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

Most brand managers want their brand to evoke strong feelings. We naturally want our customers to like the brand, to feel attached to it. Books have been written and careers have been built on the idea of brand love. But let’s be honest: as a human being, rather than a marketer, how many brands do you really care about? Love?

When Coca Cola changed its formulation in the 1980s, Americans rose up in horror, Read More

Comment | November 2014

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

Judy Garland Read More

Quotes | October 2014

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

 

Benjamin Franklin Read More

Quotes | August 2014

A friend, let’s call him Alan, confessed to me that, through a combination of devotion to Nick Cave and a senior moment, he had pre-ordered a new Nick Cave album on Amazon twice, three months apart. Realising his mistake when two CDs arrived separately, he contacted Amazon to arrange for a return and a refund. Their response: we understand how these things happen. Don’t bother to return it, we’ll credit your account anyway.

Now imagine some other possible responses. Read More

Thought leadership | March 2014