December 2019


I love this song because of how the lead singer looks.

What a fine looking chap!


I also love this song because of how he sings it.

And because of the way the keyboard brings the tune to life.

And that short saxophone solo.


But most of all I love this song because of these two lines:

‘Cause we all have wings.

But some of us don’t know why.

And because of how he sings these two lines.

Here it is:


Have a great 2020.

I hope you fly.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Dishoom.

Then I wrote about them again.

And here I am writing about them once more.


They are.

By all accounts.

Absolutely superb.

From the food.

To the interior.

To the welcome.


Since writing my stories about Dishoom.

A few other people have told me their stories about Dishoom.

One chap said that on his last visit there were winding queues outside.

And it was cold.

Really cold.

And he also told me that as he and his daughter joined the queue.

A Dishoom team member popped out almost immediately and gave them both a glass of hot, aromatic somethingorother.

With a smile and an apology.

And because the people in front of them and those that joined the queue behind them also got this treatment.

It bonded the visitors.

They made new friends before they’d even entered the restaurant.


The Thief. 


Dishoom has made a thief of me.

Even though I have still never been.

I’ve stolen something from them.

And here it is.

For you.


Here is what service is.

In 6 short bullets.

And when it comes to service.

It really is all you ever need to know.

It’s written on one piece of A4 paper that is associated somehow with Dishoom.

I am not quite sure how I heard about this.

But I do know that the paper is headed up with:

At Dishoom, We Have a Core Belief about Humanity.

A principle (apparently) enshrined in Sikhism of performing service without any notion of a subsequent reward.

And this was expanded upon on the reverse of the paper.

Via a list of six key behaviours that distinguish the excellent practitioners of Seva:

  1. Make eye contact and greet everyone before they greet you. Start every interaction with warmth.
  2. Be generous in everything you do. Keep asking, how can I help?
  3. Show gratitude and appreciation before every interaction.
  4. Start with exceptional groundwork and preparation. Anticipate the challenges and get ahead of them.
  5. With a beginner’s mind, find the issues. Fix them and figure out how to keep them fixed.
  6. Never compromise on quality. Seek tough feedback and raise your game every day.

And that’s it.

6 points.

About service.

And it’s all you need to know.

There are lots of thin lines in business I suppose.

And in life.

Thin Lines. 

Sometimes it’s better to be one side.

Sometimes it’s better to be the other.

Depending on context.

Passion versus Obsession.

For example.

Passion in a personal relationship can be amazing.

Genuine obsession in a personal relationship can be stifling.

Yet in business.

Passion can sound commonplace, contrived and inauthentic.

Whereas genuine obsession can be hypnotic.

As I say.



In branding there are endless thin lines.

And I want to point one out to you today.

It’s a strange one, this.

Because it’s hard to fathom.

It is the thin line between these two things:

  1. Asking a market how it feels.
  2. Telling a market how it feels.

It might be best to read those two things again.

Before you read on.

Tipping Point.

There is a tipping point between the two.


And telling).

And it is hard to work out where it is.

It reminds me a little bit of the difference between ‘Internal Pride’ and ‘The Lived Reality’.

(You can read about ‘Internal Pride’ versus ‘The Lived Reality’ in my free Digital Book – A.BRAND. Get a copy of A.BRAND, in seconds, by signing up to A.NEWSLETTER at

It reminds me a little bit of the difference between ‘Internal Pride’ and ‘The Lived Reality’ because, oftentimes, there is a difference between what is really going on.

And what you really wish was really going on.

And if you lose your objectivity.

You’re screwed.

Because, I think.

You then start to tell a market how it feels.

And that’s a big mistake.


This short story is inconclusive.

I can’t tell you what to do about this.

Other than to be careful.

And very importantly.

To listen much more than you talk.

Especially in the early years of your brand development journey.

And don’t filter what you hear.

Listen to it all.

A Question. 

So next time you are talking to someone about why your brand offer is better.

Check yourself.

Are you talking about how your market actually feels?

Because you asked them.

And you listened.

You listened properly.


And because you know it to be true.

Or are you talking about how you think or imagine that your market should actually feel?

Because you are obsessive about the change you want to make.


This is worth checking.

Because if it is the latter.

You are the wrong side of the thin line.

You are on the lonely side.

Because on that side of the line.

Is a vacuum.

And the only person to whom what you are saying resonates.

In the way that great brand messaging should.

Is you.

I say ‘thank you’ to cashpoints.

And I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to Alexa.

I think that being polite.

Even to electrical appliances.

Is important.

The Past. 

Thanking cashpoints.

In actual fact.

Goes back to my student days.

But back then I was not saying:

Thank you.

I was saying:

Thank God!

That it gave me some money at all.

So I could go to the pub.

Cheating Cashpoints. 

And this was a thing, too.

In my mind at least.

A thing that I used to do was to try to cheat cashpoints.

I used to withdraw (say) £20.

Knowing that that would take me right to my overdraft limit.

Then run.

As fast as I could.

To another cashpoint.

And try to withdraw another £20.

Before the bank’s ‘central brain’ (whatever that was) had cottoned on.

Then, if I managed to get my £40.

I’d feel great!

Because I’d won.

(Even though I hadn’t.

As I found out when the Bank Manager called me in to meet him.

Yes, they used to have time to meet you face-to-face.

And yes, they were almost always a ‘him’).


It was weird trying to cheat cashpoints as a teenager.

And it’s weird saying thank you to cashpoints as a 50 year old.

Thank goodness some things never change.

Be careful who you mix with.

Because the people you choose.

Could be the worst influence possible.

Because they could be people like you.


There’s nothing wrong with you, of course.

But there is definitely something wrong with only mixing with people like you.

So that all you experience is reenforcement and agreement.

Because all you see are reflections.

And all you hear are echoes.

And you think you’re right all the time.

Because your experience suggests that everyone sees the world like you do.

And that’s just not true.

So you can be taken off guard.

Falling back down to earth.

With a bump.

Mix it up. 

So mix it up a bit.

Avoid the trap.

The trap that is far too easy to fall into.

The trap that appears when you mix with only people like you.

The Millions. 

A few million people fell into that trap just last week, of course.

Maybe I was one of them.

And maybe you were too.

Because when it comes to political opinion.

We tend to feed off those that agree with us.

And shake our heads at those that don’t.

Because there are far more people like you.

Than there are people like them.

Aren’t there?

You’re surrounded by people like you!

In real life.

And on Facebook.

Particularly on Facebook.

It’s almost as if Facebook is picking up on your own political opinion.

Then tailoring content to reenforce your own political opinion.

Surrounding you with people that think like you do.

So you stick around on Facebook longer.

Imagine that?!


There is definitely something wrong with only mixing with people like you.

So that all you experience is reenforcement and agreement.

Because all you see are reflections.

And all you hear are echoes.

And you think you’re right all the time.

Because your experience suggests that everyone sees the world like you do.

And that’s just not true.

So you can be taken off guard.

Falling back down to earth.

With a bump.

I suppose my most unusual job.

When I focus down on the thing that was actually required of me.

Was painting chickens.

Painting Chickens. 

I don’t mean I was stood in front of an easel.

And a stretched canvas.

Holding a paint smothered palette.

And a paintbrush.

As several live chickens ran around my feet.

What I mean is that I’d fill a white bucket with sauce.

And paint actual dead chickens.

With a wallpaper brush.


Fenwick have 9 posh stores in the UK.

Dotted from London to Newcastle.

I worked in the Newcastle one.

In the delicatessen.


Almost always with a hangover.

I’d leave my student accommodation at 5.15am and arrive at Fenwick in Newcastle at 5.55am on bleak Saturday mornings.

I’d shuffle into the cold, dark rotisserie room that was tucked away around the back.

Flick, flick, flick the blinking lights into life.

Hit the rotisserie’s big red starter button.

So that it woke, growling from its slumber.

Before I proceeded to lift the first of 200 chilled chickens from the fridge.


My OCD was useful with this Saturday morning ritual.

Because as I popped the chickens – 3 at a time – onto stainless steel rods.

The distance between them was exact.

Then, I’d slot them into the whirring, warming rotisserie.

I’d mix a bucket full of sauce using a spare stainless steel rod.

Grab my wallpaper brush.

And as the chilly chickens rose.




Into my eye line.

The painting began.

Saturday Job. 

I almost always had a ‘Saturday Job’.

From 15 years old to 22 years old.

I liked being around people.

I liked seeing how things worked.

I liked being the still-drunk teenager that turned pasty, chilly chickens into posh, barbecued chickens.

Adding value.

Adding margin.

Adding about £30 to my bank balance for a day’s work in 1989.

And I was good at painting chickens!

I try to do my very best with any job I do.

Whether it’s a poultry job.

Or a paltry job.

And even when it’s an apparently paltry poultry job.

If a job’s worth doing.

I always say.

It’s worth doing well.

And that includes writing rubbish puns on 50odd.

(You’re welcome).

It’s Saturday.

So this short story is about a ‘Saturday thing’.

A Bacon sandwich.

Bacon Sandwiches. 

I will use a capital ‘B’ for Bacon throughout this short tale.

As a sign of respect.


I have had a lot of pleasure in my life.

And for that.

I am grateful.

I also think that, today, I would like to allocate a percentage of my lifetime’s pleasure.

To Bacon sandwiches.

About 2%, let’s say.

And that is enough for the word Bacon to warrant a capital ‘B’.

(I don’t know if me allocating about 2% of my lifetime’s happiness to Bacon sandwiches is a ‘sad’ thing.

Actually, I do.

It is.

A bit).

60 seconds. 


Al Boardman likes Bacon sandwiches too.

So much so that he created a 60 second animation.

About 3 years ago.

And that animation describing how to create the perfect Bacon butty.

(I prefer the word ‘sandwich’ to ‘butty’.

‘Not sure why).

Here’s the animation.

Happy Saturday:


Here’s how to run a brand.

Any brand.

Using only your bare feet.



Take your shoes and socks off.

Then grab a black Sharpie.

Bend down, and on your right foot, write:


Then, reach across and on your left foot, write:


Then, stamp your right foot.

Your ‘brand’ foot.

Stamp it over and over and over.

Shouting out loud what your brand stands for.

Shouting out the change you’re trying to make.

Shouting out your reason for actually being in fucking business.

And do this knowing that you really, really, really own that brand position.

(You’ll know if you own it. 

Because if people just say the brand position. 

Without saying the name of your brand.

They will still know who you are. 

“No Loss of Suction” for example. 

We all know who that is. 

Without having to say the brand name).

Your Brand. 

That’s the first bit.

The stamping bit.

The bit where we make sure you actually are a brand.

So if you can’t do this first part.

Put your shoes and socks back on.

And don’t waste anyone’s time with part two.

Part Two. 

Part two is quite precise.

First, root your ‘brand’ foot.

Your right foot.

Root it firmly to the ground.

Your right foot must now never, ever move.

It’s fixed.

Then, depending on how flexible and creative you are.

You can do what the fucking hell you like with your left foot.

Your ‘Marketing Communications, Including Creative, Messaging & Design’ foot.


Point your toes.

Wiggle it.

Do whatever it is that feels appropriate for your firmly rooted ‘brand’ foot.

And try not to fall over as you do.



Brand comes first.

Everything else in your business that is – or comes anywhere near – how you communicate yourself.

Is subordinate to brand.

It always follows brand.

Prancing About.

And never, ever move your brand foot.

Because if you do.

Or if your Creative/Brand/Full-service/Whatever agency does.

(And that happens a lot!

Because Agencies rarely understand how to build, communicate and integrate a brand properly).

You are not building a brand.

All you are doing is prancing about.

Looking stupid.

Wasting money.

Eroding profitability.

And jeopardising not only the growth of, but the very existence of your business.

Shoes and Socks. 

Do it.

In your next Board Meeting.

The next time your MD comes up with yet another random, bullshit suggestion that she or he heard on the golf course or down the gym.

You know what to do.

Stand up.

Take your shoes and socks off.

Grab your Sharpie.

Jump up on the board table in front of the assembled suits.

And stamp!


In 1988.

On Tuesday the 21st of June.

At about 6.30pm.

I was walking past The City Hall in Newcastle upon Tyne.

I was 20 years old.


And in 1995.

7 years later.

On Thursday 7th December.

Mid morning.

I was wandering by Central Station in Newcastle City Centre.

Aged 27 years old.

The First Day.

On that first day in 1988.

At 6.30pm.

A guy outside Newcastle City Hall tried to sell me a ticket to see Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The concert started at 7.30pm.

I’d never heard of him so the guy (exasperated) laughed, shook his head and just gave me a ticket.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was good!

And that there ‘Wikipedia’ tells me that Stevie Ray Vaughan:

…was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, and one of the most influential guitarists in the revival of blues in the 1980s.

He is commonly referred to as one of the greatest guitar players of all time.

Which is nice.

And sad too, actually.

Because Stevie Ray Vaughan died under 2 years later.

Aged just 35 years old.

In in a helicopter crash.

On his way back from playing live with Eric Clapton.

The Second Day.

On that second day.

Seven years later.

In 1995.

As I was wandering past Newcastle Central Station.

A couple of guys asked me if I wanted two free tickets to the opening night concert at ‘The Arena’ in Newcastle.

The tickets were for that very night.

I’d not even heard of The Arena, as it goes.

And I didn’t know who was playing.

But I said yes, anyway.

And as the guy with the tickets handed them to me.

He leaned in and, still holding one end of the tickets as I held the other.

He said this to me,

You will go won’t you?

I paused.


I said.

And the guys wandered off.

RP. RT. 

Seeing the 1988 Stevie Ray Vaughan concert was really something.

Right place.

Right time.

And seeing the 1995 David Bowie concert.

For free.

On the opening night of The Newcastle Arena.

That was really something, too.