It’s July, and Sue Barker is back at Wimbledon for the BBC. When you do something every year, there’s bound to be pressure, and an appetite, to move it on rather than risk predictability. Back in 2015 the BBC tried to do that, with humbling consequences. Here’s a reminder of what they did and what we all can learn from it.

You have to feel for Clare Balding, the nation’s darling after 2012. Read More

Thought leadership | July 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

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

Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly campaign is a useful reminder that Britain and America are divided by a common language. Apparently it’s a big hit in the USA, where the medieval background to the ads connotes Game of Thrones and is therefore, presumably, quite cool. Whereas here in the UK, any self-respecting beer-drinker who shouts “Dilly dilly!” in a bar can expect a lifetime of mockery.

Coca Cola is another global brand that’s traditionally been loved for its upbeat American values. Read More


Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Some people eschew jargon but if you’re going to use it, make sure you have the latest. Here are some suggestions for words to bandy about, plus a few to drop.

Youthquake

Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2017, defined as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’. I’d got by without it. Clearly I’m not part of the youthquake, Read More

Thought leadership | January 2018

Brand-building is a huge industry. From large b2b organisations through to one-person businesses, people aspire to build their brand. I meet many great businesses that don’t have in-house marketers to help them do this. There’s lots of good help available, but before you talk to them, challenge yourself. Here’s how.

1. Forget about building a brand

As an end in itself, it’s pure vanity. Think about brands you know and admire, Read More

Thought leadership | January 2018