Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Importance of Having a 'Thing'

I’m in Texas on a road trip.   Day One: fly ten hours from London to Houston and then drive three to Austin.  But I’m happy because I had asked the car rental agency for the biggest baddest car they had and they didn’t let me down.

I can’t see that many practical advantages driving this beast.  It’s actually not that fast and or well equipped.  But it’s a truck and I’m five feet off the ground and the 5.5L V8 makes a gorgeous gurgle.  That’s the thing here – I’m driving a tank, it’s all about me, king of the effing road and the rest of the planet doesn’t count.

Day Two: we check into Hotel Aloft.  It’s a 70 odd chain owned by Starwood.  It’s a big box with 140 rooms, a trendy reception and I count three staff.   There’s no eating apart from a self-service snack bar (pay receptionist), a self-service gym and a pool table.  Our rooms got cleaned at 5.30pm.  But we like this cool feature free box.  There’s a good shower, free wifi and low prices. 

That’s the thing here – without being barren it’s a no frills approach to overnighting.  We leave feeling smug about our discovery, and now I’m telling all my friends – why pay for amenities you never use?

Two days, two different things.  A gross, two fingers up at the world of auto and a stripped down, stylistic but simple place to sleep - each equally confident in their ‘thing’.  Makes me think how compromises ruin great ideas.  Many would hate my auto or choice of hotel.  But accepting and even enjoying rejection – isn’t this how we really define what’s brilliant about what we’ve got – our ‘thing’?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Coffee – Rich or Smooth?

OK – this is driving me nuts!  Go to my local coffee shop and you’ll get asked if you want your coffee ‘rich or smooth’.  Maybe I’m just too stupid early in the morning to answer this question but what the heck does it mean?  I want coffee rich and smooth.  Is rich coffee unsmooth?  Is smooth coffee weak?  I don’t get it.  I’m awarding this coffee shop first prize in the ‘Over-Enthusiastic but Ultimately Dopey Product Innovation Awards’.

It reminds me of a story a banker colleague told me about queues.  She went into the local branch of the bank she works for and the teller apologised for the queue – despite the fact no queue existed.  Perplexed she called the branch manager later in the day to enquire what sort of drugs the staff were taking only to be told that it was ‘Queue Week’ – mystery shoppers were said to be crawling all over the retail estate checking on queues and colleagues ability to smile and apologise for them.

But it’s ok the world hasn’t gone totally crazy for unthinking innovation.  In the most unlikely of places I discover an example of great insight and am very grateful for it.  Let me take you to the men’s urinals in Heathrow Terminal 3.  Instead of placing your bag on the wet floor (use your imagination here) while you stand and do your business – instead, the clever insightful folks have created bag stashes – secure, dry and very welcome.  Bravo to the loo designers at Heathrow for acting on their insight.  I wish they worked in my coffee shop.