Where one brand is clearly perceived as the leading example within its category, with a dominant market share, it may also shape perceptions and expectations for the whole category.

A signature hallmark of Levi’s 501 jeans is the use of metal rivets; made of copper or aluminium. Many people think all competing jeans come with rivets, but they don’t.


Dyson vacuum cleaners introduced new technologies in the sector. Consumers may believe that rival competitors have since copied many of these innovations and have began to catch up.


But Dyson own hundreds of patents that protect their investment in innovation and competitive performance.  Dyson try hard to protect their difference, while creating expectations in the category. Helping their brand to justify their performance advantage and the premium they charge.  Dyson Patents

Land Rover have dominated the four wheel drive vehicle category in many markets for decades.  As they replace their models, such as the Defender. They focus on maintaining the distinctive vehicle silhouette, as well as the legendary functional performance off road. Other four wheel drive competitors follow the conventions, but rarely achieve the same levels of off-road performance.  A car with genuine off road performance is expected to look like a Land Rover.


The Glenlivet became the most popular aged Scottish Single Malt in 2014; but the characteristics of Scottish Malt Whisky vary widely by region and ageing.  The Glenlivet is hugely popular, with a light and floral bouquet. It’s often described as a whisky for ‘every day’ consumption, meaning it’s less challenging to get to like, rather than possessing some of the stronger characteristics of some malts (e.g. heavy smoke and peat). The Glenlivet also doesn’t have the expensive price tag that often accompanies aged Scottish malt competitors.  Many milder tasting whisky brands are enjoying increased sales among new customers, who aren’t yet ready for a more complex, or expensive Malt.


Leading brands set the rules and create the expectations and conventions consumers expect from the category.  This doesn’t mean that all competitors copy the leader.  But it does mean that many consumers perceive the leading traits of a category are influenced by the heritage, authenticity and conventions established by the leading brand.


Jesper Norgaard, strategist & artist: Jesper’s Twitter Feed

I draw an analogy now, between leading brands and the Kingfisher bird.  There are over 90 species of Kingfisher, but many people think of the Common Kingfisher when they describe what this family of birds are like. Even though Kingfisher species differ markedly in their colour, diet, habitat and location around the word.

But unless you are particularly interested in birds, most people default to the conventions they expect. Not only from the Common Kingfisher, but from other birds in general, when asked to describe the Kingfisher.  Because most people don’t know much about Kingfishers or birds really. Just like most people don’t know that much about a brand or a category.

Just over half of the Kingfisher family live in forests. Most live away from water and eat insects, rater than fish.  And most dig tunnels to nest in and don’t build nests in trees. Most aren’t coloured blue and  yellow.

Our perceptions are driven by conventions, driven by what we experience more frequently. These expectations don’t have to reflect the facts.


Originally written on 9th Nov, the day before the launch of the latest John Lewis Christmas TV ad.


Today will see the new John Lewis Christmas TV ad break in the UK.

The Christmas ads from this leading up-market department store have become a regular fixture in the UK and have prompted much social media discussion and ad sharing over the years.

The 2015 ad was watched by over 25 million people on YouTube in the last year. It’s one of the few ads on YouTube to ever rival the levels of Reach delivered from a major broadcast TV campaign in the UK. In comparison the Cadbury Gorilla TV ad took more than 8 years to achieve over 18 million views, and only achieved around 6 million in year one. Something TV buyers have used over the years to highlight how broadcast still commonly beats digital for the speed it builds Reach. But John Lewis have a formula and have applied it consistently and well.

So when the new ad breaks today, expect Adam & Eve DDB in London to dig out a forlorn soundtrack, probably sung about loss or isolation. This year something by Randy Crawford or Coldplay are popular bets among gamblers. Cue the child and the family. Perhaps throw in a cute animal or two. Reference the way gifts bring people together. It should work a treat. It has done for the last 7 years.

John Lewis are already on track for a bumper sales year, compared to performance over the last 3 years.

Weekly Sales Data: HERE

If you’d like a reminder of their previous Christmas TV, links are below.

2015 – Man in the Moon: Here

2014 – Monty the Penguin: Here

2013 – The Bear and the Hare: Here

2012 – The Journey: Here

2011 – The Long Wait: Here (My personal favourite)

2010 – Your Song Here

2009 – Sweet Child: Here

When you have a great formula, you simply need to reinterpret this annually, in order to build upon your distinctive success; creating a brand and cultural phenomenon. But in 2016, how much of the media exposure will rely on broadcast TV for this event? And will the formula change for change’s sake?

I’ve been developing a library for Carat, as part of their School of You initiative for staff development.


While the library is much more extensive. The following books are recommended for readers interested in marketing, strategy, consumer insight & psychology.


98% Pure Potato: The Origins of  Advertising Account Planning John Griffiths & Tracey Follows
The Advertised Mind Erik Du Plessis
Advertising Media Planning Jack Sissors & Roger Baron
The Anatomy Of Humbug Paul Feldwick
A Beautiful Constraint Adam Morgan
The Big Idea Robert Jones
The Black Swan Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Blink: The power of thinking without thinking Malcolm Gladwell
The Brand Innovation Manifesto John Grant
Brand Manners Hamish Pringle & William Gordeon
Brand Spirit Hamish Pringle & Marjorie Thompson
Buyology: Everything we believe about why we buy is wrong Martin Lindstrom
Contagious: How to build word of mouth in the digital age Jonah Berger
Copy, Copy, Copy: How to do smarter marketing Mark Earls
Crowdsourcing: The power of the crowd in driving business Jeff Howe
Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy Phil Barden
Eating The Big Fish Adam Morgan
Emotional Intelligence & Working With Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman
Engage! (Measure success on the web) Brian Solis
Excellence in Advertising Leslie Butterfield
The Future Of Value – How Sustainability Creates Value Eric Lowitt
Gamestorming: A playbook for innovators D. Gray, S. Brown & J. Macanufo
The Global Brand Nigel Hollis
The Growth Drivers – Marketing Transformation Andy Bird & Mhairi McEwan
Grow the Core – focus on core business success David Taylor
Herd: How to change mass behaviour Mark Earls
Here Comes Everybody – social media & digital revolution Clay Shirky
How Brands Grow (Ehrenberg-Bass Institute) Byron Sharp
How Brands Grow Part 2 (Ehrenberg-Bass Institute) Byron Sharp
How We Know What Isn’t So: Fallibility of human reason Thomas Gilovich
Inevitable Illusions: How mistakes of reason rule out mind Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini
Information Is Beautiful David McCandless
Irrationality: the enemy within Ben Goldacre & Stuart Surtherland
Knowledge Is Beautiful David McCandless
Likeable Social Media (create an irresistible brand on Facebook) Jonah Berger
Listen First! – turning social media conversations into advantage Stephen D. Rappaport
The Long Tail Chris Anderson
Made To Stick – Why some ideas stick and others come unstuck Chip & Dan Heath
A Masterclass In Brand Planning – Stephen King Multiple Contributors
Nudge Cas R. Sunstein
Ogilvy on Advertising David Ogilvy
One Plus One Equals Three: A masterclass in creative thinkin Dave Trott
The Organised Mind: Thinking straight despite info overload Daniel Levitin
Outliers Malcolm Gladwell
Paid Attention: Innovative advertising for a digital world Faris Yakob
Paid, Owned & Earned Nick Burcher
Pitch Perfect: The Art Of Selling Ideas & Winning Business Jon Steel
Positioning – The Battle For Your Mind Al Ries & Jack Trout
Predatory Thinking: A Masterclass In Out-Thinking The Competition

The Social Media Bible

Dave Trott

Lon Safko

Socialnomics: How social media transforms our lives & business Erik Qualman
Start With Why Simon Sinek
Thinking Fast & Slow Daniel Kahneman
The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell
The Truth About Negotiations Leigh Thompson
Truth, Lies, And Advertising: The Art of Account Planning Jon Steel
The Ultimate Book Of Business Thinking Des Dearlove
Where Good Ideas Come From: The 7 Patterns Of Innovation Steve Johnson
Wikinomics Don Tapscott & Anthony  D. Williams


My personal top 10 recommendations within this list, in alphabetical order:

The Anatomy of Humbug

Eating The Big Fish 

Excellence In Advertising

How Brands Grow

Irrationality: The Enemy Within

A Masterclass In Brand Planning


Paid Owned & Earned

Start With Why

Thinking Fast & Slow


The new Apple Pencil.

$100 and it requires charging.

Apple Pencil

Are you convinced this is better than a plastic stylus and a well designed OS interface? Or does charging (both monetarily and electrically) for yet another Apple device really make a positive difference to the consumer?

Because of limited battery life, you already need to worry about a charger for your Apple iPhone, Apple watch and new iPad Pro. Does this new stylus accessory really need to be a chargeable device too?

Samsung have demonstrated how well a simple plastic stylus may work on their Note models, particularly on the new Note 5. Although there has been some controversy caused by the design flaw in this new device.  As the Note 5, unlike previous Note models, allows the stylus to be inserted accidentally the wrong way around.  This may leave the stylus stuck and wedged into the device when stowed for storage.  This is certainly a practical design flaw.  But in terms of how easy the stylus is to use on screen, this non-powered stylus and OS work well together.  Leaving me currently unconvinced by the Apple Pencil’s powered implementation.

Think Different?

There is an Account Planning group on Facebook and Sytse Kooistra, a member, asked for points of view on what the role of planning is within an agency.  Every planner answers this question differently, although common themes are apparent.  The question and my response are below.

Planning Question







– Be obsessive about understanding the client’s business, the consumer, how media channels work and inspiring great ideas.


– Inform conversations with relevant information and argument.


– Understand what the objectives are (help set them) and what drives comms success (Are the team clear on what measurably improves brand and sales performance?).


– Guide the team to create more effective work.


– Allow time to think, reflect and refine; as well as for origination.


– Be clear and confident in saying “no”, when it’s the right answer, as well as “and” when you need to build or refine thinking further.


– Write succinct and compelling creative briefs (rewrite the briefs of account handlers if this helps team engagement).


– Guide creative development (don’t become a binary pass/fail test for ideas).


– Develop a coherent and robust plan for each client that everyone can understand – refining it should be rarely necessary.


– Speak and present with clarity, simplicity and passion.


– Continue to learn and challenge. Budget for learning.


– Make the process fun and engaging for the team.


– Be committed and still a pleasure to work with.


– Make everyone feel smarter; your job isn’t to own intelligence within the team, it’s to raise the intelligence and effect of the work and team around you.


– Be recognised for the effectiveness of your work and the work you inspire by winning awards.


– Provide and inspire thought leadership.


– Work collaboratively. Train others and share knowledge.


– Promote what’s interesting, different, engaging and substantial in the work of others as well as your own.


– Don’t expect the answers to come from sitting behind a desk. Get your hands dirty.

According to LinkedIn data, below are the top 50 companies people searched for jobs at, in the UK, during 2014.  Click the image to enlarge on your screen:

Top 50 Employers Sort After In The UK

Link to the original list from LinkedIn: HERE

An excellent piece written by Dave Trott appeared in Campaign today.

The article asks the question “what do you use for fuel; what motivates you to perform in your career?”   The example was taken from Peter Mead, of AMV fame in UK advertising.

Dave Trott: What do you use for fuel?
In his biography Peter Mead talks about his first job.

He was sixteen, he’d just left school with two ‘O’ level GCSEs.

He was applying for a job as a dispatch boy.

What Americans call a ‘gofer’: “Go fer this”, “Go fer that”.

Peter had two interviews: one was at the massive agency, J Walter Thompson.

“Peter didn’t like being treated as a member of the lower classes, so he didn’t take the job at JWT.”

It was incredibly snooty, only the poshest people were employed there.

Peter was interviewed by a secretary in the ‘personnel dept’.

Like JWT, she was posh: elegant high heels, two piece oufit, pearls.

Her accent was cut glass.

As she talked, it became apparent there was a huge gap between the people who worked ‘above stairs’  who would be seen by clients.

And the lower orders, the ‘below stairs’ people who handled the daily running of the building.

Cleaners, doormen, van drivers, tea ladies, and dispatch boys.

She informed Peter that he would be starting at three pounds ten shillings a week (£3.50).

But what burned into Peter’s memory was when he asked where he would eat.

She said “There is a staff canteen of course, but you won’t be able to eat there on your wages. However, you can take your sandwiches into Berkeley Square and eat them there”.

Peter didn’t like being treated as a member of the lower classes, so he didn’t take the job at JWT.

He took the job at the other agency instead.

He worked his way from the dispatch department to a job in account handling, and gradually worked his way up from there.

Eventually he opened his own advertising agency.

Eventually he persuaded David Abbott to join him.

Eventually Abbott Mead Vickers became one of London’s best agencies.

Finally, becoming the biggest agency in the country, bigger than everyone, including JWT.

Peter says that on that day he got his wife to make him sandwiches.

He popped them into a Tupperware box.

Then he went to Berkeley Square and sat on his own, on a bench overlooking J Walter Thompson.

And he ate his sandwiches.

Exactly where that posh secretary had told him all those years ago that he’d have to eat his sandwiches.

Because people like him couldn’t afford to eat in the JWT staff canteen.

It reminded me of something Gary Neville said.

Gary Neville had an incredible record as a defender for Manchester United and England.

He won the Premiership eight times, the FA Cup three times, the League Cup twice, the Community Shield twice, The Champions League twice, the Intercontinental Cup, and the Club World Cup.

An interviewer asked him where he found the energy and desire to perform consistently at that level.

Gary Neville said “Indignation is a great source of energy”.

That was his fuel.

He knew he needed to locate that before every game.

Find something that courses through your veins.

A source of energy you can turn on when everyone else says it’s time to quit.

Something that gives you an unfair advantage.

A bench where one day you’re going to sit and eat your sandwiches.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

Many countries have experienced continuing recovery in their advertising media spend during 2014.  The forecast from Carat continues to show positive growth, although at a slightly lower level, during 2015.


Carat publish updates on their website: Here

Global Apple iPhone sales, by quarter, since launch of the original iPhone.

Global Apple iPhone Sales Q3 2007 to Q3 2014

Data: Apple iPhone Sales Q3 2007 to Q3 2014

iPhone Announcement / Launch Dates

Original iPhone announced January 9, 2007 in USA (UK, France & Germany launch Nov 2007, plus Ireland & Austria in Spring 2008)

iPhone 3G released on July 11  2008 in 22 countries

iPhone 3GS announced on June 8 2009.

iPhone 4 announced June 7 2010 (white version not launched until April 2011)

From 2007 to 2011, Apple spent $647 million on advertising for the iPhone in the US alone.

iPhone 4S announced October 4 2011.  1 million sold in the first 24 hours and Apple later became the largest mobile manufacturer in 2011 by volume, with unit sales surpassing Nokia.

iPhone 5 announced September 12 2012.

iPhone 5C and 5S models announced September 10 2013.

iPhone 6 and 6 plus models announced September 9 2014.

Apple quarterly reporting periods

Q1 = Jan – Mar

Q2 = Apr – Jun

Q3  = Jul – Sept

Q4 – Oct – Dec

Data Source: Apple

LIDL poster












While I still firmly believe that when businesses fight solely on price they embark on a competitive race to the bottom.  Providing simplicity in how good value is accessed by your customers may be a great differentiator that augments a value message.  And this can divert some pressure from having to be the absolute cheapest competitor in order to claim difference or prowess in being a customer champion.

Providing simplicity to the customer can be difficult for the business.  It forces you to think about how to remove operational barriers and pressures on the customer to make them qualify in a way the business feels in control.

I first became aware of the change in approach at LIDL in 2013.  Thier activity in supplying a pop-up restaurant in Stockholm with LIDL produce showed more confidence over the quality of the food, extending relevance beyond their traditional the low price value.

This was followed in the UK by a recent TV campaign championing the surprising quality LIDL offer.

The UK ad reinterpreted the same idea for the British consumer and had middle class tonal appeal. The product quality established in a farmer’s market scene, then using the reveal to show the way consumers were pleasantly surprised when the LIDL brand was revealed.

As both mid-price and value price competitors scrabble to demonstrate their worth and difference selling often similar commodities.  A new press ad from LIDL has now emphasised how at least one competitor makes it difficult for customers to access value similar to that offered by LIDL; because they don’t make access to value simple and straightforward.


Having worked with Waitrose on their customer communications and services, I’ve come to appreciate the amount of training, dedication and focus required in order to provide a consistent quality of retail service. Particularly one that customers appreciate is truly centred around helping them gain better food. While providing cheap food in itself is easier.  Making your brand appreciated requires brand difference and service quality people respect and prefer.

If Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s in the UK place barriers in front of service and make it difficult for the customer to identify if they are indeed truly gaining competitive value on price; they will continue to find the approach demonstrated by LIDL difficult to challenge.

There is an interesting article exploring these points further at Contagious: HERE

Sainsbury’s have also made it less simple for customer’s to gain value by halving the rewards available automatically through Nectar points collected for every £1 spent.  Sainsbury’s intend to tactically deploy additional point bonuses that hope to target customer shopping benefits more closely, by incentivising specific purchase bevaviour.  But this adds a barrier to simplicity and the clarity of reward available on a regular basis for the customer.

Marketing Week discuss Sainsbury’s change of Nectar Points: HERE


I one the Nobel prize for literature, what was your crime. Pasternak cartoon by Maudlin won Pulitzer prize

This Bill Mauldin cartoon celebrated the plight of Russian author Boris Pasternak. 

 Pasternak won the Nobel prize for literature 1958, after his manuscript for Dr. Zhivago was smuggled out of the USSR, translated and published in Western Europe.  

 Pasternak narrowly avoided being exiled from Russia by the authorities, because the text was subtly critical of Stalinism, the purges and the Gulags.

 Maudlin’s cartoon won a Pulitzer prize. The cartoon shows a Soviet Gulag scene, with two prisoners talking while they work on splitting a tree trunk in a forest. The caption reads: “I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?”


Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov




David Bailey on TV advertising










I remembered the above quote from David Bailey and thought you might like it too.  David Bailey also describes himself as an advertising amateur, because he has only worked on around 600 ads – including quite a few TV ads.  A nice touch of self-deprecation.

The above quote on TV is a little cheeky, as he is, but as a photographer he certainly brings an interesting perspective to creating TV advertising.   I must remember this quote when I next hear an advertising agency creative team complain at being restricted to ‘only having 30 seconds.”

The quote is taken from his BBC Radio 4 interview on Desert Island Discs from 1991.  When the Beeb kindly opened their back-catalogue for several programmes, it allowed me to listen to some very interesting people that I’d missed when the programmes first aired.  Find someone you’d like to know more about through their Desert Island Discs interview here:

The Desert Island Discs Archive home page

The archive catalogue – this allows you search for people interviewed, their interests and specific music tracks selected.

The David Bailey interview





Top 25 ranking of the finest smartphones currently available in Europe

Each total score is shown as a Percentage (%).  Each smartphone was reviewed against 10 criteria, with each criteria scoring a possible 1-10% toward the total final score of up to 100%.

The top performers all scored very closely together, but for slightly different brand, design or performance reasons.  So if you wish to use this ranking table to select your next mobile phone, I suggest you also check the two or three of the very best, based on the scores below and then go and try these hands-on for yourself in a mobile store before you buy one.  But it’s unlikely you will be disappointed with any of the two or three that meet your particular criteria from the data shown below in a table.

The top 5 smartphones, listed here in alphabetical order:

Apple iPhone 5S 32GB and 64GB versions (counted here as 2 separate alternatives, as there is a high price point between them)

The iPhone is still popular, if an expensive choice.  But both are a joy to use.

Apple iPhone 5S








HTC One M8

A design icon, with great character and stereo external speakers. Only the camera is average in this otherwise excellent smartphone.

HTC One M8









Samsung Galaxy Note 3

A large, high performance media, gaming and business-use phablet.  It goes beyond the Samsung Galaxy S5 and really is a mobile powerhorse.  It virtually replaces the need to carry an iPad Mini or an iPad.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3








Sony Xperia Z2

Possibly the best mobile phone for social media, with an excellent camera and amazing in-ear sound quality with the supplied headphones.

Sony Xperia Z2









Please click on the table below to read the detail more clearly.

Ranking the best 25 smartphones in Europe July 2014


Each of these smartphones have been reviewed extensively online, but I couldn’t find a ranking that compared all of the best against each other in an easy format to reference.  So I compiled the data from my own reviews, cross-checked for product specs with manufacturers web-sites and other reviews mentioned below.

The 10 criteria used to create the ranking

Brand Appeal (Brand desirability and social acceptance)

Design Appeal (includes the visual appeal and physical feel of the design, the materials, textures and colours.  As well as the range of Accessories available, such as cases/covers and the adoption of a standard charger)

User Interface (including Ease of Use and if it is a pleasure to spend time using)

Battery Life  (including whether there is the ability to swap out the battery to extend use as you commute)

Screen Display (including ability to view out of doors in sunlight, Full HD etc.)

Camera  (including rear facing and front facing camera, video mode and image stabilisation)

Built-in Features & App Store (including functions that are likely to be used by many owners, rather than bloatware that fills up space, ease of use, fair pricing and wide range of apps available. A built in feature, such as front facing stereo-speakers, excellent camera will also improve the score awarded).

Robustness & Longevity (Robustness includes resistance to scratches, or more severe damage; such as screen cracking when dropped. If the smartphone is waterproof it also improves the score.  Longevity includes the estimated ability for the smartphone to both continue to  operate and be supported with the latest software upgrades, as well as whether it is likely to remain socially admired/credible when seen in public in 2 years time)

Form factor & Expandability (includes weight and dimensions, memory card slot. Excessive pre-installed software bloatware that fills up internal memory is penalised.  Additional functions that are useful to many owners, such as fingerprint security or health apps are credited extra merit)

Value for money (This is the perceived value offered by the price of the smartphone purchased standalone, or as part of a contract)

The ranking table and some further details on how scores were formulated are included in an Excel spreadsheet that is downloadable from here:

Smartphone Analysis


In addition to personally conducting a hands-on comparison with each of these smartphones.  I have also referred to reviews from Pocket Now, Tech Radar and Phone Arena.  The ranking scores are my own informed opinion.  So who am I?   I’m the former brand manager of a major mobile phone retailer in the UK.  I provide consultancy, research & planning support to mobile networks and mobile manufacturer clients.  The views expressed here are my own.

I am contactable at kevin.sugrue@plannersphere.org

And via Twitter at #plannersphere

Please also be aware that while the HTC One M8 is a relatively new smartphone in 2014, Samsung are launching a new Note 4 late this year. Also Sony are due to launch an updated Z3 in the Autumn and Apple possibly 2 new iPhones in September 2014.

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready.  I have this feeling now that actually no-0ne is ever ready to do anything.  There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now.  And you may as well do it now.  I mean, I say that confidently as if I’m about to go bungee jumping or something – I’m not.  I’m not a crazed risk taker.  But I do think that, generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

– Hugh Laurie

Hugh Laurie