Blog.

Essays at the intersection of marketing and life.

It Would Make You Think
4th August 2017

It Would Make You Think

In the glare of an August afternoon, I walked among headstones in Mount Jerome. There was a pleasant stillness about the place, and I had time to kill before I would sing. So I browsed the plots, a pastime which brings one readily to a meditative state. I passed a family vault to my right … Continue reading “It Would Make You Think”

War of the World
19th July 2017

War of the World

As teenagers just out of school, I and four friends cycled across France and a bit of Switzerland. We had two tents, one map-reader and no money. It was a great trip. I was never much interested in the route we would take. We left that to Mark, who, true to his orientational instincts, would … Continue reading “War of the World”

London’s Burning
18th June 2017

London’s Burning

As the flames danced behind the cheap cladding of Grenfell Tower, there was a brief moment when the story’s end was not yet told. Fires in cities happen, of course. Even spectacular high-rise fires can occur – like those of Dubai. But their drama seems vastly to outweigh their seriousness. We have become habituated to … Continue reading “London’s Burning”

When The Big Boy Bails
3rd June 2017

When The Big Boy Bails

It is a scenario familiar to most small businesses. You develop a disproportionate relationship with a single client; all goes well and the mutual benefit is evident, and then a new head-honcho rides into town. As is his prerogative, he sees the world differently and changes things around. You thought that your precious business relationship … Continue reading “When The Big Boy Bails”

Darling Michael
1st June 2017

Darling Michael

The remembered life of a young boy in outback Australia     Chapter 1: Man In December 2016, Pete Kauter and I took an afternoon stroll along the beaches of Sydney, to talk the talk that had brought us together. Sixteen years ago, for several months, we had house-shared in Dublin, and during that time … Continue reading “Darling Michael”

Samsung Dreams Of Flight
22nd April 2017

Samsung Dreams Of Flight

Locate the dream, then bring it to life. This was the essence of my Friday evening conversation with a good friend. Both of us plough the marketing waves; he specialising in innovation and learning, me in insight and innovation. The Venn diagram of our common interests was clear. We were discussing, over pizza, how innovation … Continue reading “Samsung Dreams Of Flight”

Toffoli, And The Meaning Of Local
19th April 2017

Toffoli, And The Meaning Of Local

Toffoli is a restaurant on my street. It is perhaps 15 metres from my door. When I stretch over my balcony, I can see Toffoli. It has been a constant presence since first I turned the key on my place. But Toffoli operates like no other restaurant I know. For one thing, I never know … Continue reading “Toffoli, And The Meaning Of Local”

ABBA’s Seven Insights
15th April 2017

ABBA’s Seven Insights

Even as the music critics thrashed them, the most feted rock stars of the 70s recognised the unique talent of ABBA. Yes, the band name was a little corny – but the music sure was not. Pete Townsend of The Who, not a man to clip his cool by dropping BS, would maintain that ‘SOS’ … Continue reading “ABBA’s Seven Insights”

Sweet ShitTown, Alabama
4th April 2017

Sweet ShitTown, Alabama

How a podcast investigating a murder has breathed life into the nature of love, and storytelling.  It is true that TV and the small screen are having something of a moment. Netflix and Amazon are seeing to that. But the media innovation that most warrants your attention concerns not the eyes, but the ears. Audio is bursting … Continue reading “Sweet ShitTown, Alabama”

On Average, People Are Average
27th March 2017

On Average, People Are Average

‘Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.’ With this fictional sign-off, the long-running radio show ‘The Prairie Home Companion’, set in the American mid-west, inspired what psychologists call the ‘Lake Wobegon Effect’. That is, the rather … Continue reading “On Average, People Are Average”

The Next President of France
23rd March 2017

The Next President of France

It is easy to be distracted by the personal story of Emmanuel Macron. And yet, within his tale of difficult love lies his essence. Because Monsieur Macron is a man who quickly knows what he wants, and sets out to get it. As a precocious 15-year-old student who ‘knew everything’, he became the talk of … Continue reading “The Next President of France”

Disasterously Good, Dangerously True
7th March 2017

Disasterously Good, Dangerously True

It is surprising how difficult it is to find truth. I do not mean this in a legalistic or scientific sense. No. I mean in an everyday way: What does the waiter really think? What does my work colleague really care about, deep down? How does that successful neighbour really feel about her choices? Society … Continue reading “Disasterously Good, Dangerously True”

Dammit, I just want a coffee
3rd March 2017

Dammit, I just want a coffee

I have still not got the hang of coffee parlance. Between flat whites and skinny cappuccinos and double shot Americanos, I often experience hesitation at the counter. So what is it I want, exactly? A coffee, actually. And by that, I don’t mean a crappy one that tastes rancid and disorderly. No, I want a … Continue reading “Dammit, I just want a coffee”

And the Oscar goes to…
3rd March 2017

And the Oscar goes to…

We live in Trumpian times. When his wife plagiarised swathes of Michelle Obama’s speech for her own use at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, Donald Trump declared Melania’s scandalous contribution a great success, because ‘all press is good press’. It was perhaps inevitable that the first Oscars in the 45th president’s reign would … Continue reading “And the Oscar goes to…”

Slayer of Dreams
21st January 2017

Slayer of Dreams

As he stood, hand on a bible, and began to recite that brief oath, my hand went involuntarily to my mouth, in horror and shock. Despite intellectually knowing what was about to happen, the fact of its arrival had the power to wound all over again. So help us god. This man is now the … Continue reading “Slayer of Dreams”

Airlines Can Break Your Heart
17th January 2017

Airlines Can Break Your Heart

Love / Hate at 30,000 feet I am reminded of how emotionally I engage with the world as I sit down to send a message of thanks to a hotel I have just stayed in. In fact, there were a couple of screw ups during my stay but I make a point to praise them, … Continue reading “Airlines Can Break Your Heart”

The Flight Of The Cassowary
14th January 2017

The Flight Of The Cassowary

Australia’s expansive, and famously pesky, biodiversity is, to my amateur eye, evidence that competition delivers results. On this island continent, a great gladiatorial battle has played out over countless millennia, as each species of life attempts to adapt to this hostile environment of limited resources, a place where plenty of candidates will likely rob your … Continue reading “The Flight Of The Cassowary”

Lollipop Ladies of Bangkok
13th January 2017

Lollipop Ladies of Bangkok

The king is dead. The nation mourns, each in her own way. The hospitality manager at my hotel mentions him, and describes the tears that have fallen down her face in thinking of him in the last weeks. There are garlands and bunting of black and white on public buildings. In places, the sun has … Continue reading “Lollipop Ladies of Bangkok”

La La Strategy
9th January 2017

La La Strategy

What if strategy began with notes, not words? Famous people are, as a rule, annoying. At the centre of their personal storytelling is a giant lie: that they got here by chance, that they owe all their success to anybody but themselves, and that every collaborator they have ever worked with is the essence of … Continue reading “La La Strategy”

Troublerone
8th January 2017

Troublerone

I have spent a lot of time in my life thinking about chocolate. I am not alone. Cocoa butter creates bodily effects in us to rival respectable lovers. It is well known that chocolate triggers the release of both serotonin and endorphins. It is sometimes forgotten that women’s physiology is more loaded with the former, … Continue reading “Troublerone”

Sydney Serendipity
7th January 2017

Sydney Serendipity

Chapter 1 Thomas’ father was called Turnip Townshend, in honour of the various agricultural innovations he initiated on his lands in Norfolk. Tommy, perhaps spurred on by the dynamism of Dad, decided to make something of himself too. The late 18th Century was a tumultuous time. And Tommy had ambition. He combined a keen intellect … Continue reading “Sydney Serendipity”

Walking on Waiheke
7th January 2017

Walking on Waiheke

When I think of Waiheke now, a few days after leaving its azure shores for nearby Auckland, it is the sounds I think of most. The layered birdsong that accompanies late dusk, and is the constant backdrop of day. Birds are more plentiful here, and less inclined to fright. There is confidence in their calls, … Continue reading “Walking on Waiheke”

The Kiwi Connection
30th December 2016

The Kiwi Connection

If Australia is the wizened, desert-scarred soul of adventure, New Zealand is its comforting Eden to the south, possessed of a physical beauty so great that night itself might ache for its own dismissal. Millions of years ago, this land became one of Nature’s finest experiments, when it drifted away from the vast Eurasian continental … Continue reading “The Kiwi Connection”

On First Encountering Australia
22nd December 2016

On First Encountering Australia

Terra Australis, the great land to the south, was the object of the seafaring explorers of the 15th century and onwards. Theirs was a clear, if faulty, premise: that the earth, being symmetrical in so many ways, must be so configured that there is equal landmass in the Southern Hemisphere as there is to the … Continue reading “On First Encountering Australia”

Tokyo’s Breakfast Lottery
21st December 2016

Tokyo’s Breakfast Lottery

In her own way, she inhabited her morning diner like the waitress from the Breakfast In America album cover. In her own stooped way, she commanded the place and was the biggest contributor to its atmosphere. Calling orders to the chef. Suggesting to people where to sit. Coaxing an older, deaf gentleman to move to … Continue reading “Tokyo’s Breakfast Lottery”

The Beautiful Stranger
17th December 2016

The Beautiful Stranger

‘I stand before you as a doormat. A female in the music industry.’ The opening words of Madonna’s acceptance speech as Billboard’s Woman of the Year 2016 were her own special brand of feisty. She had, after all, just quipped that the mic-stand in front of her was reassuring, as she liked to have something … Continue reading “The Beautiful Stranger”

O Hear The Angel Voices
13th December 2016

O Hear The Angel Voices

You know it when you hear it. It. The music that breaks your heart. The music that transports you. The music that reminds you of who you deeply are. Music. That amazing, elusive, beautiful creation – the essential expression of what it is to be alive. Every culture needs music, and it is our one … Continue reading “O Hear The Angel Voices”

He’s from Barcelona
3rd December 2016

He’s from Barcelona

The death of actor Andrew Sachs this week will be particularly resonant to anyone who grew up in the pre-cable age, when British comedy ruled the waves. Manuel, one of the four iconic and beloved characters in Fawlty Towers, was the hapless Spanish waiter whose confused English belied a pure heart, considerable wit and a … Continue reading “He’s from Barcelona”

Memories of Cuba
26th November 2016

Memories of Cuba

It is fully twenty years since I walked the streets of Havana. I’m going to go there now, I said to myself. Before the old man dies. Before everything changes. And so I went, and stayed with an Irish friend who had a house there, and we took her car and roamed the island, as … Continue reading “Memories of Cuba”

London Town
25th November 2016

London Town

This, is a city. Cities. Those magnificent, preposterous, energising, mystifying, petrifying places of worship and disaster. It is interesting how much of current marketing innovation draws its energy from the metropolis. Brands rejoice in those damp places of clash and disorder; those places where graffiti lines the walls and street artists are the only visionaries … Continue reading “London Town”

The Good Sailor
21st November 2016

The Good Sailor

Today, I took a walk on this cold November morning with my dog, along the pier in Howth. Rows of pleasure boats were standing tall and thin, their sails packed away. There was hardly a movement detectable to the naked eye. All looked calm, and ordered, and regimented. Nothing to report. And yet, to my … Continue reading “The Good Sailor”

An American Tragedy
15th November 2016

An American Tragedy

America is the sow that eats her own farrow. An imperfect woman of talent has been routed by a tin-pot, camp bully. In my unquiet sleep these last days, I have found myself tossing about, between macro and micro. I am deeply concerned by how Trump will change the world; because he will change it, and for … Continue reading “An American Tragedy”

You don’t really care for music, do ya?
11th November 2016

You don’t really care for music, do ya?

Trump’s election tears some beauty from the world. His is an ugly victory. One of our party pieces, for my niece Clara and me, is to sing a Cohen song at the piano. Me banging out the three or four chords, major and minor, and Clara with her beautiful, soulful voice carrying the tune. In … Continue reading “You don’t really care for music, do ya?”

Marketing in an age of punditry
1st November 2016

Marketing in an age of punditry

As is my wont, I am a slave to podcastery at the moment, given the imminent elections over yonder. I have never been a sports fan, but my interest in American politics helps me get the drift: the passion, the drama, the pain of losing, and the brine-inducing glory of coming out on top. Early this … Continue reading “Marketing in an age of punditry”

My Trump Weekend
2nd October 2016

My Trump Weekend

What if this whole election thing were a vanity project, gone rogue?  I spent the weekend with Donald. He was not the most comfortable of companions – bloviating, bristling, acting the maggot, threatening to send life as we know it up in flames… But the man is so close to grabbing the keys to the City … Continue reading “My Trump Weekend”

Life on Mars
28th July 2016

Life on Mars

The news, carried in most of the papers today, of the death of Forrest Mars Jnr, has transported me to another place and time. Forrest, and his brother John, were joint scions of the world’s largest confectionery company, and were my very first employers. Not that they personally hired me. Well, no. I was a … Continue reading “Life on Mars”

Words are Cheap. Meaning is Valuable.
20th July 2016

Words are Cheap. Meaning is Valuable.

There is a scene in the first season of Six Feet Under which has remained with me. In it, Brenda Chenoweth, a smart but fractured character whose childhood was scrutinised by psychologists and then documented for all to see, argues with her boyfriend that the findings of researchers are not always accurate. “It is a fucking law of physics … Continue reading “Words are Cheap. Meaning is Valuable.”

Gokémon
17th July 2016

Gokémon

I spent over three hours last evening in the grip of augmented reality. Walking through a world fully known to me – neighbours chatting, family gatherings, whisky fuelled sing-songs, the odd errant aunt, or uncle – things began to happen that I had never seen before. At times my heart raced, at times I was … Continue reading “Gokémon”

The Young Turks are coming
13th July 2016

The Young Turks are coming

The combined forces of a rigged media landscape and a throttled generation of 20 somethings has spawned an online champion  “Come join us, and change the world”. With these words, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks signed off his video diary celebrating TYT’s three millionth subscriber to its YouTube channel. The internet network will hit 3,000,000,000 … Continue reading “The Young Turks are coming”

The Power of Inspiration
9th July 2016

The Power of Inspiration

Obama’s former speechwriter spoke recently of what he learned, working with a man audacious enough to place his image on a poster, accompanied by one single word: Hope. Without hesitation, Jon Favreau spoke about the transformative value of inspiration in the politics of persuasion. It is, he had learnt, through experiencing inspiration that we move beyond ourselves, … Continue reading “The Power of Inspiration”

Not that Canary island. This Canary island.
30th June 2016

Not that Canary island. This Canary island.

When I finally got her attention, she busied herself in getting my coffee. Having the chat with her friends, at the side of the bar, was her top priority. She made no bones about it. She was not playing a role, as so many do at work: ‘only bartender of this island’s aeropuerto’. No. Sonia was herself, right down … Continue reading “Not that Canary island. This Canary island.”

Marketing 101: all they needed was love
28th June 2016

Marketing 101: all they needed was love

The British people have “had enough of experts”. With these words, Michael Gove articulated the marketing issue at the heart of why Cameron failed to carry the Remain vote, and in so doing lost his job, freaked the economy and possibly unraveled his beloved Kingdom. In choosing to persuade people using reason, the Remain campaign seemed … Continue reading “Marketing 101: all they needed was love”

Don’t go Brexit my heart
25th June 2016

Don’t go Brexit my heart

I have a complicated love-relationship with Britain. As our nearest neighbour, I grew up with her children’s tv shows, her royal goings-on, her exquisite, imaginative humour. At some intuitive level, I became passively bi-cultural. We all did, over here. But there are seams within a people that one cannot fully discern from the remove of … Continue reading “Don’t go Brexit my heart”

Trump, the marketing man, will likely win the presidency
16th May 2016

Trump, the marketing man, will likely win the presidency

For all of his false tan and crazy hair, Donald is a human being in a world of animatrons, puppets and zombies. So, firstly, let me acknowledge that mine is a minority point of view. Most polls and pundits have assessed the American elections thus: Trump will get his comeuppance well and good when he faces a broad, and … Continue reading “Trump, the marketing man, will likely win the presidency”

Ireland of Imagination
9th May 2016

Ireland of Imagination

Six inspiring personalities that make Ireland special 1. Here’s to the man who saw his marshland could be transformed into a quirky glamping village, and sailed a Boeing 767 up the Atlantic Coast to make it happen. 2. Here’s to the priest who saw the West of Ireland as a destination and not an evacuation … Continue reading “Ireland of Imagination”

Iceland’s Seismic Shift
25th April 2016

Iceland’s Seismic Shift

The most facile way to characterise this topsy turvy country of fascinating contradictions is to deem it ‘quirky’. Indeed, Icelanders embrace and trade on the zaniness of life up here at the Arctic. But in the end, it is not the ‘quirky’ which captivates me as I travel through her lunar hinterlands and sample her puffin, … Continue reading “Iceland’s Seismic Shift”

AGED: on the curious compensations of middle-age
20th April 2016

AGED: on the curious compensations of middle-age

In the world of fine whisky, ageing is the highway to specialness. With Time comes flavour, complexity and smoothness – a combination which gives whisky its differentiated and venerated character. Although circumventing tricks do indeed exist, nothing can fully substitute for the ticking of the warehouse clock. Which makes the great tragedy of middle-age even … Continue reading “AGED: on the curious compensations of middle-age”

What it means to be Irish
17th March 2016

What it means to be Irish

Born in insurrection, raised in turmoil, Ireland emerges into the sun.   I sat in the National Concert Hall in Dublin last night, in the presence of our president – a man of poetry, politics and a defender of human rights – and listened to a 16 year old girl sing the plaintive words of … Continue reading “What it means to be Irish”

What Remains is What Matters
17th March 2016

What Remains is What Matters

I am a fan of the lingering detail. Specifics that do not shift are valuable real estate for any communicator. Take In Cold Blood, for example – a book I read more than ten years ago. The first thing I think of to summon the spirit Capote’s masterwork is its tiny detail, not its big plot, … Continue reading “What Remains is What Matters”

Rubio is Dying
10th March 2016

Rubio is Dying

RUBIO FALLS TO THE ORIGINAL SIN OF POLITICS & MARKETING: NOT KNOWING WHO YOU ARE Rubio is dying. The telegenic politician elected to the Senate on a wave of anti-establishment fervour, had only three weeks ago become the Establishment’s last hope for the 2016 Republican nomination. A startling turn of events, but it was not … Continue reading “Rubio is Dying”