Marketing is in many ways a cold, rational activity, based on research and shrewd calculation. But it can also be intuitive and accessible to the laity.
Who, for example, would have thought that the demi-monde would come to the haunt of coot and hen? But, according to ramblers who wander the North Downs around
Dorking and Leatherhead, ladies of the night are not as nocturnal as they used to be, nor are they confining themselves to their traditional urban habitat. Vice girls are pinning their calling cards to yew and larch and, never a timid species, breaking cover to accost anoraked passers-by with offers of new and unusual ways to commune with nature.
Such is the extent of the menace that National Trust wardens in the Mole Valley have been put on full alert, half alert being deemed inadequate. Local police attribute the advent of the rural tart to a growing potential market of hikers and walkers and the excellent facilities provided by Mother Nature in the shape of secluded heather and woodland.
One rambler, a 48-year-old industrial chemist from Southampton, experienced a first-hand encounter with this exotic new addition to Mole Valley’s fauna, though he declines to relish the memory. “My wife had bent down to do up a shoelace,” he recalls, “and I walked on. Suddenly, this blonde in a low-cut dress, carrying a mobile phone, asked if I would like sex at a starting price of 30. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
The encounter ended when the chemist’s wife, lace intact, caught up with her husband, prompting the other lady to “push off”. The wife says the experience ruined their holiday. “You don’t expect these seedy practices in the Surrey countryside,” she complains.
The couple also reported spotting printed cards pinned to trees advertising a variety of seductive-looking call girls. This evidence was corroborated by David Kennington, the National Trust’s countryside manager for the North Downs, who found a calling card on the car park notice board at Runmore Common left by a politically incorrect lady called White Mischief.
So, on the admittedly slight evidence to hand, we have a bold experiment in marketing whose success remains as yet unproven. With hindsight, targeting the industrial chemist was plainly misdirected, if for no other reason than the close proximity of a wife who had already suffered some inconvenience. But there may have been other reasons, such as the price. It is all very well to boast a tariff “starting at 30,” but that implies a list of alternative, more costly options, all of which may need explaining; a process that does not lend itself to the hustle and bustle of a busy nature trail.
It was perhaps a mistake to go to work in the countryside in a low-cut dress. The first thing any rambler will tell you is that careful choice of clothing is fundamental to enjoyment of the great outdoors. You never know when the weather is going to change, so it is best to wrap up warm and to take waterproofs. And, since lengthy walking is, by definition, integral, sturdy boots are a must.
Ramblers are curious, clannish folk, and, like any masonic grouping, feel at their happiest and most relaxed among their own kind. Exotic cleavage-exposing blondes mounted on high heels chime ill among the timeless rhythms of the countryside.
Far better to adapt. The grassland harlot should wear a bobble hat, a home-knitted scarf, a nylon anorak with hood and toggles, trousers of durable corduroy, sheepskin gauntlets, and Brasher boots. That way, she stands a fair chance of stirring the blood of a fell walking man.
Market segmentation, as always, complicates strategy but can repay effort. People take to the countryside for all manner of reasons, and bright would be the outdoor hussy whose repertoire included tree hugging, dell dancing and wholemeal sandwiches.
The mobile phone was certainly a turn-off. Ramblers do not wish to be reminded of the horrors from which they seek escape. Of course, it is difficult to do business without carrying the necessary equipment, but electronic gadgetry such as phones and faxes play no part in the rural idyll. All that is required is a back-pack, with a billy-can attached for authenticity, and a bed roll for practicality.
The rambler is a quiet contemplative soul whose mind may well be preocuppied with rustic thoughts as down the track he goes. It follows that he should be approached gently, unlike the industrial chemist who, it will be recalled, was shocked speechless.
George Hill, a spokesman for the Ramblers Association, makes the point: “The last thing ramblers want is to be propositioned by a prostitute leaping out from behind a tree.”
A couple of hints there. First, no leaping.
Better to station oneself prominently – by a stile, say – and to contrive allure by removing cow dung from the sole of a boot in a suggestive fashion. Second, do not appear from behind a tree. If you must bring to the countryside the techniques of the town, confine yourself to leaning with your back against the tree, a dog lead slowly swinging from your hand and a come-hither look in the slit of your balaclava.
But these are early days. As more and more people take to the hills, moors and dales and are by their sheer numbers denied the solitude they seek, the more natural it will seem to spy among heather and hedgerow the lesser spotted (if you’re lucky) large breasted hooker.