When I worked for Asda, our annual conferences were a mixture of condescending but probably necessary prattle, the odd important theme and a good old dollop of fun.
Here is a list of some of the stuff we were given to remind us about key messages as we returned to our stores:
A solid plastic hot cross bun that we were ordered to take to the bakery each day as a quality control check. Any real buns that failed to match the prototype were to be binned.
A coat hanger to remind us that we were a “no jackets required” business (a kind of “no status” thing) and to get our sleeves rolled up to work with our teams.
A small plastic bin that we were encouraged to carry around the supermarket as we picked up litter, renegade grapes and magazine junk mail inserts, a symbol to everyone to keep the store tidy.
A ten-foot ruler, again to carry around the store, as a measure to think about the importance of greeting staff, customers and whoever else came within our ten-foot orbit.
A tape measure, endorsed with instructions, to ensure we maintained “customer space” between fixtures and a reminder to control the heights of displays.
A slab of rock (although to be fair, this was delivered, as it was solid, about four feet high and as heavy as a slab of Yorkshire stone can be) that was placed outside stores declaring the company’s value message.
Rolls of stickers saying “Cut the Crap” which we were to attach to unnecessary paperwork and return to the sender in head office.
A lot of baseball caps over the years with the message of the moment of the front.
An instruction to train everyone in the store’s fresh food departments to sing or hum the song “Happy Birthday” every time they washed their hands as it was reckoned that the song lasted the necessary length of time to achieve satisfactory hygiene.
Tons of folders and presentation packages that would make a rain forest wince, most of which ended up in drawers or on shelves untouched, unused and in no danger of being bothered.