I worked for the North East of England’s biggest and best modelling agency for a couple of years.

Tyne Tees Models.

Not as a model of course.

(I know that will come as a surprise to you).

But as a Brand Strategist.


I worked with founder Lesley.

To home in on the magic of the brand.

Then to develop the outward narrative and messaging for the brand.

Then brand and campaign slogans.


I wanted the brand to be brave.

Because Lesley’s brilliant business had been going for 25 years and, I thought, deserved growth.

(And bravery.

On my watch.

Brings that).

Specifically, I thought that more agencies in the south of England should book these northern models.

Because so many southern brands used the same old southern models.

Over and over.

And from that thought.

We developed strategies and campaigns to give us the ‘in’.


I pushed Lesley to be brave.

So here are some of the ideas that did run.

And one that didn’t.

Tyne Tees Models. 

The Tyne Tees Models Slogan, which we trademarked.



It’s a double entendre.

Of course models are more often than not striking in some way.

So you look.

But this also homes in on the actual job of a modelling agency.

To raise awareness of the client brand.

To make the client’s customers look.



We also developed this line:

Matching Models to Missions since 1984.

Because Tyne Tees Models are sure about what they are for.

They really do match the best model to the precise client mission.

What I mean is.

Lesley’s models don’t just turn up and stand there.

The Beautiful North.

Then we developed a simple, memorable and slightly disruptive campaign called:

The Beautiful North.

(A riff on The Beautiful South).

This was designed to catch the eye of the southern agencies.

To get Tyne Tees Models noticed.

To make the southern agencies smile a little, too.

It looked great.

Too Far?

But is there such a thing as going too far?

Is there such a thing as being too outrageous with business communications?

My job is to get my clients noticed.

To start conversations.

To help my clients to stand out.

And maybe by being a little outrageous along the way, too.

It’s hard to find ‘the line’.

And harder still to cross it.

But I did find (and cross) the line with Lesley.

Thick and Thin. 

Tyne Tees Models is truly different.

They really do:

Match Models to Missions.

They’re commercially driven.

And the range of models they have is huge.

Many Tyne Tees Models models don’t look like models.

(That’s the point).

And I wanted to start a conversation about unusual looking and commercially aware models.

I wanted to subvert the traditional ideas of what a model was.

And I wanted to do this with a Direct Mail campaign to southern agencies.

Those that booked models.

On the cover of the direct mail I wanted there to be an attractive, slim model.

With the headline:

Thick and Thin.

That was all.

An eye-catching, daring and self-depreciating perception around models and the modelling sector.

A conversation starter.

Something arresting so that I could then lead the conversation very quickly to subvert the stereotype and say how TTM did things differently.

We’re not thick.

(We understand your marketing and brand building).

And we’re not all thin.

(We have a huge range of real-world models).

It never ran.

And I do understand why.

But I am glad I did this.

Because I pushed to ‘the line’.

The Line.

I’d encourage you to push for the line, too.

To be brave.

It’s part of our jobs as creative communicators to do that.

It’s our jobs to make clients feel uneasy sometimes.

Because in an over communicated world that’s very often what you have to do to get noticed.

So have fun!

Keep organisational objectives and strategy in mind.

But most off all.

Do be brave.

The conversations in my head.

Conversations beyond my control.

Between me and my brand monster.

Arriving without me inviting them.

Here’s an example of what they sound like.



So IKEA say,

The Beautiful Everyday.

And I can her that bloke’s voice.

Saying it.

So what exactly IS that he’s saying?

It must be a brand thing.

Because that bloke keeps saying it.

Over and over.

Repeating it.

For years.

And because IKEA understand brand.

They understand that brand is consistent.

And simple.

And repetitive.

And ownable.

That’s why they keep using that same bloke’s voice.

Because the fact that no one else is saying this quite like this.

And the fact that IKEA keep on saying it.

Over and over.

Means they own it.

And even when they start saying:

Tomorrow Starts Tonight.

Which is also excellent.

They don’t bloody say it INSTEAD of:

The Wonderful Everyday.

Because they know damn well that:

The Wonderful Everyday


Created to build a permanent perception about improving your life.

And they know that:

Tomorrow Starts Tonight.


Created to sell things in the here and now to help you sleep better.

Focusing you on you having a great nights sleep.

By buying IKEA mattresses.

And beds.

And pillows.

And duvets.

And they also know that:

Tomorrow Starts Tonight.


Feeds into:

The Wonderful Everyday.


(Bloody hell these two three word sentences even sounds the same when I read them.

In my head).

Because the words dance similarly.

And the IKEA brand gets stronger. 

Because they really do understand how to build a brand.

And layer campaigns on top. 

So that.


Everything becomes stronger.

And more familiar.

And they sell more stuff.

Whatever stuff they want to target with today’s campaign.

Without damaging yesterdays and tomorrow’s brand. 


I see. 

That’s how IKEA are making it all work for them.


And so it goes on.

The conversations in my head.

Conversations beyond my control.

Between me and my brand monster.

Arriving without me inviting them.

Most of the time.

I’m just making things up.



Letting my mind wander about with strange, conflicting notions.

Spitting out words and ideas.

Life and Business.

I like living life that way.

And most times.

I like doing business that way, too.

Graffiti Embroidery.

I did business that way last week.

Thursday it was.

When my mind started rattling on about ‘Graffiti Embroidery’.

With Erica Akerlund.

Erica Akerlund.

Erica is a bloody brilliant artist and illustrator.


And Erica embroiders her illustration too.


Erica illustrates the current Always Wear Red labels.

With weird little characters doing weird little things in a world of ‘OFFNESS’.

And as well as that.

Erica is going to embroider 12 or 24 jumpers and scarves in 2021.

In an Erica Akerlund x Always Wear Red Collaboration.

And that’s where the phrase ‘Graffiti Embroidery’ comes in.

We just made it up.


Erica will take jumpers that already cost over £1000.

And embroider them in whatever way she likes.

Pushing the price point towards or over £2000.

The embroidery will be weird.

And unpredictable.

Unpredictable because I don’t know what Erica is going to embroider.

Because neither does she.

And that’s the way it should be with artist collaborations I think.

It’ll be ‘Graffiti Embroidery’.

Because if the brief is boring.

The garment is too.

Limited Edition.

Most of the time.

I’m just making things up.



Letting my mind wander about with strange, conflicting notions.

Spitting out words and ideas.

And it is because of this approach to doing business that a Limited Edition Erica Akerlund and Always Wear Red Collaboration is going to happen.

‘Graffiti Embroidery’ we’re going to call it.

Coming in 2021.

People die.

Moments and memories don’t.

Which is a nuisance really.

But it’s just the way it is.

Moments and Memories.

What this thought does help me to understand a little better though.

Is legacy.

Because as I get older.

I do increasingly wonder how to leave evergreen good thing behind me.

When I die.

And the answer.

I think.

Is to create things that you love.

And moments and memories that you love.

With and for other people to love too.

Small thing.

It’s a small thought.

But it’s a big thought too.

Creating things that you love.

Moments and memories.

For other people to love too.

Because whilst people die.

Love doesn’t.

Which is a nuisance really.

But it’s just the way it is.

Most email newsletters are shite.

They chest beat.

They tell us about things that matter to the sender.

Not to the reader.

They’re really, really boring.

They don’t make our lives better.

And they remain 80-90% unread.

What is it?

The reason most email newsletters are shite.

Is because most email newsletters don’t know what they are.

They know they are a newsletter.

And that’s it.

There’s no thought beyond that.

Your E-newsletter.


If you do an e-newsletter.

Ask yourself a really important question.

What is it?


DOWNTIME is the Always Wear Red newsletter.

It’s readable end-to-end in 60 seconds.

And it knows what it is.

It is:

Things To Do When You Are Doing Nothing.

Which means it encourages you to take a little downtime.

(Each story tells you how much downtime, actually).

To reenergise.


And recharge.

So when you return to working.

You do your best work.

That’s it.

What They Say.

Here’s what people say when they email me about Always Wear Red’s DOWNTIME:

Hey you
Great newsletter as always
Playing MK – brilliant album
Hope you’re well

We don’t know each other .
I just wanted to say I like reading – it makes me think and reflect on lots of things.
So thanks.
Hey Michael
Perfect timing for me to receive this.
I needed that!


DOWNTIME is sent twice each week.

Friday at 12pm.

Sunday at 8am.

Sign up here:

I was born in Manchester.

And I’ve lived in Newcastle for 30 years.

So I’m Northern outside.

And if Northern means saying what you think.

Doing what you believe.

Sticking to what you think is right no matter what.

And working hard to deliver on the thing you want to achieve and the promises you’re making.

Then I’m Northern on the inside, too.

Northern Soul. 

For many people.

Bill Bernbach was not just a great ad man.

He was the greatest ad man.

Here’s something Bill Bernbach said:

If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some people against you.

If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.

For and Against.

I think we all know this.

It’s just that most people buckle.

And don’t actually stand for anything.

Because they don’t like the ‘Against’ bit that Bill talks about.

They don’t like the fact that some people will disagree.

Or dislike.

Or disapprove.

Or just not understand.

The Middle. 

So they stay in the middle.

Because it’s safer there.

But it’s not only safer.

It’s lonely too.

Because no one stays there very long.

Because staying in the middle.

And standing for nothing.

Is boring.

Always Wear Red. 

New Always Wear Red launched today.


It’s brand new.

Here’s what I and Always Wear Red stand for:

I want to change people. I want people – hugged by our hand knits – to take more downtime.

To say ‘no’ more.

Because life’s short.

1000 months.

That’s all you get.

So ‘you time’ is not something to shoehorn into life.

‘You time’ is life.

Northern Soul. 

And the way I do it is in an anti-fashion kind of way.

I am standing up for how I think fashion should be done.

So no fish-gobbed, size 6, 18 year old models looking miserable in car parks on our Instagram.

Just cool, simple, un-photoshopped photos of real people wearing our collection.

All genders (we’re gender neutral) and models aged 18 to 62.

And I will rattle on about sustainability and world kindness.

And gender neutrality (so you can share everything we ever make).

And zero waste (we hand knit tiny batches only only).

And season-less design (classic lasts – fashion doesn’t).

And a unique buy-back facility so our zero waste policy extends way beyond the purchase (we’ll buy back, refurbish and resell any AWR hand knit – for ever).

Because that’s how I think great clothing brands should behave.

Northern Soul. 

So if Northern means saying what you think.

Doing what you believe.

Sticking to what you think is right no matter what.

And working hard to deliver on the thing you want to achieve and the promises you’re making.

Then I’m not just Northern on the outside.

I’m Northern on the inside, too.

Here’s the all new Always WearRed:

Don’t ever feel bad about saying this.

I have not yet found my passion.


I’ve not yet found ‘my thing’.


I don’t think I’ve discovered what I was born to do.

In fact.

If you are thinking or saying anything like this

You should feel great!


You should feel great because it means you are pondering change.

You should feel great because it means you’re open to the idea that your passion, your ‘thing’ and what you were born to do – actually do exist.

That they are worth pursuing.

And there’s hope.

Because let’s face it.

There there’s a much sadder thing you could be saying on the subject of finding your passion.

Something that many people do end up saying.

And that you can probably avoid.

If you just keep on saying:

I have not yet found my passion.


I’ve not yet found ‘my thing’.


I am yet to discover what I feel I was born to do.

And that thing.

Is this:

I never found my passion.


So keep looking.


And this thought might help, too.

Because it helped me.

You don’t have to replacing the other thing or things that you do whilst you look.

You can explore your passion alongside the other things you’re doing right now.

You can hedge.


But do start somewhere.

Start here.

Because it’s worth recognising and remembering that saying:

I have not yet found my passion.

Signals the start of a chapter.



That other thing you’ll end up saying if you do ever stop looking.

I never found my passion.

Signals the end.

It’s taken me a good while.

To finally do what all good brands should do.

It’s taken me a good while to capture exactly what the Always Wear Red brand is about.

In one, 15 second read.

New Chapter.

And as I move into a new chapter next week.

With a new website launching in a few days.

This is useful for me.

My 15 second read is called:

This Upside Down Life.

And here it is.

This Upside Down Life.

How strange it is.

This Upside-Down Life.

That so little of our time is spent with those who matter most.

Doing what matters most.

And that the seduction of work so very often prevents us from gifting ourselves the permission to pause.

Always Wear Red is for your downtime.

We are hand knits that hug you.

Self-care you wear.

And a reminder that in this short, 1000 month visit, ‘you time’ is not something to shoehorn into life.

‘You time’ is life.

I was chatting to a fellow business owner last week.

Steve, it was.

And we agreed on this:

The most creative businesses in the world.

Are the best businesses in the world.

We didn’t expand on it much.

We just said it.


And moved on.


I used to run agencies in my thirties and early forties.

Digital Agencies.

Brand Agencies.

Marketing Agencies.

And Creative Agencies.


I didn’t spend much time ‘creating things’ for clients.

Not for the first ten years anyhow.

I spent the first ten years building superb digital, brand, marketing and creative teams.

But me personally?

It’s only been the last ten years or so that I’ve thought and worked creatively on the front line.

And I just wanted to point out that.

In my experience.

The most creative businesses in the world.

Businesses that live their own creativity.

Businesses that embrace my creativity.

Really are the best businesses in the world.


Creative businesses listen harder.

Think further.

Adventure more.

They ask:

Why not?

Much more than they ask:


And they are much better to work with (and for) than cautious, uncreative people.



The last point I want to make about creative businesses.

Is this.

There’s a really great question to ask about businesses that call them creative.

And that question is:


You see, it’s not good enough to just say you’re creative.

It’s not enough to just say (something like):

We’re creative because we create things.

(That’s like saying we’re a restaurant because we sell food.

It’s thoughtless.

And it’s dull).

And it’s not good enough to do the odd apparently creative thing here or there either.

Truly creative businesses just ‘are’ creative.

In everything they do.

So as I say.

If you consider yourself to be a creative business.

Or you might even call yourself a Creative Agency.

There is a really important question to ask yourself with regards to you yourself as a creative force.

And that question is this:


Here’s a free e-book that is buzzing around at the moment.

It’s called Build Brilliant Brands.

It is, apparently, good advice from 22 of the world’s leading marketers.


Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad.

But it doesn’t mean it’s good either.

However, good people like Mark Ritson have contributed.

So it should be OK.

Here we go: