"So you want to tattoo a chihuahua?" I said slowly to the chairman of the improbably-sized investment company Prandeamus Asset Management when I visited his office this week.
"Or a whippet or a Weimaraner or anything with really short hair," he shrugged as he put down the mocked-up design he had just shown me. "Otherwise, of course, you wouldn't be able to see the tattoo properly. What sort of idiot do you take me for?"
"I'd rather not say," I replied and then - because sometimes it's just easier to run with whatever the chairman wants to talk about: "So why not go the whole hog - well, dog - and pick one of those hairless breeds? You know - like the Peruvian Inca Orchid, the Argentine Pila or the Chinese Crested." "Top hairless dog knowledge," the chairman nodded. "But have you seen pictures of those things?
"They're positively creepy." "Not at all like this conversation then," I sighed. "Still, let's see if I understand your plan correctly - you are talking about tattooing batches of chihuahua puppies with the Prando's logo and then offloading them to loving owners so that, in due course, you essentially have hundreds of tiny canine billboards pitter-pattering around the country."
"Yup - that's pretty much the size of it," the chairman nodded. "What do you think?" "I'm not sure there are the words," I said. "Just one more question though - in the name of all that is holy …why?" "Because of Hargreaves Lansdown and the life insurance comparison website Compare Cover, of course," said the chairman. "Of course," I nodded. "That was going to be my first guess.
"And this is some sort of … er … merger, is it?" "Do keep up," sighed the chairman. "They're entirely separate bits of news - the first being Hargreaves employing a battalion of marketeers in its latest bid for world domination." "I think I read it was 35 people over the next 18 months," I said. "Which is how much in percentage terms?" the chairman prompted. "A 50% increase, apparently," I replied.
"And how does the prospect of 50% more marketing from Hargreaves Lansdown strike you?" asked the chairman. "Pretty scary," I admitted as the enormity of what the chairman was driving at began to dawn. "You're signed up with them, aren't you?" he pressed on. "Do you remember what you thought when the first piece of the firm's marketing literature dropped on your doormat?"
"I was really impressed," I admitted. "And the second and the third?" "Arguably even more so," I said. "I thought it was some terrific, if perhaps intense, campaigning." "And what about the eighth and the ninth?" "Ah," I said. "By that stage I would probably have been signed up - what? - two maybe three weeks? I guess, I thought, ‘Steady on, chaps'." "Exactly," nodded the chairman. "And that's before we get to the emails."
"Oh please let's not get to the emails," I pleaded. (Rather wonderfully, a marketing email from you-know-who came through just as I was typing that last sentence.) "OK." I continued. "I sort of understand why you might want to step up your own marketing efforts in response but I'm still hazy on why this would involve tattoos on tiny dogs."
"Because pets are more influential in life than grandparents," the chairman replied. "Really?" I said doubtfully. "That doesn't seem very likely." "Well, obviously not for everyone," the chairman conceded. "But when Compare Cover asked 1,000 randomly selected British adults to rate who had most bearing on their lives in order of importance, pets came out slightly ahead of grandparents - at 6% versus 5%."
"I see," I said. "So you're basing your entire marketing strategy for the next few years on the idea the strange relationship some Brits have with their pets means a small but significant proportion of the UK population may be subliminally influenced into buying Prando's funds? Well, it's not the craziest marketing idea you've ever had. Top five, maybe.
"Still, bearing in mind Hargreaves are the monsters of marketing, would it not be more logical to follow their example and, you know, just hire some staff? Kinder to animals too." "Wait," said the chairman. "Some cats have really short hair, don't they?"
Joining London team
Previously at Old Mutual Wealth
Will introduce a cap on cost of care
Inertia has become a key policy mechanism