Compos MentisOur cultures have evolved in strange ways. Sure, we all can appreciate sports fans who want to wear their team’s coloured T-shirt emblazoned with the logo and city, or the hat that proclaims their allegiance to a football or baseball team.

That is a matter of being a proud and enthusiastic fan! But who would have thought that people of all ages would pay money to buy shirts that proclaim, in big letters and bold graphics, the name of some clothing manufacturer? Nike? Reebok? Gap? Old Navy? Abercrombie & Fitch? Armani? Levi Strauss? Gucci? Versace? And the list goes on.

People actually pay money to be walking advertising billboards for companies that sell clothing, shoes … even for Harley Davidson motorcycles. People apparently like to flaunt their brand consciousness – and do it not just subtly, but blatantly! But not me. You must pay me to do your advertising for you.

OK, so now we’re getting down to the real ‘rant’ in this Compos Mentis column. When you attend a metering or AMR/AMI or customer service conference in our industry, you are probably given some form of briefcase or shoulder bag when you register. Some of these are nicer than others.

You carry it around at the conference, stuffed with the programme and the brochures you may collect from exhibitors. Everybody is carrying the same bag, so you don’t look out of place, at least until you leave the convention hall. Then, suddenly, on the city streets, you instantly are marked as a conventioneer. If you have forgotten to remove your badge it is bad enough, but the convention briefcase with bold and gaudy advertising marks you permanently. Well, perhaps you don’t care.

The city is full of conventioneers. Finally, you get home from the conference. Now you face the real challenge! What to do with that conference bag? Some of these bags are rather nice, and could be useful. But no, not with that hideous advertising all over the outside! How sad. A nice briefcase made embarrassing and unusable because of the gaudy exterior.

I must have 20 or more of these conference bags. Each is too nice to throw away, but too hideously commercial to use for anything more than storing pet food or old garden tools. You can try covering the advertising with a dark spray paint or a felttipped marker. I have tried that without success. You can turn it inside out, but that doesn’t work for most bags. It is very discouraging if you hate waste … wasted conference bags, that is.

So … listen carefully show sponsors, advertisers and conference organisers! Consider a conference bag with no garish outside messages. None at all! Inside, when you open the flap, there is the advertiser’s name. It is small, elegant, and discretely displayed, a perpetual reminder to you of the advertiser and his message – a message from a company with good judgment and a clear knowledge of how to serve its customers well.

Every time the bag is opened one has a refreshed appreciation for an astute advertiser who cares enough about you to give a tasteful bag that can be used, in other places and for other purposes, over and over again. Ah yes, a conference bag that can be cherished! Support the cause! Join the local chapter of the International Organisation for the Elimination of Hideously Useless Conference Bags (IOEHUCB). Maybe you can even get the T-shirt!

If you would like to comment on this Viewpoint, please write to the author at cm@smart-energy.com