“There were two Santas at school today,” said my five-year-old. She was just coming to the end of her first term at school. My pleasure in hearing Santa had come calling was rather tempered by finding out there were two of the old fellas. How could they mess up so badly? They’ve ruined it for all those children. What do I tell her now? Before I could collect my horrified thoughts, she piped up again. Read More

Thought leadership | December 2016

Algorithms are distorting the news and, maybe, damaging democracy.  So says everyone (that’s to say, everyone in my filter bubble). Personalisation can take us to an online world perfectly in tune with our preferences, interests and opinions, in which everything feels relevant and nothing is dissonant. Bad for democracy it may be, but it’s the holy grail of marketing. What’s more, it can be done by machines, thanks to online analytics and algorithms. But marketers are not redundant just yet, Read More

Thought leadership | November 2016

Disruptive innovation seems easy for start-ups and feels threatening and difficult for established businesses. But they can do it too. Here are five guiding principles to help you.

First, think of being disruptive as an outcome, not a strategy. It’s rarely an end in itself. No, not even for Uber. I’m sure their funding pitch talked about being disruptive but the essence of the idea was using mobile technology to match capacity with demand in real time. Read More

Thought leadership | November 2016

As you came through airport security this summer, did you pop one of those smiley faces as you scooped up your bags and swung past towards your departure gate? The company behind them, HappyOrNot, says that using faces rather than numerical scores increases positive ratings. That seems appealing. But it misses the point. Positive ratings are over-rated.

There’s a host of reasons for low scores, from ad hoc operational failures through to structural factors that are slow or costly to change, Read More

Thought leadership | September 2016

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


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

Everyone’s talking about insight. So what is an insight? It is a discovery about the market which can be acted upon to create competitive advantage. It’s usually a realisation, not a direct data point. Numbers may prompt this realisation, but it has to be thought and articulated before it starts to be useful. It’s the “aha” statement that gets passed around, and enables a business to create shared understanding and take action.

It seems like everyone’s doing insight too. Read More

Thought leadership | December 2015

We seem to be moving from a words-dominated world to a picture-led one. YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine (its owners Google tell us). It’s never been easier to take and share pictures, and it’s happening a lot. See Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, et al. Marketing tech start-ups that do something with video are springing up all over the place.

That could make us think words don’t matter any more. Who reads when they can watch a Vine or YouTube it? Read More

Thought leadership | November 2015