If all publicity is good publicity, then Nike’s recent ad featuring Colin Kaepernick is a triumph. Widespread reports of outraged Americans burning Nikes is just free media coverage – reportedly $43m worth in 24 hours. Or, you may believe most people aren’t much interested in what brands do, the shoe-burners aren’t valuable customers, and anyway our memories for controversy are short. So, like the VW emissions scandal, or British Airways misleading Virgin Atlantic passengers, Read More

Comment | September 2018

Airbnb’s “We accept” spot during the Superbowl and Lyft’s $1m donation to the American Civil Liberties Union were among several pro-immigration responses from brands after President Trump’s travel ban was announced. UK fashion retailer Jigsaw launched its Autumn Winter 17 range with ads saying “Jigsaw loves immigration”. Mainstream brands like Aviva, Target and Verizon are big on supporting Pride and LGBTQ rights. Others talk about mental health at work. The Marketing Society promotes these agendas as if they are the only marketing strategy you need. Read More

Comment | August 2018

There’s a sort of Elon Musk cult on Quora, with questions like: How did Elon Musk learn so much? Is Elon Musk a visionary or just a crazy man? Does he think ten times faster than other people? Why doesn’t he wear the same outfit all the time like Mark Zuckerberg does? Does he take vacations? And also: Has Elon Muck committed any crimes? With Elon Musk hurting so many people’s business, how does he stay safe from people that want him “gone”? Read More

Comment | May 2018

Brand-building is a huge industry. From large b2b organisations through to one-person businesses, people aspire to build their brand. I meet many great businesses that don’t have in-house marketers to help them do this. There’s lots of good help available, but before you talk to them, challenge yourself. Here’s how.

1. Forget about building a brand

As an end in itself, it’s pure vanity. Think about brands you know and admire, Read More

Thought leadership | January 2018

Paperchase is in the news for the wrong reasons. They ran a free gift-wrap promo with the Daily Mail last weekend. It’s news because it triggered a campaign against them on Twitter. This in turn prompted them to tweet, “We now know we were wrong to do this – we’re truly sorry and we won’t ever do it again. Thanks for telling us what you really think, and we apologise if we have let you down on this one. Read More

Comment | November 2017

Purpose is motivating in the abstract, essential for strategic choices, and helpful for decision-making. We all know about the man cleaning the toilets at Cape Canaveral who was “putting a man on the moon” (if you believe it). But it’s individual recognition that gives our work meaning at the personal level.

The proof is in studies done by Dan Ariely, the behavioural economist. In one, people were asked to assemble Lego Bionicles. For the first fully-assembled robot toy, Read More

Thought leadership | July 2017

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

Age UK are in trouble for doing a deal with an energy provider that raised £6m a year for the charity. It’s tough, and probably feels unfair to them. But this is what happens when the operational needs of the business get dissociated from its core purpose. Fundraising is essential but it is not why Age UK exists.

The charity aims to help everyone make the most of later life. Undoubtedly some older people are confused by energy tariffs, Read More

Comment | February 2016

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

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