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

Packaging is the always-on media channel of supermarket brands, a powerful signal of a brand’s honest intentions. But that message can be subverted, or can simply go a bit awry. Strong brands caught in errors or misdemeanours need not worry. They will always be forgiven.

Dorset Cereals is a successful premium-priced brand with a distinctive proposition backed up by great products. Honey Granola is my favourite. They’ve just made a subtle pack design tweak. Read More

Comment | May 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


The latest #fakenews is that Waterstones have opened “unbranded bookshops”. Despite what many trustworthy sources are reporting, Waterstones, the last remaining chain of specialist bookshops on the high street, have done nothing of the sort. The real story is that a national retail chain is creating hyper-local brands, one-off retail outlets seemingly tailored to their location.  If they deliver on what those brands promise, they’ll be doing us all a favour.

Southwold Books in Suffolk, Read More

Comment | March 2017

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


The economist John Maynard Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Brands are the antidote to that. After the emissions-rigging scandal, many people predicted the demise of Volkswagen. I saw it differently. Brands are a shortcut to a view. In psychology terms, a brand is a heuristic – a ready-made shortcut which saves you the brain-ache of having to think about things and weigh up options every time. Read More

Comment | April 2016

It must be tough being a Volkswagen sales person right now. But those who say the eighty-year-old brand is fatally damaged don’t understand how brands work. If people see the bad behaviour as out of character with the brand or company as we believe them to be, then mostly people will forgive or excuse that bad behaviour – or, quite quickly, forget about it. It’s the johnny-come-latelys whose fragile brand equity can be swept away by a catastrophic error or a calculated deception. Read More

Comment | October 2015

“Brands don’t just have target markets, they have target moments.”

Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy UK Read More

Quotes | April 2015

Last night I found myself asking, “What is this N’duja sausage?” Both Pizza Express and Zizzi’s have adopted it big time lately. The staff member in Zizzi’s couldn’t tell me how to say it, never mind what it is, so I ordered my pizza without it. Today I got an email from Zizzi’s giving me the answer to both. Genius joined-up marketing comms? Actually, the opposite – the person in the restaurant had no real answer for a question which she was probably not hearing for the first time. Read More

Thought leadership | December 2014