Brian's Blogs

New Year objects of un-desire

In the UK we have an expression: "To spoil the ship for a hap'orth of tar". 'Ship' here is actually a 17th century pronunciation of 'sheep', and the original literal sense meant 'do not allow sheep to die for the lack of a trifling amount (a halfpenny's-worth) of tar' - tar being used in those days to protect sores and wounds on sheep.

With the recent New Year celebrations, many companies have been giving out corporate calendars as part of their marketing efforts and I guess many of us are the "happy recipients" of such corporate largesse. A friend of mine showed me a calendar that his company had just issued. Apparently every department was expected to hand them out to their clients and contacts and he had a box of 50 stuffed under his desk.

"Maybe we could run a competition and give each of the winners a copy," he said gloomily, turning over the object in his hands as he spoke. I forbore to reply "and you could give each of the losers two copies".

Truly it was quite awful. As a desk calendar there was almost no room to write anything useful in the spaces provided; the company's name was plastered right across each page; but worst of all was the overall design… each month had an object that was not only visually unappealing, but it also had nothing to do whatsoever with the business in question, nor did it have a "chocolate box view" of some famous building or beautiful countryside vista.

Customized calendars, like any other customized gift, make a person feel special and wanted, gushes a web site in India that, surprise...surprise, offers to provide companies with marketing materials. In the corporate world it creates goodwill and helps to build relationships, which are essential for expanding business. Besides making a person feel special, it helps to bring out the creative side of the giver and reflects his true feelings towards the person.

I could only assume that my friend's calendars were mass produced and the company had simply added its name in the only space left on each page. But, no, he told me. His company's marketing department had had them made up specially. Not that they had sought anybody else's opinion on them, it seems. Nor had they thought to ask how many each department needed. They were simply handed out at the requisite time and the departments told to get on with it.

My friend's calendar is not alone in this. I have lost count of the number of desktop calendars given out by companies, embassies and other enterprises here in Beijing; and I would have to say that the majority are truly terrible. They are certainly not something you would want sitting on your desk for a week, let alone an entire year. What do these so-called marketing departments think they are doing?

Not that Beijing is unique in this respect. The same penny-pinching attitude is as common in the West. Yet from what I have seen, Beijing is stuffed full of talented artists who could probably make a much better job of this blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their back.

Maybe I should start collecting these objects-of-undesire and eventually open a gallery of tacky calendars – probably in Beijing's 798 District where such irony would be appreciated.

But certainly I will not be entering my friend's company competition. For one thing, what if I didn't win?

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