Small differences

By Rupert Blackwell, October 2019

Three short stories about how small changes can make a significant impact …

1. Where’s the soap?

We often stay at a Malmaison when we’re away on fieldwork. The last time I stayed in the Leeds hotel I noticed they’d removed the bar of soap and bottles of shower gel from the bathroom and replaced them with larger soap dispensers bolted to the wall.

Probably it’s a way for them to reduce plastic and the fact it’ll save them a bit of money along the way won’t hurt. But it’s a shame – because you could take the old bottles home with you, and the products within were quite nice, it acted as a touch of generosity on the part of a brand aspiring to be fairly luxurious and above-average, something to remember them by.

I wonder if they’ll regret it and change back: nothing says a budget, make-do hotel than finding the shower gel is screwed to the wall. Perhaps it would be better if they revealed the rationale for the changes – it might seem less of a wrench if they told us why.


2. Ta dah!

I’m not sure why, but the spirit and warmth of the London Olympics feel a lot longer ago than seven years.

I was reading about Danny Boyle the other day and how he organised the opening ceremony. A couple of nights before the event, the organisers held a full dress rehearsal, to which a capacity crowd of Londoners was invited to provide a live atmosphere. At the end of the run-through, Boyle stepped into the centre of the stadium to thank the audience for coming. From their response it was clear the show would be a big hit, not least because so much of it – James Bond and the Queen, for instance – involved unexpected events.

How could he encourage people to keep things under their hats for a couple days? Reckoning that nobody’s very good at keeping secrets, he took a different tack and urged everyone to ‘save the surprise’. It was a clever insight into human nature, because nobody likes to be a party pooper.


3. You are here

We’ve been working with the Museum of London which is based at London Wall in the City.

In our groups, museum-goers who’ve never been but would like to go often say they don’t really know where it is. On their posters, the Museum has traditionally directed visitors to them via the Barbican, which we all know is a part of town that even lifelong Londoners feel bewildered by.

When we go to meetings there, we always get out at St Paul’s where it’s just a five-minute walk away, made even easier because you can see the Museum all the way from the Tube. We highlighted this to them in our first debrief – how this route made the Museum easier for us to find than we’d first thought because it’s just a few stops from Oxford Circus on the Central Line. It obviously struck a chord because we’ve noticed that all their posters now say ‘5 minutes from St Paul’s’. Whether it’s made a massive difference to visitor numbers we don’t know, but it certainly makes the Museum feel a bit more reachable and in the swing of things.

Rupert Blackwell