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

Many business people are surprised and shaken by the out vote. That’s regardless of which party they supported at the last election.  Labour fans are blaming Cameron for promising a referendum in the Tory manifesto, and those who voted him in for letting it happen. Pro-EU Tories are blaming him too for the naivete of that pledge, but also wondering how all those Labour voters in the midlands and north came to side with the likes of Boris and Nigel – hardly their natural bedfellows. 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

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

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

You have to feel for Clare Balding, the nation’s darling after 2012. Her success has catapulted her into being the sole presenter of a total fiasco of a programme which has been universally derided. After defending the show, saying “new formats can take some time to bed in with audiences”, the BBC has backtracked on most of the changes and turned it back into a programme about the day’s tennis at Wimbledon. Phew.

What went wrong, Read More

Comment | July 2015

I knew I was cutting it fine to catch the 19.20 from Waterloo the other night. But I’ve done it often, and know which platform to head for. The train was still showing on the board. So I was more surprised than anything else when the doors closed in front of me, and I watched from platform 3 as the train pulled out. “But it’s leaving early!” I protested to the unruffled train controller who was right beside me as he waved the train off. Read More

Thought leadership | April 2015

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

What do Chelsea tractors and email overload tell us about forecasting?

Picture yourself in a trends workshop, innovation brainstorm or scenario planning day, one day in the not-too-distant past.  Your task is to help an automotive company see what sort of vehicles people in Europe will want in the future. Here’s what you’re being told. Fuel prices are rising. There’s a lot of talk about “peak oil” (whatever happened to that?). There are more and more cars on the roads, Read More

Thought leadership | April 2014

That American business import, “the C suite”, gets some bad press. In the FT recently, Lucy Kellaway wrote a whole column about how she abhors it, prompted by the appointment of Charlotte Hogg as chief operating officer at the Bank of England. I confess I was a chief innovation officer for a while, though, in my defence, I never really called myself that. I don’t mind CMOs and CEOs, nor even COOs. But I do take grave exception to the latest addition to the C suite, Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | September 2013