Thursday, 26 February 2015

How to achieve true greatness

Title of Book:   How to achieve true greatness

Subtitle:  None

Author : Baldesar Castiglione 1478-1529

Publisher  Penguin Books * Great Ideas series

ISBN  9780-14102388-5

Genre:            Self help from the Renaissance – a conversation among courtiers on ideal courtier. The discussion of a 16th Century syndicate group!

 This booklet consists of extracts from the unabridged Book of the Courtier translated by George Bull. This edition works as a taster to the unabridged version.

Style:  Witty, wise and perceptive of the human condition.

Contents page:    Book 1  , Book 2.  !

This is rather misleading since the full version translated by George Bull  consists of the original four books.
This edited version is a depiction of the conversation over two evening rather the original four.  For example The end of this abridged version is taken from the ending of the fourth evening .

Index: No Index -  ( 5 pages double columns in the unabridged version)

Flick through eye appeal: No pictures, cartoons, diagrams, and tables.  Not sure this précis requires it though . It is only 93 pages.  

There a 10 sides of plain paper to make your own notes and reflections.

‘Time for a breather’ stops :   I would suggest take a break for reflection after each speaker

Golden Nuggets:   “ He should accompany his every act with a certain grace and fine judgement”

“ ..practise in all things a certain nonchalance which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless”
“We must consider the merit of good deeds in two principal things: to choose a truly virtuous end for our intentions and to know how to find convenient and suitable means for its containment”

Topic Summary:  “It is necessary to have a master who by his teaching and precepts stirs and awakens the moral virtues whose seed is and enclosed and buried in our souls”

War Stories:  There are some references to real war stories of these gentlemen at arms. Also good anecdotes that have timeless appeal.

Illustration: None

  “..everyone praises or condemns according to his own opinion, always camouflaging a vice under the name of a corresponding virtue, or a virtue of the corresponding vice. E.g. the presumptuous man will be called frank, a modest man, dull; a simple man good; a rascal, shrewd; and so on and so forth”  Count Lodovico da Canossa
Short Review:  This edition could be called Book-of-the-Courtier-lite . It's a great read.

From the LinkedIn profile to  HR penchant for Job Descriptions and Person Specification the attributes, skills and knowledge of job roles can be listed in a group exercise in a training course. 

  However in this little book of wisdom, the extended conversation of the pros and cons , the various nuanced qualities that make for a successful courtier.( or a modern sales professional, account manager, business developer ) are an entertaining read. They give you time to consider the balance required.

Agenda Item:  Courts of power still exist today. 

They are the boardrooms, the Corporate HQs. Even in our era of the Industrial Internet of Things the art of the modern courtier can be enhanced through reading  Castiglione’s classic.

Should wish to go straight to the full original:

The Book of the Courtier by Baldesar Castiglione is published by Penguin Classics  ISBN 978-0-14-044192-5

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Selling schemes by Thomas Cromwell #WolfHall, and Baldezar Castiglione for courtly conduct in our digital age

Actor Mark Rylance’s performance as the politically astute Thomas Cromwell has been much admired. His role depicts the  perilous rise  of Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. 

After establishing himself in London's legal and mercantile world, he went on to gain a seat in the House of Commons as MP for Taunton and to serve in the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was himself a formidable politician, statesman and diplomat.

 2.9 million viewers tuned in to BBC 2 to watch the six part costume dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.  I have do some surfing level research into Thomas Cromwell that I think will interest the community of Sales professionals - modern day business courtiers.   

Thomas Cromwell's Dad was a salesman

Born to a working-class family of no position or name.  Thomas Cromwell was born around 1485 in Putney, London, as the son of Walter Cromwell, a blacksmith, fuller and cloth merchant, and owner of both a hostelry and a brewery.

As a youth, he left his family in Putney and crossed the Channel to the continent.

 There are various accounts of his activities in France, Italy and the Low Countries .

 It is alleged that he first became a mercenary and marched with the French army to Italy, where he fought in the battle of Garigliano on 28 December 1503.

While in Italy, he entered service in the household of the Florentine banker Francesco Frescobaldi.

Thomas Cromwell -National Portrait Gallery, London
Networker par excellence and mixed among salespeople

Later, he visited leading mercantile centres in the Low Countries, living among the English merchants and developing a network of contacts while learning several languages.

 He returned to Italy.

The records of the English Hospital in Rome showed that he stayed there in June 1514.

 Documents in the Vatican Archives suggest that he was an agent for the Archbishop of York, Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge, and handled English ecclesiastical issues before the Roman Rota.

Cromwell rose to become the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to the King. He survived Wolsey's fall from grace to eventually take his place as the most powerful of Henry's ministers.  

Cromwell declared to Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer that he had been a "ruffian ... in his young days".

As viewers of the TV drama, we realise that many of the behaviours in royal courts and the intrigues of Tudor England are still to be recognised today.

The machinations of court life continue in our corporate world and the era of the Industrial Internet of things.

Corporate HQ are the equivalent to the palaces of Tudor times

We have few royal or ducal courts nowadays but their ‘descendants’ are  some business  HQs which have taken on the appearance of powerful courts of the past .

 Princedoms with their castles to house their entourage. 

The design of the Peterborough Pearl  Assurance Castle, the Doge palace of the Edinburgh HQ of RBS. Image links below

Courtyards of the Big Banks of the City of London tend to be a covered atrium now but vast spaces designed to impress and possibly impose or intimidate  the visiting business courtiers of today.

Volumes of empty space convey corporate wealth and stability.

In the world of TV depicted world of  business  TV shows, people pay court to the dukes and duchesses of the Dragons Den . 

Apprentices court the favour of Lord Sugar in front of his throne like chair in the frosted glass boardroom.

How to achieve true greatness
The ‘schmoozing’ as Lord Sugar refers to it, by the young apprentices ,is as recognisable as the flattery and sycophancy of renaissance courtiers.

Courts require codes of behaviour,  rules of etiquette a. 

Book of etiquette get written for our new age. Such an example would be DeBretts Etiquette for the Digital Age.

Human Nature has not change much though. 

So it is useful to seek out past wisdoms to mix with the modern fads we must learn.

‘How to achieve true greatness’ No 29 in the Penguin Books mini series * Great Ideas is worth reading. 

The unabridged version
It is an abridged version of  Baldesar Castiglione’s "Book of the Courtier."

 Despite being a guide written for 16th Century Italian gentleman, its observations into human conduct and the arts and crafts of success within a ducal court is fascinating.

 It is written as a discussion over two evenings between courtiers  on the ideal virtues of a Renaissance courtier. 

Yet  it covers the attributes , skills and knowledge covered in today’s HR requirements for job description and personal profile.

It could even give inspiration to better written profiles of Linked in.

 Castiglione sets out values that continue to offer clarification in questions of leadership espousing such qualities of prudence, courage, loyalty, affability and style which still hold court for today’s  sales professional.

It even covers extra mural activities some may wish to covering their CVs.

It also suggests time honoured advice in the best way to gain influence in power.

Who knows , maybe Thomas Cromwell could have saved his head in 1540 if he had kept to its  precepts ! The first English edition was published in 1561

Related Links

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

London Fashion Week Feb 2015

"If it's a good idea, why wouldn't you make 2,000 of them? I don't get up in the morning and think about making clothes for only two people. I'm interested in actually having an influence." Jasper Conran

When we get up in the morning and decide what to wear, we're making a conscious fashion decision, whether we realise it or not. We are influenced by fashion.

We might prefer to imagine that we are the agents of our own sartorial free will.

Yet, for many of us, it is undeniable that how we choose to dress ourselves each morning is the result of countless hours of trend forecasters, industry analysis and designer innovation that has trickled down from the catwalk to the High Street.

London Fashion Week February 2015

Originally the site of a Tudor palace, Somerset House was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776, and was further extended with Victorian wings to the north and south.
Twice a year, London's grand neoclassical setting off the Strand, attracts a host of fashion designers and their models dressed in their best glad rags.

The courtyard becomes the centre of London Fashion Week - a far cry from the building's  past as home to the Inland Revenue!

Spectacular Specs!
This year was the event's 61st year

More than 250 designers showcased their collections for autumn and winter to a global audience.

The fashion sector plays a significant role in the UK economy - it generates £26bn for the UK each year, rakes in £10.7bn from consumers and supports almost 800,000 jobs.

Sales of  c. £100m are placed in the five days.

London Fashion Week is a crucial element in this, as orders of approximately £100m are placed during the five days - and the shows are watched on line by audiences in 190 countries worldwide.

It's the showcase of the very best of British businesses to an international audience
Filter-down trends

The spectacular clothes worn by models on the catwalk can appear impractical, unaffordable and sometimes ridiculous. So will they really affect what we wear, come this September?

Traditionally, the idea has been that the clothes and styles adopted by the richest in society eventually filter through and influence the rest of us.

Street fashion

Purposeful stride with style
Since the social upheavals of the 1960s, an opposite process has evolved, whereby designers have been increasingly inspired by the clothes people wear on the streets.

So although the trickle-down progression might not be as clear-cut as it once was - when designers dictated the trends and people dutifully followed - it is still in evidence today.


The High Street is very much influenced by what they see at London Fashion Week it seems

 The eyes and ears out for all the apparel brands in the FTSE 500 during the week

Internet  acts as a catalyst

Classy  faux fur
We may not wear the exact look that we see coming down the runway on a model, but we will pick up little things. 

There's always something reflected in the High Street that comes through from London Fashion Week.

The Internet acts as a catalyst to speed up the process and democratise fashion even further.
Collections that were once viewed only by the ticketed few appear on line later the same day and on social media, instantaneously.
The transition from Catwalk to High Street
As everyone can now see what is being shown, this has meant that the procedure of translating catwalk designs to the High Street has  accelerated.
Back in the day, it could take six months to a year for runway trends to hit the High Street. Now it can be as short as three weeks. ( maybe even a day  see * Knyttan)

Carrying literature, equipment and products
 over the neoclassical cobbles is perilous!
Models herald their entrance to Somerset Square
with the clatter of wheeled suitcases
over the cobbled entrance for
 London Fashion Week February 2015
Related links

*Knyttan      One stop shop design pop up

Sunday, 22 February 2015

#OSCAR winning Selling by #Facebook with their Poster campaign coordinating the power of visual

"As a filmmaker, I wish we didn't have to do trailers at all, quite honestly. I wish we didn't have to do posters. I wish didn't have to give anything away. I wish people could just come in the movie blind. But as an audience member, I respect that you have to tell an audience that this is worth your time."
                                                              Drew Goddard

As  the Hollywood Oscars for 2015 are celebrated, it reminds me of another awards competition for posters , hoardings etc. that used to be held.

The event was promoted by OSCAR  Outside Site Classification and Awards Research.

The Outdoor Media Industry can teach we in selling a lot about designs for our Pop Up stand, posters and  leaflets etc  which we use to promote our offering albeit in our smaller scaled manner

 Back in the day, 1987 the UK  Outdoor Media industry launched OSCAR –

 It was felt that audience claims for posters and hoardings  were overstated and a more objective set of measures was required.

OSCAR involved noting the physical characteristics of all the poster displayed across the country through a comprehensive survey.

 Data collected included :-
·         the direction a panel faced,
·         its height,
·         distance from the road etc.

The number of people passing by a panel could then be ‘netted down’ according to these factors, introducing  better accuracy into audience counts. Eyeballs were countered rather differently to our social media clicks of today.

Coverage and frequency estimates that resulted were lowered

 – 1,000 roadside posters were now predicted to reach about 45% instead of the previous rough and ready guesstimate of 85% 'rule of thumb'. Most in the business considered the estimates to be far more realistic than before.

Traditional Large poster site
I am not sure OSCAR still exists but  if it does, but if I was on the panel of judges my nomination this month would be the blitz campaign of Facebook February 2015.  

They have kept it simple. 

Few words, a logo and a Photo and a   like-tick in the box.

Keep it simple salespeople KISS

Less of a kiss perhaps,more a knock-out combination of advert punches I’d say

What makes for good poster design ?

The poster design needs to convey the message  yet at the same time appeal to the aesthetic tastes of your audience.

Behind a good poster should be a message or idea.

The Imax 3D Cinema on the Southbank of Thames
It must communicate something and should reach everyone.

The design should be consistent with the details

At night on the Imax
The same font should be used for the titles of all the series for consistency.

The core skill is learning how to balance a composition, and looking at how the viewer's eye will see it.

Balancing the font  type and images is essential as you want people to notice the image.

In a nutshell it must be readable, legible, well-organised and succinct.

When creating an effective poster it is very important to remember that less is more

Video Clip below :The huge screen over the platform entrances at London's Waterloo mainline railway station - the facebook campaign movie !

Display at Waterloo station
1. Try not to clutter your poster and make it look to busy. 

2.  Keep the writing as short and to the point as possible 

3.  Choose a simple colour scheme and stick to it 

4.  Do not overpower the poster with graphics and tables etc.

With this Facebook campaign you sense they tested everything that they used, tried out different font styles and sizes and ask for other people’s opinion.

Lessons for we in selling with our smaller scale posters, leaflets and flyers in selling.

When you have decided what information and graphics you want to use, print them out, cut them out and lay on to the poster sized template, so you can move them around until you think it looks right.

This way you can see what it will look like when finished, and not just up on your computer screen.

Illuminated sites along the Cromwell Road - the Great West Road.
 Repeated along both sides the length of the road
And of course




Illuminated sites along the busy Cromwell Road - the Great West Road
Links and Further Reading

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Plane selling Selling from the floor ,Pitching from the Pavement Plane . Gillette Flexball on parade

Evolution ever continues ever a pace.

Have you have noticed this particular change in Homo Erectus Londinium?

The I-phone / smart phone addiction is causing a change in the physical  deportment of 2015 Londoners.

Heads are more often than not now are set in a downward orientation.

Advertisers have cottoned onto this and have taken to placing advertisement on the pavements particularly in heavy traffic areas such as the atrium at Waterloo main line station. 

Take a look at the ad campaign from P and G's  Gillette campaign for their new Fusion Proglide Flexball razor.
1. The cyclist is checking his smart phone ,
 but in his peripheral vision
he must pick up the Gillette advert
2. Doddle and Gillette compete for floor space

3. Should you head be tilted upwards -
e.g. to look at the arrivals or departures boards,
 the huge banners will attract your attention

4. Need to pop in to Boots Pharmacy? ( Drugstore)
Gillette have created a grand entrance arch flanked by cardboard guards
 to greet you as you enter the store on for the branch at Waterloo Station

5. POS  Point-of-Sale -like sentry guards
 along the entrance walls
to the Boots store at Waterloo Station.
Standing to attention Gillette's cardboard sentry guards
from the Clean cut 'Flexball' Regiment.

Related links

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The soft-sell of merino wool Pop In to Pop Up Knyttan style

Great designs by Knyttan
As we approach the razzmatazz of  London Fashion Week in February 2015 what will this season's big new thing be? 

Should you be visiting the show tent set in the court of Somerset Square ,you might like  afterwards  to pop-in to a pop-up shop in the newly refurbished new wing of the square. Knyttan.

Back in the day long before the industrial revolution , before  Richard Arkwright’s spinning jenny indeed  even before medieval golden days of England’s wool trade, the Flanders cloth trade and the dyers of Lincoln Green and Lincoln  Red, making wool garments were a local cottage industry. 

In a sense the Industrial Internet of things has brought us full circle back to the 'one stop shop'.

 Knyttan was the old English word for knitting. There was a time when each and every garment was different.

Now in the era of the Industrial Internet of things there is a sector of the fashion industry that has re-invented the one stop shop.

Display of Knyttan knitwear
Knyttan  knitwear give a voice to their customer in what they make. They engage their customer through a personalised contribution to the design pattern of your jumpers, scarves, neck ties, and socks. In effect an ‘infinite collection.

The selling role is one of listening to the customer and guiding them through the design process if they need it.

 The seller must be diplomatic, consultative and a professional conversationalist.

Knyttan make everything to order on the premises . Their customer can either pick from designs by famous artists or create their own using Knyttan’s revolutionary design system.

The customer’s choice is then made for them on their own industrial machines.

Knyttan's Simple
3 step process to a bespoke garment
1.Swatches and tablet where customers can
create their own design patterns
2. Computerised Stoll Knitting machine
 see video clips below

3. Louise from Marseilles with her own design scarf
Knyttan Unique design scarves
Small , Medium and Large
Knyttan Neck ties

Three sizes available small , medium and large

Three short video clips of the knitting machine at work "printing" out a customer's design of scarf

Related Links

Monday, 16 February 2015

Stretch Selling the Shrovetide Season #Jif Lemon #Ferrero and all that Mardi Gras business

"Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. Most things are judged by their jackets." Baltasar Gracian 1601-1658

No sooner have the Retail and Horeca  sectors (Hotels, Restaurants and Catering) enjoyed the lift in sales of  Valentine season, this year we move straight into the period of Shrovetide thanks to the vagaries of lunar timetables.

Squeezing  a season for every last drop helps leverage further sales.

Despite there being over six years to go until Easter some of the Supermarket shelves are loaded up with chocolate Easter eggs.

The next mini retail event is Pancake Day.

It’s day that provides a spike in sales of a design classic the plastic  Jif lemon. Fat Tuesday ( Mardi Gras) offers a boon for the batter mixes,  eggs and flour, the various toppings nowadays and for traditionalists lemon juice and sugar.

It’s a day when for once , ‘buying a lemon’ has a positive  nuance.

Creative packaging can become as much the ‘product’ as the product itself. So it is in the case of the story behind the Jif lemon.

Design classic Jif lemons
The plastic lemon container and the idea of selling lemon juice in this way was dreamy up by Stanley Wagner, a former RAF fighter pilot.

 His plastic lemon was made by a company in the telephone business, Shipton
 Over the course of a ten-month period from mid-1955 to early 1956 more than six million of these lemons were sold, initially under the brand name "Realemon" and then after an objection by the then Board of Trade the name was changed to "ReaLem" and marketed with the slogan "juice in a jiffy".

Reckitt and Colman approached Stanley Wagner to buy the business and after a very long negotiation a deal was concluded. A letter from Barclays Bank dated 21 June 1956 reads " Dear Mr Wagner, I have pleasure in enclosing two copies of the Draft for £......... credited to your account, which the Bank will be pleased if you will accept as a souvenir of this most successful transaction.

Conventional packaging of lemon juice had been ( and still remains) in little glass bottles.
Now part of  Unilever  the plastic Jif lemon  is still going strong. The design offer a unique differentiation.

Some might remember the TV ad classic “ Don’t forget the pancake on Jif lemon juice day”

The pancake toppings sector continues to grow. This year Nutella, the chocolate hazel nut spread, are running pancake day campaign.

 Sadly the founder of the business Ferrero died this Valentine’s day 2015. Billionaire Michele Ferrero, whose global chocolate empire made him Italy's richest man, he was aged 89.

Like Jif’s Stanley Wagner, Ferrero knew the importance of packaging a product to help differentiate it from the competition. Whether its the gold foil wrapped ‘ambassador’s choice’ of chocolates Ferrero Rocher , the individually wrapped Raffaello, the handily packaged Tic Tac mints  or Kinder Eggs, the packaging sells and differentiates the product. 

In the lead-up to Pancake Day on Tuesday, 17th February 2015 , Nutella has launched a £1.4m integrated campaign.

Carrying the strapline of ‘Pancakes love Nutella’, the activity will kick off at the start of February and will feature a standalone Pancake Day TV ad which will show families enjoying the occasion, plus nationwide out of home advertising, radio, digital, social media and breakthrough in-store display solutions

And the future ?

Maybe the Ferrero business or their creative agents might dream a plastic giant hazelnut to squeeze  or a plastic cute squirrel ( “Squirt Simon-the-squirrel on pancake day” ) containing the chocolate spread. Perhaps the offering will include an ecologically responsible 5p donation to the Red Squirrel reintroduction project on Mersea Island.

For sure ,packaging and product development will go on a pace whatever.

A  syndrome that Balthazar Gracian would have recognised back in 15th   Century Spain.

Don't forget the Fry Light this pancake night

Sampling at Waterloo Station Morning on Pancake Day 2015

Sampling at Waterloo Station 8 pm on Pancake Day

Related Links

Where does marketing end and selling begin ?

Links  to other Marketing and Selling wisdom from Balthazar Gracian