January 2024


ASDA nearly did a good advert. By saying:

“We price match with Aldi and Lidl.”

Now, I am not a fan of these price match things. Because everybody is price matching everybody else. I forget. But the reason I say that ASDA nearly did a good advert is because “We price match with Aldi and Lidl” misses a great opportunity to (more directly) tap into a real insecurity. This one:

“Is Aldi cheaper than Lidl? Or is Lidl cheaper than Aldi? ”

All ASDA had to do to resonate better was to say:

“If you’re worried whether Aldi is cheaper than Lidl? Or if Lidl is cheaper than Aldi. Worry no more. Because ASDA price matches both! ”

With some visual of, maybe, a signpost (Aldi – left, Lidl – right, ASDA – straight on).

This is an example of two things:

1. It’s best to join a precise, real conversation with your messaging.

2. Detail is important.

Andrew Tindall from System 1 measures ad effectiveness more scientifically than me dropping my occasional opinion. So follow Andrew on LinkedIn too. He’s a nice chap. Clever too.

Whether or not a business is a brand depends on how you define brand.

If you define brand as ‘what they think about you/how you make them feel/how they perceive you’ then yes, 100% of businesses are brands.

If you define brand as, ‘unearthing, staking a claim for, then growing to stand for a unique and ownable perception in the mind of the consumer. A perception that is simple, clear, relevant, distinct and compelling. So compelling in fact that, to those responsible for building the perception internally, as well as to those we want to attract on the outside, it becomes impossible to ignore.’ Then 1 or 2 in every hundred businesses I see are brands. Under 2%.

In my work I build the latter. Because these are the business that are easier to sell. Why? Simply because (read the definition again) they are easier to buy.

People can pinpoint which part of  my work is most important to me. And I can pinpoint which part of another person’s work is most important to them. By where their eyebrows are.

When I say the following, I’m looking you in the eye, and my eyebrows are forced way down:

“Most marketing activity is cloned activity. So over 90% goes unnoticed. Which means I can’t form an opinion on you. Which means I have no idea whether I should buy you. Marketing should be differentiated and consistent at a content level. And bravely distinctive at a delivery level. If it isn’t, save your money. Don’t fucking bother.”

This is not the whole story. But it is very important to me that people know what I think, what needs to be done, and precisely how I can fix things. And I can fix things.

Eyebrows though. They’re important. Check them out. Your own and other people’s. Because when they’re forced down, that’s what’s important to you. That’s where the magic is. That’s where you’ll find your brand.

Whenever I clear our dining table. Or stairs. Or coffee table. Or that drawer in the kitchen with the screwdrivers, plasters, keys, pebbles, unwrapped wine gum, coffee machine instructions, tissues, pens, puncture repair kit, dog treats, hair clips, kids party invites and receipts. New things start to turn up in the space I create, by “not me!”, within about an hour.

Something always appears in the space created. From nothing.

This reminds me of a friend of mine that built his business, sold it for £15 million and now has a giggle with a couple of smaller businesses. It reminds me of my friend because, even in the early days of building his big business, he was never too busy to leave every Friday empty.

For this guy, every Friday had nothing in it. Yet it was always his most interesting and productive day. When he spoke of his work, the best and most interesting stories were always about Fridays.  And he insisted it was because, just like my dining table, stairs, coffee table and kitchen drawer. Something would always appear in the space created… from nothing.

Interesting and spontaneous things very often need space to happen. Or maybe it’s we that need the space to notice them. Whichever it is, my Fridays are all empty this year. And when I’m asked what for, I answer with a smile, and at my absolute sparklingly obnoxious best:


Last week, stood before 30 Financial Advisors, I explained how the way we express ourselves online – to the ‘not yets’ – is key to whether they move to ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

One chap looked particularly worried by the prospect of authentic self-expression online. He said:

“Something holds me back from writing about me. As I actually am, I mean. Authentically. I just can’t move forwards.”
I paused. Then said,
“Moving forwards is not the answer. Go backwards.”
Writing as you really are means going backwards how you really are. Dropping the pretence. Dropping the, ‘I wonder what the best version of me, for them is?’ Dropping the ‘How can I sound ‘the part?'”
Of course, considering your point and harnessing your passion are part of the solution. But moving forwards is you moving in the wrong direction.
If you want to write authentically. Uniquely. Naturally.  Go back to that stuff you blurt out to friends over coffee. Write that. Not the over-polished, sanitised crap that everybody else writes. We’ve had enough of all that.
Move backwards to who you really are. Then write.


When you’re scrolling past today’s LinkedIn wallpaper. Past the, ‘Our client is delighted…’ Past the, ‘We’re innovative, we are…’ Past the, ‘We focus on solutions, we do…’ Past the, ‘This thing what we did is cutting edge…’

See if you can find someone. Anyone. Saying the following rarity. In a compelling and owned way.

“This is why is our work is important.”

Then, have a think about how well you answer that question. I’m suggesting you do this because the importance of your work may very well be getting lost. Most people I work with as Brand and Marketing Director have an internal dialogue that – once I unearth it – fizzes with the magic of what is important to them. But the way it comes out of their mouths and into their business communications is utterly soulless. Dull. Obvious. It’s more wallpaper.

And this causes frustration for them and maybe you too because the audience doesn’t see what you see. The audience doesn’t feel what you feel. The audience don’t get the same sense of importance in your work as you do.

The answer? Pause. Think. Change your narrative.

Tell us why what you’re doing is important. To you. Then, if what’s important to you is important me too, you might just win yourself a customer.

UPDATED: Oops. The link at the bottom was missing. It’s there now. Thank you for letting me know.

I see no reason why the way we communicate in business should not at least attempt to be as intense and emotional as the way the best music or art communicates.

Marketing, I think, should be artistry.

Most marketers are utterly boring. As is most marketing. As are most businesses. That’s why we miss the work, and the message.

Please find 20 minutes to sit and watch the video below. Clutching your favourite coffee.

Please try. There’s a lot to unpack. And it’s just one person listening to one song. But see the effect.

It’s is things like this that should remind us how desperately short we are falling as marketers, creatively, whenever the work ‘create’ is so damn samey, formulaic, tick-box, thrown together and dull.

It is not just thought and effort that is missing from almost all of the marketing communications I see.

It’s artistry, too.


These days, my hair grows slower and falls out quicker. So I bought a spray-and-pills combo to encourage it to grow back.

Each morning for the last 3 months, my dog Frank has sat at my side, staring, as I pop pills, pump-spray my hair, massage my scalp for 30 seconds, then – as I have always done – ruffle little Frank’s head in the way he loves.

12 weeks in I am not sure if my hair has changed at all. But Frank the Bichon, quite suddenly, has the most magnificent, plump, 12 inch tall white beehive.

Now; that’s not true.

I mention it because this short story is to illustrate the importance of observational, imaginative, standout writing online. Triggered by my numerous encounters with business owners and teams that claim they have little interesting to say. And that this stops them writing.

To them I say it’s not that you don’t have anything to say. You’re just paralysed because you’re not relaxing, observing and using your imagination. You’re not being brave enough to see brilliant, entertaining stories all around you.

Fibbing about beehived Bichons may not be the answer for you. But do look around with fresh eyes. With humour. Be brave enough to be different.

We’ve all had enough of cloned content. Haven’t we?

When I write for the consumption of others, which is mostly, I sometimes meander into self-important, abstract, droning. You’ll have noticed. And really, I shouldn’t. None of us should. Because those that say most. With least. Win.

Read this sentence by Rory Sutherland, one of the finest orators around,

“Back in the late 1960’s, a Welsh surgeon was returning home late, fell asleep at the wheel and fatally crashed into a tree.”

Significantly, it’s the first sentence of his story. And it’s so good! So rich. Packed with vivid, visual information.

Those that say most. With least. Really do win. And on that note. I’ll stop.

Purpose-led advertising is 30% less effective than marketing not referencing purpose. You get better ROI when you focus on position, message, creative, targeting and reach.

So is there a place for purpose-led thinking, behaviour and messaging in business? Definitely. Because business isn’t just about making money for the sake of making money. Is it?

Are you doing your best work, so you make as much money as you can? Or are you making as much money as you can, so you can do your best work?

If you have the gift, luck, wherewithal or whatever else to build a profitable business, it’s best for everyone – including you – if something you believe in, something purposeful, is woven in at a DNA level. So that what you’re doing, and the change you’re set on making, actually matter. So your business makes things better, not worse.

And that’s why this pair of questions are important and relevant.

Are you doing your best work, so you make as much money as you can? Or are you making as much money as you can, so you can do your best work?