You meet me in a car park. You see me climbing out of my car. Instantly you know several things about me:
– I am married
– I have children
– I have a mortgage
And if you were paying attention when Holmes and Watson was on, you might go a little further. Actively involved with his kids…presentation and appearance are important…probably sporty…
All this because you have seen me climbing out of a relatively new, dark blue estate.
So why does my wife constantly shout, “Yo bro’ I’m going into town. I’ll take the pimpmobile?”
Well number one, I suppose, because it’s a BMW. But it was a good deal – honest it was. I traded in the old one. They gave me this lovely shiny new one. The payments are more or less the same. It’s not my fault it’s got massive alloys. And tinted rear windows. Or that my two boys now refer to themselves as the South Milford Posse.
What does a car say about a man? Every magazine except Angling Times has had a go at that one. Let me tell you a much more tragic tale.
I’ve a client called Geoff. His eldest son is a few weeks off seventeen. We had a 1-2-1 last week over lunch. As we came out of the pub, Geoff saw his car and burst into tears. “It’s got to go,” he blubbed as he tried to put his arms round a Golf GTi. “My bloody son is coming up to seventeen. The insurance…I talked to the broker…” Geoff mentioned a sum only fractionally smaller than the national debt.
Then he looked at me, desperately depressed. “You don’t understand, do you? When I’m driving this car I’m not an overweight middle aged bloke with grey hair. My stomach’s still flat. Nicole Kidman might still phone. Now I’ve got to buy a Volkswagen Sensible.”
Geoff climbed dolefully into his car. Suddenly he fixed me with a manic stare. “Just you wait,” he snarled. “Your turn will come. Nine years, mate. The clock’s ticking.”
I jumped into the BMW Equally Sensible and drove to York for an Alternative Board meeting. The usual collection of cars you see in any hotel car park – some ridiculously flash, some clearly ordered by the bean counters, and one number-plate that used every conceivable combination of 5’s and 3’s to spell SUSIE BJ (I tried not to guess at the young lady’s profession.)
If you work for someone else, your position in the corporate pecking order is pretty clearly defined by your company car. But supposing you run your own business? Never mind what does your car say? What should it say? Disappointingly, I subscribe to the conventional wisdom. It should say you’re doing well, but not so well that your customers resent it.
But here’s a tip. If you’re thinking of doing business with someone, or hiring them, sneak a look inside their car. Supposing it’s chaotic? Supposing there are papers everywhere? Coffee cups? Sandwich wrappers?
Trust me. That could be good news – as long as you’re hiring a creative. Writer, art director – chaos is almost essential. You’re hiring right brain creativity, not left brain logic. But if the inside of your accountant’s car is a tip, it may be time to sell some shares.
Back to the hotel car park. Nestling snugly next to Susie’s classified-on-wheels was a splendidly battered truck. I watched as the driver climbed out. Smart suit, expensive briefcase. You have to admire a guy like that. And he reminded me of one of the best marketing messages of recent years. More of that next week. Right now, I’m off to hang with the posse…