Monthly Archives: January 2014

January’s Ad of the Month

It’s P & G’s Winter Olympics ad. I defy you to hold back the tears.


How Do You Spot a Great Insight?

We all understand that uncovering a deep consumer insight is essential to delivering great marketing strategy and activities. They’re like gold. We spend huge amounts of time and energy searching for them but how do you know when you’ve found one? Here’s a few pointers.

1. Does it tap into a universal human truth?

Great insights display a deep understanding of what makes people tick, what motivates and inspires them. For example the P&G ‘Proud Sponsors of Mums’ Campaign reflects the joys, hopes and challenges of motherhood. The Lynx / Axe brand taps into the young adolescent obsession with the opposite sex. They’re often timeless and broad in their appeal but because of this, your consumers can truly identify with them and they can become the basis of a long term strategy.


2. Does it go beyond the obvious?

We often confuse a ‘fact’ with an insight and use the word ‘insight’ too liberally. Facts are observable, numerous and can be accessed by anybody. If you look at an insight statement and it’s too simplistic and ‘well known’ then it’s probably not an insight i.e. its a fact. Look to interpret the facts and explore what’s beneath the surface. That’s where the answer lies. A great insight needs to be simply expressed, but it shouldn’t be simplistic in its meaning.

3. Does it feel fresh?

A great insight provides you with a fresh perspective on a task or a market  you’ve been grappling with. This is where your judgement and experience comes into play. If you think ‘I’ve never heard that before’, then you’re probably in fertile territory. I remember when the Persil / Omo team came up with their insight around encouraging children’s creativity and learning which underpinned their ‘Dirt is Good’ Campaign. At the time it was a very fresh, counter-intuitive approach to the category. Also when the Wii was first launched it looked at gaming in a new way, by addressing the need for family togetherness.


4. Does it feel distinctive?

A great insight doesn’t necessarily need to be truly original. For example the Persil / Omo insight  around children’s creativity has been used by both Lego and Huggies in very different categories. Therefore, don’t be afraid to appropriate other brand or category  insights as long as they’re not used by your competitors. If your insight simply mimics what your direct competitors are using, then it’s going to be hard to say something new and distinctive.

5. Does it feel actionable?

If you can’t do anything with it, then it’s no good to you – even if it’s a great insight. After you’ve written the insight, if ideas of how you might deliver against it start coming to mind straight away, then it’s likely you’re onto something exciting. It’s much better to have an ok insight that’s actionable, than a great insight that you can’t do anything with. I think the Amazon Lockers respond to a fairly obvious insight around the issue around not being at home when parcels are delivered. However, the important thing is that they did something about it.


So…the search for the elusive insight never ends. Ask yourself these questions and you’ll know when you’ve stuck gold.

Why I’m a Naked Wines Angel

naked wines

There’s lots of ways to buy wine on line – Virgin, The Wine Society and of course all the supermarkets, but my preferred on-line wine retailer is Naked Wine and for the past few years, I’ve been one of their 150 000 customers or ‘angels’ as they like to call them.

The way it works is that you subscribe for £20 a month and then become an ‘angel’. The proceeds are then used to crowd fund over a 100 passionate, independent winemakers who don’t have the capital they need. In return, you get to buy the wine direct from the supplier at discounted prices.

They do all the basics really well: nice wines, easy to navigate site, good value, reliable delivery, etc.

However, I really like Naked for 3 key reasons

 1. Support For the Underdog

Maybe it’s a very British thing, but it’s great to see individuals do well in this big corporate world.  It’s nice to know that in a small way, the £20 you pay is helping someone fulfill their dreams

In December I received a number of emails from various Naked Wine suppliers, explaining their story and outlining how the support they received had helped them grow their business and realize their dreams. Here’s an extract from a French winemaker

‘After just five years I’m now able to produce consistently outstanding wine at great value – with the comfort of being able to try new things, knowing Naked and you guys will back me up’

2. The Playfulness of the Wines

I hate the pretentiousness of the wine world. You can tell that these wines are made by individuals rather than ‘big brands’ as the labels are a bit quirky and some of the names are a bit strange. It’s clear that a lot of love and affection has gone into the creation of them and that the owners are incredibly proud of what they’ve produced.

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3. The Interactivity and Transparency

There’s lots of opportunities to rate the wines, give feedback, find out more about the producers and get to know the business. Although it’s purely an online business, you do get the chance to know the brand and the wine makers really well. You also sense that they really listens and that they’re doing their best to create a real community of wine lovers.

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It was a brave decision for Naked Wines to enter a crowded market 5 years ago with a new business model and a fresh approach to wine retailing. I hope they continue to go from strength to strength without losing their sense of individuality

Facilitating Idea Generation Workshops. My 3 Big Learnings

Typically this what happens. You gather some people together, book out a day, get out the post-its and generate idea ideas with the help of a few tried and trusted creative techniques. This is fine and we’ll continue to do this. However, there are better ways.

1. Generate the Ideas Before You Get to the Workshop

Ideas never come out fully formed. They come to you at odd times, they mutate, they grow. You need time and space for the idea to emerge. Sitting down in a workshop is not always the best idea generation environment. Time pressure and working in teams with people you don’t know very well doesn’t always put you in a good creative zone.

The alternative way is to
(a) select a broad range of people and give them the idea generation brief at least 2 weeks before the workshop – ideally 4
(b) encourage them to generate ideas in whatever way they want, but make sure they use a consistent format
(c) ask them to send you the ideas before the workshop

This assumes that the people you ask are motivated and engaged enough to generate ideas in the first place. Paying them usually helps. Select a large, diverse group of people. Some may have little experience of knowledge of the category, some may be real experts. Students, consumers, technical folk, it doesn’t matter. As long they have bendy, creative brains then that’s fine. Also, not all the people who generate ideas in advance need to come to the workshop


2. Focus the Workshop Itself on Spotting and Sculpting the Lead Ideas

Display the ideas you’re received on the walls as if you’re in an art gallery. It’s a great feeling walking into a room full of ideas. You feel relaxed and confident that you’re going to fulfil your goals as you’re not forced to generate ideas from scratch. Some people are great ‘spotters’ i.e. they’re brilliant at seeing the great idea or connecting a couple of ideas together. Often, this is when the brand team comes into it’s own as their intuition and experience is a real asset.

Sculpting is about building the idea and telling the story around them. For this, having visualisers working with you is essential as well as people who can write succinctly and capture the essence of an idea.

3. Continue Sculpting the Idea Immediately After the Workshop

Often, ideas are taken away and written up in their raw format a few days after. Don’t do this! You’ll forget what the ideas are about, lose them and you won’t be able to read half of them.

Instead, a core team (3 or 4) should stay behind and select the ‘big ideas’. This could be in the afternoon of the workshop or the next day. Don’t leave it any longer. This may involve lots of debate and discussion, so you need to involve the key people. Then focus your energy on knocking them into shape there and then. Work with a visualiser, start to craft the words and keep on evolving the ideas.

Of course, in reality these steps might not be possible if it requires the time and resource you don’t have. However, if ever I get asked to plan and facilitate an idea generation workshop this is what I recommend. I’ve tried it a number of times and it really works.

5 Innovations That Will Make You Cycle More Often

Cycling’s on the up. According to a recent study, the number of Londoners cycling to work has more than doubled over the past 10 years. This is undoubtedly a good thing. However there’s still room for growth and here’s my top 5 innovations that I hope will encourage you to get on your bike more often

1. The Wine Carrier

It’s much better to cycle to a friend’s house for dinner than drive.  No need for a designated driver or an expensive taxi home. However, how do you carry the wine? The Oopsmark Wine  Carrier solves the problem. Simple, efficient and looks great.


2. The Foldable Helmet

One of the biggest barriers to wearing a helmet – and hence cycling – is knowing what to do with it. This amazing Morpher folding helmet is perfect. Means you can go to work and not worry about carrying it around.


3. Built in Bike Lights

Sometimes you forget your lights, lose them or worry that they’re not good enough. These Helios handlebars with built in lights are super cool. It seems strange that cars have got built in lights, but not bikes. Hopefully this will change.


I’m also a big fan of Revolights. Lights are built into the rim of the wheel. They’ve completely transformed the way bikes look at night.


4. The Bicycle Cafe

Cycling is a real communal activity and we could all do with more bike-friendly cafes. Rapha makes the best-looking cycle apparel, but if you go to London’s Brewer street you can now ogle at the lovely bike gear and have great coffee at the same time at the Rapha cafe.


5 Hi Viz Clothing

There’s been lots of attempts to create cycling specific clothing such as the Levi’s Commuter range and Parker Dusseau’s Commuter Suit. However, to be really safe on the road, you need high visibility clothing. I think Respro have a great range and at a bare minimum, everyone should wear the Respro ankle bands


So, that’s my round-up of cycling innovation. Long live the Cycling Revolution!

7 Ways to Nurture Your Creative Spirit


Enhancing your creativity is a lifelong journey, but how can you do give it a boost? Here’s a few suggestions

1. Find a Creative Outlet

Drawing, writing, flower-arranging, photography. It doesn’t matter what it is. We all need a focal point for us to channel and express our creative energy. So, take up your favourite hobby, learn more about it and get going!

 2. Increase Your Output

Creative people are doers as well as thinkers. The only way to develop your creativity is to increase your output. To come up 1 brilliant idea you need a lot of ideas in the first place. To invent 1 new product you need many prototypes.

3. Carry An Ideas Book

Ideas come to you in odd places at unusual times. In the shower, sitting on the bus. Make sure you capture the eureka moment as soon as it occurs, otherwise you may lose it altogether. Be it your favourite notebook or your favourite app, make sure it’s your constant companion.

4. Relax

When you relax, your subconscious mind gets to work and ideas pop into your head. It’s impossible to be stressed and creative at the same time. Listen to music on headphones, lie in the sunshine, go for a swim, ride your bike.

5. Get Fit

Exercise can contribute to creative output as it increases oxygen in the blood which is delivered to the brain. Also, certain types of exercise such as running, walking or swimming can create meditative rhythms and help you relax. (see point 4)

6. Get Regular Fresh Input

Routine is the enemy of creativity. Your mind needs fresh stimulation to get new ideas and new perspectives. Aim to do something different every day and seek out new experiences. Listen to a different radio station, visit new places, order something that you’ve never tried before

7. Use Creative Tools and Techniques

There’s hundreds of creative techniques you can use. When you get stuck, try some out. For example there’s Mind Mapping or there’s the Creative Whack Pack.

This is just a snapshot of some of the things you can do to help nurture your creativity. If you’ve got any more suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

Secret Cinema. Creating Memorable Brand Experiences


I’m a big fan of Secret Cinema and am really excited about going to my next event at the end of March.

Secret Cinema creates incredible cinematic experiences that go way beyond your classic multiplex. You sign up to go and initially you don’t know where the location will be or what the film will be (hence Secret – geddit?) Then, via a series of emails, clues are revealed as to what the film might be, the dress code is, what you have to do in advance and eventually the secret location is revealed.  During the evening itself you’re confronted by actors, told to do weird things and eventually watch the film. I don’t want to reveal too much as it’s strap line is ‘Tell No One’. Part of the appeal is retaining the secrecy and the surprise.

So why does it work?

1 It Creates Social Currency

After you’ve been, I can guarantee you’ll talk about it to everyone you meet, because something something weird, exciting, stimulating and surprising will have happened. I’ve heard lots of great stories from previous events, which only serves to whet the appetite for the next one. And as we all know, sharing makes us happy

2 It Creates Desire

We all want to feel part of something and have an anxiety about missing out on an amazing experience. These are one-off events that are heavily oversubscribed, so there’s a risk you may not be able to take part or that it’ll never be repeated again.

3 It Creates Memories

Can you remember all  the ‘stuff’  you’ve spent good money on over the year? Probably not. The sugar rush of acquiring material goods soon fades, but you’ll definitely recall your Secret Cinema experience. Great memories are so important to us so we’re willing to invest in them.

4 We Desire Extraordinary Experiences

We all like the comfort of routine, Going to our favourite eaterie or the local pub is fine. However, now and again we want something special that rises above the mundane. Our palettes get jaded and so we seek the thrill of the new.

So – that’s the challenge to all marketers. In order to stand out, we’ve got to be extraordinary