The Columnist Part III: The Art of Self-Promotion: Lessons from a Wayward Sub
Published on 16th October 2015
So I’m sitting in the window seat of Itsu on Drury lane, at the juncture where slender ballerinas glide past lawyers, and models clutching casting books weave quickly past tourists who clog the narrow crossings, shouting at Siri. I like to sit here and admire the Freemason’s Hall, and consider how weird cults often contribute pleasing architectural legacies.
Today I can’t ponder any of these things. Because I’m looking at a limo, sprawled across the pavement, dressed as a sub-sandwich. I’m so transfixed by the salami-and-cheese filler spilling lasciviously from its belly that I almost miss “#LUNCHLIMO” emblazoned above the undulating waves of reformed cow-pig, and directions to upload a TwitPic in return for a “VIP lunch” - in the limo - on @ThecooperativeFood. Next to it, a camera crew lingers sadly; brand-ambassadors stave off frostbite; worker ants hovering anxiously near their bloated queen.
There are few things more embarrassingly futile than the unconvincing brand promotion. But today, masticating my maki, it seems to me that this limo-sub is a heavenly manna - sent to teach us holy lessons on how NOT to conduct ourselves in this extrovert-titillating culture of obligatory self-promotion.
Lesson 1: Don’t be vegan lunchmeat
The Co-op has nothing, at all, to do with limos. Or luxury. Or VIPs. Knowing this doesn’t make it funny; it makes it weird, and a bit sad, with strange undertones of classist self-parody. In the same way that jamming their Twitter feed with pictures of glossy vehicular sandwich-filler will achieve - at best - nothing, promoting yourselves for irrelevant things, in the wrong place, wrapped in lunchmeat, will actively disconnect any potential audience from what you actually do or sell.
Lesson 2: Don’t be needy.
Every single passer-by - except the old guy with the cane whose slow escape reflexes mean he has now been pinioned by the aggressively contoured camera woman - is arming themselves with the look-down-cross-the-road-I-ALREADY-GIVE-TO-YOU-OK? pose of modern urban flight. Please people. Have some self-respect. We are all whores, but there are ways and means. Working that street corner in day-glo - literally, figuratively - is never the answer.
Lesson 3: Don’t be inappropriate.
This is not a festival. The people crossing this road are not your target market. Gaudy is not quirky. Ill-judged is not irreverent. Or fresh, or disruptive. No one here wants to lick your cucumber or take a naked selfie on your salami or take a ride on your sub, ok? So whatever filthy puns you had in mind for those heady summer days - it’s October on a weekday. READ THE ROOM.
Lesson 4: Don’t be greedy.
This stunt is so transparently transactional it’s putting me off my miso. In the same way most strangers won’t publicly debase themselves for a sniff at a free Co-op lunch in a dodgy limo, if you want an audience, you need to create something of actual value. No lazy bribes. The Co-op could have spent the same giving lunch to most of London’s homeless and spammed their Twitter feed with that instead.
These lessons matter, because - to shamelessly flog this extended metaphor into the ground - in promotional terms, we are all a self-conscious baloney-wrapped limo, parking ourselves, obnoxiously, in someone’s sight line. It's a cross-platform snake pit. So, thanks, Co-op LUNCHLIMO - helping us keep our dignity, one misjudged stunt at a time.
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