Categories
Australia

I’m not sure about this cycling lark

Over the week Alex, SJ and I went on a bike ride.

This was a momentous occasion for me because I am sort of scared of cycling. I’ve been husky sledding across the Swedish Arctic and scuba diving down to 40 metres, but cycling is a whole other kettle of fish as far as I’m concerned.

The things I don’t like about cycling are:

  • going downhill is fast and out-of-control and scary
  • going uphill is slow and painful
  • meeting cars, other cyclists, pedestrians and dogs is terrifying.

From the minute we set off I was gripping onto the handle-bars for dear life and wobbling about all over the place. Alex and SJ are very proficient cyclists, so I must have looked extra incompetent next to them! It was possibly around this point that I asked SJ if I could have some stabilisers. Cycling 1 – Emma 0.

Somehow we made it in one piece to our first destination – Dandelion in Elwood for a tasty lunch. We then went on to Brighton for a dog walk with some friends, and then continued along the coast all the way to Sandringham.

Somewhere along the way I tried to ring my bell, but instead of warning the pedestrians ahead that I was coming, the bell flew off into the bushes. Cycling 2 – Emma 0.

Cycling by the sea!
Cycling by the sea! (The smile on my face is a lie).

It was then time to turn round and cycle home, with a quick dip in the sea en route. The ride home was looooong, and all in all it felt like a lot of cycling for someone who is scared of it.

I have to admit the route was very picturesque and everything, and the lunch and swim were jolly nice, but the cycling part of the day was still completely nerve-wracking and fairly awful. When I got home I had a sore bum from the saddle and sore hands from gripping the handle-bars, and I was totally exhausted – mentally and physically.

I’ll probably have to go cycling again – seeing as I have a shiny cream bike, lovely blue helmet and nice orange bag from Crumpler – but I’m not planning to make a habit of it!

Categories
Adventure Travel/holiday

South Africa Part 2: Camps Bay and Cape Town

After a night in Swellendam, 7 nights in Plett and 2 nights in Twee Riviere, Alex and I headed to Cape Town for the final instalment of our holiday.

We had two nights at Ocean View House guest house – situated a short jaunt from Camps Bay proper and just down the hill from Table Mountain. The first evening we had a very tasty dinner at Hussar Grill – chateaubriand for me and a game kebab thing for Alex.

The next morning we got a taxi up to the Table Mountain cable car, but instead of hopping aboard we walked right past it and began hiking to the top instead. (The hike was of course Alex’s idea, but agreeing to it meant I could have a day of guilt-free shopping in Cape Town the next day!)

Me hiking up Table Mountain
Me hiking up Table Mountain

I’m not going to lie to you, I didn’t love the experience of hiking to the top of Table Mountain at the time. It was hot, steep and tiring, and I found myself looking something like this:

But once we got to the top everything seemed ok again. I realised that the hike hadn’t been too long after all (just over an hour and a half), and the view over Cape Town – including Robben Island – made it all worthwhile.

That evening we had an amazing dinner at The Codfather in Camps Bay. All they serve is sushi and seafood, and we created a delicious platter of grilled butterfish, calamari, crayfish and dorado – with chips, rice and garlic butter. It was sooooooo good. One of the best meals I’ve ever had ever.

The next day we headed into Cape Town for the piece de resistance of our trip – a night in an airstream trailer on the roof of the Grand Daddy Hotel. Our trailer had been decorated in a Goldilocks & the Three Bears theme and was totally awesome inside and out.

Our trailer on the roof
Our trailer on the roof

I’d highly recommend staying in one of these beauties, but one night is plenty as they are quite small inside! Plus there’s a bar on the roof, so you might find drinkers/tourists trying to peak in the windows!

Categories
Adventure Travel/holiday

South Africa Part 1: Swellendam + Plett + Twee Riviere

On 8 February Alex and I embarked on a 24 hour journey to South Africa for a family holiday with the Hyphers! We arrived in Cape Town the following day, and in no time at all found ourselves in stunning Franschhoek, enjoying a delicious lunch at Ruben’s with parents, my sister and Alex C – the first time the six of us had been together since October.

After lunch Nicola and Alex C went west to Cape Town for a night, while the rest of us headed east to Swellendam. We stayed at the beautiful Schoone Oordt Country House hotel and were looked after magnificently by the very friendly and helpful Fidney. The whole experience was nothing short of wonderful – from the luxurious room and impeccable service to the sumptuous breakfast and picturesque gardens. It was a shame to only stay one night but we had an itinerary to stick to, and the next stop was Plettenberg Bay!

Adorable baby giraffe
Adorable baby giraffe

Our accommodation in Plett was a villa on a secure estate that can only be described as ‘show-home-esque’ (if such a word existed). We stayed for a week and loved every minute of it. It was the first time in years I’ve managed to sit down and read a novel in under a week! And the indoor braai proved very handy for grilling the fish that Alex, Alex and I managed to catch on a 6am fishing trip!

Handily we were just down the road from the small but perfectly formed Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve. We trundled along on a drizzly Friday morning, and our expert guide made sure we saw hippos, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, buffalo, impala, lions, rare wild dogs and a cheetah! The only exciting animal we didn’t manage to spot was a rhino, but we were so pleased to have seen all the other wildlife. Surely no visit to Africa is complete without lions. And look at this adorable baby giraffe!

After Plett Nicola and Alex had to head back to Ethiopia, but the four of us travelled further east – to a small town called Twee Riviere. We were there to see some family friends who had recently moved down from Jo’burg. Jaco had incredibly built most of their new house with his own bare hands and Alet was now teaching at the local school. We stayed in a tiny cottage at The Belfry – the town’s only accommodation and eatery, as well as the post office!

Alet and Jaco's house
Alet and Jaco’s house

Driving uphill from the 250 year old town took us into the mountains, with wild tortoises and proteas at every turn, as well as houses so remote the local children couldn’t go to school and instead played in the dirt roads. This seemed a million miles away from the touristy glamour of Franschhoek and Plett. 

For Alex and me it was then time to head back west to George – for a short flight to Cape Town before our final three nights in South Africa.

Categories
Australia Chuckles

Job hunting Down Under

When we arrived in Aus I pictured myself popping along to a recruitment agency one morning and leaving half an hour later with an amazing, well-paid, career-enhancing job. Alas this was not the case.

Instead I found myself filling each day by applying for dozens of jobs, some of them questionable, and speaking to a multitude of recruitment agents (none of whom were Australian, which made me think that perhaps the answer was to become a recruitment agent myself).

Three job hunting experiences stand out in particular:

  1. UnSUITed
  2. Crazy advertising company
  3. Worst job in the world?

1. UnSUITed

This interview was for a big role at an interesting arts organisation. I did heaps and heaps of preparation beforehand and felt like I really knew my stuff. (Unfortunately I had discovered from their annual reports that they were in dire financial straits, but I was still excited about the opportunity!) I arrived completely drenched thanks to a torrential down-pour, but tried my best to sort myself out while I waited for my turn. The interview seemed to go ok-ish – I answered every question to the best of my ability while also realising they were looking for a candidate who probably did not exist. I don’t know many people who are experts in four very different disciplines – corporate fundraising, marketing, stakeholder relationship management and html! Anyway, I left feeling mentally exhausted (and still damp) and waited to hear back from the recruitment agent.

The next day I heard that they interviewers were impressed with how I’d interviewed, but that they weren’t giving the job to any of the candidates as they hadn’t been able to find the right person. This didn’t surprise me at all, but the next comment did. Apparently they didn’t think I was dressed ‘corporately enough’ for the interview. I was wearing a purple silk dress, dark tights, heels and a black jacket – quite possibly the smartest I have ever looked ever. I couldn’t help but think that I had dressed just right for an arts organisation interview, and I will continue to think that until the day I die. But in reality, if they wanted the successful candidate to wear power suits everyday for big meetings with corporate partners, it really wasn’t the right job for me anyway!

2. Crazy advertising company

I had applied for an internship at a new company (or a start-up, if you will) whose innovative idea was to place advertising on plastic water bottles. The bottles would be given out for free to young, trendy people at young, trendy places – paid for by the advertisers. First of all I had a trial day at their small shared office space in Fitzroy. I felt self-conscious as soon as I walked in the door, what with being a 30 year old intern and all. This was only compounded when I realised I had more work experience than the founders! I was surrounded by other interns who had been born in the 90s – the 90s! – and I felt completely out of place. The morning was slow to get started because the founder who would be managing us was running late. So I busied myself by spotting typos in the media kit.

We had lunch at an uber-cool bar on Brunswick Street, in a curiously decorated upstairs room (yellow swirls on the walls and patterned fabrics everywhere). One of the cool young interns commented “Its like tripping on acid”. All I could think was “I really wouldn’t know about that. I prefer to sit down of a evening with a cup of lemon and ginger tea.”. After that we went back to the office and listened to a cool internet radio station (playing music from bands I’d never heard of) while we worked. I was editing a press release, while at the same time emailing my press officer friend back in the UK to ask How do you write a press release? I went home at the end of the day feeling old and a strange mixture of Too Experienced and Not Experienced Enough. The start-up then moved offices so I couldn’t go in for my second trial day (sigh of relief), and in fact I never went back!

3. Worst job in the world?

I’d applied for the job of ‘Marketer’ at an organisation that was something to do with helping job-seekers back into employment. That seemed like a nice thing to do, I thought to myself. As I studied their website before the interview two things struck me: 1) I don’t actually really understand what this company does; and 2) I wonder if the job involves sorting out their website because this is a mess! The interview was at a hotel right by Melbourne airport, so after two trams and an expensive airport bus, I arrived. The interviewers were lovely – two bubbly women who made me feel totally at ease. It turned out the job was about helping job-seekers market themselves – teaching them how to sell themselves in applications and at interviews, and then driving around to local businesses to try to find them work. I think I managed a poker face when I found this out, but inside I was thinking “this is the worst job in the world and I would hate it!”

I left thinking how awkward it would be if they offered me the job. How do you say “I’m sorry but I had no idea what the job was about before the interview, and then when I found out I pretended it would be great for me and I’d love to do it, but in actual fact I can’t think of anything worse.” Luckily someone else got the job so I was spared that conversation!

Then finally, at long last, I had a good interview experience. It was for a job I actually wanted, working for an interesting, innovative company with interesting, innovative people. The interview was on a 40 degree day in December – not the best weather for trying to come across as calm, cool and collected! But it went really well and I start on Monday!

The job is part marketing (email and social media) and part graphic design, so it’s a chance to develop my existing skills while also trying something new. This is exactly what I was looking for in an Aussie job. Yay!

 

Categories
Australia

Christmas Down Under

Christmas 2013 was a brand new experience for me – 30 degree heat in Adelaide instead of the usual 8 degree chilliness of the south east of England!

I was feeling a little apprehensive about my first ever Christmas away from home, especially as we hadn’t seen much evidence of a love of the festive season in Aus so far. For one thing, their Christmas adverts were nothing like the emotional roller-coasters that John Lewis and M&S come up with in the UK every year. And hardly any houses seemed to be decked with holly. And I hadn’t heard much Christmas music.

I was worried that Christmas in Aus might not be a big deal – but I was determined to be excited anyway!

Alex and I flew from Melbourne to Adelaide at 7am on Christmas Eve and immediately met up with my sister, Nicola, and her boyfriend, Alex (who had flown in from Ethiopia the day before) for a day of Christmas shopping! This was reassuringly familiar, as we’d probably have done the same thing if we were all in Guildford (albeit not wearing shorts and flip flops!)

Christmas Day itself was totally different but brilliant! After brekkie at the hotel we were picked up by Nicola and Alex for a trip to the beach! Alex T went swimming, Alex C fished, Nicola sunbathed and I had a quick dip and then a lie down. It was incredible to be lying on the soft white sand, watching the bluey-green of the ocean and clusters of other people going about their Christmas morning beach antics.

Then we headed over to Alex C’s family home for Christmas Day proper! Alex’s mum and sister, Wendy and Jessica, were busy creating mouth-watering smells in the kitchen, while the rest of us drank sparkling Shiraz and Pimm’s on the patio and then sampled some delicious canapes, including cherry soup and soft-shell crab! All the while the BBQ was sizzling away behind me, but it was only when we sat down to lunch that I discovered what had been inside…

Turkey! And it was delicious! Plus there were prawns, salads, potatoes, extra canapes, fine wines and great company, which all came together to create a fantastic festive feast.

After lunch it was present time, just as it would be in the UK, but then things took a slightly different turn as we walked to a nearby lake to check out the local population of hermit crabs!

Hermit crab lake
Hermit crab lake

After that it was just the right time to Skype our parents in England to wish them Happy Christmas. Unfortunately they were in the midst of a 36 hour power cut and were having to boil water on the BBQ for their morning coffee! But despite their trials and tribulations, it was lovely to speak to them!

Finally it was time for Alex and I to head back to our hotel. There we lay on our giant bed, too full to move, and reflected on what a top day we’d had – thousands of miles from my parents and Alex’s family, but still surrounded by lovely people and festive cheer.

Categories
Chuckles

I hate running

One of my least favourite things in the world is running. I really hate doing it. I wish it had never been invented.

I only do it because it’s free exercise and without it I would be even curvier than I already am.

My guilty conscience is telling me that I need to go on a run today – it’s been a few days since I last exercised, and it’s going to be too hot later in the week (35 degrees!) to even contemplate any outdoor exertion. So it has to be today.

But it’s so hard to make myself go, because I know what will happen. Within minutes my face will be so red and sweaty that it’ll look like I’ve been stewed. My running style will be so bad that other runners will look at me with a mixture of pity and disgust. Members of the public will wonder why anyone ever goes running when I make it look so hard.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this selfie, taken just after my last run:

Emma after running
Emma after running

That run was only 3.5 miles (and was very slow because I can never run fast, even when I’m being chased) – yet my face is drenched in sweat, I’m red as a beetroot, and there’s a blister on my foot.

I know today’s run won’t be any better.

I’m really dreading going.

Maybe I just won’t go?

No one’s making me.

I’m not training for anything.

I could just not go 🙂

———————————————————

*UPDATE*

Believe it or not, I did actually go running after all that! First of all I put on my running clothes, then I wandered around a bit saying ‘I don’t want to go running’ and trying to decide if I had a sore throat and/or leg. But then, in the words of Nike (sort of), I ‘just did it’.

And miraculously, it wasn’t as bad as I dreaded it would be!

Categories
Australia Chuckles Review

I love Neighbours (and I’m not ashamed to admit it)

Scott and Charlene
Scott and Charlene

It’s a well-known fact that the Aussie soap Neighbours has always been more popular in the UK than in Australia. Scott and Charlene’s wedding was watched by more than 20 million viewers when it aired in the UK in 1988. In the same year the entire population of Australia was only about 16.5 million people. So there were more UK Neighbours fans than inhabitants of the country who made it!

It’s kind of similar to what I choose to call the Hasselhoff Dilemma – the people of Germany have nothing but love and admiration for actor and musician David Hasselhoff, while his fellow Americans just aren’t really that bothered.

25 years later the UK is still big on Neighbours. They show it no less than 6 times a day – twice on Channel 5, twice on 5* and twice on 5* +1. And nearly everyone I speak to has watched it at some point in their lives – usually as a teen or while at uni. Plus there’s a brilliant and hilarious ‘Art of Neighbours’ group on Facebook, made up of dedicated fans who love to post about each episode and poke fun at some of the dafter story lines.

In comparison, new episodes of the show are only on once a day (once!) in Aus, and they can’t even be bothered to merge all the episodes into one programme for the Sunday omnibus – so you get the viewing pleasure of 5 sets of opening and closing credits.

But Aussies don’t care that there aren’t many chances to catch Neighbours because hardly any of them actually watch it! It seems to be their embarrassing relation that no one talks about, and whenever I admit to watching it I get a look of pity and the hint of a suggestion that I should see myself as a pathetic loser.

But the truth is, I love Neighbours, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve been watching it for about 26 years, and I’m not planning on stopping! It’s entertaining, with some great characters, and some I love to hate. It can make me laugh, cry and shout at the tv, all in one episode. Plus I don’t smoke, take drugs, or drink much, so as far as vices go, this one is pretty harmless!

In fact seeing as I’m in Australia for a year at the moment, I might make it my mission to get more Aussies to appreciate this fantastic show that they’ve so kindly given to the world. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Wish me luck…!

Categories
Adventure Australia Review

White sharks are great

Last night Alex and I went to a brilliant talk about great white sharks at Melbourne Aquarium.

The talk was part of Melbourne Aquarium’s Marine Discovery Lecture Series 2013, and was given by Barry Bruce, marine researcher at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Bruce
Bruce

The backdrop to the talk was Melbourne Aquarium’s 2.2 million litre Oceanarium – so every time Bruce mentioned sharks, a real life one was right there behind him (albeit a grey nurse or blacktip reef shark, rather than a great white!)

Barry Bruce is an expert when it comes to tagging white sharks, and is known as the Aussie authority on these sharks, no less. Not only that, but the great white shark in Finding Nemo was actually named after him! If that isn’t a claim to fame, I don’t know what is.

Bruce started his talk by saying that despite over 20 years of research, there is still much that is not known about these creatures. He added that he and his scientific colleagues prefer to call them ‘white sharks’ rather than ‘great white sharks’ because they are really no greater than any other shark!

He also mentioned that the media is responsible for the common image of white sharks (below) – launching out of the water looking scary and murderous – and urged us not to believe everything we read (as this news story proves).

Great white shark
Great white shark – as perpetuated by the media

Bruce went on to cover some facts that are known about white sharks, for example:

  1. They can grow to at least 6 metres (2000-3000kg)
  2. They possibly live for 50-60 years (although this isn’t known for sure – it might be longer)
  3. Females don’t mature until they are 5 metres
  4. They are warm-bodied (25-27 degrees) – so are more like mammals
  5. They produce few young and there is no parental care
  6. They eat fish and other sharks/rays when young (< 3 metres)
  7. They do not live at seal colonies – most of their time is spent elsewhere
  8. Some may not feed on seals at all.

The majority of the talk then focussed on understanding movement patterns – the first step in answering questions about whether numbers are going up or down – and that is where tagging comes in. In the words of Jennifer Aniston in a shampoo advert, here comes the science bit…

Acoustic tag
Acoustic tag

The main types of tagging Bruce and his team use are:

  • Acoustic tagging – a unique code is sent to a receiver whenever a tagged shark swims past;
  • Satellite tagging – the tagged shark links to a satellite whenever it comes to the surface (as long as a satellite is in range).

The first white shark ever tagged was in Victoria, and Bruce’s three tagging areas are the Neptune Islands (SA), Corner Inlet (VIC) and Port Stephens (NSW). From his team’s research he has been able to tell that white sharks travel large coastal distances and to tropical waters (eg Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef). It has even been known for a shark to travel from South Africa all the way to Ningaloo! The open ocean is an important habitat for white sharks, and some have been known to spend up to 2 years in open ocean before returning to land.

Bruce also discovered that, on the whole, a shark tagged in South Australia stays south and west, whereas a shark tagged in eastern Australia stays east. This means there are two distinct populations that don’t seem to cross the Bass Straight (the water between Tasmania and Victoria) – and they need to be looked at separately.

At the moment more is known about the eastern population of white sharks, and Port Stephens has emerged as a particularly interesting area. It’s hugely popular for swimmers, surfers and divers, but it’s also here that white sharks are often found in the surf zone just off the beach (compared to further north or south, where the sharks tend to stay away from the shore). So Bruce and his team locate juveniles here for tagging.

Juvenile great white shark
Juvenile great white shark

Port Stephens is known as a ‘nursery area’ for white sharks – mostly the sharks are 2 years old. (It is not a breeding area, as there are no new-borns – which also means there are no big adults around either!) Corner Inlet is another nursery area, and sharks have been tracked moving directly and rapidly between the two nursery areas.

Hawks Nest Surf Club in Port Stephens closed the beach 44 times one summer due to white sharks swimming between the flags. In fact if you type ‘Hawks Nest NSW’ into Google Earth and zoom in, you can see a white shark close to the shore – with a load of people just a little further up the beach.

But while white sharks meet people at these beaches every day, there has never been an attack there. So the answer to the question ‘what normally happens when sharks and people meet?’ is just ‘nothing’.

It was then time for some questions from the audience, and someone asked what Bruce thought about culling. This is a very topical issue, given there have been a handful of attacks in Australia recently, and many mentions of shark culling in the media as a result. Bruce responded that there have been very few cases when the shark responsible for an attack has been caught – so that sort of approach is just a waste of time and resources. He also said that there is no evidence that a shark that has bitten once will bite again. And the Port Stephens situation proves that more sharks does not mean more attacks. Given the audience was made up of shark enthusiasts, I think we were all please to hear from Australia’s authority on white sharks that culling is not the answer.

I then plucked up the courage to ask a question about cage diving. I’ve always wanted to do it, but was worried about whether it’s the right thing to do for the shark. And does chumming make sharks associate people with food? Bruce answered that cage diving is highly regulated in Australia. It takes place in the Neptune Islands, and there are always two days per week with no dives – which is for the benefit of the sharks, not the safety of the people. He mentioned that sharks sometimes stick around for a bit longer than usual at cage diving sites, but there is no evidence that cage diving leads the shark to associate people with food. In fact there’s so much going on, what with the noise from the boat and the smells, that the diver in the middle of it all is really no big deal. Plus there’s not much reward for the shark – they might get a bit of tuna off the tether, but mostly it’s berley (chum) to attract them, rather than real food.

After a couple more questions the talk came to an end. I left the aquarium feeling inspired and still can’t believe I had the opportunity to hear about these sharks from the country’s top white shark researcher. There is one thing I disagree with Bruce about though – to me they will always be great white sharks.

Categories
Observations

Why I’m having nightmares about brand

When I first started working in marketing, my manager (we’ll call her ‘Brandy’) seemed to use the word ‘brand’ about a million times a day. This seemed like a lot of talk about brand. Maybe even too much, I thought.

But then I started working somewhere (we’ll call it ‘Fuse’) that just did not seem to understand anything about brand or branding, and before long I was saying the word ‘brand’ all the time too. And thinking about it when I got home. And even now I no longer work there, I still think about their brand all the time – including my efforts (in vain it turned out) to improve it.

Brandy taught me so much about brand, especially the importance of using certain elements consistently across all touch-points, so your audience can see and connect with one unified look and feel. Elements such as:

  • Logo
  • Colours
  • Images
  • Typography
  • Layout
  • Tone of voice.

There a quite a few things to consider here, so it’s perhaps not surprising that sometimes things can slip – for example finding an image that seems to work really well for a specific piece of collateral, even if it doesn’t match any other images your organisation has ever used. But that was the least of my worries at Fuse…

For one thing, there were 5 (FIVE!) versions of the logo. There was a different version on the website compared to on a leaflet compared to on a book compared to on a pen compared to on Twitter. It was a mess. The basic style guide that the organisation had produced many years before (which incidentally only covered logos and fonts for some reason – nothing else to do with brand!) did mention which version of the logo should be used where – but often these ‘rules’ were flouted and I couldn’t tell what was going on or why. If I was a member of the public looking at these different things with the different logos, I might not even realise they were all from one organisation.

Back at the place where Brandy and I worked together there was a great rule that images had to be child-focussed, positive and limited to one strong image per design – rather than lots of little ones. But here there were no rules of this kind, so there were frequently lots of random images on any one design (none of them any good because they were from a cheesy online stock photo place), and there was never anything to tie them together. When I first arrived I tried to tactfully suggest that we needed to use images better, and perhaps invest in a decent image library. By the time I left I’d pretty much lost the ability to be tactful on the subject, but still nothing changed.

One of the strongest assets Fuse did have at their disposal was their corporate colour. It was strong, vivid and unlike any colours used by their competitors, so they had the potential to really stand out from the crowd. But mysteriously this colour was hardly used beyond the corporate letter-head. I worked with the designer on a daily basis and 9 times out of 10 this amazing colour didn’t make it into a design. One issue was that it was a 5th colour, and so could cost more to print, but rather than the director taking the decision to invest in the printing or change the shade just slightly, it was usually abandoned in favour of another, completely different, colour. I did everything I could to make sure new marketing collateral did feature this colour, and finally things were starting to look more unified, but now I’ve left I’m not convinced this legacy still lives on.

On top of this, there were two different fonts just in the LOGO, so that looked a bit of a mess. Also, the official ‘corporate font’ was problematic in that: a) not every member of staff had it on their computer; and b) external people certainly didn’t have it on their computers, meaning they wouldn’t be able to see it anyway! In the end I decided the typography was the least of my brand worries and the tech issues were out of my control, so I managed to cope with people using Arial instead.

Yet another issue was the layout – too often the logo was hidden away, lacking any prominence, and images and messaging overlapped so that neither of them were very clear. I always tried to steer the designer in the direction of placing the logo in the top right hand corner, nice and big, with headlines and other text in their own spaces, and photos/graphics in their own spaces too. But again this just didn’t happen most of the time, and there wasn’t much more I could say or do on the subject.

And don’t even get me started on tone of voice. One of the biggest campaigns the organisation was working on when I was there had messaging that can only be described as snide. I don’t know who took the decision to use that sort of tone, or how they thought it was appropriate, but certainly no one from the marketing team was consulted before hand, and then it was too late.

Now I’ve left Fuse I often lie awake at night thinking about all this. I know that before I arrived people didn’t seem to think there was an issue with the brand – my predecessor actually said they had ‘a strong brand’ in her handover notes. But as soon as I arrived I spotted that the brand wasn’t working and set about coming up with solutions to fix it – including saying that we needed proper brand guidelines covering everything I’ve just mentioned. My manager agreed change was necessary and fully supported me in my mission – also identifying the need for backing from higher up in the organisation in order to really bring about the changes.

Yet it seemed that no one was willing to listen to us or respect our expertise. Time and time again the marketing team wasn’t even consulted on new projects, so poorly branded materials kept being churned out, and no one with the power to help did anything to change this. Essentially the very people the organisation had hired as marketers were being ignored, and as a result more and more damage was being done to the brand. That’s a big part of the reason I left Fuse – I’m not sure how anyone could continue working under those circumstances.

I know it’s time to move on now – these issues are theirs now, not mine. But I suspect thoughts about their logos, colours and images will still creep into my head every now and then. That’s the power of brand.

Categories
Australia Observations

Environmentally (un)friendly

One thing I love about Australia is how ‘green’ so many people and places are.

Whenever I go shopping or eat out I am greeted with a plethora of organic ingredients and products, and it’s so easy to find local produce – not just from within Australia, but from your own state.

Take Alex’s favourite beer, Mountain Goat. It’s certified organic and it’s from just down the road in Richmond – so it’s only had to travel about 9.5km to get to our fridge!

Mountain Goat from down the road
Mountain Goat from down the road

There’s a brilliant organic shop near us, where everything seems to be environmentally friendly, organic and locally-produced, from the vegetables and bread to the laundry detergent and jute bags. We even made our own peanut butter by smooshing some peanuts through a machine into a tub – with literally nothing else added!

We also managed to find the same organic hand soap we’d just used up at home, and were about to buy it when we looked at the label. We were expecting to see that it had come from just down the road, like our beer, but were surprised to find it had been imported. From America!

Soap from 8,000 miles away
Soap from 8,000 miles away

There’s something not quite right about a shop that claims to be all about organic, environmentally friendly produce, but then stocks imported soap from thousands of miles away, leaving a massive carbon footprint behind.

Needless to say we ditched that soap in favour of another one on the neighbouring shelf – which came from Riddells Creek (just 60km away!)