Having too much choice can be paralysing. This was demonstrated in a famous experiment about jam, which may have inspired the “rule of three” much loved by behavioural economists – the idea that when you give people three price options, whether it’s three quality tiers, three product bundles, or just three different versions, most of us default to the middle one. A McKinsey consultant said it was the reason they now practise the 3 x 3 Rule, Read More

Books | September 2020

How much of the change that’s been forced on us by the pandemic will stick? What can businesses learn from it? The best way to answer that is to understand what makes people change their habits. Knowing that, businesses can enact change for mutual benefit without waiting for a crisis.

The BBC reported the case of a fish and chip shop which had offered a click and collect service for years to get people to pre-order, Read More

Thought leadership | August 2020

This book explains how ordinary, decent people end up doing really bad stuff at work, while others find it easy to turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing. The best, or worst, stories are about how a cumulation of little steps can lead to disaster. In the case of the Texas City oil refinery disaster, it was an accumulation of non-steps: people not daring to question, or to answer back, or to tell the truth that they knew wasn’t welcome. Read More

Books | July 2020

The business case for diversity has largely been made, as has the moral case. But has it really been believed and internalised? Here, Syed demonstrates the true impact and value of diversity, explaining how it actually works. Once you’ve read this book, you will want to seek out the right kinds of diversity for the right kinds of problems and challenges, and you’ll be able to respond convincingly to the standard objection that recruiting for diversity inevitably leads to a dilution of standards. Read More

Books | June 2020

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

“Walk on air against your better judgement”

Seamus Heaney, poet Read More

Quotes | February 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

How do you get attention when you’re so familiar that people think they know you already? Two recent media stunts by established brands say it can be done – but be prepared for a backlash. “Going viral” isn’t always good news.

First, the one that worked. In November 2019 Coldplay launched their new album, Everyday Life, by announcing the track listing in the classified ads section of local newspapers. They chose papers that band members had some connection with. Read More

Comment | December 2019