Strategy models are not orphans

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Illustration by: @momok (I don’t have to credit, but I want to)

While developing work for both recent client projects as well as my D&AD masterclass, I realised one of the cardinal sins of the way many agencies and consultancies present strategy.

Most times, when an agency puts a model or a framework in front of a client, it as if it came from nowhere. It is almost never credited to the original inventors. Even agencies that would never share a creative work without crediting its origin (although orphan case studies and best practices are also common), often wouldn’t dignify strategy the same way. Continue reading

Bonfyres of vanities: the pitfalls of a cultural Fyre-Sale

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The great thing about the Fyre festival documentary (Netflix version) is that it works on so many levels. I think it’s a must-watch for anyone in the creative industry, media and the entrepreneur/VC space. Spheres of influence where realities are constructed and promoted, often with little regard to consequence. Let it be our cautionary tale.

Liar, liar pants on Fyre!

On a surface level, there’s the story of the epic disaster itself — a fractal-shaped clusterfuck of clusterfucks.

Early on, as a viewer, even if you had no awareness of the news story at the time, you think you know what’s coming because you know the premise. Well, guess again because it gets more and more extreme and peculiar –twist upon twist. It’s one of the things that make it such a weirdly enjoyable film to watch. I don’t want to drop any spoilers, but two moments that left me picking up my jaw off the floor were around the toxic ethos of ‘taking one for the team’ and the inevitable ‘force majeure’. More on those later. Continue reading

Has Gillette made a mistake? Marketing meets politics

So apparently some men out there are throwing their toys out of the pram because of Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ advert.

Gillette dares to suggest the rising awareness of toxic masculinity, and its harm is an opportunity for growth. Perhaps (GASP!) for change, or even a commitment worth making. That’s just too much, man!

However, some men are raging, because, you know, #notallmen.

So let’s sort this thing out first, shall we? THEN we can discuss whether it’s sensible marketing… Continue reading

The dance of creative leadership: 5 principles of facilitating flow (uncut version) 

 

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Illustration by The Partners

 


This article was originally published on Virgin’s Entrepreneur. However, as they were looking for a blog post, it had to be cut in half, with the models, one principle cut out and another central idea removed. I’m bringing it here because I think there is value in the deeper stuff.
Read the other version if you want something more top-line or if that to much, here’s a TL;DR:
Creative leadership can be seen as the facilitation of Flow. To achieve it you have to engage the full organisation and carefully navigate conflicting elements/agendas. 

(If you want to publish it on your platform, let me know.)

Another impossible demand?

The demands from leadership have never been higher. The focus on performance is still there, but across many sectors, the environment is more volatile and disruptive than it has ever been. Vision is no longer enough; a leader should instil his or her team with a sense of purpose. Innovation used to belong at the start of a process, now it’s continuous. And, of course, as we shift away from patriarchal views of leadership as inherently masculine, we add emotional intelligence, empathy, intuition, social awareness and so on…

And now there’s creativity, without which there will be no innovation (which, to an extent is the practical application of creativity). While innovation has many models and processes, creativity, which should generate the ideas that drive innovation, remains more enigmatic. How do you manage something so mysterious and ‘fluffy’? Is there a method to it? Is it simply down to the leader being creative, or is it about them leading the organisation’s creativity, or both?

When discussing old-school leadership vs contemporary leadership practices, some stereotypes are very much alive. That’s a shame, because if, when we’re talking about the new demands on leadership, we simply contrast them with a Machiavellian command and control straw-man, we will not push the new paradigm far enough, and we’ll miss the big picture. Instead, we should take a more integrative view.

Here are five principles that draw on both ancient and new leadership approaches.

Continue reading

Déjà vu: Why B2B brand portfolios are descending into chaos, again.

 

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Illustration by The Partners

 

[Sometimes I get asked to write stuff and feel the marketing strategy equivalent of those famous protest signs that read ‘I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit’…]

Nearly 20 years ago, global M&A sprees combined with massive product innovation required the likes of Unilever and Nestlé to carefully assess their portfolios as well as scrutinise any arguments for the creation of new brands.

In February 2000, Unilever famously embarked on a global programme to reduce its number of brands from 1600 to 400 in five years. Coining the term ‘power brands’, Unilever shifted budgets from smaller, local, regional or niche brands to brands like Dove and Persil. It also leveraged the ice-cream Heartbrand to connect local heritage brands (Walls in the UK, Algida in Italy, Langnese in Germany, for example) and act as a platform for international powerhouses (Magnum, Cornetto, Solero, for example) across more than 40 countries.

Telecoms quickly followed suit and we experienced a shift from a world where even an audience-specific mobile tariff would have its own brand to largely monolithic portfolios across the entire sector. Today, you would struggle to point out a non-endorsed sub-brand for one of the major telecom brands.

FMCG companies may not be monolithic, but all the major players increased the prominence of their corporate brand endorsement over the last decade. Nowadays, most of the revenue of Unilever and P&G is estimated to come from a combined group of about 30 brands.

It’s ironic, then, that many of the consultancies behind those famous portfolio efficiency projects are holding increasingly proliferated brand portfolios that are straining not just marketing budgets and internal resources, but the amount of attention they can command in the market. Continue reading

Brand Strategy Returns to Radical Simplicity

simplicity.gifBranding was born to make things simpler. A collection of clear signs, telling a focused story, replacing complicated explanation. It helps your audience recognise you, hire you, and understand what makes your company a better choice. It’s fundamental stuff. Hopefully, the right branding influenced the right brand perception. And, according to Keller’s definition of brand, your brand supports the creation of ‘a mental structure to clarify decision’.

Brand platforms were born to articulate the ideas driving your branding. Your team and your agencies could then understand what it was all about, so they can deliver on it. Create the communications that tell your story. Design experiences that deliver the promise.

But somewhere along the way, things went horribly wrong. As marketing professionals were working on making things clear, consistent and easy to use, for many companies things were getting complicated. It started with something positive – a wider recognition of the importance of brands. Continue reading

The tensions of digital brand identities

tensionsVisual design is a vibrant, ever-evolving world. It always combines timeless principles with new tools and changing fashions. Contemporary design operates within a global culture that has been getting increasingly visual for over a century since the early days of mass media.

Brand identities, specifically, now spend a large part of their lives in digital environments. These environments offer both opportunities and challenges, but are we really seeing the amount of innovation we’d expect? The kind we’ve seen in product design or interface design. What are the key factors shaping brand identities in digital environments? Continue reading