The chairman looks at what the opposition are doing to raise their profile
'I have a question,' said the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet. 'How do you think I should go about raising the group's profile?'
'You're joking,' I said, taken aback. 'You have a quicker turnover of personnel than the England cricket team and by my count you've launched 17 funds in the past year. There are Spice Girls with a lower profile than you.'
'It never does any harm to be prepared, though,' said the chairman. 'And we are heading into a quiet time of year. So what would you suggest?'
'I suppose you have to look to the experts,' I said. 'You know, the masters of talking a lot but not really saying anything, which takes us back into the murky world of the spurious survey.
'And, as luck would have it, I just happen to have a whole batch of recent ones with me. The entire gamut of human existence is here, from people not knowing anything about stockbrokers from Halifax, to CIS on how your star sign affects your driving.
'I can give you one from Legal & General inspired by the general election and the Design Council's thesis on why the country's teenagers think Richard Branson is a better thinker than the pop star Eminem.
'Yorkshire Bank not only lets us know about people regretting missed opportunities but also about holiday hell. Cahoot says money is the root of most arguments, Capital One tells us the cost of owning a dog and MSN deals with the thorny problem of which gender is better with money.
'American Express takes a similar approach and has another on the cost of weddings. In fact, the man-woman-love thing seems to be a favourite area, with Royal Bank of Scotland investigating who pays at first dates, The Research Department talking about wedding insurance and Abbey National looking at what it costs to be a wedding guest.
'In fact, Abbey National are the undisputed kings of this genre, covering topics as diverse as cash-strapped students, the Survivor TV show and, inspired by National Kissing Day, how a first kiss can lead to a £250,000 bill for marriage and kids ' the romantics.
'And of course there was the seminal 'Britain can't live without pubs or pants,' the details of which I'll spare you.'
'Much obliged,' said the chairman. 'So, to sum up, they seem mainly to be about love, pets, celebrities and television programmes.'
'Pretty much,' I said. 'So if you can get Posh and Becks appearing on Big Brother looking after two poodles and a bunny rabbit, I'd say you'd have something.'
'It's certainly food for thought,' said the chairman.
'Well, while you're chewing on that, may I try a question of my own now?' I asked. 'I'm right in thinking you have Scottish blood in you, aren't I?'
'About 40% proof,' came the reply. 'Why?'
'Well, I thought there was something odd about the recent Fund Manager of the Year Awards and I've finally worked out what it was ' I didn't see any kilts.
'I was wondering if you knew the reason why, unless it's because there's some EU directive on the amount of tartan allowed in one place at one time and Aberdeen's sales director's magnificent trousers exceeded that by themselves.'
'No, it wasn't that,' said the chairman. 'Although I'm sure those trews must have breached some sort of health and safety regulation.
'Nor can the absence of kilts be put down to the occupational hazard of the ladies trying to find out what a Scotsman wears underneath ' truth be told, most of us rather enjoy that.
'No, I would suggest the dearth of kilts this year simply boils down to the sheer weight of carrying that much material around and the attendant comfort problems.'
'I hardly dare ask,' I said.
'Oh, don't be squeamish,' said the chairman. 'The trick is to learn how to walk properly so that you use your thighs to push the kilt away from your, er, body when you walk.
'The Scots call it 'swagger' and those who don't learn to swagger suffer from a little gentle ' and I did say gentle ' bruising.'
'And the ones who choose not to wear the tartan at all, what do they suffer from?' I asked. 'Oh I don't know,' said the chairman. 'Probably some sort of kilt complex.'
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