Blog.

Essays at the intersection of marketing and life.

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”

On Being Trumped
3rd March 2016

On Being Trumped

Trump is not a leader. He is the result of failed leadership. Hillary Clinton is using an interesting term, of late, to describe the plight of working-class and middle-class Americans: hollowed out. She used it in her speech on Super Tuesday, as she addressed the elephantine presence in the room: “We know we’ve got work … Continue reading “On Being Trumped”

The Masculine Earthquake
7th February 2016

The Masculine Earthquake

Axe knows what it means to be manly. Do you? We are witnessing the fastest transformation in the meaning of gender since Adam’s rib was robbed. What we held to be just so is no longer ‘so’ at all. This is a time of flux, confusion, and also great hope. It is as if gender … Continue reading “The Masculine Earthquake”

Not Caring
18th January 2016

Not Caring

‘How can you be like that?’, I asked the 22 year old who sat in front of me. ‘How can you be so liberated, when it took me 50 years to get that far?’.  We were in a creative session and dealing with profound issues; the stuff of life and the universe. The standard practice … Continue reading “Not Caring”

Murdering Making a Murderer: the psychology of spoilers
17th January 2016

Murdering Making a Murderer: the psychology of spoilers

I’m in conflict. I both want to view Making a Murderer until the bitter end – I’m at episode 5 of 10 – and also want to listen to what the critics have to say about its amazing storytelling.  The mangled life of Mister Steven Avery is the subject of this gripping Netflix Series, but … Continue reading “Murdering Making a Murderer: the psychology of spoilers”

PLODcast: managing success is a high-class problem
10th January 2016

PLODcast: managing success is a high-class problem

WHY DO WE HAVE SUCCESS? Whenever success comes a calling, there is a pressing question behind the jubilation: what exactly did we get so right?  This is a challenge hovering around a myriad businesses, right now. How to account for the meteoric rise in the hoverboard?; or the spectacular return-to-form of Kombucha?; or the astonishing way … Continue reading “PLODcast: managing success is a high-class problem”

Resolving on Resolutions
9th January 2016

Resolving on Resolutions

I am sitting in the giant central concourse of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, a coffee in hand, and looking up at the Departures Board. It is displayed in Hebrew and receives my special attention, as my five days of language tuition are still bouncing in my head. I survey the letters from right to … Continue reading “Resolving on Resolutions”

Troubadour
2nd January 2016

Troubadour

Discussion is the national sport of Israel. They are incessant talkers, Israelis. This extends to the opera, that holy shrine of silence in western culture, where I landed last night. The packed house was not just talking before the show and after the show, but through it too. A family from out of town sat … Continue reading “Troubadour”

Tackling Hebrew
2nd January 2016

Tackling Hebrew

When I moved to France in 1989, I lived a simple life, and was always in the present. That is to say, I could not conjugate verbs in the past or the future, so everything was necessarily in the present. Back then, I didn’t realise how avant garde my life had become, living exclusively in … Continue reading “Tackling Hebrew”

Behold. A car is reborn.
23rd December 2015

Behold. A car is reborn.

Renewal. That is the word I heard most. I have just watched a press conference of Volkswagen’s leadership which lasted 123 minutes (accuracy is important these days) and it is clear that ‘renewal’ is now the watchword. The patient is still in intensive care, but fully expected to recover. I do not report this with … Continue reading “Behold. A car is reborn.”

Smouldering Dangerous Coffee
22nd December 2015

Smouldering Dangerous Coffee

Because I live in a post-television age in my own home (two years and counting), I had to shut up my friend. He was insisting on chatting as we sat in the cinema, waiting for the film to start. ‘Don’t talk. I want to study the ads’, I said. I have become hungry for the … Continue reading “Smouldering Dangerous Coffee”

Taxi to Kandahar
11th December 2015

Taxi to Kandahar

I remember a young man in one of my research groups describing chat radio after 10pm as ‘train wreck’ broadcasting. As I sat into a taxi last night, a major pile-up was in progress over the car’s airwaves. Why my driver, with a name from South Asia, might like this kind of radio made me … Continue reading “Taxi to Kandahar”

Don’t Make Unnecessary Journeys
7th December 2015

Don’t Make Unnecessary Journeys

The commentary section of YouTube videos can be a land of bores, buffoons and cribbers. The Internet’s anonymity brings a certain lack of charity to the fore in us. In normal life, we are gifted with the power to lie and to be polite during social interactions. In YouTube land, all bets are off. There … Continue reading “Don’t Make Unnecessary Journeys”

11th November 2015

Shaken Bacon

By Brian McIntyre, on November 11th 2015, in Dublin.   In the end, the pig industry became a cropper to a grabby headline: ‘Bacon gives you cancer!’ What could be clearer than that? Well, it transpires, the whole truth could have been way clearer than that. ‘BaconGate’ describes the hysteria generated by the World Health Organisation’s announcement that bacon … Continue reading “Shaken Bacon”

So Wright
12th October 2015

So Wright

By Brian McIntyre, in Dublin. October 12th, 2015.  Frank Lloyd Wright was an arrogant sonofabitch – one of his most endearing qualities. I tire of false modesty, humble bragging and contrived understatement. Our culture does not seem to allow us hold a strong opinion or believe ourselves worthy of praise. It forces us to defer, … Continue reading “So Wright”

Vorsprung durch Fraud
22nd September 2015

Vorsprung durch Fraud

Volkswagen, the Lower Saxony automaker and global behemoth, has landed itself in a Teutonic pickle of gargantuan proportion. On Day 5 of the “crisis”, it has announced it will recall 11 million vehicles to correct a ‘faulty’ emissions apparatus (read, deliberately faked bit of kit which conveniently makes VW diesel cars appear 10-40 times more … Continue reading “Vorsprung durch Fraud”

My week in Tel Aviv
19th September 2015

My week in Tel Aviv

70km out the road is the city on the hill. It is cooler there. You can breathe in Jerusalem. It is the centre of things – religions, cultures, disputes. Here, on the Mediterranean fringe, we pay for natural beauty in humidity. Stifling, exhausting humidity. Not many poems are written about Tel Aviv, I suspect. I … Continue reading “My week in Tel Aviv”

The things I choose not to do
24th August 2015

The things I choose not to do

A good friend – herself a senior business leader – sat down with me over a coffee and enumerated the things she had decided not to do. I found her way of thinking interesting: choicefully deciding what to avoid, in order to conquer the world on one’s own terms – whatever conquering means for you. … Continue reading “The things I choose not to do”

Signature 
23rd August 2015

Signature 

There’s a movie on Netflix that I liked. It’s about creativity, and what drives the creative force in some of the world’s emerging and leading artists. Time is a natural filter. It clears all the noise and allows the ‘signal’ to remain. In truth, I can only remember one thing about this Netflix movie, even … Continue reading “Signature “

Hotel Dystopia: one day in Dubai
23rd August 2015

Hotel Dystopia: one day in Dubai

Being its resident for some twenty hours, I had time to ruminate on why exactly the Dubai Copthorne Hotel, managed and run almost entirely on behalf of Emirates Airlines, was so very unwell. The stress enveloping the establishment was evident from the outset. As I waited in line at Reception, two squabbles were in progress at … Continue reading “Hotel Dystopia: one day in Dubai”

BATTLEGROUNDS: 5 things politics can teach marketing
21st June 2015

BATTLEGROUNDS: 5 things politics can teach marketing

To be human is to be political. ‘Politics’, of course, are not negative – despite our culture’s insistence on bashing politicians for every conceivable ill. Politics are, in a most general sense, simply the way people collaborate and do things, together. No surprise then, that the strategies employed by politicians to persuade citizens to think and act … Continue reading “BATTLEGROUNDS: 5 things politics can teach marketing”

Berkeley: where the rot begins
17th June 2015

Berkeley: where the rot begins

The news from Berkeley, California, is so upsetting that I cannot sit still. Six Irish students have lost their lives when a fourth floor apartment balcony collapsed. Seven others are severely injured. The loss of these beautiful young women and men – the precious cargo of our nation – hurts in a visceral way. The … Continue reading “Berkeley: where the rot begins”

Criticism
14th June 2015

Criticism

Last Tango in Paris (1972) – a movie put on the map by Pauline Kael’s compelling review. I have a friend who rarely enjoys wine. His palate and knowledge are such that he now cannot afford that which he loves most. Most other wines – the ones I’m happy to drink – seem to him … Continue reading “Criticism”

He took me to The Island
11th June 2015

He took me to The Island

It is oft seen, but rarely visited. Across great swathes of Ayrshire coastline, locals wake to its burnished flanks, radiant in the morning sun, and retire in the thrall of its muscular shadow, battling the embers of day. Everyone in these parts knows something of ‘the Craig’. Its granite. Its birds. Its lighthouse. Its owner. But … Continue reading “He took me to The Island”

FI, FA, fo, fum
5th June 2015

FI, FA, fo, fum

I smell the blood of a Swiss man. And an American. And a Trinidadian. And an Irishman. And the list goes on, and on… This week’s implosion of FIFA – the world governing body of soccer – has been fascinating to observe. Way from the outside, I should add, as I am a committed abstainer when … Continue reading “FI, FA, fo, fum”

What’s going on here?
3rd June 2015

What’s going on here?

Within this picture lies the key to great communication. Take a good look. What’s going on? How to make sense of it? What is the artist saying, exactly? All successful communication demands choice. Not every point to be made is equal. When brands communicate, we never tell everything. Rather, we choose foreground and background – … Continue reading “What’s going on here?”

A unicorn without a horn is a horse
4th May 2015

A unicorn without a horn is a horse

Recent writing by Jonathan Rauch draws attention to the U-shaped curve of life’s happiness. As we arrive into adulthood our life-satisfaction drifts downwards, not to turn the corner until our forties, when, driven by a certain acceptance that middle age carves from the wreckage of fractured dreams, we experience a rebound of happiness.  The ‘happiness … Continue reading “A unicorn without a horn is a horse”

Scale
25th April 2015

Scale

Listening to critics speak about the recently released fashion documentary ‘Dior and I’, I was struck by a perceptive comment on why the cinema really is a special place. ‘I think we overlook that scale is, itself, a sense’, said the commentator. He went on to describe the visceral reaction he had to witnessing Raf … Continue reading “Scale”

Big in Japan: the use of Haiku in marketing
20th April 2015

Big in Japan: the use of Haiku in marketing

Similar to the re-reading of beloved books, revisiting political campaigns, where the outcome is both known and to my liking, is a hobby of mine. I recently watched The War Room, a documentary on William Jefferson Clinton’s successful bid for the American presidency in 1992. In it, George Stephanopoulos pays credit to James Carville’s brilliant strategic mind, especially … Continue reading “Big in Japan: the use of Haiku in marketing”

The joy of tears
10th April 2015

The joy of tears

I saw a piece of theatre last week. It was familiar to me. I have both read and seen it several times before. Its plot holds few secrets, and I have grown to love the familiarity of its words and characters – daring to say things they should never say, to love people they should … Continue reading “The joy of tears”

The Brief
5th April 2015

The Brief

Amid the 2015 Oscars hullabaloo of a couple of months back, one sound bite from a Hollywood hack has stuck with me. It is this. A film is written four times. Once by the screenwriter. Once in its casting. Once as it is shot. And for the last time in editing.  It is rather difficult to … Continue reading “The Brief”

The art of seduction
14th March 2015

The art of seduction

There is a well-trod phrase in the world of advertising which scolds brand owners whose ads lack subtlety: Watch out, your briefs are showing. The ‘brief’, of course, is the agreed strategy which lies behind an advertising campaign. And, woe is me, those private briefs get a public showing quite a lot. On-the-nose ads which … Continue reading “The art of seduction”

Brian Williams and the ticking clock
12th February 2015

Brian Williams and the ticking clock

Brian Williams has experienced a biblical fall-from-grace for telling self-glamorising tall tales while covering the Iraq war for NBC. Holed up in his Connecticut home, with the media feasting on the carcass of his career, he may draw cold comfort from the knowledge that he indeed now fully grasps what it is, to be in a … Continue reading “Brian Williams and the ticking clock”

Intimacy
5th February 2015

Intimacy

Intimacy is the new authenticity. What in hell does that mean? Well, look around you. In almost every realm of culture, we are being assaulted by authenticity warriors. This is true from brands, from politicians, from organisations, and from a hotel I stayed in last week in which ‘the manager’ wrote me a hand-written card … Continue reading “Intimacy”

Amnesia is bad for business
3rd February 2015

Amnesia is bad for business

History is cultural psychoanalysis. Its mission is not to discover facts, but rather to uncover understanding. We delve into what happened way back to make sense of who we are, and consider what we may become. The idea of historical accuracy is bunkum. We can, of course, agree on the facts of the past, but … Continue reading “Amnesia is bad for business”

Making peace with that objectionable term, SYNERGY
31st January 2015

Making peace with that objectionable term, SYNERGY

Outside of being described as a marketeer, I can live with most catchphrases in our marketing trade. The idea of being a marketeer – akin to a musketeer, a pamphleteer or a buccaneer – leaves me feeling just a little debased. As if somehow my noble practice were the shoddy work of half-thieves. Arf. Arf. Well, … Continue reading “Making peace with that objectionable term, SYNERGY”