“And I Said, What About Breakfast at Spoons”

Forget hip co-working spaces.

When I want to get away from the home office for a change of scene, there’s only one place on my mind.

J D Wetherspoons.

Honestly, you should try it.

Once you’ve cleared the Brexit propaganda off the table and found the menu, it’s all good.

Reasonably priced breakfast (and booze if you’re that way inclined before 9am).

Plus, best of all for the tight-fisted freelancer – unlimited coffee refills.

Meaning you can eek out a whole morning for under a fiver.

Avoid the siren call of the fruit machine and you’ll have a productive couple of hours.

Trust me.

And in the last few years I’ve been doing this, not only have a met some ‘local characters’.

Shout out to Strongbow guy and angry Margaret.

But, I’ve also observed a trend pertinent to the self-employed.

The cheaper you are, the more people seem to expect.

Honestly, you should hear the demands that now accompany a breakfast order.

“I want this on the side”.

“Not too much sauce”.

“If my egg isn’t runny I’ll send it back”.

And so on.

It’s a £2.99 breakfast. At Spoons!

At that price, just be grateful that they bring it to you.

Except that’s not how people see it.

As far as they’re concerned, they’re the customer, and as such, are entitled to a bespoke dining experience akin to something you’d get at the Ritz.

Which would be fine, if they were paying those prices…

And you’ll find this in the world of freelancing.

Those clients who try to low ball you and quibble every penny.

Start working with them and you’ll encounter that same sense of entitlement.

They’ll have you running this way and that – all for an invoice that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

So, like the table on the mezzanine with the shouty hen do warming up for a day on the lash.

Avoid like the plague.



The False Prophecy of Bruno Martelli

In the early 80s, the UK went nuts for Fame, a TV show about the students of the New York City High School for the Performing Arts.

Wanting to live forever, learn how to fly (high), and light up the sky like a flame were:

Awkward singer Doris.

Heartthrob Leroy.

Comedian Danny.

All rounder Coco.

And sensitive musician Bruno Martelli.

I instantly liked Bruno, on account of his hair.

Much like mine, it was satisfyingly large and bouncy.

And while the others were leaping about clad in unitards, headbands and suchlike.

He was quietly ensconced in his music.

Plink plonking away on his keyboard.

You see, our Bruno was something of a Jean-Michel Jarre – an electronic pioneer, unconstrained by the shackles of the past.

And no one was going to tell him otherwise.

Certainly not his teacher, stuffy old Mr Shorofksy.

A stickler for tradition, this likeable fuddy-duddy would persevere though.

Trying, in vain, to instil some respect for classical music.

Not that our big haired hero was listening…

Bruno was so enamoured of technology, he maintained that in the future there wouldn’t even be instruments.

No violins. No pianos. No guitars. No nothing.

Why bother when you have keyboards was Bruno’s retort.

A bold statement in 1982, because we can see exactly how it panned out –

Invitation to the futurists’ guild rescinded…

So, where’s all this going?

Segue alert.

Well, I hear this kind of prediction in marketing all the time.

The old ways don’t matter. Not when the latest fad is this.

So, let’s throw the baby out with the bath water and jump on the latest bandwagon.


You see, as a copywriter, I’m skilled in an old school discipline.

But, here’s the rub.

Much like the keyboard player joined the band instead of replacing it.

We can all co-exist together, to make something bigger and better.

Marketing fundamentals plugged into exciting new channels and tech.

All together now:

You ain’t seen the best of me yet…






Throwback Sneakers, Retro Marketing

As a kid, I always wanted a pair of Adidas sneakers.

They were the best.

All of the top athletes had them.

And the rappers too.

But, despite my howls of protest, my mum would never give in and pay the premium for the brand with the three stripes.

As she would patiently explain.

I was neither a track star.

Nor part of a hip hop crew.

My concerns at being disadvantaged come sports day, and stuttering attempts to freestyle over hastily improvised beats, did little to persuade her otherwise.

“This pair will do just fine”.

But, those cheaper imitations on my feet just didn’t compare with the real deal.

I gazed longingly at shop windows and flicked through endless catalogues.

Lusting after Sambas, Gazelles, Munchen and Grand Prix.

And most of all Micropacers.

Released for the LA Olympics in ’84, when Carl Lewis announced himself to the world, they had an inbuilt computer chip to help you track your pace.

Like a fitbit on your feet, only 30 years ahead of its time.

C’mon, what kid could resist?

But, not even a tantrum or letter to Santa was ever gonna land me a pair.

The price tag was astronomical, way more than we could afford.

There was nothing for it.

I had to bide my time.

Become an adult.

And increase my disposable income exponentially.

Then buy every single old school reissue that Adidas ever put out.

Obsessed doesn’t even come close…

The thing about Adidas is their sneakers have a classic, timeless quality, that never seems to go out of style.

Plus, every time I wear my only pair of regular shoes, brogues, I feel like one of the Mr Men.

So, on a recent visit to the Adidas website, I was heartened to see a classic marketing tactic, that like their footwear, has stood the test of time.

And I ended up doing something I rarely do – subscribing to the mailing list.

I, Richard Phelps, a copywriter, supposedly on the inside track when it comes to marketing matters, willingly handed over my email address.


Because they offered me a FREE gift.

Not a discount or the vague promise of news and offers.

But, a FREE gift.

Flattered, excited and intrigued, I couldn’t input my deets fast enough.

And guess what?

They sent me a boring old discount code off my next order.

Hook, line and sinker.

But, like a classic pair of Adidas Superstars, it’s a throwback to another era, that still cuts the mustard today.

Remember, not everyone is ready right to buy right now, especially if you’re selling big ticket items.

So tease lurkers out of the online shadows by offering them something in exchange for their details.

Harvest those emails and communicate with your list every time you have something worthwhile to say.

All the while establishing trust and likeability until those folks are ready to buy.





Inside Area 51 –Secrets From the Marketing X-Files

Orbis Publications has a lot to answer for.

They put out this magazine when I was a kid – The Unexplained –  a fortnightly trawl through the usual paranormal hokum:

The Loch Ness Monster, hauntings, telepathy, spontaneous human combustion, Bigfoot, UFOs…

Of course it was a pile of baloney, but still, I was thankful the Men in Black never called at my door.

Every other Saturday the ritual was the same.

I’d rush home from the newsagents with my precious cargo, then spend hours devouring it.

Spooking myself silly in the process.

Although the articles about dowsing and dragons had to wait because I was obsessed by extra-terrestrials.

So much so.

Don’t laugh.

When I was a bit older, I joined a local UFO group.

Dan, the leader, was a ranting Catweazle type, all mad eyes and windmilling arms.

While Chris had the contacts, wrangling an invite to the first screening of that alien autopsy.

“Fake” he pronounced crestfallen.

We even had a monthly newsletter to vent our paranoid ramblings – the Truth Seekers Review.

Quality investigative journalism it was not.

And through the looking glass, conspiracy theories get pretty crazy.

My epiphany came after a heated discussion about Area 51 –  an Air Force test range deep in the Nevada desert.

Where apparently, alien craft, and occupants, are held by the US government.

And, get this.

Secret military aircraft are under development using technology reverse engineered from captured saucers.

Maybe even the one from Roswell…

You see, scientists didn’t invent the Stealth Bomber, with brains, hard work and creative thinking.

They plugged in a cloaking device that fell off the back of spaceship, plus a bunch of stuff just lying around Hangar 18.

E.T. even lent a hand.

And everyone got to clock off early.

Advantage USA.

I mean c’mon.

The reason I bring this up…

This was exactly how I felt this morning:

Yet another dubious pitch in my inbox offering to hook up a hyper drive to my profits with some fancy pants marketing solution.


Bring on the untold riches.

Except, usually it’s steaming pile of BS.

You see, in business there are no shortcuts.

Instead of some shiny gizmo you just plugin for instant results.

Like that space age social media flight deck thing that monetises likes and followers.

Or something.

It pays to think in more terrestrial terms.

Because usually the answer to what you seek is far more mundane.

Like a bit more elbow grease and better words.

Which really can turn your sales around.

It’s not a hi-tech gravity propulsion system for marketing like all that excitable blurb promises.

And it doesn’t take away the need for hard graft.

But, it certainly gets results.

Beam aboard and let’s talk.