What’s going on in the airline business?  It’s not just United man-handling passengers like excess baggage, or refusing people in the wrong clothes. British Airways is also attracting a lot of the wrong sort of attention for the changes it’s made to its short haul food service. While these airlines chase efficiency to reduce fares, Michael O Leary’s Ryanair has seen the customer service light, with a cheesy but seemingly sincere TV ad saying they won’t treat you mean any more. Read More


The latest #fakenews is that Waterstones have opened “unbranded bookshops”. Despite what many trustworthy sources are reporting, Waterstones, the last remaining chain of specialist bookshops on the high street, have done nothing of the sort. The real story is that a national retail chain is creating hyper-local brands, one-off retail outlets seemingly tailored to their location.  If they deliver on what those brands promise, they’ll be doing us all a favour.

Southwold Books in Suffolk, Read More

Comment | March 2017

Marketing Week recently claimed that marketing and sales are pretty much the same these days (lead article on 12 May 2016). They are wrong. It is a dangerous idea. The more a company believes marketing and sales are the same thing, the harder they will need to push to persuade customers to buy. And if they think marketing is about persuasion, or even about communication, they are in big trouble. Read More


Many business people are surprised and shaken by the out vote. That’s regardless of which party they supported at the last election.  Labour fans are blaming Cameron for promising a referendum in the Tory manifesto, and those who voted him in for letting it happen. Pro-EU Tories are blaming him too for the naivete of that pledge, but also wondering how all those Labour voters in the midlands and north came to side with the likes of Boris and Nigel – hardly their natural bedfellows. Read More


Is this the most cringe-worthy brand launch event ever? It’s Siemens 120-year-old healthcare division’s rebranding to Siemens Healthineers. Brand and company names get attention because they signal what’s inside. That leads to the fallacious logic that if you change the name, what’s inside will change too. Sometimes it doesn’t work out well. Like when Royal Mail became Consignia. Or when PwC’s consulting division became Monday. That lasted until Tuesday, when they were swallowed up by IBM Global Services. Read More


The economist John Maynard Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Brands are the antidote to that. After the emissions-rigging scandal, many people predicted the demise of Volkswagen. I saw it differently. Brands are a shortcut to a view. In psychology terms, a brand is a heuristic – a ready-made shortcut which saves you the brain-ache of having to think about things and weigh up options every time. Read More

Comment | April 2016

Do you care who wins the Premiership this season? You would if you had a £250,000 bet riding on it. That’s the potential pay-out for a £50 bet placed before the first match was played, when you could get odds of 5000 to 1 on Leicester City Football Club.

Now imagine the bookies are offering you the chance to cash out that bet, today, for £72,000. Take the money? A return of 1440 times on a £50 stake that you kissed goodbye. Read More

Comment | March 2016

Age UK are in trouble for doing a deal with an energy provider that raised £6m a year for the charity. It’s tough, and probably feels unfair to them. But this is what happens when the operational needs of the business get dissociated from its core purpose. Fundraising is essential but it is not why Age UK exists.

The charity aims to help everyone make the most of later life. Undoubtedly some older people are confused by energy tariffs, Read More

Comment | February 2016

John Lewis Opticians have just launched. How will they do? JLP’s mutual ownership model is much loved and admired. It’s working well. The total group’s revenues have grown by 50% in the past six years, through a recession. With profit distribution to all employees, known as partners, John Lewis has become the new Virgin, champion of the customer. I would love to buy a car from them, or have them sell my house. But the world of opticians doesn’t need John Lewis. Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | January 2016

It must be tough being a Volkswagen sales person right now. But those who say the eighty-year-old brand is fatally damaged don’t understand how brands work. If people see the bad behaviour as out of character with the brand or company as we believe them to be, then mostly people will forgive or excuse that bad behaviour – or, quite quickly, forget about it. It’s the johnny-come-latelys whose fragile brand equity can be swept away by a catastrophic error or a calculated deception. Read More

Comment | October 2015