Hands up those marketers who planned for a situation where some sectors simply cannot do business at all, where demand is constrained by government edict, and no amount of advertising will get people into your store, restaurant, hotel or plane. Me neither.

So, what should brands do in the Covid crisis? First, the things not to do:

1. Don’t assume you have to say anything

Maybe you should just save the money. Read More


You can’t solve the crisis, but you do have a unique part to play. Even in the army during wartime, 90% of people are not on the front line fighting. That doesn’t make them irrelevant.

Right now many businesses are struggling, some fighting for survival. The executive team are fully occupied with operational issues, hunting for revenue, having tough conversations about reducing costs. How can a non-executive director add value? You probably can’t do much to generate revenue. Read More

Thought leadership | April 2020

Best practice sounds like the sunny uplands. But for marketers and brand-builders it can do more harm than good. Digital marketing looks for proven techniques, to establish “best practice”. That leads to observing and following competitors. But here’s the rub. Best practice is about doing things the right way. Brand and marketing are about effective expression of your own business strategy. No other business can show you the right way to be you.

There are some areas of business where there are right or best ways to do things, Read More

Thought leadership | March 2020

What do you think when you hear the name Quality Street? What do you feel? If you’ve grown up in the British Isles, it’s part of Christmas, though you probably forget about it all the rest of the year. But it’s a case study in brand longevity, with some surprising lessons for brand managers today.

  1. There’s no need to obsess about a name

Was there ever a more mundane brand name than Quality Street? Read More

Thought leadership | January 2020

If you like giving your opinion, you’ve never had it so good. The use of smiley and frowny faces to give instant ratings has led to a cornucopia of feedback opportunities. There’s a whole new industry built on online reviews – like Feefo, TrustPilot and Trip Advisor, a brilliant business model in which all the content is provided free of charge by the punters. All that’s before you even open the customary follow-up email asking whether you would recommend, Read More

Thought leadership | November 2019

Is it the job of advertising to portray society as we wish it to be? There’s a new UK rule that advertising cannot show harmful gender stereotypes. In its first month, complaints were upheld against two TV ads. 128 people objected to the way this ad for Philadelphia cream cheese showed men as incompetent carers for the baby, while three people reported this Volkswagen ad for giving all the adventurous and successful roles to men while the little lady sits with a pram. Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | September 2019

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