At the IPO, it was ‘Sofa' so good… but today, is bust. Fingers have been pointed at supply chain issues and the 6 long weeks it took to ship MADE's furniture. (This as 4 hour deliveries are becoming standard). However, like most corporate failures, it seems that the company’s whole business model was just ‘Insufficiently Profitable’. According to data from their 2021 Report and Accounts, an average MADE order looked like this: Sale Value £246 Gross Profit £97 Fulfilment £45 Contribution £52 Marketing £38 Meanwhile overheads were running at something like £40m. Read more

What Next for Big Tech?

An electric vehicle glides silently up the drive of an elegant suburban home. A man steps out wearing a white suit and removes three glass receptacles from a stack of cases in the back. They are each filled with a white liquid. He places them next to the front door, removes three identical, empty vessels, returns to the vehicle and slips away. He was known as the milkman. Nobody used to talk about sustainability.  Way back in the 1960s, resources weren’t squandered because they simply didn’t exist. Britain had only recently shut down its rationing programme. So, why would anyone contemplate packaging a staple food in throw away containers when you could use the same one, time after time? Read more

Why CMOs are disappointing

Over the last five years there’s been a massive expansion in the roles and responsibilities handed to CMOs. Many, especially those in Small & Medium sized enterprises, have job descriptions that are utterly impossible for any single individual to deliver. They are now frequently expected to blend these requirements. Strategic brand marketing competence. This demands a full grasp of the business, the competitive set, all the intricate levers available for marketers like distribution/channel/pricing and hundreds more, despite most teaching on this topic being hopelessly out of date. It's also desirable to have the ability to pitch a compelling case for any strategic changes to the board and any other stakeholders. Performance marketing and analytics skills. Requiring a sound grasp of maths, research methodologies, data science, familiarity with organic and paid search, hands-on experience with a host of social listening, marketing automation, CRM tools and a plethora of analytics platforms. Skill in Producing ‘Stuff’. Including content and collateral production, copywriting, PowerPointing, interviewing, shooting still photography/video, retouching, editing, podcasting, elementary coding HTML/JS etc., web and landing page management, social management i.e. posting/commenting trend monitoring and more. (Often without recourse to agencies). Nobody has the time or competence to deliver in all these areas but that doesn't stop them being demanded. Which is why CMOs are often being set up to fail. Read more

Who's On My Side?

Try this. Conjure up the name of a brand - one that features in your life. Now, without thinking too deeply, is that brand on your side? I realise it's a simple question but it evokes an immediate response. One that forces you to process a vast number of criteria in a flash. It’s a simple way to solicit an instant indication of your brand loyalty - or lack of it.  Big brands need to fight on so many different fronts to win our love and respect. Think Apple. Not content with being just a hardware manufacturer, Apple launched physical stores to humanise and demonstrate Apple’s magnetic magic. It spent vast sums of money and effort optimising the Out Of Box Experience (OOBE) for its physical products. It created services like Music, News, TV and Pay. Apple knows that each positive customer experience, at every touchpoint, adds together to create and amplify customer appreciation and loyalty. Read more

Why I won't be at Cannes Lions this year

  A few years ago, we rented a 100' motor yacht called the Accama (see above). It came stocked with unlimited Champagne and Rosé. We shared it with the most interesting and influential people we could think of and soon realised that most of them could have just as easily been found in Soho House. We all had a marvellous time but, in spite of the hedonism, we came away feeling that the Ad industry had lost its mojo.  Before selling it to WPP, I used to own an Ad agency. It was a wonderful business. We worked for technology companies and, in our small way, helped to give birth to the internet. Back then, our knowledge of communications and our skills architecting brands was deemed highly valuable. Particularly by the entrepreneurial engineers who ran most of the tech firms. Read more

Has More Become Less?

According to Seth Godin, "Content Marketing is the only marketing left." He's usually right but there is little consensus as to what people mean by 'content marketing'. Here are a couple of definitions for you to noodle over. "The creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services." "A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action." Both start out the same but notice "to attract and retain a clearly defined audience" in the second. Is Content Marketing targeting an audience or is it self-serving? Is the audience defined or defining itself? The next discrepancy is that one aims to simply "stimulate interest" while the other goes in much harder, "to drive profitable customer action." Read more

What is MADtech and why should you care?

Over the last few years the business of marketing has completely changed. Shoppers have wised up to a century of spin and learned to ignore hyperbole in advertising. Exaggerated claims have been further undermined by social media which applies the scrutiny of the crowd. We have entered a new era where marketing succeeds when it is totally transparent – conveying only facts coated with emotion rather than untruths wrapped in fiction. Marketers are further challenged by consumers who are now trying to have real time conversations with the brands that they love. Gone are the cosy days of throwing a few TV spots to the braying masses during the year. Now they all want to chat directly – one-to-one.   Read more

Branding In A Social World

  THERE'S A FRESH FACE ON THE RUNWAY It belongs to a young model called Kaia Gerber. Kaia, who is the daughter of Cindy Crawford, is a 17 year old girl with a ‘smouldering stare’ who models clothing lines aimed at women twice her age. WHO'S BUYING? WHO'S SELLING? Kaia has already featured in shows for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Prada, Versace, Valentino and many more. These brands believe she’s ideally suited to showcase their products. But does this juxtaposition actually work? Are they selling a designer lifestyle or eternal youth? Do brands believe their beautiful garments will make their customers look 16? Do they expect us to lap up this fantasy? Or simply feel cheated? THE WORLD IS A PHOTOSHOP  Faith in everything - God, Government and our institutions is waning. In this new, challenging landscape, how should companies look and behave? We all have an appetite for perfection but it’s making us sick. Thinspo (imagery of the beautiful but implausibly thin) is pushing young girls to become anorexic. Images of the rich and lucky are driving a crisis of mental illness among the less fortunate. It seems the traditional skill of marketing - creating desirable images that might exaggerate the truth - are under fire. Read more

What if your vote could really change politics?

In the UK, Nigel Farage has just launched The Brexit Party. Ironically, he looks set to win the majority of UK seats in the upcoming EU elections. Everyone who's grumpy about the current state of politics seems to be launching a new party. Can we do better? Maybe. Here's our draft of OneVote's first pamphlet. Read more

Introducing 'The Pairup'

Over the last 5 years I’ve lived in the company of entrepreneurs in a world of startups. So have many other people who reckon new businesses are the best way to revitalise our beleaguered economies. Startups are exciting. They’re optimistic. They are free of the things that make running a business difficult. Things like customers. Legacy systems. Or shareholders’ relentless expectations of growth - based on increments of last year’s profits. 90% of startups don’t end well. Startups are often not much more than stories. Sadly, many of these stories have painful endings. Of the 650,000 startups cooked up in the UK last year, 9 out of 10 will invariably fail. With those failures will come broken dreams, loss of money, anguish or even mental illness. All startups come with risk. And if fledgling businesses get over the first hurdles and start to gain traction, their next task is to chase down more capital and the proven wisdom of some expert mentors. Read more

Could the Tech Sector create more Joy?

My friend quit banking to coach mindfulness. “One in three people in London are now technically mad”, he explains. “I am doing my best to help them find balance and happiness”. It’s not a heartening statistic but anyone catching an early morning tube heading into London just needs to look into the eyes of commuters to conclude he’s probably right. So why is it that people are losing their minds? A recent observation by Clayton Christensen clarifies the problem. Read more

Brace yourselves for the Ad-pocalypse

Back in the 1960s Howard Luck Gossage of the legendary San Francisco advertising agency Freeman Mander & Gossage wrote this: “Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them. And sometimes it’s an ad.”   He was right. We don’t much care for advertising but because it has funded much of the media that we consume we’ve tended to suck it up. Even though global ad expenditure is bigger than ever, advertising is under growing pressure and here’s why. To start with, we are over-messaged. Everywhere we go we are being spammed, retargeted and interrupted by advertising messages. And it’s not pleasant. Which is why we are increasingly ignoring ads. It’s quite remarkable how much the first world has tuned out of advertising.  Read more

Why Marketers are going MADtech

If you catch any contemporary marketer and ask them if they are doing a good job, most of them will tell you they’re struggling. It’s no surprise. Mass market communication is in decline. In the last five years marketing has moved from being ostensibly one way messaging using a few tried and tested media, to the art of curating conversations on a multiplicity of new and evolving apps and platforms. So many new tools have been built to ‘help’ visualise and manage these conversations but managing thousands of simultaneous conversations in real-time isn’t easy. A typical CMO may find themselves responsible for digital platforms to manage CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, website content and analytics, data analytics, market research, creative development, programmatic ad serving, social media listening, mobile marketing etc. etc. Read more

MADtech transforms Marketing Mix

The worlds of marketing and advertising are being turned upside down by digital – and in many ways, particularly for the consumer, it’s producing change for the better, says Rod Banner. Last week, I was listening to another startup explain their business. They were rightly proud of a series of customer metrics: engagements, sales, repeats, referrals, reviews etc. Then they spoke of the future. “When we raise the next round, we’re going to turn on the afterburners,” they said, referring to ‘paid’ marketing activity. Their story is fairly typical. They’re a white-hot retail fashion app. They make no fashion products. They don’t design the stuff they sell. To be honest, they don’t warehouse or pack or ship anything either. The business’s key purpose is to curate nice things, present them beautifully and bring their story to the attention of a discerning audience. A few years ago, that activity was called marketing. Today it’s an app. Marketing is changing. Welcome to madtech – a fresh combination of marketing, advertising and technology. It’s about selling to an increasingly savvy and intolerant audience, using new tools and new strategies. Read more

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