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