Peter Whent

August 23, 2023

White Van Man

The 1990s have a lot to answer for.

Where do I even start.

How about serial crimes against music, Boyzone and Savage Garden.

Or making us believe it was OK to wear plaid flannel shirts, baggy jeans your mum would look good in, or those ridiculous tiny sunglasses.

And how did track suits move from the sports aisle to the fashion aisle?

On the plus side it did give us the joyous spectacle of David Mellor being caught with his Chelsea shorts down.

The 90s also gave us White Van Man, and that’s where I want to spend a moment.

White Van Man was unashamedly blue collar and alpha.

He sped from job to job in his van, cutting up women drivers and yelling obscenities.

I have a picture of a 27 year old bloke from Chelmsford called Gary who wants to bring back hanging and sleeps under a Union Jack duvet.

Lord only know how Gary is dealing with the pronouns debate.

So my marketing demons were jumping with joy when I saw a branding twist on White Van Man this week.

Introducing White Van Gentleman. A London-based removals company.

The twist alone is beautifully simple. But the really clever bit is that they’ve anchored the brand in an idea that we already understand and doesn’t need any explanation. Then they’ve turned it on its head.

I was completely in love with them and their witty front…..right up to the point where I visited their web site.


"White Van Gentleman is a company that prides itself on professionalism. We are a courteous, trustworthy and efficient removals and delivery company that is always happy to go the extra mile for you."

Sorry did someone fart?

They say you should never meet your heroes.

In the time it took a badly optimised home page to load, my new branding heroes went from urbane, cheeky, wordsmiths to copper bottom, undistilled, Brandwankers.

There is something that happens to people that I can’t explain.

Take someone who goes to the pub, has banter with his mates, speaks like a normal human being.  Now put a keyboard in his hand and ask him to write some business copy and OMG.

He turns into a Brandwanker.

Innovating here, unleashing there. Passionate this, results oriented that, and ultra-customer focused the other.

The result sounds like he’s been drinking liquid Tony Robbins. It has all the appeal of a tax manual.

Lots of business people think they need to sound like business people. So when they write business stuff, they go straight into Brandwank mode.

But people buy from people.

Your prospects are aching for someone who speaks human. Who has a sense of humour. They want to do business with that guy down the pub.

The person your prospects speak to them most is themselves. You need to drop the Brandwank and work out what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.

No-one lies awake at night thinking to themselves, “I need to move house. I must find an innovative,  customer focused removals company that prides itself on its professionalism.

They’re thinking, “I need a company I get on with, who aren’t going to drop my prized Ming vase, half-inch my wife’s jewellery, and who can get us in for Christmas”

They think about real world problems.

That’s the language you should be speaking. Not Brandwank.

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