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

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

Here are two signs. The one on the left is in the grounds of a museum in New York City. It says, “Jousters wanted for seasonal employment. Must work knights.” Assuming it’s a bit of fun rather than a job advert, it’s delightful. A few words presented seriously can be very playful. It adds to the character of the place, at little cost.

The one on the right is closer to (my) home. Read More

Comment | October 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

What do you see when you look at this poster? The visual language of cigarette packaging is so distinctive that even a non-smoker who has barely seen a fag packet up close in years knows what this is. But look again, and you see it’s not about tobacco. It’s about obesity. Genius, or confusing?

It’s universally accepted now that smoking increases cancer risk. Cancer charities want us to think of obesity in the same way. Read More

Comment | August 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