March 2024


Dancing like nobody’s watching produces the best dancing. I, for one, dance exactly like peak John Travolta when dancing alone in the kitchen. Or a lift.

And so it follows that writing like nobody’s reading produces better writing.

Rick agrees.

“The audience comes last. I’m not making it for them, I’m making it for me. It turns out that when you truly make something for yourself, you’re doing the best thing you possibly can for the audience.”

Rick Rubin.




A Brainbow is that lovely, light, uplifted feeling you get after having had a really shite time. Like when a heavy storm subsides.

So if things are tricky for you at the moment, don’t worry. Soon, there will be a Brainbow.

(I think that’s what a Brainbow is anyway. It might be that a Brainbow is a genetic cell-labeling technique where hundreds of different hues can be generated by stochastic and combinatorial expression of a few spectrally distinct fluorescent proteins.

Bit my definition is easier to remember. And nicer. So sod that other one).

Happy Easter eggs.

Very occasionally, but often enough that I can recall the embarrassment 45 years later, I’d call one of my female teachers ‘mum’.

Everybody laughed. And I reddened.

I think this happened when I was most relaxed. In-flow. Unworried. Feeling safe and protected. Happy.

I was thinking about this, this morning. Because I wrote down list of my current clients, paused, and just looked at them. I then reminded myself how lucky I am to be working with good people. People I like and can help. People that I desperately want to help and that have welcomed me in.

This kind of pausing and thinking is useful for someone like me. Because I’m a restless soul. Too often looking for and at the next thing. But in this pause I thought hard about the importance of doing great work in the here and now. Relaxing. Going with the flow. Not worrying. Enjoying the safety and protection inside the current working relationship. Being happy. The work’s better when I’m thinking and feeling like that.

And whilst I’m not sure that calling any of my clients mum would go down quite as well now I’m 55. I do want to concentrate more on what’s in front of me, pondering less about what might be round the next corner.

Don’t be a Wet Arse, is good advice.

When I was 10, I was the cleverest in my school. It’s not a brag. I just was. I was quiet. Patient. A thinker. Avoiding conflict by trying to be funny. I just got on with things.

One school day, despite excitedly reaching the playground slide first, I waited. A bigger boy approached and glared down at me. He raised his eyebrows. Strode on past me. And laughed loudly at his first-slide-of-the-day success.

In his head, he’d won.

In my head, he was a Wet Arse.

45 years later, I look back at my career where, both in businesses I’ve owned and businesses that paid me to help them, I’ve sometimes been the Wet Arse. Strutting on through, my eyebrows raised, pointing the way, moving people this way and that, opening departments, closing departments, hiring, firing, cutting and thrusting.

When really, I should have paused. Stood at the slide. Like when I was 10 years old. Back when I was in many ways cleverer than I am now. Quieter. Patienter. Thinkier.

I should remember that life’s ride is smoother and altogether more comfortable with a dry arse. So I am learning to slow down a bit. To stand at the slide. Watching. And waiting.

Don’t be a Wet Arse, is good advice.

I was thinking about playgrounds this week. And how great they are.

I was thinking about playgrounds because when I ponder what I want to be when I grow up, I consider three things.

1. Where I am now.

2. Where I could progress to.

3. And, most importantly, where I’ve been.

Number 3 is important when I consider what I want to be when I grow up because – looking back – I can recall what I enjoyed most. When I was happiest. So that, if I want, I can pick up from there.

Thing is, if I try to recall happy times when I had no experience and understanding of being judged, put down, ridiculed, embarrassed or told I was wrong. Back to a time before I learned the dream-paralysing effect of such things, I have to go back a very long way.

I think I was 5.

So I’ll to pick up from there. Dreams are purer. More numerous. Dreams are left to grow more freely when you’re 5. So the dreams I have at 55, that may very well die too soon if I don’t regress, might just make it.

If you fancy it, I’ll see you there. In the playground.

You’ve heard these before. They’re easy to understand and (quite) easy to address. Little mind shifts.

Business that do them well are more noticed, understood, remembered and – ultimately – chosen.

  1. Be emotional not functional. Don’t (just) tell us what it is and does. Don’t fight the battle of better. That’s boring. Instead, tell us why you’re compelled to make your valued change.
  2. Think big not small. Tell us how you’ll change your world. Or the world. Ideally, both.
  3. Be unique not cloned. Stop saying the same as them. In a way that sounds the same as them.
  4. Stop being an ‘a’. Be a ‘the’. Do what only you can do. (And watch the competition fade).
  5. Be a publisher not a marketer. Write things that build a readership first. Then customers.
  6. Tell me what you think, not what you know. Stop firing facts at me. Fact off! Trigger good conversation instead.

Little mind shifts make a big difference.

Work feels nicer this year. It’s because the view is so much better from the slow lane.

I’m working, and billing, more hours this year than last. Important hours that include connecting, thinking, planning and doing.

And I’ve had three new, ad-hoc, unpaid chats with friends of mine this year as well. On top. Helping them think about brand and business. Concentrated chats. Rich with questions and guttural direction.

But none of the above feels particularly urgent. It’s slow. Steady. And even though the amount of work is about 25% more year-on-year, I’m somehow working less and achieving much more – for them.

Confidence is probably part of it. Mostly, I know exactly what to do. So I just say it. Then we do it.

And as a consequence, work feels nicer this year. It’s because the view is so much better from the slow lane.

When you say want only you can say, in the way that only you can say it – you fly.

Most marketers spend most time trying to make their business LOOK good. Which is great. If they really know what they’re doing – the marketer will seek to optimise and balance both distinctiveness and differentiation in how you are presented.

Far fewer spend time making their business SOUND good, though. And that’s not right since targets are more easily influenced to change behaviour by the clarity and power of what you actually say, and how you actually say it, than anything else.

I have a client at the moment and they’re amazing! But I have to admit that I am not quite sure of their precise ‘language’. How they should speak. Their voice. I’m working on that.

Brand Position – Sorted.

Core Messages – Sorted(ish). I need to glue various campaigns together better.

Tone of Voice – Not Sorted.

It’s rare for any brand to get all three of these things right. But when you say want only you can say, in the way only you can say it – you fly.

In the first year of my Marketing MA I came exactly top of the year in Creative Communications, and exactly bottom of the year in Statistical/Situational Analysis. Smilingly, course leader Dave suggested I was very good at knowing exactly what to do when I didn’t know what I was doing.

25 years on, I’m still like that. I think about the possible before the probable. I’m more emotional and less functional. I think bigger not smaller.

It’s a better way of doing business. And of living. I also think it’s all of our default positions, too. Until we allow something, or someone, to change us. I really do think we’re all pretty much the same, if we dare to remember.

I think we’re all much better than we think at knowing what to do, when we don’t know we’re doing.

“Bloody typical!”

It’s one of the biggest compliments you can get.

As a marketer, I mean.

It’s a compliment because almost all marketing you see could be from any brand in the entire category. Anyone could say it. Nobody owns the message. So it’s not typical of, well, anybody or anything.

Great brands do only what they can do. And great brands say what only what can say.

“Bloody typical!”

As a marketer, it’s one of the biggest compliments you can get.