Monday, 28 June 2010


“They think it’s all over. It is now”…..
I refer of course to the myth about the power of individual talent, forever blown by the England Football Team with their so-called crack individuals proving they are a crap team.
You don’t need to be a footballer or even a sportsman to know there are two formulae demonstrating the multiplying impact of teamwork and the reductive effect of its absence:-
5 + 6 = 14


5 + 6 = 7

England enacted the latter and Germany the former; that simple.
To work and the world of the corporation.
In the offices of Britain and the global corporations of the world the myth of the hero is tarnished and dying. The quest is to build teams NOT of the greatest individual talent but of the greatest team impact.
No more shall we have or accept teams where to quote Alan Hansen “our defenders behaved as though they’d never met each other before”.
The HR director who described herself as “a casting director” got it right.
It’s time to create teams that know, like and work for each other in all walks of life.


This was the great line I heard at a group discussion I recently ran with some quite elderly people. Trevor who uttered it was mildly ironic about it – being forgotten isn’t the end of the world he reflected.

Well for many it is.
Yet this group of highly intelligent people who spoke thoughtfully in punctuated sentences without pause, repetition or deviation were speaking for what soon will represent 25% of the UK population.
The average survival age today is apparently 89 – it was 64 in 1920.
Pensions and retirement are in the news and are big news this week in the budget and are going to be over the next few governments because we can’t afford them. Ian Duncan Smith one of the stars in this coalition because he’s so clearly done his homework is gently explaining we’ve got to work longer.
Not only can we not afford the pension costs as they stretch off into an ever lengthening future, we can’t afford the waste of talent.
The papers have lines like “make us work till we drop”…in my experience its younger people who collapse with stress and exhaustion much more readily.
It was striking in this group discussion how these people talked about their skills and how they were still using them but not enough and not on enough stuff. I wondered how good a think-tank they’d be and concluded they’d be terrific – ego free, wise and liberally minded….yes most of all that. Their sense of tolerance was remarkable. But I guess even they might be under pressure to retain their cool if they encountered some of the current corporate bureaucracy.
For instance it’s company policy at some places to exclude the elderly. A 75-year-old was told she would only be allowed to sign the forms for the Carphone Warehouse's TalkTalk phone and broadband package if she was accompanied by a younger member of her family who could explain the small print to her.
When my father was 60 he was getting on and ready to rest a bit. I know 70 year olds nowadays who are ready to go for it.
It’s time to realise that retirement is not a sign of game-over but a time of game-on.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Well there’s a dangerous assertion when, tomorrow in George Osborne's budget, that is all we are going to be talking about…the lack of it.

Over the past few years we’ve seen reputations and/or companies topple.

Time Warner, Arthur Andersen, Woolworth, Lehman Brothers, Toyota, BP.

It’s easy to talk about issues of principle when you are being pursued by dividend hungry shareholders and bonus hungry colleagues. When you are under real pressure you forget about everything except survival and for survival in business you need cash.

Here’s what Joseph Gregory told the soon-to-resign Lehman executive Alex Kirk who was complaining about the level of leverage in the business:-

“Growth. Growth. Growth, Alex. That’s what we want and need and we have to stay focused…..” (from a Colossal Failure of Commonsense by Larry McDonald).

But that’s not a possible dream, not in isolation to other realities, and the only way of pursuing this strategy is to cut cost, to abandon principle and cut corners.

The trouble with big businesses is they do all this and then they overcomplicate and lose touch. All those mentioned in my list of Clay Feet Icons did everything they wish they hadn’t.

For the next blog later this week I am going to quote at length from Ron Ashkenas of RHSchaffer who has written and spoken compelling on one way to cut through to the essence of what needs doing.

It’s the “simplicity strategy”.

As Einstein said – impressively not for the first time:-
“Three rules of work – out of the clutter find simplicity; from discord find harmony; in the middle of difficulty find opportunity.”

Monday, 14 June 2010


Here are the last four tips which are written in a welter of new potential woes – apparently our banks are up their necks with Greece, Spain and Portugal to the tune of £100 billion (small change in the global economy? No not even trivial by global standards) and Hungary’s in trouble.
But we won a test match and the world cup is on its way – floating down the Rio Grande….is Ferdinand’s knee hereafter to be called the “knee of God?”
Part 3
9. Do things properly.

The great line from a banker in Uganda who was responsible for a spectacular turnaround and when asked how, said “we started to do things properly”.

Apply rigour, don’t run out of control but don’t ever think marketing and doing things properly is easy.

10. Create momentum.

The most difficult thing is getting “traction” (and this from a man who promised no jargon!). You know you are winning when the media want your stories and when people start hearing what you say and talk about you….no not like BP (a classic example of why we all have feet of clay.).

11.Execution. Execution. Execution. The key to success.

“T’aint what you do it’s the way that you do it; that’s what brings results.” The Ella FitzGerald classic song gets it right.  Better to do an average idea well than a good idea badly. Check out Green and Blacks for an example of this.

12.Give me lucky marketers not ones with good CVs.

“Do you feel lucky punk…well do you?” It was Napoleon who best understood the power of luck. Make your own with your energy, enthusiasm and sheer appetite for success.

A few tips with two more to add.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (the Pru) and
  • remember that people like to party (the Pimms current sales drive as the sun comes out). 
Richard Hall is the author of Brilliant Marketing and Brilliant Business Creativity.


Sunday, 6 June 2010


The strangeness of the world we live in is shown by Portsmouth, the bedraggled and struggling-to-survive football team reaching the Cup Final for the second time in three years.

Anything can happen if you keep the faith and go for it.
Here are four more tips.

5. Targeting – imagine it was you being sold to.

Targeting used to be easy. We had a big marketing blunderbuss called prime time ITV which reached everyone we wanted to. Today it’s harder. But don’t despair. Imagine selling to yourself. Excite yourself and you have the chance of exciting others.

6.A few wins are better than a lot of draws.

Do not spread your money too thinly. Make your brand win big time in Brighton rather than being a nonentity in London. Build fame on sound foundations.

7.Use the tools you’ve been given in wonderful ways.

We are so lucky. In addition to more convention tools, experiential marketing and digital allow us to spin on a Euro and have fun. Marketing is our opportunity to show off about our brand and enjoy it.

8.Speak bloke not boss-talk and give up jargon forever.

In a book called the Cluetrain Manifest the authors vowed death to corporate language. Death is too good. Speak simply and succeed. Make your brand easy to talk to.

I hope you are having fun – this is all a cross between Black Adder and Mary Poppins and I love it.
More next week or from

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


We live in extraordinary times. When industrial titans like BP and Toyota can hit the buffers and we could be facing the demise of the Euro, long term marketing strategies seem self indulgent.

There are timeless marketing truths of course but here is the tactical toolkit you need right now.

Week one

1. Reconnaissance pays in spades.

When circumstances change, change what you do. Marketing today is about being knowledgeable and nimble not dogmatic. We live in urgent times where really knowing what your competitors are doing is critical.

2. Quality wins – do not dare to be mediocre.

There is no excuse for being second rate. The penalty for living in a world of marketing is we’ve trained the consumer to be demanding. Be better than your competition. And keep on improving.

3. If you don’t have pride in what you do, give up.

Jerry of Ben and Jerry ice cream fame said “if it isn’t fun don’t do it”. But you must be proud of your brand too. How can you sell something you don’t really rate yourself? And if you aren’t proud of it, fix it. Now.

4. Laughter is the oxygen for creativity.

Lady Trumpington, House of Lords backbencher, said she always paid attention to anyone with a sense of humour in case they said something funny. We live in funny times. Express that fun. Gain their attention - win your audience.

Keep your eyes on the papers to see what happens next. Hard to imagine a script writer daring to write things like this…and the great thing is we are actors in this play.

More next week or from