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

This is, reportedly, the happiest man in the world. Matthieu Ricard, a French Buddhist monk. Naturally, meditation is part of his routine. He recommends half an hour a day for everyone. For the rest of us, there’s meditation’s little sister, mindfulness, which is very much in vogue. We are supposed to be in the moment, to attain contentment. The opposite of marketing, you’d think, which is all about consumption and wanting stuff, even if it’s more about collecting experiences than bling these days. Read More

Thought leadership | October 2017

Purpose is motivating in the abstract, essential for strategic choices, and helpful for decision-making. We all know about the man cleaning the toilets at Cape Canaveral who was “putting a man on the moon” (if you believe it). But it’s individual recognition that gives our work meaning at the personal level.

The proof is in studies done by Dan Ariely, the behavioural economist. In one, people were asked to assemble Lego Bionicles. For the first fully-assembled robot toy, Read More

Thought leadership | July 2017

A dull autumn morning in a park in south west London, in 2004. Nine men and four women line up on an improvised start line. A lean South African called Paul Sinton-Hewitt takes a photo, then calls “Go!” and the first Bushy Park Time Trial is underway. He waits while they run out of sight around the park, then clocks the first two finishers, who cross the line side by side in just under nineteen minutes. Read More

Thought leadership | June 2017

How does your business think about pricing, and who sets it?  Every brand has to have a point of view about where it sits in the market, even if, like FMCG brands, the final selling price is outside your control. I recently explored the role of pricing, both tactical and strategic, and the challenge of getting the value equation right, in this article for Market Leader. Ensuring the price is right Market Leader Spring 2017 Read More


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