So, it is that time of the year and I was rummaging on the Tesco website for some Christmas feasting ideas. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of eating jollof rice and fried rice at Christmas. The birthday of my Lord and Saviour is too important for such trite fare. Oyinbo people know how to throw a proper Christmas feast. And they are precisely the folks I’ll be looking to for inspiration. So, to ‘Every little helps.’
Dudes and dudettes of Nigeriana, hearken to my voice! I see flashing clouds and hear the rumbling of thunder. Signs of new rain. And my nostrils doth pick up the sweet scent of dainty flowers sprouting all over the land. What wondrous change afoot!
But we must be careful not to pluck the flowers to make zobo.
What is it about a hairstyle, torn jeans and youth that makes a dude delinquent, a crook or a con?
I’ll tell you what it is. It is because we distrust people who are different from us. People who don’t dress as we do, talk like we do or incline their ears to our wisdom.
It is not a problem only the Nigerian Police has. It is a problem of the Nigerian society. Sometimes it is subtle. Sometimes it spits in your face and insults your father. I’ll share three personal stories.
“What is called Western Civilization is in an advanced state of decomposition, and another Dark Ages will soon be upon us, if, indeed, it has not already begun. With the Media, especially television, governing all our lives, as they indubitably do, it is easily imaginable that this might happen without our noticing…by accustoming us to the gradual deterioration of our values.” – Malcolm Muggeridge
Watch African American stand-up comedy for only a few minutes and you’ll realise it’s not what you watch with kids around. There is no two-minute period without the copious use of expletives. Communication is impossible in that genre without profanity.
Now, I don’t have a brittle spirit. Nor am I pharisaical. I just hate having to explain what ‘coochie’ is to a 10-year-old. I assure you it is no laughing matter.
How many times have you been told “you can be anything you want to be”? Or that “if you can dream it, you can be it”? You may have told someone too. Well, allow me to burst your bubble; you can’t be anything you want to be.
You can only be anything you’ve got the talent to be.
Let me explain.
Here I am again thinking about an iPhone. The iPhone 12. I thought I was off that Apple grass. My last iPhone was the 6S. I used it till mid-2018 when I switched to the Samsung S9. Not too shabby, the S9. Good form and function. It’s my only phone at the moment.
But I didn’t switch to the S9 because I love Samsung phones. I switched because I was trying to prove to myself that I can stop being an iSheep.
Sometime in early 2017, I told myself I was capable of not lapping up every grass from the Apple stable. Why? Because an apple screwed up the universe, that’s why. We would still be in Eden kissing king cobras and swimming backstrokes with crocs if not for an apple. But here I am again thinking of inviting Apple to have another rummage in my pockets.
I have never not been an iFaithful. I’ve owned every iPhone from the first one to the 6S. I’ve owned four MacBooks, bought three iPads, and have an Apple Watch and Apple Pencil 2. Back in 2007, I even subscribed to the now-perished MobileMe, the precursor to the iCloud. I loved Apple. Loved Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. I was in London when news of Steve’s death broke. I joined hundreds of Apple fans to leave bitten apples in front of the Apple store on Regent Street.
But it’s a love-hate relationship. I love the company but hate that it had an irresistible pull on me.
When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, I swore to my wife and friends that it was a pointless product. “I’ve got an iPhone and a Macbook”, said I. “What do I need the iPad for?”
I have bought three iPads since those days of ignorance.
Similarly, when Apple introduced the Apple Watch, I knew it was not a device for me. A fitness watch? No, thank you. I run a hundred meters in ten minutes without breaking a sweat. Why would I need a $400-watch to tell me I have an irregular heartbeat? My bank balance does that just fine.
That you can now spot an Apple Watch Series 4 on my wrist is a befuddling mystery. I woke up one morning and found the watch on my wrist. A most paranormal activity. We are in the end times, people.
But I am determined to have some shame. The degree of the common sense of a bloke is directly proportional to the age of the bloke. The older I become, the more I realize that it is infantile to change your phone or gadgets every other year. Mr. Dell does not change his personal laptop every year, does he? If he did, he won’t be, er, Mr. Dell, would he?
So, how did I start thinking about the iPhone again?
It all began the way most great bankruptcy stories begin: with a woman.
It was the missus’ birthday. She would love a new phone. One of her two phones was evidently made in hell. She claims to see gremlins come out of it. So, I decided to get her the iPhone 11 Pro. Go big or go home.
She liked the gift. She asked me to do the honours and set it up for her.
It was a big mistake.
The moment I held the phone, I knew, Houston, we have a problem.
The sleekness. The feel in the hand. The ease of use and intuitive UI.
The memories came flooding back. Of what I had loved. Of what I am now missing.
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”
The lust of the eye.
Folks, let me remind you of the advice from my big bro Paulo: flee from all appearances of evil!
Not strut. Not jog.
Scram. Scat. Skedaddle.
Don’t stop to chit chat with a snake. I mean, it’s a snake, not your boyfriend.
Well yea, I know I am being actorly. A phone is hardly the delectable Mrs. Bathsheba or foxy Mrs. Potiphar. But Apple and I have a history. It’s complicated. One side gives. The other side takes.
It’s not working, Tim. Can’t we just be friends?
When I held the missus’s 11 Pro, I suddenly realized I have had the S9 for two looong years. Could have been eons. And is that a crack I see on the screen? Only a small crack you say? Nonsense. There’s no such thing as an innocent baby viper. It’ll grow big and spread venom.
That’s it. The universe has spoken. I’m changing my phone!
And what better phone than the upcoming iPhone 12 Pro. It’s absolute bee’s knees. Radical new design. Stainless steel. Bezel-less. 5G antenna. Midnight blue. Awesome iPhoneography.
Shut up and take my money, Tim!
Sorry, what was that? Learn wisdom from the ant? What ant? Ant Man? That dude is a loser. Sneaked into The Avengers via a backdoor.
The lesson for you, my good folks, is that just because you have the power to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. For with great power comes great electricity bill.
You say, “ I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
I have offed my mic now.
There are those who swear that the greatest human invention is writing.
That is nonsense.
It is tobacco.
So I believed when I smoked.
I’ve been clean nine years now. But I smoked for seventeen years before quitting. I know that is scarcely deserving of any recognition considering a friend’s grandpa smoked till his nineties. He died on his bed with a big smile on his face and a half-smoked cigarette by his side. He was our hero.
I smoked at least five cigarettes every day of those seventeen years. Between 2006 and 2011, I smoked at least twenty cigarettes a day. A result of rising income and common sense; it was cheaper to buy packs than sticks. And as every smoker knows, the more cigarette you have on you, the more you smoke.
My lungs — brave things — were the worse for wear. A medical check I did at the height of my powers reported I had the lungs of a seventy-year-old. I was in my mid-thirties.
Hmm. Lungs of a seventy-year-old. That must explain why I was full of wisdom for my age.
The worst times of my life were when I had to get on a plane for more than one hour. Six hours on a plane without a cigarette was a torturous experience. It is next to waterboarding. I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty.
So, I developed a love for lay-over flights. I have been known to fly from Lagos to London through Schiphol rather than fly directly to Heathrow. So I could stop over and smoke.
You might well sneer: “But it takes roughly the same hours to fly from Lagos to London as it does Lagos to Amsterdam Schiphol. What’s the logic?”
You simple creatures!
Yes, it does take about the same amount of time. But waiting at passport control takes anywhere between forty to fifty agonising minutes. Emphasis on “agonising”. For your education, it takes five minutes of oxygen deprivation for the human brain to die. I assert that it takes the same amount of time for a chain-smoker’s brain to die without nicotine. It’s only by a colossal miracle that said smoker’s brain is still alive six hours after such lengthy privation. So, I never push my luck. Every minute snatched from privation is an extra minute to live.
By the way, Heathrow is the worst airport ever built. No place to smoke until you leave the terminal building. Thoughtless piece of architecture. Bless your hearts Schiphol, Changi and DXB!
Next to being stranded on a plane without nicotine is waking up in the middle of the night to no cigarette. Situations like that makes people do crazy things.
On one such occasion, I’d got up from bed beside the missus. It was about three in the morning. I needed to smoke. But I had no cigarette in the house. So I got into the car and drove out of the house. 24-hour stores in Lagos were and are still non-existent. Except for a few mallams — lone, owner-run, informal and tiny retail shops that dot the city.
I found one of these mallams open. Different strands of humanity milled around the stall smoking cigarette and cigarette’s elder brother (if you expect me to spell out cigarette’s elder brother as marijuana, you must take me for a snitch).
But there is a camaraderie among smokers that only robbers share. It doesn’t matter if you know the person or not. Once you light a cigarette, trust and solidarity ensues. I and my strange bed-fellows nodded acknowledgment of one another’s presence. We smoked in silence and understanding.
I returned home with my spirit in high spirits.
My beauteous wife, of course, hated that I smoked. I reminded her that love conquers all. Once she resorted to threats and vowed there would be no kissing me anytime I smoked. If I smoked and wanted a kiss, I’d have to brush my teeth first.
What? Didn’t dentists say we only need to brush twice a day? Besides, we’d be spending too much money on toothpaste!
Then one evening.
We were curled up against each other on the sofa watching Father of The Bride. The movie got to the part where Steve Martin handed over his daughter to her heartthrob. It was an emotional affair. My wife casually said:
“You know, if you continue smoking, you may not be around to give Nimi (our daughter) away on her wedding day.”
In those seconds, I teleported to my daughter’s wedding day. Some guy was walking her down the aisle. He was not me. He was more handsome. Richer too. And everybody seemed to like him. He handed my daughter over to the love of her life. My daughter mouthed ‘I love you, dad’. The bloke returned to sit beside my wife. He kissed her on the lips. My picture was nowhere in sight.
I gave up smoking a few months later. On my daughter’s first birthday.
The right message.
The right moment.
Lessons for advertising creatives, planners and media buyers.
Many marketing campaigns are vanilla because they lack a deep penetrating insight. An understanding of motivations. The desire to create iconic campaigns should be first a desire to ferret a piercing truth. It’s painstaking and grunt work. But it has a solid gold payoff.
I’d seen loads of gruesome tobacco ads. They were water of a duck’s back. In my part of the world, with regards to death, you’d usually hear hedonists say “something is always going to get you”. In my case I was content for that something to be tobacco.
But my wife discovered what turned my crank. She knew I loved my daughter. Knew I’d want the best for her and be there at the important moments in her life. She tapped into it. It triggered a flow of emotion. She got the desired result.
Motivations and insights are often understated and creative work overstated. We glory more in the the craft and cleverness of the creative execution. Those elements are obviously just as important as the insight. But what is the beauty of the Aventador if the engine is a Kia?
No disrespect, Kia. Just that, you know, you are Kia.
Oh, have I told you how I also quit drinking?
Derek Chauvin is likely the most popular cop in the world. He will consider himself unlucky. He was not the first white cop to kill an unarmed black man. Yet his name is the one on everyone’s lips. The reason why the country is ablaze. He will curse Gregory and Travis McMichael for killing Ahmaud Arbery. He will swear at Amy Cooper for lying and threatening to call the cops on an innocent black man. He will curse the Corona virus that has everyone strung out and killed more African Americans than any other ethnic group. These four incidences formed a perfect storm that conspired to ruin his life. You could feel some sympathy for the man. No one man deserves to be hated by all the black people in the world.
“Psst…have you heard? 5G tech caused Covid-19! It’s a ploy by the New World Order to get us chipped. Remember 666? The mark of the beast? That’s the end game!”
“Psst…the 2004 tsunami was caused by a secret underwater nuclear test by India. US and Israel scientists were involved.
“Psst…Diana was killed by the MI6 on instruction of Her Majesty so Diana won’t have an Arab child for Dodi Fayed. Imagine Williams and Harry having an Arab sibling!
“Psst…Malaysia flight MH370 was shot down over the Indian Ocean to prevent top secret information exchanging hands. There was a spy onboard carrying sensitive information.”
How I enjoy a good conspiracy theory!
Lust of the eye. Pride of life. Instant gratification. A marketer’s best friend. We love that you have them. We tell you it’s OK to have them. To sate them. After all, you only live once. Humans have had those predispositions since Mrs Adams bit on that fruit. I imagine how the serpent hustled her.
Serpent: Yo sweetness, let me holla at you real quick.
Eve: I don’t know you!
Serpent: But I know you. You are smart and the finest chick on the planet. But you aren’t all you can be. You haven’t been getting all you deserve.
Eve: How’s that?
Serpent: Look, you and Adam are the first bae and boo on the planet. The very first. That’s a very important position.
Eve: I’m listening…
Serpent: But what do you have to show for it? Eating mangoes and cuddling tarantulas all day.
Eve: I love tarantulas. They are cute.
Serpent (exasperated): That’s the point. You need to wake up! You might think the Old Man has entrusted a lot to you. That he’s given you authority and power over all this place. But he’s keeping the most important thing from you.
Eve: What’s that?
Serpent: Information. Knowledge. Knowing what’s up. That’s why he told you not to eat that fruit because he knows that when you do, you’ll be just like him. Gods in your own right. Master of your fate and captain of your soul.
Serpent: And personally, I think you guys will make really cool gods. You rock. You are the mom and pop of all humanity.
Eve: Mom and pop of all creation. That’s what’s up!
Serpent: Yea, sweetheart. That’s what’s up. So, you just go over to that tree and have yourself a snack.Be as wise as God.
Eve: WOW! Thanks, Serp! Yo, Damzi! Where you at? Let me holla at you real quick…
You get the point.
If we don’t have affectations, there won’t be luxury goods.
I recently bought the LG C9 OLED TV. It’s absolute bee’s knees. If you died and wanted your life played back, you’d want it played back on the C9. Glorious picture. Especially with 4K and 1080 content. It was voted the best TV of 2019 by almost all the gadget review websites.
But here’s the rub; 90% of the content I’ll watch on it are in Standard Definition or 720p. DVD quality. That’s what most of DSTV’s content are broadcast in. They’ve got some HD or ‘1080p’ channels but these are few. But no 4K content whatsoever. Yet I bought an expensive 4K ‘UHD’ TV. True, I’ve got some 4K content on Apple TV and on Netflix and have a slew of Blu ray discs. But did I really need an expensive 4K TV knowing it will be underutilized?
Features and aesthetics aside, I bought the C9 because I loved the way it made me feel. I feel discerning when I reel off what it can do to my mates.
It’s not about what you make. It’s about what you make people feel.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart of advertising and brand touchpoints. Stimulate interest and desire. Encourage instant gratification.
On a recent visit to the US, a friend asked for my help in picking a ‘designer’ shoe for some government guy in Lagos he was prospecting for contracts. The chap was on the up and up. Someone to court. It was important for my friend not to come across as a cheapskate. So he was going to buy the guy a really nice shoe. Nothing over the top but something nice and with a name. I would help in delivering the shoes in Lagos.
So we hit an outlet mall. Wandered from store to store. We went into the Hugo Boss store. I instantly saw something I liked. A chocolate leather sneakers. Chic but simple. It oozed class. $300. And that was with 25% off.
I’m no seven-dollar-gary. I like good stuff. But pony up $375 for a pair of sneakers? What am I, Kanye?
My homeboy decided the fella was worth it. And the price was within budget. As I was the same shoe size as the guy, I tried the sneakers on to get the size right. Jeez, it felt nice. Maybe I am Kanye after all.
I came back to Lagos with the shoes. I would find time to go deliver to the chap.
A few days later, on my birthday, my wife came into the room and presented the shoes to me as my birthday present. It didn’t sink in. I’d just woken up. I looked at the shoe. Then looked at her. Then looked at the shoe again. Then looked at her. She had a conniving and sly smile on her face. Then slowly it sank. I’d come home with my own birthday present! Picked by no other person but me!
After God, fear women!
She’d reached out to my friend while I was out on the city. She’d got his cell number from another friend. Told him she wanted to buy me a nice shoe for my birthday. Said I was a sucker for big-name brands. She’d given a budget and wired the money. So they hatched the plan together.
My mind went back to the day. How my friend was always on the phone while we were in the stores. He was giving her updates. He’d been longer on the phone at the Boss store. He’d leave my side to make or receive calls. If she was spending $300 on a pair of sneakers, she needed to be sure I liked it. I was never the wiser.
In truth, I like big-name brands. They signify consistent quality, are better value on the long run and they minimize buying risk. You know what you get. But there’s a thin line between liking big brands for their perceived value and engaging in ‘conspicuous consumption’, or doting on Veblen goods.
Conspicuous consumption is the practice of spending money on luxury items and services to publicly display wealth. When you and your boys are “up in the club popping mo-weezy”, that’s conspicuous consumption. At a party when your head is swelling and you are spraying bales of mulla? That’s conspicuous consumption.
A fallout of conspicuous consumption is love for Veblen goods. Luxury goods and services whose demand increase as the price increase. In fact, if their price were to fall, their demand would taper off. That’s in obvious contradiction to the law of demand. With most sapiens like you and I, the higher the price, the faster we bolt. Not with Veblen goods. The fact that most people can’t afford them is their attraction. They are unashamedly status symbols. You know them; a Birkin handbag, a Patek Philippe watch, certain types of wines, diamonds, yachts.
By the way, do you know the top fashion houses burn or destroy unsold clothes in order to preserve their exclusivity? They can’t risk the unsold items making their way to the grey market and sold off at equity-destroying discounts. Burberry was at the center of such storm a few years back.
That is why advertising is incredibly powerful in influencing not only beliefs about a brand but also belief about yourself. Never underestimate advertising. It can be both a tool for good and bad. It’s why you need to, as we say, “shine your eye” or “borrow yourself brain.”
No one needs to affirm you. Your self-worth is not in what you have. It’s in who you are.
Oh, for goodness sake, here comes this retard talking about death in January! We’ve just danced, sang and wined into a new year and this Dufus has to remind everyone we’ll check into the wooden Waldorf one day. Idiot! I shall not die but live to testify of the goodness of the Lord!
Well, I can’t help myself, can I? It must be the harmattan. Besides, what type of friend will I be if I don’t remind you that you will expire one day? I hope that day is a thousand years away, when you are full of years, wizened and lost all appetite to curse me.