A commentary today on the back of the Sports Pull-out Section by David Walsh of the Sunday Times is interesting; not just that it was in the Sports Section about the departure of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal to Liverpool, but also that it has a strong message for us marketers:

He read a piece on the US-based Ribbonfarm website, a space that offers unusual philosophical takes on familiar and new subjects. It read like it was 3,000 words too long, Venkat Rao explaining how a new phrase had crept unbidden into his head during an evening out with his wife at Veggie Grill, a “fast-casual” restaurant that offers the ease and convenience of fast food but with a more inviting sit-down atmosphere.

He coined it Premium Mediocre. His partner immediately understood what he was getting at but did not agree that the food at Veggie Grill was premium mediocre. Rao spoke to friends about the concept and was surprised at the degree to which it resonated with them.

It was something everyone felt but did not have the means to express. Rao offers a pretty succinct definition of premium mediocre. “Mediocre with just an irrelevant touch of premium, not enough to ruin the delicious essential mediocrity: The way he italicises “just” is quintessential if unwitting premium mediocre. Rao lists multiple examples. The finest bottle of wine at Olive Garden, a US casual dining chain. Cruise ships. The Italian names for drink sizes at Starbucks. The very idea of a gourmet sandwich.

He does not stop there.

McDonald’s Signature Collectlon. Anything branded as “signature”. Everything Trump-branded. The fact that Americans equate “French” with classy is proof of the US’s premium mediocrity. Extra-legroom-seats in economy. Premium mediocre is food that Instagrams better than it tastes. It’s Game of Thrones. OK, you’re thinking, stop right there – Game of Thrones is not premium mediocre. It is. There is no shame in this, as much of what we love is premium mediocre. Especially when it comes to sport. Most especially when it comes to football.’

And so it goes on. The point here is that just adding a marketing spin to something ordinary can fall easily in to this trap. There are some great eMarketing Campaigns that look superb, and give off a smooth lustre that at first glance show that you’ve got it all together as a company – but there is so much of this stuff now, that a lot could be called Premium Mediocre – for instance, how often do you have time to click thru’ and delve any deeper? Even if I had time, I know I wouldn’t.

But then, out of the blue, a beautiful piece of print arrives, with a hand crafted, wet ink signed letter and, with print gone out of fashion, a real stand-out magazine is enclosed that will happily grace the coffee table for many weeks.

On another occasion, a wonderfully written email from an agency contact who is always thought provoking and worth a read and a share. Neither of these examples are Premium Mediocre.

Now I’m not suggesting that we all turn back to print or employ teams of copywriters, but the point I’m making is that we can all rush like lemmings into the smoothest looking marketing automation campaigns and not actually stand out at all…. always try and be different…. what would catch your eye? Let’s have automation to deliver a higher level experience.