“Remember, no one can taste what you taste”

Michael Millar

Brand and marketing expert

02 Dec 2022

Meet Michael, our Head of Marketing & Brand, as he talks about the power of self-belief, the biggest mistake start-ups and big corporations make in their marketing, and going to war by mistake.

A life lesson from Bollinger

When I was a journalist, I got myself into all sorts of trouble (including going to war by mistake… more on that in a moment).

But one time I found myself truly out of my depth was at the launch of a new Bollinger champagne, which I’d blagged an invite to by claiming I was a wine expert. I was not.

In the private room of the exquisite London restaurant, I got my comeuppance when the head of Bollinger invited all the experts around the table (and me) to offer their thoughts on this new release.

In a panic, I turned to the (fully qualified) Master of Wine next to me and told him I was a charlatan and in deep water. What on earth would I say?

He looked surprised at this and replied: “Remember, no one can taste what you taste. Just say whatever it is you think is right.”

It occurred to me much later that this advice was a great life lesson, particularly for innovators and entrepreneurs (our favourite people at Smpl).

If you really believe in what you’re doing (or, indeed, tasting!) don’t take no for an answer. You don’t have to accept other peoples’ truth. Stand your ground, tell your story, and sell your Big Idea.

After all, no one can taste what you taste. It’s just up to you to convince them that whatever you’re offering tastes great.

Screenshot of Smpl's Michael Millar reporting for the BBC
Michael telling stories back in the day.

Life is made of stories

Another piece of wisdom I cling to is the maxim that ‘Life is made of stories’.

On your death bed, all you’ll have is the stories you created or were part of. So, you’d better make as many as you can in the time you’ve got.

But the power of stories is not restricted to your private life. It should be at the core of how innovators and entpreneurs sell their ideas to whoever needs to hear about them – be they investors, colleagues, bosses, or customers, or whoever.

Storytelling is a bit of a lost art; it is often the last thing people think of when they are trying to sell their ideas, products, or services.

But stories are an incredibly powerful way to get your messages across. (I’ve written about that here).

Everything you do can (and should) have a narrative that creates value for your audience. And if you have a narrative, then you have a story.

If you apply storytelling correctly then even the most challenging and potentially mundane marketing tasks (creating a set of automated email follow ups, for example) suddenly become interesting to you and – more importantly – to your audience.

So, in a world of fantastically complicated algorithms, programmes, platforms, and channels, always remember that at the end of the day people want good stories. (Oh, wait, did I mention you can buy my books here…?)

Accept that nobody cares

This is my favourite meme:

Toot toot

I show it to clients all the time to remind them of the biggest mistake people make when designing, developing, and marketing their products and services.

That mistake is to presume people will care about what you are doing.

Audiences are selfish, lazy, and ruthless. If you aren’t solving a problem, easing their pain, or fulfilling some need then they won’t care about your amazing, shiny, spinning widget thingy.

Always ask yourself: how does what I care about align with what my audience cares about? Your success lies in the sweet spot where those two things intersect .

Smpl's Michael Millar when he was a journalist, in body armour and helmet
“Hello? Yes, I wonder if you can help me. I’ve gone to war by mistake.”

I once went to war by mistake

Everyone has stories about waking up after a big night of partying and regretting what they’ve done.

Well, I once woke up and realisated I was going to war.

As a journalist I’d been invited to a PR firm’s office bash by an old friend. It turned out the company represented the British Army and after plying me with whisky, one astute PR exec got me signed up to go to Iraq.

I went, but not before learning the Arabic phrase: ‘la tutliquu alnaar, ana sahafi’… don’t shoot, I’m a journalist.

The time I spent there was quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, in both good and bad ways… War is horrible and I know too much about kill zones now. But the people I met, the places I saw, the stories I heard, and the things I felt are an indelible part of me now.

There’s probably a lesson here about the importance of an inquisitive mind, taking risks, embracing new experiences, and getting the rewards.

But that lesson is for another time. I’m just here to tell stories… and this is a good one.

If you like to find out how you can define and tell the story of your brand, product, or service, get in touch.
You can email our MD Andreas, or leave us a message here.

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