The Loan Shark and the Smiths next door

When it comes to advertising a product or a service – one of the key things that companies target is a customer’s social standing. 

Humans, by and large, want to be liked.

We want to look good. Take for example personalised number-plates, there’s a huge market for them – and, contrary to popular belief, one of the reasons why they’re so popular is because they disguise the age of the car…at least to the untrained eye.

Fancy that, ey? It’s not just to have your nickname on the front/rear of your car. It’s so the Joneses next door don’t realise that your car is actually ten years old.

But going back to those on the wrong side of the law, one of the best anecdotes on using social pressure to get what you want concerns a debt collector.

As you can imagine – the life of a loan shark can be pretty tough at times. Common sense is a gift not divided equally, and those who borrow money tend to not want to pay it back.

So the first thing this debt collector would do – he’d find out the address of his payment dodger’s mother or close family member. And he’d send them a postcard. Addressed to the payment dodger but going to the family address.

And, as postcards aren’t in envelopes, the family member would have to have the willpower of a Spartan not to read the back of the postcard.

Then they’d get in touch with the person that the card was meant for. Exerting social pressure.

Because no one wants to look bad in front of the family, right?


(image credit: Hemingway Design)

If this method didn’t work (or if he couldn’t find a relevant family member) – the loan shark would send another postcard.

It would again be addressed to their client, but it would be addressed to the house next door. Instead of to the client’s actual house.

So, as you can imagine, the Smiths next door would read the postcard and find out that their neighbour owed money to the wrong people.

Presumably they’d then deliver the card to the addressee…and he or she would be served a massive dose of social embarrassment.

Manipulating the natural human instinct to care what others think can get you want you want.

It’s the same with getting models to wear clothes and showing lots of happy, cool people using an electronic gadget.

If we think it’ll make us look or feel a certain way, we’re likely to be more interested in it.

(I believe I first read about this anecdote in ‘How to write sales letters that sell’ by the enigmatic Drayton Bird – one of the greatest living copywriters, who I was luckily enough to meet at his seminar a few years back)

(featured image credit:

The pathways of memory lane…

I didn’t write today because I spent a lot of my time down memory lane.

By this, I don’t mean that I sat around looking at photo albums and old memory cards.

I actually got out there and walked through the streets, roads and lanes that made up some of my formulative years.

I guess it’s an advantage of still having a base close to where you grew up. It’s easy to remember the child you used to be.

Early memories are really precious and, if not treated with care, can soon float away and dissolve into the hustle & bustle around us. Like rogue bubbles or balloons that have drifted too far away and subsequently popped in the bright light of the day.

As I went from place to place, I remembered summers spent in friends’ houses. Football games played on wide open playing fields. The shop that sold the best type of energy drink. The pubs where I learnt to enjoy the taste of beer.

Wymondham Green Dragon Pub
(The Green Dragon, Wymondham).

It was also strange to think that, while still open, those pubs wouldn’t be full of the familiar faces that I’d look forward to seeing on Friday nights.

Those Friday nights as an eighteen year old had a bit of magic around them. You got your first taste of adult nightlife, with the thought of University and a world of socialising just ahead of you. Everyone you’d speak to on those nights would be excited for the futures that lay ahead.

I can even remember a time when I had to flip over a fence and run down a hill. Fifteen year old legs moving as fast as they could. A bunch of guys in the year above hot on my heels, determined to serve me a knuckle sandwich.

As I looked at the spot where I landed on that day I couldn’t help but feel close to ‘past me’. For a second our realities, although now so far away from each other, touched. I could remember how scared I was, I could smell the ‘Shockwaves’ hair gel that I wore and felt the tattered old Vans that I’d have worn.

If I could I’d have reached out to past me and told him that he’d get away from them, and would be home for dinner before he knew it.

I even saw an old schoolyard bully. Now all grown up and clean-shaven. As he walked past there was a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. I suppose for him I was just another name from the past. But for me it was much different – we tend to remember those who taunt us much clearer than they remember us.

I always think that memories are a proof of a life outside of the linear path we follow every day. And, when it comes to the ones that you want to remember, you should take extra care to keep them alive.