AI – should we embrace change, or be very afraid

Image of graphic containing the capital letters AI

I needed help to understand more about AI (artificial intelligence) and exactly how it could impact our future. I asked my daughter-in-law, currently doing her Masters in the subject. She sent me this link to Steve Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO interview with Google X’s former chief business officer, Mo Gawdat. It makes for a thought provoking listen!

Geoffrey Hinton, British-Canadian computer scientist and cognitive psychologist, championed machine learning decades before it became mainstream. As chatbots such as ChatGPT bring his work to widespread attention, he was interviewed for CBS Saturday Morning at the Vector Institute in Toronto on March 1, 2023. He gives his balanced perspective.

NOTE: Formal definition of sentient: capable of sensing or feeling; conscious of or responsive to the sensations of seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling.

What’s in a name? How to Build a meaningful brand

The purchase of Jaeger by M&S, and Debenhams by Boohoo was an acute and brutal reminder of the value of a name.

Nothing new in brands buying established brands of course. In 1998, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was purchased from Vickers by Volkswagen for £479 million. I chose this particular example as it highlights the fact that VW was under the impression it was buying the whole business including the trademark, hence the hefty price tag. It wasn’t. The rights to the Rolls-Royce name, its radiator grille and Spirit of Ecstacy emblem for use on Rolls-Royce cars, were all sold separately to rival BMW for just £40 million. Long story short, this is why Bentley is now made by VW and Rolls-Royce by BMW.

The point is, no-one cares that a Rolls-Royce is made by BMW; consumers are buying the prestige of the brand, and this is why M&S and Boohoo purchased their chosen company’s intellectual property* dismissing the ‘physical’ – the stores and staff. Sadly, the only value to the retailers was in what the brand represented: respect and emotional attachment.

In Boohoo’s case they also acquired the Debenhams’ website. For them it was about converging a revered brand with their own products, ultimately utilising the Debenhams’ online look and feel. But we were changing the way we shop well before the onset of Covid sent retail brands tumbling. Our ability to purchase goods online, primarily cruising the shops for leisure, wasn’t sustainable. The pandemic simply accelerated the recent demise of so many well known brands. 

A true brand is not just a name

I’ve assisted in several brand transformations. These have evolved into various brand icons, loved by all who share a pride – along with a sense of ownership and belonging – in being part of its family. Simply by adding ‘the(ir)’ logo to whatever they were creating gave it real credence.

Few brands make the premier league in terms of resale, but this is not the aim of the majority of those who begin the dream. Building brand equity takes time, energy and belief. In order for your brand to earn respect and loyalty – both as an individual, or as an organisation – doesn’t need complexity, but it does need to fully resonate with your sector audience. Why?

  • It’s not about what you want to say, it’s about what your audience wants to see and hear. Connecting emotionally with them by telling relevant stories and letting them know how you can help is key.

  • Defining your social purpose: it’s essential we add to people’s lives. That when we say we’re sustainable we truly are and able to demonstrate this. We all need to be conscious of community, to make a difference in the way we operate and ensure it’s ethical.

  • You need to be innovative in your brand building: keep it simple, appropriate, colourful and varied. Exceptional customer experience rewards with loyalty.

  • In your organisation, be conscious of your people, no matter who they are. They come first as the voice of your brand. If they love what you do together, you’ll keep them engaged, proactive and positive.

Laurus Trust branding designed by Andrew Greenwood of Visual Sense

Sketch of Jamie Oliver

And finally… putting a name to a face

As an individual, your ‘logo’ can simply be your face. Jamie Oliver’s a classic example. Always up front and personal on his book covers, Jamie’s audience initially bought in to his cheeky Naked Chef series, first screened in 1999. 

However, it’s paramount to revisit and evaluate your brand regularly, even when it’s successful. Reflecting on its direction, then adapting and changing along the journey, means you remain in control.

By introducing then girlfriend Jools, along with friends, chefs and more recently focussing on the Olivers’ wholesome family lifestyle, Jamie took his audience with him on his very personal journey. Over 20 years later, Jamie is ‘Chef & Dad’ with 10 million Instagram Followers and – along with Jools’ 560k Followers inadvertently promoting him through her family sharing – he has certainly successfully maintained his brand longevity.

To love or not to love? That is the question

Ken Muench, Chief Marketing Officer at Yum, is renowned for his straight talking when it comes to opinions around what should and should not be classed as marketing. His comments recently in Marketing Week made my pen itch to be put to paper.

Muench’s success illustrates he must get it right, but I totally disagree with his scathing remarks around “brand love” – marketing and marketing strategies that include building an emotional connection with consumers to strengthen brand equity.

His use of a toaster as an example verges on pure sarcasm:

I want to meet somebody that says, ‘I am emotionally connected to my toaster’.

And in my opinion he completely misses the point of ‘brand love’ when he refers to ‘the stuff’ we buy:

Do you do love the brand of your toaster? I’m betting you don’t, but yeah, you bought it. Do you love the brand of anything you own? No, you probably don’t. Maybe you feel a special pride in something. But 99% of the stuff you buy, you don’t feel any brand love for.

Primarily, it’s not the stuff we have an emotional connection with, it’s the revered brand we trust to give us the confidence to buy the ‘stuff’ or service we need. And isn’t the special pride felt with the ownership or use of our valued possessions what emanates from ‘brand love’?

Lovemark thinking

I interviewed former Worldwide Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, Richard Hytner, back in the day when he was UK CEO & Chairman of Publicis. Saatchi’s marketing concept ‘Lovemark thinking’ – designed to replace the idea of brands – had been around for several years and their concept of consumers acting on an emotional connection was proving successful. Hytner explained that for some clients, their interpretation of lovemarks was more about ‘loyalty beyond reason’. This fundamental idea evolved and travelled everywhere; the ‘love’ aspect just didn’t resonate with some cultures.

The attraction economy

So how about an example of brand love? There are the obvious ones such as Disney, Apple, and Google, all respected and ‘loved’ by their consumers. But also brands such as Patek Philippe, Rolls-Royce, Mont Blanc – the aspirational brands for those who feel the ‘special pride’ in owning the physical lovemark. 

There are also the companies that you may aspire to work for, KPMG, PwC or EY, for example, if you were a corporate accountant. Critically, lovemarks are those trusted to deliver on their promises, they always out perform giving consumers, along with stakeholders, the sense of intimacy that the brand belongs to them personally. 

Let’s take an example given to me recently by a friend: Octopus Energy, whose tariffs all feature 100% renewable electricity. He explained that this was one of the best examples of a lovemark for him personally. 

“I like their ethics, what they represent. It doesn’t make any difference as to what comes out of the wall, it’s all the same electricity. So I don’t love the product, but I do love the brand and what it delivers.”

Further evidence that this is fast becoming a national lovemark is Octopus’s 4.8 star rating on Trustpilot, awarded from 54,915 reviews and counting!

Testing the cynics

My mother also thought the lovemark concept was nonsense, but I remember testing her ‘loyalty beyond reason’ to illustrate the point. As a conference ice breaker I often offer two brand alternatives to an audience – they have to chose one without thinking, for example:

Mercedes or BMW, Siri or Alexa, Coca Cola or Pepsi. You ask them why and the majority have no valid reason – they ‘just do’. I gave my mother food shopping choices: M&S or Waitrose, Tesco or Sainsbury’s, Fortnum & Mason or Betty’s – she got the message!

There’s no doubt that supermarket price wars have diluted consumer loyalty, along with the myriad of store choices now available to us, but in our hearts there’s usually one we aspire to.

Reinventing the wheel

Hytner, talking at conference in November 2010, spoke about the importance of loyalty beyond reason as a way to sustain and create more profitable growth for business, but cautioned:

Loyalty as a concept is under serious threat because consumers – according to our exploring research – are very suspicious of loyalty and loyalty programmes. So we have to find a new way to engage with people around this whole concept; this very important concept of loyalty.”

As with most professions, whatever we undertake in marketing and brand management, it needs continual evaluation and exploration to ensure we’re on the right path. However, I personally believe the concept of brand love in whatever guise, is here to stay. 

Just call me Brand, James Brand – how to tell your story

Front view of the Lotus Evija

With the long awaited James Bond film No Time To Die debuting globally on 8 October, it’s no longer a guessing game as to which luxury products are marques – they all are! And why? Because product placement in a ‘guaranteed success’ blockbuster is a no risk ROI strategy.

Beyond crazy 

For me, the craziness of embedded marketing in the more recent James Bond movies hits a raw nerve. Take Spectre, released in 2015 and starring Daniel Craig as an example.

Aston Martin DB10 Credit: MAD4WHEELS

Director Sam Mendes commissioned Aston Martin to create ‘the’ car. It was reported that 10 bespoke DB10s were made, seven of which were blown up – that’s 24 million pounds worth of cars – in the film, which cost 200 million pounds to make. 

In today’s world – well any world – I find this ethically wrong on so many levels. James Bond has now become James Brand, one hugely expensive, multi generational and demographical product advertisement.

Roger Moore filming ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ in Sardinia Credit: Group Lotus

How to tell your success story

But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about how to continue telling a success story. One that emanated from the ‘less crazy’ brand equity monitizing times, was 007’s 1977 film, The Spy Who Loved Me

From this legendary film came the rise of the Lotus through a clever idea by its PR exec Don McLauchlan. He had been alerted to the fact that Bond producers were searching for a car that could also become a submarine.

Cleverly, Don took a red reproduction Esprit to Pinewood Studios and parked it where senior management and others would have to walk past it. During the day he moved the Esprit around the site to ensure maximum impact. It did the trick, an Esprit S1 was selected, although in white:

“To look stunning in the bright Mediterranean sunshine and underwater.” 

Esprit S1 emerging from the sea during the filming of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ Credit: Group Lotus

and the rest as they say… is history.

How to reuse your success story
– no matter how long it takes!

Esprit SI and Evija Credit: MAD4WHEELS

Exactly 43 years later to the day, Lotus released the first images of its British all-electric hypercar, Evija [this page takes 30 seconds to appear]. They used the Esprit S1 specification – white with a tartan interior – to mark the occasion citing:

“It’s a small nod of appreciation for one of the most famous cars in film history.” 

Front view of the Lotus Evija
Lotus Evija: Credit MAD4WHEELS

Lotus recently won Product Design of the Year in the International Design Awards, both celebrating and prolonging the story by releasing a set of new images of the Lotus Evija, this time in yellow.

The car is now available in other colour ways of course. Just off to order mine now with maybe a slight nod to product placement!

You can read more about the Lotus’ story here.

How to stay in control of your online visual campaign

Image of International Women's Day poster

International Women’s Day is an excellent example of how organisations control their visual online message when promoting awareness campaigns.

Each year, International Women’s Day campaigns encourage women around the World to showcase and celebrate their success stories, while simultaneously highlighting the work that still needs to be done to raise awareness of gender equality. 

UN Women poster for International Women's Day 2021

Data from 38 countries around the World confirm that, while men and women have increased their workloads during Covid-19, women greatly outnumber the men in terms of just how much.

A Global Approach’s ‘Global – Local – Everywhere’ mantra means that the message needs to cross language and culture barriers; this begins with an appropriate brand palette. The UK’s first IWD took place in 1911, with their choice of primary colours already established by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded in 1908. 

Any one colour can in itself represent a powerful visual message to its audience. This will differ widely depending on personal perspective, so an explanation as to why colourways were selected – and told as part of a story – will alleviate any misconceptions. gives clarity to their primary palette:

Purple: justice and dignity

Green: hope

White: purity ( understand this is controversial today and needs addressing)

Staying On Message’s message is simple – although complex in its delivery – and addresses:

“Women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements, plus a call for gender equality.”

Each year countries around the World chose their individual theme. The UK’s 2021 topic:

“Choose To Challenge” – A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. 

IOD template for Facebook

The Key to Control has ensured that everyone engages and shares on-brand, by creating templates using their official campaign colour purple, along with specifically designed social frameworks. These are then offered as easily accessible, free downloads on their website. However, it’s interesting to note that permission is required to use their logo. This is highly recommended for any brand. It’s imperative that third party brands sitting juxtaposition with yours are aligned with your values.

The hashtag

The global hashtags #internationalwomensday and #IWD2021 is used in unison with’s specific campaign hashtag #choosetochallenge. Each organisation selects its own hashtag – the UN uses #generationequality for example – but whichever personal hashtag is used, these are paired with the global ones, shared by all thereby making their message easily re-sharable.

So the key is simple…

Number One: Create your on-brand social templates

Image displays IWD's full range of social media templates

Number Two: Promote as freely available giving clear guidance & instructions

Image of Tweet sharing IWD Zoom background template

Number Three: Have fun engaging with your campaign countdown

Images of IWD's Twitter countdown promotions

Number Four: Share everyone’s stories

Images of some of the stories shared by IWD on social media

Header image credit:

A day in the life of a ghostwriter

Image of voice sound waves

One of the most gratifying things about being a creative ghostwriter is that it definitely contributes towards your continuous ‘lifelong learning’. While I specialise in key sectors, there’s nothing more exciting than being sector challenged, rising to the task when you only have a layperson’s knowledge around the core subject. It’s head down and focus for some intensive research!

But moving away from your comfort zone also pays off professionally. These assignments often translate into long term client relationships. It’s then really satisfying when – once established – all your client needs to do is jot down a few lines, along with an opinion on the subject matter, and off you ‘incognito’ go.

Beware Virtual Rabbit Holes

Take one of last week’s assignments. Subject matter: The economy. Oh no, I hear you say, how dull – we all know the outcome is grim. Turns out it’s not. Well it is for the next couple of years, but you’d expect that when we’ve been at war with a pandemic as our ruthless enemy. 

So my starting point was four fairly fleshy bullets and an opinion – these particular ones are carefully crafted, as you’d expect from an economist. Before you know it you’re reading opinion pieces in the FT, Bank of England bulletins, McKinsey Executive Briefings and following #America2021 project.

I do sometimes have to take advice from my conference speaker self as to how important time management is as I burrow deep into a myriad of intriguing virtual rabbit holes.

Managing Ghost Expectations

The majority of my clients simply want their voices heard. An illustration of their expertise and extensive knowledge, but without the obvious sales push, although it’s subtly there of course. Others believe in magic, that somehow by commissioning a creative writer they’ll get instant results. And well they might; indeed some have, especially when they offer high value sign up incentives.

Regardless of intention, it’s about targeting with a voice that resonates with those you’re trying to engage. Going viral gets attention, but it needs to be the right attention. Better to attract a few interested parties who are genuine buyers, than thousands who just ‘Like’ something doing the virtual rounds, but then becomes a one-hit empty wonder. Don’t forget you only see the successful ones…there are thousands (upon thousands) of daily posts that miss the mark.

Woman aiming an arrow at a target

How does your client know it’s worth the investment? 

There is no silver bullet, but there is a silver lining.

It’s a dual investment between two professionals: one on each side, both equal in their areas of expertise. As a ghostwriter I don’t need to be an expert in the sector, my clients have all the in-depth knowledge required. My task is to craft words – specifically targeting the chosen audience – using my client’s voice and ensuring that when the assignment is completed, the words, tone and overall content is accessible to all.

Naturally you can’t charge for all the initial work you put in (nor for the copious amount of research some assignments require for that matter). But if you’re going to do a great job, it’s crucial you understand your client, their market, their objective, their purpose, their life! 

You also need to understand the way your client prefers to communicate with you. You can’t make the communication rules – unless you’re prepared to adapt to their ways, it won’t work. This doesn’t mean anything goes, it has to be workable and this past year has meant a fluid transition from Teams to Zoom, from WhatsApp to FaceTime, even Skype; all this alongside good old fashioned snail mail and telephone, albeit mobile.

But it’s worth it; from tentative beginnings great relationships are born. It’s about having mutual respect for each other and loads of laughs along the way.

Oh and in case you were wondering. Opinions on recovery in the UK by leading economists is pretty much unanimous. GPD in 2021 will start the journey and reach pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

Thank goodness for 2020!

We recently sold our house in the heart of rural Cheshire during a challenging Covid-limiting housing market. Without doubt, the 200MB superfast fibre-to-the-property sealed the deal as, to quote our buyer:

This made it a perfect base for home working in the future”.

The global pandemic has already resulted in a seismic shift in the way we work. Companies have had no choice but to accept the notion – and accelerate protocols – for their employees to work from home. But twenty years ago this would have been completely untenable in the UK with only 26 percent of people connected to the internet (1).

So while this pandemic has resulted in one of our most emotional and economically damaging times, one really positive outcome in 2020 is that within just 12 months businesses, brands and individuals have at been able to utilise technological advances and switch to working remotely.

I don’t in any way want to be dismissive of the devastation and turmoil this pandemic has caused; the raw situation we find ourselves in, leaving people fighting for their lives let alone their businesses, is dire. But with the introduction of three approved vaccines comes optimism and an opportunity to reinvent the way we work, while gaining a better perspective on our lives and those of our friends and family. This pandemic has been a vivid reminder of how important our people are.

Beyond the norm

Throughout my career, I’ve had a reputation for thinking way beyond the boundaries of the norm – some would refer to it as maverick tendencies – but I’ve always believed the norm is there to be challenged and not just accepted. Outcomes of challenges can lead to fresh new thinking, or prove that current practice works and to leave well alone.

Businesses, whether large or small, now have the opportunity to reinvent themselves by dispensing with inefficient, outdated practices, while retaining or developing their workforce culture. Tech giants such as Facebook have discovered their software developers agile working practices translate remotely. Such was the extent, that in May 2020 Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would make most of its US roles available for remote recruiting. This enables Facebook to hire people all over the world, not because of any location strategy, but simply because it’s where the expertise is.

Going forward it’s now been proven that tech and creative companies are able to remote access into visual teams. Take Disney. Their animators and special effects people were able to work in small groups remotely during lockdown successfully producing animated films such as Paw Patrol.  

That said, for those in the creative industry, remote working can be tough. Whiteboarding online is noreplacement for the physical, interactive responses while problem solving and thrashing out new ideas. To ensure there’s a balance, organisations will still offer physical spaces to enable teams to whiteboard and be creative and, most importantly, form all the cultural ‘in-group’ bonds.

However, newer companies introducing remote working without established cultures may struggle to create one when compared to the likes of Facebook, Apple and Disney, who have already achieved this. And for their co-workers brand buy-in is crucial for success. But cultures can stagnate as people become complacent and it’s how you retain or create a positive culture with remote working that could be an issue. Mark Zuckerberg, in an interview with The Verge in May 2020 on taking Facebook remote (2), said it may be hard to change things going forward:

I think one of the big unknowns in terms of creativity, is to what extent are we all now just drafting off of the culture and direction that we built up over the last 10 years?”

A Sense of Ownership & Belonging

Slack’s recent global survey of over 9,000 knowledge workers (3) illustrated people worldwide want more flexibility in where and how they work. The outcome, Slack suggests, is that rather than returning to the old routine, companies must radically rethink the way teams work.

One of the key takeaways was that people prefer choice with 72% opting for a mix of remote and office work. But they also found this was not for everyone; for some their sense of belonging can suffer working remotely. This would suggest that relationships do matter as they keep us engaged and productive at work. 

Agile working is people-orientated; to be effective people need trust, support and the right environment to do the job. The software industry introduced agile working some years ago, whereby meatier problems were divided up and given to teams of four to six people to work together in order to resolve issues in small chunks. Why? According to Dunbar’s theory, five is the magic number for close friends. In the workplace this translates from four to six people as the maximum group size where we can all understand and hold the same information about a problem. As you add people, productivity slows and this is related to our social brain limitation (4).

This proves far more effective than assigning hundreds of people to tackling one huge problem, such as that encountered by the Government in 2013, with its ill-fated NHS records system contracted out to Fujitsu (5). As a result, the Government introduced the Government Digital Service (GDS):

A common core infrastructure of shared digital systems, technology and processes on which it’s easy to build brilliant, user-centric government services.” 

to embrace agile vs huge contracts with single suppliers. Before Covid, these teams had to be co-located – considered a must to enable them to become an ‘in-group’- giving themselves a name, and a sense of group belonging (6). 

So is remote working to become the norm of our future? Will we slowly seep back to the comfort of our office-centric approach? Or should we consider – at least in part – how we can adapt our current working methodology to that of the tech and creative giants?


1 Our World in Data
2 Mark Zuckerburg on taking Facebook remote
3 Moving beyond remote
4 Your brain limits you to just five BFFs
5 NHS IT system one of ‘worst fiascos ever
6 The culture code