Yes, it was my finger on the trigger, and of course I was prepared to take full responsibility for what I did. But it would be naive to think that I acted completely alone. There was no shortage of advice coming in my direction, some of it quite expensive too. Yes, I am thinking about yours, Mark, my silver tongued bosom buddy and designated arm candy for those networking dinners that I have to do as one of the UK’s marketing A list.
Mark has been dropping in and out of my life ever since we did the same management-training course after university. I liked his smile and the way he could think around corners. I still do. So there we were, years later, having dinner at Le Caprice to celebrate my new job, and over the Martinis we chatted about the big question now facing me and what I thought was the likely end-game; I told him a radical solution was no longer just an option, it was inevitable. In the shimmering light, I brought the ice-cold glass to my lips and I remember feeling exhilarated and just a little scared. Later, as we walked along Piccadilly to his club, Mark stopped, took me by the arm and said,
‘You’re really quite sure you want to do this, Steph?’
Mark rarely called me by my Christian name in, so his question had a particular force. I recoiled.
‘What are you saying, Mark? Please don’t confuse me.’
Mark backed off,
‘Just call it due diligence on my part; anyway, I know you’ll do what you want to do! You always do’, he laughed and we went into his club for a nightcap.
A couple of days later, I was having the weekly catch up with my boss, Thomas, and after reviewing my innovation pipeline, he asked me how the H1 re-launch plans were coming on. After the obligatory Harvard MBA, Thomas went to Bain and then worked in private equity before taking over as CEO. Thomas has a processing chip that is more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider and if anyone could find elusive particles of profit, it would be him. I told him I was pursuing a variety of options that we hoped to workshop later that week. He nodded and then, giving me a concerned smile, asked how I was getting on with Fred, in a way that said ‘this- is- a -key issue-for-you-isn’t-it, Stephanie?’ As he waited for a response, I knew it was time to get on with it.
‘I think we have a view, Thomas.’
That evening, I arrived back at the appartment poured myself a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc and sat at my desk. I re-read Katy’s research notes and watched the old films on the Mac. Some were actually quite good. Then I found myself wasting time opening up useless emails that I would have normally dispatched straight to the bin.
It’s hard to kill someone you’ve grown up with, someone who’s actually quite sweet and who was once a real inspiration to you. ‘Sorry, old chap,’ I murmured, ‘I think we’ve all outgrown you. You just don’t fit the zeitgeist. And all good things must come to an end.’
I opened the email that I had been drafting earlier in which I made my intention clear. I did one final sense check, and then I pressed send, and off through the ether went the electronic death warrant that was to be executed the following morning by my brand and agency teams.
I sat back and took a decent mouthful of wine, sent the Mac back to sleep and went to the kitchen to prepare some pasta, smiling to myself as I made the arrabaiata sauce.
In the days that followed, I discovered that aging stars have a remarkable talent for dodging bullets. In the Twitter storm that followed the news that we were killing off Fred, all the latent consumer love for this harmless fifty year old flour-grader in the black suit and bowler hat, surged and coalesced to create a deadly wave of energy that I completely misjudged. After I made a couple of stupid PR calls, the farrago started to overwhelm me and then, a merciful whack from Thomas brought my glittering marketing career to a very sudden end. Murder in the marketing department did I hear you joke, Mark? Yes, but it was Fred, in the Homepride kitchen with the bloody graded grains, that did for me.
Homepride Cook-In-Sauces was a founder client of The Value Engineers in 1986. Fred, the Homepride Flour Grader, will be 50 in 2014