Monday, 25 July 2022


In Britain we’re in the midst of a marketing battle. This is what the current Tory shoot-out is. If I were advising either candidate I’d be advising a no-holds-barred, go for the jugular approach. Winner takes all. The loser is probably finished as a politician so there’s nothing to lose.

Insurgent Liz Truss Vows To Abide By Controversial Ulster Law Despite EU  Legal Threats Nixolympia News

Currently Brand Truss (the only potential PM to have the same name as a medical implement) has a significant lead in the polls offering a package of tax cuts and optimism that would even make her erstwhile boosterish boss blush (only he never does that). She wants us to be the “Aspiration Nation”. She belongs to that school of thinking like advertising agency, Saatchi’s, “nothing is impossible.” It’s obviously a seductive proposition  originating from the“I’m going to be King of the World” aspirations of a Boris Johnson. 

Growth Stock Illustrations – 927,493 Growth Stock Illustrations, Vectors &  Clipart - Dreamstime

Brand Truss is a marketeer’s delight. Big budget confidence. A desire to break the mould. To grow. Here’s a quote she might like from Keller Williams, the American realty company coined:

“When you go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset a new world of possibilities opens up.” 

But growth is not easy, not in the current world with war in Ukraine, global recession and a series of problems closer to home in Scotland, France and Italy. Since 1961 we’ve achieved ‘real’ growth, namely over 5% in only 5 years and we’ve had negative growth in 8 years. The Truss manifesto reminds me of Anthony Barber’s in 1972, when he was Chancellor of Exchequer in the Heath government. Barber initiated a 'dash for growth', a hugely ambitious budgetary policy aimed to deliver 10% growth over two years pushing  both the fiscal and monetary pedals to the floor in a confident and focused attempt to detonate growth. 

It failed.

Brand Sunak  is a teller of truth. The Doctor who says sympathetically but firmly “I’m afraid you haven’t got long”. 

Rishi Sunak is in his most difficult period as chancellor - and it could be  about to get worse | Politics News | Sky News

He quietly ridicules the fairy story of growth in a world where expert voices would prefer to see us stabilise and reduce debt. But his is not a great marketing story. He sat at Boris’ right hand and his legacy from his boss has been contempt and a damning reference (“do not hire this man”.) Rishi is a marketeer’s nightmare. “Sales are down. The budget’s reduced. I don’t want anything too creative.” 

And he isn’t very visible yet. “Let my record speak itself” doesn’t play well when that record is to have been number two (however reluctantly) to a bloke called Boris who’s now stabbing him in the back of his very tight suit.

Still nearly all the smartest people think he’s clever, thoughtful, an excellent leader and a very hard worker. If I were advising him I’d say become a daily good-news story visiting farms, schools, businesses, petrol stations, hospitals, care homes creating stories about how caring and well prepared he is, never getting caught out on what the prices of a pint of milk or a loaf of Hovis are*.

1 Pint of Milk - Crumbs Food Co Catering Service In Reading

And every day say “Liz is a nice person for sure but her economic plans are wrong and will make our economy worse.”

His comms advisors have to be pumping stories about Anthony Barber and Liz Truss. Non-stop simple messaging that makes the “Sunak right. Truss wrong” rubric unmissable.

At present he’s invisible. Staying like that he’ll lose badly.

Meanwhile Boris uncta porcus+ is lying in wait. He’d probably beat either contestant now if he could stand and MPs are already beginning to ask  “what have we done?”

Animal Rights Protest Scrapped After Group Learns 'Greased Pig' Event Has  No Pigs – CBS Sacramento


*80p and £1.15

+ Boris the greased pig                                                                              

Monday, 18 July 2022


It’s been a rather strange time for everyone. Our disgraced PM resigning. A bare-knuckle fight to choose his successor. At last summer holidays really beginning. But it’s getting too hot everywhere. 


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Air travel is chaotic. Rail travel is subject to industrial action. And the economy’s in turmoil. Meanwhile especially Sri Lanka and Italy and France are in various levels of political array. And the horror story in the Ukraine gets worse.  The world’s overheating in almost every respect.

Back to a more Enid Blyton world. 

Two Go on their Hols. We went on a brief holiday to Canterbury of which I remember little as I had Covid and managed marathon sleeps. If any of you has trouble sleeping Covid’s the solution. I also had a bizarre dream in which I was in a company which had a large cryptocurrency portfolio. I decided, unilaterally, to sell the lot putting hundreds of millions into the bank. Two days later the cryptocurrency crashed and the previously held portfolio would have been worthless. Nonetheless the Board were outraged and forced me to resign. I agreed but pointed out I’d saved the company. “That’s not the point” they shouted. I went into an even deeper sleep.

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Canterbury is beautiful and the Cathedral always an awe-inspiring sensation. They had a visiting choir, the King’s Counterpoint from South Carolina. 

They were astonishingly mellifluous and brought calm and harmony to those who on hearing South Carolina think of “Donald Trump.”

David Acres | The King's Counterpo

But harmony has not been the highlight of the Conservative Party election process. I think I’d prefer to have Covid again. Do the candidates and their respective supporters have any idea of what impression they leave on the electorate? Matthew Parris said that should Liz Truss win he’d dust down his Scottish credentials, move north of the border, get out of any sterling savings he had, vote for Scottish independence and had he any grandchildren (he hasn’t) he’d try to help them get Canadian citizenship. 

Conservative leadership race: Penny Mordaunt suffers first setback of  campaign as MPs attack her stance on trans issues | Politics News | Sky News

It must be the effects of Covid that caused this with me but initially I rather fancied Penny Mordaunt who resembled the sort of amply bosomed nurse I felt I needed. But we need a competent Prime Minister not a nurse. I think Boris Johnson might even win if he stood again. Isn’t it weird that this tawdry process has somehow slightly mitigated his disgrace? 

A lovely hot summer? Here’s the Guardian headline from Saturday:

“England braces for 40C temperatures as experts warn thousands could die” 

I’m going to attach “as experts warn thousands could die” to anything I feel like in future – so hysterical, so Guardian. It’s going to be as hot as it used to be when we went to Greece a long time ago…that’s what we went for. But that was before the current air travel chaos. And isn’t it ironic that of all the airlines in control and doing a proper job it’s Ryan Air and that old rascal Michael O’Leary who come top of the class for reliability?

As we head towards a “summer of discontent,” as experts warn thousands could die – sorry I couldn’t resist it – I watched RMT Union boss Mick Lynch and thought the unthinkable.

He’s a fantastic interviewee – a slayer of BBC upstarts – and he looks, compared to those Tory hopefuls, almost Prime Ministerial. 

Rail strikes to go ahead next week as talks to avert action fail -  Chronicle Live

He’s arguing calmly for a large but below inflation level wage rise for his and other workers. As companies like PWC give their people a 9% raise and their partners (all 900 odd of them in the UK) £1 million bonuses doesn’t anyone see the irony of the government saying: “we can’t afford it”? Maybe we can’t afford not to negotiate more positively.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka has inflation of around 55% and the economy has collapsed. In relation to that we are very rich.

Strange times? What’s new? But let’s hope we all regain our health, wealth, sanity and cool soon. Happy summertime everyone. 

Sunny Beautiful Summer View of the Sandy Beach with Greek Blue Sea with  Shallow Clean Water and Small Rocks, Halkidiki Greece Stock Photo - Image  of holiday, travel: 130751026

Monday, 4 July 2022


 Let’s stick to basics

After endlessly talking about geopolitics with stand-offs between soft liberals and the extreme right, I’ve concluded we need to focus on what we know most about, calmly and thoughtfully. For me, this is mainly advertising, marketing and fmcg (fast-moving-consumer-goods).

Let’s ignore the increasing trend towards marches and protests so often bad tempered although a Gay Pride march down Oxford Street last week was cheerful with a diverse bunch representing various facets of sexuality having a good time.

Gay Pride NYC 2022: Events, Parades and Dates to Celebrate

It made a change because cheerful is not how the media is describing our economy . We are going to be very cold, very hungry and very depressed this winter they predict. 

We’re regularly told by pollsters that the ‘cost of living crisis’ is the most important issue on people’s minds, ahead of Party-gate, Ukraine, Climate Change and corrupt, drunk or libidinous  politicians. Of course it is. Did you need to go to University to acquire the mental equipment to discover that? 

Fact: issues really close to home are the ones that always matter most to people. The amount of money they have and what they can buy with it.

The UK's cost of living crisis is about to get a whole lot worse - Bywire  Blockchain News - The home of independent & alternative news


Government is panicking  as they often do. There’s talk of  an upcoming campaign calling on businesses to divert marketing spend into cutting prices.  Silly story. Daft idea. And one which shows how little this government understands marketing or people.

Here’s a real marketing story. There’s a battle currently between Tesco and Heinz. It’s being staged as a classic Mohammad Ali v George Foreman, “rumble in the jungle”, or, in this case “knock-out at the check-out.” Two giants. One supporting the poor people, the other the poor food industry. How many customers will Tesco lose if they don’t stock Heinz Baked Beans and Heinz Tomato Ketchup? How many cases of the above will Heinz lose in sales by being destocked by their biggest UK customer? This is high drama and a great story.  And I bet sales go up for both of them.

Popular Heinz products from Baked Beans to Ketchup missing from Tesco  shelves | Irvine Times

The price increase of food in the UK since January has gone up 11% (source: IGD) and Reuters are predicting 15% increase running into 2023. Apparently the average household spend on food including take-homes and restaurants is around £4,000 – around 20% of total spend.  

McGuigan Black Label Red 2020

I can empathise. I too was once in that hand-to-mouth, month-on-month world of balancing nice-to-have versus necessity. 

In that battle healthy eating was beaten by a full tummy. Chicken nuggets became luxury food and McGuigan tasted like Lafite (almost). What was different back then was the world was less intense in terms of competition, in terms of marketers pushing prices back down or finding clever alternatives. 

We now have Aldi and Lidl highly competitive and growing rapidly, taking £1 in every £6 grocery pounds spent, and about to take more. They’re no longer the mere “German discounters” as Tesco once disparagingly described them. Go there and be impressed by price and quality.

Aldi and Lidl step up battle with US grocers | Financial Times

Since one of the biggest issues right now is food  and our alleged inability to recruit able pickers. This smells of a PR campaign. There are plenty of people who’d be happy to work outside in our glorious weather if only we pay them enough.

We used to be creative. Let’s get creative about issues like this. Let’s find new sources of “pickers”, let’s create more delicious low-cost recipes and let’s stop getting depressed because we can’t always afford to buy what we don’t really like, want or even need.

Let’s go shopping again, being choosy as opposed to just buying and hurrying on. Let’s, in short, get back to basics.