Product is nothing: How to see things the way your customers do

People – especially founders – are fond of saying “product is everything”.  Have a great product, and you’ll succeed.  Have a poor product, and you’ll fail.  That’s the general idea. It’s a nice sentiment, and true enough in a number of ways, but in a bigger way… it’s bullshit.  Not just bullshit, but dangerous bullshit, since it […]

If you want to do great marketing, never use this word

As long time readers will know, my views on business begin and end with one simple belief: Business is the practice of delivering value to people. That’s it.  Each and every company is nothing more than a system designed to give value, and thus receive it in return.  Sure, you can create a business that […]

Taste: The secret ingredient

A client and I were recently analysing the surprising success of the canned water brand Liquid Death, now valued at over $700 million.  In case you’re not familiar with it, Liquid Death is notable because the entire brand is essentially one big joke – it’s water (obviously a pure and healthy substance), presented in a “dangerous” […]

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 […]