I’m the Invisible Man

Thus sang David Byrne in the Rose Tattoo from one of my favourite albums, Rei Momo and I found out how he felt over the last couple of days. As mentioned previously, I was at a 24 hour work conference and had invested in some casual smart clothes instead of the usual suit and tie. The effect was amazing — people I’ve known for years kept walking past me, not recognising me ‘out of uniform’.

The event was generally a success although not without its glitches. I won’t bore you with them all and just give the edited highlights. I had a fairly late night, staying up till 1am having a drink and shooting the breeze. I was deep in the land of nod when the fire alarm went of just after 6am and I found myself hastily dressed stumbling round the car park in the rain. It’s a fine way of learning about your colleagues’ night attire.

A false alarm, of course, and we were shepherded back inside, but I couldn’t get back to sleep and so watched the BBC news instead. Isn’t it dull? Obviously aimed at a time-limited audience, it’s just a loop of the same stories repeated every 30 minutes, exactly the same script and delivery for the local weather etc. At least on radio they try to move the story on, bulletin to bulletin.

Anyway, my session was first on at 9.30 and I had a couple of speakers lined up, but the laptop/projector combo wouldn’t work. Why is technology so complicated? Things were turned on and off, plugged or unplugged with every permutation in between. We eventually gave up the ghost, but my speakers did really well working from their notes.

It turned out that the projector was knackered and we had to hire one from the hotel. And I’m glad we did as the final session was particularly good, so much so that my tiredness was forgotten. I learned a lot about Edward Bernays, the father of public relations and exponent of the black art of persuasion:

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?”

But that was by way of introduction to what might be the white art of social marketing. No point me repeating what you can read on the web, but it is worth visiting the National Social Marketing site or downloading their pocket guide.

Interesting stuff though, like the way it was used to cut drink-driving related in Wisconsin. Seems the locals liked nothing better than to hop into their motors and drive 40 miles to town where they drank loads of beer, hopped back in their cars to go home again, except that they’d often wrap themselves around a tree or drive off a cliff.

The social marketer spoke to them. Would they stop drinking beer if told it was bad for them? Nope, they quite liked drinking beer thankee very much. How about if we drove you home? And drive 40 miles back to pick up my car, no way. Okay, what about a round trip in a minibus? Bwa-ha-ha!

So what do you want? Hmm. How about a chauffeur driven limo? Okay, let’s give it a go. And can we party in the back on the way to town. Yeah, okay. And I get to step out of a limo outside my favourite bar? Sure.

So Road Crew was born and drink driving deaths have plummeted, the scheme is not only self-financing, but makes a profit and the good ol’ boys of Wisconsin can enjoy their Buds in style and safety.

It has done nothing to end the drink culture and its health effects, nor the domestic violence that is often the result, but then that wasn’t the brief. It has succeeded in its prime objective which is probably as good as it gets. Interesting stuff.

Workhead off-switch — flick. Normal service resumed tomorrow.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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