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

Marissa Mayer is in the news again, this time for announcing she will take two weeks off on maternity leave when her twin girls are born. Oh, and she’ll be “working throughout”. The predictable media outcry is in full swing.  Here’s the story

I agree it is not a helpful example to set. But I’m more concerned by the notion that a leader is so essential to a business that, even though she’s been there three years, Read More

Comment | September 2015

I have recently read thousands of words written by marketing and advertising people, as part of a judging panel for some business awards. Here are a few of the modest claims I have encountered.

“We changed the law”. This is a popular one. A very large charity said their online petition led to a change in a different law. That’s some going for a petition that collected fewer signatures than, say, the petition against a puppy farm in Hull – I don’t think that one has worked yet, Read More

Comment | August 2015