Heard the one about the poet, the copywriter, the science fiction writer, and the author?


Then you missed the “Circle of Growth” at Bloomsbury Festival celebrating this famous local area and its unique cultural life through words and stories.

Top names from the Dark Angels writing group and a host of other luminaries shared their ads, poems, space adventures and more on the subject of growth.

It was a first for me, sharing my thoughts on “Growing – A Life.”

This is the place where words and emotional intelligence come out to play, and anything artificial is left on the doorstep in the pouring rain.

Taking inspiration from poetry is the perfect way to find the inspiration to express your brand in a new and meaningful way.

Sharing my poem Growing – A Life at the Bloomsbury Festival

Found Your Brand Voice?

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Many of us lost our voices at the weekend. Probably no surprise. There were some big games on television.

The bigger question is whether you have you truly found your voice. And whether your company has found its voice.

The Challenge

This was a challenge that my company at the time Air Products faced over 20 years ago. We were a very successful global Industrial Gases company selling a range of products and services to different markets. But we approached each market with a different voice.

Then along came a chap called John Simmons, who, together with some of our other very smart partners crafted a unique voice to fit our new brand.

Nowadays the concept of “Tone of Voice” is bandied around on Linked In and elsewhere by those who think they have uncovered the Holy Grail.

Actually John crafted that Holy Grail in the form of Verbal Identity and Tone of Voice at the time that the Denver Broncos captured the Super Bowl and Manchester United claimed the FA Cup.

Publish and be damned

The book that John wrote at the time “We, Me Them, and It” is being republished in the Uk this month and in the US in April.

It is an enchanting read. Part history, part biography, a few case studies including the company I worked for, and a bit of poetry thrown in for good measure.

Not your typical “How to discover your Tone of Voice without giving a F%#K “ kind of book at all.

More like a well worn Barbour jacket, it has weathered the storm well and like the Barbour remains a pleasure to hang up on the shelf.

Well worth dipping into the original rather than some of the cover bands knocking around.

You can download the Tone of Voice booklet created at the time, on the Air Products web site.


May the voice be with you!



5 reasons Why Marketing Awards Create Value.




5 reasons why Marketing Awards create value.

One of my business highlights in a very challenging 2020 was winning a Marcom award for Strategic Communications & Branding. It is a source of great pride for me. But why is the award a highlight? Do Marketing awards really matter?

Awards have the perception of being an expensive waste of time. Companies and individuals pay not insignificant amounts of money and time for the entry process. And often, it appears that there is no apparent return on investment. If you add the travel price and an awards dinner ticket on top, it could be perceived as an expensive junket to massage a few elite performers’ egos. I beg to differ.

Trophies have been around since the time of the early Greeks. In those days, trophies were often constructed from the arms and armor of captured opponents. The trophies are less barbaric these days, but the purpose is not dissimilar. Awards these days signify the ability to “conquer” a brief and create something meaningful, differentiated, and effective that stands out from the crowd.

I have worked in many industries where awards are handed out. I have even received a few myself. Here are five reasons why I believe awards of any kind are worth their weight in gold, whatever carat.

1. Awards are a recognition of Marketing battlefields, navigated and conquered.

It’s hard to create and execute measurably excellent work. Briefs are often unclear, budgets are perennially reducing, deadlines are unrealistic, and multiple approvals  required for all but the most straightforward projects. There is also a giant leap of faith in believing that incisiveness of thinking and uniqueness of creative execution is even a guarantee of success. For winners, an award recognizes that their creative scythe has managed to cut through the chaff to create meaningful value for a company or client.

2. Awards keep strategic and creative saws sharp.

Awards keep marketers on their toes. Most people don’t create campaigns for awards, but if a program is successful in the marketplace, submitting a nomination offers the chance to validate that body of work against competing projects. Most awards insist on validating the business impact of the work. Comparing entries provides a valuable insight into how much one strategy compares with another. For those wishing to improve their craft, all of the tools are there.

3. Awards enable valuable networking and team-building opportunities.

Some awards events are more glamorous than others. At a local level, awards events offer the opportunity to mix with peers and members of a broader community, building knowledge and connections that help both the individual and the company.

4. Awards attract winners.

For an in-house marketing or design team, awards recognize the excellence of the craft, rarely noticed or even understood deep within an organization. For agencies and consultancies, it is a validation of the talent they have invested in to deliver their clients value.
And new talent is attracted to organizations that deliver great work and are recognized for it.

5. Awards build teamwork and trust.

Whether it be a client and agency relationship or in house creative and business area partnership, an award helps develop the trust that creates insightful thinking patterns and managed risk-taking in creativity.


And so back to my award. When a business partner trusts you entirely with their client, and the client trusts you entirely with their organization, that is the holy grail. Strategists and creatives will move heaven and earth to help make a dent in the universe for those companies.

And in Greek award terms, that is worth “an arm and a leg.”

Why the medium is not the message in the digital age.

Back in 1964, a Canadian communications thinker named Marshall McLuhan coined the term “The medium is the message” in his book Understanding Media: The Extension of Man. He proposed that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be the primary focus of study. Speaking to marketing professionals about their marketing objective is, the response is often,  

“ I want to go viral on social media.”

Not only is this thinking misguided, but it is also wasteful. Media is and always has been a delivery method. Different media have different characteristics. But rather like a train traveling across America empty, or a plane landing without passengers thousands of miles from its original destination, there is no point in the delivery method if there are no passengers. In the case of media, the passengers are ideas crafted into messages.

My sprightly and razor-sharp Mother received a letter in the post yesterday from Nurse Mary at her local surgery. She wrote a heartfelt and personal note to patients of the surgery living on their own. My Mother was “deeply touched” by the message. She felt that she was not in “alien territory” anymore. She phoned the surgery, in itself not an easy task when you are partially sighted. “Hello, would you like an appointment? “No, thank you,” she replied, “I just wanted to tell Nurse Mary how much her message meant to me.”

The message defines the experience

I am sure that Nurse Mary didn’t start with a letter and then think, “how will I fill this page?” Her objective was to make her patients feel closer at a time of isolation. She executed her intention perfectly, with kind thoughts and words, softly spoken and delivered in a letter.

As organizations seek to fill their owned, earned, and paid-for mediums with “content,” it is well worth remembering what the purpose of that content is aiming to do. If you can move your audience to be “deeply touched,” you will achieve far more than most can ever hope for.

As Rudyard Kipling once said, “ Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

And that is why the message, correctly targeted and elegantly and lovingly crafted, will always be what anyone wants to receive, however that message is delivered.

“The Cobbler’s children have no shoes”

Photo by William Warby on Unsplash

It is an old expression that early estimates date as far back as 1546. At its simplest, the inference is that the cobbler is too busy to attend to his children. Or more deeply, that he is working his hardest to put food on the table.

I cannot claim that hardship, but the expression reflects why this is my first blog in over a year. I have greatly enjoyed being consumed “on the brand equivalent of a cobbler’s “last” shaping companies that I respect and admire, and helping them to unearth their uniqueness and tell their story. Both projects have been successful, but it has meant that my words went elsewhere last year.

It is a wonderful problem to have, but it illustrates the issue that companies large and small face every day. How do they tell the story of their company, products, and their fundamental uniqueness, in a way that people will care about, and believe in, especially at this time?

There are countless how to’s and infographics on the subject, but in the same way that a catcher drops a pass after practicing for years, there is no foolproof way to get an organization into a rhythm without the dedication, good fortune, and more than a little luck along the way.

Malcolm Gladwell declares that you need 10,000 hours to become a true expert on a subject. He doesn’t mention what happens when you miss the train to give that all-important expert speech to an expectant audience.

John Lennon composed a song in 1980 containing the lyrics, “Life is what happens to you as you are busy making other plans.” That is our world these days: conflicting priorities and urgent trumps the important.

The challenge, above all, is to be honest and consistent in everything that you create, make and deliver. A brand, after all, is a promise of performance.

A blank space on a blog page signals that “nobody is minding the store.” Or that we are too busy to manage the detail. And that is not what potential customers expect.

So as 2020 and Covid 19 has lurched us into a new decade that promises more change and speed than ever before, the mantra for my blog will be, to quote the Duke of Wellington in 1824 “publish and be damned.”

It must be true. I read it on the internet.

Cutting Through Fake News

Fake news is everywhere. Gone are the days when a newspaper stood on its principles and was held to account by a higher authority.

Enter the wild west of online media.

Anyone with a keyboard is a publisher although the concept of editorial policy is rather fanciful. It is estimated that of all content on the web 1% create it, 9% contribute to it and 90% just read it without engagement.

Searching for new luggage the other day yielded the same fake news that is usually reserved for Facebook. Glowing reports of a particular brand contained the same spelling mistakes as the brand’s own website. What a giveaway.

So where can we search for the truth now that TV has become marginalized. The web is a nest of vipers and commercial content is being churned out online at the same rate as fake Gucci bags.

The answer is to invest the time in a range of media, both in the US and abroad, and listen, watch and read different views from different sources.

As far as luggage is concerned, let the buyer beware. Even Consumer Reports uses reader feedback now rather than its own exhaustive testing. And for that privilege the subscription remains the same.

Fake views?

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