The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Randoms and More…

Point of View

Without going into the specific reasons why, I was on a forum today called Rapture Ready. It’s a forum for fundamentalist Christians who believe we are in the end times and are waiting for the trumpet and the Archangel to carry them all to Heaven so the Earth can be recreated as it was once intended.

Because I am into movies and books, I read that part of the forum. There was a thread about the movieInception and what others thought of it from a Christian point of view. (There were no replies- I was genuinely interested what people would think about it though).

So this started me thinking: how many points of view can one thing generate? I’m a fan of the saying “There’s two sides to every story… and then there’s the truth” so to answer my own question, there’s at least three points of view. I see an earthquake as a natural occurence of this planet, with tragic consequences for those living on top of the fault or in the path of a resulting tsunami. Some people see the same earthquake as Mother Earth taking a deep sigh. Yet others see it as another sign of the End Times, Jesus really must be coming very soon!

These differing points of view are no less valid because I don’t hold that particular belief (and the above examples are at extreme ends of the spectrum). Belief is a very personal thing, even if we do happen to think that someone’s else point of view is a complete waste of time and effort…

So I guess we can delve further into this philosophy and ask ourselves, are these points of view only valid because they are in existence? Can we say certain beliefs and viewpoints are only in existence because our minds are working differently from those around us?

Back to Inception. I’ve seen the movie twice and I can’t say there is anything particularly un-Christian about it but then again, I’m not really up on the latest in Christian idealogy. There may be a little swearing but no supernatural themes, sex scenes etc but I do recall some violence. Whether this is acceptable to the people over at Rapture Ready, I don’t know. I don’t share their viewpoint.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment

Welcome to America

A couple of days ago, I went to the local supermarket to get a couple of things for dinner. Prominently displayed near the entrance was a large crate of (wait for it) pumpkins. These pumpkins are specially marketed for carving and come with a swing tag with instructions. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen carving pumpkins for sale.

As a kid, I read a lot of novels set in the US and their culture was so different. They had different names for their schooling, they got to dress up for October 31st, they had three months summer holiday during summer and they ate cookies.

Now, well, we do two of those things. Halloween parties have always been somewhat popular (hey- any excuse to dress up!) but nowadays children go Trick or Treating. When I lived in Nowra, I’d only been there a short time when October 31st came around. That morning I found a note in my letterbox saying the kids went trick or treating. I was thankful they let me know! That afternoon, I prepared some small bags of chocolate and lollies that I had around the house (at the time, my dad worked for Nestle and got all sorts of stuff for very cheap. He’d just spent a few days visiting me and had brought a lot of chocolate with him!) Some of those kids went to a lot of effort, and some were just kids still dressed in their school uniforms.

Then the cookies and cream phenomenon began: suddenly everything came in this new flavour. Icecream, chocolate bars, doughnuts and milkshakes all embraced this new sensation. Along with it came the word “cookies”. Overnight, our beloved biscuits became cookies. Cookie dough and ready-to-eat cookies appeared in every flavour we desired.

After that, we were bombarded with candy. No more lollies, those sweet treats became candy and the American ones began appearing on our shelves. I first noticed Junior Mints at my local video store (why are they still video stores even though they’ve only stocked DVDs for the past decade?) Now, I see Junior Mints, Hershey’s Kisses and even Tootsie Rolls in shops everywhere.

And now, we have carving pumpkins for Halloween. When I went in to the store today, they’d moved the crate to the back of the store where they had a whole Halloween display: lollies, little plastic pumpkins to collect lollies in, costumes, fake webs and spiders.

There are some fundamental language differences though; I can’t ask for a trolley in an American supermarket. They have carts. They ‘only’ have Jell-O  (jelly is what you put on sandwiches). They have popsicles and we have iceblocks. They have rednecks, we have bogans…

So maybe we’re not yet the 51st state, but we can’t be too far off.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment

Ahead of the Trend

It’s a secret that everyone wishes they knew: how can I have an idea that is ahead of our time and other people will copy? Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer (sorry!) Sometimes it’s just luck when someone famous has the same idea and implements it.

A few months ago, my sister was chatting to someone at work and they came up with an idea for a store. Somewhere that women could have access to professional styling and makeup artistry to complement their natural style and body. Together, they started the ball rolling and things fell into place despite a few speed humps. The result is Nueva Style Studio in Brisbane.

Yesterday, it was discovered that reality star du jour Kim Kardashian has done the same thing in her boutique in New York City.  Now, one must remember that Kim has a bit more money and celebrity leverage than my sister… so the two stores can’t be compared in any way except for the concept.

So what does this mean for concept stores? This is fantastic news for similar stores. Kim has fans over here in Australia who could be looking for the same kind of thing; somewhere to go for fashion and makeup for that special day or just to lift their spirits and find professional advice on how to flaunt your assets and hide the other bits. (There’s something here I could write about SEO to get website hits using key terms, but that would take a whole blog of its own).

Although there’s no crystal ball to tell you the trends of the future, sometimes luck steps in and gives you a celebrity endorsement.

 

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Copywriting, Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment

My Secret Shame

The advertising worked. I’ve been seeing the ad for a week or so now and every time I go to the supermarket, I look for it. Today I found it, bought it and read it cover to cover.

I bought this month’s Cosmopolitan magazine.

What was I thinking?? I gave up reading those magazines when I was 16, realising they had little to do with my life as I was never into makeup, fashion, dating or what guys really thought about my technique in the bedroom. Truthfully, I’m not exactly sure why  I bought it, but something on the ad spoke to me. I could hear it calling my name. It must’ve been a very long time since I bought it, judging by the current price- whoa!

So what have I learned from my sojourn into another lifestyle? Here are my top 3 things from October’s Cosmo that I found particularly enlightening (oh dear, now I’m writing like them too!)

1. There are barbells for your vaginal/pelvic muscles
A friend posted an article some months ago about a woman who could lift over 90kgs with her vaginal muscles. How on earth do you strengthen them? I wondered at the time. Surely it’s more than doing your Kiegels a few times a day… Well, now I know. There are barbells that you insert that help strengthen and tone those important muscles. A must-have for any post-baby mother (there I go again with the Cosmo speak!) Indeed, everything in the sealed section was an eye-opener as the realisation hit that I really do live a sheltered life.

2. The Rape aXe.
In South Africa, a female is raped every 26 seconds. Sonnet Ehlers decided to do something about it. She created the Rape-aXe, aka the penis flytrap, in the hopes that women and girls everywhere could feel safer. The design is simple- it is inserted like a tampon and is completely harmless to the wearer, but extremely painful for the rapist. Inside this condom-like device is a series of sharp spikes which hold the penis, keeping it erect and impossible to remove from the penis without a doctor’s help, thereby identifying the person as a rapist. Of course, this is an extreme measure to protect females from rape and is surrounded by controversy: what if the rapist is so enraged, he kills the victim? (I happen to think that if his penis is really in that much pain, he’s not going to be thinking about anything else.) Still, it’s a positive step in the fight against rape.

3. Secrets Men Keep, Even When They’re In Love
Awww! My boyfriend is a very shy geek (this isn’t a secret…) and so perhaps I’ve forgotten what the manly men are like. Still, this section was fascinating (although I’m unconvinced these secrets came from actual males with normal hormones and a fully functioning penis). The secrets range from Eddie’s confession that he switched gym times so that his crush on the hot trainer wouldn’t lead to something he’d regret to Rodney wanting to correct his girlfriend’s celebrity gossip. Bryan says he hates when his girlfriend uses his toothbrush so he hides his real one under the sink, while Sal is jealous of his single friends so he tries to make them envious by bragging about his fiancee’s sexual voracity.

The worst part about all this is, I found it interesting enough to read to the end, blog about it, and give it to my sister to read. That, dear readers, is the most shameful part about the whole experience. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll brush up on my Kiegels…

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fifteen Cents

Yesterday a customer bought two doughnuts and was 15c short of the total. I said that was OK, no one was going to shoot me over fifteen cents. He laughed and replied, “You obviously don’t own the company!”

This morning I bought a bottle of water and was 15c short (the cost had increased since the last time I bought it from there). The cashier laughed and said it was OK (I’m a regular customer there) but I wandered back a few minutes later with the remaining fifteen cents.

Why did I do that? I don’t like being in debt, I know their company is a lot more strict on cash variances than mine, I’m honest and didn’t want to have a measly fifteen cents on my conscience, knowing the coins were in my purse.

Why didn’t I care about the 15c missing from my own till? I knew no one was going to question me over that fifteen cents. That’s about it, really. But it got me thinking- when did we get so focused on money that we forget the simple kindness of letting someone have something they couldn’t quite afford?

That customer’s comment has stuck with me for the last couple of days: “You obviously don’t own the company.” Well, no, I do not. Maybe Mr Doughnut does mind. I remember my deli supervisor saying to me once that every piece of ham I throw away is money out of the owner’s pocket. Maybe I should take better care of the stock to make the Big Wigs richer while I earn the same money no matter how much I sell. Maybe I should care about money; what if I were the Big Wig and my staff were giving away the stock for an unauthorised discount?

Pondering those questions, I have to say that I would rather have a happy customer return to my store than turn away an unhappy customer because they were a few cents short. I read a study a few years ago which concluded that 75% of people will tell their friends about a bad shopping experience, but only 10% of people will tell their friends about a positive experience. My happy customer may not tell his friends that he got away with discounted doughnuts, but he will return.

October 10, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , | 1 Comment

Competition

One of the questions asked in a copywriter’s brief is: Who are your top 3 competitors and why are you different? (OK, that’s technically two questions…) When asked, one of 2 things will happen: The client says, “Oh, I don’t know” or “blah blah blah, we offer this.”

Let’s take the “I don’t know” statement. If you’re in business and you don’t know who your competition is, you haven’t done your research. As well as copywriting, I work in retail for a well-known doughnut company. Our competitors are other doughnut companies. We’re different because the dough is yeast-based, not wheat, making it lighter and fluffier. We offer different doughnuts than the competition and we regularly change our promotional doughnuts. Recently we switched from regular icing to actual chocolate on the doughnuts.( I know one Brisbane-based doughnut company already uses real chocolate…)

It’s one thing to know who your competition is and something else to know why you’re different. If I’m in the market for wedding photography,  I want to know why I should choose you over Joe Bloggs. You both do pretty photos. You both offer DVDs, negatives, good prices, fast service. What do you offer that he doesn’t?

Knowing your competition is vital for the success of your business. Being different catches people’s eye and draws them in. They will shop with you and keep coming back.

Here are 5 tips on differentiating yourself from your competition.

Have a Special Offer
Most special offers are for first-time customers. That’s fine, but you want return business. Having a loyalty card is one way you keep customers/clients returning. Buy 10 whatevers, get one free. You probably already have 20 loyalty cards in your purse- everything from clothes to coffee. To draw in more customers/clients, the best special offer is giving a discount to the referrer. If they refer someone to you, they get 15% off their next purchase. It’s win-win: you get more customers which covers the cost of the discount.

Guarantee Your Work
Most businesses will have a guarantee. In retail, it’s money back, credit or replacement. In other businesses, particularly those offering services, there’s a 30 day guarantee offering anything from refund to discount to next service free. As a copywriter, I offer 2 free re-writes of any piece you’re unhappy with. The trick here is to have a different guarantee from your competition and one that is both legal and easy to enforce. You don’t want to have long delays and extra expenses incurred over a disagreement.

Make Your Product Different
Recently I wrote for a website about a therapeutic pillow. There are literally thousands of different therapeutic pillows on the market so I had to find ways to convince you that this was The One. I focused on the unique design, the approval by leading health professionals and the price. Blu-tac’s major competitor starting making brightly coloured adhesive globs. Post-It’s major competitor started putting cute animal designs on their sticky notes. The possibilities are endless- think outside the square.

Unbeatable Customer Service
Be polite and go out of your way to ensure every customer has the exact product they want. That’s it. How many people do you know who won’t go back to a retailer because they were rude or had a bad experience?

Be Easy to Contact
The curator of a gallery I know has his phone number in the window of the shop. A customer saw a piece they liked, gave him a call and he was there within a few minutes, even though the store wasn’t due to open for another hour. He made the sale and the customer was very happy. This doesn’t work for everyone as not many people live within 10 minutes of their stores. On your website (and you need a website!) have several ways you can be contacted. Phone number, email address, store location. If you have a smart phone, set up the email so that you are alerted every time a new email arrives. You never know- that email might be a huge sale! Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to answer your phone in the middle of the night, but ensure you have voicemail reassuring customers/clients that you will return their call ASAP (and keep to your word!)

Naturally, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Whatever business you’re in, have a look at your competitors. Look at their websites, go into their stores, have a look at their portfolio, chat with them. Find something they do, and either do it better or come up with something completely new.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Copywriting | , | 1 Comment