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Parkrun’s growth has been phenomenal. Their mission is “to transform health & happiness by empowering people to come together, to be active, social & outdoors.”  They want to reach more people. Commendable. They say critics don’t understand parkrun – it’s a community event not a race, they tell us. They see inactive or socially isolated people as the ones who need parkrun most. So it is important that people don’t fear that they will be too slow or will feel unwelcome. Read More

Comment | February 2024

The recent travails of NatWest bank show what happens when the ESG agenda strays beyond being a good citizen into social engineering. Their practices seem to have included vetting and sacking long-standing customers whose political views were judged unpalatable. Who decided which views, and who did the judging, we may never know. It is likely, though, that this drive to cleanse their customer base of certain political positions is not limited to one customer or one bank. Read More

Comment | July 2023

Bud Light is in the news for a small social media marketing activity which has had a spectacular impact, both large and rapid. It went viral, amplified all over social media and generating massive visibility and awareness. Every marketer’s dream in other words. Except that this one drove sales down. The decision to celebrate transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney’s 365 “days of womanhood” led to a 26% fall in sales in a matter of days. Read More

Comment | May 2023

Look. Until now I always had to turn the cheese block sideways to grate it, then turn it back to slide it back into the packet. I will now buy this cheese because they’ve solved that tiny problem. It’s not the result of some genius invention or astonishing insight, just simple observation. Little things can make a difference. Read More

Comment | December 2022

External changes force people to change their habits, presenting both risk and opportunity. Pret A Manger’s monthly coffee subscription was launched in autumn 2020, aimed at restoring footfall post-pandemic. It doesn’t cost much to give hot drinks away; the price is mostly margin. Since the average customer buys five coffees a week, £20 a month for all the drinks you want is great value, and should drive loyalty, re-establishing the coffee habit as a Pret habit. Read More

Comment | January 2022

What went wrong with the new John Lewis home insurance advertisement, withdrawn after three weeks on air following a public outcry? Did the team think they were showing a progressive form of parenting, in which boys can play at being girls or be camp or be anything they like? Brand purpose is a useful concept but this is what it looks like when brands think they are a force for social change, Read More

Comment | November 2021

As the trial in the US begins of Elizabeth Holmes, briefly the world’s youngest billionaire, I’m reposting the piece I wrote about her two years ago. Her story starts with the kind of big hairy audacious goal that was lauded by business school gurus twenty years ago. It’s a story of an ambitious upstart challenging entrenched interests with vision and confidence. That all sounds great, so why was it wrong? More to the point, Read More

Comment | September 2021

After the Olympic and Paralympic excitement, there’ll be the usual wave of stories about how we are all inspired by Olympians’ achievements, how you can fulfil your dreams if you only try hard enough, and so on. I’ve seen plenty of inspiring talks, both the sporting type and others. It’s always great fun, and I’ve usually taken something valuable from it. But, in my view, the inspiration from sport is not the simple lesson most often cited by the winners themselves in their moments of joy. Read More

Comment | August 2021

Coca Cola has a new campaign for 2021, plastered all over the cans, as well as everywhere else. The brand name itself has moved off the back to make room for people’s empowering slogans, new year’s resolutions, and general platitudes. It’s called Open to Better, and it’s billed as their “campaign for hope and optimism in 2021”. On-pack messages include:  

“I will take a break like never before”  

“What better time for us to be brave than now?” 

“I promise to be better just for you.” 

I like Coca Cola. Read More

Comment | February 2021

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