Category Archives: Branding

Folks, “social media” is not the answer. A “great idea” is, and always has been, the answer.

The ambulance-chasers at “Business Insider” ran an article a few days a go with the headline “VW make another brilliant SEO-based ad.” (View above and read the hyperbole below).

Couple of things:

–       it’s a nice idea. Not new (unless you’ve been in the business 5 minutes) and not really “brilliant”. (But well done for resisting “awesome”, dorks.)

–       it’s has NOTHING to do with SEO. It is not an SEO-based idea, at all. SEO works on leveraging an idea, through its properties. It is not an idea in and of itself…

It really is a neat idea. But I wish “journalists”/ bloggers would do some homework on what similar idea preceded this.

This one – for example:

Every Want Ad you’ll see in the advertising journals is looking for “digital specialists”, or for “Social media Gurus.”

Your brand has a big problem? Hey, get a Facebook page. Do some “social media.” Or, better still, do a “viral” campaign.

What ARE you nincompoops smoking? Seriously.

Continue reading Folks, “social media” is not the answer. A “great idea” is, and always has been, the answer.

What will it say on your Gravestone?

Have you ever stopped to consider why you’re on the earth?

What your function is? What you’re ‘meant’ to achieve.

What thing inside you, what burning ambition, what gift to the rest of us, what piece of learning, what advancement in a particular field you have to impart?

Whether you destined to be an utter failure (like a moronic Microsoft employee who after 20 years STILL hasn’t mastered any successful form of smell check) or a Zuckerberg, I find it hard to believe that we don’t all, somewhere in us, have an innate sense of what we can achieve.

Now, for sure, it may have been squashed, by parents or teachers or bosses, but if it doesn’t still live in you, at some point in time but most surely did. Whether plausible in conception or not, we humans dream.

And having a dream and being able to keep it alive and making it real, I believe, is the difference between success and failure – and, if you will, between emptiness and fulfilment.

Continue reading What will it say on your Gravestone?

My thoughts on digital marketing

I thought I’d gotten an email from my friend Raafi Rivero today.

For three or four seconds, I thought “Great, wonder how he is?”

I opened the email. There’s a link. Maybe it’s to his new movie?


It’s a link to some lame weight-loss program.

His email had been hacked and he’d “sent” me an email.

Now, let’s rewind and figure out what happened here.

Who benefitted, who lost and who paid dollars for this: Continue reading My thoughts on digital marketing

Just a coffee, please.

I have a number of addictions. One is coffee. Specifically Starbucks.

I am told there are “better” coffee shops. I am aware that a Grande Latte costs the same as a gallon of gas (though, relatively my coffee is looking cheaper and cheaper). But now I cannot even order a coffee at the end of a meal in a restaurant, such is my need for the Green Siren. I will leave, even a very nice expensive establishment, and go get my latte in a paper cup from Starbucks.


Because of what it represents. It’s my morning treat. My luxury. My ten minutes of solace. A pick-me up. A quite cogitate. I also buy the Starbucks “third space” idea. Not home. Not work. But the modern American equivalent of a British “pub” where you can wander in, alone or with others, chat, read the newspaper, check email and sip your beverage along with the like-minded.

Continue reading Just a coffee, please.

Planned obsolescence

I have a good deal of respect for Mr Alfred P Sloan.

He rescued GM in the depression of the 1920’s.

He built the company into the largest corporation on the planet.

And he poured many millions of his own money into a philanthropic organization that still bears his name.

He did, however, a couple of less good things:

  1. He (allegedly) was pretty friendly with a small German guy with an attitude problem and a small mustache
  2. He invented “planned obsolescence”

Now, this concept (planned obsolescence) was pretty crucial to GM’s success and – from a business point of view – was a very smart thing to do.

In essence, prior to the mid 1930’s (and following Henry Ford’s edict – and made real by Karl Daimler and Gottlieb Benz) a car was to built to last.

And in the case of Daimler and Benz, last a very long time.

Ford’s motives were: “Replace everyone’s horse with a car.”

The Germans’: “Build the best engineered car.”

But GM’s was: “Don’t have last year’s model, have THIS year’s model.”

Epitomized by this great Doyle Dane VW ad “Auto Show” from 1970:

Continue reading Planned obsolescence

British Airways

The anthemic television campaign for British Airways which became a touchstone for the brand and its values. Watch here or go to Creative Work & Case Studies for the full story.

Land Rover

The ad that started the resurgence of Land Rover, enforcing it, globally, as “The best 4x4xfar.” See Creative Work & Case Studies for the background to the campaign.

Captain’s Log

The pilot on my plane this morning was a wizz on the Harmonica.

As he welcomed people to the flight, he gave us all some fast-paced Southern tunes, interspersed with some information about where we were going and some crap about seat belts and exits.

He was warm, engaging and funny – yet still sounded in control, mature and Captain-like, just one in a fahhhn Southern mood.

All it takes to turn me from
a shuddering wreck to a contented happy passenger is communication

Now, I hate flying. Hate it. Terrified. (Actually it’s not the flying so much as the crashing.) But I have a serious deep-seated fear. I hear and feel every bump, every creak, every undulation, every noise, every movement the plane makes and assume either one of our friends that wear fabric on their heads is up to no good or the wings are about to fall off.

Two things get me through this.

1. Drugs and alcohol.

2. A communicative pilot.

If I’m on a flight and we hit turbulence, I freak out. If I’m on a flight and calm Captain John J. Rickenbacker III, who introduced himself earlier, warned me that 20 minutes into the flight we’d “hit a few bumps for 10 minutes,”I’m fine. All it takes to turn me from a shuddering wreck to a contented happy passenger is communication.

And, as a result, my already-high opinion of Air Tran is heightened still further. No surprise this fine airline is now in the Southwest stable.

The Captain stepped out of his cabin as we disembarked and he looked like your average blue-chip fifty-something solid guy, albeit with a grin. And a Harmonica.

“Sully” made us realize than airlines don’t fly us, pilots do.  And as brand ambassadors, they (in my view) account for a huge percentage of my view of that company, once I’m in the air. I firmly believe there are no companies. There are only employees.

One never “sees” or experiences a company, just its iteration, its outward experience – whether that’s a website, an automated phone system or a human.

I find it staggering, still, that so many companies allow their companies to be flown without great pilots.

Why nincompoops worship data

This is a piece on data.

Written by a man who’s run a very successful global ad agency group for more than 2 decades.

So he probably deserves a listen.

WHY do middle-managers love data so much? So they can prove they shouldn’t be fired?

The Power of Lasting Brands: Man pays $4.2M for Batmobile

I have a strange belief that the power of (and loyalty to) brands you fall in love with as a kid can supplant tens millions of dollars spent trying to lure you elsewhere, in adulthood.

I called them “bedroom wall brands”. To me, as a child growing up in the UK in the early 70’s, those brands were Aston Martin (courtesy of the James Bond franchise), Ferrari (don’t laugh, courtesy of Magnum P.I.) and Liverpool Football Club. Oh, and the United States.

Those loves (what Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts terms “Love Marks”) are indelibly etched in my brain.

When I was able to afford a serious sports car, despite the “common sense”of a Porsche, I wanted a Ferrari. And I got one. And, later, I managed to scrape the funds together to buy an Aston Martin. And, eventually, I even managed to secure the Holy Grail: a silver Aston Martin DB5 – the car Sean Connery drove in many Bond movies.

And you know what? It was a piece of crap.

Surely one of the most beautiful cars ever built, but, well, it was like driving a truck. It had a gearbox from a tractor (no, it really did), steering seemingly from a U-Haul truck and the kind of speed and handling one could expect from an AMC Pacer. In short, it was awful to drive. And it was unreliable in the extreme. And every time it ventured to the shop (and by that I mean it needed to go to the Factory) it could clean me out of $15,000 a few times a year.

So did it erode the brand for me?

Actually, yes, it did. They were beautiful, appallingly-built, cars. (Now, for sure, their cars are still beautiful, and now very well made – courtesy of a CEO who used to work for Porsche.)

Do I want one again? Nope.

The brand “promise” was broken. Like a cracked glass, almost impossible to fix.

And so to the man who spent $4.2M on the Batmobile. Well, I hope he enjoys it and sees it for what it is. The materialization of a long-held dream.

I’d suggest he never attempts to drive it.