Guide to everything you always wanted to know about marketing

DID you hear about that electrical shop in Israel giving away free sheep to anyone buying a fridge? Anyone spending more than 1,000 shekels, about £200 in our money, gets a Cheviot. Those eligible could just pick their own. Brilliant.

Except you had to tie it up and cram it into the boot alongside the Hotpoint or the Zanussi.

Arab customers are into slaughtering a few sheep for the Eid festival, which marks the end of Ramadan. It’s just like stocking up for the communions, but with a month of dawn-to-sunset fasting beforehand. Great idea. They sold loads.

I saw a trailer-load of blackfaces in Perceval Square car park, just behind the Scottish Hydro-Electric shop, in Stornoway the other day. Are they trying the same thing?

Clever marketing, you see. We easily forget about it, but it’s always everywhere.

People in politics can be marketed like fridges – although you have to be careful with that one. The Tories tried to market their old warhorses in pointless jobs, like running banks and energy companies. It worked well – at first.

Then they tried out Lord Young. Fine fellow, loads of experience, so make him an adviser, not a minister. That way he can’t do any damage, just in case Margaret Thatcher made him a bit gaga.

No sooner is Maggie’s former lieutenant let loose than he has a rush of blue blood to the head and claims that the vast majority of people in the country have never had it so good since the recession. Then he corrected himself: “This so-called recession.”

After recovering from the shock, David Cameron announced he had full confidence in his adviser – always a bad sign – and Young was terminated. I mean he apologised and quit before he was pushed and a minibus came to drive him slowly back to the boardrooms from whence he came.

There are always inadvertent opportunities for marketing. I remember when mouthwashes and lozenges called Victory Vs were secretly whispered about as the surefire way to beat these fancy breath test devices wielded by dedicated Stornoway cops like Jack O’Connor and Ruairidh Nicolson. You could have six pints and, as long as you scoffed half a packet of Victory Vs or brushed your teeth with these mouth rinsers, you had nothing to worry about. They sold loads here then.

Then it was in the paper the mouthwash had more alcohol than lager. So we ditched that one. But the myth about the lozenges persisted. It may still do in wilder places like Carloway and Creagorry.

So it was a bit of a shockeroonie to see the Australian who used to run the state of Victoria saying he uses mints to bamboozle the breath test after a few bevvies. Really? How? Polo mints don’t work. Not sure about Aussies, but the first thing the Stornoway cops do when they stop a car is have a sniff for booze – or mints. It’s the surest sign drivers have been having a wee swally. Every cop here says so.

Jeff Kennet reckons Kool Mints, which must be the Aussie equivalent of the mint with the non-fattening centre, also lower the blood count. So they don’t just mask the smell, they’re a soberer-upper, too.

Wow. Maybe the mints work or maybe they don’t. Either way, as far as inadvertent marketing goes, it’s a beaut.

I reckon Kennett is scoffing way too many. He claims to be just 62, but he looks like one of these old guys who wibble-wobble along Keith Street late in the evening.

And I don’t mean Jimmy, the longtime laird of Ogilvie Towers, who somehow forgot to invite me to his birthday celebrations at the weekend. He, of course, doesn’t wobble because he somehow manages to look at least 20 years younger than the 66 he has clocked up.

You never see Jimmy sucking mints. Sipping the occasional fine brandy, maybe, but mints play no part in those boyish good looks which recently resulted in him being recruited as a tour guide by a bevvy of foreign girl students who wanted a fun guy to show them around the Long Island.

Fun guy? Boyish good looks? Come on, James, that must be worth a large one at least.

Marketing happens all the time. Sometimes, though, it can change over time. Take the Free Church. We know what its marketing is – being dour, looking on the dark side and generally doing its utmost to avoid anything that brings a smile to anyone’s face.

Yes, I know there are people on the checkouts at the Co-op on Macaulay Road with the same outlook, but that’s only when they have a really long shift.

Now, the Free Church is bringing in hymns. Hey, wait a minute. They vowed that would never happen. Their customers aren’t getting what they expect. That’s a bad move.

It’s all right; don’t panic. It’ll happen only where congregations really, really want hymns. It won’t happen, then. It’s just marketing. That’s fine. Phew, had me worried there.

Marketing, of course, works better if you have a wee slogan. Preferably one that rhymes. On Saturday, Mrs X came back from the Co-op – whose slogan Good With Food also works well on that level – with a load of fancy toilet rolls.

They are, the marketing says, nice and soothing on your tenderest bits. Each sheet is impregnated with aloe vera. That’s a medicinal kind of plant and its sap is said to be good for burns, wounds and a whole host of painful and itchy conditions that can affect soft, pink skin like I have.

Oooh, lovely. Really soothing. Oh yes. That’s really nice. You should try it.

The loo rolls are sold with a charming wee ditty dreamed up by the marketing people for you to mull over as you sit there contemplating the universe.

It rhymes, too. It goes: “Be kind to your behind.”

Does that mean that the ordinary toilet tissue is harsh on your, er, hindquarters?

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