There is a downside to being a brand.

Yes, brands stand for something.

So this means that they matter more to consumers.

And therefore they attract more attention.

And more customers.

So they have the potential to last longer.

And (run right) make more profit.

But even after all that good stuff.

There is a downside to being a brand.

Here & There.


Just because a brand works (resonates) ‘here’.

It doesn’t mean it will work (resonate) ‘there’.

In fact, it is very often the case that because a brand resonates ‘here’ it will not resonate ‘there’.

The short version of the rule is this.

If you are a brand, you matter.

And whatever it is you matter about.

Dictates where you (should) work best.


Let’s take the Virgin brand for example.

Virgin stands for ‘The People’s Champion’.

Over the years, Virgin has nurtured the perception that they are looking out for us.

That they are on our side.

And because they have delivered on this promise enough times over the years to keep the brand resonant in this way.

They do hold this perception with very many people.

Even today.

The Rules. 

But the rules of brand dictate that even global brands like Virgin.

Only work where the brand position resonates.

Virgin really should work well in the banking sector.

Because banks treat us like crap.

I can ‘feel’ that Virgin should do well as a bank.

And when Virgin went at trains.

I was pleased.

Because the Virgin brand resonates in the train category, too.

Because – just like banks – train companies treat us like crap, as well.

(Virgin aren’t doing so well with trains.

But it’s not because of the brand’s perception, I’d suggest.

It’s because they are failing to get the operational parts right.

Or because they are failing to do the right deal.

For whatever reason).

Virgin Cola.

But Virgin’s brand.

As famous as it was.

Didn’t work in the Cola category.

Yes, Coca Cola and to a lesser degree Pepsi Cola took steps to block Virgin.

But a brand that stands for ‘The People’s Champion’ was never going to work in this space.

Because we just didn’t need saving from Coke and Pepsi at the time.

The Virgin brand didn’t resonate here.

Brand Extension.

If you really do crave brand extension that much.

If you really do want to do new things.

But you realise that your current brand won’t resonate in the new category.

Start a new brand that will.

Born in 1802, Victor Hugo was a French poet, novelist and dramatist of the Romantic movement.

Hugo is one of the greatest and best-known French writers.

Born in 1939, Greggs is a Newcastle upon Tyne based bakery with 1,950 stores at time of writing.

Greggs is the largest bakery in the UK and makes very lovely sausage rolls.

Victor Hugo and Sausage Rolls.

It was Victor Hugo that once said:

Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.

And it was Greggs that once said:

The wait is over… 3.1.19 #vegansausageroll.

Northern Pride.

I am really proud of Greggs.

A brand whose time has come.

I am a guy living in the North East of England.

A place I really like.

But a place that is still all-too-often characterised by Jimmy Nail, Sting, Cheryl Whatevershescalledthesedays’ arse-tattoo, where the shipyards used to be, where Newcastle Brown used to be made, where silly football clubs have self-destruct buttons and that place the Northern Powerhouse forgot.

I see Greggs as a genuine local hero.

A retail success story.

A brand with a sense of now-ness.

It knows what it is for.

And why it works now.

A strong, fun ‘brand-of-the-people’ that we can watch, enjoy and admire.


Greggs is a decent quality, clever, patient, steady monster of a business.

A smartly run and smartly marketed monster.

Quietly going about its business and achieving, for the the first time in 2018, a turnover of one billion pounds.

Employing 22,000 people.

And still the home of the Festive Bake.


Greggs seems to bring people together too, I think.

With little bragging or bluster.

It makes me feel nostalgic.

It’s simple and straight forward so that I understand it.

It’s built on common sense.

It’s fun.

And, business-wise, it is probably the best thing about the NE for me since I arrived here in 1987.

I love Greggs.

And if you love Greggs too, here’s a canny little Greggs Locator.

Just for you.

This really did happen.

A couple of years ago I placed an online order from ASDA.

I ordered sprouts.

Other things as well of course.

But on the webpage that contained sprouts I added the number ‘1’ to sprouts.

And on I shopped.


The following day, the order came.

There were eight carrier bags I think.

All stacked in those big plastic trays on your front door step for you to unload and carry in.

And in the bottom of one of the carrier bags I, eventually, discovered my sprout.

And it was just one sprout.

In a semi-transparent plastic bag.

With a sticker so big that it wrapped right around the bag and the sprout.

Before sticking to itself around the other side.

The Sprout.

I was alone in the house when the delivery arrived.

So, once I had discovered my sprout, I stood still in the kitchen.


The sprout sat in the palm of my left hand.

Me, prodding it with the index finger of my right hand.

So that I could roll it around to see what was written on the sticker more clearly.

I pulled my glasses down from the top of my head.

Sat them on the bridge of my nose.

And zoomed in to the sticker on my sprout.


Sprout Man.

From their corner of ASDA’s business, ASDA’s sprout man (or ASDA’s sprout lady) didn’t have the authority to override what had happened.

He or she will have known that I wanted one pack of sprouts.

As opposed to one solitary sprout.

But, I imagine, there as nothing they could do.

Because in another corner of the business.

The bit where someone had created something on a website on the Internet for people like me to click.

Something had gone wrong.

Which led me to ponder two things.

Firstly, I wondered how many businesses out there were built in ways that excluded common sense and disseminated authority and permissions to get business done accurately and well.

And second, I wondered how many other men and women were stood silently in their kitchens.

Staring at one carefully packaged sprout.

The sprout sitting motionless in the palm of their hand.

One sprout.

One bag.

One label.

For (about) 8p.

And I smiled.

I’ve recently discovered a whole new set of things you can do with eggs.

I have had to.


Lisa likes a bargain.

I think that, in supermarkets, she follows anyone holding a pricing gun.

To see where they land.

And to see if they are going to mark something down.

This is one of Lisa’s hobbies.


I received a particularly excited text recently.

(Excited texts contain capitals and exclamation marks, in case you were wondering).

Because Lisa had discovered some mark-down eggs.

15 eggs per box.

4 boxes.

For 10p per box.

So 40p for 60 eggs.

Two-thirds of a pence.

Per egg.

5 days.

All good.

Apart from the fact that we had 5 days to eat them.

All 60 eggs.

Between two of us.

And a 2 year old.

Still, it made me explore egg-based recipes.

And we probably only spent about an extra £20 on gas and electric to make them.


Here’s a photo: 

This is my favourite chocolate at the moment.

It is a bar of dark chocolate (52% Cocoa).

And the flavour is liquorice.

With sea salt.


This is a strange combination, of course.

I am sure that Morrisons are not the first people to do it.

(Own label products almost always follow as opposed to lead).

But whatever the backstory, Morrisons do this very well.


The texture plays a part in its success.

The chocolate is a creamy kind of dark chocolate.

Because there’s not such a high percentage of Cocoa that the bar becomes hard and slow to melt.

And the sea salt (there’s a lot) appears as crunchy crystals.

It’s not overly salty and the chocolate/liquorice/salt balance is just right.


So, if you are after a surprising and pleasing sweet thing for after your dinner.

As you sit down to watch Gogglebox this Friday.

It’ll cost you £1.34.

Or a multiple thereof if, like me, you’re a fan.

Here it is.

(Fairtrade, rich and flavoursome, with mellow liquorice notes and sea salt, No artificial colours or flavours, Vegetarian).

PS The web link describes one bar as ‘5 servings’. 

I think it’s a typo. 

It should read, ‘1’.

If you’re not weird; that’s weird.

I mean it.

It’s weird because you’re definitely hiding something.

(Something GOOD).

Or complying.

Or toning it down.

And that’s weird.

Why would you do that?


It’s weird because it is such a bad decision to hide your weirdness.

Your weirdness makes you so much more interesting.

And (just so you know the rules) being weird is not, say, being a Goth-weird.

Or a Punk-weird.

That’s just choosing a different uniform than the one you have now.

Proper weird is you being the unique you.

James Victore

James Victore knows this best.

And he knows where to fine your weirdness, too.

James says:

Things that make you weird as a kid will make you great tomorrow.

This is so true it hurts.

Just because you’ve grown up does not mean you should stop being weird.

In fact, because you’ve grown up means you should definitely think back to what made you weird, and being it again.

Before it’s too late.




Listen to James.

Because he’s right.

I accidentally got drunk on Saturday night. 

It’s because we bought some Bourbon that was on offer. Clearly not my fault.

(Well I didn’t put it on offer did I?)

And it’s also because it’s nearly Christmas and I used to buy my grandma advocaat every Christmas. So when I saw that I bought some of that too.


Later that night I stared at the two bottles and wondered what it’d be like to mix them. Then I wondered if this had done before.

Then I wondered if it mattered if it had been done before because, at one moment in time, nothing had been done before.

Anyhow, then the gold happened.

The Gold.

There is a scene in one of my favourite films, The Shining, where Lloyd, the clumsy bartender bumps Jack’s drink.

Jack Nicholson’s character was also called Jack.

Advocaat splashes from the glasses that Lloyd is carrying into Jack’s Bourbon.

And there it was.

But also remember that this was in a room called The Gold Room.

And that you are quoting the film scene not the same scene from the book. Because in this scene from the book Jack orders a martini, not Bourbon.

But most of all remember the name of the drink. It does exist. It always has (see what I did there).

It’s called a Jack Torrance.

That’s the name of Jack’s character in The Shining.

Perfect. I love stories.

3 parts advocaat. 1 part Bourbon. 2 or 3 cubes of ice. Shaken

You’re welcome.

PS. It’s also known as ‘The Caretaker’.  My new favourite drink.

So if you really want to show off, order a ‘Caretaker’ followed by…

“Sorry? You don’t know what a Caretaker is? Well… have you seen The Shining? You know the scene where… etc. etc.”

Merry Christmas.


  • 450g plain flower.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • 8 eggs.
  • 600ml milk.
  • About 8 tablespoons of virgin olive oil and a bit of butter.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • Nutella.
  • Peanut butter (smooth or crunchy).

This is 15 minutes of doing things whilst the oven reaches temperature. Fit this in or around whatever else you’re cooking.

  1. Get 2, 12-hole, 1 inch deep cake tins and put a bit of olive oil into each of the 24 holes. Then add a tiny bit of butter as well. And a pinch of salt and pepper to ONE tray of 12. Put them in the oven.
  2. Heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade or gas mark 6.
  3. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add all the eggs and half the milk. Beat for about 3 minutes until you have a smooth batter.
  4. Add the remaining milk. Beat for a further 2 minutes and leave.
  5. When the oven is at temperature (after 15 minutes), beat the batter for 1 more minute.
  6. Take the trays out of the oven. They should be sizzling. In the UNSEASONED tray add a teaspoon of peanut butter to 4 of the holes,  a teaspoon of Nutella to 4 of the holes and a teaspoon of both peanut butter and Nutella to the remaining 4 holes. Distribute the batter evenly across the 24 holes and put back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them through the glass door (don’t open the door until the end or they’ll likely collapse). Once they rise and go to a deep brown across about 50% of the surface they’re done.

This is enough for about 24 quite big Yorkshire Puddings. 12 savoury. 12 sweet. Remember which are which.

(I am probably suggesting you do things you already do, or have done before. There is value in this though. Because I am reenforcing that you are also a culinary genius like what I is).


Yorkshire Puddings are a right pain in the arse to prepare for. All that faffing about.

And then the stress starts. Sometimes they come out like balloons. Sometimes like bloody Play-Doh.

They affect me mentally also. I talk to them as they are cooking, both collectively and individually. I kneel down with my palms on the kitchen floor, crab-like. Everyone stays out of the kitchen at this point. I insist on this (though I am almost always ignored).

I peer through the glass and address the soon-to-be Puddings collectively:

“C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’MOOOOOON!”

And individually:

“You. You. You. He’s rising. Why aren’t YOU rising? You’re in the same fecking oven. Shit we need a new oven.”

Things like that. Head to one side. Still on my knees.


I like these 24 little things though. Lisa smiles when he gets them. She says she’ll just have 2 (then ‘just has 4’). Izobel isn’t sure what they are yet (she’s 2) so gives them to the Colin or Frank (dogs). I am going to see what she thinks about the Nutella ones for the first time today though. I’ll report back.

Later on, Lisa then remembers the sweet ones so has ‘just 2 more’ (which means ‘just 4 more’). Then Lisa runs around and jumps up and down for the following three days to work them off. (However the remaining 12 or so Yorkshire Puddings in the fridge somehow disappear in the coming days too… So I’m not sure how that works).


Anyhow, forget all that. In the real world, I am far too busy for all of this. It’s just food and you can buy Yorkshire Puddings frozen. I’m too busy to spend buggering about with home made Yorkshire Puddings with the family. I run two businesses. I have meetings. People rely on me doing things so they can do things too. I need as much certainty in business and in life as possible so why would I spend my precious time doing all of the above when I could end up with Pay-Doh? It doesn’t make any sense.

Two things

  1. That last paragraph is utter bullshit.
  2. I do it for the smiles.