My job is to guide brands, conduct research, understand consumer behaviour, analyse data and improve marketing campaign performance.

I’ve been posting to this blog since April 2007, but I haven’t posted in a while.  I thought about this today and realised there have been a few reasons holding me back.  But perhaps only one that really mattered:

– Time (lack of).  Yes, like everyone else says, I have also been busy in recent months.  But even if I have a very very busy week, I’ve previously managed to post at the weekend occasionally over the years.  So this can’t be the main cause.

– The confidential nature of the work I’ve been engrossed in has been interesting and all-consuming; but hasn’t been possible to discuss here for contractual reasons.  I do dive deeply into subjects and live and breath them, before moving on to the next study, campaign or presentation.   While I can’t share my work directly,  I’ve previously found it possible to post a few times each month on things that don’t directly reveal my current work.  So again, this point doesn’t seem to have been the primary cause for my lack of posting to this blog.

– So this final point is probably the one that triggered me to write this post.  I realised that I’d stopped writing about brands here, because what I have to say might discuss activity by a future client.   I sometimes get involved in pitching for business from new clients and, quite naturally, the ones I write about are often working within the business sectors that I’m most knowledgeable in.

I work a lot in Media, Tech & Telco, Financial Services and Automotive.  My concern of possibly commenting on the actions today of a potential client tomorrow was limiting what I wished to publicly give a point of view on, or share some inspiration about.  I’m often either reviewing competitor work for a client, or creating strategies to improve their brand and product sales performance against competitors.

As well as celebrating great technology, advertising, media and brand experiences; I advise when things go wrong.  So I guess I caught myself out, as I’ve been censoring my own point of view outside of work hours, in order that I don’t inadvertently make a potential new client feel negative toward me, should they Google my name and read my blog.   This seems strange upon reflection, as I also use Twitter (@Plannersphere) and I don’t feel as restricted there.  Twitter has, to an extent, become a quick and lazy way of sharing a point of view or something I find interesting; rather than stopping for a few minutes to write about it.

I still believe self-censorship, as well as the contracts I’ve signed, play a role in defining what can’t be shared publicly online.  As in business I build relationships through trust and the guidance I provide, not just through non-disclosure agreements.

But what I think and have to say is of of value for both commercial and education reasons.  While my clients are major international brands, my blog readers are more typically students and an eclectic international mix of account planning, insight specialists and marketing people.

So, while I’m not promising a rapid flood of new posts here, I will start to post again more frequently.   I continue to love to celebrate good news when it is merited; wishing to help great work be noticed and rewarded.   But I must also continue to offer analysis, constructive and insightful criticism, if I believe this is merited.

Self-censorship doesn’t have to mean silence and inactivity.





Interesting news for Photoshop fans.  You will soon be able to change the perspective further within an image, as well as print your design work using native 3D printer support.

Read more at PC magazine: HERE

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

Albert Einstein



The full press launch video from Absolute Radio and the summary of the nominations from The Telegraph:

The Telegraph summary link:

The BAFTA Nominations 2014

While TV sets with curved screens have been in the news over the last year. Samsung have unveiled a product at CES 2014 in Las Vegas this week that showcases a new technology development.

The demonstration unit has an 85″ LCD HD screen that may change from a flat screen to a curved display at the click of a button.  So whether you wish to sit back and watch a movie in cinematic style, or be more more surrounded by a screen to help you immerse yourself while playing a gaming console.  This amazing TV delivers both options with a huge wow factor.


This week sees new tech launch announcements from the CES event being held in Las Vegas.  Here are two launch reports by Pocket Now for new smartphones from the Sony show stand:

The new Sony Xperia Z1 compact

This looks like a great product, sized similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini and Apple iPhone 5S. So it’s more pocketable and easy to hold than the larger flagship Xperia Z1. But it appears to retain many of the high specifications of it’s larger sibling:

The new Sony Xperia Z1S

This is a minor version tweak that replaces the aluminium case band with plastic, but otherwise it looks very similar to the current Xperia Z1.



With a little time for reflection, everything becomes so much clearer.







The Premise: Brands benefit from elevating themselves into a position of iconic leadership, becoming brands that are celebrated because of their engaging belief and distinctive appeal.  People want to engage more and will pay more for brands that are celebrated as desirable and different.

To help build a cult following (and this doesn’t imply a niche market sales opportunity), marketing teams should invite consumers who are enthused by their brand to participate at a higher level; by creating a Marketing Conspiracy for their brand.

People are attracted to conspiracies because they signal recognition of shared beliefs and a level of devotion rewarded by enjoyable exclusive experiences and elevated access to the brand.  Setting up a Marketing Conspiracy programmes provides a participation framework to provide richer, more privileged and unique experiences. These generate stories conspiracists love to share with other like-minded people.

Being closer to a brand, participating within an inner circle helps to foster brand desirability, affinity and preference. A Marketing Conspiracy helps a brand to efficiently prioritise who learns more about your brand’s dream, your new product news, and who gets to try your products first.   Rewarding your conspirators invests marketing budget back into the people who not only buy more of what you sell, but who stay with you longer.

Having a Marketing Conspiracy also signals to non-members the positive and engaging difference available by joining in dream and experiences created by your brand. Signalling your brand belief and showing renewed relevance of your heritage fuels a sense of momentum and destination; providing more tangible and emotional reasons to believe in your brand.

Marketing Conspiracies have proven their power already.  They have been used by automotive manufacturers, when they invite car owners to help design their next car.  By food manufacturers to discover new product variants or flavours.  And by mobile phone manufacturers gain insight on how customers use their products and wish them to evolve.

But Marketing Conspiracies have often been limited in scale to one off or product specific campaigns by marketers.  Rather than inviting consumers to join in a longer journey with a brand.

While short term thinking delivers immediate benefits, long term investment in a Marketing Conspiracy can sustain a brand across a generation and perhaps for longer.  Brands like Ferrari, Call of Duty, ASOS, Red Bull, Harley Davidson and Amazon are pioneers exploring Marketing Conspiracy.

The word Conspiracy has perhaps gained a negative connotation for some.  It’s sometimes associated with individuals who create extreme theories.  However the word (Latin: Conspirare) originally meant ‘breathe together’, suggesting conspirators breathe together in sharing an idea, belief, or cause.

A shared belief is arguably the very lifeblood of distinctive and successful brands.  A Marketing Conspiracy provides a shared sense of mission and emotive appeal that drives brand momentum and engagement.   Marketing Conspiracy sells the brand’s dream and promise, through celebrated consumer participation.

 Rules for Marketing Conspiracy Creation for Brands

  1. Act with integrity and authenticity to celebrate your brand and its dream; never fake it
  2. Invite participation that blooms and grows, using clear stages of engagement, emotional experiences and opportunities to share in the passion and knowledge of the brand’s dream
  3. Be distinctive and celebrate contributions from consumers who reflect and share your brand’s ideal.
  4. Promote from within those who positively conspire. Conspiracists become brand champions and potential future staff
  5. Explore and take educated risks that signal progress in your journey
  6. Enrich product participation occasions with uncommon, novel and rare experiences – innovate
  7. Build tension and expectation through engaging layers of experiences
  8. Don’t reveal everything upfront. Allude to further knowledge and tantalise by revealing glimpses of this
  9. Fuel social media participation and comment; encourage debate, interpretation and wish lists of what might come next.  But don’t do the obvious
  10. Celebrate product and brand stories; building consistent themes.  Don’t be tempted to continually add and trivialise.  Keep your Marketing Conspiracy focused and celebratory.

Brands are more interesting when they explore the edges of the world around us, rather than reflect mainstream convention.  Conformity fails to provoke appraisal and consumers are more engaged by distinctive experiences.

Be unconventional.

A visual representation of key brand performance indicators (KPI’s) used in tracking studies.  These have been split into metrics that are powerful in differentiating  a brand versus brand hygiene factors that indicate how a brand remains competitive.

KPI's - Key Brand Performance Indicators

Following up on my post in April, Microsoft have announced that Windows 8 will be revised.  The news is catching up  with the views again, as many tech commentators have voiced their concerns since the launch of Windows 8 seven months ago.  Hopefully the update from Microsoft will address consumer concerns about the ribbon interface, lack of a start button and desktop on boot up and hiding commonly used features under layers of the current interface.

Microsoft Blue will be named Microsoft 8.1.

Read more: Here

By co-incidence today, my sister asked me to recommend a new laptop that had Windows 7 installed, instead of the less user friendly Windows 8 interface.  Rather than suggesting she install this £50 copy of  Windows 7; I may wait and see if Microsoft have been brave enough to admit their mistake and revert to a Windows 7 style user interface in Windows Blue.  If not, the past will be the choice for the foreseeable future.

Some blues to accompany the Microsoft news:

Grabbing headlines is still fairly easy for a CEO of a global top 250 company.  You simply have to say something very provocative in the media.  Sadly, this isn’t necessarily the same as saying something influential (e.g. providing thought leadership), career progressing, or even likely to be well informed.

Blackberry used to be a highly influential mobile phone manufacturer; particularly among business people.  For more than a decade Blackberry (or RIM, as they were formerly known) supplied the go-to mobile phone with email device handed out to millions of managers around the world. It was a status symbol for some.  But that was way back then, more than 5 years ago.  And 5 years is a relevant frame of reference for this particular post.

Thorsten Heins, CEO of Blackberry has surprised people with his provocative prediction for the death of computer Tablets within 5 years.

At least the ‘death of Tablets’ has been the spin applied to what he said in some media reports.   What he actually said was also, in my opinion, equally wrong; but possibly for very different reasons.

Before I go into what Thorsten Heins actually said,  and why I believe this indicates why he is so out of touch that he will no longer be the CEO of Blackberry within the next 5 years.  I’ll first demonstrate why I believe Tablets will still be around in 5 years.

My argument is that once a media communications channel becomes commonly available, it generally continues to be available for decades, if not centuries.

The chart below highlights this.

Media Forms Typically Last A Long Time

Media Forms Typically Last A Long Time

Apologies if the scale on this quick graphic isn’t quite clear. All of the media channels invented since the 20th Century CE/AD are all still present today.

While the Fax may soon go the way of the Telegraph, virtually disappearing only a century or two since widespread adoption; as other communication technologies more conveniently and cheaply replace their role.  The Tablet is very much growing and morphing into different but related forms that are still identifiable as a tablet.  From The iPad, to the Kindle, to the Samsung Note.  The Tablet is neither in decline, nor likely to die out in the next five years.

Of course, the continuing rise in Tablet sales is not just my point of view.  Gartner recently published information, based on actual sales data from 2012 and then their forecast to 2017.  Sales are set to near double this year alone in their estimation to 197m units, then more than double again to nearly 468m units by 2017.  Samsung Tablets, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Apple iPad and iPad Mini quarterly sales reports also suggest confidence in Tablets outliving this decade.

Garner Data: Here

Garnet Device forecast 2012 to 2017

Garnet Device forecast 2012 to 2017

So what did Thorsten Heins, CEO Blackberry, actually say and what was he probably thinking?

In his  Bloomberg  interview Mr Heins said “In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore.”

He went on to qualify this by suggesting people will use a big screen in their workplace, but not a tablet.

This is the point that reveals how out of step he is with the consumer market place;  but also reinforces his focus on the corporate customer for Blackberry.

If we rewind over the past five years; Blackberry have been focusing more on extending their products into the consumer market place.  The introduction of the Blackberry Pearl (2006), the Blackberry Curve (2007+) signalled this in mobile devices.  But the launch of the Playbook, a true Tablet, in 2o11 was Blackberry’s gamble to break out of smartphones and into the wider technology hardware space Apple and Samsung successfully operate within.

The Blackberry Playbook failed to attract a large enough share of the growing Tablet market (as did Motorola, Dell and HP; while Nokia scrapped their plans to launch a Tablet too).  In part this was because the original Playbook device lacked key features.  It required a Blackberry smartphone to pair with in order to access Blackberry email and calendar functions – the key reasons for owning a Blackberry device for many customers.  The App store also struggled to offer a mere 25,000 apps after the first year from launch; leaving a poor comparison with the hundreds of thousands of apps available through Apple’s iStore or the Google Play app store for Android Devices.

Sales of the Blackberry Playbook stalled at around 700,000 in the first six months from launch, but after heavy price discounting total sales since launch in 2011 eventually edged up to 2.3m by Q1 2013 (source Wikipedia).

Before the discounting, unsold inventory made Blackberry take a loss in 2011 of $485m.  The modest sales of Blackberry Playbook to-date compare unfavourably to the 34m sales of iPads sold in Q1 2013 alone for Apple, and 8.8m for Samsung, also in Q1 2013 (Source: International Business Times).

So, my belief is that what Thorsten Heins really meant to say was that while the Tablet market continues to grow, it is very small compared to mobile smartphones.  And as Blackberry have failed to find either a consumer audience, or a sufficient corporate market, that demands our participation in the Tablet sector.  Blackberry will stick to making smartphones, particularly for business users.

While new product launches, such as the recent Q10 smartphone, using Blackberry OS 10, adds a little newsworthiness back to Blackberry’s product range. The brand isn’t set for growth in volume sales or profits from my point of view.  Particularly as the Q10 is priced significantly higher than the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and the Apple iPhone 5.

My forecast is that Tablets will stay popular for decades to come, but I don’t believe Thorsten Heins will continue in his CEO role at Blackberry for the next 5 months.

Anyone who has bought a new mobile phone, only to find out there was a problem with it, may sympathise with Apple’s woes on product quality.  But whereas consumers may have a mixed reception when they try to return a faulty mobile.  Apple’s iPhone manufacturing partner, Foxconn in China, appear to have been more flexible with their biggest customer.

Up to 8 million iPhones have been reported as returned by Apple to Foxconn, due to manufacturing or operational performance defects, or damage to the products during the manufacture process.

While this might on first consideration sound ruinous and a sign of poor quality control by Foxconn.  The context point is that around 200 million iPhones have been sold since their original launch.  So only around 4% of the products have proven inadequate.  While not perfect, there have been occasions where mobile phones with a fail rate as high as 10% have been considered acceptable in the past.  And the iPhone is a complex product and has arguably become even more fragile recently; given that iPhone 5’s case appears to attract, rather than resist scratches.

So while Foxconn are thought to have 8 million returns and the cost of replacement phones will see Foxconn write down around $1.6 billion.  This is a cup of funds from a very large bucket.

Foxconn have been hiring 10,000 employees a week since March, as they gear up to manufacture the iPhone 5S for September launch.

Teb Crunch released an interesting data chart indicating that iPhone sales have rapidly outsold Apple Mac computers  Clearly there is a huge price difference, with Apple Macs typically costing 2-6 times the amount of an iPhone.  But the speed that iPhone sales have caught up and then exceeded Mac sales worldwide is still impressive

iPhone vs Mac sales

Read more about the Foxconn production issue on USwitch: HERE

Read more about the sales comparison between Apple iPhone and Mac at Tech Crunch: HERE

Xbox May 2013

Xbox May 2013

Someone important at Microsoft has realised that Windows 8 really isn’t what people want.  So prepare for an update to Windows 8.1; this may just possibly be nearly be as good as Windows 7.  Go figure.

When it launched in October 2012, I had to wonder if Windows 8 had been sponsored by joint funding from all the rival programmers who work on Apple OS, Linux and Google Chrome?  As the Microsoft OS sure gave lot of people cause to consider switching to an alternative rather than stick with Microsoft.

What was particularly strange with Windows 8 was that it was optimised for touchscreen, but launched in the lengthiest recession  in decades; when fewer businesses and consumers were interested in replacing laptops and desktop computers to take advantage of touchscreen.  So the new Windows OS was optimised to perform best through functionality most users have never experienced even 6 months after launch.  That’s thinking so far ahead of the curve, in hoping to meet a future demand, that its merit remains questionable.  This primary benefit, that was meant to deliver modern sizzle to Windows, remains largely unused.

Windows 8 is also overtly consumer orientated, not appealing to corporate customers (I’ve not noticed it offering any efficiency savings or benefits over Windows 7 or XP; in speed of operation, simplicity, file size requirements, compatibility or stability).   It really only make sense on touchscreens and tablets.  But when you also consider that Microsoft’s rivals in the tablet OS space control the market, with devices shipping with sales share at 48.2% (Apple)  to 43.4% (Android) in Q1 2013; who is demanding a tablet with Microsoft OS?

The Windows 8.1 update is likely to remove the App Ribbon and bring back the Start Button.  Maybe the past is the new future for Win OS?  Perhaps one day Windows 9 will bring back the simple, relatively unbloated, functionality of Windows XP?

Windows XP

News of the new MW4 FPS game, to be called Call of Duty Ghosts, has been leaked today after it was temporarily referenced on a retailer’s website.

More news will follow in May 2013 about the launch later this year.

MW4 - Call of Duty Ghosts

MW4 – Call of Duty Ghosts


Apologies I’ve not posted here in several months.

What have I been up to?

I joined MESH Planning in November 2012.  Outside of my busy day job, I’ve also been working on several new strategic planning tools and presentations.

I also run the Twitter feed for Plannersphere ( and this account now has 1,200 followers and has spawned The Plannersphere Daily News  (

Life has also been hectic for my family, as my son and daughter (twins) joined new schools last year.

I will be posting a few items over the next couple of weeks to clear some back log items.

Thanks for dropping by.

Kevin Sugrue