser, with a vibration-element in it. It will be the ultimate toy, no woman will ever go dry again with one of these in her vicinity. I'll post my design in our common folder so you can have a look at it.'
Vanessa nods and looks at her watch again. It's not nearly three minutes yet, and she knows it. She's pushing me. This is the moment to stun her with my greatest achievement. 'I've put some thought in the new name as well. AbsoLubricant.'
'Harrold, we're not changing the name. All I asked you to do is come up with a new ad for PABO and some other catalogues. I take it you haven't made any progress with that, have you?' Not quite the enthusiasm I expected. She's tough today.
'Can you picture the billboards?' I reply. 'Just give it a thought, during your meeting. This is going to be awesome!' I try to pat her on the shoulder, but she avoids my hand, dropping her reports.
'Shit,' she says, 'I don't have time for this. Can you pick that up? I have to run.' And before I can object – I'm quite busy myself, miss I Don't Know How To Manage My Time! – she's off.

Create brand loyalty

I'm just about to save my AbsoLubricant-design in the common folder, when OfficeMessenger informs me that Vanessa's logged in. Cheeky girl, I think, her meeting only started ten minutes ago and already she's bored. I'll give her something to think about.
'Take a look at the common folder, Vibes for Vanessa' I type, and save the document. I bet the whole department is going to check it out when they see that name. That's the way to go about and find support for my idea, without explicit lobbying. Viral marketing is what it's called. I know what I'm doing.
I take a sip of my cappuccino. She doesn't reply immediately. Perhaps she's inspecting it first. Yu, the Chinese girl at the desk opposite of me, seems to be working very hard. Her eyes are locked on the screen, her manicured nails are rattling on the keyboard like hail and her back is unnaturally straight – she's one of those ergonomics-freaks. She's probably chatting, though. Maybe she found my document already and is informing her friend at Production about it. I bet she's telling her how she would be the first to try it when the AbsoLubricant is launched. Not bad, to have people knowing about it in different departments five minutes after I've posted the idea.
Still no reply from Vanessa. Could there be a problem with the file? I return to the folder where I saved it, but can't find it. She must have accidentally hit delete. Or maybe I didn't save it properly. I save the file again and type: 'Sorry dear, something must have gone wrong. Can you feel the vibes now?'
I picture her looking at my design on her mac book, the TL-light from meeting room B emphasising her blushing cheeks. I bet she'll be looking at her watch again to see how long she has to wait before she can praise my creativity. That's probably why she doesn't reply through OfficeMessenger: she wants to say it to my face.

Evaluate your strategy

'Harrold, will you stop texting me?' When Vanessa bursts into my office she's blushing indeed. 'And quit saving that sodding file on the common drive! I thought I told you to get back to work. That ad has to be in tomorrow morning at half nine!'
For the first time since I came back from the coffee machine, Yu looks up from her screen. Her eyes are huge with curiosity, the stupid cow, and I'm sure everyone in Production will know about Vanessa's outburst in no time. They'll think she's having a burn-out. They are a cruel breed, they'll laugh over her. They'll say she hasn't been in the job for two months yet, and already she's cracking up. Not that I've got another explanation for her vehement reaction, but she doesn't deserve to be mocked by the entire Production-department.
'I'm sorry, Nessy,' I say. Her cheeks turn an even brighter red. I suppose now was not the right time to bring it up, she's probably got too much on her mind. 'Let's not get all wound up, I'll finish that ad for tomorrow, no worries, and then we can take our time and discuss the future of lubricants over coffee another time, when you're more at ease.'
She's trembling on her stiletto heels. That's what a friendly word can do to you when you need it most. I think she's actually about to cry.
'All right.' For a moment she's just standing there, jittering, with the doorknob in her right hand. Then she turns around and slams our door behind her. Yu gives me a look. Accusing, comforting, inquiring, I don't know what sort of a look it is. It's hard enough to read a woman's face, it's practically impossible when she's Chinese.
'Peculiar,' I mutter, answering to whatever may be on her mind, and start thinking about the ad I have to hand in tomorrow. In order to please Vanessa, this last ad has to be perfect. The transition has to be smooth. I really ought to have put some thought in this before. Shit, it's already 2.15 in the afternoon. That means I'll probably have to go on working all night long.
Outlook pops up in the right corner of my screen and informs me I've received a message from the CEO. He hardly ever gets in touch with his employers, all communication goes through the heads of the departments. He knows exactly who I am, though. He took the interview when I applied for Vanessa's position.
I'm quite excited when open the email. 'Harrold,' it says, 'I need to have a word with you. Can you be in my office at 3.30pm?' I like the informal tone, the way he's addressing me. It's friendly but no nonsense. This can only mean one thing. He has seen my design for the AbsoLubricant, and he's loving it. He probably wants me to sign a confidentiality agreement. The idea is so brilliant yet so simple, he's got every right to be scared someone else will produce it first. Now I understand why Vanessa insisted on deleting the file from the common folder.
This is even better than I expected! With a big smirk on my face I look up from my screen. Yu's still staring at me like that. Perhaps it's admiration. After all, she has seen my design. Combined with Vanessa's reaction, she had probably figured it out before I did. She's a smart girl, I think, and wink at her.

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