January 2020


Brands need heroes.

But what they do not need.

Is your ego.


Great brands have meaning.

And they are built with precision.

They know the change they want to make.

And they focus on that change with laser like precision.

They have to.

They must.

Because it is what they believe in.


And it is with this in mind.

Particularly with regard to successful brand building and integration.

(Integration is the ‘bringing the brand to life’ bit).

That a careful balance needs to be achieved.

It is the balance of the hero.

And the ego.

The Hero.

Great policies and procedures are important.

And the great brand and great brand consistency that they bring are important.

But individual acts of brand heroism born from the inventiveness and the attentiveness of any organisation’s people are more so.

The Extra Mile.

With all great brands.

Going the extra mile is never extra.

It is the normal thing to do.

It is fluid.

It is responsive.

And this is brand heroism.

The Ego.

But there is no room for ego in exceptional brand integration.

Because when bringing a brand to life, maverick interpretation is the enemy.

Maverick interpretation is not the same as the inventiveness and attentiveness that underpins individual acts of brand heroism.

Because when ego is involved.

The ideas, opinions and actions are not anchored in the brand itself.

Ego creates randomness.

And that dilutes brand.

The Hero and The Ego.

Brands need a framework to guide them.

And a bought-in team to deliver what the brand is promising.

Brands need focus.

Brands need consistency.

Brands need simplicity, meaning and memorability.

Brands need heroes.

But what they do not need.

Is your ego.

I chatted to Izobel about Food Banks this Christmas.

We agreed how lucky we are.

Not to have to use them.

And Izobel and I also agreed that we’d go shopping and buy bags of lovely food and drink for the poorer children and their families that we’d drop off at one or maybe even all of our 4 local food banks.

But we didn’t do it.

We forgot.

Because Home Alone came on.

Food Banks. 

I feel funny about this subject.

The fact that there are more Food Banks than there are McDonalds and Burger Kings combined in the UK.

The fact that there are 4 food banks within 5 miles of my house. (Find yours here).

The fact that there are 2,000 food banks in total the UK.

And the fact that 1.4 million people use them each year.

The fact that Izobel’s should understand poverty, it’s causes and how we can can help.

The fact that we just couldn’t be arsed helping out this Christmas.

Because Home Alone came on.

I feel funny about all of that.



I did this in January.

I called a local food bank and I asked them a question.

I asked if I could order food from ASDA.

And have it delivered to them.

They said yes.

So I did.

It took £20.

And 20 minutes.


If you want to do it too.

Please find your local food banks.

(Go here).

And off you go.


I will take Izobel.

But in the meantime.

I feel slightly better because I did what I did.

And because you might do it too.

When I look at rubbish online.




Random videos of people falling over.

I can feel myself getting weaker.

I can feel myself starting to curl.


I can actually feel the curling.

Like a drying, dying leaf.

I feel the decay.

Because I’m hungry for nourishment.

I’m hungry for the uplift that useful information gives me.

But I get drawn in.

I get drawn in to a double-whammy of crapness.

The crap I look at.

Then the crap I feel because I looked at crap.

And that’s when I can feel myself starting to curl.


Guilt has a lot to do with it.

I feel guilty.



And a tiny bit angry too.

Angry at the ‘other me’.

The other me that taps and swipes and taps and swipes some more.

Desperately looking for something to save me from the dross.

Instead of just hitting the off button.

Screen time. 

My average daily screen time in 2019 was over 8 hours.

Sometimes much more.

Embarrassing, really.

It is time to disconnect.

And reconnect.

Chemists played an interesting role in my childhood.

Chemists, and the sweets that you could buy there.

Because as a very young child in the 70’s, ‘Chemist Sweets’ were.


The most desirable sweets of all.

Chemist Sweets

Liquorice Root.

I am still not sure exactly what it is or was.

Or if I really do like it.

But I do know that I craved it as a child.

Even though it sometimes made me heave like a cat.

Liquorice Root was only available in chemists.

Just like Glucose Tablets.

And Glucose Lollies.

And Horlicks Tablets in tubes.


Remember them?

Horlicks Tablets in tubes).

And Lucozade in the orange crinkly transparent plastic film.

(How did Lucozade go from the medicine to cure every child’s ill?

To the first energy drink?

Blame Daley Thompson.

And the marketers).



Excellent places.

Mysterious and grown up places.




Especially when this tune came along in the 80’s.

In 1982 in fact.

When I was 14 years old.


What is he going on about?

An actual song about Chemist Sweets?



Oh no…

All of a sudden I am 14 again.

They’re not sweets he’s singing about.

Are they…?

Here’s the tune:


I have this other business as I think you know.

Called Always Wear Red.

Always Wear Red has its own e-newsletter now.


It is twice-monthly.

Sent every other Friday at midday.

Is a 60-second read.

And it is your Permission to Pause.

Here’s How It Works.

DOWNTIME encourages you to do between 60 seconds and 60 minutes of – well – nothing.

For 3 Reasons:

  1. Because you are the person you look after least well. And resting (properly) is an immediate way to begin sorting this out.
  2. Because times we do nothing always generate our best notions and ideas.
  3. Because you always do ‘something’ better after a short period of ‘nothing’.

In Summary, the Times You Do Nothing – Can Mean Everything.

And DOWNTIME contains great things to do when you’re doing nothing.


If you get it already.

Please let me know what you think.

And if you don’t get it.

But like the sound of it.

Please sign up here.

Thank you.

Last week.

On a cold Wednesday morning.

I was sent to the headmaster’s office.

At a school that Izobel might move to when she finishes nursery later this year.

The Headmaster. 

The last time this happened.

I thought to myself.

As I clip-clopped down a brightly lit and unusually narrow corridor.

I was twatted on the arse with a slipper.

(I was 14.

It wasn’t my fault.

It was the others.

But I got twatted anyway).

Slipper Shite.

When I met the headmaster last Wednesday morning.

I relaxed.

He was much smaller than me.

So if he started any of that slipper shite this time.

I’d have him.

Mr Whateverhisnamewas.

I remember focusing on the headmaster’s last name.

More than his first name.

And when I spoke to him.

I did actually call him Mr. Whateverhisnnamewas.

Because that’s what you do with headmasters.

No matter how old you are.

The Presentation. 

There was a presentation.

In a too small room.

Containing too many people.

To my left, there was a gymnasium.

Four year olds bounced up and down like kangaroos.

Then wriggled like snakes.

Then hopped like rabbits on their haunches.

I smiled at the innocence.

And the safety.

And it did feel safe.

That was what mattered most to me on last week’s cold Wednesday morning.

And any morning, actually.

Izobel’s safety.

The Tapestry.

Then, I glanced to my right.

To the only thing that furnished any wall in this small, dimly lit room.

A colourful tapestry.

Home made.


School made).

And I focused on the first three words I saw.

The words were:





Vegans, Muslims and Lesbians. 

In my lifetime.

A bit like an episode of Blankety Blank.

There have been periods where perhaps the most popular word to prefix with any of these three words.

Was, ‘bloody’.

I smiled as this thought entered my head.

And I closed my eyes in the half-light.


I smiled as I realised that this is the school that.

If I chose it.

Would help my four year old daughter.

To understand in probably as much detail as she dug for.

What it felt like to be a bouncy kangaroo.

Or a wriggly snake.

Or a hopping rabbit.

Or a Vegan.

A Muslim.

Or a Lesbian.

The Test. 

I have faced many tests in schools, colleges and universities.

Some I passed.

Some I failed.

But none was ever as poignant as the test I faced on a cold Wednesday morning last week.

A test of whether I wanted my four year old to be indulged and indeed encouraged to imagine and explore the feelings of kangaroos, snakes, rabbits, vegans, Muslims and lesbians.

The test was a poignant one.

But rather an easy one, too.

And I passed.

Izobel starts there in September.

He’s 14.

You’re feeling nervous, aren’t you, boy?
With your quiet voice and impeccable style
Don’t ever let them steal your joy
And your gentle ways, to keep ’em from running wild
They can kick dirt in your face
Dress you down, and tell you that your place
Is in the middle, when they hate the way you shine
I see you tugging on your shirt
Trying to hide inside of it and hide how much it hurts
Let ’em laugh while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them

Here we go: 



If you run a business.

There are two furious battles being fought.

The Business Battle.

And the Brand Battle.

And if you want to win big.

You need to win both.

The Business Battle.

To win the Business Battle you should be simple.

Great quality.

Relevant (now).


All the numbers need to stack up.

You need to be efficient too.

And you need to be doing something that you can do as well as.

(Or ideally better than).

Anyone else in the same space.

Oh; and whatever you are doing should be contributive.

It should also contribute to the greater good.

Because that’s what consumers increasingly expect.


And finally in the Business Battle.

The results of what you do should be crystal clear.



And engaging.

The Brand Battle.

The Brand Battle is quite different to the Business Battle.

And as such it requires an entirely different set of skills and experiences to maximise.

The Brand Battle is something that all businesses have to face.

But the Brand Battle is something that very few businesses know how to win.

Because of a lack of high level brand building knowledge.

And because very few have the commitment to see world class brand building through.


Put simply.

The Brand Battle is how well you connect.

It is looking outward.

Out into the hearts and minds of the consumer.

Then, it is creating better and more compelling perceptions around the business offer.

Perceptions that will really connect and resonate with all those that we want to buy you.

And buy into you.



Today more than ever.

Want to know what is important to you.

Because they want to check that what is important to you.

Is also important to them.

And this is a big part of winning the Brand Battle.

Brand Stories.

Then, once you have a great brand.

They want you to brand storytell brilliantly.

Because the best way to get people to be interested in you.

Is to be interesting.

Two Battles. 

So there you have it.

If you want to win big.

You have two battles to win.

And you’ll likely need two very different teams to win them.

The most intriguing thing about freedom.

Is that it is not free.


Craving more freedom.

Is the main reason people explore starting their own business.

Financial freedom.

Freedom to do what they want with their time.

Freedom of choice.

Which is quite odd.

Because the thing I have had least of.

At the beginning of any business I have ever founded.

(And I have founded nine businesses).

Is freedom.


Freedom is more valuable than almost anything else in your entire life.

And nothing that is valuable ‘just happens’.

So of course freedom is not free.

Be patient.

You have to earn it.