Monday, 26 September 2016


Peter Drucker, the famous management guru lived to ninety six saying stuff like:
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said”

He was seen as wise and relevant because he presented himself that way.

So like Drucker I’ve decided to keep on going but by being a nuisance. In his book “More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First” Steve Hilton who used to be David Cameron’s policy advisor and a man who despises corporate obesity noted that nature had determined that the elephant and the whale were as big as it was going to get. So BT and the NHS would be anomalies then?

My run-ins with BT have bored many who read me so I won’t go on but the irony is it’s hard to telephone BT and the company that produced an advertising campaign -“It’s good to talk” - doesn’t actually want to…talk that is. We got back from Venice three weeks ago and our land line was down. Getting through to a human was hard and when I did they lived in Chenai and they weren’t briefed about the angry me - the human ‘me’ - not just my phone number. It’s taken three weeks, three engineers, with only the last one to visit qualified to do the work. It worked fine but then stopped working although right now it’s OK again. My fingers are crossed.

This is a marketing problem. I want a Bob Hoskins sound-alike on my case not an Indian with an MBA being very nice but without being trained in how I feel and me feeling worse through being carefully nice to prove I’m not racist. BT is a dinosaur trying to be hi tech and this rusty old beast isn’t human so even when they get it right I get cross.

Next; my wife’s eye examination at the Brighton Eye Hospital. Result: nurses brilliant; doctors superb; front of house marketing a disgrace. The waiting room is dirty. How dare they have posters emblazoned “This is an infection free zone…are you are in the zone?” when it’s clearly a breeding ground for all kinds of vile viruses, especially the filthy windows which make those on a Southern Railway train look spotless. And talking of railways why in this supposedly state-of-the-art palace of medical technology would you have a large but faded print of a Great Western steam train tootling through idyllic pre-war Britain? And finally under another poster which asked cheerily “Having trouble with your sight?” they had a little library of sarcastically small print paperbacks bar one vast  1000 pager called ”Into the Darkness”. Also amid the plethora of posters was one that intrigued me. It said “Finding Your Feet with the ECLO* - and in small print *Eye Clinic Liaison Officer

Decent marketing communication - I conclude somewhat irritably - would put us all in a better state of mind and make our world a better place.

Monday, 19 September 2016


Ever since the debate about Grammar Schools started - surprising for a new PM to embrace a lost cause so strongly - I’ve been thinking about the way labels and images change our thinking.

In my day the 11 + wasn’t nerve-rackingly stressful. We all knew who the cleverer and less clever were and there were few surprises. Now just read Rod Liddle’s brilliant piece about his daughter’s terror that her life could be ruined forever by one dodgy 11+ exam, to capture the real distastefulness of the issue.

Why these anachronistic labels? Why secondary modern or comprehensive or grammar school, why not use football technology - Premier Schools for the best, Championship schools for the rest?

The biggest issues are:
  • Is the overall quality of our education good enough? (Hands up if you know the answer.)
  • How do we accelerate the progress of the brightest whose potential is so often stemmed by domestic poverty?
  • Are we creating an education fit for 2030 purpose?
The debate is great but the language belongs to the past and provokes half buried prejudices. Refresh the language and we’ll refresh the argument.

This week Barry Myers a film director died and in his obituary was best remembered for a Teenage Anti-Smoking film created by the ad agency FCO. Back then in the 1980s smoking was normal. Today it’s like Grammar and Secondary Modern and Steam Trains a vestige of old Britain. Look at the film: it stands the test of time.

It’s Russia, however that can show us the way in reinventing the past. Stalin, still darling of the people (after all what are a few million executions?) and inveterate smoker is now depicted as a smoker of e-cigarettes, Uncle Jo is reborn as a modern voice of wisdom.

And Lenin and Marx are close behind with genial smiles and laptops, trophy watch and Pussy Cat Doll girlfriend. In a few seconds history is rewritten and icons of the past are reincarnated as cool and modern.  The revamped revolutionary Vladimir Lenin (left) is shown as a young man alongside a glamorous and ultra-modern but nameless female ideologist as well as a casual looking Karl Marx

And finally - Brighton. We moved here 13 years ago and for a while, to a rather apathetic response, I promoted the argument that this was potentially a City of the Future…big intellectually, artistically, architecturally and commercially - the Powerhouse of the South.  Apathy put out the fire of my enthusiasm. As a Green Council struggled to govern, as rough sleepers became more of a fixture and rubbish piled up in the streets I thought Dosshouse of the South was probably more apt.

But a lot is changing. The two universities are doing well. There are massive infrastructure plans. And in the new Good Food Guide, Brighton gets seven pages (used to get one) - the same as Manchester and Birmingham.

And the i360. This delighted the critics by breaking down last week. Why? The overly sensitive stability system broke down because people inside were rushing en masse to the bar.  Some images of humanity never change…thankfully…cheers.

Monday, 12 September 2016


My next book is an update of my Brilliant Marketing - now in its 3rd edition. So marketing is constantly on my mind. And, anyway, it’s hard not to think of marketing in Brand-Venice which for 1500 years has created itself as the world’s first virtual city.


Everything Venice does is a promotional event, like the Regatta on September 4th when participants rowed in 16th century style boats down the Grand Canal. In Venice ask not for whom the bells from the 139 churches toll - they toll as part of the overall marketing of the place.

From music - Monteverdi, the Gabrielis, Vivaldi, to art - Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Bellini, Carpaccio,  to architecture - thanks Palladio, to theatre - hail Goldoni - this small city/town even has been raucously trumpeting above its size and population for a long time taking every chance to promote and dramatise itself. Venice is like a Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton or Leonardo DiCaprio - a living self-advertisement. We walk. My wife screams. Has some vile, greasy Venetian goosed her? No. It’s Sephora. It’s not in Britain but it is here - the beauty shop equivalent of WholeFoods Market = brilliantly serviced by smiling girls.

And the sweater shop not just selling pullovers but “Pull Love”.  I do love it and buy some. It’s not all good of course. There’s an advertisement for the Oxford School of English based in Venice. To reinforce its authenticity it has (wincingly) a guardsman in a busby….

I am betting which the English is here taught is so not best neither way.

All over Venice alongside more traditional outlets are fresh creations for ice- cream like Grom - it’s an amazing chain; Dal Moro’s Pasta to Go - bright, new, clean, appetising and it has a competitor - Pasta and Sugo.

There are Cicchetti bars where a glass of Chianti costs €2.50 and five great cicchetti set you back just €4. Apart from the history, the architecture and the tourists (confined to the Rialto and St Mark’s Square) what I constantly see is great marketing - super merchandising, witty copy, exceptional customer service and innovation. Odd isn’t it that in the world’s most historically intact city we keep on seeing new ideas?  The only tired and depressing aspect of Venice (apart from their mayor Giorgio Orsoni  and 35 others being arrested on corruption and money laundering charges related to the Venice flood defences) are the wretched liners and billionaires’ motor yachts with names like Enigma, Lady Good Girl, Happy Days, You’re Nicked and Wet Dream. Watching them and their languid passengers was like watching an episode of “The Night Manager”.

The New Brilliant Marketing 3E praises the power and the joy that marketing can bring. Try Venice to see how this works and always has….or read the book.

This is the second edition. The 3rd edition is unbelievably better and completely up to date. It comes out in six weeks.

Monday, 5 September 2016


I’m still in Venice where it’s seldom fallen below 30C. I’m so relaxed it’s bizarre. But, as Arnie said in the film “I’ll be back”, yes I’ll be back next week.

In the meantime here’s what happens today…a 16th century regatta

And here’s what happens tonight. Bellini’s Norma at the Fenice.

Venice is still the most beautiful place in the world, the quietest and the most relaxing and energising at the same time.