Blog

To act, or not to act

To act, or not to act

Brand activism In the marketing echo chamber, it can be easy to get disenchanted with your role. Nowadays if your hair gel, extruded potato snack or toothpaste is not involved in some planet-saving endeavour or fight for human rights, then the zeitgeist implies we...

The best of frenemies

The best of frenemies

Why marketing & finance should work better together It could be said that marketing & finance functions have historically been pretty distant from each other. Stereotypically they are the organisations’ left and right brains, but in practice it’s often less of...

WHSmith – defying gravity?

WHSmith – defying gravity?

How strategic choices are shaping the future of a 200 year old retailer As any traveller who’s forgotten their headphones will tell you, there’s a whole chunk of money to be made selling gadgets and travel accessories in airports. That’s a fact not lost on WHSmith...

How not to plan

How not to plan

One of the unspoken roles of a good agency planner is to educate their clients. So even when a great book appears for planners, it's should also essential reading for any client who holds a budget or commissions work from agencies. The result would be higher quality...

Atomic Habits – book review

Atomic Habits – book review

The science behind habits and how we can better understand our consumers and ourselves The business world sometimes has a habit of making simple things really complicated, so it’s refreshing when someone comes along and does the reverse. The aptly named James Clear...

Vitabiotics – a potent growth story

Vitabiotics – a potent growth story

There’s a UK company working at the intersection of food and pharmaceuticals which has been quietly clocking up sustained growth by making smart strategic choices and strong marketing execution. Vitabiotics was established in 1971 by Kartar Lalvani who was later...

Pig Wrestling – book review

Pig Wrestling – book review

I’m not a fan of “business” books written like fictional novels where real life examples are conspicuous by their absence. So I really wanted to dislike ‘Pig Wrestling’ by Pete Lindsay & Mark Bawden. However, the conversational simplicity of this short book...

Rise of the neo-luddites?

Rise of the neo-luddites?

It’s commonly spoken truism that the pace of change has never faster than today - and much of that is being driven by technology which is influencing almost every aspect of our consumers’ lives. However, for every trend that is a counter-trend and there are signs of...

Swimming upstream – creating space to think

Swimming upstream – creating space to think

I’m in the midst of delivering a bespoke global training programme aimed at helping a client’s marketing teams to develop even more effective marketing plans. But, there's one element that makes me uneasy. “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on...

B2B: exaggerating the differences?

B2B: exaggerating the differences?

Many of us have heard stories of blue chips recruiting for candidates who'll "challenge the status quo" - but refuse to countenance taking anyone who lacks experience in their specific sector. These ironic talent scouts characterise our often-exaggerated belief in...

What problem are you trying to solve?

What problem are you trying to solve?

During two decades in corporate land and now seven years in consulting, I've seen my fair share of frustrated (and frustrating) projects. The collective misspent time and energy can be enormous and the hit to morale can out-last the project itself. Often - but not...

The Culture Code – building highly effective teams

The Culture Code – building highly effective teams

I’ve read a quite a few leadership books and one quality indicator is my ‘Doh!’ test. The Doh test is entirely unscientific. It's the moment when I read something and immediately realise how I could have done something differently for a better outcome. The Culture...

Jobs to be done

Jobs to be done

In a recent study 'being the voice of the consumer in the Boardroom' was top of a list of the things effective CMO's should do. There's no doubt this is the intent of most top marketers, but in reality how often do we - really - advocate for the people who ultimately...

Under the influence

Under the influence

17% of 11-16 year olds want to be a social media influencer when they grow up. While adults roll their eyes in response, at least a few of those grownups work in marketing and are merrily lobbing money at influencers like its going out of fashion. Globally advertisers...

Pets at Home – from unloved mutt to prized pooch

Pets at Home – from unloved mutt to prized pooch

When it was floated on the stock exchange in 2014, the debut of Pets at Home was considered the worst IPO of the year. Shares got pummeled over the following months, as concerns about high levels of debt and a weak Board abounded in the City. Even though sales...

Range – how generalists triumph in a specialised world

Range – how generalists triumph in a specialised world

During our careers, many of us are faced with what’s essentially a choice between being a specialist or generalist. For senior marketing people seeking progression, a junction inevitably appears - either move to general management (perhaps via an initial sideways...

Grenade – parking its tank on confectioners’ lawns

Grenade – parking its tank on confectioners’ lawns

A wander through the food-to-go aisles of Marks & Spencer confirms the extent to which protein snacks have become big business. Ten years ago, those aisles were the exclusive preserve of its own high-end branded foods, but now Mars-owned KIND Bars jostle with...

Is the price right?

Is the price right?

I’ve previously described pricing as the “ugly sister” of the marketing mix. Too many marketers don’t feel confident with it. For others, the involvement of Sales and Finance in pricing means they don’t feel entitled to fully influence it. But pricing is critical –...

Conquering complexity – in 6 steps

Conquering complexity – in 6 steps

People yearn for simplicity. Whether it’s in- or outside work, contending with multifarious obligations, considerations, opportunities and challenges can be overwhelming. When we feel bogged down and are greeted by more complexity around every corner, simple answers...

“Duck & cover” or recession-ready?

“Duck & cover” or recession-ready?

"Trees don't grow to the sky" - that's how US financial columnist Louis Rukeyser described the inevitability of financial downturns. Last month I read "Mastering the Market Cycle" by Howard Marks. Who knew it was possible to write a whole book on various financial...

Covid contrarianism

Covid contrarianism

A hell of a lot has happened since my last blog in early-March, a point which now feels like a different era in history, not 8 weeks ago. Incredible efforts and sacrifices have been and continue to be made by people in their personal and professional lives to deal...

Factfulness – Book review

Factfulness – Book review

Factfulness is a refreshing counterbalance to the stream of negativity that's inevitably coming our way at the moment. The book explores the 'ten reasons we're wrong about the world - and why things are better than you think'. For anyone in or considering a global...

McCain – growing against the odds?

McCain – growing against the odds?

In a recent blog I argued how nuanced the impact of Covid has been both on consumers and businesses. Firms have all been challenged, but for some it has been furloughing staff and sales dropping off a cliff; conversely for others it’s been securing enough raw...