May 2019


Thom Yorke (whom I like) appeared on the Jonathan Ross Show (whom I no longer like) in May 2013.

Thom played a stripped back version of a song he wrote called ‘Ingenue’.


The word ‘Ingenue’ means, ‘an innocent or unsophisticated young woman, especially in a play or film’.

What the actual song means I haven’t a clue.

It is, however, very beautiful.

And here it is:

You know that phrase.

I nearly died of embarrassment.

Well, one time.

When I was (I think) 17.

I nearly did.


When I was at school.

The best girls were the ones that stood around the chip shop at lunchtime.


Wearing short skirts.


And, I think, spitting.

They were fucking brilliant.

They were the best girls because they were the worst girls.



Some way.

By some miracle.

I persuaded one of these ladies to go out with me when I was 17.

I was not one of the cool kids.

But she and I somehow found ourselves in a taxi, on our way to Derby City Centre from Allestree (about 2 miles outside) where I lived.

She was brilliant.

She had boobs.

And brown skin.

And a bob.


I drank cider back then.

Because it was the only thing I could face as a whole pint.

And on that night – and I do remember this really clearly – I had 3 pints.

It was sweet cider.


In the taxi on the way back, I sat in the front.

She sat in the back.

For the two mile journey from Derby City Centre back to Allestree.

As the taxi swung around the corners, the smell of apples in my nose became more vivid.

And the cider within me began to rise.

And rise.

Until, quite suddenly actually, it projectile vomited against the windscreen.

And the dashboard.


She screamed.

He growled.

I said ‘sorry’ to my right.

Then ‘sorry’ over my left shoulder.

Then I slowly opened the door.

And stepped out of the taxi.


I remember how the taxi smelled.

And how I smelled.

And that my chest was wet.

As the taxi rolled slowly away.


This taxi experience was bad.

Really bad.

But not quite as bad as the knock on my door the following day.

She was stood there with her mum at her side.

And I was stood just behind my mum.

Who had answered the door.

Peering over her shoulder.

As this girl stared me in the eyes stony-faced.


And her mum asked my mum for £25.

Because that was the amount she had to give to her daughter, so she could give it to the taxi driver the night before.


And that.

Was the moment I nearly died.

Of embarrassment.

Sometimes in business.

Common sense is your enemy.

Especially when you’re thinking about brand.

Because brand thinking is different to traditional common sense thinking.


For example, brands that say more things to more people are weaker than those that say fewer things to fewer people.


But true.

A narrowly focused brand that targets a precise market can be very powerful.


Common sense also suggests that saying the same things over and over is dull.

Brand sense says the opposite.

Brand sense tells us that consistency is key to the success of all great brands.

Features and Benefits

And surely telling people what you do is the most important thing of all?

The features of your offering.


It isn’t.

I don’t want to know what you do.

I want to know what you do for me.

I want to understand how I benefit.

Not how it all works.

That’s of no real interest to any consumer in the vast majority of cases.

Brand Sense. 

In business, brand sense is good sense.

If you want to know more about this, contact

Or read Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

(And then contact

I’m 50.

So I have been ‘friends’ with other human beings for (about) 48 years.

In my first couple of years I don’t think I understood much about friendship.

But in the 48 years after that – yes – I have experience of having friends.


The thing that has taken me by surprise recently though.

Is that some of my closest friends these days, I have only known for a really short space of time.

And that, in certain chapters of my life, would have been quite an odd notion.

At school I knew my friends for, say, 5 to 10 years.

At university it was at least 3 years.

In my 20’s and 30’s my closest friendships were with people that I had known for maybe as many as 20 years.

And in my 40’s then, of course, a small circle of friends had been my friend for 30 years or more.


But in my late 40’s, I have met some great people that have become really good friends really quickly.

I have made myself open to this.

Open to change.

Open to revealing a lot more about me to new people.

Much more than I would have done when I was younger.

And I am really, really interested in new people too.

Learning from them.

Being with them.

Helping them if I can.

And, even though I am quite poor at asking for help actually, seeing if they can help me.


I like how the subject of friendship has evolved through my life.

As I get older – there is room in my life, my head and my heart for new people.

It’s a really nice feeling.

And something I mean to carry on with.

Building new friendships takes a little time and effort.

But it’s always worth it.

When the riff is right.

Even a really short eight second riff.

Everything’s right.

You can just play it over and over and over for 6 minutes.

All You Need.

Two middle aged blokes in a park.

With a bit of a backing track.

A great riff.

And two guitars.

That’s all you need.

Have a listen:


Great adverts are well paced.

They draw you in.

They contain exactly the right thing at exactly the right second.

So you stay engaged.

And watch to the end.

One Message.

Great ads are also aware that every single thing in the ad revolves around just one message.

One simple thing.

One simple, memorable thing.


And great ads focus on an ownable thing.

Something that is about that brand’s offering.

Something they alone want to be famous for.

Not the entire category’s offering.

So they stand out.

Not blend in.


Great ads are emotional too.

They are funny.

Or sad.

Or hard hitting.

Or, if they are really good, they are more than one of these things.

In under 30, 60 or 90 seconds.


Great ads are also beautifully produced.

The simple things are just right.

They are clear about what they are portraying.

They are smart enough to put clarity before creativity.


Here’s a perfect example.

From 2010.

(Go to

(You’ll smile.

And you’ll remember the brand.

And you’ll remember the one thing the brand owner wants you to remember about the brand, too.



My dog Colin thinks I’m great.

He thinks I can do anything.

He has faith in me.


The photograph that goes with this short story shows this (

You see, Colin is confident that I can pick up this MASSIVE stick and throw it for him.

Over and over.

For hours.

He has such faith that he just followed me around with it.

Willing me to take it from him.

And launch it so that he could gallop after it.

Tongue lolling.

Tail wagging.


I just wanted to mention that – it’s nice to have ‘Colins’ around you.

People that think you can do anything.

It’s good for you!

They cheer you on.

And make you do that bit more.

And probably achieve that bit more, too.

Because you push yourself.

Because you don’t want to let them down.

Positivity… It’s powerful!

(I did actually have a go at throwing the stick.

It didn’t go far.

But Colin was happy.

And I was happy.

Happy that I’d given it a go.

Happy that, actually, it was impossible to fail.

Because we had fun trying).

The way I retell this story will be pretty accurate.

However, with the passing of time (and the artistic license I flaunt as the writer of 50odd) I will probably smooth the edges.

That’s OK.

The essence remains intact.


Almost 10 years ago.

I sent a Linkedin message.

It was in response to an opportunity that I and my Creative Agency onebestway had been given.

The opportunity was to pitch to deliver high level, broad reaching marketing and communications work for a local College.

I won’t mention the College.

Or the hero of the story.

But they can if they like.

If they read this.

In the comments.

The Opportunity.

The opportunity was for the delivery of design and marketing work.

The brief was pretty standard.

I think it was the seasonal creative campaign for the whole of the college.

You know – the thing that colleges do each year to jostle for attention in their busy marketplace.

Budget and Brief.

The budget was enough.

The College was investing – properly.

But the brief bothered me.

So I sent my LinkedIn message to the Director of Marketing and Communications.

It went something like this.

Hello (I did address this person by name of course).

Thank you so much for asking us to pitch for the development of this year’s marketing campaign for your College.

It’s a great opportunity.

However, if you don’t mind, I have an observation for you.

If your College was a brand that stood for something desirable, that was consistently communicated and ownable (so it was uniquely you), I’d predict that your annual spend on communications could shrink dramatically.

And you’d get a far better ROI year on year, too.

Because you’d be famous for that one thing.

You’d not only be a great College; you’d be a great brand too.

You see, I don’t know why you are different.

And I don’t know why you are better.

So as a student I don’t know why to choose you.

And as the leader of a Creative Agency – I don’t know what message to deliver.

No matter how ‘creative’ we are.

I suppose I am saying that instead of investing heavily in marketing and design – year after year after year – have you ever thought about investing in brand first?

So that your College becomes famous for something that reminds people of you and only you.

That way, you won’t have to come up with transient, snappy, ever-changing (and expensive, because you are starting from scratch in each year’s bunfight) ‘flares’ that are ‘here this year’ and ‘gone the next’.

If you did become a brand, all you’d be asking agencies to do each year is reenforce your unique position.

Rather than come up with this year’s random eye-catcher.

Because you’d have real traction.

You’d stand for something.

The tone of my message was upbeat.

Solution focused.

I clicked send.

And I waited.


Finding ego-free people in leadership roles is quite rare.

Brave, adventurous, positive, clear thinking leaders are few and far between.

Especially (in my experience) in education.

Leaders keen to explore new approaches.

Leaders that have the humility to rock back in their chairs and, authentically, listen.

Not because I or we necessarily know better than them.

Because they know that, even though they are being tasked to lead, they are not being tasked to have all the right answers.

They just have to find them.

This Leader. 

This leader’s response was short.

And fast.

It was (something like).

I know.

I agree.

Shall we talk?

This College.

This College is famous for one thing now.

The brand (and it is a brand) focuses on the endstate that all students really want.

It looks past the facilities (it has superb facilities by the way).

It looks past the delivery (it has superb delivery by the way).

It looks past external badges for performance (it always does superbly by the way).

And it looks past the transient wants of the student (the insta stars and the trainers and the smartphones and the hoodies will always be desired by the students of course. But that’s not really why they come to College).

None of these were right as a brand essence.

This, however, was:

…we have one aim; to make sure you leave us in the best possible position to secure a job.

Brand Position.

This brand position is beautiful.

And pure.

And ownable (because of this College’s history).

And simple.

And memorable.

And brilliant.

But most of all… it came from the College itself.

This quote that I have pasted above is not from our work of over 5 years ago you see.

It is from the College’s own website.


It’s part of the tagging in the content online.


It is what I read first when I searched for them on Google.



If a young person wants to go to a College to get a job.

They choose this College.

This College understands brand and how to be a brand.

There is brilliant, largely female leadership and it’s 100% credit to them that they are respected so deeply on a national stage.

They also knew how to really shake a (perceived) number one brand when they were number two.

But that’s another story.


For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a story about the work we did with the College.

Because that was a few years ago and for just a couple of years.

It’s about how this College was run and is run today.

As a brand.

With an open mind and an open heart.

They are clever.

And they give a shit.


And it shows.

Some people think they don’t go to enough events.

Some people think they don’t go to the right events.

I think that we don’t go to enough of the right events.


I have worked out what makes a great event.

They are events built around The Generosity Economy.

If you’ve not heard of The Generosity Economy it is not surprising.

Because I made it up.

(At least I thought I made it up. Until I searched for ‘The Generosity Economy’ on Google and found it all over the bloody place. But as there are several similar but different definitions of what the Generosity Economy actually is. I am going to make a definition up of my own. Here goes…)

The Generosity Economy is an environment where all people try to help each other out as much as possible. And give value to other people wherever and whenever they can.

As opposed to the economic model where people try to help themselves as much as possible. And get something of value from other people wherever and whenever they can.


The two events I’ve been to where The Generosity Economy is most prevalent are:

  1. The Do Lectures
  2. Newcastle Startup Week

Both are annual events.

They’re of different sizes.

And in different locations.

Yet both have a similar ‘buzz’ around generosity.


Many of the conversations at these places start with (something around) what I can do for you.

And not what can you do for me.

The few that try to sell – stand out.

And not in a good way.

Today is an Event.

Anyhow, if you like, you can treat today as an event like The Do Lectures or Newcastle Startup Week.

We don’t need David Hieatt or Paul Lancaster to prompt us to be generous (even though they do, and I am glad that they do).

You can just do it.

If you want.


Start Now.

So, who will you help?

What will you give today – for free?

For nothing in return.

I hope it’s something.


Oh, and there’s a PS.

If you do become a part of this Generosity Economy.

At least two things happen.

  1. It’s viral. You will encourage others to be generous to others too. Good breeds good.
  2. You feel great. When you help someone. Expecting nothing back. You just do.

So I hope you give it a go.

How long does real friendship last?

For best friends?

For my friend Pete and his best friend, the answer is – a really long time.

Steely Dan.

My friend Pete’s best friend really liked Steely Dan.

So much so that, earlier this year, Pete took his best friend to a Steely Dan concert.

And that’s where the trouble started.

Not because Pete tried to get his best friend into the concert without a ticket.

(Under the circumstances, that was fine).

The trouble was – security thought Pete’s best friend was drugs.

Pete’s Best Friend

When Pete’s best friend died a couple of years ago, it left a void.

From what I hear, Pete and his best friend were really close.

Both of them lovers of music and – according to Pete – his best friend was that friend who would laugh at things no one but Pete and he would.

And Pete misses him.

That’s why he took his best friend’s ashes to that Steely Dan concert earlier this year.

To sprinkle him.

Not to snort him.

Or smoke him.

(As security thought).


It seems to me that Pete and his best friend have it just right.

Still buggering about and getting into trouble.

Even though one of them is no longer with us.

Well, not in the way that he was.

For Ever.

Security insisted that Pete didn’t leave his best friend at the concert.

As Pete had planned.

Security saw it as, somehow, wrong.

Pete and his best friend had different ideas though.

And so it is that Pete’s best friend.

Because of his best friend.

Rests silently in a field.

With Steely Dan.

For ever.

Here’s a tune (