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

You have to feel for Clare Balding, the nation’s darling after 2012. Her success has catapulted her into being the sole presenter of a total fiasco of a programme which has been universally derided. After defending the show, saying “new formats can take some time to bed in with audiences”, the BBC has backtracked on most of the changes and turned it back into a programme about the day’s tennis at Wimbledon. Phew.

What went wrong, Read More

Comment | July 2015

That pouting blonde in the yellow bikini has attracted a lot of attention. Nothing new there. But the row about Protein World’s poster, “Are you beach body ready?” has had a lot more coverage than she has in the poster. Apparently it’s offensive. I really can’t see why it’s more offensive than a Dove ad.

How can I say that? Dove and its campaign for everyday beauty has been hailed as some sort of feminist icon. Read More

Comment | May 2015