A view from Dave Trott: The not-so-great train robbery
A view from Dave Trott

The not-so-great train robbery

Apparently, there are three simple rules for a successful robbery.

Keep it small. Keep it simple. Keep it quiet.

Small: because the fewer people involved, the better.

Simple: because the more complicated it gets, the more chance of it going wrong.

Quiet: don’t tell anyone outside the people involved.

These are pretty basic rules – easy to follow, you’d think.

But people get caught when they think they’re too clever for the basic rules.

Take the Great Train Robbery.

They got away with £2.7m in 1963 (that’s £35m in today’s money).

The idea was to rob the Glasgow-to-London mail train.

It started with five men: Gordon Goody, Bruce Reynolds, Buster Edwards, Charlie Wilson, Roy James.

So that should have been rule one: keep it small. But they needed an expert in stopping trains.

So they contacted Tommy Wisbey, which meant involving his gang: Bob Welch, Jim Hussey, Roger Coudrey.

Now they were up to nine men.

Then the place they chose to stop the train was too far from the road. 

So they needed a driver to move the train.

That was the end of rule two: keep it simple.

They had to get Ronnie Biggs involved because he knew a driver. 

And so the gang grew until, from the original five, it was 16 people. 

And that was the end of all the rules.

They didn’t keep it small, so they couldn’t keep it simple, or keep it quiet. 

Which is why the robbers got caught. 

And between them were sentenced to 307 years in prison.

They thought they were too smart to stick to the three simple rules. 

Lots of people think they’re too smart to follow the basic rules.

There are three basic rules for advertising.

Impact. Communicate. Persuade.

Impact: because if it isn’t impactful, no-one will notice. 

And if no-one notices, nothing can happen. 

Simple as that.

Communicate: because if no-one understands it, they won’t know what we’re saying. 

And if they don’t know what’s we’re saying, nothing can happen. Simple as that.

Persuade: because if no-one is persuaded, they won’t do what we want. 

And if they don’t do what we want, nothing can happen. Simple as that. 

Just like the Great Train Robbers, lots of people in our business think they’re too clever to do the basics. 

And, just like the Great Train Robbers, a lot of money goes missing.

£20.3bn is spent on all forms of advertising and marketing in the UK. 

4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively, 89% isn’t noticed or remembered. 

The 89% that isn’t noticed or remembered is roughly £18bn. 

It goes missing because it’s invisible.

So that’s £18bn given by marketing experts to media experts and advertising experts.

All people who think they’re too clever to do the basics.

But the truth is: just like the Great Train Robbers, they’re not clever enough.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.