Move complete

I moved this blog from an independently hosted server to WordPress.com.

Despite my best intentions and frequent WordPress updates, malicious code kept making its way into the template – knocking the blog off the air and wrecking havoc on my search engine results.

Some recent comments seem to have been lost in the process. Apologies.

Other than that – we resume our normal infrequent missives. If you crave more – don’t forget the Twitter and Facebook feeds, which often point to other publications before they are cross-posted here.

Six reasons thought leadership content is often left unread

Thought leadership presents a challenge to the best and brightest of organisations. It’s hard to generate and even harder to fully leverage.

Hard to generate because good content is a rare thing and because organisations tend to rely on their most senior and, therefore, busiest people to come up with the goods. Harder to leverage because once a piece of thought leadership content is created, many organisations discover that it’s not creating the impact they were hoping for. An often resource-intensive process leads to a modest bang when the content is released and ends with a whimper.

So here are some reasons why nobody reads your thought leadership:

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Ideas, meaning, purpose and fluff: when brand strategy goes wrong

(This is an archive find and one of my few longer pieces. I wrote it just before leaving Landor back in 2011 and later edited it with the help of Frances Gordon. It’s seeing the light of day for the first time and I believe it is still relevant. Hell, every project is a Déjà vu…)

Mission, worldview, vision, values, personality, role, insight, opportunity, story… Has your brand strategy proliferated so much that it’s hard to see the wood from the trees? If so, you’re not alone. Read this article to understand how it’s happened, why it’s happened, and what you can do about it.

Smart and succinct brand language is proven successful

Most celebrated brands find their articulation through simple phrases: Apple has “Think different”; GE has “Imagination at work”; Sony has “Make.Believe.   Google’s mission statement is simply “to organise the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful’’.

While corporations may have more detailed versions internally, it is these surprisingly short phrases that are most often cited as best practice by marketers and most often admired by everyone else. Because once the fundamental creed of a brand is identified, very little strategic language is necessary. So instead of focusing on endless wording and rewording, corporations can focus on taking action to make their strategies live.

‘’Brand language” plays a greater role than that of a slogan. These words become central to the ethos of the brand. These short statements serve to rally together internal and external communities of a corporation. At its best, this “strategic language” gives communities focused, lucid creeds that have clear strategic imperatives and imply real-world action.

But if smart and succinct wording is recognised as best practice for brand strategies, why – more often than not – do we see reams of overcomplicated text used to articulate what should be a clear concept? Continue reading

Superbrands 2014: no brand is safe, but it’s never too late…

(Originally written following the publication of Superbrands 2014, then handed between editors until it was too late to publish. Points still valid though..)

The annual Superbrands list is a fun one. Unlike some brand lists/‘indexes’ that are based on complex, notably opaque, brand equity models; models which often employ statistical calculation bordering on voodoo, it simply turns to the public with a list selected by experts and asks them about their perceptions.

Once a long list is selected by industry experts, participants are asked to consider which brands are ‘Superbrands’. A Superbrand being a brand which has established ‘the finest reputation… [and] offers customers significant emotional and/or tangible advantages over other brands, which (consciously or subconsciously) customers want and recognise.’ In addition, they are asked to judge the brands against the factors of quality, reliability and distinction.

To answer those questions, participants have to fall back on their own perception of brands, and, arguably, also their perception of the perceptions of brands. With that in mind, it’s interesting to try and figure out the reasons behind the movements in the ratings. Since we’re in a perception-led territory, it makes one look back at the passing year and try to deduce how events, communications and the general zeitgeist banded together to create such an impact.

If I had to summarise the lesson for brands from this year’s results it would be ‘no brand is safe, but it’s never too late.’ Continue reading

Made in Provenance: global brands and the second coming of origin stories

4291-Paul-Smith-sale(Originally published on The Crossed Cow)

Where do great brands come from? Iconic brands often seem like they’ve always been great. That myth is propagated by both companies and agencies. It’s the branding equivalent of the dying myth that success stories come from nowhere and are largely led by individuals rather than by communities.  An often overlooked part of the answer is hidden in plain sight within the question: Where?

One of the earliest roles of a brand was to signify origin. To this day, provenance plays a vital role in many brand narratives. In categories, such as food, fashion and pretty much anything with a design angle, provenance is always a fundamental ingredient these brands use to engage with consumers and position themselves among their peers. When it comes to Italian Gelato, French Champagne (from Champagne, naturally), Savile Row suits etc., provenance is used as shorthand for the authenticity and heritage that product heralds.

It’s tempting (but naïve) to think that in a globally networked market the question of origin is no longer as important as it once was. However, with people having more access than ever imagined to information about brands, it has arguably become even more important. It can still signify quality, authenticity and character but additionally, it now relates to new selection drivers such as environmental sustainability, social responsibility and ideological compatibility.

The global, cosmopolitan consumer may still seek out the international superstar brands, but these brands are successful because their provenance equity is built in. Globalisation is actually one of the main drivers of the importance of provenance. Continue reading

The keys to the candy shop: how Candy Crush offers a masterclass in marketing

(Originally published on The Drum)candy

I was standing on a London Underground platform two days ago when an announcement came through the PA system: “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform… even if it means you have to stop playing Candy Crush until you safely board the train.”

That degree of pop-culture ubiquity doesn’t happen often to such a young franchise (since April 2012 on Facebook, November 2012 on smartphones). As with Angry Birds before it, if you are on a train this summer, it feels like every other person holding a smartphone or a tablet is playing King’s Candy Crush Saga. If you are on Facebook, you must be getting “requests” from at least a couple of your friends.

This ubiquity also means big money as widely reported  by the media over recent weeks. King’s figures mention 45 million players playing 600 million times a day. Think Gaming reports $632,867 in revenue per day on the iOS App store alone, and the game is just as high up the charts on Android devices and on Facebook. It’s safe to say that across platforms it’s bringing in millions of pounds every week.

(Note that as a side effect, for any company who deals with related data, Candy Crush PR is a highly effective article bait. At the time of writing “Think Gaming” + “Candy Crush” has over 1500 results on Google.)

But behind the lure of a surprise success story, there’s a master-class in the fundamental digital era paradigm of marketing. Continue reading

Marketing ideas as disruption, the case of Swatch

(Originally published on The Drum)Swatch 30th anniversary_0

Swatch turned 30 this year, but its story could have been entirely different if the Swiss watchmaking industry had continued on its downward trajectory of the 70s. A look at how brand embraced disruptive technologies through marketing idea and reversed the fortunes of a floundering industry.

In popular culture, Switzerland is synonymous with clockmaking and watchmaking. The tradition of Swiss clockmaking craft dates back to the 16th century, and while the second world war saw watchmakers in other countries limiting production and supporting the war effort, Swiss neutrality gave the industry an unexpected push.

However, in 1983, centuries of history nearly came to a bitter end as the number of watchmakers shrunk to a quarter of the industry’s size in 1970. The legendary Swiss watch industry was on the brink of being erased.

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