Last time I bumped into Sahar Hashemi (co-founder of Coffee Republic) she surprised me by saying how much she regretted selling Coffee Republic - simply because she couldn't go into one of their branches without getting annoyed about all the changes they had made to 'her' brand, and basic things they should be doing right but which they were doing wrong. (And this is despite cashing out for what I'm sure was a lot of dosh at the time.)
Well I have to say I had the same feeling when, out of curiosity, I sent for a Red Letter Days brochure last week, and it turned up in the post this morning (only a week on, but then 2nd class post IS a lot cheaper).
First strange thing is that I only ever received one mailshot from Red Letter Days post my departure - strange for a mail order company, especially as I had made many 'mystery shop' purchases under various aliases at various addresses over the years.
Someone in their marketing department being a little over-zealous with the data cleansing perhaps? Or, more likely, a bean counter swooning at the cost of each brochure mailshot -without realising that the annual brochure mailout was the engine room that ran the marketing of the business.
So the latest (flimsy, low-budget) brochure arrives this morning in a highly conspicuous bright red envelope.
Sensible choice of envelope you may think (being called Red Letter Days and all) - but not when you consider that over 70% of purchases are made by wife for husband (or vice versa), and the last thing you want when preparing a surprise gift for your nearest and dearest is something coming shouting and screaming through the letterbox.
Meanwhile, the iconic Red Letter Gift Box (created on commission by design guru and Channel 4 TV star Richard Seymour - at a cost of £100k - and consistently rated as the jewel in the crown of the company's branding collateral in all market research), barely receives a mention, let alone the honour of a photo in the brochure.
Perhaps the bean counter got rid of that too?
You can just imagine that happening at Tiffany's can't you? New FD arrives saying: 'Why do we need all these duck egg blue boxes, carrier bags and silk ribbon packaging anyway? Just think of the money we'll save...'
Then we have Peter and Theo's cheesy faces arrogantly grinning out of the intro page crowing how great they are, quite oblivious to the fact that to this day (over two years on) I STILL get emails quite out of the blue from various ex-RLD punters going on about 'how those two nicked your company' - and therefore that to a large proportion of the target customer base (white, middle England, fortysomething, female) this display of macho alpha-maleness is in marketing terms, actually a real turn-off.
And that's before we even get into the detail of the content - which rides roughshod over so many of the extensive learnings from all the market research conducted over the years it would be an absolute crying shame - if it were still my company of course.
Anyway, I hope I am not starting to sound like a bitter old witch - but I can't help identifying with Sahar over this.
Women don't create companies, they give birth to them.
And no matter how hard you try, and no matter how long after they have flown the nest, they will always in some way still be your baby.