All posts in Lifestyle

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When you work for big corporations, a defined level of professionalism is mandatory.  You can’t get your foot in the door without it.  There is very little room for bad manners, or strange behaviour, in the world of the blue-chip.  Why would there be?  Successful corporations can choose from the cream of the crop.  And the cream tend to be exceedingly well mannered, and not that strange (or at least able keep up the pretence of normality during office hours).

It came as quite a shock to me that these rules don’t always extend to the world of SMEs.  My role here at RumbleChat is to help lifestyle companies with their marketing.  The majority of these businesses tend to be small. The vast majority of small businesses I encounter operate in a lovely, friendly, considerate and professional manner – I cannot emphasise this enough.  They are a joy to work with and making a positive difference to their businesses makes every working day worthwhile.

There are however, a small minority, who really let the side down.  And it’s to this small, dysfunctional subset that this blog is dedicated.

I have worked with several self-proclaimed entrepreneurs…and now give them a wide birth. Not entrepreneurs in general, just the self-proclaimed variety. If you have to proclaim it yourself, then I find that leads to you employing it as a mandate for generally unprofessional/strange behaviour.

One client I had took to calling me late at night, when he was stressing about whether the level of unsubscribes for his email newsletters were higher than average. They weren’t, and 10pm really was not the right time to discuss it.

Another time, I was working onsite at a small online retailer’s office, when the MD (a seemingly techy guy in his mid ‘40s) came striding out of the toilet, bellowing, “I’d give that ten!”

Toilets have been a recurring place for strange behaviour. When working on another client’s site, another male MD insisted on using the female toilet, because he, “preferred it,” regardless of the fact that it made the female staff members distinctly uncomfortable.

The guy who ate three Cadburys Cream Eggs for lunch deserves a mention; as does the chap who encouraged employees to wear ‘indoor shoes’ to work, in the hope that he could save on cleaning costs. All of these pale into insignificance in comparison to the next tale, however, which blows ‘quirky’ right out of the water.

A friend of mine (let’s call her Sally), just had what can only be described as a lucky escape, with a small research company, scarily reminiscent of the League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vasey (if you don’t know it, look it up now, as this is a recurring metaphor!). Run by a husband and wife, and their daughter…I know, I know, alarm bells should have rung at this point!

It wasn’t a really tiny one-man-band, though, where you can see how weird practices might prevail – I mean, everyone’s normal is normal to them, right?  That’s why it’s helpful to interact with other humans, to check where you’re at on the dysfunctional barometer.

No, this looked, at first glance, like a ‘proper’ office, with almost 20 workers, some decent clients, a fairly respectable turnover…and the weirdest practices you are ever likely to encounter this side of Fawlty Towers/Wernham Hogg/the Big Brother House/*outlandishly ridiculous setting of your choice*.

Sally’s account of her time there sounds too far-fetched to be true, but she swears (on her cat’s life…and she really loves that cat) that every word is true.

The daughter was allegedly Sally’s line manager, but had to keep trotting off to Dad to double check that it was acceptable for my friend to leave early/move onto a new piece of work/scratch her nose/use the toilet.

At this point, it’s probably relevant to give you the low-down on Sally.  Her career trajectory was impressively vertical. She’s held some senior level, big-hitting jobs in media companies, but, like so many of us, post children, she’s rejected the corporate greasy pole, in favour of flexible, part time work. For her, the closer to home, the better…until now.

When she first started, she thought it was quite endearing when Mum told her that they ensure that all the staff eat their lunch together.  What she hadn’t realised, was that this actually meant that it was forbidden to leave the building at lunchtime, or eat your lunch at the time of your own, personal choosing. In Royston Vasey Land, the secretary ceremoniously rang upstairs to proclaim, “Lunchtime, everybody down!” at which point you were expected to dutifully shuffle downstairs to sit and eat, while making strained conversation with colleagues.

I mean, surely the main purpose of your lunch hour is to take a break and change of scenery to maintain mental health, and ensure you don’t end up punching that really annoying colleague in the face?

Speaking of colleagues, by all accounts they were a motley crew. They were all female, bar ‘Dad’ and the bloke in charge of IT, and refilling the printer (the son of family friends of ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’). A fairly neat split between women who’d worked there since the dawn of time, and graduates/students (who had no other experience of work, and will presumably get an enormous shock if they ever manage to leave Royston Vasey). This was a local [office], for local people, with Tubbs and Edward at the helm.

The IT systems were so bad that the internet collapsed on a daily basis and twice a day, the IT bloke would leg it around the office shouting “Don’t save! Don’t save!” as the rickety reporting software (that their entire business depended on), was prone to throw you out, mid-report, losing everything you’d worked on for the past couple of hours.

On Wednesdays, everyone was encouraged to evacuate the building quick-smart, at 5pm, as Dad and Daughter used the main office for a personal training session.

When Sally first started, Mum asked her, in a furtive whisper (there was a lot of that going on) to send her invoices to a secret email address, as the rate she had negotiated was, “more than double,” that of everyone else.  The next day Mum collared her to insist that she didn’t actually send any invoices by email, but rather printed out a hard copy and placed it directly into ‘Mum’s’ hands as “You never know who’s watching.”

On day 5, Dad called Sally in, “For a chat,” to express his displeasure as he’d seen her texting in the office.  She’s 41. When her 11 year old son rang her to check in, communal eyebrows were raised to the ceiling at her audacity in answering her phone.

She attempted to ingratiate herself by nipping to Tesco Express when the milk had run out. When she returned, brandishing a litre of semi-skimmed, her startled co-workers told her in fraught whispers that only skimmed milk was acceptable here.  They point-blank refused to use it, presumably in case Mum or Dad found out. Luckily, crisis was averted by IT bloke, who shot out the door in a rapid fashion, returning with a bottle of red top, before the family members were any the wiser.

So what of Sally now? Following two more ‘chats’ with Dad over innocuous/heinous misdemeanours (depending where you sit on the weirdo spectrum), she threw in the towel and ran, as fast as her legs could carry her.  She lasted 11 days. She swears she’s psychologically scarred, having been left with “a fear of the freak-shows that are small businesses.” She went and got herself a new job for a large, London-based company, with proper systems, a website that works, and all the bells and whistles that the majority of the business world, take for granted.

I’d like to make it clear that I don’t share her phobia.  Fortunately, the majority of small businesses are well-run, and a pleasure to work for. To identify that small minority, and avoid an experience like Sally’s however, I suggest ingesting the complete boxset of The League of Gentlemen, and remaining vigilant at all times.  If Papa Lazarou wouldn’t look out of place, don’t even go there!

 

I love a bit of retailer innovation.  So imagine my delight when I nipped into town for a few (boring) essentials this morning, and found myself face-to-face (or should that be face-to-bonnet?) with the fabulous Bessie the Bus. For those of you unfamiliar with Bessie, she is Oasis’ new mobile shop. You can check out her story here.

Bessie is an old mobile library, refitted in a fab #fashpack style is currently on tour.  Her schedule is chocca – she’s visiting regional events, retail parks, and high streets where Oasis does not currently have a retail presence. What a brilliant concept – the store that comes to customers rather than waiting for customers to come to them.

bessie_the_bus_int2bessie_the_bus_int

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes Bessie even better is that fact that she’s not simply an Oasis groupie…or worse, a jumped-up-market-stall. She’s had a modern-retro makeover that accentuates her fun, quirky side. Her  bespoke interior includes a kitchen hob holding key accessories, a breakfast bar that doubles as a hanging display unit and a jewellery box that opens to print customer receipts She also has a fitting room and the best sales staff EVER (how much do they love their jobs?!).

Bessie has more than 250 stops planned in her 2015 tour…so it shouldn’t be long before she’s at a venue near you. You can even petition for her to visit your town via Twitter using #bessiethebus. Go Bessie!

christmas-stress-free

As a child I distinctly remember feeling utterly bewildered when my mum inferred that she didn’t really like Christmas.  I was totally incredulous.  Beautiful decorations, a manic sense of excitement, loads of yummy food, (illicit) chocolate for breakfast and piles of presents…what’s not to like about that combination?

As a grown-up, with three kids of my own, I totally get what she meant. Every year I vow to be more organised and get Christmas under wraps early doors…and every year I fail.  This year I even managed to lull myself into a false sense of security by procuring a couple of gifts in late October.  ‘Go me!’ I thought smugly, and then proceeded to sit on my festive laurels for another month.  December 1st arrived, bringing with it that traditional sense of festive panic that has tainted all recent Christmases past.

Don’t get me wrong, this negativity is not Scrooge-esque. I love buying presents.  It’s just the relentless yuletide to-do list that gets me down. Which got me thinking: surely in this day and age there are some digital delights to make Christmas a bit less overwhelming?

Top of my festive bug-bears is the tedium that is Christmas card writing.  I always leave it to the last minute and then trawl through my address book, while hurriedly writing generically impersonal messages with an aching wrist and deficit of festive cheer.  It’s not that I don’t want to say Happy Christmas to the recipients; it’s just that getting through the pile of cards is yet another chore to cross off the extensive Christmas itinerary.

With this in mind, it’s much easier to create a quirky video on http://www.jibjab.com and email it out to all your friends…job done.  Except, if you’re anything like me, you don’t have email addresses for all of the ‘friends’ that you post cards to, as for some of them, this annual communication is the sum total of your interaction! Still, you can surely remember to collect their email addresses for next year?

Ultimately, Christmas is for the kids, right? In which case there are a few digital niceties that can add to that festive merriment.  First up, a couple of years ago Royal Mail gave out Santa’s official address, and made him promise to reply to all children who wrote to him.  A lovely idea, but apparently last year Santa didn’t get round to replying to a fair few of the letters, leaving many disgruntled customers.  To combat this, Royal Mail have recruited additional helpers for him this year, and they are also being quite prescriptive in their deadline of getting all letters to him by Saturday 6th December. Still, for the price of the stamp it avoids you being busted with the letter to Santa being spotted by little eyes in the bottom of your bag/bedside drawer/recycling bin http://www.royalmail.com/letters-to-santa

A similar, yet superior offering can be found at http://christmas.nspcc.org.uk/santa For a £5 donation (Why not make it £10 while you’re at it?) you can choose from eight different designs and festive stories to create a personalised letter for children. Imagine their little faces when they receive a genuine letter in the post from Santa…priceless!

It’s been around for a while now, but Norad’s Santa Tracker http://www.noradsanta.org/  still puts a smile on my overwrought December face! Developed by the North American Aerospace Defence Command this lets you (or your kids!) watch Santa’s progress as he makes his annual trip around the globe. The app version also offers a recreation of Santa’s Village, a new game every day, festive music and opportunities to get live updates on Santa’s location.

 

For those of you searching for the true meaning of Christmas, floundering under surfeits of food, booze and plastic tat, then this could be the one for you. As the cold weather kicks in, http://www.streetlink.org.uk provides a way for members of the public to inform local authorities about rough sleepers in their area, with the aim of helping to get them off the streets. Since its launch, a year ago, StreetLink has directly helped 4,000 rough sleepers – a thoroughly worthwhile contribution to the season of goodwill.

As the office Christmas party season kicks off, the quest begins for that perfect secret santa present that reveals you, the giver, to be witty, thoughtful and humorous (it never remains a secret for long). The Secret Santa tombola app makes Secret Santa shopping a piece of cake. Simply select the gender of the gift receiver, pick the type of gift (cheeky, fun or cute), and your budget. Then spin the tombola to see the recommended gift.

Ever find yourself throwing in a little ‘something for me’ in that Amazon bulk order?  Treat yourself guilt-free with Apple’s 12 Days of Gifts app.  It lets you download a surprise free gift from Apple every day between the 26th December and 6th January.  Each day’s gift is different – it could be a song, app, book or film…and it’s only available for 24 hours. Previous year’s gifts included music from One Direction, Lady Gaga and Coldplay, TV shows from the BBC’s Sherlock, Top Gear and House, books from Lee Child, Jo Nesbo and Ken Follett and apps from Snapseed, Electronic Arts and Sega.

Embarrassed about your lack of gift wrapping skills? The Gift Wrapping Instant Expert app has videos and quizzes to teach you how to wrap presents, create bows, set up gift baskets and make your own custom gift tags. There are six categories that will take you from someone who can barely fold a straight line (me) to a “Gift Wrapping Master”.

Are you a bit culinary challenged The BBC Good Food Festive Recipes app features a collection of over 180 tried-and-tested recipes to get you through Christmas and New Year. There’s something for every course, plus drinks and canapés and even a bountiful selection of vegetarian options. All recipes have clear instructions and a photograph to help you get the best results. Failing that, you could always Sky+ Jamie’s/Nigella’s/Delia’s latest instructions for the perfect Christmas dinner and use pause and rewind to follow step-by-step.  Now that’s a digital invention worth celebrating!

So there you have it – a handful of digital assets to positively enhance your festive experience.  Now all you’ve got left to do is don that festive jumper and find Slade’s I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day on Spotify. While you’re at it, don’t forget to choose the most flattering Instagram filter to hide the horrendous suitcases under your eyes courtesy of back-to-back Xmas parties and the inevitable 5am wake-up call of the under-10s.   ‘Appy Christmas one and all!

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If, like me, you decided to give Black Friday a wide berth, then Cyber Monday is probably much more your cup of tea.  Loads of bargains, but without being barged / rugby tackled / swore at. The civilised way to sort your Christmas shopping. And from the comfort of your own home – what’s not to love about that?

As someone who would rather stick pins in my eyeballs than wrestle fellow shoppers in a claustrophobically crowded retail destination, Cyber Monday is extremely appealing. I just don’t have the patience for shopping in the real world. All that hustle and bustle just makes me stressed.  I do seem to vaguely recall a time when shopping was a fun pastime, but those days are long gone.  Nowadays If there’s more than two people in front of me at the checkout, I start to get a bit fretful and am prone to abandoning my goods and steaming straight out of the shop in a huff. In fact, just thinking about trying to navigate a town centre on a weekend in December is making my chest tight.

So hurray for Cyber Monday…and working from home!  The perfect way to get Christmas sorted without losing your mind.  All the usual suspects are taking part: Amazon, Argos, Tesco, ASOS, The Disney Store…in fact it’s probably quicker to list those that aren’t participating.  To make things even simpler this year, lots of sites have compiled a round-up of the best offers available.  Check them out for inspiration:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/cyber-monday-2014-live-deals-4725177

http://www.hotukdeals.com/cyber-monday

http://money.aol.co.uk/2014/11/29/revealed-the-best-cyber-monday-deals/

And while you’re at it, pay with Paypal for your chance to win up to £1000.  With 5 winners a week it makes you feel like you might even have a slim chance:

https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/winchristmas

And don’t panic if you don’t get all your festive shopping sorted in one fell swoop.  I’m sure Terrific Tuesday (I’m working on the name!) will bring its own tempting treats.  Happy shopping

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We Brits are suckers for an American trend. Halloween, tooth whitening, childhood obesity – where America treads, the UK is usually not too far behind…forming an orderly queue of course.

Black Friday is yet another US-lead initiative that has wormed its way into our national consciousness. Given its intrinsic link to Thanksgiving, you’d think this would be one Americanism we’d be happy to ignore, but it would appear we are (once again) powerless to resist.

Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November. The following day has become designated Black Friday. With a moniker originally coined by the Philadelphia police department in the 1950s, Black Friday was so called because of the chaos that engulfed the city as shoppers, fuelled by surfeits of turkey and cranberry sauce, flocked to the high street sales to commence Christmas shopping.

Over the years, the meaning of Black Friday has changed, with it now being heralded as the first day of the year that retailers start making money, therefore propelling them from the red to the black.

Black Friday had no relevance in the UK until 2010.  Until then, the nearest retail phenomenon we had was the good old Boxing Day sales. Multinational retailers were the first to introduce the concept on this side of the Atlantic. Most notable of these was Amazon, who introduced Black Friday discounts four years ago. Last year saw Black Friday reach critical mass in the UK, breaking the previous record for a single day’s online trade.

Initially, the UK’s adaptation of Black Friday was very much a digital event; a key impetus in the retail shift from the bricks and mortar of old to the new, infinitely more convenient digital shopping experience.

Last year, however, things started to change.  Wallmart-owned Asda ran a series of flash promotions, with ‘pinch me – I must be dreaming’ discounts that propelled frenzied customers into their stores. The result was akin to the carnage synonymous with America’s Black Friday – people queuing in the early hours and rampaging for bargains. Asda sold a month’s worth of TVs in just 45 minutes and 16k tablets in an hour.

So what does that mean for us this year then?  Well, analysts are predicting that 28th November 2014 will be the biggest online shopping day in UK history, EVER. It is also likely to be much more of a bricks and mortar event too.  Asda’s success last year made the other supermarkets sit up and take note…and want a bit of that frenetic footfall for themselves.

Am I the only one that feels a bit uneasy about this new shift in retail behaviour though?  To me, this feels like a slippery slope. Consumers become conditioned to expect heavy discounting, the level of which is only achievable by the giant monoliths of retail. It is only the supermarkets and multi-national retailers, like Amazon, that have low enough buy prices and broad enough stock ranges to accommodate this loss-leading approach. The independents, once again, are priced out of the market, knowingly undersold, in a supersized world where bigger is always best.

And what about the stalwart of UK retail heritage – the Boxing Day sale? Can it compete with the brasher, younger, all-American rival?  Only time will tell, but I’m thinking our British penchant for the under-dog will be quickly discarded in favour of an iPad for fifty quid!

Are they called the Playstation generation these days?  Or has that been superceded by a new hybrid of Apple-obsessed-Minecrafters?  Whatever you choose to call them, in so many ways they are so lucky.  And yet, I find myself pitying my kids and their absolute inability to do nothing.  Or more to the point, I pity their lack of understanding of how it feels to have nothing to do.  Strange, but true!

The summer holidays of my youth were filled with rollerskating, playing on building sites (health and safety was clearly not a priority in those days), mammoth hide and seek marathons and endless outdoor adventures.  All of which were interspersed with that all familiar child-of-the-80s mantra of “I’m bored”.

Apple have single-handedly killed that mantra.  Kids are subconsciously drawn to their ‘devices’ like the proverbial bees to a honeypot. They don’t experience boredom as they are too busy gluing themselves to a screen.  And here lies the crux of the problem.  Kids might not be ‘bored’ but if they are overly reliant on technology, they’re definitely not living their lives to the full.

Digital natives often eschew the great outdoors in favour of screen time.  It’s a frustrating, yet understandable, consequence of modern life.  But for those of us not content to sit back and watch this happen, what is the solution?

The Wild Thing Project, was founded by filmmaker and father of two, David Bond, who after monitoring his 5 year old daughter’s movements, discovered that she spent a mere 4% of her time outdoors.  He decided drastic action needed to be taken.  He appointed himself Marketing Director of Nature and spent 18 months visiting UK schools, promoting the Great Outdoors to children.

The Wild Time app is an offshoot of this project.  It suggests outdoor games and activities, according to the time you have available, from 10 minutes, to half an hour per day.

The National Trust is also keen to battle what it terms ‘nature deficit disorder’ in kids. Its list of 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾ suggests things that we old-skoolers may have taken for granted, but that our kids might not have tried.  Playing Pooh Sticks, whittling sticks and skimming stones are all on there. Other online resources in the same vein include:

http://www.scvngr.com/ (scavenger hunts)

http://www.projectnoah.org/ (explore and document wildlife)

http://www.toywheel.com/ (fun activities for children)

These apps see technology resonating with nostalgia.  Why Don’t You? (#memories #kidstv) presenters of old used to ask “Why don’t you just switch off your television set, go out and do something less boring instead? This is the modern day equivalent, speaking to kids in their own language; using technology to encourage offline engagement with the Great Outdoors…and it might just work.

Apparently Sprite is being scientifically lauded as the new hangover cure.  A study published in the September issue of Food and Function found that imbibing the lemony-limey pop can effectively reduce all of the main hangover symptoms.

Now for the science-y bit…

Your typical hangover symptoms such as nausea, exhaustion and an exploding-skull-stylee  headache aren’t caused by alcohol as such, but rather by acetaldehyde, an enzyme the body produces as it struggles to process all the toxic booze you recklessly consumed.

So lots of the traditional hangover cures such as strong coffee, greasy fry-ups, McDonalds, Coca-cola, green tea and salt and vinegar crisps (no? Just me then?) actually slow down the digestion process, thereby eeking out the acetaldehyde’s impact.

Sprite (and soda water, but I’m tempted to ignore that on the grounds of it being not v appetising at the best of times, let alone when you’re feeling like death warmed up) speed(s) up the conversion process and actually helps to reduce your hangover.  Yippee.

Obviously I’m not encouraging you to go and get hideously drunk to test this theory as that would be incredibly irresponsible…which I’m not.  So I’ll defer to a favourite author of mine who has much to say on the subject.  Take it away Ernest:

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” 

“I drink to make other people more interesting.”           Ernest Hemingway

What’s occurring with the weather these days?  One minute it’s cold and wet, the next blisteringly hot.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce… SWINTER – a freak seasonal hybrid that’s throwing up a whole host of challenges – sartorial, culinary and even domestic.

I’m no Michael Fish/John Kettley/Ian McKaskill (no? #showingmyageagain) but something strange is afoot meteorologically speaking. Autumn is no more – it’s been bullied out of town by this brazen, insensitive upstart.

As you would expect a Google search on climate change spews up a plethora of sites – educational, political and charitable.  The effects of climate change are profound (as far reaching as ‘far reaching’ can ever be) and impactful and not to be trivialised in a ‘poor me, I don’t know what to wear/eat’ kind of way.

That said, I’m afraid that’s exactly how I’m rolling with this one.  The weather has always been a hot topic of conversation for us Brits.  Historically I’m not really sure why.  I guess it must be something to do with British restraint and needing safe fodder for polite chit-chat.  It certainly didn’t used to be the unpredictable atmospheric carnival it seems to have morphed into of late.

So, presumably, as a nation we’re talking about it even more now.  If the RumbleChat office is anything to go by, that is definitely the case. Every day starts with a dissection of our local climate and the impact it has on our daily meanderings.  We are human barometers who obsess about the weather with a farmer-like intensity.

What to wear?  Just yesterday I set off for an early doors meeting in the Big Smoke, sporting a thermal socks/ankle boot combo and clutching an umbrella. Leaving my meeting late morning, I was greeted by the sun, with his hat on, mockingly beating down on my winter-clad self. By the time I got back to the office I was very sweaty, a tad grumpy and in dire need of an outfit change.  It brings a whole new angle to the trans-seasonal wardrobe conundrum.

I am also finding it is playing havoc with my appetite, or more specifically, what I fancy to eat at any given time.  A hearty stew is just the ticket when you’re cold and bedraggled, whereas a super-food salad is much more befitting for a balmy Mediterranean eve.

Don’t even get me started on the ‘is it too early to put the heating on?’ debate.  As I work from home a lot, I threw caution to the wind a fortnight ago and took the thermostatic plunge…only to return home the next day to an uncomfortably furnace-like house and the kids running around topless in the pleasantly warm garden.  I just can’t seem to get it right on any front.

And my phone’s no use.  I constantly refer to it for weather hints and tips but Apple are clearly using someone even less in-the-know than I to inform their weather app. Check it in the morning and it says one thing, then two hours later (once you’ve set about starting your day) it’s completely contradicting itself… presumably after looking out of the window and realising how wrong its initial finger in the air prediction really was. Utter shambles springs to mind.

So, what about you RumbleChatters?  Are you struggling like me or can you give me some tips on climate management for beginners?

Back in the day, Word of Mouth Marketing was the rarely achieved panacea, the elusive holy grail of the broadcast marketer.

These days it’s become our bread and butter.  Word of Mouth Marketing (or WOMM for short) is the cornerstone of brand success in our digital age. And from the girded loins of WOMM has sprung the latest favoured child, Social Commerce.

With modern consumers imbibing WOMM as an essential part of their decision making processes,  Social Commerce has become the key to future success.

In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg said “If I had to guess, social commerce is next to blow up”.  He wasn’t wrong.  With 74% of consumers now relying on social networks to inform their purchasing decisions, no modern day brand can afford to ignore this latest concept.

Social commerce is defined as a subset of electronic commerce that involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction, and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services. In a nutshell, selling within social networks.

Social Commerce allows brands to sell where consumers spend their time.  To capitalise on this you need to make sure you’re there, at the coal face, engaging with your consumers, gaining insight and generally being a likeable, trustworthy all-round good guy.

While Social Commerce is very much in its infancy, with big online brands such as Amazon, American Apparel and Cafepress still at the toe-dipping stage of engagement, it is undoubtedly the shape of things to come. So if you haven’t already, you need to start thinking about it.

How to prepare? In short you’ve got to have a brand that wins on social media – see my previous blog for details of how to do just this.

Now as a marketer, I’d never advise you to put all your eggs in one basket. An integrated strategy is always the way to go.  No one channel can ever deliver business success in isolation. And there’s always a place for the old-school skills. If you’ve got sufficient budget, clever advertising is still a great way to achieve brand awareness, and get you on the radar of your target audience. When it comes to the transactional crunch, though, it’s WOMM that increases your conversion rates and closes deals. And with Social Commerce enabling brands to hold transaction-inspiring conversations quite literally at the point of purchase, you’d be a fool to ignore it.

The high street is dead (boo), long live SC

Taste.  Now that’s a word with many meanings. Whether it’s the sensation of flavour perceived in the mouth, a small portion, a person’s liking for something, or the ability to discern good quality or high aesthetic standard, the concept of ‘taste’ is something that permeates modern life.

The most obvious association is food, but it extends to many areas of a Rumblechatter’s life.  You can have good taste or bad taste. But I’m assuming that, by virtue of you reading this, you fall firmly into the former camp.

Food-wise, there is a scientific explanation as to our preferences. When food and drink are placed in the mouth, taste cells are activated and we perceive one of five flavours: sweet, salty, savoury, sour, and bitter.

Sweet and salty foods were originally nature’s way of rewarding us for eating something nourishing.  There are natural sugars and salts in fruits and vegetables and all carbohydrates are broken down by our bodies to produce sugars that provide the main fuel for bodily function. Natural salts play a necessary role in regulating the pressure of all bodily fluids. Obviously in this day and age, a packet of Walkers Salt and Vinegar followed by a slab of Dairy Milk don’t really offer the same nutritional value, but still, it’s good to understand the origin of our (my?) comfort food cravings.

The taste of savouriness is derived from the natural protein component of foods like meat, cheese and mushrooms.  The main function of protein in the body is to build and repair cells and tissues – pretty essential, in anyone’s book.

Sour and bitter flavours work in the opposite way. Originally they alerted us to foods that might be toxic or harmful to us. Sour foods tend to only be good for us in small amounts. Take for example, the humble lemon. Whilst it has many beneficial attributes, such as antibacterial, antiseptic and supporting liver function, you couldn’t eat a whole one now could you? Bitter foods are ones that may be toxic, and so our taste buds (and dour, lemon-sucking faces) warn us immediately.

Vegetables, although very healthy, do have a component of bitterness to them. This is thought to be from a cunning kind of bitterness camouflage to delude predators into thinking said plant is toxic . Also, some of these bitter ‘toxins’ may actually be deadly to one animal species but another may have adapted to be able to digest these same ones.

Human beings developed innate taste preferences in prehistoric times.  In constant danger of starving, humans developed instincts to shun the plentiful but bland vegetables in favour of the extremely rare, overly sweet, high-fat treats such as honey, grubs, or bone marrow fat, which would sustain them in a famine. Our love of The Great British Bake Off shows that we really haven’t evolved that much

When it comes to aesthetic taste, well that’s a whole different ball game, and one grounded in sociology, not science. Sociologically speaking, taste is an individual’s personal and cultural patterns of choice and preference. Taste is about drawing distinctions between things such as styles, manners, consumer goods, works of art etc. and relating to these.

Aesthetic preferences are predominantly influenced by education and social origin. Different socioeconomic groups are likely to have different tastes. Social class is one of the prominent factors structuring taste. This theory suggests our parents and childhood experiences have a profound influence over our mature aesthetic taste.

I can confess I’ve just bought a green Egg chair that has definite echoes of an orange one my parents had in the seventies. But that’s as far as the shared taste goes.  For me the influence seems to have been more about driving me to create something different.  I’m pretty sure my abhorrence of all things matchy-matchy (in fashion, soft furnishings, décor…in fact, in anything) stem from my mum’s obsessive love of the very same thing?

The other pertinent thing about taste is that everyone thinks they’ve got it.  Just as no-one holds their hands up to being a bad driver, so no-one confesses to having appalling taste.  Which is probably a good time for a confession…I’m actually a terrible driver.