Will great marketing always powered by humans?

Will great marketing always powered by humans?

Great marketing has a strong visual component, even the great long form ads from the days before TV. Always has been, always will be.

Sometimes that ‘visual’ are the pictures that you form in your mind as a result of hearing something, which is why radio was, and still should be, a great communication medium, sometimes it is a great photo, video, or piece of printed material that speaks to just you.

Creativity and design are a huge part of this mix.


All  the tools around are convincing us that we can design stuff ourselves, just as we all seem to believe that we are photographers, just because we have a great little camera in our pockets all the time, or writers, because we can easily publish our scribblings on a multitude of channels.

Owning a saw does not make you a carpenter.

Part of the problem is that most so-called marketers know so very little about marketing any more. They do know about the tools, the algorithms, and sometimes bits of the martech stack, but little about the human reactions, relationships and intimacies that make for effective communication, the sort that does not bludgeon you into doing something, but those that deliver a message that resonates as if it was a personally addressed letter.

Remember those?

As an aside, I bought a book of stamps for  the first time in a long while last week.. a buck a stamp. I was shocked, and my first reaction was  ‘no wonder we are all going digital’  but my second was, ‘what an opportunity to be different, and get an almost 100% open rate, for just a dollar!’

The tech bunnies, headed by top bunny Facebook are doubling down on video, recognising the power. They are right to be doing this for commercial reasons, they are the advertising platforms of the 21st century, although the demise of TV particularly is grossly overstated, as old mate Bob Hoffman loves to point out. However, the users of the platform are being grossly manipulated in order to be a more marketable commodity that the platforms can sell to advertisers. Most of the users are largely blissfully unaware of their algorithmically manipulated experience, and I am increasingly uncomfortable about the ‘brand morality’ of this sad fact.

They are just eyeballs being wholesaled by the platforms for profit. At least with a TV you can grab the remote and change the channel, or go make a cup of tea.

I wonder if in the long term they will not look back as see that  they have broken the moral component of the foundations of a brand.

Facebook particularly is aggressively using their huge base to be continually testing, adding features, and renovating older ones in order to maximise ad revenue. It is pretty easy to be taken in by the often published numbers,  but sometimes a dose of reality would be useful, as highlighted in February’s MUmBRELLA article.

Bob Hoffman was right again.


This Social Media Examiner podcast has Mari Smith outlining what Facebook is doing,  and is worth the 40 minutes, and a scan of the show notes and links .

Back to where I started.

As marketers, we have a responsibility to both those who pay us, and those who listen to and act on what we suggest to them. We need to consider the foundation skills of our craft,  to react in a human way, to reflect the wisdom and experience coming from the humanity around us, rather than taking that feedback and running it through a bunch of algorithms to get the most clinical outcome.

As AI augmented AI, and machine learning continue to make inroads, they will consume the repetitive tasks in every job, but are a very long way from replacing the emotion and humanity that turns a slab of copy into a compelling call to action.

In answer to the question posed in the headline, Yes!

In time, mediocre, mass marketing may be executed by algorithms, but in a highly personalised world, that will not be good enough.

Image credit: Once again, Hugh McLeod at the Gaping void.


In defence of United Airlines employees

In defence of United Airlines employees

United is the butt of everyone’s jokes and derision, including mine, but it maybe useful to consider how  they got there.

Carlos Munoz was awarded the communicator of the year  in March, a few weeks before the unfortunate Dr Dao booked a seat to go and see a patient in Louisville. This now seems to be the ultimate irony, and I suspect the communicator of the year award now has its own PR problem.

However, in hindsight, a real brain-fart seems almost inevitable , with several recent similar events, and even further back, Dave Carroll‘s guitar signalling a truly broken culture.

When you think about it, the actions on flight 3411 were driven by the rigid, unthinking application of a set of rules.  The culture of an airline is one based on checklists, inviolable rules, and strict adherence to those rules. When you are flying, and want the plane to stay up, it seems that it may be a good idea to have whole sets of rules that ensure that it does so.

Perhaps the challenge at United may not have been about the stupidity and arrogance of staff, after all they are people, who have the same concerns and pressures, loves and joys that the rest of us have, but about the culture of rules that drive behaviour, and do not allow any room for doubt. Mix that with a few insensitive individuals and you have the toxic mix demonstrated so visibly on flight 3411

When there is a rule, follow it, without question, creativity or deviation.

That explains away the actions, sort of.

So the challenge is how to have a rule based culture that ensures that the job gets done the right way, every time, co-existing with one that  enables individual initiative and sensitivity to the situation.

This is not a unique challenge.

Almost every business  I work with is a medium sized manufacturer, they require rules to operate safely and efficiently, and the less explicit, transparent and flexible the rules are, the greater the CUS (cock up score) that exists.

One of the tenets of the TPS is ‘respect for people’ and never has the value of this as a foundation of culture been more on display that at United, over a long period.

Respect for People is a double sided coin. On one side there is the necessity for stable, repeatable and optimised processes, and the other on personal initiative and situational sensitivity, challenging to reflect in a set of detailed rules.  At the intersection is respect for people, their intelligence, initiative, desire to do the job as best they can, and go home safely.

At the time of posting, United CEO and chief PR guru Munoz has come out with a couple of further statements. The first outlines changes to improve customer experience as a result of the ‘incident’. This,  in contrast to the blame shifting and destructive crap put out after the incident is not a bad effort, but it reflects no more than a reasonable expectation of someone paying for a seat on a plane. At least it is clear, and Munoz at last took responsibility for the treatment of Dr Dao. The second simply announces that Dr Dao and United have reached an ‘amicable resolution’ of the incident, without any details. My guess is that the next time Dr Dao needs to fly anywhere, he can just call up his private plane, no need to  bother with those uncomfortable commercial flights any more.

As a final thought, the only one in an organisation who can really change a prevailing culture is the person at the top. I guess United needs a new one, as both a symbol that they are committed to change, and to get the process going in deeds rather than just a bunch of belated words following the crappola sandwich first served up.




The two faces of a successful brand

The two faces of a successful brand

People relate to brands, see them as having characteristics best described in human terms

Whenever I have done research over 40 years in this game and sought to identify the elements of a brand, the one constant has been that human terms have been used to describe them, both good and bad.

I wonder what words would be used to describe United airlines at the moment?

Who would want to be in the airline business anyway? It is a capital intensive, highly regulated business, competing on price with a number of significant airlines being subsidised as the national flag carrier, with a major consumable cost, fuel, subject to wild and largely unpredictable fluctuations.

The branded competitive framework we all work in is a double sided coin.

On one side is the regulatory requirements, which must be followed, the other is the moral responsibility that all businesses have  to their customers, the promise made by the brand. You take their money in the promise of delivery, just how you go about that delivery can vary, that is the moral dimension.

United airlines failed miserably.

As far as I am aware, the United flight 3411 arrived in Louisville safely, and roughly on time. But they failed the moral responsibility badly.

An airline is legally entitled to overbook, they are legally entitled to remove passengers for a number of reasons, and they are legally entitled to fly their staff to a destination where they are required. Question is, do they have a moral right to pull a passenger off the plane to and substitute their own staff for operational reasons.

They made a promise to their customers, that they would take their money to get them to a destination safely, and in some comfort.

Coming in the same week as the United fiasco, this story of Alaska Airlines managing a problem represents the difference in the moral decisions that are taken and they have a profound impact on the brand.

Those who own brands make choices about a range of things, how they want to be seen, usually represented by the statements of missions and values they stick in their lobbies, however, what really matters is how they behave, particularly when there are choices involved, and the harder the better, as it is the hard ones that demonstrate the real value of the brand.

Customers do not read and remember the crap in your lobby, but they watch what you do, and remember.

So, what sort of brand to you aspire too be?


Image credit: By Unknown or not provided – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17413025

Leveraging the flip side of an elevator pitch

Leveraging the flip side of an elevator pitch

Honing an elevator pitch is something we all should do, and many spend hours writing and practising a pitch, following one of the many templates around, most of which are similar.

Grab attention.

Describe the product.

Articulate the benefit.

All in 30 seconds.

We fantasise about catching that mystical perfect customer alone in an elevator, enthusing him/her to such as extent that they rush out and buy.

Rarely happens.

More often, you get the opportunity to deliver your pitch at a networking meeting, or some semi social gathering.

Still rarely happens that your perfect customer is there, listening, but we are happy to be delivering a pitch perfectly in that hope.

However, most people, somewhere in their networks, will know someone who will be the perfect customer.

The question then becomes how do make the pitch sufficiently memorable, that they are able to recite it back to their networks.

Do this successfully, and you will have  a host of sales people out there pitching for you, and we all know  the most effective marketing is still person to person, word of mouth endorsement.

It comes down to being able to articulate your differentiator and value proposition, in one sentence, in simple words.

It must be memorable, simple, and describe why they should be interested beyond any apparent alternative.

In the early days of Uber, founder Travis Kalanick described Uber as “Push a button and in 5 minutes a Mercedes picks you up and takes you where you want to go”

Nothing about platforms, technology, marketplaces, or any of the other buzzwords we slip into so easily, just the benefit. More recently it has been further simplified into ‘Push a button, get a ride

One of my clients in Sydney, Planet Press  that I met after I was ‘constructively rude’ about a botched elevator pitch delivery has a rare differentiator. It is a medium sized printing business with a highly experienced and skilled design function, combined with digital and offset printing, a wide range of die cutting, perforating and assembly options, along with a slick distribution service, all under the one roof. How do you make that lot sufficiently memorable that someone hearing the pitch will be able to relate it to their networks?

Quality printed communication from under one roof’?

Perhaps not quite there yet, but closer.



4 foundation principles for brand building

4 foundation principles for brand building

Albert Einstein was a great thinker, he changed the world, but he is not much associated with marketing & business. However, when you read through his various musings, he should be up there in the pantheon of great marketing thinkers like David Ogilvy, Seth Godin, and Goofy.

One of the things that Einstein said which really resonates is ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, no simpler’

There is a serious point to my inclusion of ‘Goofy’. Think about it, Goofy is a brand. Say the word, and it conjures up a mental picture of the simple friendly dog, Micky’s mate who gets in the way, tripping over himself all the time. That one word conjured up all those images, at least with some of you. Goofy is a brand, built over 75 years, made up of a few simple elements, tied together in a unique way, as Einstein told us they should be.

This always applies to the manner in which we go about building brands.

However, one thing is absolutely clear, and absolutely simple:

A brand is the ultimate sales tool.

If you did not want to sell something, a brand would not be needed. It is a sales tool.

A brand in its role as a sales tool, fills a small number of functions:

  • It is a filter that makes customer choice easier by providing customers with a sorting mechanism.
  • It is a symbol representing something of meaning, offering reasons why you should engage. Ie buy, contribute, attend, whatever it is.
  • It is a commercial vehicle for the brand owner.

World vision is a brand, they want us to buy peace of mind, assuage our comfortable middle class guilt by contributing money

Coca Cola is a brand, they want us to buy a lifestyle

Pewdipie is a brand, they want us to participate. Never heard of pewdipie? I will come back to it.

I think the word ‘building’ in the title of this post is vitally important.

As with any building, you have to get the foundations right, before you do anything else. Whatever you try and build, if the foundations are dodgy, it will not last, no matter how pretty, immediately functional, or different it is, without the foundations, you will have nothing of lasting value.

Therefore, I will give you a view of the foundations of a brand, how you should approach the process of building a brand of lasting commercial value.

How do I capture such a complex and undefined challenge in a simple way?

Has everyone done a jigsaw puzzle?

Imagine this photograph as a jigsaw. It is in fact a shot of the WSLTA clubhouse, where we use the great game of tennis as the excuse for a drink and gasbag, after some enjoyable exercise.

If it was a 20 piece puzzle, one to be done with your kids? Simple.

If it was a 10,000 piece puzzle, far more complicated.

Imagine now the added complication if you did not have the picture to hand as the end result to refer to.

Think about the process of doing that jigsaw.

Every single time, I guarantee you, that you have done a jig saw you have done the same thing, in the same sequence.

  • You put the picture next to the pieces, so you can see what you are aiming at.
  • You have organised the pieces, so they are all one side up, spread around, so you can see them all.
  • You find the 4 corners. Obvious, as they have 2 straight sides,
  • You find the sides, somewhat obvious, because there is I straight side, but harder to find than the 4 corners.
  • You start to assemble the rest into small groups by colour, and where they seem to best fit the picture of the finished article.
  • Slowly the groups of 2/3/4 pieces grow as their place in the picture becomes clearer, and slowly those groups are fitted to other groups, to make bigger groups.

This all happens while you are constantly referring back to the picture, engaging in a lot of trial and error, fitting them together. Sometimes you are tempted to force 2 pieces together, but know it just causes problems down the track.

Building a brand is the same thing.

There are the 4 foundation principals, a small number of secondary pieces of the puzzle that dictate the outline, and potentially thousands of smaller pieces that can be assembled into the completed picture.

So let’s talk about them

I would also make the point again, that without a clear picture of what you want the brand to be,  just like the jigsaw, it will be far more difficult to assemble the pieces, take a lot more time, cost a lot more money, and the chances of ending up in a total mess are very high.

So, what are the 4 corners, the first things you find, the cornerstones of your foundation building?

Customers. Who is it you are seeking to engage and sell

Value proposition What is it that you are doing for them that delivers value to them

Leverage. What enables you to leverage, ie: amplify the value proposition. This is in effect your strategic and marketing toolbox, from which you will make a lot of choices.

Business Purpose. The Why, the story of the brand. This drives everything else, which is why it is in the bottom right hand corner, I cannot get away completely from my roots  as a bean counter.

Like all foundations, the 4 are largely hidden, but this is where the thinking goes in, where the first steps in building the end design are taken, and must be solid, or the edifice built on them will not work.

First, the most important factor.

Simon Sinek articulated this better than everyone else combined a few years ago.

What, How, and Why.

 Your why is your brand story, the reason anyone should care, it is not the easy to articulate features of the product, and how it might be used, but the stuff that resonates in your guts that are often very hard to put words to, it just ‘Feels right’

Brands that try to be all things to all people, or even some to things to a few end up suffering from what we would call when seen in people as schizophrenia. Yes, It applies to brands as well as people, but instead of medicating them, or locking them up, we do the worst thing we can do to someone’s lovingly crafted, expensively built brand:

We ignore them.

The why is the bridge between what you want people to do, and what they hear, it provides the context, the cement that holds the edifice together.

To quote Sinek, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they believe what you believe’.

A simple way to start the process is to do what I call the ‘We believe’ test.

This emerged when I was rereading the text of Sineks presentation having tried unsuccessfully to articulate to a client the importance of a ‘Why;’ and how it was different to the ‘Vision, Mission, Values’  approach with which they were familiar, and seemed considerably easier.

It is simply asking what you believe, deep in your guts about what it is that you do, the value you provide to those who engage, how you change their world.

We/I believe………

Imagine I was running a book-keeping business, what do you say to apply the test:

I believe….. that by contacting out routine tasks to specialists, your most valuable asset, your time will deliver better outcomes for you.

I believe…… that giving you back time will improve your life

I piloted this test a few years ago with a book-keeper I know, who was having trouble drumming up business. He had a pretty but pointless website, had tried flyers, and letterbox drops, advertising in the local papers, cold calling, and going to network groups telling them of all his qualifications. Pretty much flogging a dead horse, and he only got work when he discounted heavily, or was given the hack overload work by a local accounting firm that then billed their clients at 3 times what they paid him.

We had a cup of coffee, and I worked him through the ‘I believe” exercise, and it came out that what he was really doing was giving back clients time to spend on things they enjoyed, and wanted to do more of.

Next time I saw him at a network meeting, instead of his usual opening, he said: ‘I believe my job is to help people get more sex’, after that, the laughter drowned out the rest, but he did explain that the time he gave back by doing their bookkeeping gave them the opportunity to do other things that were important to them, perhaps even getting laid more often.

He never had the bottle to put it on his website, but he now employs several people in his office, and is doing quite well.

If you can articulate the why, the rest becomes much easier, and you will save a lot of time and money.

However, articulating your why is really, really, really hard.

For the supplier, a brand is a commercial vehicle, a way to deliver leverage by way of price, distribution, and the many factors that contribute to commercial success.

For the customer it is a way of making the decision easier, offering reassurance of performance, certainty, it is both a filter and a trusted friend.

It is a double sided coin, with the sweet spot, the Value to that customer captured in the overlap.

To buyers, a brand can be a person, a friend, something that if it is your brand, you have some emotional investment in it, some connection with it.

When asked to describe a brand, consumers always use human terms. Friendly, remote, about 50, a successful woman, and so on.

It is really easy for marketers to go off the rails here, to see a picture of an emotional attachment that simply does not exist, They see it through their eyes, not those of the consumer. The truth is that consumers see brands as things/people that solve problems for them, they have preferences, sometimes very strong and exclusive ones, but in the end, it is rarely a life defining choice, most brands are  not in a position to change the world.

Note that having a useful Value Proposition depends on knowing your customer very well, which is the next foundation principal. It does not matter if you have a great value proposition for a new tractor if the person seeing the ad is a 20 something lady living in the inner metropolitan area.

Ask yourself two questions:

  • What value does my brand generate for my ideal customer?
  • Why should they buy mine, and not somebody elses?

Failure to answer either is a fail. However, it does lead to a bunch of other highly relevant questions you should ask yourself.

This process is always iterative, it never just happens at once, nicely sequenced, it is a messy, emotional, and challenging process with lots of traps along the way.

Who is your ideal Customer?

Where will you find them?

What are their behaviours?

Why should they buy from you?

Developing a persona of your ideal customer requires that you make choices, often difficult and confronting ones, but the more choices you make  the better, the more focused and therefore compelling you can make the communication of the value proposition to those chosen.

Making these choices is more about what you will not do, than it is what you will do.

One of my marketing mantras is ‘choose a niche and own it’

These days, the more choices you make, the deeper and darker the niche to which you market becomes, the more likely you will be left alone to do business with those who truly value what you have to offer.

Digital enables some scarily accurate targeting, and it is getting better at it every day.

It is very hard for an SME not to chase every so called opportunity as it emerges, but when you are small, focus is essential, as you have less resources to expend.

You cannot be all things to all people. Way better to be a necessity to a small number of people.

Making the choices about the niches you chase is a core part of the brand building exercise.

Years ago I took over the marketing for the general products division of Dairy Farmers, which included Ski yoghurt. Ski had been around for a while, had been market leader, but had recently seen, this was the early eighties, Yoplait launch, and decimate their share in a market that had huge growth as a result of  the activity. Being a new marketing manager, I did some research, first thing, and it was a revelation. Sitting behind the glass I watched as yogurt consumers described Yoplait as a young, educated, hip and successful young woman, and Ski as an old reliable farmer in wellies. Very human descriptions, and my marketing challenge was clear. 10 years later, Ski was the market leader, with Yoplait a close second, each with about 35% share of a market that had continued to  double every couple of years. The research exercise was a stark reminder of how consumers saw, and related to brands

I am currently working with a client who is embarking on this path, and we have developed a Value Proposition that has 3 elements, and are now defining his ideal customer with an evolving rating system that demands that they meet a number of criteria, related to the value proposition.

Very quickly, the sales have gone up, because the sales people were forced to say ‘No’ very early to the price driven casual tyre kicker who was comparing prices and did not fit the profile. This has left them more time to sell to current and more appropriate potential customers, the communication is way better targeted, and margins have quickly improved.


We all understand the concept of leverage, doing more with less.

In brand building, you have to use the available tools to give you leverage, but you also have to have something worth leveraging.

You have to be remarkable.

By definition, remarkable means that it is worth telling someone.

It must be an example of Seth Godins Purple Cow

The tools give you the leverage to make use of remarkable. Always have. TV is a tool for leverage, just as is Facebook, but neither work in the face of ‘unremarkable’.

All marketing activity, no matter what it is, is seeking to apply leverage to something.

Let’s consider that best of marketing tools ever: personal recommendation.

It delivers a lot of credibility and brand building power, but low leverage, as it is one person at a time, although getting a few to become apostles delivers huge depth of leverage. It can be enormously valuable over time.

Personal recommendations can be used digitally when you think hard about it, so put some on your website.

The tools of digital have made it easier, but the competition for attention is intense.

When I was young, there were a few TV stations, newspapers, radio stations, and magazines, that was all. Now, everybody is a publisher, there are literally millions of channels of communication, thousands of hours of video gets posted to YouTube every minute.

Attention is the new gold standard, and people are very adept at filtering out stuff of no interest, and they make choices that exclude most of the noise.

Again, it does not matter how well you use the tools, if the product is not remarkable, the tools will not do you much good.

The reverse is also true, if the product is remarkable, but you do not use the tools, or use them poorly, or use the wrong ones, progress will at best be slow.

Back to the jigsaw analogy, there are many pieces, the question is how they best fit together.

Scott Brinker every year puts together a Martech Landscape. This is the one from March 2016, with 3,800 branded tools in the box.  2017 when it comes out, very soon, will be well up on that score.

The remarkable purple cow speaks for itself.

As the old saying goes, when you have a nail to drive, you need a hammer.

Now however, you have a million different nails, each requiring a specialised hammer.

Have you picked the problem with the Jigsaw metaphor?

A jig saw only fits together one way, there are no alternative solutions involved at all.

When building a brand, there are no right answers, there is no one way, unlike the jigsaw.  There are multitudes of ways you can fit the pieces together, and decide which pieces you want to use, you can experiment and play until the mix is optimised for your situation.

There are no silver bullets or easy answers, no templates, and a thousand experts who will charge you for their particular (Branded) truth, so beware.

Many here would be thinking ‘facebook’, a number of you have experimented with it, which is great. Experiment away.

However, if you think facebook is the answer, you have asked the wrong question. It may be a tiny part of the answer, but only a tiny part.

Having a picture of the end result is however, essential. In that, the jigsaw analogy works perfectly.

An obvious question after all this effort, is how do we value a brand?

As some know I am a recovered accountant, however, part of my DNA is still looking for things I can count that mean something, that give me information I can use.

Therefore I look for useful metrics that give some idea of the value of a brand.

It is reasonable when you invest all this time and effort into brand building, to expect a return.

It seems to me that youtube subscribers would be a good measure, after all, when you sign up to the channel, you have explicitly said you want more from them, more information, promotions, so it seems like a good measure of engagement.

I referred at the beginning to several brands, so lets look at their value.

The Coke brand worth is said to be worth $US80 billion, one of several estimates by reputable companies, and one of the top 3 or 4 brands in the world, according to these lists, Interbrand, being one. Pewdipie does not feature on any list I can find.

Coke spends around $3 bill/year on branded advertising, plus all the rest they spend.

They have a stated marketing objective of ‘engaging’ consumers with the Coke brand.

So, YouTube subscribers might be a good measure.

March 23 when I looked, Coca Cola had just short of 1.4 million subscribers, added across a number of individual Coke channels. Well up from a year ago when they had 1 channel and 763,000 subscribers. The maths, tells me the increase in subscribers last year cost them, well, a lot!!

Anyone here heard of Felix Kjellberg? Or his business Pewdipie?

A Swedish gaming satirical commentary web site, hardly even a product.

Pewdipie had well over 54.4 million subscribers, roughly 39 times Coke, is the number 1 site on YouTube by subscribers, coke is not even in the top 150

Coke has been spending billions, with a specific objective of ‘engaging consumers’ for 100 years, and Pewdipie has been around for 7 or 8 years, spent little or nothing, and just has a dodgy site with amateur videos done by his mates.

This is the value of a niche, and understanding in great detail the persona of your target audience.

So to finish, when you set about this brand building exercise, make sure you have a very clear picture of where you want to end up, as without the picture, any destination will do, but it may not suit you.

Header picture is of master brand builder Walt Disney looking on as his creation, Disneyland, emerges from its foundations. Thanks to Wikimedia.





Is this the most effective brand destruction strategy you have ever seen?

Is this the most effective brand destruction strategy you have ever seen?

I know the United Airlines debacle  a few days ago has received a lot of exposure, but at the risk of adding to it, have you ever seen anything that even approaches the level of corporate stupidity displayed?

You might think  that after the lesson of breaking Dave Carrolls guitar, which he has turned into an industry, they would have done a little bit of introspection, but it seems not.

Instead, they overbook a flight, pretty standard practice to maximise bums on seats, but then when all the passengers inconveniently turn up, they resort to aggressively dragging some poor buggar, nominated by an unlucky dip, off the plane.

Then to make it worse, they set out to brush it aside in their public statements.

‘Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.”

What they should have said was something like: ‘if you are dumb enough to try and fly with us, you get what you  deserve.’  At least it would have been honest.

Of course, the headline assumes United has a brand that means something of value to some, which is perhaps a brave assumption. It is probable that already the only reason you would book with them in the hope that they might get you to a destination safely, and on time, was because they were the cheapest. This is the only way I can conceive they could sell a seat.

If there is a bright side for travellers it is that should you choose to book a seat on a United flight from here on, it is pretty certain that the one next to you will be unoccupied.

As another piece of good news, the bloke they removed probably has a huge retirement pack on the way, assuming there is any left after the lawyers picnic.