Monthly Archives: January 2015

Brixton – home to the next big thing in restaurants

I read recently that Honest Burgers has recently acquired a £7million investment from a venture capitalist in return for 50% of the business. It looks like the chain is destined for great things, with plans to open 5 new restaurants over the next 12 months

A similar success story is Franco Manca (no relation) whose sourdough pizza appears to be taking over south London. A branch opened in Balham recently and there are always queues outside the door.

What do they both have in common? Both originated in Brixton Village Market

What’s great about Brixton Market is the variety of shops, cafes, food stalls and restaurants, which all have a sense of character and individuality. Whatever you fancy – Brazilian, Portuguese, Thai, West Indian, you’ll find it here.

For foodies like myself, Brixton Market is at that perfect stage of development. It’s not become too mainstream. So far, there’s no sign of a Starbucks or Pizza Express setting up shop. Equally it’s not too hipster. Prices are still affordable and it’s not become too self-conscious.

My favourite is simply called Brixton Village Grill , a wonderful Portuguese influenced restaurant, but there again, I’ve still got a lot more to visit.

So, if you’re looking for the ‘next big thing’ in restaurants, come down to Brixton.

Here’s a nice film that Time Out put together which gives you a flavour of the place


Team Sky Porridge – How Strange..

I’ve just found this in my local Budgens. A range of high protein porridge pots, branded by Team Sky. Now I’m a big cycling fan and am delighted that Sky are backing the new ‘Team Wiggins‘ However, a range of porridge does seem an odd brand extension. I wonder why it feels it could succeed against the established brands such as Quaker, Kellogg’s and Jordan’s? Good luck to them, but I can’t imagine it ever getting any real traction in the market.

Yet Another Depressed Cat on the Internet

The latest Young’s Seafood ad features a cat called Malcolm who’s tormented by the delicious  gastronomic fishy ready meals that his owners have prepared.

This ad has clearly been inspired by another miserable cat – the French existentialist, Henri. He’s so popular he got his own Youtube Channel – HenriLechatNoir. Here’s my favourite Henri video

There’s 2 points I want to make about this. (the first, serious, the second, less so)

Firstly, Imitating what you admire is perfectly normal and indeed essential in every creative activity. My favourite quote on creativity is by Voltaire

“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation”

It’s so true. To come up with a new idea you need to keep your ears and eyes open and imitate what inspires you. That’s what musicians do. That’s what artists do. And clearly it’s what ad agencies do. So to kickstart your creativity, fill your brain with external stimulation and steal shamelessly.

Secondly, our obsession with cats never ceases to amaze me. Where would the Internet be without cat videos? Probably about half the size. If you’re a fan, there’s a series of Internet Cat Video Festivals in 2015. It originated in 2012 in the USA, but now it’s gone global. For example there’s an event in Perth this weekend and in Glasgow in February. So if you’ve got a cool, entertaining cat – it’s not too late to enter.

Building Brands – 7 Lessons From Lego



I’ve just read this fabulous article in Fast Company which gives us a fascinating insight into the Lego business and how – like Apple – it came back from the brink of bankruptcy and re-invented itself as a Global mega-brand. Here’s some of the key lessons we can all learn from the Lego story.

1 Acquire Deep, First Hand User Insight

What became clear was that Lego lost sight of how kids really play. To remedy this, they embarked on a huge, ongoing insight generation programme using a variety of research approaches where ethnography – observing real life play experiences – had a key role to play They also created alliances with universities and research agencies to get fresh perspectives. Now they know more than anyone about the true nature of play.

Key lesson: never stop learning about your consumers. Use a a variety of approaches to acquire fresh insight

2 Re-define and Stick to Your Core Business

This is an ongoing theme of David Taylor at the Brand Gym who writes about this extensively. The grass is always greener. New markets always look tempting, but it’s so easy to lose sight of what made you successful in the first place. Lego over-invested in ventures such as Legoland, where they had little experience or knowledge of the hospitality  or leisure business. Today its entire focus is on creating innovative play experiences.

Key lesson: remember what made you famous. By all means look for new opportunities, but focus primarily on growing your core business

3 Attract New Users

One of the big learnings from Byron Sharp’s book How Brands Grow was that brands are bigger because they have more users. So, having re-focused on their core business, Lego looked to actively seek new users beyond their traditional audience of 5-11 year old boys. 2 key groups they embraced were:

(a) young girls, who they attracted via a new range called Lego Friends which has proved to be hugely successful

(b) AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego)…I love that phrase…via a range called Lego Architecture

In addition, they’re looking to grow their business in Asia, beyond their heartland of Europe and North America

Key Lesson: be open-minded about targeting. Look to grow by increasing your brand penetration.

4 Develop a Powerful and Creative R & D Resource

The Lego R & D function – Future Lab – is well equipped and highly influential. Also, it’s a very diverse group of people, with a range of backgrounds, skills and experiences. Cutting back on R & D resource may lead to short term cost-saving, but will ultimately starve the organisation of much needed innovation.

Key Lesson: you need an active, eclectic and well – resourced R & D function to ensure you stay future-focused.

5 Engage Your Superfans

People who love your brand are never short of ideas, so it’s great if you can harness their passion and creativity. Indeed the original idea for Lego Architecture came from Adam Reed Tucker, a Chicago architect. Lego has a site called Lego Ideas where fans can submit, review and vote on potential new ideas.

Key Lesson: create opportunities for your fans to suggest ideas and contribute to your success.

6 Test and Learn

innovation inevitably has a high failure rate – it goes with the territory. The issue is that mistakes can be costly and in the past, Lego was guilty of expensive failures, such as Lego Universe. Nowadays, it tests ideas in a more controlled environment, so that it learns as it goes along.

Key Lesson: keep trying new stuff out, but do so on a smaller scale. Absorb the lessons before you invest in a big launch.

7 Embrace the Digital World

For many brands – Lego included – the virtual / digital world can be perceived as a potential threat to the existing business. Lego is currently focusing on is merging virtual with physical play to create a new, hybrid play experiences, something they call Lego Fusion

Key Lesson: embrace opportunities the digital world has to offer. Keep abreast of new technologies and seek out ways to merge the virtual world with the physical.

Review of ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain

Quiet Book Cover

I was inspired to read this book after I saw the author speak at a TED Talk a couple of years ago and over the Christmas period I finally got round to reading it. Essentially, the book bangs the drum for Introverts, making the case that in today’s world their qualities are under-valued and that society e.g. schools and workplaces are designed to encourage and applaud extrovert behaviour. I really enjoyed it and feel it’s definitely worth a read.

I think it’s helpful in a number of ways.

It makes you very self aware. Throughout the book, you’re asking yourself where you lie on the Introvert-Extrovert spectrum and it helps explain how and why you respond to situations you find yourself in. It also helps explain how your family and friends behave and encourages you to accommodate them and respond accordingly.

It helped me to think about how I will structure and facilitate workshops in the future. Typically there’s a strong emphasis on high energy and group discussions, whereas I think in the future I’ll spend a bit more time encouraging solo work and reflective time to ensure the introverts feel more comfortable and feel able to contribute more fully.

Probably the biggest insight in the book for me was the view that creativity works best during quiet, focused and reflective periods – which introverts love – rather than group-based, high energy ‘brainstorming’ sessions – the traditional ‘ideation workshop’ approach. This is why nowadays, I encourage idea generation to take place individually, in advance of workshops and I tend to use the workshop itself for spotting and sculpting ideas. It really works