The fatal flaw of trend-based brands

If you’re a founder, you probably got into the game partly through a desire for freedom.  Being your own boss and all that good stuff. Central to this desire is a yearning for control.  To be in control not only of your time, but of your destiny.  To incubate yourself from the arbitrary whims of […]

Stop confusing strategy and brand strategy

When I tell people I help companies with their “strategy” the response I invariably get is “what kind of strategy?”.  This is because people are familiar with isolated subsets of strategy (social media strategy, sales strategy, recruitment strategy, etc.), but they aren’t familiar with “company strategy” as a whole. This “holistic” strategy, which sits at the top […]

The schizophrenia machine: How brands remake our identities

Below is number 5 in my cultural context series, following the previous ones on the post-cultural myth, horizontal loyalty, supernormal stimuli, and concentration. I hope you find it useful, or at least interesting. ___ Philosophy is one of those things that lots of people like in theory, but few like in practice.  The reason for this, it seems to me, is pretty simple: […]

The danger of boring yourself

The thing about churning out one of these essays every week, is that it forces me to constantly be focusing on the “next” thing: the next idea, the next theory, the next technique, the next talking point. In general this is no bad thing, as it helps me to continuously deepen my knowledge, and hopefully […]

How to be truly rebellious

In 2022, there’s nothing more conformist than being revolutionary. I’ve written about this before, but I still think it bears repeating that it can be quite hard now to find brands who don’t present themselves as being in some way maverick, rebellious, and counter-cultural – even (or especially) amongst corporate giants. They all stand with […]

Strategic unity: how to blend the functional with the emotional

I often say that the best businesses are generic in every way but one.  In amongst a framework of safe and recognisable best practice, they have a single disarming insight which subverts the status quo, and from which all their leverage stems. In my case, although I dress everything up to appear distinctive, there really […]

Master or servant: how should you work with agencies?

The relationship between brands and their creative agencies is often an unhappy one. I don’t have any stats at my fingertips, but it’s often observed that the rate of satisfaction tends to be quite low on both sides of the table.  From the client’s side, the complaints tend to centre on agencies’ inability to understand […]

Cultural imprinting: how ads really work?

Ever notice how much better it is when your favourite song comes on the radio compared to when you listen to it on Spotify? It’s weird isn’t it.  You’re driving along, radio humming away as background noise, and then you hear those first couple of beats and suddenly it’s volume up, windows down, hand beating […]

How not to be disrupted

Note: after last week’s discussion and the idea of balancing planned vs. agile strategies, I gave it some more thought and came up with a concept I think explains it well.  So you can consider this a bit of a follow up, hope you enjoy. ____ Generally speaking, I think the pace of change is wildly exaggerated. […]

The Challenger Trap: fighting the status quo with the status quo

Once up on a time, to be a “challenger brand” simply meant that you weren’t number one. On this basis pretty much any brand could be framed as such, without it really saying anything about their philosophy or approach to the market.  One of the original challenger brands, for example, was Avis, the car rental […]