Taking aim at women who didn’t feel confident with financial matters got NatWest into hot water. Meanwhile Santander’s new “Antandec” bank ads are just aimless. Apparently they were inspired by the similarity between the two names. Inspired might be a bit strong actually. Beyond the joy of seeing Ant and Dec together on the telly, there’s nothing much in these ads. Whatever Santander is trying to say about its own offer is lost. Read More

Comment | June 2019

NatWest is taking a beating for its “tone-deaf” attempt to target women. The campaign launched with a tongue-in-cheek letter from an old-style bowler-hatted banker apologising for ignoring or patronising women in the past. The bank’s intentions were good. A spokesperson for NatWest said, “While many women feel confident when it comes to finances and investing, research has shown that a huge number of women don’t feel the same way.” All the same, this is a clear case of Oops, Read More

Comment | June 2019

Innovation. Should you fail fast, or never give up? How can you tell a good idea, not yet solved, from a hopeless one?  Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos never gave up. She named her invention the Edison, in honour of the American inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison. He supposedly said, I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways it doesn’t work.  

Holmes’s company was reported to be worth $10 billion by 2013 and she was a paper billionaire. Read More


This week Coca Cola announced the launch of Coca Cola Energy. If you feel like you’ve heard this before, perhaps at some point in the last 32 years you’ve stumbled across Red Bull. Yep, it’s taken Coca Cola 32 years to launch their response to Red Bull, although they distribute Monster, in which The Coca Cola Company has a minority stake. Now they’re finally doing it for themselves, you might have expected something rather more inspiring. Read More

Thought leadership | April 2019

The pressure to show you can “take feedback” seems to have led to ever-harsher ways of giving it, such as the culture of “radical transparency” at Bridgewater Associates, and the Netflix approach featuring real-time 360s, which sound to me like being tried as a witch.

I once asked a very experienced primary school headteacher how she managed to control the youngsters without ever raising her voice. She told me her basic rule was to “catch them being good”. Read More

Thought leadership | March 2019

The old saw “All publicity is good publicity” is being sorely tested. In the first month of 2019 we’ve had at least three major incidents. First there was vegan-sausage-roll-gate, in which Greggs caused grave offence to meat eaters. Well, Piers Morgan. Then men worldwide were outraged by Gillette telling them to show their feelings more, but not the mean ones. Today’s hurt is brought to you by a “digital banking alternative” called Revolut. Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | February 2019

People are getting in a lather about Gillette. Here’s why they’re doing the right thing, but going about it the wrong way.

The first question to answer is: Is it right for a shaving brand to take a stand on how men behave?

Second: If they do, how should the brand act on that belief?

Third: is a two-minute film the right way to tell the world what they think? Read More

Comment | January 2019

The build-up to the Oscars seems to start earlier and get bigger every year, now featuring the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs en route. It’s assumed everyone cares about the Oscars. We’ve been told the Golden Globes are an early indicator of Oscar success. The British Academy has jumped on the bandwagon. TV news will now break off in the middle of a story to go live to the announcement of the BAFTA nominations. The nominations. Read More

Comment | January 2019

Even great brands make mistakes. A few years ago Waitrose installed hot drink dispensers in their stores. Anyone with a “myWaitrose” loyalty card could help themselves. Money-saving websites flagged the offer on their freebies lists. MyWaitrose membership grew from 4m in early 2014 to 6.5 million three years later. But not everyone was pleased. Aside from concerns about careless trolley-drivers with a hot drink in one hand and their phone in the other, regulars were troubled by the queues of “irregulars” around the machines. Read More

Thought leadership | December 2018

For a business with a small marketing budget, social media feels like a no-brainer. Free communication channels to reach the world: a finance director’s dream come true. What’s the worst that could happen? No one sees it, no harm done. But watch out. A communications plan that starts with social media is at risk of being ineffective, and even damaging. We’re told social media fuels narcissism. It can also turn reasonable brands into self-important bores who only talk about themselves. Read More

Thought leadership | November 2018