Blog. Peter Fisk’s latest yin-yang anecdotes from the world of business.

15 April 2015, Dubai UAE: Advanced Creativity in the United Arab Emirates

Dubai hosts the World Expo 2020, and the UAE government has declared 2015 the year of creativity. Whilst the nation’s rapid wealth has come from oil and tourism, it knows it needs to move beyond this, to become a Singapore-like hub of knowledge, business and finance. 

This is not just about ideas and innovation, but about thinking differently. In fact we will soon be launching a new Gamechangers competition to find the best innovators in the Middle East, innovation labs to drive action, and an online showcase of winners.

One of the most effective innovation tools is to “reframe” what you do. Working with the UAE’s financial services authority this week, we initially talked about rules and regulation of its two growing stock markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. However it was only when we started thinking about what stakeholders really wanted, from investors to government, that we saw the opportunity to innovate - to attract new investors, to build a more vibrant market, and to drive growth in the national economy. 

Emirates, the airline, is a shining example of this, reframing from a regional airline built on Dubai as a destination, to the city as the global hub of international air travel. Not just an ambition, already a reality - growing from 40bn to 200bn RPKs (revenue passenger kms) in the last 10 years, and now twice the size of old market leaders like British Airways and Lufthansa. Incredible.

Explore my best-selling creativity and innovation book at

20 March 2015, Astana, Kazakhstan: Impressive innovation on the Central Asian steppe.

My new book “Gamechangers” came out recently, and has already sold out of its first edition. It’s about the new breed of brands across the world who are shaking up markets, redefining them in their own vision, fusing digital and physical, and embracing new business models, for more profitable and positive impact. It includes a whopping 100 case studies, with new insights and ideas from every sector and region. The Dutch marketing association recently called it “the best strategic marketing book of our time” … that was very kind!

The best part of launching a new book, is getting out there, inspiring people with its messages, but also finding their own examples, and helping them to become “Gamechangers” too. Last year we discovered Aeromobil’s flying car in sleeping Slovakia, which quickly became a global media story, and will soon be production ready. This year in Buenos Aires, we held a Gamechangers competition to find the best local innovators, won by Taragüi, which took the traditional drink mate, and gave it a modern day twist, now available in flavoured powders plus a range of merchandise. In Istanbul, another competition threw up 30 fantastic examples of local innovation, from Brisa’s incredible car and tyre services to LC Waikiki’s local twist on fast fashion.

Truly impressive was Kazakhstan’s new capital city Astana, which emerged 10 years ago out of the inhospitable central Asian steppe. This is a nation that is larger in size than Europe, a tradition of fearless horsemen, and a bridge between Russia and China. It’s also a country of great ambition. Kazakhtelecom is building one of the largest fast broadband networks in the world, so with the prime minister we explored how could the government use this infrastructure to become a game-changing nation. From distributed e-learning to e-healthcare, leapfrogging old models to create new services. With Astana’s World Expo in 2017, watch out for the rise again of the Kazakhs.

Download my keynote "Big Data + Big Ideas = Big Impact" at

17 March 2015, Istanbul, Turkey: Building the DNA of Global Brands

This week I have been working with Yildiz Holding, which is a Turkish market leader with wide range of chocolate and snacks, imitating the concepts of global players then delivering them cheaper. How things change. Now Yildiz is devouring global brands itself, from Belgium’s Godiva Chocolatier for $1.3bn to Britain’s United Biscuits for $3.2bn. Now with 53 plants in 10 countries, and a portfolio of billion-dollar brands like McVities and its Jaffa Cakes, Yildiz is ready to take on the world.

However success requires change. In Yildiz’s case they want to double their revenue in four years. But securing a significant return on acquisitions requires more than just operating the existing businesses. It’s all about “fusion” … mixing up the new portfolio across markets, to combine brands and products, capabilities and channels. Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury quickly gave us Philadelphia cheese with a twist of Dairy Milk, Ritz sandwiches and KitKat ice creams … Fun products, but the real money is in simplifying the complex product ranges through the lens of a small number of more powerful consumer-centric brands, then taking them as innovative ranges in new and relevant ways to the world’s fast growth markets.

Another example of this shift in power, and power of fusion comes from India … Tata Group have done a fabulous job in reenergizing the Jaguar and Range Rover brands, encouraging new concepts and editions to reach out to new audiences, from the female-friendly Evoque, to the streets of Shanghai. Whilst Tata has stayed loyal to the origins of the brand, giving new life to British carmakers, it has added the vision, networks and drive to win in new markets such as Brazil, China and India. Tata doesn’t just look west, having this month made a huge investment in Xiaomi, the Chinese tech superbrand that is outthinking Apple in emerging markets, and has created  $45bn value in just 5 years.

Download my keynote "Building the DNA of Global Brands" at

1 December 2014, London, UK: My new book "Gamechangers" has just arrived!

Exciting day ... My new book has finally arrived. After 18 months of writing, 80,000 words on 300 pages, 100 case studies from around the world, 10 themes to rethink your business, and also   16 practical canvases to make it happen ... it's here ... and it looks amazing too!

Global and local markets are changing so incredibly fast, that companies need to do something more radical to get ahead. Improvement, evolution, incrementalism is not enough. Leadership requires disruption, imagination, and the boldness to embrace new technologies for more radical innovation. Or you could say - “don’t play the game” (live by the old market models, the rules defined by somebody else) - “change the game”

So I set out on a personal journey around the world … I wanted to find 100 examples of companies who really are "changing the world” - embracing new technologies, breaking the old rules, finding ways to make life better. I asked business leaders from Asia to Africa to Americas which companies they thought were “shaking things up” … and therefore found 10 great examples, from 10 sectors.   

You can see all the 100 Gamechangers at the book's website

Every business can learn something from their “secrets” … sometimes it was because they found new markets, new customer segments and needs, or new business models, or new technologies and capabilities, created new propositions with realtime engagement and storytelling, or new channels and network partnerships, or new customer experiences, or new frameworks to deliver more profitable growth and sustainable impact. The book gives you a structured process to "change your game" in a relevant, practical, disruptive and inspiring way.

You can get your copy of the book ... currently with 30% discount ... from Amazon

31 November 2014, Istanbul, Turkey: Are you ready to "change the game"?

This week, I'm hosting a 4-day festival of "Gamechangers" in Istanbul. From Monday to Thursday 1-4 December, we'll be celebrating the launch of my new book, exploring the big themes, and finding Turkey's most disruptive companies.

I’ve been working with Turkish companies for the last 10 years. Over the last decade I have chaired the MCT Marketing and HR Summits with around 2500 people almost every year, and have worked as an expert consultant to the business leaders of many Turkish companies including Arcelik, Eczacibasi, Pinar, Turkcell and Yapi Kredi Bankasi.  Projects have included new business strategies, portfolio analysis, marketing programs, innovation processes, retail design and new product development - as well as executive development and CEO coaching. 

During that time I have seen huge change in the Turkish consumer, and economy, but also the ambition and mindset of business people. In the past Turkish companies only saw the home market as their ambition, to be slightly different or better. They lacked creative skills such as design and innovation, and so licensed products from international brands. Now these brands are here competing against them. But Turkish business has acquired the skills to compete on a global stage. What they need now is the ambition to think globally. Look at the recent acquisitions by Yildiz Group of Godiva and United Biscuits for example. This gives Turkey a new platform to think bigger, think smarter, and to accelerate growth.

Examples of Turkish companies who are “changing the game” include

ISKO, the Sanko company has become the world’s largest denim manufacturer - but its focus is on innovative, technology-enabled fabrics that add value to the world's premium brands. As a result ISKO wants to become a leading “ingredient brand” like Intel or Lycra. Shopping in Santa Monica I found ISKO brand tags on some of the coolest jeans in the world! 

- Ininal, the pre-payment credit card addresses the huge market of people who don’t have bank accounts or payment cards, but want to transact in a digital world. In many aspects of digital technologies, mobile phones and banking tech, Turkey has become a creative lab to experiment and develop new ideas because of its youthful and highly techno-literate market.

Trendyol, the fashion retail that delivers to your home, going beyond the typical e-tailer to really understand the needs of local and individual consumers, and to tailor a premium service to people locally. Trendyol recognises that it has global competitors - people can buy anything from anywhere, and so have to make their local presence more meaningful in a digital world

Vodafone, the Turkish Farmers Club was admired worldwide, as a fantastic way in which a large brand could create a relevant, local community, that really helped farmers to live better lives, and Vodafone to be more successful. The Turkish team was seen by Vodafone globally as the team to learn from

Yeni Raki, even classic “old” brands can change the game. When Mey took Yeni Raki to international audiences, they recognised that there was a whole Turkish culture around drinking raki, and that this could be a truly distinctive experience on which to build the brand, rather than just placing it as a funky bottle next to every other brand of alcohol

There are potentially many more. That’s why I have created a national competition “Gamechangers Turkey” which seeks to find the most disruptively innovative companies. There will be winners in each of 10 categories, an “Oscars-style” awards ceremony, and a global showcase to show the world what Turkey can do!

7 October 2014, Lisbon, Portugal: From Carlos Lopes to Orlando Magic 

Portugal’s Carlos Lopes is one of my heroes. He was a runner’s runner. For years he was almost successful, usually outkicked by the likes of seventies icons Lasse Viren or Brendan Foster. But as he approached his 40th birthday, the years of training, steely ambition and finely-tuned racing brain paid off. In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Marathon he struck gold. The world record followed a year later. So it was great to be back in Lisbon, and sharing my admiration.

SAS Institute is a leader in data analytics, so it was impressive that they had attracted around 1500 people to a seminar on what might seem a slightly boring subject. But every strategist, innovator, marketer, customer service and salesperson today cannot ignore the power of analytics to focus their effort, find new insights, and personalise their solutions.  It’s all in our heads. Out left and right brains that is.  Analysis needs intuition to focus and interpret. Big picture and small detail. Intelligence is matched by imagination.  We need our left and right brains to win in this new world. Just like Einstein and Picasso.

Big Data + Big Ideas = Left brain + Right brain = Intelligence + Imagination = Big Impact

Anthony Perez then gave an insight into how big data is transforming the world of sports and entertainment at Orlando Magic, the NBA basketball team. As VP of Business Strategy (including data analytics, digital marketing, but not the rest of marketing!) he is responsible for making money out of focused intelligence. But it takes insight and intuition too. What is the most effective way to get people to renew their season ticket? How to ensure full stadia when many ticket holders don't show? What would people pay to high five their heroes? Find out here.

Email to get my keynote "Big Data + Big Ideas = Big Impact"

22 September 2014, London, UK: What is the future of Realtors ... aka Estate Agents?

This is the largest gathering of UK estate agents, thinking about the future of selling property. Of course it’s a very digital business today, and the sponsors Zoopla have created an Amazon-like platform of properties for sale. But the “elephant in the room” is that all these estate agents have very physical businesses, where their individuality is commoditized by the online portal.

Time for estate agents to wake up to their advantages! Just like small corner shops felt threatened and dominated by large supermarkets, there is actually room for both. Corner shops began to specialize – as Organic Butchers, Local boutiques, or Polish stores – leaving the price-driven weekly shoppers to fill their baskets elsewhere.  Similarly estate agents need to focus on the physicality and locality. Becoming boutique advisory services. Buying and selling property is just a transaction, easily commoditized. Designing a home of my dreams, with the right décor and furnishings, with local plumbers or decorators when I need them, or renting out my spare bedroom, or finding the right school, or helping extend my loft. These are the things I need help with. Maybe my local property concierge could help me? 

In a digital world, the best solutions are physical and digital. Adding value in new ways to make people’s lives better. In the music industry, people pay 99 cents for an iTunes download, but $99 (or a lot more) for a rock concert ticket. Beyonce, JayZ and U2 all sign up to the world's largest concert organiser Live Nation, rather than a record company, to manage their careers most profitably. Zoopla can far more effectively give people choice and facilitate transactions. Local experts can add much more value, and make much more money, in other ways.

Email to get my keynote "The Future of Estate Agents"

17 September 2014, Buenos Aires, Argentina: “Gamechangers” in South America.

This autumn’s world tour kicked off in South America, now fully into the “Gamechangers” theme … The book is written, edited, and waiting to be printed (somehow it still takes publishers 9 months to turnaround a manuscript, I have no idea what they spend the time doing!). Actually its appropriate to start down here, because there’s a great number of Latin American case studies in the book. Brands you might not have heard of, but could learn a lot from – like Beauty’in that combines cosmetics in food and drink; like Graal Bio that turns urban waste into useful energy; like Juan Valdez that moved from commodity to brand experience; like Chile AIC that does some of the most amazing innovation. 

Today its Buenos Aires … As I fly in over Montevideo, the huge city glints white in the sunshine. The classic buildings and wide streets seem more like a mix of European capitals, rather than Latin American. I stand in the main square, the cathedral where Pope Francis preached just months ago, and where Eva Peron, and more recently Madonna stood on the balcony of the rose palace, imploring the people to follow her. Today, Argentina lives through turbulent times. Inflation is high, growth is low, life is clearly not easy. Yet the natural wealth, through minerals and farming is there, if only they could sort out their politics.

Part of the ongoing “Gamechangers” project involves running competitions in each different region of the world … Local people voting to find the most disruptive innovations in their local markets … In this way we keep discovering new brands to learn from, and to take to showcase around the world. So the  top three in the Gamechangers Argentina awards were:

  1. Taragui Mate Listo … "mate" is Argentina’s favourite non-alcoholic drink, so the leading drinks brand has given it a twist, easy to make and take anywhere
  2. Maracado Libre … an online marketplace, similar to eBay, but localized to Argentina, and also became the leading retailer and outlet store
  3. Globant … is South America’s leading software business, and one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2014

Download my Gamechangers keynote plus FutureBank workshop for Banco Supervielle 

18 August 2014, Martha’s Vineyard, USA: Branding of The Black Dog

Cape Cod is a wonderful place for a summer holiday. A fantastic shoreline, miles of sandy beaches, sharks even whales swimming offshore, classic wooden beach houses, great seafood, and not too many people. And not one high rise building or chain hotel. Morning run along the sea road to Hyannisport, a lazy breakfast on the deck, shell collecting, lobster roll for lunch, afternoon on the beach, Scrod and chips for dinner, and a browse around an artist gallery. Fantastic.

Two brands caught my eye as we explored the colourful streets of Martha’s Vineyard, the small island that has become Obama’s favourite holiday spot too. The Black Dog is a small inn on the island that started printing t-shirts of the black dog logo that hangs above its door. Soon it became more popular for its merchandise, rather than its food and drink, having limit purchases to clientele. But then it got the message, and extended its range of clothing. And outlets. Now Black Dog clothing defines the Cape tourist. Power of an icon.

Another MV brand is Slip 77. With a youthful, nautical style, the two young designers search out the best fabrics and styles to create their collections. The people who love Slip 77 become advocates. What’s great is that nobody else has it. Great brands define who you are, your values and style. The power of a niche.

10 July 2014, London, UK: Time to Rethink Brands ... especially in Professional Services

Deloitte are one of the more enlightened professional service firms. From their thought leadership to green dots, they are a bit of fresh air to their sector. Of course the big challenge in every professional service firm – accountants, lawyers, consultants – is that their highly intelligent, highly paid partners think they know best, and usually better than clients. Maybe on specialist issues, yes, but necessarily about what they really want, aspire to, and prefer. Getting customer-centric thinking is not easy, even if they tell their clients how to do it!

So we’re talking about brands. Thousands of years ago, brands (at that time, more likely a branding of cattle) signified ownership, and so was about the owner. But power has shifted, supply exceeds demand, and customers are discerning. Brands are no longer about business and products – how good we are, how old we are, what great products we make. Brands are about people – and in particular their aspirations. Talk about me, and I will listen. Talk about yourself, and go home. You get the idea.

This is incredibly important for professional services, where the product is intangible, and the perceived value is high (or at least the fee is!). Accounting, legal and consulting brands need to be about their client's aspirations, and how by addressing their challenges more effectively, they can realise their potential - improved effectiveness, better returns on investment, accelerating growth. Propositions are then crucial to make brands relevant and substantial - not by service, but by the issue clients are grappling with. Deloitte has come along way with its green dot, and leads its field. The opportunity is to go further with new propositions, innovative solutions and business models.

Email to get my keynote on branding in professional services 

Get my new ebook on Brand Innovation from Amazon

25 June 2014, Jakarta, Indonesia: Marketing Genius in Asia’s Boomtown 

Indonesia really is one of the most exciting emerging (fast growing) markets. Whilst China and India grab all the attention, Jakarta has become a tech metropolis, and the huge new middle class has a great desire for brands that symbolize and enable a better life. In many ways similar to countries like Mexico and Turkey, the youthful population walk with smartphones in hand, wirelessly connected to a new world of possibilities. 

Frontier is the leading marketing publishing and training company in Indonesia, and we're working together to put on Marketing Genius Live, an inspiring one day interactive masterclass, in a country where there is a thirst for knowledge, entrepreneurship is everywhere, and growth is faster than China or India (and almost anywhere else!).

My book Marketing Genius is now 8 years old, but still a bestseller on Amazon, and particularly in Asia. Translated into more than 35 languages it keeps on spreading. Of course marketing moves on at a rapid pace, as do the best examples. On top of that a one-day masterclass with 150 people is long enough to get to know people, and solve some real problems (the most exciting part!).

So what would I include in Marketing Genius in 2014, that I didn’t in 2006?

  • Amazon sells everything … the whole idea of sectors is dead, everything converges,  any brand can sell anything.
  • Real-time marketing … campaigns are dead, advertising is wallpaper, people respond to fast, topical and relevant engagement.
  • Millennials and Mobiles … markets are influenced by a new generation, who also see the mobile device as the centre of everything.
  • Design thinking … despite the name it simply means, start with deeper customer insight, explore ideas, and the aesthetic power of design
  • Customer co-creation … customers are your best R&D team, with better ideas, developed, tested, produced, delivered and supported together
  • The legacy of Steve Jobs … fanatical, obsessive, visionary … I developed a 3 day masterclass about his leadership, innovation and marketing. 
  • New business models … beyond Osterwalder’s canvas, brands from eBay to Nespresso demonstrate the power of innovating the whole business
  • Collaborative consumption … what’s yours is mine, indeed why do we buy so much stuff and hardly ever use it, lets share it and have more fun
  • Brand movements … brands are about people, their ambitions and passions, so bring them together, to do better what they love
  • Zuckerberg speaks Chinese … ok having a Chinese girlfriend helps, but maybe its time for every English-speaking CEO to learn a new language?

You can read about all these topics, plus 100 new case studies and 16 practical roadmaps, in my forthcoming book "Gamechangers" which is finished and waiting to be published by Wiley. Next year I will be back in Jakarta working again with Frontier to create another one day masterclass plus "Gamechangers Indonesia" competition to find the best local innovators.

19 June 2014, Eindhoven, Netherlands: Zoom out, Zoom in ... Time to Rethink Marketing 

CitizenM hotels try very hard to be cool. Yes the cubicle style room is modern, with wall to wall bed, and a glass shower cubicle that emerges in the middle of the floor. But in reality everything just ends up wet. The black and white typography tells you to sleep with the stars, and wake up energized. And the lobby area kitchen serving thai curry at a communal table is empty. CitizenM tries to be the smart car of boutique hotels. But it’s more like a Fiesta. 

Into the car, we headed south to Eindhoven, for SAP’s day of marketing inspiration, a small physical event in a TV studio setting, so that each speaker could be videoed for the CMOs who didn’t show up. But what got me was the content. It’s now 25 years since I first read Lanning and Philips’s paper on how to develop value propositions that deliver customer experiences and loyal relationships.  But speaker after speaker talked abut them like a new magic.

There’s something wrong with how too many people still talk about customer propositions and experiences … Time to move things forwards:

1.     Propositions are not products … “customer value propositions” are about customers, their needs and aspirations, and the distinctive benefits you offer them, ie the value to them. One proposition can introduce many products, and a product can support many different propositions.

2.     It’s the customer’s experience, not yours … look beyond your own “touchpoints” to see how customers perceive you, and the broader journey they experience beyond you. A payment experience is as much influence by a retailer, and payment system, as by your bank.

3.     The purchase is just the start … yet most “experience designs” still focus on the pre-sale, with a little “after-sale”. Focus on supporting people once they’ve got the product or service, enabling them to do more. This really is a big one for creating more value for customers. Enablement.

4.     Customers do not want a relationship with you … despite millions of dollars spent on CRM, customers will never be loyal, and probably don’t even want a “relationship” with you. The best you can hope for is advocacy. Try facilitating relationships between customers.

5.     And more one that is creeping in … building communities. A community connects people. Better is a movement, which connects people with a purpose, to achieve more together. The brand helps to articulate and support it. Movements are incredibly powerful if you can get them right.

6 June 2014, QE2 Olympic Park, London: The Legacy of London 2012 

Zaha Hadid designed an incredible swimming pool for the London Olympics. The organic-like structure will hopefully stand for years as a symbol of sport, as well as architecture. Unfortunately during the Olympics, her design was rather distorted by huge temporary seating which was bolted onto the perfect structure. But it's perfect now, although through some stupid (non-legacy!) IOC rule, it has to drop the name of Olympic Pool, and is renamed the London Aquatics Centre. 

Two years after I sat in the huge crowd watching Michael Phelps add yet more gold medals to his Olympic collection, and new sensation Missy Franklin break world records, my 14 year old daughter Anna was competing for Teddington Swim Club. One of the first people to try out the pool since its two year post-Olympic refit, she was competing in the London Regional Swim Champs. Standing on the blocks for her first of her multiple races, it really did feel like 2012 again. I was very proud of her!

Seb Coe and is London 2012 team won the right to stage the games, based largely on a promise of legacy. There is still much to do. Whilst this year’s swimmers got the chance to feel the water of champions, in future years, the cost of pool hire is likely to be prohibitive. Even this year, spectators were restricted, because again the cost was too high. Why? If legacy isn’t the next generation in regional competitions, encouraging participation and support, then what is it? Come on Seb, in whichever role you’re in now, sort it out!

30 May 2014, Parnu, Estonia. Gamechangers Baltics: Strategic Innovation Workshop

Parnu is an old Baltic port on the west coast of Estonia, and a popular beach resort in summertime, particularly in the Soviet era, when the Russian leaders flocked west. But today we're here to look forwards - with some of the leading innovators in Baltic business - telecoms and retailers, publishers and educators, plastics and aggregates, alcohol and fashion. The first "Gamechangers" two-day workshop. Stretching, provocative and highly practical!

Estonia is sometimes called the "Silicon Valley of Europe" ... ever since Skype was created by Niklas Zennstrom and his team in Tallinn in 2003. More recent innovations include:

  • Fitsme - virtual fitting rooms now used by retailers including TopShop and Burberry
  • Playtech - world's largest online gambling software, now valued at around £2bn
  • Stigobike ... a nifty folding electric scooter, weighs 15kg, top speed 27km/h, Eu1900

So how can this workshop generate the next big Baltic idea? We started by exploring changing markets, recognising that geography doesn't matter, and global is as easy as local today. We focused in on new types of strategy, from franchising to ingredient branding. Including our unique Pilot Fish process. We reframed brands and propositions around customers not products. We redefined solutions as molecular clusters and experiences around enablement. We worked hard on business model design, finding new revenue streams, and then focused on storytelling to explain the big idea in new and compelling. Hard work. High energy. Great results:

  • We reframed Estonia's Technical University into the "university of tomorrow"
  • We redefined a large wast management brand around a "better futures" concept
  • We even recreate an advertising agency with confidence to deliver "the right answer"

Watch a compilation of recent Estonian innovations

Download the Gamechangers Workshop Brochure

27 May 2014, Austrian-Hungarian Border: Innovation 25 years after the "Iron Curtain"

Driving two hours southwards from Vienna the landscape is rich and flat. The road signs suggest we are heading towards Hungary, however our destination is just short of the Austro-Hungarian border. It was at this border crossing, 25 years ago this week, that the “Iron Curtain” began to fall. Nobody challenged the young man who dared to cut the barbed wire that day, or the small trickle of Trabants that soon flowed westwards. Within days news had spread, and from my University room in Freiburg, Germany I watched as Germans, from east and west,  hacked away at the Berlin Wall, as it crumbled into history.

Today Raiffeisen Bank has brought me back to look forwards to the next 25 years. How will markets continue to change? What will customers want? What is the future of banking? And do business leaders make it happen? Raiffeisen is an impressive bank, but rethinking the rules is not easy. Sectors like banking are full of regulation which can intimidate new ideas. And to be honest, leaders got to where they are by playing the old game, so have limited interest in changing it. But we need to look beyond that. Like the man who cut the barbed wire.

Email to get my keynote presentations FutureBank and FutureLeaders

22 May 2014, Gent, Belgium. The centre of the world … from Gent to Guiyang

The old Flemish town of Gent (or Ghent, depending on which local language you speak) used to be the centre of the world. Its vast canal network brought traders and their goods from across Europe, and from the oceans east and west. Vast warehouses stand empty, where once Egyptian cotton was traded for French wines, Indian spices with Belgian glass. And much more.

Today, Guiyang sits at the centre of the world. Draw a circle with a radius 4100km around the fast-growing city in southern China, and you will find more than half of the world’s population (on around 5% of the Earth’s land surface). Economies are growing faster, wealth is increasing, brands are innovating, businesses are succeeding more in the Guiyang Circle than anywhere else.

My keynote at the Vlerick Marketing Colloquium (interesting word that, and stands out from all the other conferences and summits!) started in China. How companies like Alibaba and QQ are changing our world, right here in Gent. QQ? That’s the Chinese social network that will soon be bigger than Facebook, and also combines search, retail and payment. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Paypal all in one. It’s a bit like an Oreo  … combine QQ (the world’s largest network of consumers) and Alibaba (the world’s largest network of businesses) and you get the world’s most awesome marketplace. Time to think different!

Email to get my “Gamechangers” keynote in Gent

21 May 2014, Istanbul, Turkey: CEOs blinkered by digital business

Speaking at the Accenture/Wired CEO Summit I was amazed by how blinkered business leaders become when they start thinking about e-business. Of course digital technologies are transforming every business, in every sector.  Almost every customer experience starts on a mobile phone today. Every product features some form of digital ingredient or support. Every supply chain is reconfigured through digital networks that enable virtual business models and partnerships.

So what is the biggest factor which determines success, one CEO asked.  Er ... Same as ever … Having the right strategy … and making it happen, effectively. For some reason talk of technology means we become obsessed with platforms and functionality, led in new directions by tech specialists. It all matters. Choosing the right solution, that is most relevant, scalable and best value, is not easy.

But the business leader needs to stay focused on the bigger picture – the right strategy and making it happen effectively. Of course digital networks and innovation extend the possibilities for business, and therefore the choice of markets is much wider, the opportunities to differentiate much richer, and ways to make money more creative. That just increases the need to make the right business choices, before even thinking about the technology. It might not sound cool, but strategic thinking still matters!

7 May 2014, Vienna, Austria: What innovators Want ... and How Banks can do More!

Austria’s Erste Bank has become one of the most successful banks to develop in the new markets of the CEE (central and eastern Europe). In particular they have focused on entrepreneurs.  But most banks don’t serve entrepreneurs well. They are neither corporates nor individuals. They are seen as small and risky, regardless of their potential for growth and influence. In emerging markets, particularly, this stifles an economy.

My challenge was to define how Erste could become the bank for entrepreneurs. To help me, I had some of the winners of my “Gamechangers CEE” competition, which took place last year. They ranged from Blessus, the modular fashion brand from Poland, to Aeromobil, Slovakia’s flying cars (see previous blogs). I brought together the best ideas from around the banking world. In particular, focusing on Australia’s Commonwealth Bank, FNB in South Africa, and even Jack Dorsey’s Square that was inspired by his entrepreneurial brother, a artisan glassblower.

You can read about the “how banks can support innovators” model emerged, a blueprint for anyone who wants to create Entrepreneur Bank.

Email to get my keynote presentation Banking for Innovators

29 April 2014, Beirut, Lebanon: Gamechangers Lebanon ... Franchising the Future

Think of Beirut, and you probably think of a war-torn city, stuck in the middle of multiple warzones, and with danger round every corner. True, but its also a beautiful city, for many the Cote d’Azur of the Middle East, and full of modern, peaceful people who have spirit and a joy for life.  Well educated and ambitious, Lebanese entrepreneurs flaunt their fast cars and designer clothes, although many more have migrated overseas. I’m here to keynote the 2014 International Franchise Conference, and my message is simple. Lebanon has got so many great ideas, innovative brands and businesses, that franchising is the fastest and simplest way to take them to a wider world. The local market is limited, but the local talent is great. This isn’t a problem. Become a global design lab!

Aline Kamacian is typical of local innovators. I’m sitting in her rustic Mayrig restaurant, sampling incredible range of foods, and finishing off the case study for my forthcoming “Gamechangers” book. She explains how her passion came from her grandmother, to keep the culture of Armenian cooking alive, even when their homeland has largely disappeared. One restaurant become two, in Dubai, then Paris, then New York. She now has a big kitchen with hundreds of women cooking her grandmother’s recipes, then flying them worldwide to the latest venues (some is made there), whilst also developing a premium food-to-go business, and a second brand Batchig to reach a younger audience. 

Mayrig is one of the 100 Global Gamechangers … more at

25 April 2014, London, UK: Business is Beautiful ... The Hard Art of Standing Apart

I first worked with Dorothy McKenzie and her team almost 20 years ago. Since then they have quietly gone about helping to design and evolve many of the world’s leading brands. They combine the creative flair of an agency, with the practical rigour of problem solving. In particular, they have a conscience, that puts them at the forefront of creating more responsible brands. But brands that are good for people, business and the world are a fragile masterpiece. Rather than going into detail, I’d recommend their new book. Business is Beautiful.

Explore more about Business is Beautiful

2 April 2014, Sitges, Spain: FutureHealth ... Beyond Pharmaceuticals to Positive Healthcare

A one hour drive south of Barcelona takes you to the coastal town of Sitges. A fantastic place to run for hours along the coastal paths in the springtime Spanish sunshine. I’m here to explore the future of wellbeing, and how pharma companies like Spain’s Almirall, can evolve their business into a new world. Whilst many drugs become global commodities, other become highly specialized innovations. China’s WuxiPharma can easily beat anybody on price, whilst focused research like at Genentech develop new blockbusters. 

The real challenge is beyond pharma. Healthcare markets are changing dramatically. Growing and ageing populations, the cost of new solutions, the intelligent diagnostics and treatments, change who, how, when and why healthcare happens. At the same time, regulation abounds, discouraging real innovation in business models and market models. But the best companies are recognizing a new future – customer-centric (in particular, patient-centric), with new channels, and new experiences, focus on prevention more than cure, adjacent products and new types of services. For innovators, the future of healthcare is full of possibilities. 

Download an intro to FutureHealth and watch the VideoStories

20 March 2014, Munich, Germany: The Future of Books ... Publishing in a Digital World 

Publishing is another being fundamentally disrupted. From booksellers to printers, the rise of the eBook has driven a huge fall in printed books. Yet at the same time there is more thirst for ideas and insights than ever. The problem, as ever, is that existing businesses like to hang onto their old ways, their existing revenue streams, what is easy for them. No change.

Canon is the world’s leading printer manufacturer. For printers, it’s multi-million dollar machines look more like spaceships. At their global hub in Poing near Munich, technicians walk around in white coats, as the sci-fi machines hum gently. Digital printing is still physical but transforms the economics of publishing. Small batches, print on demand, print on location, easy to update, customized to individuals, multi formats, instant translation, auto-restocking retailers. Yet most publishers just do a one-off print run of 10000 copies, standard, inert, stuck in a warehouse, and going out of date. Wake up!

Of course, this doesn’t address the challenge of ebooks. The real opportunity beyond printing is to create hybrid customer experiences. Books that capture core concepts, intelligent words, with inspired images and practical roadmaps, then linked to sister websites or smartphone apps with diagnostics, videos, and digital toolkits. They are living publications, for example, linking to realtime case studies, or authors on demand. They build communities of practitioners, not just readers. And they become brands not of books but of ideas with action.

25 February 2014, Madrid, Spain: The Future of Business Schools

Clay Christensen, the Harvard guru of disruptive innovation, and Thinkers 50 World’s #1 Business Thinker, says that education is perhaps the last sector to be disrupted.  But the world of business education is changing rapidly. As people evolve from life-long careers in companies, to a career of 4-5 different “phases” then rethinking and retraining becomes the norm throughout our lives. The average age of b-school attendees will move from 27 to 47 over the next decade.

Add to that, most businesses prefer applied learning, addressing real issues, and building teams not just talented individuals through what the school’s call in-company executive education. What they really want is enlightened consulting. Help in seeing the future, thinking different, inspiring their people, whilst also addressing their biggest challenges and opportunities, ready to make them happen. Yes it needs to be practical, but with better ideas and strategies too.

The third dimension is technology. MOOCs (massive open online courses) offered by Coursera, EdX and others have risen as a way in which b-school courses can be turned into online self-learning experiences, and accessible to anyone in the world. The business model and quality standards are still emerging. Perhaps most exciting is the blended learning. Let people learn the text books, case studies, and get the toolkits online, but then use the physical formats (inspiring events, fast incubators, facilitated networks) to bring people together with heads up, fusing their ideas and insights, to see the future.

IE Business School gets this. The Madrid-based b-school, already big in South America, Middle East and Europe, has transformed itself into a future school, and is ranked by Bloomberg and FT as the #1 business school in Europe. I’ve just recently agreed to join them as a Visiting Professor of Strategy, Innovation and Marketing with an agenda to develop new thinking, new programs and new leaders in those three areas. We’re developing a fantastic new portfolio of content and formats, available to companies anywhere in the world. 

Download the brochure for “Gamechangers” program with IE Business School

4 February 2014, Hatta, UAE: Developing 21st Century Leaders in the Middle East

Driving east from Dubai for hours, there is nothing beyond the straight road but desert and an occasional herd of camels. Then we see mountains, some trees and water, like childhood stories of finding an oasis. This is Hatta, home for the next 5 days, and a desert retreat to build 21st century leaders. I developed The Inspired Leaders Program to challenge senior managers to rethink their role, attitudes and behaviours in a new world of incredible change, challenge and opportunity. What does it take, personally and collectively, to lead a winning business today?

Almansoori is a real innovator in the world of oil drilling, providing the fast and practical support to the big oil companies to extract oil in the most efficient, safe, and environmentally responsible way. Imagine the cost of a lost production, or clearing up a spill. Their value is huge. But like most in the region, they have technical and operational skills, but less developed as leaders. Where to go next? How to take people with us? How to manage increasing complexity? How to innovate new services? The program is based on my Inspired Leaders model.

Download my Inspired Leaders model for leadership development

Business and brand strategy, innovation and leadership development with GeniusMe

24 January 2014, Disneyland Paris, France: Big Data and the $1.4 billion Magic Bands

Big data is a hot topic. Brands can now build mountains of data, from consumer needs to operational tracking, retail transactions to social media chat. SAS Institute is a leader in helping business to turn all this information into real insight that can drive useful and profitable action. But data is complex and intimidating which means too many business leaders, marketers and innovators steer clear. The thing is analysts can do the analysis, what they need is imagination.

Big Data + Big Ideas = Left brain + Right brain = Big Impact

How could you transform the customer’s experience? Where are the new revenue streams? How could you innovate your business model? What really drives customer advocacy? Here in Disneyland Paris I explored first hand, Disney’s new $1.4 billion big data investment. MagicBands could transform your next visit. No more queues, expensive food, impersonal service. Instead a “smart” experience that brings the magic to life just for you.

Download my keynote presentation on turning big data into business results. 

1 December 2013, Istanbul, Turkey: Think simple, live loud ... brands, marketing, innovation

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" claimed Apple. "Simple is harder than complex. You have to have to get your thinking clean. But if you can, you can move mountains" said Steve Jobs. "Everything we do is about making things as simple and beautiful as possible" added Jony Ive. 

In a complex world, simplicity stands out. Clarity instead of confusion, decision instead of doubt. It's about getting focused in everything you do. Focusing on your best customers, so you can allocate more attention where it matters. Relevant not average. Focusing on your best products, eliminating those that add cost or confusion. Focusing on your message, simple and memorable. Focusing on your design. Stripping out clutter, unnecessary functionality, adding form and beauty. 

Focus and simplicity creates the space to engage customers more clearly. But it's about finding the right space, the one which matters most to our target customers and ourselves. It's about finding purpose ... A core idea that resonates with people much more strongly than products and prices, even service and incentives. At the heart of a great brand is an inspiring purpose - for Coca Cola its about "moments of happiness", for Amazon "freedom of choice", for Swarovski "sparkle everyday" ... Why is your brand here? How does it make life better? ... If your purpose resonates, then it can amplify emotionally, through products and networks, engagement and advocacy.

"The Magic Marketing Machine" is a fun way of capturing this dynamic - Focus, Simplify, Resonate, Amplify, Impact. Indeed the impact can be significant. New research shows that simplicity can add 5.9% price premium,  and 75% more people are likely to recommend the brand. German brand Aldi was voted the world's most simple brand, not because it was cheap, but clear and relevant. Ryanair, with its hidden charges and arrogant leader, was found the least simple. Search and retail the best sectors. Insurance the worst.

Whilst in Istanbul, I will also be exploring a range of other topics - workshops on Marketing Genius and Customer-Centricity, special sessions on Innovation Strategy and Innovation Culture. At MCT's International Marketing Summit, with around 2500 attendees as well as the "MMM" I will also be doing a "BrandLab" practical clinic on Brand Innovation - what I think is the most powerful and important capability for business in the coming years. And we'll also be launching "Change the Game" next year's Gamechangers agenda in Turkey ... a nationwide competition, finding the local brands that are shaking up markets, workshops and programs, and a two day summit next year.

11 November 2013, London, UK: Thinkers 50 Awards ... the "Oscars of Business Ideas"

"Thinkers 50" has established itself as the world's leading authority on business thinking, scanning and ranking all the business gurus and their ideas from around the world. 15 years ago, Des Dearlove and Stuart Crainer, two London-based journalists and authors set out to build a ranking system, to effectively curate the management brain. From the Financial Times to Wall Street Journal, they asked readers to nominate those who articulated the best ideas. The bi-annual listing has become the most treasured prize of gurus from Peter Drucker and Charles Handy, Tom Peters to Michael Porter. But only one of them was on this year's list.

This year's awards were held in Drapers Hall, London, the former palace of Thomas Cromwell. Many of the world's best thinkers attended, from Clay Christensen, the guru of disruptive innovation, to Roger Martin who brought design thinking to business,Pankaj Ghemawat on emerging economics, to Rita McGrath and the end of competitive advantage. It was a battle of business schools, with Harvard, INSEAD and IE particularly to the fore. Interestingly when the rankings started in 2001 they featured many CEOs like Bill Gates and Jack Welch who have now been replaced by more storytelling thinkers like Dan Pink and Marcus Buckingham. It features many more female and Asian thinkers too.

Here is the Thinkers 50 ranking of the world's best business thinkers for 2013:

1. Clay Christensen (Harvard): "The Innovator's Dilemma." Idea: Innovate to disrupt
2. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne (INSEAD): "Blue Ocean Strategy." Idea: Find new markets
3. Roger Martin (Rotman, Toronto): "Playing to Win." Idea: Strategy is about choices
4. Don Tapscott (consultant, Toronto): "Wikinomics." Idea: The power of networks
5. Vijay Govindarajan (Tuck, Dartmouth): "Reverse Innovation." Idea: The $300 House
6. Rita McGrath (Columbia): "End of Competitive Advantage." Idea: Strategy is innovation

Innovation Thinker: Navi Radjou ... "Jugaard is about simple, frugal, and flexible innovation"
Strategy Thinker: Rita McGrath ... "If competitive advantage is for seconds, think bigger"
Global Solutions Thinker: Don Tapscott ... "Network thinking can help society come together"
Leadership Thinker: Herminia Ibarra ... "You need to be brave to lead in the world today"
Future Thinker: Nilofer Merchant ... "The future is built on brilliant ideas"
Best Business Book: Playing to Win ... "Strategy should be simple, fun and effective"
Breakthrough Idea: The Circular Economy ... "Rethinking business to reuse everything"
Lifetime Achievement: Ikujiro Nonaka ... "We need to learn to make ideas happen faster"

Clay Christensen gave a deeply emotional acceptance speech. He described how in his early 40s, and with four kids, he decided to enter the world of academia, and how he depended upon many colleagues and iterations to turn badly articulated, complex and chaotic ideas into simple, powerful concepts. We all know his disruptive innovation theory today - that whilst leaders typically stretch for ever-better products, it is the less-good but good-enough products that typically disrupt their markets, and blow them out of the water. Tearfully he reminded the world's best thinkers that they are still human, and that family and friends matter and help the most.


There were some great moments during a day of high-octane ideas jamming:  
  • How to thrive in a changing world? "Learn to relate, to choose, and to learn" Amy Williamson quoting Alvin Toffler in Future Shock, 40 years ago
  • "There are more than enough business ideas in the world. We need more people asking the right questions" Clay Christensen
  • Roger Martin "50% of business schools will be gone in 7 years as learning models change and new business models support them"
  • "We spend too much time thinking and saying what to do, and not enough time on how" (and doing it) Clay Christensen on the how matters more than the what.
  • Today's search for "higher purpose" in business coincides with growth markets where spirituality is more part of work and life, considered Stew Leonard.
  • "Quantum companies are more successful. People work in many places at once, on short, medium and long term projects" Anil Gupta
  • "European businesses have a better way of working" ... Intel v ARM, EA v Rovio, Amazon v Asos ... Linda Gratton on transient entrepreneurs v enduring collaborators
  • "As competitive advantage declines, companies use people like Kleenex ... temporary, cheap, disposable" Rita McGrath on the consequence of commoditisation.
  • "Developing market companies will be 50% of the Fortune 500 by 2025 ... and are already 25% today" Pankaj Ghemawat.
Whilst everyone likes to have their own big idea, what struck me is the convergence of ideas. In a global market, connected and dynamic, the integrating theme is "strategic innovation through agile leadership" - crossing the old functional silos into which we put books like we used to design organisations. Business needs bigger ideas to stand out and do more, to engage and inspire people, but its how these ideas connect to solve real problems, and drive growth, that matters. In the real world, where business has to make ideas happen, it is about how we build on the old ideas - from 5 forces to strategy wheels, Belbins and 360s, to be both jugaard and disruptive, circular and collaborative -  to be smart and successful in changing markets.

Personally, it was fantastic to be included in the Thinkers 50 Guru Radar for the first time, a collection of some of the emerging thinkers, including Navi Radjou and Nilofer Merchant, Alex Osterwalder of the business model canvas, Whitney Johnson who wrote "Dare Dream Do", Hal Gregerson, Iqbal Qadir, Maya Hu-Chan and more.

Ideas can change the world ... the ability to capture and articulate an idea that then infects and inspires people across the world to innovate and grow their businesses is powerful indeed.

18 October 2013, Bratislava, Slovakia: Aeromobil, Stefan Klein's incredible flying car

In 1940 Henry Ford predicted that one day somebody would combine the car and aeroplane to create a flying car. In 1982, Hollywood captured that vision in Bladerunner. But today, here in Bratislava I met the man who has actually made it happen.

Earlier (see previous blog entry), at the Big Ideas for CEE conference, I had explored the 21 "Gamechangers" of central Europe, and announced the winner as Aeromobil. Within an hour the phones and tweets were buzzing and the inventor jumped into his car 400km away, because he wanted to be here to meet me, and share the moment. Since 1990 he has worked to make his dream come true. And now it was. Within a few hours, he arrived ...

Stefan Klein (photo below, in the centre) is a really nice, unassuming guy, with degrees in both mechanical engineering and fine arts. He wanted to be a sculptor but studied design, going on to work for Audi, BMW and Volkswagen. But flying has always been in his family ... "My father and grandfather were both pilots, and soon I learnt to fly too. This has always been my passion". Since 1990 he has pursued his dream of building a flying car, "To me it is something at the intersection of technology and art" he said.

"Aeromobil" is a car and a plane ... the wings fold straight back along the fuselage and the engine drives the front wheels. "There is room for two people, both with a steering wheel, which is actually an iPad" he told me. Small enough to fit in the urban parking space, when Klein hits the road, it is more sci-fi. Then as he drives onto the airport runway, it's all James Bond ... a propeller emerges at the front, and the 8.2m wings spread out to the sides. Down the runway he accelerates and into the air.Yes really. Watch the video here:

"Whilst I have various prototypes  being tested, the plan is to have a plane that can fly 700km at 200kph". Wow! Imagine that ... "We have just returned from North America where we are exploring potential agreements with NASA and Boeing to become our partners in making Aeromobil happen full scale".  His co-founder Juray Vaculik, an ad agency man by background, says "We don't need investment, its about finding the right partners to make this happen commercially". He imagines an initial selling price of around $200,000, similar to supercars. 

There is still work to do, partnerships to secure, and licenses to get. But this is an innovator who is determined to change the game. "Today has been a great day!" he said as he rushed off to pursue his dream.

18 October 2013, Bratislava, Slovakia: Changing your game, changing your brain ...

Ivan Lendl is a champion at "changing the game" ... asserting his mental and physical prowess to turnaround a tennis match ... His ability to both change mindset and physical capabilities is what has helped him also turn Andy Murray from good to great, to Olympic Champion and Wimbledon Winner. Here is Bratislava, Lendl described his great passion for winning, doing everything it took, searching for new frontiers, whilst also being human.

Dr Tara Swart is less than half the size of Lendl, but probably with an even bigger brain. She's the world's leading thinker on "brain agility" ... She's on a crusade to make us realise that whilst our brain stops developing by the time we get to 25, it's not all downhill from there ... actually, for the next 40 years we can actually "change our brain" based on the way we stimulate it. Brainplasticity is the new game. Tara explored some of the techniques (some of them simple, like exercise, learning languages, drinking water) for how we can all sharpen and evolve our mental as well as physical game.

Ken Segall worked alongside Steve Jobs in the years when Apple was at its pinnacle, and has some great stories. Steve's obsessions with greatness, his dismissal of imperfection, his love of Japanese culture. Ken was the man who put the "i" into iMac, and subsequent products, who helped pen the words to that great "Think Different" ad, and has his own passion to keep things insanely simple ... which is not easy, but about being really smart.

And then we explored the innovators of the region ... a region with a fabulous history, through great and difficult times, where gamechangers thrive against adversity, which so often makes them even better. In advance I had held an online competition to nominate the best "Gamechangers of the CEE" and ended up with 21 fantastic examples. You can see them all in my presentations, but here are some of my favourites
  • Aeromobil ... the amazing "flying cars" from Slovakia, designed by Stefan Klein
  • Alior Sync ... the innovative Polish bank, focused entirely on Gen Y 20-35 year olds
  • Blessus ... the modular clothing concept from Poland, one item can be work 10 ways
  • Dacia ... the Romanian "frugal designed" $6000 SUVs taking America by storm
  • Enable Talk ... the smart glove that turns sign language into speech, created in Kiev
  • Moveo ... the incredible Hungarian fold-up electric scooter the size of hand luggage
  • Petcube ... Ukrainian start-up, live on Kickstarer, built in Beijing, watching your pets
  • Pipistrel ... the world's most successful electric-powered aeroplanes from Slovenia
  • Rimac ... the $1 million supercars from Croatia, only 88 of them made, premium niche
  • Skoda ... most profitable and loyal brand of VW, co-creating its way around China
  • Synqera ... the mood-sensing devices, fusing big data and neuroscience, from Russia
The list goes on, as you can see in the downloads. The winner was Aeromobil, closely followed by Moveo (above) and Alior Sync. Phenomenal all of them. Innovative and inspiring.

1 October 2013, Venice, Italy. Back on the Silk Road with the Gamechangers of travel.

In 1271 Marco Polo set off on an epic 24 year 15,000 mile journey through Asia, by boat to Persia, then camel and horse through central Asia and China, and eventually back through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. He brought back great treasures and new discoveries, that inspired Venice to become a great trading port, and for others like Christopher Columbus to seek out new worlds.

In 2013, the travel leaders of Europe are back, hosted at Sabre’s Corporate Executive Forum. We’re here to explore the future, and in particular how they too can be “Gamechangers” in a world of incredible change, where the growth of Asia and decline of Europe, the emerging middle classes of India and China, and new trade routes are booming, and just a few hours away.

At a time when most European (and American) businesses are still heads down, living for today, or hanging onto the past, the smart businesses are changing their games. They’re adapting to a new world order, and market opportunities. Business travel has a huge part to play. In fact new research by Travel Matters shows that every $1 spend on business travel delivers $9.5 additional revenue, which represents $2.9 extra profit. 290% ROI. Wow!

The insight is that business travel has changed, because business has changed. It’s not about the new destinations, it’s about new ways of working. No longer is it about salespeople meeting a client, then coming home. It’s about multi-located companies working in multi-functional ways, internal collaboration, virtual networks, and global teams – entering new markets, co-creating innovation, and building dispersed ecosystems. These travellers have different needs, budget holders and priorities. They are much more interested in “achieving more” rather than just “getting there”.

In  “Gamechangers: The Future of Business Travel we explored the new possibilities, disruptive innovators and case for change. In the workshops that followed we developed a new vision for business travel, exploring bold yet practical ways to “change the game”. What emerged was a set of new visions for business travellers, new business models for travel companies, and innovate new services. These are brought together in a white paper – an echo of Marco Polo in 1271, eyes wide open, exploring a new world – a new agenda for the travel industry, and for business leaders too.

One inspired participant, the owner of a large travel company, reflected at the end “That was not just game-changing, but vision-changing too”.

15 September 2013, London, UK. “Heads up” thinking in business and boardrooms.

Too many companies have their “heads down”. They’re living for today, trying to optimise what they have through efficiency and improvements. They’re slaves to the industry conventions, incremental strategies, and outdated models of success.

A recent HBR article called “Three Rules for Making a Company Truly Great” describes the limits to such a “heads down” obsession. It talks about great companies having their “heads up” thinking about:

  • Better before cheaper – in other words, adding value through differentiation, which is genuinely useful to the customer, rather than primarily competing on price.
  • Revenue before cost – that is, you cannot shrink your way to greatness, the need to prioritise revenue growth over efficiency.
  • There are no other rules – so change anything you must to follow rules 1 and 2.

IBM Consulting describes the priorities of high performance CEOs as “hungry for change, innovative beyond customer imagination, globally integrated, disruptive by nature, genuine not just generous.”

Yet the priorities differ significantly between an average company, and the most successful. Most companies are heads down in efficiency, whilst the best are heads up looking for growth:

  • Average-performing companies see their priorities as operational efficiency (52%), profitability (32%), more sales (30%) … these companies typically grow at 0-5%, and their priorities are typically about efficiency.
  • High-performance companies see their priorities as new products (43%), managing change (40%), new markets (32%) … these companies grow at 10-15%, and their priorities are much more about growth.

The agenda is even more pronounced when looking at cultural differences. IBM’s research shows that North American companies, typically in mature markets, are focused on optimisation. Asian companies, in the fastest growing markets, are focused on innovation. In between, in Europe, the top priority is talent, attracting and retaining the best people, enabling them to work smarter.

Much of this mindset inevitably comes from the leaders of the business – not just the CEO who seeks to balance survival and growth, revenues and costs – but from the boardroom, the chairman and non-executives who are there to create a better future.

First, let’s get some clarity of their specific roles. The “board” is responsible to the shareholder for good, legal and ethical practice and performance, encouraging and agreeing the overall direction, values and vision of the company, the corporate strategy. They also ensures the company has the right resources, financial and otherwise, to succeed, including the senior executives.The trends in boardroom composition are

  •  more professional business people, rather than family or non-business people
  •  more independence from the company, more impartial and open minded
  • more brining ideas and experience from other markets, sectors and geographies 
  • more reflecting needs of business ie customers, brands, innovation, digital, tech
  • more fresh thinkers, more female, more youthful, and more international 
A great example is the board of Nike Inc. Whilst CEO Mark Parker and his team provide inspiring and focused leadership to the $24 billion sports business, there is an all-star boardroom providing vision and support. Chaired by Nike’s maverick founder Phil Knight, the board brings together talent from many other industries and disciplines – innovators in others sectors, brand marketers, and sports fanatics. 

Take a look at Nike’s non-executive directors: Tim Cook CEO of Apple, Beth Comstock CMO of GE, Alan Graf CFO of FedEx, Orin Smith ex CEO of Starbucks, John Lechleiter CEO of Eli Lilly, John Thompson a basketball coach, Doug Houser a lawyer, and John Connor Venture Capitalist. Quite a high performance team!

  • Talking of success, here’s the $75bn secrets of Jeff Bezos … Inside Amazon
  • Apple Magic … New keynote, how to “think different” about leadership and innovation
  • I’ve also just launched a great new “strategic development portfolio” … Market Makers

3 September, Seoul. South Korea. Kaleidoscopes: Rise of Samsung, fall of Nokia.

Maybe it was a coincidence, but the much-hyped launch here in Seoul of the Samsung's Galaxy Gear smart watch seemed in juxtaposition with the announcement in Redwood of Microsoft’s acquisition of most of Nokia.

We live in a kaleidoscope world … and right now, we’re in the midst of incredible, exponential change. Between 2010 and 2020, not just a population rise from 6.9bn to 7.7bn people, but a much great global GDP rise from $57 to $90 trillion. That change isn’t evolutionary, it doesn’t extend the world as it is, it is a fundamental shake-up. We are in the middle of a tectonic shift of power and wealth, politics and culture, attitudes and expectations. A shift hugely accelerated by a multitude of new technologies – a digital age moving into its “third wave”, when the impact of innovation is amplified, just like in the industrial age once railroads were in place.

But most of all its about how we think – seeing things differently, doing different things – twisting the “kaleidoscope” of new markets, reassembling the parts as new possibilities.

Galaxy Gear will not change the world, in fact I prefer the Kickstarter crowd-funded Pebble that was launched earlier this year. But it’s a symbol of intent. Ever since Samsung realised that they could not win through functional imitation, but needed to add imagination too, they have become the dominant mass-market player in growth markets like Africa and Asia. Their secret was in finding the “tae kuk”, in Korean culture, the fusion of yin and yang, technology and beauty.

I love the Galaxy Gear launch ad from Samsung – a great example of storytelling to capture people’s imagination - retelling the emergence of the smartwatch through sci-fi heroes like Dick Tracey, Captain Kirk and Inspector Gadget.

For Nokia, they were the great innovators, the forestry and wood pulp company, that became the Finnish Rubber and Cable Works, a world leader in everything from paper to rubber boots, car tyres and telegraph cables. 120 years later they recognised the emerging opportunities of electronics and launched the first “brick-like” mobile phone, a market in which they became the world leader from 1998 to 2012.

But success seems to have blinkered them. The wild innovators of Espoo became subservient to the industry conventions driven by an influx of American management. They hung on to what had made them great, trying to squeeze more out of their initial success. Nobody was surprised when CEO Stephen Elop, with his heart still at his former employer Microsoft, engineered the $7.2bn sale to another dying monolith. Nobody got excited, it seemed a bit sad. Lumbering giants looking back not forwards.

It’s time to get into the future business.

20 July 2013, Beaverton, USA: Nike flies free ... fusing imagination and innovation

The story is legendary. Oregon University track coach Bill Bowerman would go to any length to give his athletes an advantage ... included melting the rubber soles of his athletes running shoes on his wife's hot waffle iron ... to create a lightweight, high-grip waffle sole.

Nike has come a long way since the early pioneering days of being a quirky running company. Now the world's $24bn undisputed leading sportswear brand, Nike knows that leading is as much about extreme innovation, staying ahead of the game, rather than just being big and profitable. This week CEO (and still a creative designer, and runner, at heart) Mark Parker launched the latest step forwards - the Free Flyknit -  fusing the "supernatural" experience of Nike Free, the nearest thing to barefoot whilst still protecting you, with their "Flyknit" technology that basically spins a threaded web around your foot, for a fit. 

In Nike's storytelling world, better than Apple with inspiring concepts and slogans, its about "Nature Amplified". Another (Nike-like?) legend has it that the Tamahumara Indians used to run 100 miles barefoot, whilst in recent years nature-loving biomechanists have crusaded for an end to over-cushioned trainers (didn't Nike create them). The reality of course, is that you can't run on roads or rocky tracks for more than a mile in barefoot. The Indians strapped pieces of old car tyre for protection. Nike's innovation and design delivers fabulous looking shoes. 

Talking of fanatical coaches, Alberto Salazar is now Nike's top running guru. The Cuban-born world record breaker, who famously "died" for 14 minutes from over-exertion after his epic Boston Marathon "duel in the sun" with Dick Beardsley, is now the driving force of the Oregon Project. Double Olympic champion Mo Farah and Galan Rupp, plus a handful of other elite athletes train to the extreme, combining lung-busting workouts on the track, with iron-pumping sessions in the gym, a few extra miles under water, then a chill-out in a freezing cryostat chamber. Clearly it's not just about the shoes, but they certainly help.

Oregon Project, similar in concept to Nike's previous branded club, Athletics West, of which Salazar was a star runner, is a great marketing case study to be featured in my next book.

1 July 2013, Teddington, UK:  Going to where the future is ... the "Market Makers" 

My next book is almost finished. Phew ... After six months of heads-down research and writing, thinking and connecting, deleting and rewriting, I'm almost there. I've searched the world for the most interesting, innovative, inspiring new case studies ... 100 of the Next Generation Brands ... and I've looked for the insights, patterns, and emerging models from them. 

Whilst I started with the working title of Gamechangers it has become an increasingly common term. Maybe it's just because I'm close to it. But maybe it's because it's easy and catchy to describe a disruptive, transforming idea in that way. That's fine as long as it doesn't become over-used and diminished. I know what I mean by "changing the game" and have identified the 8 primary "gamechanging" strategies for being dramatically different. Or as Google says, "why be 10% better, when its sometimes easier to be 10x better."

GE made me think though ... when writing one of the final chapters of my book called FutureMakers (we explore each industry, and the brands who are changing the game).

I wanted to explore the changing role of marketing, and particularly the job of marketing leaders, or Chief Marketing Officers as we now love to call them. 

GE's CMO, Beth Comstock, describes the role of marketing as "going to where the future is, innovating with customers, telling global stories with local accents, connecting people with machines ... To be an effective marketer, you have to go where things are, you have to see what's happening and be a translator. You have to immerse yourself and not be comfortable sometimes." She talks of rural doctors in China and farmers in Africa, where she sees GE making most difference, and money.

Connecting the dots is also about making sense of fast changing markets, looking for the patterns, the opportunities. She sees marketers as the people to do this, saying a great marketer “translates observations into insights that can move a business or product forwards”. However that is not just about brand and communicating what exists, "Marketing is now about creating and developing new markets; not just identifying opportunities but also making them happen." ... In short, marketing is about market making. Be that strategic in the sense of finding and shaping new markets, or every day in terms of owning and evolving in real-time.

"Market Makers" ... now that's a good name for a book, I thought? Maybe more distinctive, and relevant than Gamechangers? Market Makers are the brands and innovators who create and shape the markets of the future. They do this through imagination and vision, insights and connections, redefining how the markets work, what inspires and enables consumers to do more, and how brands and business can win commercially too. Underpinning this is new market strategies to business models, innovation and sustainability, social media and real-time marketing.

What do you think: Gamechangers or Market Makers? Tell me which you think works best?

22 June 2013, Cannes, France: Fast, Agile and On-Demand ... Real-time Marketing

Whilst the creative laggards of the old advertising world, prance and preen at Cannes Lions, the real world of marketing has speeded up. Interesting, Cannes has rebraned as a festival of creativity, perhaps acknowledging the decline of advertising without losing a reason to party in the south of France. But the days when ad agencies drove the marketing agenda, advertising consumed the majority of marketing budgets, and campaigns defined the marketing calender are long gone ... The new world of marketing works in real-time.

Of course any form of technology-enabled business in confused by buzzwords and hype, but real-time marketing has some clear principles, rather than being lost in a black box. 

Consumers today, we all know, have high expectations. They want the best, the cheapest, and they want it now. Mobile and social, searchable and wearable, anywhere and anytime, consumers think faster, with global choices, and expect fast and personal responses. Push became pull, as forced interruption gave way to encouraged engagement. Then pull became push again, from passive to active, anticipating and responding to individuals based on their web clicks, store visits, product usage, social likes, and soon their neural impulses.

Real-time marketing is about agility ... to be fresh and topical, to connect with events as they happen. We all still marvel at how Oreo responded to the Superbowl blackout with their "You can still dunk in the dark" concept tweeted in 34 minutes. It's fast and topical ... it's now.

Real-time marketing is about relevance ... to connect, even resonate, with consumers in deeper ways. If you want to sell music to young people, target when and where they listen to music - in the gym, on the train. Work with other brands in this context ... it's me.

Real-time marketing is about on-demand ... anticipating and responding, in time and place, to what consumers think, need and want. Amazon's one-click, next-day, personalised service is the base level of expectations.  It's easy, collaborative and timely ... it's live.

In today's world, big doesn't beat small, but fast beats slow ... marketers need to learn to work in real-time, customer-driven and collaborative, curious and ever changing.

Real-time Marketing is now available as an inspiring keynote and practical workshop

5 June 2013, Hong Kong: The future of media, and how 4C leaders drive innovation

The world of movies and television brings together some of the most human, emotional and inspiring brands - from Pixar's much-loved animations, to HBO's serials to set your watch by, and Endomol's reality shows with people (not much) like you ... But it is changing fast ...

Most media companies still confuse networks and content ... Networks create the reach, connecting people with brands and with each other, but they are ultimately commodities. It's the content that creates richness, that people love, and pay more for. TimeWarner gets this, having reframed and refocused itself as a content business, a move that enhanced its perceived value  in the investment community, no longer comparing it to tech or telecoms (although most US consumers still know it best for the struggling - and unrelated - Time Warner Cable business).

Technology will inevitably enhance the experience further - be it through time-shifting content on demand, or the use of multiple screens (watching with mobile and iPad in each hand), the (Google Glass-style) immersion into fantastic worlds, and augmentation of stories. Put on your virtual reality headset and a $10 movie could become a $100 experience. (It's easy to forget that the winners of the music world are not the 99 cent downloads, but the $100 live music experiences, and therefore Jay Z, Madonna and all, sign to Live Nation rather than Apple).

Yet media companies are still obsessed with "broadcasting" (product-driven, one-way, push) to "audiences" (passive, mass and average) ... rather than thinking about more collaborative experiences with consumers ... Until they can reframe their mindsets, they are unlikely to  be able to embrace these technologies in more innovative ways, and to really transform our experiences. This is particularly the case in international markets, where content brands need to work in partnerships with local networks to engage audiences in more innovative ways.
  • FutureMedia: Al Jazeera to Redbull ... Ushihida to Zeebox ... why the future of media is about collaborative content - and how to start making it happen.
Innovation happens in organisations which get the outside world, and bring together the best minds inside and out to create the future. The traditional leadership of "command and control", the 2C leader, is not going to achieve this, blinkered in reinforcing the status quo. If you want your people to think, create and drive new sources of growth, a different approach is needed. The innovative leadership model is about the 4C leader - "communicating, catalysing, collaborating and coaching". The leader challenges and disrupts, adds new insights and ideas, brings the best people together from across the business and beyond, and provides the space and support to enable innovation to thrive. Leaders amplify the potential of others.

Downloads of my keynotes from the Time Warner Asia Pacific Executive Summit:
  • Innovative Leaders: How "4C not 2C" leaders drive smarter innovation and faster growth ... a more innovative leadership for a digital world.
  • Gamechangers: How to think bigger, change the game, and win in markets of exponential change ... with insights from next generation brands.

31 May 2013, Key Largo, Florida: AG Lafley makes the consumer the boss (again)

AG Lafley became a legend at P&G, transforming the business from declining product monolith into a more agile, creative and profitable organisation. From consumer-centricity to co-creation, design thinking to digital platforms, he doubled the value of the business in 5 years. And now he is back. This is the letter he sent to all employees this week reminding them of what still matters to him:

Dear P&Gers,

Today I am rejoining P&G. I’m looking forward to working with all of you again,
to do what we do best and what matters most — win with consumers.

I want to thank P&Gers for the work you’re doing to win with consumers. I want
to assure you that we will build on the business momentum behind the current growth

  1. Strengthening core developed market business.
  2. Maintaining strong developing market momentum.
  3. Building and leveraging a strong innovation pipeline.
  4. Driving cost savings and productivity improvements.

I will be getting up to speed on the business in the next several weeks. In the
meantime, here are a few of my core beliefs:

  • The consumer is boss — at the heart of everything we do.
  • We create and build brands that improve consumers’ lives.
  • Innovation is our lifeblood.
  • Every P&Ger is an owner and a leader — we are one team, with one dream, collaborating internally and competing externally.

I look forward to working with you in the days and weeks ahead.

Best, A.G.

Simple. Compelling ... The question is, would you do the same in your business – the simple and unambiguous primacy of customers, or consumers in P&G’s case. Who are they? How are they changing? What really matters to them? What will? Secondly, the purpose – not to maximise profits or growth, but to do so by improving peoples’ lives. Third, innovation, in everything, everyday.  And finally, the people, everyone an owner and leader.

10 May 2013, Nairobi, Kenya: Africa can save the world, with a little help from Azuri

Africa can save the world ... from poverty, from famine, from warming ... 

Ever since Bob Geldof banged on his table at Live Aid we've been trying to save Africa from the very same fate. But having searched the world for the most "gamechanging" ideas and businesses, it's Africa where the biggest game could be about to change.

With its vast expansive desert spaces and relentless sunshine, Africa is the obvious place to harness solar power. But the investment and logistics, alongside the benefits to local nations has been lacking. Now Azuri Technologies on a local scale, and Desertec on a bigger scale are aiming to change all of that, through innovative partnerships and business models.

Azuri provides a solar panel for the roof of your home. In the past, that initial investment would have been out of reach of most African families. Microfinance is inaccessible and daunting to most. But Azuri's Indigo pay-as-you-go scratch card, allows Kenyans to pay small amounts to light their huts and charge their mobile phones. The business model involves an initial payment of $5, followed by around $1 per week for usage. As the panels also contribute power to a central grid, they offset their payments, and can soon be in credit, and on the way out of poverty.

Desertec is a more ambitious venture, with investment from a large number of governments and corporations, seeking to create a grid that connects huge "solar farms" in the desert to power local communities, but also the rest of us too. 90% of the world lives within 1800 miles of a desert, and 1300 square miles of Saharan desert, for example, could power 20% of Europe. It could transform the fortunes of Africa, let alone solve the world’s fossil fuel crisis. 

Of the two, I think the smaller, consumer-driven business model could be the winner ...

Clean, reliable, low cost power could transform the world in many ways - just look at how oil currently drives the economics and politics of nations. But the local sources of power, from Morocco to Mongolia, also fuels the ability of the world's fastest growing nations to build their lives, embrace new technologies for education and healthcare, agriculture and manufacturing.

The image (scroll down in this blog to August 2012) of David Rudisha, and his fellow Africans, leaving the Americans and Europeans trailing behind in the race to be Olympic Champion could symbolise a whole nation too. World changing, life changing ... game changing.

Azuri and many more "Gamechangers" will be featured in my next book to be published later this year. Read more about it at

28 April 2013, London UK. Learning from the Next Generation Brands and Innovations

Writing a book is a voyage of self-discovery, the need and opportunity to articulate what you see around you, how you see the future, what you experience practically, and what you learn from others. Having written six books, it's still a touch discipline, but inspiring too ...

For me, the last few months have been the quietest time of the last decade. No paid work is slightly disconcerting, but also an opportunity. It does seem bizarre that at a time of such incredible change in business (seismic shifts in power, new priorities for customers, new markets through technology, new entrants challenging everywhere), that leaders are reluctant to invest in new strategies and ideas, and to seek the support to exploit the opportunities.

"Gamechangers" ... Next Generation Brands and Business Innovation is the working title of my new book, about the incredible new breed of organisations who are not just doing things a little better, cheaper or different, but fundamentally reshaping markets in their own vision.

I know we hear the phrase "gamechanger" often today, but it's a theme I have been developing for some time, particularly through my own mind-changing experiences working in markets like Egypt, India, and Turkey. Most significant have been leading projects in emerging market businesses like Cinnamon, Eczacibasi, and Tata Steel to develop radical new strategies and innovations, whilst also helping western brands like Coca Cola, Hershey's and Philosophy to enter fast growth markets like Eastern Europe, Middle East, and South Korea.

As well as providing ideas and inspiration through keynotes and masterclasses, I have learnt the most by practically working with clients, exploring the real issues and opportunities of changing markets, developing new strategies and solutions using a range of fast, collaborative consulting approaches:
  • FastFutures helps leadership teams rethink purpose, vision and direction
  • InnoLab is a fast and collaborative creativity and business innovation process
  • BrandLab helps you develop better brand strategy, essence to experience
  • MyWorld develops propositions to reengage post-crisis and new customers
  • OptimaX focuses your portfolio and people for faster, profitable growth 
The three months of global research for the book has been particularly stimulating, interviewing over 100 exciting next generation brands, learning about what they do differently, but also how they are human, ambitious but fearful, practical and imperfect, just like us. On top of that I've then developed 100 ideas that capture their magic, for you to apply in your world.

The stories are amazing ... Anne Wojcicki and her DNA profiler at 23andMe to Elon Musk reaching for the stars at SpaceX, Brett King at bank revolutionary Moven to Eden Upton simplifiying tech at Raspberry Pi, Alina Kamakian's Armenian cooking at Mayrig to Phanindra Samu and the rise of India's RedBus, Vicky Wu at reverse retailer ZaoZao and Lain Jager, the kiwi of kiwis down in Mount Maunganui.

Helping you to apply the best insights and ideas, I've clustered them into business sectors, combining future trends and ideas, with the practical insights and stories. This new research with the practical three-day Fast Futures process create an incredible catalytic experience for business leaders to rethink their business, their market and their future:
But ... Having been inspired by the next generation, I then reflected that publishing "Gamechangers" as another boring, conventional book was slightly flawed, and decided to cancel my publishing contract ... So if you'd like to publish a more inspired book, in a more innovative way, about the future of business, 100 brands and 100 ideas, then get in touch!

1 March 2013, London, UK. Think Different about Leadership and Innovation.

Steve Jobs was extraordinary ... The misfit. The rebel. The troublemaker ... The round peg in the square hole. The one who saw things differently ... You can quote him, disagree with him, glorify or vilify him. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore him. Because he changed things ... Heimagined. He invented. He inspired. He pushed the human race forward ...

Next week I'm leading what I hope will be a fantastic day at the London Business Forum applying Steve Jobs' brand of "think different" to leadership and innovation in your business. How would he lead your organisation, or transform your market? Who are the new Apples and Jobs of today's world? What are the attributes which you can embrace, to be a better leader and innovator? 

The magic of Apple, the magic of Jobs ... it is an amazing story, impressive and appalling, inspiring and tear-jerking. Making sense of it is not easy, but I have developed a simple model to help explore the APPLE of his innovation and MAGIC of his leadership ... 10 attributes for you to consider and embrace, and maybe make a bigger difference to your world:

Having spent the last three weeks learning everything I can about Steve, I'm still not sure whether to love or hate him. He would be difficult to work with. Impossible maybe. Arrogant and obsessive, visionary and pedantic. He defies most of the accepted rules of management - he just didn't do "what good managers do" - and Apple, maybe surprisingly, just don't play by "the rules" either. 
This is the guy who would say an idea is shit then steal it; smell because of his weird fruit diets; dispute paternity of his first child despite 96% certainty; park in the disabled bay to save time; cut all Apple's charitable donations to improve focus; measure how long people spent at the toilet; and never play anyone else's game ... But he changed the world. Remarkable, extraordinary.

How could you lead like Steve Jobs
  • Most leaders inspire and encourage their people, he would challenge and insult.
  • They collaborate and find consensus, he just wanted the perfect solution, his way.
  • Most companies build a corporate brand, he was more interested in his own ego.
  • They share the recognition and rewards, he really believed it was what he deserved.
  • Most people balance home and work, he always put his ambition before anything else.
  • They believe there is more to life, for him Apple and Next and Pixar were his life.
How could you innovate like Steve Jobs?
  • Most visionaries have a great idea, he wanted to make every aspect happen himself.
  • Most innovators embrace consumer insight, he believed he knew better what they want.
  • Most designers think about product and styling, he thought about the total experience.
  • Most launches are short and simple, he stirred up unbelievable desire and demand.
  • Most communicators sell the product, he sold dreams, as amazing, dramatic stories.
  • Most companies have many processes, a route he said to efficiency but not greatness.
I remember, in 1986, when I first used a Macintosh computer to write up my degree thesis. The simplicity of use, the fonts and graphics, the ability (as Steve would say) to amplify my ability ... And today I love my iPad, more than any other human creation. And everything else from Apple too. I love the Apple store experience too, particularly the (patented) staircase. It's all brilliant.

The real question is, would you be willing to be like Steve Jobs to change your world? Would you obsessively put your ambition before everything else? If Steve Jobs was in your business, would he be embraced or ejected? Would you be able to work with or for somebody so frustrating? Or can we have his brilliance, without his downsides? 

"Think Different" is now available as a new event format, either as a keynote presentation, or as a one or two day masterclass ... applying the best ideas of Apple and Steve Jobs ... and thinking differently about leadership, strategy, innovation, brands and performance in your business ... How to be "insanely great " in business ... Email for a brochure and more details. 

Download my "Think Different like Steve Jobs" keynote presentation here

Watch my "Think Different about Leadership: The Pirates of Cupertino" video clip is here

28 February, New York USA. The future is not here, but it's not far way. What should you do?

2020 visions are notoriously unpredictable. For 50 years, or more, we've been told that flying cars, robotic servants, and life on Mars is almost upon us. But it never quite happens. But at the same time the future happens faster than we can even dream. Remember life before the internet, before the smartphone, before the iPad, even? 10 years ago, we were so primitive ...

And 2020 is just a few years away now ... That's why we've launched "Fast Futures" which is a three-day fast and collaborative experience for business leaders, helping them to make sense of their changing markets, to explore the new possibilities and best opportunities, and what it means for them. It combines an intense "mash-up" of all the best trends and next practices, but with thoughtful facilitation and expert advice. There are custom versions, for each sector too.

We bring together some of the best sources of future trends, and their implications and likely innovations. Often its at the intersections of trends that most insight and innovation occurs. Looking beyond 2020, here's a megatrend map for 2040, built on 5 themed pathways:
  • Globalisation and deregulation - the new market spaces, ready for market-making.
  • Urbanisation and migration - shifting culture, shaping desires, new sources of demand
  • Climate change and sustainability - innovating to make the world a better place
  • Population and lifespan growth - from education to healthcare, food and entertainment
  • Localism and re-regulation - infrastructure, finance, communities and happiness

Here are some more great future maps to explore, and spark your thinking:
Some sector-specific insights, that link to the Gamechanger research:
Shell had the foresight some years ago to stop being an oil company, and look to the future of energy. They've become a leading in scenario thinking, about energy and more:
Whilst peak oil might still seem some way off, the rising prices of fuel, the obvious political power of oil supplies, and the changing Middle East, all point to the power of energy to shape our world. With the world’s population headed toward 9 billion at mid-century and millions of people climbing out of poverty, global energy demand could increase by as much as 80% by 2050. They explore two big scenarios labelled mountains and oceans:
  • Mountains: The first scenario sees a strong role for government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures. These help to develop more compact cities and transform the global transport network. New policies unlock plentiful natural gas resources – making it the largest global energy source by the 2030s – and accelerate carbon capture and storage technology, supporting a cleaner energy system.
  • Oceans: The second scenario describes a more prosperous and volatile world. Energy demand surges, due to strong economic growth. Power is more widely distributed and governments take longer to agree major decisions. Market forces rather than policies shape the energy system: oil and coal remain part of the energy mix but renewable energy also grows. By the 2060s solar becomes the world’s largest energy source.

14 February 2013, Teddington, UK.  How to beat "corporate cholesterol" ... with BizFit

Everybody needs cholesterol … naturally made as well as eaten, it is essential in the production of cells and hormones, helping our bodies to function and grow … However too much of the wrong type of cholesterol can kill us …

Symptoms of "high cholesterol” in business are typically

  • Obesity: too many people, too many products, too many processes ... growing bigger (more revenue) but not  better (more profitable, valuable).
  • Slowness: slow to operate and serve (delivery), slow to respond to change (agility), slow to make new ideas happen (innovation)
  • Complacency: lack of ambition, vision and desire (leadership), lack of energy and motivation (culture), lack of self-image and sex drive (reputation)
  • Declining profits: through falling revenues, and rising costs … inefficient and ineffective processes (internally), and poor image and sales (externally)

Large established companies are in most danger of high cholesterol. Market leaders, famous brands. Ford, HP, Microsoft, Sony. They have grown arrogant and complacent on their success. New entrants, global and local, on and offline, direct and indirect, can rapidly challenge them. They become sick because of the destructive obsession with short-term results. They grow fat because of the lack of disciplined management, focus and change. 

The antidote to high cholesterol is about your basic diet, as well as your everyday fitness.

The temptation is to think that the problem is about costs - and jump to cost reduction as solution. But that is like going on a crash diet – a short-term action that is likely to cause more harm than good. What you need is build a healthier organisation, that can perform better and grow.

1. Corporate “diet”, how the organisation chooses to eat and behave

  • Investors who believe in the long term, happy to invest in big ideas not just derivative ones, to be patient and take risks, to support disruptive innovation.
  • Talent that is "A" grade, diverse in background and experience, people who constantly want to learn and develop new skills, constantly upgrading and renewing.
  • Ideas that are new, insightful and different – seeing things differently, innovating in everything, and leveraging the power of your imagination and IP.
  • Partners who can do things better than the company, or can help it get to new customers and new capabilities faster, and less risk.
  • Metrics that ensure a balanced approach to performance - for customers and shareholders, efficiency and innovation, short and long term.

2. Corporate “fitness”, how the organisation stays healthy and alive ..

  • Business that is driven by a purpose, to make the world a better place, to make a difference to people's lives, more than just making more money. 
  • Leaders who stay close to markets - they explore and anticipate change, they shape markets in their own vision, they invest in innovation
  • Organisations who have the agility to adapt to new situations, embrace new business models, find new markets and audiences, new partnerships
  • People who are energised, focused and ambitious. Motivated, working collaboratively, creatively and flexibly, working in small teams.
  • Focus and prioritisation, doing less better, making complexity simple, optimising business and product portfolios, and clear communication.

And  it’s also about real health and fitness too – the healthy workspace, where people can eat healthy food, get lots of fresh air, play sport and go to the gym, combine work and home life, themselves and teams and families – and be stimulated in body, mind and spirit.

The alternative is death ... but before that, “high cholesterol” companies face years of feeling unwell, taking medication, hospital visits and unhappiness ... By which I mean years of poor results, unsatisfied customers, and relentless cost reduction just to stay alive.

BizFIT ... the cure for corporate obesity, slowness and decline ...

We've created the antidote ... a new range of BizFIT  programs for senior managers. They are high energy experiences, fast and collaborative, stimulating and innovative, driving new ideas and accelerating results. The optional modules include

  • 9.58 Peak Performance … one inspiring day of “high performance” learning from sports stars and entrepreneurs, sharpening personal, organisational and business fitness. The day is customised to your market, your business, and your ambition. Fun, fast, focused.
  • Fast Futures 2020  ... three days as a leadership team, rethinking your business future - how your world is changing, what matters most, where you want to go, redefining your business purpose, direction ... and what it will take to get there. Explore, design, agree.
  • Leaders XT … one amazing week, rebuilding your team or accelerating a critical project, delivering real solutions, with time to think, learn, listen and improve. Italy, Spain or nearer home. It might focus on your changing world, or taking a specific idea to market

We bring together the best business and leadership coaches, sports and nutritional experts. The focus is on you and your business - personal and collective. The issues are real, the outputs are ready to implement. Bring your running shoes, and an open mind!

To explore the right BizFIT program for your organisation, email us

23 January 2013. Dubai, UAE. Growing through brand innovation in the Middle East.

From Algiers to Zanzibar, the Arabic world is changing fast. Politically and economically, socially and culturally. Food lies at the heart of most cultures, and the trends in markets like Iran (microwaves, convenience foods) and Saudi Arabia (cookery lessons, Asian dishes) say more about the changing Middle East, than any demonstration on the streets. I am working with the region's largest food company - actually one of the largest in the world, and whilst their core products today are largely commodities, they are looking to change.

Brand extensions are a highly effective way to accelerate growth. With a strong core brand, a strong consumer audience and distribution network, great brands can rapidly move into new areas. New capabilities - sourcing, manufacturing, packaging can be acquired rapidly through partnerships, so what matters more is consumers, and how the brand can have more relevant in a bigger way - what it enables people to do, in existing and adjacent categories.

Brand extension is a disciplined yet creative process - Caterpillar's stretch from heavy engineering to clothing and footwear, was not obvious, but makes sense. Dove's extension (below) from soap to shower and shampoo worked well, but spas and clothing were steps too far. Starbucks recent stretch out of their cafes, particularly with Vie micro-ground coffee shows that if you do move into a new category, you have to add value, bring something new in terms of product and/or service experience, as well as brand engagement. And of course there are many who have failed too.


The ability to extend depends on the core brand. Corporate "umbrella" brands can extend much easier than more functional "product" brands, but what matters more is what the brand represents. Old brand thinking was "inside out" - brands defined ownership (in the same way that farmers "branded" their animals), the manufacturer or the product itself. New brand thinking is "outside in" ... brands reflect aspirations, values and audiences.

Whilst it is easy to look at adjacent categories  - from music to entertainment, from hotels to travel, from ingredients to ready meals - we also need to ensure that we are building the right kind of brand. The best form of branding is "platform" branding, not about products or promotions, but a brand that has an more enduring purpose and passion - like Nike's Nike+, IBM's Smarter Plan, or Coke's Live Positively.  A better starting point for innovation and growth.

1 January 2013, Church Stretton, UK.  New Ideas for Brands and Business in 2013.

Happy new year! Time to look forward not back. Here is some stimulation from my own recent experiences, and from others  ...
  • The New Customer Agenda 2013-2015  ... exploring the new drivers of customer (or consumer) value, what really matters to them in a post-crisis (but in some cases still recessionary) world ... again, as recent projects in Europe, Asia and the Americas has shown, consumers in different markets (geographies, sectors, mindsets) are very different.
  • New Trends in Marketing for 2013+ ... its easy to talk about new stuff, but what matters more is how you apply these trends to your markets and brands - its not about doing the latest, coolest things, but about doing the right thing - more a mix of old and new, physical and digital, conventional and innovative ... Customers work at a different pace to us!
Richard Watson is a great illustrator of trends, by which they become less linear and formulaic, but mixable and malleable, which I guess is the point - the world is unlikely to turn out exactly like this, but these are the forces to look out for, as threats and opportunities. 

The skill, and challenge, of course is to make sense and apply the most likely aspects of these trends - particularly their convergence and intersections, developing scenarios to test and stretch your decisions and strategies. Richard teamed up with Ross Dawson down under to create this summary of what's in store this year

... which is great, except I'm not buying into the "goodbye to intimacy" idea - yes we live amidst an avalanche of technological advances and automation, but I think humanity is one of the biggest rising forces, not to challenge the tech stuff but to augment and enhance it. Brands and marketing, products and service is more aesthetic, emotional, personal, intimate than ever ... and a few more: 
  • Contagious 2012: digest of branding, technology, and popular culture over last year includes movements that empower, finding purpose in society, marketing as utility not noise, insight by numbers, amplified living, augmented media, and the beauty of little brands.
  • Contagious 2011: the previous year's collation of best ideas includes themes on movements not communities, projects not campaigns, meeting unmet needs, socialising brand experiences, and the fine art of meaning making.
  • 100 Things to Watch in 2013 … In JWT's collation of trends, “A” stands for  adult playgrounds … and African tech stars … allergen free … alternative brand currencies … ambushed by Amazon … app-cesories … and The Arabic web

1 December 2012. Mumbai, India. 1 billion Asian consumers, a $30 trillion opportunity

Flying into Mumbai from Colombo, I was amazed by the huge, sprawling, twinkling city below me. An Indian software engineer in the seat next to me pointed out the new tech playgrounds of the megacity, and how it would take him 3 hours to get home, despite living "in the city". Whilst Mumbai airport is still very 20th century, this is a 21st century metropolis. It made me think ...

Chinese and Indian consumers are the new drivers of the global economy, the trendsetters. They have fast-changing tastes and appetites, and they are transforming the world with their consumption. Consider these snapshots of the opportunity for the decade ahead:  

  • There will be nearly 1 billion middle-class consumers in China and India by 2020 - demanding “more, better, now” for themselves and their children.
  • Asian billionaires are growing rapidly: in 2001, China had 1 billionaire and India had 4; today, there are 115 billionaires in China and 55 in India. 
  • China and India will give rise to some of the world’s most powerful companies. China already has 3 of the world’s top 10: PetroChina, China’s ICBC bank, and China Mobile.
  • 80 million Chinese and 54 million Indians will become college graduates over the next ten years. Over the same period, the USA will see just thirty million new college graduates.

Whilst power has fundamentally shifted East, it is the rise of new generation attitudes, new technologies, new approaches to business that really sort the winners from of the losers. Some of the most useful research, reports and anecdotes of recent months include

  • Winning the $30 trillion decathlon: Going for gold in emerging markets. McKinsey predict that by 2025, annual consumption in emerging markets will reach $30 trillion—the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism. They describe 10 essential disciplines.
  • How to succeed in emerging marketsAnnual consumption in emerging markets will rise to $30 trillion, from $12 trillion, by 2025. McKinsey's article describes how multinationals can harness the biggest economic force in the history of capitalism.
  • Unlocking the potential of emerging-market citiesMost companies still take a national or regional view when allocating resources for global growth. They should shift their focus to fast-growing cities - from Bangkok to Beijing,  Hyderabad to Jakarta.
  • The $10 Trillion Prize: Summary of new book by Michael Silverstein on "the Newly Affluent in China and India" (the affluent are $10 trillion, the less wealthy $20 trillion!). Demonstrating the potential of China and India markets, BCG offer an interactive model .
  • Made in ChinaChina has a great innovation heritage - from paper making to printing, the compass and gunpowder. But by and large, its brands haven’t yet made a notable impact on the global consumer market.
  • The Trillion Dollar Growth Trends: Bain describes the new mega trends to focus on including new consumers, new infrastructure, militarisation, oil, human capital, healthy wealthy, same but nicer, and "the next big thing". 

28 November 2012, London UK. What does it take to achieve "world class" performance?

This year's Marketing Society conference, still buzzing from the London 2012 Olympics, finally got round to thinking beyond local practices, to what it really means to compete and win in the world today. It's too easy to think local - even in an internationally connected market like the UK - but the real action today, threats and opportunities, are on a global stage. And the challenge of world class is of a different order, often achieved through different thoughts and actions.

Neil Black, UK Athletics performance director, only had a small slot, but he was the only one to really talk about what it takes to be "world class" today. I remember Neil as a fantastically talented but injury prone runner, a team mate with Morpeth Harriers in the 1980s. He was always pushing himself to the limits. As an expert physiotherapist he nurtured athletes like Mo Farah to compete against the world's best - recognising the demands of training 120 miles/week, or training three times a day, nutrition, psychology and more - so he knows better than most what it takes. 

Consider the Olympic 800m final (photo above), Andrew Osagie was the first European, ran a fantastic personal best, but trailed in last, a long way behind Kenyan David Rudisha's new world record. It's easy to think you are world class when you are good at your functional job, or even when you are successful in your own market. Think again. Whilst Martin Sorrell will tell us that its all about advertising, that is like wearing the best kit without doing the training. Whilst Ranulph Fiennes will amaze us with his brave expeditions, that is about as international as equestrian. Today's brands compete in global free-for-all markets, a new playing field, with new rules and new opportunities.

Here are my 10 best anecdotes and insights:

  • China is transforming its economy 10 times faster than then industrial revolution, with a 100 times more people, (and therefore with potentially 1000 times more impact). Most significantly in the region itself.
  • Consumption in the “emerging” (fastest growing) markets will grow by $18 trillion between 2010 and 2025, compared to $8 trillion growth in developed markets. Are we focusing most of our future on these markets?
  • When USA becomes self-sufficient in oil by 2020, the dynamics of the Middle East will fundamentally change. China/India’s new dependency will transform global trade, and the influence of new markets.
  • The biggest impact of the re-balance of economic power from west to east, is the decline of public and rapid re-emergence of private ownership, particularly families, with different strategic purpose and priorities.
  • Google, Microsoft, Facebook (plus emerging networks like Alibaba and QQ) will become the “platforms” for next generation consumers, brands and businesses. Are we thinking of “platform” markets, and how to use them?
  • Chinese beer Snowflake is already the biggest brand in the world, based on sales volume. “You’ve never heard of it, and don’t think it’s relevant to your market.” … Time to redefine/reprioritise “your market”, the space in which you compete.
  • If you consider that $6 billion people in the world have mobile phones, and only 2.5 billion people have bank accounts, then that is a huge opportunity for mobile banking (and for new businesses like Monetise).
  • Marketing has ceded the balance of power to finance” … if most USA-based CMOs have a tenure of 2 years, then marketing only thinks short-term, and has lost sight and influence of the long-term.
  • “What is the legacy of your marketing?” … what real difference are you making to your world, will you still be proud of it in 30 years’ time (which links to the opportunity of a “circular economy” basis for value creation).
  • World class performance requires abnormal, superhuman dedication … like “running 20 miles every day, 5 months away from your family at altitude, always eating healthy, never ever drinking, and a total 100% focus” … are you up for it?! 

15 October 2012, New York USA. The brand that helps you to "believe in miracles"

This week I'm working with a fabulous skincare brand called PhilosophyBased in Phoenix, Arizona the business was recently acquired by Coty, the French beauty company with a portfolio of brands including Balenciago, Chloe, Guess and Marc Jacobs. In a stagnant USA market, and with a distinctive proposition, now is the time for Philosophy to go global - particularly with high growth in places like Brazil, China and South Korea. But Philosophy is much more interesting than skincare

When Cristina Carlino founded the business in 1996 she called it a “health and wellness company.” As a poet and songwriter, she looked beyond the functional product. She described her vision for the brand "to change the role of beauty products, change the lives of women” and outlined five areas for growth ..."Philosophy is a fundamental physical science" she said, "divided into aesthetics (colour), logic (skincare), metaphysics (fragrance, bed and bath), ethics (charity) and epistemology (books and music)."

“Innovation is about science and people" ... “authentic ideas is about vision of women, women’s needs." ... “Consider the benefits of embracing goodwill" ... “To look better we must feel better, to feel better we must learn to forgive and love again" ... “The new age of beauty” … 

The Philosophy brand is aspiring and inspiring, urging its consumers to "believe in miracles” … “to believe is to perceive the miraculous - the miracle of the experience is a chance to live, laugh, love, learn and make every moment count."   The product range is categorised by "Hope in a Jar" and "Miracle Worker" and "Grace" and "Purity" with more upbeat slogans and philosophical poems on the bottles and boxes. Whilst this might sound soft and fluffy, compared to the mega scientific claims of most competitors - can anything really stop the natural aging of your skin. Philosophy offers a smile, hope, amidst the thousands of depressingly hopeless anti-aging remedies.

Philosophy, is not just a promise, anybody can say believe in miracles … but it is a physical experience, and potentially a shared experience too -  motivating and mobilising women to believe in, and achieve more. A great example of this, is the brand’s new concept store (above) at Tangs Orchard in Singapore - enter a special world, with interactive technology and human advisors, immersion and enrichment, wellness and positive thinking.

As the brand reaches out to new and different audiences around the world, the challenge is to make the founding aspirations meaningful and creditable, distinctive and relevant in a crowded market. Other brands have raised the bar, like Benefit and Kiehl's in adding relevance and humanity to cosmetics, whilst  Neal's Yard and Urban Zen are enriching the experience, evolving from beauty to wellbeing. As we explore options for a new brand strategy, there is an opportunity for Philosophy to build on its unique DNA, to go far beyond the product - to engage women in a bigger vision, individually and together, to empower and enable them to be and achieve more.

Time to build on Cristina’s “fundamental science” by deploying the new tools of a changing business world – emerging markets and new business models, collaborative partners and co-creation, social networks and doing good, creating brand platforms not as Facebook pages but that really enable people to achieve more; building brands not as images and identities, but as social causes and market movements. Real miracles lie beyond the jar.


14 August 2012, London, UK. The Games of Wonder, London 2012 Olympics.

The London 2012 Olympics were awesome, sensational, inspiring ... they brought the world together in a carnival of humanity, friendship and unbridled hope, determination and incredible sporting performance ... and last night they ended with yet more fireworks, and a phoenix rising from the ashes of the beautiful Olympic flame. On to Rio de Janiero, but forever in London.

I remember the moment 7 years ago when I heard that London had been awarded the games, swayed by Seb Coe's emotional story of youth and ambition. In fact, the vision for a third London games started long before that. 15 years ago, a friend of mine, Dave Luckes was sitting in his Brighton flat. After studying with me at university, he had represented GB on two Olympic hockey teams, and now looking for a future. He wrote a vision paper, for how London could stage the games. Today he is one of the logistical masterminds within the LOCOG team that planned, developed and delivered such an amazing three weeks, and many more years of "legacy". We all have a lot to thank Coe and Luckes for, and all the others.

Whilst the original ticketing process was a fiasco, a website that didn't work, and a process that didn't seem transparent or fair, everything else about the London Olympics was superb. A lot of googling eventually threw up tickets to the best events, and with a smile and trying not to think about the cost, I sat in the stadium enjoying some of the most fantastic sport ever. As a long distance runner, and particularly from Teddington, the thrill of Mo Farah joining legends like Viren and Zatopek was unbelievable. And there was Bolt v Blake, Jess Ennis, Phelps v Lochte, and so much more. You had to pinch yourself. The stadia, the transport, the gamesmakers, were perfect too. Amazing. And if my kids are anything to follow "inspiring a generation" too.

So here are some of my favourite moments ...

  • Danny Boyle's "Isles of Wonder" Opening Ceremony, what made Britain great.
  • Lighting of the Olympic Flame, by 7 future stars, to Underworld's Caliban music.
  • Bradley Wiggins riding past our house, adding an epic gold to the Tour de France
  • Michael Phelps winning in the pool, ending his career with 16 gold medals
  • Jess Ennis's dream comes true for the most promoted athlete of London 2012
  • Mo Farah can't quite believe it, winning at 10,000m in the most competitive sport.
  • Mo Farah unbelievably does it again at 5000m sending home crowd mad
  • BBC commentators Lewis and Jackson go wild, time and time again.
  • Celebrating an amazing games at the Closing Ceremony

20 July 2012, Teddington, United Kingdom. London is ready for 2012 Olympics

The Olympic Park is finished and waiting, the streets are streaming with the flags of the world, the Olympic flame has nearly completed its Torch Relay, Muse have published their Olympic Anthem rather uninspiringly called Survival, the Olympic Village is filling up fast, and official mascots Wenlock and Mandeville have helped shift every type of merchandise. The Olympics brand itself has just been valued at $47.6bn by my colleagues at Brand Finance, an increase of 87% since Beijing 2008, and making it the world's second most valuable brand after Apple's $70.6bn.

Here in Teddington, just 10 miles out of London, the small town has become the world's running capital again. Running around the local Bushy Park, I bump into champions from Australia, Kenya and USA. Only Eugene Oregon (the spiritual home of Nike) can match Teddington for its runners. Usain Bolt's PACE management team have their offices in town (and the sprint champ often stays here), Mo Farah went to school down the road (and is often in the park too), and St Mary's College is a summer base for hundreds of Kenyan runners seeking to change their lives. 

I ran past Nick Symmonds the other day, the USA 800m champion, but far from a household name given the unbelievably low profile of track and field in the States. But he is known as a bit of a "Pre", a heroic maverick by those in the know. He recently sold his body (well a tattoo on his arm) for $11,000 on eBay. Problem is, large event promoters have big sponsors, and Nick's guerilla marketing clashes with their own brand aspirations. Meeting promoters have banned him. What will happen in the ultra brand-policed Olympic stadium? 

More generally, its interesting how Olympic sponsors have run their race in the build up to the games. For many their programmes started 3 years ago. But few have had a real impact. A recent poll recently found the public associated Nike brand with the Olympics more than any other. Nike is not even a sponsor. Adidas is, and must be steaming! The likes of Visa, Samsung, BMW and McDonalds have each spent around $100m seeking to make their mark. New sponsor P&G with the innovative, emotional "thanks Mum" (or Mom across the Atlantic) is doing best. BMW has already said they wouldn't do it again. Here are some of my more memorable themes so far: 

  • Adidas are hoping for great things from heptathlete Jessica Ennis in Take the Stage
  • Meanwhile Nike's Make it Count avoids direct references  to London, 2012, or Olympics
  • New sponsors P&G did a great job with Thanks Mum/Mom about athlete's mothers
  • Visa overcame payment exclusivity to focus on speed in GoldenSpace with Usain Bolt
  • Branson joins Bolt in Virgin Media's Superfast ads, later banned for over-claiming
  • Timekeeper Omega's Start Me Up is full of inspiring images uplifting music

28 May 2012, Cairo, Egypt. The Future of Marketing, with Philip Kotler

Three days in Cairo … You imagine great pharaohs standing before the pyramids, but in the midst of the first (reasonably) democratic elections (in 7000 years, I'm told), the choice for Egyptians was more polarised than ever, a choice in some ways between the future and the past. Whilst the 1000+ audience pondered their future, Prof. Philip Kotler and I were here to explore the future of marketing, in an event (slightly embarrassingly!) billed “The Godfather vs The Gamechanger”.

I like Philip Kotler. Yes he had just celebrated his 81st birthday, wrote his best books 40 years ago, takes a fairly narrow, academic, and USA-centric view of the world … but over the decades he has articulated the principles, rules and frameworks on which much of our marketing, and most of us marketers, have built careers. Having started out as an accountant, he has added rigour and respect to our profession. He still talks about 4Ps (with a bit of customer-centricity thrown in, I was pleased to note), but he commands authority and audiences because of his great passion for marketing.

Kotler began in Cairo by reminding the audience how marketing was born out of the need to provide leads for salespeople, and how much has changed (in the best companies!) ... the necessity to align sales and marketing today, but also to think again about how marketing adds value, and can have more impact within the business and marketplace. He talked about the increasing distrust of consumers in brands, and the need to reconnect with them. He talked about the huge potential of databases, social media and technology. And he talked of marketing’s need to re-establish itself with the leaders of business, and with customers. 

He described his solution as “Marketing 3.0” – the title of his latest book (which was actually only one diagram in the last 5 minutes!). “Marketing 1.0” (product-centred) was largely about the mind, “2.0” (customer-centred) about the heart, and now “3.0” (values-centred) is about the spirit, human and emotional values. His evidence is based largely on Jag Sheth’s book “Firms of Endearment” although most of Sheth's examples are typically charitable initiatives without much other change - whereas I would argue that it really needs more genuine business and marketing innovation - to make lives better, the world a better place - and still make money.

This was Kotler’s big message, but was preceded by many others - useful reminders, but little new – and supported by rather conventional stories of Blackberry and Dell, GE and P&G (and surprisingly, Cherry, the Japanese car brand!). He talked about:

  • The 5 marketing shifts – from creating marketing strategies to driving business impact, controlling messages to galvanising networks, managing investment to inspiring excellence, operational to customer focus, improvement to making change. 
  • The 3 buckets for marketing investment – manage the present (cut the fat, drop unprofitable products); selectively forget the past (new products already there); and create the future (develop a new strategic intent)
  • The 6 tasks of a CMO – represent the voice of the customer, monitor changing markets, steward of the corporate brand, upgrade marketing technology and skills, add insight to the corporate portfolio, measure and account for marketing financial performance
  • The 4 tasks of marketing – relationship marketing (customers, channels and partners), integrated marketing (communication, products, channels), responsible marketing (ethics, environment, legal), and internal marketing (function and organisation).

What really surprised me was Kotler’s omission of what I valued most. This wasn’t based on disagreement, but I think a symptom of a superstar wrapped up in his old world, and not having the opportunity to see what today’s new generation of innovative companies, experts and practitioners – particularly those beyond the marketing mainstream - are thinking and doing. Words like business model, collaboration, and innovation weren’t mentioned once. These, in my view were his “black spots”, concepts which just weren’t on his radar:

  • Strategy … Kotler talked about investment and focus, positioning and segmentation, but which markets should you be in anyway? In a world without boundaries, the choice of categories and geographies is bewildering. Like Kodak and Hewlett Packard have learnt the hard way, these choices can determine business success or failure. Marketers need to develop a “market strategy” and maybe a “customer strategy” too, before thinking about the executional aspects of marketing delivery.
  • Innovation … Kotler talked about product development still being the central axis of marketing, but without applying that same creativity to the wider business and market model. If marketers don’t champion innovation across the whole business, then who does? Ideas into concepts, brands into propositions, new channels, new processes, new experiences … marketers should be the innovation drivers, innovating processes and experiences, but also creating the future, and therefore at the top table.
  • Collaboration … Kotler referred to “an embryonic idea of co-creation which some companies are exploring”. Indeed crowdsourcing and open-sourcing, collaborating with customers or partners, and more generally, networks are fundamentally changing the relationship between customers and brands. As Coke and MTV will now tell you, it’s the trust and loyalty between customers rather is most powerful, and it is their ideas and participation that can really move you forward, like Lego and Threadless have found.
  • Sustainability … Kotler describes a more values-based, spiritual approach to marketing. And indeed customers are more emotional, and marketing more intangible than ever. But he described CSR as essentially being about brands donating to good causes, being charitable. What about sustainable innovation? Using the power of brands and business to rethink how we can still achieve success, but to do good for people and the world at the same time. Creating better products that are good for the world, and make money too. Look at Grameen Danone or Nike Considered as transformational examples.
  • Business models – Kotler seemed a little defensive that marketing was still being treated as a support function, with tactical impact. He agreed we needed to think bigger, and influence the organisation. But the mention of business models caused a puzzled look. Did we mean industrial engineering? No, we mean mapping out how the business works – conceptually and commercially. And then embraced by companies like Alibaba and Skype, Spotify and Zipcars to revolutionise their markets. Interestingly he’d never come across the term. But to his credit, he was inquisitive, and wanted to learn more.

“Marketing 3.0”, defined in a broader sense, could be a brave new world of marketing. It should be about embracing a rapidly changing world with brands and business models that really do make the world a better place as part of their value equation. It should engage values, in a more human, collaborative and caring way. It should enable people to do things they could never do before. It should be authentic and open, inspiring and also more profitable. This is the future I went on to describe as "The Gamechangers - the next generation of brands and businesses" (see below).  

Of course, your challenge as a marketer is not to simply imitate the latest ideas and emerging practices, but to “mash-up” the best of the best, to connect and align them into relevant and distinctive propositions for your business, and to apply them in creative and magical ways. It shouldn't be a battle for the future of marketing, we all have great ideas and insights to contribute. It's the collective thinking and application which will make marketing, and marketers, great.

17 May 2012, Toronto, Canada. The Customer Driven Pharma Business

This week I’m in Canada – the great lakes, endless pine trees, fresh air, the mounties … actually I just ran along the shore of Lake Ontario which was glittering and beautiful in the evening sunshine. Toronto is a bizarre city centre, all tower blocks and almost no shops, but a world of subways and underground cafes (which come into their own during the harsh winters!). I know it best for its sprinters, the always smiling Olympic champion Donovan Bailey, and the notorious Ben Johnson. But I’m actually here to work with GSK’s leadership team, to explore what it means to be truly customer-driven, and what difference it makes to them and in their markets.

The world of healthcare is changing rapidly. An exploding population, increasingly life expectancy, but also new diagnostics revealing more existing and potential ailments, and the expectation of wonder cures abound. At the same time governments target reducing healthcare costs, and we all become more aware and active about managing our wellbeing.

Add to this the power of technology. Silicon Valley has moved on from the internet, and biotech is now the hot investment. Companies like 23andMe (founded by Anne Wojiciki, wife of Google’s Sergey Brin) can analyse your DNA for £300 and a few drops of saliva. Their analysis will change your life – what diseases are you prone to? What can you do to avoid them? What does it mean for insurance? And your future?

More generally, the pharma companies are polarising between specialist and generic players. On one side, Roche’s Genentech will personalise drugs just for you, on the other Wuxi Pharmatech will produce the basic antibiotics and steroids for a fraction of mainstream prices. Traditional leaders like Pfizer and GSK are left trying to do both.

Add to this, the impact of new technology players who are providing new information to doctors and patients alike. Just like Tripadvisor in travel, Zopa in banking, the internet brings people together. Patients compare notes on their preferred doctors and drugs at Patients Like Me, whilst doctors share the latest information and recommendations, patient records and more at Epocrates.

You start to see how the world is changing. Not just in terms of the ability of manufacturer brands to influence doctors and patients, but in the whole business model by which the pharma, medical and wider healthcare (or wellbeing) industry works together. And most significantly, how it converges around the patient, new partnerships forged to create a better experience, and better health. 

Some have called it pharma 3.0, others "patient-centric, customer driven" although not really any different from the transformation of many other sectors - from FMCG to finance, entertainment to education. However in pharma, for an industry which grew obsessed with R&D and finding blockbuster drugs, it takes a real mindshift. We explored many scenarios for the future, why to change and how to change. Now, its about making it happen.

22 March 2012, Beirut, Lebanon : Mayrig, MyBar ... and MyWorld

MyBar was built on a vision - a vision shared by nearly one hundred people, to be the most innovative and groundbreaking food and beverage experience in the Middle East.  Haytham and Nael Nasr, the brothers behind the project, used crowdsourcing to raise funds to realise MyBar's vision. $750,000 in 3 months. Wow! In doing so, they created an extended network of exclusive stakeholders who benefit socially and financially from their local bar.

Haytham Nasr described his experience to me over a lunch for the best hospitality people in Beirut. Whilst the word Beirut immediately brings war-torn images of twenty years ago, the Labanese capital has some of the world’s most vibrant, sophisticated and entrepreneurial bars and restaurants.  Having spent six years in conventional jobs – an ad agency, then international category manager  it didn’t take Haytham long to escape the rat race and set up his own venture.

MyGroup’s success in crowdsourcing its first venture, gave it an appetite for more. The cool and architecturally beautiful bar is being replicated in cities around the world. Meanwhile MyWaterfront is an even more ambitious retail and restaurant venture along Beirut’s still shabby but fast improving frontage. MyDrink is a new energy drink (and made in Austria like Red Bull), and MyMovies with Salma Hayek hopes to have it first blockbuster this December

With four events in two days, my own schedule seemed busy (although not quite as frantic as Haytham’s growth!). We started with the Family Business Association – exploring what happens to small businesses as they are passed to second and third generations – either losing their original spark, or finding ways to break out and grow. From car dealers to publishers, retailers to insurance companies we explored “The Seven Lives of Business” (see download below)

The Hospitality Group’s lunch followed exploring the creative concept of “fusion”. Fusion is one of my favourite words – connecting the unconnected, combining opposites, applying ideas from other places. We started with “fusion” cocktails, giving the usual Sex on the Beach a twist with something unusual and local. Fusion in the real world of restaurants could be exciting too ... What can bars and cafes learn from music and gaming? Could you fuse a bar and gym, a café and taxi, news and food? The fusions were endless ... the source of innovation.

Finally was a full day of “CEO Mentoring” for a select group of business leaders. CEO Mentoring from the GeniusWorks is much more practical and relevant than your typical executive coach. It's about connecting (in a yin-yang toggle process) the business and personal challenges and opportunities of business leaders, understanding how they can add most value to their business, enable their visions to be shared by everyone and to become a reality, and how they themselves can achieve peak performance.

Today's session was organised with IdeazFactory, a great innovation business based in Beirut, we explored the changing world, the challenges and opportunities of growing business in uncertain times, and the power of brands, innovation and marketing. Participants included Aline Kamakian, the founder of the fabulous Armenian restaurant Mayrig, that has recently also opened in Jeddah and New York. She also wrote the bestselling book “Armenian Cuisine” and is keeping her people’s culture alive whilst also making incredible food available to everyone


29 February 2012. Beirut, Lebanon: Hershey’s wants to rule the world

Hershey’s is the iconic American chocolate bar. Like Wrangler jeans and Dodge trucks, we see them in the movies but rarely experience them. Kisses, Reeses, Icebreakers, Twizzlers. In fact, until recently Hershey’s has not spent much time or money looking beyond the USA where it has an almost 50% market share. Now it has woken up to the world, and that growth is “international” and has prioritised regions like China, Russia and Brazil.

So here we are in Beirut, because – as Hershey’s VP International, Peter Smit, explained – if you draw a line from the furthest points of the global map east and west, north and south, you end up in Lebanon. In the room are the top executives and top distribution companies who will seek to challenge Cadbury’s Mars and Nestle in each market, in each store.

Hershey’s mission: “Building brands to be love in every part of the world”. Hershey’s strategy “Growing our core. Growing our portfolio. Growing our capabilities. Growing our operation. Growing our world”. This includes new markets – the world – and new categories beyond chocolate – snacks and drinks.

For Hershey’s this is a big moment. They labelled it the “Era of Transformation”, a time of breakthroughs, like the first human flight, or space travel, or the discovery of penicillin and sequencing of DNA. Can chocolate really have such an impact? (Particularly sweet. sticky American chocolate? ... But wait, Hershey's has divided the world into 6 different chocolate palates, so they are seeking to be more relevant and localised - just like Coke has learnt!)

And my task, for most of the day actually, was to work with the audience on what this would take. How will they achieve this audacious task, to drive innovation in local markets, and growth worldwide? What do they need to do as leaders, managers and distributors, working together and with their own teams?

9.58 Peak Performance” is a fantastic new program from GeniusWorks.

We have put together for business leaders, driven by change, thinking different, seizing the new opportunities, smarter and faster than others. Learning from Usain Bolt’s “9.58” mindset, Virgin Galactic’s business strategy, Nike’s SPARQ speed and agility skills, Alibaba’s new global infrastructure, Red Bull’s Air Race adrenalin and much more.

Imagaine if your leaders, managers and partners could start thinking and acting like that!

25 February 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Can a business be good and grow?

Rio+20, the return of the world’s leaders to Brazil for the Sustainable Development Summit is almost here. The streets and beaches of Rio are decked in bio-degradable bunting, and the airlines ready to offset their carbon emissions, to remind and refocus the world on its fragility, and our collective responsibilities.

Despite melting ice caps and rising sea levels, Earth Summits and Inconvenient Truths, many businesses still don’t get the real opportunity of embracing a more “sustainable” business. We think of green, and recycling, and charities. But it’s more than that.

For starters, just think about the word “sustainable” – strong, enduring, future-proofed.

Since my “People Planet Profit” book was published I get lots of interview requests. Initially they were on the back of the Gore crusade, but at last mainstream (and particularly US-based) corporations are interested. So what makes a company “good”?

"Good" is about creating value in a balanced way

  • good for customers (good products and service)
  • good for employees (good jobs and rewards)
  • good for investors (good risk and returns)
  • good for society (good socially and environmentally)
This requires a longer-term approach - investing in the business and its employees, in order to create a better customer experience, in a way that is fair and responsible, and ensuring that investments deliver growth and dividends over time. This creates a more enduring, a more sustaining, approach to business growth. It actually creates more value over time, less risk and more stability, than otherwise.

Compare this to a short term approach which seeks to take money out of the business too quickly without investing to create a sustaining system. It's like making a bigger "cake" to share with all stakekeholders. Investors can make a better return by taking a relatively thinner slice of a bigger cake, than a big slice of a small cake (see the manifesto in my book!).

Being "good" is still about making profits, but in a better way - a more responsible, more sustainable, more way. And maybe more profits too! Look at the "good" companies (as described in the FTSE4Good or Wall Street Sustainability Index) then they typically outperform other companies, and deliver better returns to investors.

Good companies win because they realise “good” is not a bit of charity work, but a fundamental design of their business to grow by doing good. A "symbiotic" growth strategy, if you like:

  • they create more value for all stakeholders, long-term
  • they are more respected by customers, investing in innovative products and service, increasing brand preference and loyalty
  • they are better places to work, investing in people and skills, providing better conditions and rewards, and for suppliers too
  • they are better for society, making choices are good for local communities, society more generally, and for the environment 
  • they are better investments, with better longterm growth, and at lower risk

To think that “good” companies care less about profit is the big mistake. Any business (including charities!) need to make a "profit" in order to be able invest. It is there choice how they share this profit - giving it all to owners/shareholders or getting a better balance. The other mistake is about seeing "CSR" as a cost, a separate department. Building a children's playground, sponsoring the local basketball team, sourcing fair-trade products are "good" but in isolation do not create a more sustainable, more successful business.

Sustainable approaches are also the best source of innovation - how can I reduce poverty, how can I improve health, how can i reduce emissions, how can improve people's lives. Some examples:

"Nike Considered" started by Nike, under the direct leadership of CEO Mark Parker, three years ago following criticism of Nike's factory work practices. It considered how they could make every aspect of their supply chain. They explored how to use recycled materials, change their dying process to reduce water pollution bags, introduce new factory policies and wage structures across Asia, engage young people in inner cities, and much more. Hannah Jones VP Sustainability works cross-functionally to implement all types of sustainable practices. It now applies to all products, including the worlds lightest running shoes made out of recycled plastic bottles ... You can read the fully story of Hannah and Considered in "People Planet Profit"

"Positive Luxury" is a great lifestyle business recently launched by my friend and co-author, Diana Nieto Verde specialising in finding cool and luxury products that are good for the world too. Not only does she provide a guide to “good” consumer shopping, but also awards brands with a “blue butterfly” trust mark to demonstrate their positive living credentials. Brands love this, and particularly luxury brands, who were previously some of the least sustainable businesses – struggling to balance indulgent furs, with their conscience. But now they realise that’s what even the wealthiest consumers want, then they are more than happy to be good!

And then there are great companies like Grameen Bank who are transforming lives in third world markets - giving microcredit loans to small businesses (eg enabling women to buy a cow, sell the milk, buy another cow, and build their way out of poverty). The bank is not a charity, it still requires it's loans to be paid, and makes money on them, but in a way that no other bank would do for such small businesses. Danone, the French dairy company, has become most successful yogurt brand across India and Bangladesh by working with Grameen, giving yogurt making kits to the Wien to make more premium products, and then creating a national network of local manufacturing and selling.

Every company will embrace these principles over time. Customers and employees will prefer, like and trust “good” companies, and investors will demand it as it delivers better returns.

20 February 2012, Mumbai, India : Frugal, Jugaad, Bottom-Up Innovation

I’ve been working with the business leaders of Tata recently - the huge Indian manufacturer of cars to consulting, steel to tea, and brands including Jaguar and Range Rover, Taj and Tetley. My challenge has been in brand strategy, as they acquire new companies, and in understanding the leadership cultural and communication challenges of bringing together east and west mindsets.

In India, Tata dominates the Mumbai high street providing every kind of business. Worldwide, we know the brand most for the Tata Nano, the $2000 car which was designed around new innovation principles in order to meet the affordability of mainstream Indians who until now crammed their families onto a scooter.

Tata Nano – alongside brands like Air Asia (Malaysia), BIM Supermarkets (Turkey), Uniqlo (Japan) - are great examples of “frugal innovation” … innovating not to add every possible feature, to maximise price, and target the top-end consumer … but innovating to reduce complexity and costs, to minimise the price, and target the lower-income consumer.

It was the late, great CK Prahalad, author of “The Bottom of the Pyramid”, who reminded that 2 billion people live at the bottom of the world’s economic pyramid, and as they emerge out of poverty, will be worth 5 trillion dollars. In the midst of economic crisis, when growth seems stagnant, look down not up for inspiration.  

Capturing the energy, and opportunity of “frugal” India, is Jugaad Innovation, a recent book on  the subject Jaideep Prabhu, with co-authors Navi Radjou and Simone Ahuja, have sounded a wakeup call from emerging markets to conventional top-down Western innovation that is failing in the face of today’s challenges. 

The Hindi word ‘jugaad’ means an innovative fix. The core of jugaad innovation’s frugal and flexible approach is to seek opportunity in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, keep it simple, include the margin and follow your heart.

It is a lean but human approach to generating new ideas. It also aligns with the more general need for innovation to have an inspiring purpose, to search the margins not the mainstream, be more human and emotional, to add more colour and imagination, which also valuing the power of simplicity and practicality. Improvisation, ingenuity, cleverness and resourcefulness are at the heart of frugal innovation.

More generally “frugal innovation” refers to the innovation that come out of the adversity of poor and emerging markets, which with the right support and funding can be scaled and adapted to the needs of big companies and affluent markets. Academically this is sometimes called “reverse diffusion” of ideas, and “bottom up” innovation.

And my Lancastrian-Kiwi friend Kevin Roberts (him of Lovemarks, Saatchi's and black t-shirt fame) reminded me of a great anecdote recently ... Ernest Rutherford, the physicist who split the atom, attributed his willingness to experiment and find unorthodox solutions to his background in rural New Zealand. He said: "We don’t have the money, so we have to think".

1 February 2012, Budapest, Hungary : Reframing your business, rethinking your future

Driving through the cold but sunny streets of  Budapest, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the old European capital had seen better days ... once the powerhouse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, politics and uncertainty have left it clinging to the twisted creativity of Rubik's Cube.

But I'm here to think about the future. Magyar Telekom, the local triple-playing incumbent has not only become the leader in voice, internet and television but it has added energy and insurance too ... integrating more home services than anyone else in the world it seems? Of course innovation is more than technology and integration, it needs to make life better for people too. That's the next challenge. But with the support of 60% investor Deutsche Telekom, the magyar's could be mighty again, reaching into new markets with new lifestyle visions and collaborative business models. They can be a Gamechanger, and that's what I told them. As the iPad advert says, "when technology gets out of the way ... magic can happen." 

In fact I've just been on a 10 day journey to the future ... 2012, towards 2020, and even 2112 ... on the banks of Switzerland's Bodensee with IAPCO, we explored what business will be like over the next decade, a fast and connected world where we think and work differently.  Then at EMEC we explored new strategic models to grow in this "VUCA" world ... Pilot Fish offering "clever" strategies to help you reach the "blue oceans" which are attractive but scary. and Slingshots finding new sources of funding to work in partnership, to drive change and achieve more. Volatile yet vibrant, its time to embrace the future ...

To get you started, Richard Watson, proving himself the 21st century Rubik. has finally solved his future Scrabble game to deliver his much anticipated Trend Map 2012:

Here are some of the other most interesting trends for 2012 which might help you ...

Of course, most innovation needs a longer view, so here is the 10-100 year forecast ...

And just in case star-gazing is not enough, and you want to make the best ideas and insights happen in your business, then buy a copy of Creative Genius, or sign up to the InnoLab.

31 December 2011, Church Stretton : 12 Trends for Brands and Marketing in 2012

Volatile yet vibrant, uncertain but unreal, complex and crazy, ambiguous or astounding – change will continue to be the driving force of markets in 2012. Whilst some consumers search with frugality, others become more resourceful. Whilst some brands stare into the abyss, others are seizing the new opportunities that are accelerated by change.

Economic uncertainty is merely the crying pain of a changing world - shifting power and culture, rampant technology and expectation. Markets and business have been shaken up like never before. Marketers are in the vanguard of change - from geography to communities, channels to networks, transactions to collaboration - fast, borderless, and interactive. 

So here are 12 trends that I believe will be significant for brands, innovation and marketing in whatever sector or region of the world you live. How can each of them be an opportunity for you?

1. Digital Primacy – digital channels and communications now drive everything else you do, propositions are anchored around mobile and online experiences, even physical purchases are stimulated or supported online, and digital agencies replace the old ad agencies. Look at everyone from Apple to Zappos, and even the likes of P&G and Unilever.

2. Global Niching - being human and relevant, whether you are physically local or globally niche, engaging people in more focused and personal ways. China, Brazil and India – and their consumers - are everyone’s target markets – requiring new propositions and partners. Check Coca Cola in Asia, Superdry in Europe and mobile hybrids like Zipcars.

2.       3.  Fractal Networks - instead of hundreds of Facebook friends, we step back into more closed communities of real friends - like honeycombs - with real interests and connections, that become interactive and intelligent – smaller, smarter, more powerful crowds. Facebook could go the way of Myspace, if it doesn't innovate. Learn from Mumsnet to Murcuelagos, and Nike too

3.      4Smart Screens – apps and networks, smartphones and tablets create a fast and mobile culture of instant access, knowledge, consumption and gratification. Nothing is more urgent that to review the latest text message, whilst the search for deals is constant and pervasive. Look at Amazon, Flipboard and Groupon

5. Participation Brands – brands reflect their communities not their producers– networks of consumers – participants - who want to be part of the brand, to contribute towards product development, to customise, to promote, to connect with other fanatics like them. Get involved at Current TV, or Starbucks or Threadless.

5.       6. Social Voice – positive brands can become the voice of consumers, from global warming to the Arab Spring the physical and virtual communities facilitated by brands, give people the collective influence to protest, to influence politics and economics. Express yourself with Diesel and Patagonia, Google and maybe even Baidu.

7. Subscription Models – from automobiles to cloud computing ownership is replaced by leasing, and even more significantly, one-off transactions are replaced by subscriptions in every sectors - from magazines to music. monthly gifting to home-delivered groceries. Buy things differently at Abel & Kane, Panties by Post, Spotify.

7.       8. Urban Majority – the majority of the world’s population now live in cities, yet the majority of city-centre retailing and facilities are premium focused. The biggest opportunity is to create stores, entertainment venues, and leisure facilities for the less affluent urbanites. Rethink like Aldi and Honda, Primark and Pepsi.

9. Alternative Money – from Facebook likes to Tweet-to-buy, from gaming credits to green tokens, cash is becoming less important, particularly in these times when everyone has less. And when we did use cash, electronic payments are finally coming of age. Try Drench, Greenpoints and Zynga's social games.

9.       10. Fringe Fashion – nobody is average, and as we personalise our homepages, we increasingly turn our back on mainstream brands and fashions too. To express yourself, you want something more edgy, unusual, different, quirky, from unknown designers or unusual places. Who will be the next Camper, Desigual, or Ed Hardy?

10.   11. FMRG – retail brands are more trusted and desirable than product brands. Retailers know us directly, can customise solutions, and deliver better experiences. From beans to clothing, even cars and vacations, the retail brand has become more important than the product. Start shopping at Boots, Carrefour, and Target with Starck

12. Experiential Healthcare - as people live longer, drugs are more accessible, and wellbeing becomes the craze, then people seek more information, more resources to do it themselves, communities and facilities to support them. Sectors like healthcare (and finance and government have the most opportunity to transform themselves in customer-centric ways, and thereby also become the most emotional sectors). Go to WebMD, UrbanZen or PatientsLikeMe

Find out more ... Read my recent article Finding a Better Place .. seizing the opportunities of change in a volatile yet vibrant world, learning from a new generation of brands and emerging business models, to reshape markets, refocus strategies and re-engage people in better and bolder ways ... check out the new training and consulting services, or email me.

Happy new year!

5 October 2011, Cupertino, USA Steve Jobs

Here's to the crazy one ...

He was "brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it" said Obama

He had a "profound impact on the world of technology that would be felt for many generations to come" said Gates ... He was the "source of countless innovations that enriched and improved all of our lives" and made the world "immeasurably better" said Apple 

And yes, we've all heard it now ... "In history there were three Apples that changed the world ... Eve ate the first one, the second fell on Newton's head, and the third was built by Steve Jobs."

I remember the first time I used a Mac in 1986. I was in the final days of writing my "superconductivity physics" degree thesis. I'd been working across Europe with some of the most high tech equipment, but this wonderful new device was the easiest, and most impressive thing that I had ever used.  I remember buying my first iPod, the big one in translucent white, with click wheel and white earphones. Cool. And I marveled at the creativity of Pixar, from Nemo to Ratatouille, where he made just as much impact on people of every age.

I remember watching him launch the iPhone at MacWorld, an amazing piece of oratory, theatre and marketing. The audience was in a frenzy, he whipped it up, and they just loved it more and more. I remember the day the iPad was born, the crowds and standing ovation. Never ending. He seemed to absolutely love his new creation, and soon I would too. And still do. I remember watching him asking the local council to support his vision of a new space age Apple HQ just last year, and they just applauded. Incredible.

And most of all I remember watching his Stanford speech ... 15 minutes of pure genius, perhaps the most inspiring speech (better than anything his famed copywriter Lee Clow could ever have written), and by a man who already knew his days were numbered ... "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living somebody else's life" 

Watch the CNN Tribute of some of Steve Jobs' most memorable moments

Read "Creative Genius" on Steve Jobs, with full text of his Stanford 2005 Speech

Watch Steve launching the first iPod in 2001, the first iPhone in 2007, the first iPad in 2010

Watch Steve Jobs on "Stay hungry, Stay foolish" in his Stanford 2005 Commencement Speech

And as that great Apple "Think Different" ad (normally narrated by Richard Dreyfus, but here by Steve, himself) concluded:

"... because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, and the ones who do."

20 June 2011, Beijing BRIC boom in the post-crisis world

Whilst some parts of the world struggle to shake off the economic blues - notably Europe weighed down by a Greek tragedy (black economy, unpaid taxes, bloated institutions, civil unrest, Eurozone paranoia, and unwilling acceptance) - the "new" world (developing world, emerging markets, or now simply the leading nations) is booming again. Some recent stats grabbed my attention ...

Nations ranked by the latest economic growth forecasts for 2011/2012, GDP, credit rating, and unemployment (Sources: IMF, S&P, OECD):

  1. China: 9.6%, 9.5%, $5878bn, AA-, 4.3% ... red hot economy, and a housing boom too
  2. India: 8.2%, 7.5%, $1722bn, BBB-. 9.4% ... high growth, high inflation is a headache
  3. Russia: 4.8%, 4.5%, $1517bn, BBB, 4.8% ... growth based on gas, with high prices
  4. Brazil: 4.1%, 3.6%, $2089bn, BBB-, 6.4% ... concerns about overheating (economically)
  5. USA: 2.5%, 2.7%, $14600bn, AAA, 9.1% ... faltering recovery, Obama needs some luck
  6. UK: 1.5%, 2.3%, $2246bn, AAA, 7.7% ... uncertainty continues, despite lowest % rates
  7. Germany: 3.2%, 2%, $3302bn, AAA, 6.6% ... full throttle, but Greek train crash ahead

Of course, there are other stars - Turkey leads the way with confident growth, Mexico and Indonesia not far behind. Whilst other ways of looking at the world matter too - women's disposable spending will grow by more than China and India combined over next 5 years. We should also rethink what drives growth ... China is achieving its growth not based on exports, but through rapid growth in its own markets, and those of Asian neighbours. Sectors in which China is now the world's largest market include bikes, shoes, cars, mobile phones and luxury goods. Whilst there is still a huge issues, the Chinese middle class is booming.

Also take a look at the OECD Better Life Index for what really drives success.

28 May 2011, Dubai : Genius Marketing, the 21 Century Toolkit

Extraordinary skyscrapers sprawling further across the desert every day ... a theme park three times the size of Walt Disney World in Florida ... palm-tree-shaped man-made islands built up from the sea to house hundreds of thousands of people ... the world's largest indoor skiing slope, and a subway system that can run every 90 seconds automatically ... an economy that is less that 2% reliant on oil, and now focused on premium leisure and knowledge ... a multi-cultural business community that is increasingly becoming a hub for new ideas, global innovation .. a state leadership that has vision for a small country in a big world, and for doing things differently ... welcome to Dubai.

It was a fabulous event at London Business Forum Middle East exploring the changing world, and what it means for marketers in the Middle East and beyond. In fact this was the first ever LBFME event, a new venture launched by Hany Mwafy, who has uprooted from revolutionary Egypt to bring Brendan Barns' innovative event concept to new markets.

Images: Selection of photos from my masterclass, the first ever LBFME event in Dubai.

Video: My reflection on the LBFME concept, and what the audience thought of my event.

We had a great day - fantastic participants, exciting market, and open-minded marketers. For the country that thought differently (looking beyond the short-term riches of oil to create a tourism economy, with mind-numbing ambition. From the Burj Kalifa to Jumeirah's latest seven star extravagance on The Palm where I stayed, this is a market without limits.

What better place therefore to reflect on the seismic trends changing the world, and the new rules of business that will drive success in it. 

I also gave an exclusive preview of the Top 10 Gulf Brands 2011, a more interesting measure of marketer's real ROI ... with Emirates coming out top with a brand worth $3.62bn (29% of overall business value). See download part 4 for more details of the top 10 or contact me to explore how we can help you to build and unlock the potential of your brand value.

Download Part 1"World Changing, Game Changing" ... Gaga to Guggenheim, Air Asia and Current TV, the 5 power shifts, the 9 biggest opportunities, 7 dimensions of new marketing.

Download Part 2"Seeing things different, Thinking different things" ... Future back with Virgin Galactic and Tata, outside In with P&G and Apple, Coke's DNA and Samsung's tae kuk.

Download Part 3"The 21st Century Business Toolkit" ... finding purpose like Cemex and Zappos, brands like BMW and Diesel, co-creating like Lego and Threadless. 

Download Part 4"Being Bold, Brave and Brilliant" ... 50 new marketing strategies to make happen, top GCC brands, measuring ROI and value, being a leader, being the change.

27 May 2011, Skopje, Macedonia : Alexander the Great, T-Shirts and Great Wines

Macedonia is an intriguing place. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was. A quiet, fertile land of 2 million locked between Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia - the source of some great heroes, from Alexander the Great to Mother Theresa, and some fabulous wines too. I wonder what the future holds for this country?

Whilst Greece continues to rather bizarrely block progress into the EU and NATO (an argument over the branding provenance of the region) with a little help, Macedonia could be one of those small, premium-branded enclaves of New Europe. Having just entered the “Top 100 Nation Brands” for the first time (new report from Brand Finance), it is a little country with a growing reputation.

Peter Fisk Live in Macedonia” (yes it’s good to be alive!) was a great event – an incredibly energising day for the 2-300 participants, exploring a changing world, a changing world of marketing, and what change meant individually.

Most discussion centred on my 50 strategies for embracing new marketing thinking in the post-crisis digitally-enabled world : 50 Strategies for Marketing Success

And I learnt much too …The fantastic story of the local Macedonian t-shirt maker who has a clear passion for his cotton (“locally grown, higher quality, better than Turkey, quicker than from Asia”) but also a clear focus just on the corporate market, making customised shirts for the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Usain Bolt and their sponsors Mercedes Benz and Puma. The modest entrepreneur even set up his own cotton farm, reviving an ancient industry to ensure he had the best cotton he could find, and serve his clients faster

... And there were many other similar stories too, from Audi to Wurth, Vodafone’s local partner Vip, and the local media group Kapital.

17 May 2011, London : Nicholas Negroponte and the $100 Laptop

Nicholas Negroponte … wow a man truly ahead of the curve … founder of MIT’s legendary Media Lab, of WIRED Magazine and, of the bestselling book, Being Digital, and of the remarkable $100 laptop, the XO … and wise mentor to Steve Jobs.

Here at the London Business Forum he swiftly addressed the changing world, his view of what matters most, new attitudes and paradigms, and where the best ideas come from … strategy by design (history remembers design), respect for disruption (we live in a disruptive world), money for money (youth thinking), open source, bits and atoms, fuzzy world (work and life, physical and digital), incrementalism is dead, common sense is average, vision is peripheral, ideas from diversity and juxtapositions, read more fiction, programming as learning, debugging even better, thinking about thinking about thinking ...

Negroponte’s own big idea, the $100 laptop, was thought unrealistic when he first put it to others. He created a non-profit organisation to make it happen: One Laptop Per Child. He believes that connectivity is increasingly a human right, one that is often “taken for granted” where wide-spread internet access is the norm. The XO is a laptop that empowers the child, designed to engage them in their own learning and to encourage collaboration to use each day at school (or as a school, if there is none), and to take home and learn (and play) at home too.

The XO is a product that has had a far reaching social impact that has been achieved through successful design. From one big idea, every minute detail has been considered to create a product specifically designed for its end user. His team has considered everything to produce a light-weight laptop that functions not only as a standard, fully connected laptop but also as an e-book reader and games console – it actually works through external light (like Kindle) and internal (like iPad).

  • 100 laptops x 100 books = 10,000 books

    in every African home

  • In Uruguay, every child has their own CO, funded by the government
  • $1 per month per child for laptop, connection and maintenance

Throw the XO across the floor and it bounces rather than breaks (he demonstrates). It is designed for constant connectivity and its wireless antennae outdo the typical laptop. In important meetings it is often Negroponte’s XO laptop that has a better connection than his peers. There is an enormous amount of thought behind this though he said, “simplicity is complex”.

I loved Negreponte’s design for the next version of XO-3 (see photo above) ... designed in partnership with Yves Bahar ... a wireless, rubber, non-breakable, flexible, multi-coloured tablet … I marvelled at the way in which he has dedicated so much innovation to making lives better, rather than just making money … I also thought if he can make this for $100, why doesn’t he just do it for developed markets too (?!)

… and I went off to explore the Flipkart

app which is his real secret to thriving in a world of incredible information, knowledge and opportunity.

Read more about Negroponte and MIT Media Lab in my new book Creative Genius

12 May 2011, TokyoFuturists, X-Men and Living Forever

From Alvin Toffler to Watts Wacker and Michio Kaku, the world seems to be increasingly crowded with futurists and their predictions. This is a fun game. It’s not so much the ideas themselves, as most already feature prominently in movies from Avatar to X-Men, but it’s the permission it gives the rest of us to think with more foresight, innovate more boldly, and to shape our business and markets in our own vision. Here are some future ideas I picked up this week

by 2030 ...

Internet eyes … a contact lens that contains an 8x8 array of LEDs recognising faces and displaying the person’s biography or translate from one language to another, so that you would see subtitles on the lens

Body shop … After an accident or disease you will be able to order spare organs from a “human body shop” grown from your own cells. The first bladder was grown four years ago and the first windpipe was grown last year.

 Brain talk … Today stroke victims who are paralysed have had chips placed in their brains connected to laptop computers. Eventually such patients learn how to telepathtically e-mails, play video games and use the internet.

by 2070 ...

Jurassic Park … In the future we will have zoos of extinct animals, using extracted DNA from carcasses and fossils. Already the DNA genome of the Neanderthals, who died out tens of thousands of years ago, has been decoded

Slowing ageing … Although no one has found the fountain of youth, scientists are now teasing apart the ageing process at the genetic and molecular level. Already scientists have lengthened the life span of insects, mice, rabbits, dogs, cats and monkeys using “caloric restriction”. If you feed them 30 per cent fewer calories, they live 30 per cent longer.

Shape Shifting … Shape shifting, like in  X-Men, is achieved through “programmable matter”. They make computer chips as small as the head of a pin, called “catoms”. These are programmed to have different electrical charges so that they stick together in different ways

by 2100 ...

Radio Starchips … Unfortunately the stars are so distant that it would take more than 70,000 years for our rockets to reach the nearest. But Peck believes that the first starship might actually be a tiny computer chip the size of your fingernail and able to radio back valuable information.

Cancer prevention … Today, if you feel a tumour in your breast, you may already have ten billion cancer cells growing there. But in the future, DNA chips inserted in your toilet may analyse proteins emitted from perhaps a few hundred cancer cells, ten years before a tumour forms.

Human hybrids … Most robots have the intelligence of a cockroach. But, in years to come, robots may reach the intelligence of a mouse, then a dog or cat, then a monkey. At that point they might be dangerous, but also creating a body that is perfect: beautiful, superstrong and immortal.

Space elevator … Imagine one day going into a lift, pushing the “up” button, and riding into outer space. This is the space elevator, a dream that opens the Universe to tourists.The recent discovery of carbon nanotubes has revived the fortunes of the space elevator, superstrong cables. (Remember "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator"?!)

Read more about trends, scenarios and future-back innovation in Creative Genius

10 May 2011, The Third Place : The Fall and Rise Again of Starbucks

Howard Shultz, the man who built Starbucks one cup at a time … and then he walked away (like Jobs at Apple, and Knight at Nike did before him), it all went back under new leaders, and he had to come back to rescue the business he built (same story as the others). In some ways it’s a great story, and inspiring too, but I couldn’t help feel that it was all a bit choreographed and managed. The guy seems more intent on selling his new book, than saving his brand. But anyway, here are the bits I liked best:

The original idea … “Walking through Milan I was taken by the romance of coffee but also the energy of the community”

Getting started … “In 1985 we went to get equity for 100 stores in America and everyone turned us down"

 Losing touch … “We were measuring the wrong things .Transaction speed does not build a better cup of coffee. Growth to drive stock price meant opening more stores without original passion”

Today … “We are in the midst of consumer change. Everyone has less money. We need to reengage with them in new ways”

Three things to do … “create an entry point, a value proposition to start a relationship … don't rush to use social media to sell, but to build engagement … today consumers are asking about your conscience, values and ethics”

Having purpose … “Profit is a pretty shallow goal if it’s your only goal. Businesses need to do more, will be required to do more, and those that do are likely to be more profitable”

Being different … “Every company needs have the curiosity to look round the next corner, and courage to go after it … to take the road less travelled”

Getting focused … “One page transformational agenda” (I wish this was included in his new book “Onwards” but the publisher didn’t seem to think it mattered)

Making change happen … “You can only exceed the expectations of your customers if you exceed the expectations of your people”

Engaging leaders … “It cost $32.5 million to bring them 10000 store managers together in New Orleans, but also did 50000 hours of community support”

Innovating … “In the old magic carpet ride we were just creating product improvements ... Innovation is about disruptive events”

Social media … “At first we were scared of people writing on the wall. We needed to remove arrogance and hubris. Constant twitter feed in Seattle office”

Get on with it … “Leaders have to be decisive. Especially during crisis. Without perfect data. Without waiting for consensus forever

Future … “April 2011 was 40th anniversary of Starbucks. We have to use our scale for good. But shouldn't define ourselves by size”.

The Starbucks turnaround certainly sounds impressive, the brand has been revived and initial numbers look good. Changing an icon is never easy, but essential. But Schultz is a little too suntanned and schmaltzy for me … an emotional insomniac full of nervous energy (“yes I am”) who drinks at least 7 cups of coffee a day (“the more the better”) … the third place lives on.

Watch Howard Schultz talk about innovation and relationships

at Starbucks 

12 April 2011, Krakow, Poland : Building a better Digital Europe

The ancient seat of Polish kings, the old stomping ground of John Paul II, one of modern Poland’s economic hubs, and venue for ERIS@ 2011, the coming together of leading EU thinkers on how to build Broadband Europe, to get business and society working to create digital nations, to move beyond the tech speak and deliver real benefits to governments, companies and real people.

What is surprising is that this is such a small organisation, sitting at the heart of the EU, but without a sense of leadership or leading edge. Whilst the small team are driving their projects forward, it just doesn’t feel like the control centre, or even conscience of a Digital Europe. We heard how Wales is leading the way in public e-service, voting in the Baltics, medics in Spain. But I couldn’t help but feel that the EU, and Europe as a forward-thinking nation, needs to get their digital act together.

Digital technologies can transform society – letting us all vote on key political issues, giving kids infinite knowledge at their fingertips, removing the need for coins for parking, eliminating check-outs in supermarkets, auto-completing my tax returns, getting prescriptions with a click of my phone, bringing new sense of justice and equality, and rebuilding lost or discontent communities.

But we need the best ideas, best people, and best technology to help make it happen. Working in partnership with leading tech players, funding it through new socio-profit business models, supporting local business and entrepreneurs … local councils learning from Facebook, schools learning from Moshi Monsters, libraries learning from Zappos, taxis learning from Zipcars … you’ve got to think smarter, break rules, connect unconnected, and engage people emotionally.

You can download my “10 Buttons for Building Digital Desire” presentation or sit back and watch the 25 min video from Krakow.

7 April 2011, MI Expo : The 7 Habits of Marketing Innovation

The Marketing Innovation Expo … full of social media agencies, exhibitors and sponsors, the marketing world seems to have gone social media mad. Which is not a criticism, just I sometimes think we lose site of the bigger picture, how the world is changing, how markets have transformed, and what will really drive business success.

The world, our markets, and indeed all of us as people, are changing incredibly fast in terms of attitudes, priorities and behaviours. But many (particularly big) businesses and brands are just not keeping pace, thinking that a Facebook page, crowdsource an idea, with a bit of social spin will suffice. It’s much more. The fundamental power structures and demand drivers of markets have changed, rules are being rewritten, and a new breed of business is shaping markets and models.

Every marketer needs a big strategic rethink, and a big injection of creativity. You can download my presentation “The 7 Habits of Marketing Innovation”, and read interview with me about "Visionary Brands", and also watch video highlights of the whole MI Expo.

The organiser, UTalkMarketing, is a very interesting business … set up by Niall McKinney (previously into online travel and publishing) in 2007 as a new platform for marketing news and collaboration, but has found a rich demand for its digital marketing training workshops in Europe and North America.

5 April 2011, Farnborough : Skoda, and a new world of brands

I’ve spent all of this week talking with retailers on behalf of an emerging brand that wants to be taken more seriously. We talked a lot about consumer trends, about changing priorities and prejudices, about reframing brands, and thinking differently.  But for me, telling a story from the old streets of Prague was the most important …

It was 1894, and Vaclac Klement was a young bookseller in the Czech town of Mlada Boleslav, at the time part of the Austria-Hungarian empire. However his first passion was cycling, and an accident whilst riding his beloved Seidel and Naumann bike left him feeling lost. He couldn’t find the spare parts to get it repaired, and eventually wrote to its German manufacturers asking for help. They replied that unless he wrote in German, they would not help him. Outraged, he decided to make the parts himself, and from that day he never stopped making bicycles, motorbikes, and eventually cars.

In the sixties and seventies, Skoda’s rear-engined models were laughed at for their dated and ugly looks, yet they won their class in the RAC Rally for 17 consecutive years. The soft-top Skoda Rapid was often called “the poor man’s Porsche” and became popular across Europe in the eighties. Most significant was the 1987 launch of the Favorit, in partnership with Italian designers Bertone.

However the cars were also the butt of many jokes. “Why do you need a heated rear window on a Skoda?” went one. “To keep your hands warm when pushing it” came the semi-comic answer.

The “velvet revolution” brought great changes, and the government sought a foreign partner to invest in the car manufacturer. They chose Volkswagen because of its willingness to manufacture locally, and the brand was quickly embraced by the German giant. Volkswagen recognised that Skoda had been a great car maker, and could be great again. It added expertise and investment – particularly in style and engineering – but appreciated the quality of its Czech makers. They retained the brand’s independence, developing new models that sometimes shared the same platforms as the VW Golf and Passat, but designed in its own quirky way.

The brand used ironic advertising lines, such as “It is a Skoda, honest” and images of the factory line where workers are uncertain about placing the Skoda badge on the cars, that looked so good that they “surely cannot be Skodas”. The message addressed the image issue head on, and succeeded – not with everybody, but then no brand needs to. For its target “low-price but quality” audience Skoda offered great value, and symbolised the progressive “new Europe”.

The brand was even ranked second to Lexus in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey. It was different, and inspired great loyalty amongst its customers. It continued to launch new models, including an MPV and a 3 door city car. As demand grew it open new manufacturing and assembly plants in Bosnia to serve southern Europe, and India to tap into the fast growing Asian car market. It is now one of the world’s most successful car brands, and the most profitable with the Volkswagen Group portfolio. It not for everybody, but for its niche, it can do no wrong.

Perhaps other emerging brands can learn from this too. But most marketers of such brands lack the vision or confidence to be different. You don’t need to be for everyone. You don’t need to try to emulate premium brands. Biggest and expensive is not always best.

Read the full story of Skoda and building brand loyalty in my book  Customer Genius

23 February 2011, Amsterdam : Hotel minibar that feeds your mind

I seem to spend a lot of time in hotel bedrooms. Long and boring day travelling. Long and exciting day running an innovation workshop. Long and exhilerating day on stage inspiring people. What lies ahead? A minibar full of beers, miniature spirits, chocolates and Pringles. 

Think again … try some of these alternatives

1. Fuel conversation: A box set of 250 cards featuring questions, quotations and provocations to start tongues wagging

2. Feed your brain: A volume of the best columns written by The School of Life’s faculty and friends.

3. Drink in these words:   Two tailor-made reading prescriptions from The School of Life’s Bibliotherapists designed to evoke moods of relaxation or seduction

4. Pour out your thoughts: An open book and a blank page to write down your dreams and fears.

"Minibar for the Mind" is an initiative just launched through a partnership between Morgans Hotel Group and The School of Life.

Launched last month, Minibar for the Mind offers guests what it calls “a midnight feast of intellect, inspiration and ideas.” Priced at $56, the custom-made box contains a thought-provoking alternative to the usual minibar fare. Included within the box are a set of 250 cards featuring conversation-starting questions, quotations and provocations; a thought-provoking volume of the best columns written by The School of Life's faculty and friends; two tailor-made “reading prescriptions” from The School of Life's Bibliotherapists designed to evoke moods of relaxation or seduction; and a blank journal with pencil for personal reflection.

Continuing the theme of mental stimulation, Daily Aphorism cards are now provided at turn-down service across all Morgans hotels, while guests dining at select properties are offered a Conversation Menu that features an entertaining selection of conversation prompts. A series of talks is also being hosted by The School of Life at various Morgans hotels. Finally, at Morgans' St Martins Lane hotel in London, The School of Life has curated what it calls “Semi-Automatic,” a vending machine installed there for a limited time that offers up a selection of products including Bibliotherapy Gift Vouchers and limited edition design objects. 

Man cannot live on comfortable bedding and gourmet food alone, to butcher the well-known phrase, so it's inspiring to see hotels recognizing that fact with food for the mind and soul. Other hoteliers around the globe: what about you?

17 February 2011, Istanbul : Driving towards a Better Place

Today I spent the day with senior executives from Tofas, Turkey’s largest automotive manufacturer, a company with a long history in building its own (rather ugly) cars, but who then recognised that maybe it would be better to manufacture better designs under license, whilst also becoming the retailer of most of the nation’s bikes, supercars and lorries too. Indeed so successful is the business, that production is all sewn up for the foreseeable future, so the real challenge is how to grow in different ways … how to grow, not in volume, but in profit and value.

So how do you do this? Is it by incremental improvements to the existing cars – adding a better sound system, wider range of colours, or more flexible payment terms. No. It’s about thinking differently.

Nano is transforming the auto world, proving that cars are not the preserve of the wealthy middle classes … but with Ratan Tata’s insistence that it must be possible to produce a small, simple, yet stylish car for around $1000, a third of the world’s population are dumping their bikes, mopeds and rickshaws, and jumping into cars for the first time.

Zipcars is transforming the auto world, where young people no longer dream of buying their first car … now they are able to hire a funky new Mini Cooper whenever they want, or indeed why should an urban commuter leave a car depreciating in a driveway, when they can move to a rental model that with GPS and micro-payments is instant, easy and cheaper.

Tesla is transforming the auto world, where environmentally conscious people no longer need to trade off the Prius-like ugly back-end for reduced emissions … now with Elon Musk’s help they are able to drive a fast and sexy roadster that accelerates faster than a Porsche yet runs entirely on carbon-free Lithium Oxide batteries

Better Place is transforming the auto world, where there will soon be no excuse for not switching to electric cars because  of the lack of charging (or in this case superfast battery exchange) points … Shai Agassi and his team are rolling out the world’s largest networks of charge points in cities and on highways.

So what does it take to innovate in the auto industry today? These are just examples of steps forward in the last few years by thinking differently. Indeed many of the best ideas will come by applying ideas from other sectors – the iPod of cars, the MTV of cars, the Nespresso of cars? But there are huge opportunities right now. Like the Better Place example … as we are learnt from iTunes, he who owns the network will be far more successful than others who make the devices. Who will build the charging network of Turkey, or of your particular market?

Read more about “InnoLab”, the accelerated innovation process

14 February 2011, Dusseldorf : Time for Change in the Conference Business

Rheinhafen is the beautiful, quirky, gleaming customs building designed by Frank Gehry that Dusseldorf hopes will redefine it as a modern city of arts and culture, rather than a grey “Industriegebiet” of central Germany.

I’m here for MPI’s EMEC, or to translate for the rest of us, the European Meeting and Events Congress that is organised by Meeting Planners International, the largest professional network of event organisers in the world. Strange then that this is perhaps one of the most poorly organised, unclear and cold events I’ve ever been too. Staged in a huge and vacant expo centre, I searched around the concrete jungle for some signposts and signs of life. Eventually a small number of hung-over delegates arrived. They seemed more interested in coffee and tonight’s activities rather than any of the speakers. When they do think about organising events they just want to know how many bedrooms are available, and where the entertainment will be.

No wonder then that the events industry is where it’s at … brochure upon printed brochure of events with endless sessions on derivative ideas … conferences that don’t change year after year, with ever-diminishing audiences … themes that just reflect what people are or do, rather than the issues and opportunities they should address … and a great fear yet ambivalence towards the challenge (or should that be exciting opportunity) of digital technologies.

There are of course, some fabulous events, and great organisers. These are the people who think about their audience first, rather than the logistics. They think about how to create a new and inspiring experience that enables those attending to think different, to connect in new ways, to drive real ideas and practical innovations, and to do things they could never do virtually, or physically alone. They are designers not just organisers, thinkers as well as doers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

In my session “Dare to be Different” not one of the participants had heard of TED. Hmmmm. As we talked about the personal experiences that had changed them  the most (staying at Six Senses hotels, listening to Steve Jobs, a great exhibition at MOMA, taking their kids to Disneyland) they got quite excited but when it came to applying the magic of these experiences to their events, they were lost. The session “We are the Change Agents” was packed out, and had a much better response. Coffee was kicking in. But change to what? Change for who? And how? Slowly we got there …

Time to see things differently, and to think different things.

5 January 2011, London : Forecasts for 2011 and Facebook’s $50bn

The media is full of predictions, trends and agendas for the year ahead. You can read them at your leisure below. Whilst networks, partnerships and business models are still my big themes, here are some of my keywords for brands and business in 2011

• Post-crisis impact – debt, anxiety, rebalance, cash poor, time rich
• Retail correction – end of sales and discounts, subscription, membership
• Women only – on their terms, gardening and walking, part time networks
• Real green – the second coming of CSR, driving innovation and differentiation
• Live marketing – loss of faith in advertising, rise of experiential events
• Networks work – power of networks overrule supply chains and channels
• Digital confusion – love hate, open closed, physical virtual, techno yoyos
• Crowd control – social shopping, Path networks, real communities
• Quirky fashion – shoulder pads and flairs, skin tones and asymmetry
• Creative ideas – it’s time to get back to creativity, design and innovation

Two events in the first week of the year demonstrate how these factors are changing brands and markets incredibly quickly. Firstly P&G announced that they will divert advertising budget from product brands such as Pampers and Pringles to corporate branding. Consumers want authenticity, something to trust and endorse the superficial brands they loved. P&G’s “Future Friendly” environmental responsibility programme, and sponsorship of London 2012 will guide the brand building. The direction is not obvious, but follows the lead of Nestle (where the pros and cons were exemplified when the palm oil furore associated with KitKat quickly affected the reputation of all their other brands). And it will take time – two months ago I visited a “P&G Brands” store in Manhattan used to showcase their brands and latest innovations, which for me was not a good experience – corporate, confused, and cheap. Unilever have perhaps done much better, and its corporate brand is now recognised by 24% of consumers as a leading “food and personal care” (need to think carefully about that categorisation!) brand.

Second came the news that Facebook (fresh from their extravagant PR battle to convince viewers of “The Social Network” movie that their brand, and maverick CEO, were a power for good rather than evil), had just topped Google (with their “do no evil” mantra) in the business valuation stakes. Goldman Sachs has invested $450m in the networking business, with a further $50m from Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies, in a deal that values the business at $50 billion. In the last year, Facebook has increased 10 times in value (wow!), from share valuation of $2.40 in August 2009 to $25 in November 2010. But Facebook is unlikely to float for some time, still needing more time to “monetise” its network, finding better business models to drive revenues from its knowledge and relationships. With 550 million users, display advertising accounted for $2 billion last year, but the opportunities to build brand-based sales platforms is still in its infancy. However Zuckerberg is in no hurry, at 26 years old, he wears faded Gap jeans, drives an old Honda Accord, and still owns 24% of the business (yes $12bn!).

And finally some of the predictions for the year ahead

Now and Next : Richard Watson produces the most brilliant trend maps. This is his 2010+ version, so we look forward to his map for 2011
Global Trends : Introducing the Global Time Machine, and how to address the imminent crisis of water, food and energy.
Trendwatching : Reinier Evers offers 11 crucial trends for 2011, starting with “Random Acts of Kindness” (we all need more of that!)
Mintel : Still reeling from economic crisis, consumers are preparing for the worst, and realising that Apps are here to stay
Entrepreneur : The forces driving disruptive change in 2011, headed by the power of those boomers again
Gartner : tech trends are headed by the rise of cloud computing, mobile apps and tablets, and social collaboration
JWT: The ad agency spends two minutes thinking about the future, starting with “All the world’s a game” followed up with “Eat Prey Tech”
IKEA : Pink, ethnic, textural, blue, modular, colourful, folk 


1 January 2011. London : Everything you need is already inside you

I'm starting the year inspired. I spend most of my time thinking "outside in" (understanding how markets are changing, what customers want, and how companies can respond to the changing world) and "future back" (imagining future possibilities, then helping companies to practically connect with them more innovatively). So to start "inside out" is different ...

Of course Nike's "Just do it" and Adidas' "Impossible is Nothing" are well known mantras, urging is to reach beyond assumed limits ... but as chair for the 2011 International HR Summit in Istanbul next month, I was asked by the organisers to introduce the theme of "unlocking potential from the inside out". So I wrote this ...

It’s natural to feel afraid.
Alone, and inadequate, not up to the task
Everybody is searching
For the magic of success

We think it is out there
A theory, a practice, more than what we know
Somebody to give us the answer, somebody to follow
Our destiny defined by others, not ourselves

But searching is futile, and leads to waste and doubt
There is no magic formula.
Nobody else can give you the answer
There is nobody better than you

Everything you need is already inside you
Look into the mirror, what do you see?
That’s not you. You are far more
With the potential to go beyond what you ever imagined

You are the source of new ideas, of creativity and growth
With the skills and knowledge to raise performance
The passion and commitment
To make it happen

All this, and much more, is inside you
As individuals and teams, as communities with purpose
All that you need, everything you dream
Talent is latent, potential is deep inside everyone of us

What we need is a little guidance, to inspire us, to push us
A listening ear, a supporting hand
To help us think different, to connect in new ways
To do what we never thought possible

Only you can unlock your potential
Only you can reject limits, and accept new possibilities
To shape your own destiny, write your own history
With confidence, commitment, and courage

Be bold, be brave, be brilliant. 

7 December 2010, Istanbul, Guru Forum : Kevin Roberts and the Future of Brands

I’ve known Kevin since he launched his great book Lovemarks some years ago. At the time, I was hosting the event in one of London’s largest nightclubs, Fabric, and so he decided Simon Cowell-like to bring his new girl band along with him. Named after Saatchi & Saatchi’s biggest clients, they were selected to project a more youthful personality for each brand, and engage people in new ways. I loved it, the idea of new brand media, but I don’t think it worked (although Wieden & Kennedy have taken the idea further, and successfully too). I also loved how Kevin reframed his ad agency, as an ideas company too. Brands are about ideas, ideas people love deeply and personally.

In the last few years, the Kiwi resident from Lancashire who loves to tell how he shares a Manhattan apartment block with "a whole gang of bald 50 (60?) -something guys with black t-shirts like Robert de Nero” has got more provocative, more engaging, although a little predictable. He loves NZ rugby and Prius cars (he has three, one for each house), he dresses in outrageous shirts but loves Shanghai Tang, he rejected England because of its snobbery but loves his cottage in Grasmere, he was always the bare-foot rebel even in his early days in fashion and cosmetics, and he always rejects convention, anything ordinary.

Lovemarks are brands that rise above logos and fads, that embrace “mystery, sensuality and intimacy”. We live in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – or to reframe that – vibrant, unusual, crazy and awesome). SISEMO drive our actions, a world of screens and interfaces, entertainment and movies. The challenge of the next decade is blue, green but with the opportunities of blue skies and blue oceans. CEOs are the last people who can guide us there, locked inside their offices, not living in the real world, and certainly not in the margins where newness emerges. A world of ideas, imagination and incredible opportunity. Yadeyadeya (as he likes to say).

And then we introduced 2020. Futureagenda.

This is the result of a mind-blowing project by Tim Jones and a team supported by Vodafone who spent a year travelling the world, exploring with leading thinkers and practitioners how they see the world changing over the next decade. What are the certainties (Asian power, population imbalance, resource constraints)? What are the drivers (trust and privacy, global and local, choice)? And what are the probabilities (and implications for each sector, to start acting now)?

Futureagenda is being launched more formally next week, with a new book and website, and a new consulting team to help clients explore the opportunities to develop a new growth agenda for the next decade. Innovation from the future back, you might say (or my new book does!). There are six areas that emerge as likely to have most impact, and opportunity for business:

• The Future of Mobility – Asian planes and trains, clean fuels, traffic congestion
• The Future of Security – food and water supply, authenticity of everything
• The Future of Locality – being communal, intelligent buildings, solving the last mile
• The Future of Health – automation, enhancements, medical tourists and pharma foods
• The Future of Wealth – differentiated knowledge, leasing and dynamic pricing
• The Future of Happiness – finding identity, growing older, and being ordinary

You can find much more about each of the agendas on the new website, exploring what it means by country and sector. Of course it’s about possibilities and probabilities, and how you understand, interpret and apply them, explore potential scenarios to test your own ideas and strategies, then driving innovation in more thoughtful and intelligent ways.

Kevin struggled with this. Futures? CEOs? Frameworks? Can you really put everything into nice structured boxes, and predict the future. Of course you can’t. But that’s why you need intelligent creativity, informed yet uncertain. It’s also why business is about ideas, people and brands. Next day, he pronounced marketing to be dead. Of course it’s not, it just needs to think different – bigger, better and act more brilliantly. Later I explored Gaga to Gugu, and a new future for marketing. I love his provocations, and I enjoy busking with him. I think it’s just the beginning of a big conversation … 

Download my Future Agenda one page framework, and my Gaga to Gugu presentation

1 December 2010, Barcelona, Spain : Prime Time for London 2012 Sponsors

I love Barcelona. I fell in love with it during the Olympic Games of 1992. The remarkable images of the high divers with Guadi’s Sagrada Familia in the background, the moment that local hero Fermin Cacho kicked for home to win an unexpected gold medal in the blue ribbon 1500m, and the fantastic stadia that still inspire me on top of Montjuic …

I’m here for EIBTM, Europe’s largest events and travel market, and to do the keynote speech on the future of meetings and events. But talking to the event planners, and travel organisers, everybody is always two years ahead, and so the talk of London Olympics is more feverish here than in the 2012 host city itself.

Having just completed a consulting project for one of the London 2012 lead sponsors, I have been amazed by how many of the other leading sponsors have little idea how they will spend their money. A bit of brand endorsement and corporate hospitality during the event itself is nice, but incredibly uncreative and with limited ROI.

Sponsors of London 2012 should be thinking bigger and better, strategic and creative, and starting to implement their programmes now.

Some examples of sponsorship programmes that have transformed brands, reach out and engaged existing and new audiences, changed perceptions and behaviours, and delivered step changes in business performance include

Nike’s sponsorship of elite athletes, from Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods (a great success previously, hasn’t harmed the brand, and will still be great the long run), adding authenticity, personality, endorsement, affinity and innovation as it entered new product categories

O2’s sponsorship of the Millennium Dome transformed the venue’s image and performance, created a lasting icon for the brand, and an on-going programme of exclusive benefits for the mobile phone’s consumers in an otherwise price-driven market.

Red Bull’s innovative “Air Race” series attracts millions of spectators to venues across Europe with its own created events that define the brand’s attributes of youth, speed and adrenalin. More than any advertising, the scale and drama of the event captures the brand.

Yet most corporate sponsorships are mediocre and wasted. Instead, connecting your brand with an incredibly aspirational and engaging event is worth 100 times the weight of interruptive media (conventional advertising, direct mail, and sales promos). But come the games, it will be too late, and they will become drowned in the noise. Olympic sponsorship is a three year programme – 2011, 2012 and 2013. The year after also gets forgotten most often, but it’s the time when you consolidate connections and get the real impact.

So what are the 7 characteristics of great sponsorship programmes, and what should every sponsorship manager be thinking about right now?

• A powerful idea – a clear, compelling concept that fits with the brand
• Launches new possibilities – changes attitudes and behaviours
• Simplicity of execution – the story and benefit are obvious
• Continuity of activities – more than a campaign, it endures and evolves
• Exclusive participation – people want to do more to be part of it
• Introduces new language – becomes an icon, translates into everyday
• Dedicated brands and products – more than a campaign, has its own life

Sponsoring the Olympics, more than any other event on the planet, can be a “slingshot” opportunity for any brand - an energising force that accelerates and propels something in a new direction with enormous energy ... Changing perceptions of the brand, touching people more emotionally, engaging them in a more human vision, accelerating innovations and integrating our products and services, and showcasing real experiences on a massive scale.

London 2012 promises to be an incredible sports and cultural experience ... but who will I love for making feel part of it?

Contact me for details on hw InnoLab can help you develop a better programme

25 November 2010, Riga, Latvia : The Future of Retail

The Baltic markets have been particularly hit by economic crisis, although Estonia is rising again with Euros in its pockets from January 2011. The snow has just arrived in Riga, the beautiful old city that some used to describe as the Paris of the East. It was snowing the last time I was here too (so maybe it’s never stopped, weather to match a deeply frozen economy). But the opportunities for growth come by thinking bigger, learning from other markets, exploring new business models, reaching beyond physical boundaries, and old constraints. So people were listening more intently than ever …

The future of retail is not about automation. We explored the Real “Futurestore” which has been developed by Metro Group just outside Dusseldorf as a showcase of retail automation – mobile assistants, smart cooler, customised cosmetics, self check-outs, ambient environments, market stalls, wine worlds, fingerprint scanners (nothing that amazing, but at least all in one place)

Watch the Futurestore movie

… But the future of retail is about more than this … it’s about ideas, the purpose, concept and experience of the total purchase and consumption experience. It goes beyond a store format, a website, a few seconds of cents of efficiency, and a purchase transaction …

You can see the full presentation of “what’s hot and what’s next”, which in particular explored the themes of new types of consumer engagement, the growth of hybrid channels and flexi formats, and new profit models.

Download my presentation Retail 2011+

Here are some of the more interesting retail examples that got people talking at this Swedbank-sponsored event:

• Ace Café, creating brand spaces where people who love Harleys hang out
• Adidas Tokyo, brands are enablers, so they installed changing rooms and showers
• Amazon Kindle, more than a match for the iPad and its plans to dominate publishing
• Apple Store, it’s not about what you sell, but how you enable people to learn and explore
• Burberry, throwing off the chav image, and building premium equity again
• Clemens en August, premium fashion retailer, that only sells when “on tour”
• Clube Amostra Gratis, the Brazilian sample store, with subscriptions and freebies
• Deal Radar, with Tweets, Foursquare and Places, mobile marketing comes of age
• Disigual, the quirky Hispanic fashion retailer, and their “undie party”
• Drench, drinks vending gets more fun, you pay but you have to win the game too
• EBay Box, making mailing more interesting and sustainable, “where has the box been?”
• Foodzie, people buy into concepts, which are delivered by editors and aggregators
• Give Me Tap, the Manhatten network of retailers who will fill up your water bottle
• Hippity Hop Shop, upmarket kids clothes that come to your door, an obvious one
• Jangeus, subscription based retailing of everything from kitchen ware to modern art
• InQBox, Japan’s showcase shops, where brands hire a shelf for a day or a year
• Izarzvgaza, the traditional Spanish butcher who prepacked and got into vending
• Lianoning Xinglong, retail innovation of the year, with Chinese kung-fu assistants
• Magical Story Machine, a step up from customised books, the essential gift
• Nikelab Japan, new media winner with a unique customised co-creative environment
• Panty by Post, sign up for a new pair of knickers each month, and Manpacks for men
• Shopkick, move over loyalty cards, this mechanic incentivises real behaviour change
• Shufl, the next webstores, “what you want, when you want it, really really really quick”
• Superdry, from a market stall, how it became super cool with a bit of Japanese
• Supportland, retailers and shoppers of Portland coming together to support each other
• Tesco Click & Collect, buying online is convenient, but sometimes it easier to pick it up
• Top Shop NYC, ignoring the boss, the new flagship is an awesome experience
• Truworths, South African fashion retailer with the extraordinary fan club
• Unilever, the ice cream machine that only serves you if you smile
• VIP Club, the future us about subscription, membership, and exclusivity
• Zappos, Heisch reframed his store around what people want – delivering happiness

What’s great about retail innovations is that they are a great “parallel market” to stimulate ideas for any other sector too, reflecting the fast-changing behaviours and expectations of consumers.

Read more about great retail customer experiences  

20 November, Sicily : Capco and the Cult of Cool Consulting

The management consulting business is conservative and commoditised, and whilst the incredibly intelligent, and sometimes experienced, people in these firms can add enormous value to their clients through their thoughtful, analytical, impartial support, it can also lack a bit of magic. Companies turn to the likes of Accenture or Bain, McKinsey or PA, more for focus and optimisation, less for new ideas and real innovation.

I felt a new energy when I attended the Annual Partner Meeting of a fairly new, but incredibly fast growing, consulting firm at Rocco Forte’s incredibly remote and barren Verdura resort in Sicily. Capco promises to “form the future of finance” ... Indeed this is a business advisor who is not in the business of compromise, and only wants to do significant things that create huge amounts of value. They’re open to anything, from strategy to operating the resulting business, alongside creative business models to share risk and reward.

But what makes Capco different?

In 1998, entrepreneur Rob Heyvaert who had previously made a small fortune selling his first business, Cimad Consulting to IBM, founded The Capital Markets Company NV. Initially based in Belgium, he quickly opened in London, New York and Frankfurt, and within a year or two had rebranded into the black and white of “Capco”. Acquiring whole teams from rival firms, and setting up divisions and offices monthly, the business defies the concept of recession. Last month the company was acquired by FIS, providing new capital to sustain the growth.

Dressed head to toe in black Prada, with the elusive style and passion of a movie star rather than a CEO, Heyvaert is a controversial celebrity in his native Belgium – the host of a reality TV show (The Matrix meets The Apprentice) and a sometime male model. He inspires and intimidates in equal measure. I like him. He has attitude and ambition, style and a sense that maybe he can conjure up something a little special.

This was no ordinary meeting either, culminating in “The Treaty of Sciacca”, a manifesto commitment signed by every partner, pledging to deliver yet more ambitious services, and growth next year. The challenge of course, is to stay different. Easy when you’re small and independent, hard when you’re big with new owners. Many of the partners, in their conventional suits and ties looked a little uncomfortable, although every one of them raved about how excited they were to be part of it.

The world favours the ones who dare to be different.

30 October 2010, New York, USA : Sex and Tribalism at Aberchrombie & Fitch

A few days in NYC are a great way to recharge the batteries. Whilst it’s a city that never sleeps, there’s an energy about it that says the world is your oyster, and opportunities are around every corner.

My first love is running, so waking early I kicked on my Nikes and headed for Central Park. At 0530, the sidewalks are already crowded, and by the time I reached the park, it was like a mass participation event, with runners 5 abreast running the perimeter road, with a few “Gyakusou” types running in the opposite direction (they’re a cult running group in Japan!). Watching the dawn break whilst feeling the air deep in your lungs … Kicking in a few efforts around the reservoir, imagining running the last 385 yards of next week’s NYC marathon, and watching the sun rise on the tower blocks of upper west side is stunning (made me think of the Donna Karan interview for the new book, and how the city still inspires her).

Walking the streets is always best to see what’s happening. Heading towards Times Square, a random steel door is painted with vibrant Pop Tarts graffiti, and inside is a pop-up Pop Tarts World trying to activate the brand in youthful (and weird – Pop Tarts sushi, anyone?) ways. M&M World for the kids is an obvious but entertaining place, and Bryant Square with its just opened free ice rink in front of the City Library is mightily impressive. Heading to Fifth Avenue, I still love the sight of the glistening Chrysler Building, far better than anything recent uber-architects have created. Cole Haan is Nike’s upmarket casual wear brand, and is still finding its feet. Whilst Ugg was opening their new flagship store, in partnership with Jimmy Choo (interesting mix!), and free Whoopie Pies (on brand?).

And then there were the endless line of people. Not for the must-do Empire State, or head-turning MOMA, but for that temple of youth culture, Aberchrombie and Fitch. No its not new, but it still attracts the crowds, desperate to “be part of it” (browsing, buying anything, carrying the bags, done it). With their auditioned assistants showing off their figures and six packs, under their checked shirts, the relentless beats and dark club lighting, it’s hardly the ideal place to make thoughtful purchases, but that’s not the point. The product is good but average, the experience is sensual and tribal, and the brand is everything.

A few interesting thoughts on the A+F brand:

It’s not new. Founded in 1892 in Manhatten as an “elite outfitter of sports and excursion goods”. Bankrupt in 1976, the brand was acquired by Oshman Sports and relaunched as a mail order business selling hunting and novelty items. In 1988 it was bought by The Limited.

It’s focused. Target audience is 18-22 year olds, and those aspiring to be (oldies are discouraged!) offering a “casual luxury” lifestyle. Sub-brands include Hollister Co (14-18 year olds), Gilly Hicks (Aussie lingerie) and Aberchrombie Kids (preppy 7-14 types).

It stays cool. Bruce Weber’s semi-nude photography has captured the brand essence much more than its moose logo, or any advertising. Only employees feature, having previously been “cast” in auditions. The brand image is a “movie” because it plays out instore. 

14 October 2010, MV Arcadia : Brands and Creative Participants

This year’s Marketing Forum has a slightly tired feel to it. Richmond Events have been promoting their much-copied format of bringing clients and suppliers together, held captive on a cruise liner for three days, unlimited food and drink, a conference programme to make it seem a little more worthy, and a winning business model. Maybe, although the marketing version seems to be in decline with lower level people, less thinking and fewer known suppliers each year.

My keynote focused on my “Brands that Do More” (stop thinking of brands as ambient communication platforms, and instead as aspirational approaches that enable people to achieve more, beyond the product and service, beyond the purchase and application). Brands are not about companies and products, but customers and benefits. They reflect what customers aspire to achieve, why and how. Not the what. They rise above products, quickly commoditised, to do more for people. Brands are enablers. Brands are ultimately, in one way or another, about making life better. 

Download my presentation Brands that Do More

My second session was on “The New World of Creative Participants”

In Africa people live the concept of “Ubuntu”, translated as “I am because you are”. There is a mutual dependency, but they also share a realisation that together we can be so much more successful than alone. In the new world enabled by digital business, people have embraced the opportunities of participation (or “co-creation” as we more intellectually term it) – from spectators who browse the web, facebookers who socialise, consumers who contribute reviews on Amazon or Tripadvisor, to activists who express themselves in blogs, and creators who are the digital entrepreneurs.

15% of us now walk around with smartphones, and as a result are connected and potentially more intelligent than ever before – we know more, and can act together. Networks and communities mean we trust and respect people like us, rather than abstract brands. As a result brands seek to engage rather than interrupt, pull not push, move beyond transactions. Brands bring people together, they reflect and inspire, but are no longer in control. New technology-enabled, creatively-inspired business models emerge, enabling people to do more together, and as a result power has fundamentally shifted from business to customer, from few to many, brands to markets.

From Jessica Edwards, the teen millionaire blogger and her endorsements, to Coke’s 5 million fans on Facebook, realtime pilates across continents with your WiiFit, and 60% of Lego customers signing up to share photos, O2’s user generated mobile service GiffGaff, and a 12% increase in profitability thanks to the enabling features of Nike+, there are many examples of the fundamental impact, fast and dramatic, of creative participation.

There are 7 components to co-creation

• Co-thinking … like the IBM innovation jams to share new ideas inside and out
• Co-designing … like Jones Soda and its user-generated flavours and labels
• Co-developing … like Current TV’s entire content and user-voted scheduling
• Co-deciding … like Boeing enabled customers to shape its innovative Dreamliner
• Co-communicating … like Net a Porter, customer narrative adds authenticity and trust
• Co-selling … like Avon’s representatives famously do, more so than ever today
• Co-supporting … like Apple advocates supporting each other in online forums

And bringing it all together through an integrated programme of co-creation development and marketing … as P&G has done over the last decade, doubling the market value of its business.

Download my presentation The New World of Creative Participants 

4 October 2010, Anatalya, Turkey : The Next Industrial Revolution

Turkey really is becoming the centre of the new business world – a world where “crossovers” are becoming fundamental – east/west, physical/virtual, customised/innovative. I’m here to help Covidien celebrate another block-buster year in the healthcare business, and to forwards to a fast changing future. Which got me thinking about the future of business, in healthcare and beyond.

Some companies seem to characterise the challenge, and the change:

Alibaba – Jack Ma’s platform for a million businesses to find their feet, a digital platform that brings together suppliers and manufacturers, distributors and consumers, to do business on a huge, virtual but ultimately physical way.

Li & Fung – the century old Hong Kong based company has moved away from low value outsourcing, to create entirely virtual value networks for start-ups and brands like Levis. Offices around the world bring together the best of everything you need.

Baidu – which is the largest social network in the world? Not Facebook or Myspace, but the Chinese social networking site that is giving Asians the opportunity to find themselves, express themselves, to think and consume, like never before.

Threadless – yes, there are still some great ideas in California, where Nichol and DeHart have created one of the world’s coolest companies – user-designed, user-voted, user-promoted t-shirts, check out the designs, prizes and regular v-logs.

GE – the big old “supertanker” companies are having a tough time changing course in dynamic markets, but Immelt has the right idea – from his Ecomagination vision, to his customer dreaming sessions, he is trying to still make scale matter.

Wuxi Pharma – personalised drugs are the response to DNA scanning and predictive healthcare, but Wuxi brings a different business model, combining low cost production with the specialist, customised solutions in demand.

How does this all come together? Well, every so often you read a really great article which suddenly makes sense of everything.

Chris Anderson’s “The Next Industrial Revolution” article in Wired describes the future of hybridised, collaborative, customised businesses. It tells the story of Local Motors, and why “… the past 10 years have been about discovering post-institutional social models on the Web … whilst the next 10 years will be about applying them to the real world” … Read it here.

21 September 2010, Paris, France : Renault finds the new 2CV in Romania’s Dacia

Walking up the Champs Elysees this evening – desperate for a drink and bed after an incredibly busy day that started in Stockholm and ended with another speech followed by drinks with the Ambassador as we admired how beautiful and compact the French capital really is – I was struck by the cars. Up and down the 10 lanes of heavy, manic traffic, the most popular car brand was an unexpected one.

Dacia, is a Romanian car maker, bought by Renault a decade ago. Having been intended as a small, entry-brand to reach out to emerging markets, Dacia has been a surprising success in Europe. With 71% sales growth in the last 12 months, it has outsold Fiat, Toyota and Opel in Europe – and helped its French parent to retain a 22% share of the local market. The Sandero model, starting at Euro 7500 is one of Europe’s top ten models, and the four wheel drive Duster promises even better things.

Whilst Dacia is also doing well in its old markets of Romania and its eastern European neighbours, Renault has an unexpected hit on its hands. France has taken to the cheap, basic car a little like it once defined itself by the slow, sluttering 2CV. Although the old Citroen had far more style.

20 September 2010, Stockholm, Sweden : The Future of Banking

Banks have had a tough time, maybe deservedly I hear you say. But it has made them realise they need to change, at least in the retail world. People aren’t prepared to tolerate perceived greed and complexity, trust and reputation has been hugely destroyed, and banks themselves need to get better at managing their business, thinking smarter about innovation and managing risks.

“Welcome to the Gaga economy” I told the local newspaper Dagens Nyheter which created some interesting headlines, and then with 250 banking CEOs in the room I explored with the challenge of how money matters less (how much I have), but matters more (how I use it) … how to help consumers who are more considered (purposeful, responsible, caring), resourceful (practical, empowered, selfless), human (individual, communal, and seeking happiness), participative (tribal, collaborative, sharing), and escapist too (indulgent, expressive and a little bit more quirky).

It was great too to have one of my most admired banks of the year in the room – Jyske Bank from Denmark – who alongside the likes of Intuit, Metro, MPesa, Triodos, Umpqua and Zopa are rapidly redefining the business models, creative possibilities and retail experience of financial services.

Visa Europe have done a fantastic job this year in helping banks to see the light – to become more consumer-centric, to appreciate the value of real innovation, and to bring new thinking from within and beyond the sector to Europe’s banks, and ultimately its retailers too.

Download my presentation The Future of Banking

23 August 2010, Edinburgh, Scotland : Lady Gaga and the New Art of Marketing

The Edinburgh Festival is famous worldwide for its eclectic mix of music and drama, the cutting edge of the fringe, the bagpipes and kilts and a wee dram of the golden stuff. This year, we added a new venture, the Edinburgh International Marketing Festival.

Gaga to Guggenheim” was my provocative theme for the keynote. Not many people realise that two years ago this week, we saw the collapsing of Lehman Brothers and a resulting tsunami of financial chaos and fear ripple across the globe, and the simultaneous launch of one of the most daring, provocative and interesting music stars of our times.

The Fame Monster arrived in the form of Stefani Germanotta, yet another drama school dreamer, who under the guidance of Akon, transformed herself into Lady Gaga. The outrageous costumes, hats and accessories, extreme language and outrageous behaviour made us take note. Just Dance, Paparazzi, Alejandro … the music was hot, funky and relentless. She dominated the media, she created word of mouth like nothing else, she built a global presence in no time.

Brands can learn much from Gaga. Provoking, inspiring, redefining, iconic … touching people more deeply. Love her or hate her (which is what great brands do, according to Nike’s Scott Bedbury), she transformed her market, and engaged her audiences like nobody else.

Time for a new art of marketing, more daring and dramatic, sensing and engaging, intriguing and inspiring. Yes, marketing needs science to provide focus and optimisation, but it needs imagination to make creative leaps forward, to connect disperate ideas, to engage with people more deeply. To cut through the noise and fear, brands need to do more, in creative ways.

Other speakers came from near and far, including Pipe Stein, Creative Director of Notable in Uruguay with his great “ideas without money”, and Green Team’s Jimmie Stone from Venezuela who gave some fabulous insights into sustainability-infused branding.

Download the presentation The New Art of Marketing

15 August 2010, Holiday Reading : Chaotics, Clever and Jonny Bunko

Books are a rare extravagance in our fast and digital world. Why work through 300 pages of thoughtful narrative when you have Google, Fast Company or TED at your fingertips?

Because the best books make you think. They stretch you, dig for deeper insights, add more illuminating context, connect the unconnected ideas, and maybe even change your perspective. That’s how I try to write, and what I seek in others.

Making sense of post-crisis markets is a big theme in recent books. In “How the Mighty have Fallen” Jim Collins reflects on winners, losers and why some companies never give in. Peter Nolan in “Crossroads” thinks the change is more fundamental, describing the end of capitalism and the future of humanity, whilst “Worldchanging” by Alex Steffen is a fascinating guide to the new world.

So what should we do? Adam Richardson’s “Innovation X” explains how a company’s toughest problems are its greatest advantage, whilst “Anything but Ordinary” by Germany’s Anja Foerster offers a crash course in lateral thinking. Add to these, Phillip Kotler who makes a long overdue return to form in “Chaotics” on the challenge of marketing in the age of turbulence, with a particular passion for the power of human spirit.

Whilst smart thinking matters more than ever, technology is the great enabler. “Marketing in the Moment” by Michael Tasner brings together brands, networks and new types of engagement in a guide to web 3.0 marketing. This is complemented by Peter Miller’s “Smart Swarm” which explains how to use animal behaviour to organise our world. But the new world is aesthetic too, and design thinking is the new big thing. “Simplicity” by MIT Media Lab’s John Maeda offers a great starting point, whilst the practice is best explained by IDEO’s Tim Brown in “Change by Design” which shows how design can transform business and inspire innovation in everything.

And finally, a new world and new thinking requires new approaches to people, how to get the best of out of yourself and others. “Clever” by Judith Leery-Joyce makes you rethink how to lead your smartest and most creative people, whilst right-brain evangelist Dan Pink offers a Japanese comic book vision in “The Adventures of Jonny Bunko” and the last career guide you’ll ever need.

What’s most different about the new ideas is that they come from different places – science and nature, artists and musicians, mixed with insights from the most innovative companies like Alibaba and Zappos, from Beijing to Rio. Making sense of this eclectic fusion is the challenge I set myself in writing “Creative Genius” which I described as “the essential innovation guide for business visionaries, border crossers and game changers” and comes out in January 2011. 

Read more about Creative Genius

11 June 2010, Johannesburg : Africa, football ... and the power of "ubuntu"

“Ubuntu” is the power of togetherness.

Whilst in recent years the word - taken from the Bantu language of southern Africa - has been used by Bill Clinton to describe a new political vision, and by Mark Shuttleworth to brand his open-sourced software, it first became famous 20 years ago when Nelson Mandela walked free from Robben Island and used the word to describe a new South Africa.

Typically, for Africa and Mandela, he told a story: “A traveller through our country stops at many villages but never has to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, care for him and entertain him ... Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves, but it is about how together we can do much more ... The question therefore is: are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”

As South Africa’s World Cup brings us all together with a collective passion, we can reflect on the spirit of ubuntu in society and many aspects of our lives. Yet in business we are just slowly getting to grips with the power of togetherness

The power of collaboration – working with customers to achieve much more – deeper insights, smarter
innovation, and solutions that are not only products, but enable people to achieve so much more themselves.

The power of partnerships – working with unusual partners to add complementary capabilities and richer differentiation, with affinity brands
to engage people which we would find hard to alone, and to reach new sectors and geographies.

The power of communities – working with networks, local and virtual, to participate with people in new ways – enabling people to share their passions, about your brand and about what they do, to build relationships between each other, rather than clumsily with us.

In Africa we can see the power of ubuntu driving new markets, new opportunities and innovations, and resulting in some of the fastest growth in world economics. African businesses typically have a purpose beyond profit, which touches people more deeply and does more for society too, but also results in profitable results too.

Economic growth. Africa now accounts for 4 of the world’s 10 fastest growing markets – Angola (14%), Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Equatorial Guinea (source, CIA Handbook) - partly due to the rapid growth of oil exploration, but also as consumer markets in themselves.

Innovative technologies such as M-Pesa, the mobile payments system from Safaricom, are adopted much faster than in saturated mature markets – the focus is on priority, convenience and simplicity.

Kenya’s Warrior School deep in the Masai Mara is the new place to educate top executives, and to build better teams. Better than INSEAD or Harvard Business School, it focuses on strategy and innovation (Nike Free, Skye Bank) as well as leadership and competitiveness.

And then there is football. The passion of a continent came together on 11 June 2010 as South Africa’s long awaited World Cup began when the host nation’s Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the tournament’s first goal to set Johannesburg’s Soccer City into euphoric celebrations. Yet the power of “Ubuntu” is also shaping the commercial success of the World Cup too

With 715 million viewers worldwide last time, the World Cup Final dwarfs events like the Superbowl with a mere 106 million viewers. Advertisers are slowly coming to realise that sponsoring the World Cup is about more than VIP hospitality and stadium advertising.

Nike’s typical “guerrilla” advertising outperforms official sponsor Adidas many times over. With the swoosh of Ronaldo to Rooney we are encouraged to “write the future”, whilst Adidas’ Jubulani match balls are made a regular scapegoat for errors.

Our collective passions for national teams drives impulsive behaviours – JD Sports reports 44% growth, Panasonic celebrate the take off of their 3D televisions, ITV reports record breaking ad revenues, and Carlsberg have never sold such much beer in one month.

Africa, football and the power of Ubuntu ... it gets us all working together. And in the marketing world, it has sparked a overdue release of creativity too. Here are my favourite ad spots from this year’s world cup, each one using the power of humanity, passion and togetherness ...

1. Robben Island by ESPN: Mandela’s prison for 40 years provides the back drop for a moving look at the history of South Africa and its connection to soccer (by Wieden + Kennedy)

2. Mandingas by Nike: In Brazil there is an almost religious level of superstition and commitment about the game, and the historic blue shirt (by Saatchi and Saatchi).

3. Team Talk by Carlsberg: Finally one uniquely for England, packed with sporting legends it conveys patriotism and excitement unlike anything else (Saatchi and Saatchi).

Come on Africa!

10 May 2010, London : Why didn't Cameron learn from Obama?

The Obama Campaign of 2008 transformed the communication and business models of political engagement. Team Obama brought together the passion of humanity, the reach of digital, the participation of ordinary people, and the inspiration of dreams that could come true. They combined to build a brand that inspired people at a time when political trust was lowest and economic uncertainty was at its height:

• The “Yes We Can” language of NLP was simple and a symbolic echo of JFK and MLK
• Shepherd Fairey’s poster was adapted by segment with “hope”, “progress” and “change”
• Change was explained simply, as transformational healthcare, education and equality
• Online fundraising, largely in micropayments, generated a huge campaign budget
• Blogs, tweets and vpods enabled instant and more human messages to reach over media
• Community websites listened, informed and debated with volunteers and supporters daily
• Youtube hits by Dave Stewart and engaged youth audiences with a new cool
• The iconic “O” sunrise logo by Sender was ubiquitous, a glue bringing it all together

Together, the campaign generated $650m (seven times more than McCain), over 20 million people decided to vote for the first time, the Obama website became the third most popular in the country, viewing figures for the TV ads went up not down during commercial breaks (30 million watched his final day 30 minute infomercial), and the final share of vote (53%) was the highest in 22 years.

Two years later in the UK election campaign, you would have expected at least some of these ideas to have been adopted or adapted. Yet the campaigns of Cameron, Brown and Clegg lacked any of this. Yes, it’s a different time and place – more about parties than personalities, over just four weeks, and in a serious and gloomy climate. But we got the most unimaginative, largely negative, and poorly communicated campaigns. There was, of course, the novelty of TV debates where the unknown charisma of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg shone through in a way that was never before possible. But apart from that ... I was hugely underwhelmed.

Cameron injected his youthful slickness to the Conservatives (and was surprisingly never accused of slime or spin), but his messages of “Change” (to what?) and “big society” (what’s that?) were lost. His previous environmental passions (wind turbines, bicycle riding) were forgotten, and his more scary right-wing colleagues were hidden away.

Clegg positioned himself on the side of the people. Everyone called him Nick, and liked to agree with him at first, until he became a threat to them. But he often got lost in the details. Debates on immigration seemed to forget that UK was now part of the EU. Tax issues were so confusing we could never work out what was good and bad, and the bluster against banks was always more for effect than with any specific actions that we believed they could implement.

Brown delighted in being the opposite – his attempted statesmanship coming across as old, tired and grumpier than ever. “We’re in the future business” just didn’t ring true as a manifesto title. However worthy his policies, he just couldn’t communicate them, resorting to negative scare tactics, and the unfortunate jibe. He was obsessed with economic point scoring, and seemed resigned to being blamed for a global economic crisis in which he probably did a lot more good than bad.

The result was a confused electorate, most of us left without much inspiration for any party, and an inconclusive result. Interestingly Cameron only came to life when trying to responds to the impasse, begging his new friend Nick to come and join him in a government. It was interesting how all politicians seemed much more real, more engaging, and more believable when their campaigning was over, their PR gurus cast aside, and they could actually be themselves.

So what happened to the lessons of the Obama campaign?

Where was the hope and inspiration in the UK campaigns? Why couldn’t the speechwriters find simpler language and stronger messages? Why didn’t anybody seize the opportunity of digital technologies, building communities, engaging people more collaboratively? Steve Hilton seemed so be stuck in his ideals and unable to connect the Tories with real people, whilst Alistair Campbell seemed to be out of date still relying on the power of the front page. On the lack of any digital communication, one insider admitted that “none of us understand that stuff”.

Nobody seemed switched on to the new world. Nobody recognised the power of simplicity or humanity. Nobody had a big bold message of hope in these uncertain times.

Perhaps this should be a wake-up call - not just to politicians and their so-called communication experts – but to business leaders too.

Businesses and brands can still learn much from the Obama campaign, and the many other great companies who are embracing the potential of new hybrid physical-digital marketing techniques. From Current TV and Threadless and their collaborative business models, to the dis-intermediating potential of financial networks like FiLife and Zopa, marketing innovation is all around us.

These networked businesses are rising up out of the rubble of economic crisis, and uncertainty of a changing world. They are small, and with limited budgets ... but with better ideas, and smarter ways to engage people.

22 March 2010, Cambridge : The Post-Crisis Consumer

As California’s sub-prime mortgage crisis raged across our television screens, stock markets crashed, energy prices rose, and the structures of our society seemed in peril, we lost confidence. Of course, lurking behind this panic was a debt mountain that we had created, growing uncontrollably for too long.

Whilst the pain of economic crisis has been real and acute for many businesses, for most us, as consumers, it has been more of an emotional rollercoaster. And those irrational, often unconscious attitudes have changed our attitudes to money and what they do with it, in a way which is set to stay long after stock markets recover.

And whilst the economic crisis affected each of us in different ways, for all of us it felt bad. Some people lost their jobs, or had salaries reduced, whilst others enjoyed the benefits of low interest rates and reduced mortgage payments. But none of us like change, and it felt like things were changing, dramatically. We felt vulnerable, fearful, and cautious.

And now there is no going back. The emotional shock has changed our attitudes to money and what we do with it, forever.

We have moved from conspicuous to cautious consumers, from mindless to mindful in our attitudes, from extrovert to more introvert in our behaviours. There is less extravagance, less frivolity, less materialism, less impulse, and less trust. We don’t want to “flash the plastic” or be seen weighed down by designer bags anymore. It doesn’t seem right, or cool.

There is a new altruism, a new sense of responsibility, which could be summed up as “money matters less, but what they do with it matters more”.

We think more about what we spend our money on, we are a little slower and more thoughtful when making decisions, weighing up their options, and the consequences for ourselves and others. Success is no longer defined by how much stuff we have, but by what and how we buy. And we intuitively seek to de-risk our lives too, avoiding the irrational excess and debt of old.

So beware any company, bank or retailer, who seeks to encourage us to get back to the old ways – those who shout about interest-free credit deals, and encourage us to spend beyond their means. No longer do we see this as a fast track to our dreams. Instead we see you as irresponsible, or worse.

The economic crisis has also made us think differently in broader ways too.

We appreciate the inter-connectedness, and fragility, of our society – both globally and locally. The consequences for rainforests of one action, or for local communities of another, have suddenly come into mainstream focus. Social and environmental issues are no longer a charitable issue, but a direct part of our daily choices in the supermarket and at homes, introducing new and complex trade-offs.

And at the same time as all of this, digital technologies have rapidly changed the way we understand all these issues, and respond. We are more intelligent, connected and more in control than ever before. Transparency enables us to judge companies on their ethics and fairness, as well as price and promotions. Websites and communities enable us to work together and with companies in new ways. As a result, advocacy has replaced advertising, as people trust people.

Together, these forces of change – economic, social and environmental, and technological – are enabling us, the consumers, to rise up in new ways. We are more thoughtful, more responsible and more powerful. We are ready to redefine and rebuild markets on their terms.

So what has changed most for us, the consumers? What is this “new normal”?

Five new priorities stand out - themes that have risen up the consumer agenda in response to these turbulent times. These are the new factors which drive our perceptions and choice, and together form our new value equation, against which we will judge every bank, retailer and brand.

1. People are more considered

We recognise the consequences of our actions, we realise that every choice we make is a trade-off, and we reject the superficiality of fast living.

We are more responsible, more thoughtful. This might be in terms of environmental and social impacts, but equally in terms of consequences for our families and futures. Value is no longer judged transactionally, but instead is considered over the longer-term and more holistically.

Businesses are responding to this in many ways, putting more purpose into their brands, and embracing sustainable innovation. From the carbon footprint attached to every Patagonia item of clothing, to the lead of Spain’s Iberdrola in non-carbon energy, we look beyond the product, price and promotion.

2. People are more resourceful

We can do so much more for ourselves, if only you’d give us the tools to do it, and let us get on with it. We being useful and practical, applying our skills and creativity.

We want to be enabled rather than just served. We want support in achieving our specific tasks, rather than just being sold a product, and then forgotten about. We are keen to develop our own skills, to roll up our own sleeves. Value is now about what a product enables us to do, much more than how much it simply costs.

Low cost airlines from Air Baltic to Ryanair have encouraged us all to become independent travellers, whilst the likes of Tripadvisor give us trusted advice from other people like us. From home improvements to vegetable gardens, we are empowered like never before.

3. People are more human

In this incredibly commercialised, global, branded world there is often something missing: a focus on real people, and humanity. We resent being treated as averages, or as transactions.

We care more about ourselves, and those around us. We care more about people inside companies too. We care about our health and happiness, things which money can’t buy, and which can come without expense. We want to be recognised as individuals, as real people, with needs and dreams, but also with principles. Value and values are now symbiotic.

Realness, localness and personalisation matter more. Starbucks is debranding its stores to reflect local neighbourhoods. Organic cafes and local gyms are full of people trying to improve themselves for their own good, not just their looks.

4. People are more participative

We are so much more than the passive partner in a sales transaction. We have ideas to contribute like you could never imagine. We are not dumb, ignorant “consumers”.

We want to be part of it. We want to be involved in making, shaping and promoting what we buy. We also want to connect with other people like us, to share our interests and passions – be it for wildlife, music or running marathons. Value is now defined by our participation.

Lego is less about making plastic bricks, much more about enabling people to share their photos of the amazing models they make. Threadless enables you to design your own t-shirts, vote for the best ones, and buy from the limited editions each month. The best brands are no longer defined as suppliers, but as communities with a purpose.

5. People are more escapist

As doom and gloom are replaced by goodness and responsibility, we still like to indulge a little. Whilst this is not the extravagance of before, we seek small ways to make us smile.

We want to express ourselves in small and subtle ways – accessorising our clothing or furnishings with a dash of colour or quirkiness. We love the aesthetic simplicity of great design, iconic features that can have emotional rather than rational purpose.

Our iPods and iPhones have become essentials not luxuries. We are happy for pay a little extra to see Avatar or the Mad Hatter in 3D. And instead of the out-dated egotism of a Ferrari, we now feel comfortable in the funky chic of a Fiat 500.

Money matters less to people, but what they do with it matters more. People who at first lost confidence, have now come to terms with a changing world, and found their new priorities. Business and brands now need to catch up, to explore these whitespaces with more thoughtful innovation - to do more for consumers, and for society as a whole - and to seize the new opportunities through which they can get back to profitable, sustainable growth. 

28 February 2010, Malaga : The Future of Meetings and Conferences

Why would you travel half way around the world to watch yet another powerpoint slideshow? In a world that is fast and connected, where knowledge is infinite and everywhere, and virtual collaboration is free and clean, why would you go to a conference?

Meetings need to do more for people. For their hosts and sponsors, and for the participants who give up their scarce and valuable time. They need to be about more than knowledge sharing, more than uplifting speakers and social indulgence. They need to be the turning points in your business year. Having shared issues and ideas before the event, meetings need to be about collaboration and decision-making. They need to be the special moments, like the championship race of an elite athlete's season. They need to be part of a broader experience, that is sustained and supported afterwards too - part of business innovation, partnering, change programmes and learning journeys. Organisers are the catalysts and facilitators of change, helping organisations to create better futures, and energise their people to make it happen. They create the special, human moments in a digital world.

Download Peter's Malaga MPI/EMEC keynote Rethinking Meetings with Pablo Picasso and his Athens IAPCO keynote The Future of Meetings

Think creatively, think disruptively. Imagine a meeting in the future, and then think how you could start to make it happen. Where does technology add value, and how can you unlock the real value of bringing so many people together. Think like Pablo Picasso - reject the conventions, deconstruct the components, create your own genre, use your imagination and perspective, add meaning and passion. Apply your creative spirit to designing the future of meetings – more original and inventive, more about discovery and influence, more diverse in its activity and expressive its deliverables. Meetings should be the special moments in a fast and connected world. Together we can make them extraordinary.

Explore Peter's ideas and tools used in The Creativity of Extraordinary Events workshops ... or email for help in designing and delivering your own extraordinary event.

2 February 2010, Vancouver : Coke’s Zero Waste at Olympics

Coca-Cola has been working hard on its sustainability efforts in the last year ... particularly since it was revealed that a bottle of Coke uses at least 50 times as much water in its production and bottling.

Coke has developed a “Commitment 2020” sustainability plan, which includes initiatives such as green vending machines, carbon tracking, and the Live Positively programme, developed around the world with Clownfish.

In Vancouver, Coke launched a “zero carbon footprint” at this month’s Olympic Games – a big challenge for an event that attracts millions of visitors from around the world consuming food, drink, and more. (Maybe it is also to deflect attention from the rather disappointing performance of Coke Zero, the low calorie sub-brand that was launched last year as a macho alternative to the far more successful Diet Coke?)

Coke’s zero carbon footprint efforts will focus on small number of initiatives including using its biodegradable cellulose-based “PlantBottle”, delivering the goods using hybrid cars and electric carts, and storing the drinks in power-saving coolers at night. Once the bottles have been used up, Coke will compact and recycle them into hats, vests and gloves that will be given to a homeless shelter after the Olympics. Coke will also buy carbon credits for employees flying to Vancouver.

The Hara carbon footprint tracking software will also analyse use of electricity, water, chemicals, and gas, and compare it to outputs of waste water, greenhouse gas, and solid waste for the entire company.

28 January 2010, Davos : Nike Launches GreenXchange

Sustainability is one area where protecting your IP doesn't make much sense. If you hide your best social or environmental initiatives from competitors, you're hurting the planet and preventing your entire industry from finding better ways to work. That's why Nike has created “GreenXchange” a web-based marketplace that Nike CEO Mark Parker claimed will allow companies to collaborate and share ideas and patents which can lead to more sustainable business models and innovation."

“GX” sees the sports giant with a history of radical innovation – from Bill Bowerman’s orginal waffle sole, to Sandy Boedecker’s Flywire lightweight shoe architecture - initially partner with nine organisations: Yahoo, Best Buy, Creative Commons, IDEO, Mountain Equipment Co-operative, nGenera, Outdoor Industry Association,, and 2degrees. Participation doesn't mean companies have to reveal all information about their products or patents. Instead, they are offered a number of licensing structures, including research and attribution recognition, non-competitive use and simple fee structures.

The idea for GX came from Nike's Sustainable Business and Innovation Lab – run by Hannah Jones, a key contributor of my new book “People, Planet, Profit”. For some time Nike has now been driving sustainable innovation in their products with their Nike Considered  initiative, positioned as "premium innovation with environmental sustainability.

The Nike Innovation Lab imagines that one possible subject for the GX is Nike's Environmentally Preferred Rubber, which has 96% fewer toxins than traditional sport shoe rubber. If licensed on the GX, other footwear companies like Mountain Equipment might be able to get greener footwear to market more quickly than if they had to come up with similar technology by themselves.

Find out more at GreenXchange

27 January 2010, San Francisco : iPad, and the enduring cult of Apple 

After weeks of frenzied speculation, met by silence from Apple, the much anticipated big brother of the iPhone was launched – a ten-inch touch-screen tablet computer, called the iPad rather than iSlate as most had expected – that promised to revolutionise the world of printed matter in a similar way to which iPod (or rather the iTunes Store that sits behind it) has done for music.

They waited in their thousands outside the Yerba Beuna Centre - invited friends, celebrities and
influencers – waiting to witness the latest “act” in the phenomenal story that is Apple, or rather Steve Jobs. Whilst the Apple design team led by Newcastle-educated Jonathan Ive have been working for months under the tightest security, it is the way Jobs tells his story that really creates the hype.

The crowd waited. And at 30 seconds after 1000 PST, on stage he walked – trademark black turtle neck sweater, faded jeans curiously without belt, scuffed New Balance trainers, looking trim and tanned after his health rollercoaster of last year. “And here it is” with well-rehearsed understatement. He prepares these sessions himself – from post-it note storyboarding, to folksy jokes and extraordinary keywords.

Watch Steve Jobs launch the new iPad 

He called it a “magical and revolutionary” device, and sat down in a rather battered looking leather chair, to download that morning’s NY Times, and then watch a movie and play a kids game, whilst we all watched his confident key strokes on the big screen. 0.5 inches thick, and weighing 1.5 pounds (what’s that in metric, please) didn’t sound amazing, but he sounded excited. Add to that a 9.7 inch screen (like the small Vaio), 1024 x 768 screen, and a 1 GHz Apple A4 chip. Only the 10 hours battery life, including using wifi, sounded good (certainly compared to my iPhone).

In the same way that iTunes was the real disruptive business model within the music industry, it is the Apps Store that is the most exciting part of the iPad. With over 1.5 million applications already available, thanks to the open nature of the store, this will be the real goldrush. Magazines and books will be available through the iBooks store, although only five publishers have signed up so far (although I hope mine does soon – I’d love to have the Genius books in there!). And you also begin to see why the tech world is now becoming a battle of hard and software between Apple and Google.

To me, it looked a little underwhelming, simply a scaled-up iPod/Phone that doesn’t make calls, and doesnt necessarily even come bundled with wifi/GSM connection. Personally I would have preferred to see something in between – A5 rather than A4 size if you like, but that would be a little too similar to the Kindle I guess! Anyway, I can’t see it replacing my laptop just yet, so would I really want to carry two similarly-sized devices around? Hmmm ... Im not so sure ... but Apple is not about logic, its about beauty and desire ... and I’d still love one!

Did you know ...

19 years: its nearly two decades since the release of the first Apple laptop, the PowerBook 100
$50.6 billion: Apple's total 2009 revenues, by far the most successful in its 34 years.
284 stores: Number of physical Apple retail stores worldwide, with 200 million visitors last year
1 button: Simplicity is the hallmark of Apple’s design, ever more human and intuitive.

Watch Jonathan Ive describe his new iPad 

5 January 2010, London : New ideas from the GeniusWorks in 2010

New Ideas for 2010 : Here are my thoughts on where the business world has got ... and where it goes next. Its a fascinating time of turbulence and change ... as I've become rather used to saying, the economic crisis is just the crying pain of a fundamentally and fast changing world.

The question is what is changing, and how, and what does it mean for you? 

At the GeniusWorks we've pulled together a wide range of new thinking - new ideas and insights, new conference themes and keynote topics, new masterclasses and events, new training and workshops, new consulting processes and tools, and two new books too ...

"People Planet Profit" is published in February ... how to embrace sustainability for smarter innovation and profitable growth, recognising social and environmental issues as the best catalysts for innovation, in a way that engages people, does good, and drives growth.

"Creative Genius" is published in June ... how to innovate from the "future back", inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, it explores the new world of creativity, design and innovation - with 50 concepts that lead you through the Genius Lab, and 50 inspiring new case studies.

And everyone else has their opinions on the year ahead too. Here are a small selection of the strong and weak signals, predictions and observations out there:

1 January 2010, London : Trends, Technology and an A to Z of 2010+

As we sit down to work in 2010, we know that the months ahead will be tough and turbulent. After 18 months of downturn, we probably need to wait another year until we see an upturn, but the stock markets are feeling more positive, even if consumer confidence lags behind. Now is the time for entrepreneurs, to drive innovation, to shape markets as they prepare to re-emerge ... so here is my A to Z of keywords for 2010:

Ageing ... Art-vertising (glossy ads dont work anymore) ... Brand alliances
• Bioplastics ... eBooks (eventually come of age) ... Business models
CHIME nations ... Creative charities ... Crowdsourcing (research and campaigns)
• Debt ... Device convergence ... Digital nomads (wandering in a virtual world)
Energy (where the brains are focused) ... Social Entrepreneurship ... Extreme weather
• Fairtrade ... Fractional ownership ... Fuel cells (where the venture capital is focused)
• Genetic-based services ... GPS devices (the power of mobility) ... Graffiti fashion
Happiness (yes, it really is the new priority) ... Healthcare revolution ... Reid Hoffman
• Identity protection (you, your brand, your reputation) ... Inflation ... Islamic finance
• Fashion jewellery ... Multi jobbing ... Jumpsuits (yes, they're back with Stella McCartney)
Knowledge clouds ... Korean brands (the new innovation leaders) ... Kazikstan
• Licensing ... Life caching ... Location-based marketing (when and where are customers)
• Managing complexity ... Meaning (making sense, adding purpose) ... Micropayments
Nanotechnology (from cleaners to clothes) ... Neural networks ... N11 nations
• Obesity (whilst half the world still starves) ... Oil prices ... Cautious optimism
• Personalisation ... Pop-up retailing (no longer a fad, serious business) ... Privacy
• InQBox (fantastic Japanese retail concept) ... Quantum computing ... Quebec online
• Realness ... Rental culture ... Responsible business (more than the environment)
• Self publishing ... Simplicity (the biggest trend of all) ... Space tourism
Tablet computers (just wait for MacWorld 2010) ... Tweeting ... Two-speed economy
• Unemployment ... Urbanisation ... User generated (from Current TV to Threadless)
• Viral rage (customer complaints just went global) ... Virgin Galactic ... Volatility
• Water scarcity ... Wild weather ... Women consumers (growing faster than China)
Generation X ... X-Prizes (space travel to electric cars) ... XL accessories
• Yang Du (cool Chinese) ... YouTubevertising (online business models) ... Mohammad Yunus
• Zespri Gold (great kiwis) ... Zipcars ... Zopa (blueprint for the future of banking

Choose your own A to Z and then consider "What do these factors mean for me and my business this year?" Everything from baby boomers to location marketing, brand licensing and rental business models could be applicable ... with a little creative thinking.

Like Edison found in 1876, Hewlett and Packard in 1929, Gates and Allen in 1975, and Jobs in 2001, the year before an upturn is the perfect time to innovate ... 2010 will be a big year for creativity and innovation ... will it be for you too?

And the 2010+ Trendmap ... another great socio-techno-visual masterpiece from Richard and his team at Now and Next. Take half an hour to immerse yourself in the map, consider which trends matter most you, and how you might embrace them ... you can download it here

7 December 2009, Copenhagen : "Green" brands ... authentic, relevant and desired.

100 world leaders, 192 countries represented, 5000 journalists, 15000 hangers on, (and at a cost of $55m and 41000 tonnes of CO2), all to do the obvious - find a way to reduce carbon emission by 80% in 20 years. And even more would be good ... 

Whilst the issues are complex - how to support emerging nations in their pursuit of growth whilst trying to do it in a cleaner way, and how to keep the gas-guzzling Americans onside when they are the ones who need to reduce the most - we need to find bigger, better ways to succeed. Small reductions are in the right direction, but we need much more ...

  • 47 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted annually into the atmosphere worldwide, on course for 54 billion by 2020 ... but needing to cut it to at least 44 billion by then ...
  • 435 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere today ... needing to be reduced to 350 ppm by 2020, be it through lower industrial emission or less methane from cows ...
  • 6 degrees Celcius likely rise in world temperature by 2100 if no action is taken ... and its 30 million years since temperatures were at that level ...

But forget the pathetic arguments about the evidence, the science is robust, and the real impact of climate change is all around us, all around the world, as explored by Google Earth, IDEO's new Living Climate Change concept, and at the BBC

Another great insight comes from the new social networking agency Given London which asked people to send an SMS message saying "What's worth saving in this place?". The resulting selection of responses, handed out to delegates at Copenhagen is impressive and inspiring.

But it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom - people hate being told they "have to" do stuff. The opportunity of course, is to find ways that they want to do it ... and thats where business, brands and innovation come in ... rather than hit people with taxes and scare talk, find ways to make their lives better in a positive way, where they change their purchase choices and consumption behaviours because they want to, rather than telling them that they have to.

Innovations such as clean energies are a great, but it is changing the uses of this energy, in the ways we live and work - our consumption behaviour - that can really make the difference ... focus on what people want and desire, and how your brand could deliver this in a better way.

  • The hottest cars ... Tesla have created the most powerful sports car on the road, but with the lowest emissions of all
  • The coolest sneakers ... Nike Considered sportswear is made of recycled, fairtrade materials, and uses up every scraps.
  • The tastiest chocolate ... Montezuma shows that the best food is not from the big brands and big factories, but locally-sourced, hand-made.
  • Make it easier ... E-cloth is a nanotech fibre that cleans dishes and surfaces so well that you dont need detergents
  • Change the game ... Cooperative Insurance charges you less, the cleaner your car; with premiums related to carbon emissions. 

Brands, and their more innovative products and services, rethought and reinvented, can be an incredible power for good - transforming people's attitudes and desires, and making life better. Rather than just helping us compensate for our bad behaviours, they find ways we can do better, and still enjoy life ... not just one by one, but whole markets and communities ... achieving these goals in ways politics just doesn't know how ... 

Read about my new book, to be published in January 2010 People Planet Profit

22 November, London : Human Centred Design Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurship is perhaps the most exciting aspect of innovation right now. It lies at the heart of my new book "People Planet Profit" which will be published in January.

Social entrepreneurship puts social issues at the top of the innovation agenda, for both large commercial enterprises and small charitable organisations alike. For the latter it is simply focused on making people's lives better, whilst for the businesses it is about doing this in a way that also drives profitable growth.

The “Human Centred Design Toolkit” is a free innovation guide for social entrepreneurs, funded by the Gates Foundation and designed by IDEO. It helps social-issue focused innovators to understand people’s challenges in new ways, find innovative solutions to meet these needs, and create solutions that are also financially sustainable.

The "HCD Toolkit" the complete 105 page guide can be downloaded here

The "HCD Field Guide" of tools and templates can be downloaded here

The "HCD Aspiration Cards" to spark ideas can be downloaded here

The IDEO-created toolkit contains all the elements to Human-Centered Design, a process used for decades to create new solutions for multi-national corporations. This process has created ideas such as the HeartStart defibrillator, Cleanwell natural antibacterial products, and the Blood Donor System for the Red Cross ... innovations that have enhanced the lives of millions of people.

9 November 2009, Vilnius : It was 20 years ago today ... the year that changed the world 

From Tiananmen Square to Robben Island, the Worldwide Web and the Berlin Wall, 1989 was a year that transformed the modern world – it changed our outlook on what matters, it enabled fantastic new possibilities for work, and it opened up new markets never before imaginable.

The bravery of the lone Chinese protester, stirred the search for freedom in East Germany, spurred the people here in the Baltics to join hands across nations ... the birth of GPS would transform lives, just like the web. At the time, they seemed like separate events, but they now look connected – new attitudes and ambitions, new technologies and possibilities ...

• Global positioning: 14 February 1989. Cape Canaveral. “Space Vehicle Number 14” became the first of 24 satellites to be launched, together creating “GPS” that drives your car with satnav, and enables marketers to target you by time and location.

• Worldwide Web: 20 March 1989, Geneva. Tim Berners-Lee creates the first internet browser – the worldwide web – and a new hypertext language HTML for creating web pages. 4 years later Marc Andreesen launched Mosaic - and then Google arrived, and now Bing.

Cold Fusion: 23 March 1989, Salt Lake City. Pons and Fleischmann thought they had solved the energy crisis – the ability to fuse two atoms at room temperature and release unlimited energy – as a young physicist I was excited – but they were proved wrong.

• Tiananmen Square: 5 June 1989, Beijing. The image of a brave, lone man with his shopping bag, refusing to let the repressive tanks go past, sparked the conscience of people worldwide, to stand up to more, and slowly provoked change in the Chinese leadership too. 

Like a Prayer: 6 September 1989, LA. Madonna kicked off her “Blond Ambition” tour, seeking to “break every rule”. Catholicism and sexuality, masturbating to hip-hop grooves. Rolling Stone called it an "elaborately choreographed, sexually provocative extravaganza". We loved it.

• Free Mandela: 15 September 1989, Johannesburg. In his inauguration speech, new South African president FW de Klerk paved the way for the release of Nelson Mandela, the unbanning of the ANC, and the end of the evil regime of apartheid.

Berlin Wall: 9 November 1989. The wall had stood as a symbol of a divided world, repression and fear, misplaced ideology and personal tragedy. 16.7 million East Germans were free, and the rest of communism soon crumbled. A week later I was there too, celebrating and confused.

The Simpsons: 17 December 1989. The Simpsons debuted on Fox TV with a show that executives were not sure would last. Within months, the world had embraced Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie into their lives. “They’re about everything” say some “and nothing”.

Japanese boom: 29 December 1989, Tokyo. The Nikkei stock market reached a peak of 38916, a level that it has never reached since. It now lingers at under 10000, long the forerunner of today’s credit crisis. And an end to an amazingly influential year.

20 years later, I think we will look back on 2009 as having a similar impact on the world. The economic crisis of recent months has already demonstrated the speed and inter-dependence of today’s markets, but so will the many political and social changes, the technological and business innovations that we are currently witnessing all around us.

Open your eyes to a new business world ...

14 October, Chicago : Brain running, good for business

Its been a long hard year, and whilst exercise might not strike you as a priority in a downturn, think again. Neglecting aerobic activities can have negative consequences for you, at least according to Princeton University researchers who have discovered that regularly exercising rats have calm brains. According to the New York Times ...

In the experiment, preliminary results of which were presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, scientists allowed one group of rats to run. Another set of rodents was not allowed to exercise. Then all of the rats swam in cold water, which they don't like to do. Afterward, the scientists examined the animals' brains. They found that the stress of the swimming activated neurons in all of the brains. (The researchers could tell which neurons were activated because the cells expressed specific genes in response to the stress.) But the youngest brain cells in the running rats, the cells that the scientists assumed were created by running, were less likely to express the genes. They generally remained quiet. The "cells born from running, " the researchers concluded, appeared to have been "specifically buffered from exposure to a stressful experience. " The rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm.

It appears, though, that the exercise routine needs to be continuous.

The stress-reducing changes wrought by exercise on the brain don't happen overnight, however, as virtually every researcher agrees. In the University of Colorado experiments, for instance, rats that ran for only three weeks did not show much reduction in stress-induced anxiety, but those that ran for at least six weeks did. "Something happened between three and six weeks," says Benjamin Greenwood, a research associate in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, who helped conduct the experiments. Dr. Greenwood added that it was "not clear how that translates" into an exercise prescription for humans. We may require more weeks of working out, or maybe less. And no one has yet studied how intense the exercise needs to be. But the lesson, Dr. Greenwood says, is "don't quit." Keep running or cycling or swimming. (Animal experiments have focused exclusively on aerobic, endurance-type activities.) You may not feel a magical reduction of stress after your first jog, if you haven't been exercising. But the molecular biochemical changes will begin, Dr. Greenwood says. And eventually, he says, they become "profound."

Time to restart those morning runs, lunctime swims, or gym workouts!


10 September, Kingston
: Complaints are good, time to show what you can do

According to research by Kingston University, companies should encourage dissatisfied customers to complain about poor service or faulty products. It makes financial sense for firms to encourage complaints because it helps them to improve their goods and services and can even lead to increased sales.

A review of the latest trends, "Analysing Customer Complaining," commissioned by the Institute of Customer Service, found that companies who are good at monitoring customer satisfaction and are able to put things right can repair the damage, especially as vocal critics are often keen to make positive comments too.

The Kingston report says "It appears that those using negative word of mouth are much more likely to produce positive word of mouth. So firms may turn complainers into satisfied customers." He says evidence showed that about half of all negative word of mouth emanates from past customers and about a quarter from current customers. "Firms with customer databases can direct information to most of the people who are airing criticisms and may be able to tailor appropriate messages for past and current customers".

Indeed, perhaps counter-intuitively companies could benefit from encouraging complaints. "The benefits of good complaint handling are customer retention, reduced negative word of mouth, increased positive word of mouth, market research and, sometimes, increased sales," he said.

Tagish, a web development firm specialises in helping companies to manage complaints in a more effective way, encouraging them to give feedback, enabling companies to respond, and facilitating more positive advocacy. Tagish have a unique “TAG” approach to make this happen.

Find out more in my book Customer Genius, or visit Tagish at

26 June 2009, London : Hold for applause, hold for applause, and slowly fade ...

"I remember the first time i seen you moonwalk,
I believed I could do anything,
you made the world dance,
you made the music come to life ..."

For me, he was the inspiration that started me dancing, that made me want to perform, to thrill and inspire other people ... and there I was last week, completing the story of Jackson for my next book, eagerly awaiting seeing him on stage in London ... when he became history.

The last rehearsal : Hold for applause ...

24 June 2009, Montenegro : European business leaders at the Casino Royal.

James Bond goes on his first ever mission as a "00" special agent. Le Chiffre is a banker to the world's terrorists. He is participating in a poker game at Le Casino Royal in Montenegro, where he must win back his money, in order to stay safe among the terrorist market. Bond jumps into his Aston Martin and tears through the “black mountains”, with the sexual temptress Vesper Lynd at his side, to play his hand...

And so here we are, at the best hotel on the coast of the beautiful Adriatic, in the little country that broke away from Serbia in 2006. Since then it has been working at high speed to regain it independent culture, lifestyle, politics, language and economy. The Russians are here in large numbers, complemented by an diverse assortment of other playboys from across Europe. Montenegro Airlines (deep fried fish fingers in business class) is not quite up to the standards of the many private jets lined up at Tivat airport.

But the old town of Budva is quite stunning, whilst the traditional singing and dancing are an acquired taste. Much better are the Montenegro wines – particularly the reds – the rich mountainside vineyards, and the intense sunshine, deliver a taste that compares well to its Italian neighbours.

Actually I was here to talk about leadership – and why business in times of crisis need leaders with their eyes open and heads held high. Leadership used to be about hierarchical decision-making, status and control.

Today it’s quite different – in an uncertain world, business and people need to know where they are going, and why ... A leader is the navigator, making sense of the outside world, and developing an inspiring vision. Leaders, by definition, inspire followers, giving people the purpose and confidence to explore the changing world with them. But leaders also need a sense of self, to understand what makes them special, how they can add most value to the excellent people around them. Where and why, who and how.

In my last book "Business Genius" we define the new business leader with the 5C Leadership Model - where the C's define the leadership roles of being a catalyst, coach, coordinator, conductor and conscience.

Email me for a copy of the article The New Business Leaders.

Look at the great leadership stories of recent months. Brawn, Marchionne, Perez, Obama. But a great leader doesn’t need to be high profile, standing on a pedestal. Like M from M16, leaders depend on having great teams of people around them. Who is your James Bond?  

10 June 2009, Rome : Fiat seizes the opportunities of crisis and change.

As the once great Chrysler emerges from bankruptcy, the Italian car-maker Fiat takes control of a Detroit basket case.

My parents often tell me of their honeymoon, 45 years ago, spent driving along the cliff-edge roads of former Yugoslavia, marvelling at the blue-green waters below, and hoping that theuir little red Fiat 500 would make it to the next town.

Fiat was never admired for its reliability, but at least it had a cute style. For the last few decades it lost its personality too, seeming to become the Lada of the post communist Europe. But in the last 12 months, Fiat has become cool again, with the new remodelled 500 outclassing even the BMW Mini is the cool urban runabout.

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat and now also Chrysler’s CEO, sits down today to map out his salvage operation. In the last few weeks however, he has already sorted out his people, “speed interviewing” more than 100 executives, giving them 15 minutes each to share their ideas (Why should you stay? What should we do? What do you think of your colleagues?) and to determine their personal futures. Wow!

Marchionne is unlikely to make the mistake of Daimler, Chrysler’s previous owners, believing that two companies can live parallel lives across the Atlantic. Instead he is expected to centralise design and innovation with the funky Italian creatives, so expect to see future Dodge and Jeep models with a softer, more cultured look. However new launches are probably still 18 months away, so initially improvements will need to come from process efficiencies and improved sales.

Watch Fiat's new green initiative Eco-Drive

9 June 2009, Madrid : Kaka, Ronaldo, Perez, and the rise of the new Galacticos

Real Madrid were the kings of Europe. In their white Adidas shirts, endorsed by Siemens Mobile and Audi, they were football club of superstars – Beckham, Figo, Raul, Zidane and many more. They were the “Galacticos” and championed across Europe.

They were brought together by one man – Florentino Perez – the club chairman who believed in buying superb players who were also tremendous commercial assets – where their outrageous, world record transfer fees and wages, were good investments when compared to the return he was able to deliver through matches, sponsors, and merchandising. When Perez left, the Galacticos followed, the revenues dived, and so did Real’s league position. Barcelona, the arch rivals, where top dogs again, in Spain and worldwide.

But now the old leader is back – splashing out around Euro 60 million for Kaka, followed by Euro 90 million for Christian Ronaldo (interestingly, a Nike athlete joining an Adidas team). Other big names will follow, and Perez will seek to mould the incredible egos into a coherent strike force. But more importantly, redevelop the business model that created the richest football club on Earth.

Real Madrid I admire for their commercial vision, Barcelona I still love them for their football.

8 June 2009, Cincinnati : The consumer is still boss at P&G, says departing Lafley

When AJ Lafley stepped up to become CEO of the world’s leading consumer goods business, he had a rather simple message for his people. After 165 years of relentless technological product innovation, and marketing excellence, Lafley declared a revolution.

“The consumer is boss” he said, admitting that it sounded “rather like Sesame Street” language, but sometimes that’s what’s needed to get a message across. In my new book "Customer Genius" he tells the story of how he made such a seemingly obvious phrase, a fundamental challenge to many of the attitudes and behaviours across the business.

In his 9 years as CEO he has presided in a revolution in performance to – refocusing the business and the markets with most profitable growth, revitalising the best brands, driving through the blockbuster acquisition of Gillette, and almost doubling the market value. His secret was a reorientation. He moved the focus from technical R&D to consumer insight (the Lenor brand realising that product softness and self empowerment, mattered more than “whiter than white” performance).

Lafley saw leadership as the challenge of change, and is much quoted on his approach. Not least was his careful approach to succession planning, and today he announces Bob McDonald as his successor, whilst Lafley steps up to the role of chairman. McDonald is closely aligned with Lafley on P&G’s strategy – to focus on more premium brands, and emerging markets such as India and Brazil.

Download an interview with AG Lafley : Leading Change

20 May 2009, London : It's time to think from the "outside in"

It's a great feeling to launch a new book ... "Customer Genius" ... there it is gleeming, chunky, and most importantly ... finished ... yes to an author, publication date is a sense of relief and completion. But, of course whilst I might have lived with it for the last year ... researching, thinking, scoping, writing, shaping, illustrating, rewriting, improving ... nobody in the real world has read it yet!

My first book was like a download of everything I knew (about marketing), but with a provocation (that people weren't thinking intelligently or imaginatively about how to do it well). Subsequent books are written with more purpose. Driven by real issues of managers in companies (as I discover from all my consulting work), and seeking to offer practical solutions to help them do it (some books don't do this bit, but mine do - 50 inspirational case studies, 50 practical tools and techniques - not easy to research and develop, but well worth it I think!)

So here I am on stage, with an audience of many, wondering what is new and distinctive. Why they should buy and read yet another business book ... We here's why Im so proud of "Customer Genius", and believe its my best book yet ...

  • Customer's are now in control - power has shifted from business to customer (or consumers). Networks, aggregators, blogs, search give them the upper hand.

  • An "outside in" approach to business is fundamentally different - doing business why, when, where, and how customers want it, not for your own convenience.

  • Every CEO talks about customer stuff, but few actually do it - strategy is still based on products, campaigns based on products, service based around sales transactions. 

  • There are many books about (i) research insights (ii) propositions and experiences (iv) CRM and loyalty. But no books connect it all together - the customer-centric business.

  • Customers give the reason to come to work - they help you make sense of turbulent markets, they give you a high purpose, and they are your primary source of profits.

"Customer Genius" is now out - and includes a range of masterclasses, seminars and training courses too. See the new website for more info, and get a 35% discount now on the cover price.  

8 March 2009, Bear Butte : Nike goes Naked Running

Running shoes are objects of intense technological development. In 1979 I remember buying my first pair of “Wally Waffles” with the little waffled studs on the sole which Bill Bowerman felt would give runner’s more grip and flexibility. I remember the arrival of the air sole, the Tailwind, and the Air 180, as the ultimate in footwear cushioning. And for many years it was. As I wore away the soles through miles of training, I would buy new pairs two or three times every year. And ever since 1979, every pair has been made by Nike. There’s loyalty for you!

But now, Nike is claiming the biggest innovation of all – that the best thing is natural – bare foot mechanics will always win over rubber compounds and packets of air. The new range of “Nike Free” shoes build on studying Native Americans, as well as biomechanics. They’re actually a second generation, the first being dearly missed by many. And they stand out for the lightness and simplicity, differentiated by having less rather than more.

So how do you communicate the idea?

Nike, with a love for extremes, or desperation on behalf of its ad agency W+K, decided to go back to nature. It invited (almost, Paula Radcliffe) all of its top sponsored athletes to attend a “Naked Running Camp”, which meant completely naked except for the shoes of course. So with highly-toned full-frontal running sequences, Nike explains “We strip away the boundaries and comforts of modern society in order to embrace the inherent benefits of natural running, and use those benefits to become faster, stronger, better athletes.”

“It’s about natural running, or as we like to call it, ‘Supernatural’,” explains the “Bear Butte” camp director. Nike is hoping runners will check out the Camp Philosophy, then decide whether they are ready to strip down and work their “buns off to be the best.”

Watch them training at Camp Butte on Naked Running
And for an alternative approach, try Supernatural

6 March 2009, Brackley : Can Brawn GP challenge McLaren and Ferrari?

One of the early sporting casualties of the financial meltdown was Honda’s F1 team.
Motor racing has been the testosterone-fuelled, ego-driven, illogical sponsorship decision of many a CEO. From Red Bull to Vodafone, normally sane business leaders have sunk millions, maybe billions into the endless pursuit of higher speeds, glitzy corporate hospitality, and a race against the technologists. For me, sorry Lewis Hamilton, it had all become a little too predictable and unreal.

Honda, itself, spent more that £300m a year on F1, but made the headlines last year for scrapping all its associate sponsorship deals and instead covering the car in an image of the Earth, to promote its own green credentials (anyone ever measured the carbon emissions of a racing car?!).

Seizing the opportunity to take over the team was former team principal, aerodynamic wizard and master of race tactics, Ross Brawn. With engines supplied by McLaren Mercedes (one of the team’s main rivals), and highly experienced British driver Jenson Button behind the wheel, Brawn GP is out to outwit and outperform the big names of Grand Prix.

At a time when F1, and governing body FIA, are trying hard to improve the image of their sport, it is a brave (and maybe smart) move. The amounts invested in technology rather than driver skill has killed off the sporting element, and also sits at odds with a more environmentally-conscious world. Whilst they seek to significantly reduce spend, and bring more conformity between cars, maybe they should go back to racing go-karts, where the best driver wins?
Can smarter thinking beat the established giants? This season’s F1 will tell us more.

23 January 2009: "Customer Genius" in the Baltics

Last week was the first pre-launch event of my new book "Customer Genius", with further events and masterclasses throughout the year (the book is published in March 2009).

In an economic downturn, there's nothing that matters more than retaining your best customers (or consumers, as you might call them - those "wonderful people" who your business exists for!). In a crisis, customers lack confidence, their priorities change, and they make more careful decisions. Similarly you are under pressure to reduce costs, and sustain performance.

Reducing costs and investments is not a strategy for long-term success, whilst pushing the same old products at everyone, with ever greater discounts will lead to a quick death. How can you seize the urgency and necessity of a crisis? What does it really take to become a customer-centric business, to engage customers in more relevant ways, and as your source of competitive advantage?

Whilst the world stuggles with economic crisis, things are particularly tough in the small Baltic countries - Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania - until last year the new stars of the EU. Encouraged by low interest loans from Swedish banks, the Balts went on a lifestyle spending spree that has been relentless since the fall of the Soviet Union. Capitalism was good, and the streets of Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn crawled with the latest BMW and Mercedes.

But now times are harder, Latvia has followed Iceland in being bailed out by the IMF, whilst the Lithuanian government revealed it had nothing in reserve for bad times (the local airline Fly LAL was declared bankrupt today, mid way through the workshop!). Estonia, more techno-properous, the home of Skype and with close links to Finland, is faring less badly. Across the Baltics, the economy is predicted to shrink by around 8%. Employees are unilaterally being asked to take 10-20% pay cuts, and inflation is rising at 12%.

Yet the people I met continued to be optimistic, despite having experienced nothing like this before (interesting, compared to the more regular booms and bust of western economies). They continued to look for the positives, ways to think differently, how the world will change, and where they can seize an advantage. They are great listeners, and thoughtful too. They have a great survival instinct, and desire to work hard, to keep innovating and follow their dream.

Whilst around us, the piles of snow showed no signs of melting, and looking out across the ice-covered Baltic Sea, the sun still shone through. These are wonderful people, and I have no doubt that the Baltics will soon rise again in our changing world.

5 January 2009 : Consumer trendwatchers 2009

Trendwatchers around the world are full of their predictions for their year ahead. Some optimistic, others much less so. All of them suggesting caution and retreat, but with some signs of new behaviours and opportunities at the same time.

Richard Watson, author of the excellent "Future Files" and based in Sydney, kicks off the crystal ball glazing with his annual blend of trends (above). Trend Blend 2009 moves on from the subway map themes of 2008 and 2007 to show the "multi-tentacled hydra" that is the year ahead.

There are five core themes: uncertainy, ageing, global connectivity, anxiety and power shift eastwards. Perhaps no surprises there. But then trends arent supposed to be that Earth shattering, its more important to look beneath them at how they are influencing reality. This is where the more specific trends kick in. They include

  • Social trends: Search for control, enoughism
  • Technological trends: Simplicity, Telepresence, Gesture based computing
  • Economic trends: De-leveraging, 2-speed economies, Shorter product lifecycles
  • Environmental trends: Bio fuel backlash, Negawatts, Nuclear power
  • Political trends: Virtual protests, Globalisation in retreat, Immigration backlash
  • Business trends: Networked risk, Transparency, Asset price uncertainty 
  • Family trends: Debt stress, Allowable luxuries, Middle class unrest
  • Media trends: Flight to quality, Facebook fatigue, Skimming, Micro boredom

Reinier Evers, my good friend and founder of, is the master of observation and anecdotes, consolidating them as trends in memorable new ways. In his first briefing of the new year Consumer Trends 2009  Reinier explores the new worlds of nichetributes (low cost tributes to the zeitgeist), luxyoury (luxury as defined by you), feedback 3.0 (full transparency), econcierge (savings are the new green), mapmania (maps are the new interface), and happy ending (every downturn has a silver lining, he predicts).

Jeremy Gutsche, founder of, delivers his 30 Trends for 2009 on video (and yes he can remember them all). But they start to get a little repetitive. What's interesting, looking back 12 months is that few people predicted the economic chaos of 2008, or indeed an Obama election in the USA, so its worth keeping an open mind. As Richard Watson warns, trends are full of red herrings and risks. He suggests red herrings this year might include climate change crisis (its not a disaster, if we act now), nuclear power (clean, efficient energy) and device convergence (don't throw away your laptop, mobile and iPod just yet). Risks include major internet failure, obesity, electricity shortages ... and people taking trends too seriously.

1 January 2009 : What will be big in 2009?

Brands in 2009

Apolis Activism – cool and classic, and responsible too, the Californian fashion brand is becoming a green leader with its award-winning collaborations with Ugandan cotton farmers and Nepalese women’s collective.

• Correos de Mexico – you won’t miss the newly branded Mexican Mail. The 160 year old business has a new name, hot pink logo and lime green uniforms. New distribution processes and customer services seek to improve deliveries too.

• Fisker Karma – the new sexy hybrid can drive at 125 mph, reach 60 in under 6 seconds and keep going emissions-free for 80 km. The Finnish-built car only needs refuelling annually, making the Euro 62k price tag a little more attractive.

• Picard Surgeles – the place every Parisian women loves to shop, not for sexy lingerie or designer shoes, but frozen food. The premium-priced, additive free, ready meals brand already has 19% market share and Euro 1.2 bn turnover.

People in 2009

Alejandro Aravena, Chile - an architect of social housing that is stylish in design and in premium locations. His business Elemental keeps costs low by only building half the house, and leaves it to the new owner to complete it.

Kanmei Nagaoka, Japan - graphic designer appalled by his country’s disposable culture, collects and sells vintage Japanese designs through his D&Department store in Tokyo, whilst his 60 Vision project promotes locally made products.

Mikkelsen Brothers, Denmark - launched in November 2008, a social networking site for 32 million refugees, acting as a global registry to find and reunite families that have been scattered around the world.

Naresh Goyal, India - founder and chairman of Jet Airways, established in 1993 it is now the fastest growing airline in the world with 11 million passengers, 45 domestic and 19 international destinations, and revenues of Euro 1.5 bn.

Concepts in 2009

Drug Sprays – Acrux, the five year old Australian pharmaceutical business is rethinking how drugs are taken, focusing on gels and sprays and currently targeting the male testosterone and female menopause markets.

Food Unwrapped – the death of the carrier bag looks likely to be followed by the end of all that card, plastic and paper packaging on food itself. Crai Markets in Rome sell everything in large dispensers, straight into your own recycled bag.

• Green Waves – encouraging people to cycle more, Copenhagen has created bike lanes around the city with synchronised traffic lights so that eco-friendly commuters can sustain a 20km/h speed. 36% of commuters now ride the wave.

• Outdoor Gyms – as populations get older, councils are turning playgrounds into workout zones for the elderly. From Blackpool to Istanbul, the urban gyms cost around Euro 20k to build, although Nuremberg have banned anyone under 65.

Sectors in 2009 

• Banking made simple – it brought the world to its knees in 2008 with an indecipherable array of exotic products that seemed to endlessly pass debts onto somebody else, and take large fees. Banking needs simple, practical innovation that is good for customers.

• Airlines come together – the economy will drive an overdue restructuring. Expect three large airlines led by Lufthansa (SAS, Austrian, Alitalia), BA (American, Qantas, Iberia) and Air France (KLM, Northwest), plus the likes of Air Asia, Jet Blue and Ryanair.

• Energy gets real – oil prices remain volatile, Russia switches on and off its pipelines, and politicians and public realise how dependent and vulnerable they are. The investments in nuclear, wind, solar and algae power now look urgent rather than a future dream.

• Retail rethink – the dramatic failure of mainstream retailers (Woolworths), struggle of others (Gap) and rise of discounters (Aldi) and new formats (Tchibo) means that clarity of purpose (Amazon), e/retail fusion (Game), and new partnerships (Muji) will be essential.

Places in 2009

• Copenhagen, Denmark – not only a creative capital (Nokia and Samsung design studios), but also host to the next UN Climate Change Conference. Will it, with Obama’s help, deliver this time, despite excuses of short-term economics?

• Istanbul, Turkey – the Black Sea is as geopolitically important as 200 years ago when great powers fought over access to the Med. Conflict in South Ossetia, Russian warships in Crimea, Romania and Bulgaria in EU, further heighten tensions.

• Nicosia, Cyprus – the island could be reunified within months, neutralising a flashpoint that has seen peacekeepers since 1964, providing a bridge between Europe and the Middle East, and supporting Turkey’s aspirations to the EU.

• Surat, India – did not exist 30 years ago, but now with a 2.7 million population, India’s fastest growing city lies on the Tapi River, around 250km north of Mumbai, and earns its wealth through textiles and diamonds.

31 December 2008 : A year of financial crisis

What a year ... from the highs of Beijing to the lows of Wall Street, just like sporting excellence, financial disaster has spread to every corner of the world. It took little more than Usain Bolt's 9.69 seconds to wipe out much of the value created in recent years.

The banking world suffered most, perhaps quite reasonably given the unsustainable, incredible schemes and scams through which they had been passing on loans to others, wrapped up in gobblegook which nobody understood. But with peaking oil prices, and rising food prices, continued poverty and conflict, and climate change perilously out of control, the planet became a very scary place. Some called it the perfect storm.

Global markets plummeted (-43.9%), most significantly in emerging markets (-54.9%):

  • Moscow RTS fell by 72.4% leaving the oligarch's begging for Kremlin loans
  • Dubai also fell 72.4% showing that the Gulf's rise was built on loans more than oil
  • Shanghai fell by 65.4% as global demand declined for China's manufacturing
  • Mumbai fell by 52.4% although growth is still strong if a little more conservative
  • Hong Kong fell by 48.8% suffering less than mainland China, but still significant
  • Paris CAC40 fell by 42.7% as Sarkozy strutted his stuff at home and abroad
  • Tokyo Nikkei 225 fell by 42.1% continuing the rollercoaster of recent years
  • Sydney ASX fell by 41.3% as Australia showed its dependence on Asian markets
  • Frankfurt DAX fell by 40.4% as Germany struggled with eastern Europe markets
  • New York S&P 500 fell by 38.5% as Obama prepared to take the White House
  • New York Dow Jones fell by 33.8% as tech stocks suffered less than manufacturing
  • London FTSE 100 fell 31.3%, the least of the major exchanges, but still traumatic

Yet all is not lost, with the great investor Warren Buffett confidently putting his own savings into stocks for the first time. "When everyone is fearful, then is the time to strike" in what was more than just a publicity stunt for his biography "The Snowball" by Alice Shroeder which became the top business book of the year.

Other books which I particularly enjoyed this year included "When Markets Collide" by Mohamed El-Erian and "The Trillion Dollar Meltdown" by Charles Morris, which together started to make sense of the year's economic chaos. Its simple really. We now live in a globally connected world, where power is fundamentally shifting - from West to East, from products to services, production to ideas, few to many.

Whilst understanding the chaos is one thing, seizing the opportunities of change is another. Two more books helped to do this. "Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness" by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein takes a fun but important look at how we can make the most of our lives, whilst "Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam offers a graphical approach to representing the big ideas and best ideas in a simple, more transparent way.

Finally there was award-winning fiction "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga and based in the Bangalore world of business. It describes an Indian boy's shocking and quite unethical journey from village life to big city entrepreneurial success. Perhaps, more than anything, it is a fitting critque of the year.

10 December 2008 : Leadership in Times of Crisis and Change

There should be no question about the importance of people in driving business performance, and similarly the critical role of HR managers in driving the business strategy and investment priorities, delivering service and profitable growth.

In an economic crisis, it is essential to protect and exploit your most valuable assets. Employees and customers.  It is a blinkered manager who thinks that people can make little difference in turbulent times, and an even more short-sighted manager who thinks that people are the best way to reduce costs.

Now is the time for smart thinking. Now is the time for speed and agility. Now is the time to work together, and deliver extraordinary solutions for customers, and results that outperform the competition. Now is time to sieze the opportunities of a changing world, to enter new markets, to work in new ways, to drive innovation and change.

When investors look at a business, they look for those with strong leadership, good ideas, and the ability to make them happen. They know that the winners in turbulent times will be those who can sail through a storm with strength and support, working together, adapting and innovating.

Yet too many HR departments think they exist in their own little world, separate from the demands and decisions in managing a business. They close their eyes to the problems of the outside world, and try to keep smiling.

At last year’s International HR Conference in Istanbul which I chair annually, the world’s leading HR guru, Dave Ullrich made the case for HR’s impact on economic value creation. Of course you can measure your emotional capital, but much more important is to see what impact you make on revenues, profitability and growth. Now you need it more than ever – to make the right decisions, to make the case for people in a downturn, to prove your personal value to the business.

Every moment of every day you should be thinking “Am I making the most of myself? Am I making a real difference?” Not just looking good, or saying the right things, but making a genuine impact, making a difference to yourself, to your business, and the world.

For this reason, I have worked with leading HR professionals to develop a new “Leadership Impact Framework”. It looks at the ways in which YOU as an individual can make a greater and more genuine impact.

There are three levels to building high performance that has genuine. First is to understand the world around you (who they are, what matters to them), then to connect with them (align processes, work collaboratively), and then to achieve results (effective actions, and mutual success).

Most fundamentally, is to consider the impact you can have as an individual – what difference you can make, how you can develop yourself and achieve more. Second is to understand the impact on your business – your customers, your operations, and your finances. Third is to understand the impact you can have on the world – friends and family, local communities, society and environment.

Together the 9 themes will deliver high performance, in a way that people can make a much greater impact, a much more meaningful impact, and a much more lasting impact. .

Join me at the International HR Conference, Istanbul on 11-12 February 2009, when I will be on stage with the likes of Philip Rosenzweig, author of "The Halo Effect". Or email me to learn how you can apply the Leadership Impact Framework in your business. 

3 December 2008 : 50 Strategies for Winning in Tough Times

Free Download

The most valuable asset in your business today is not capital but customers, and the source of your competitive advantage is no longer your products but your people.

Tough times mean focusing on what matters most. And nothing matters more than staying close to your customers – understanding them better, doing what matters most to them, and retaining them profitably. It’s easy to forget about customers in a crisis. But that is the mistake of losers.

Winning companies use tough times to attract, serve and retain the best customers - to do more for them when they also need help; to show how good you are, and can be in the future. They are also the ones with a winning mindset, who think smarter not only about how to survive, but also to thrive.

Business leadership in tough times: Business needs marketing more than ever: to generate the revenues that are it lifeblood, to develop smarter ways of securing it, and to innovate so that you succeed in the next upturn.

1. Don’t panic, don’t abandon your strategy, don’t stop marketing
2. Customers not capital are your most valuable assets
3. People not products are the source of your competitive advantage
4. Focus on retention not acquisition, do more with your best customers
5. Think like a winner, it’s time for thinking and acting smarter

Market strategy in tough timesThere is no shortage of opportunity, but most people aren’t looking. Tony Fernandez, the US tech entrepreneur, however invested in Air Asia, and sees a vast market that will keep booming.

1. Clarify purpose – ensure your vision and difference are crystal clear
2. Follow the money – focus on best markets, best customers, best products
3. Strengthen your strategy – adjust and respond to the changing market
4. Find new opportunities – emerging markets and failing competitors
5. Reduce your risks – move activities from fixed to variable costs


Customer insights in tough times: They call it the Miracle Whip insight. More new businesses and products started in the Great Depression than at any time. Downturns are times for new priorities, and new innovations.


1. Understand customers – do new research to understand changing needs
2. Redefine priorities – explore the customer’s new essentials and aspirations
3. Feel their pain – they feel poorer and lack confidence, and make careful choices
4. Segment for profitability – identify customers of highest profit and highest risk
5. Price patterns – understand the new dynamics of price elasticity


Value propositions  in tough times: Customers still have money - they still eat and drink, meet and travel, work and talk. If nobody wants a SUV sell them a Hybrid, or move Starbucks from an everyday essential to small indulgence.

1. The end of extreme – Local and caring rather than humour and adventure
2. Value conscious – focus propositions on value, articulating the benefits more clearly
3. Empathise with customers – show you care, help them, good for each other
4. Focus on price points - think backwards to design solutions at key points like 99c and $99
5. Avoid discounting – use tactical promotions and better terms, not lower prices

Engaging experiences in tough times: Nintendo Wii - not just another computer game, but a whole family experience, and saves you time going to the gym too – but you will struggle to get hold of one, intensely popular even in tough times

1. Do more – help customers practically to achieve more with your solutions
2. Restructure solutions – lower entry point, unbundle or bundle as appropriate
3. Help channels – work with distributors, better terms, easy returns, joint promos
4. New models – franchising not owning outlets, leasing not selling products
5. Stay positive – energise your people, keep smiling, make service your difference

Building brands in tough times: Brands are something to hang onto when everything else changes. They are familiar and trusted. Tesco and Wal-Mart moved from laggards to leaders in downturns, and stayed there.

1. Build trust – provide clarity and reassurance to customers, be the most trusted brand
2. Rearticulate stories – adjust the reasons why people should buy from you
3. Smarter media – focus on most effective communication, shorter and faster
4. Everything sells – use everything to drive sales, from sampling to packvertising
5. Networks work – endorsement and advocacy, word of mouth physical and virtual

Innovating business  in tough times: The Barbie effect on Disney was remarkable. Manufacturers Mattel never thought they would work with such partners, until tough times forced them to form a successful collaboration.

1. Rebalance portfolio – accelerate key products to markets, mitigate risks, focus effort
2. Get together – form new partnerships and alliances, better solutions, broader reach
3. Bigger impact – get value innovations to market, whilst competitors are distracted
4. Business models – rethink how you work, be ready to acquire failing competitors
5. Antidote – offer people a reason to smile, to feel good whilst all else is gloomy

Delivering results  in tough times: Marketing drives business results, but as a large discretionary spend it needs to demonstrate through financial metrics why it is essential to retain in tough times.

1. Positive impact – now is the time for metrics and ROI to prove marketing matters
2. Spend smarter – renegotiate deals, change communication mix, eliminate waste
3. Forecast future – rethink the rising stars, recalculate the sources of future profits
4. Loyalty matters – work harder with existing customers, sell more, cost less, stay longer
5. Build communities – target the best groups to work with, and be part of their world

Inspiring people in tough times: This is moment for marketers to show their leadership qualities, to give direction and focus whilst all around them are losing their heads. It’s time for heads up, not heads down, marketers.

1. Heads up – the business needs leadership, where to focus, what matters most
2. Be agile – respond to change fast and positively, as others fail, as green shoots emerge
3. Drive action – get the whole organisation focused on customers, retention and selling
4. Bigger picture – don’t get stuck in the trenches, stay integrated and moving forwards
5. Be confident – about marketing, about customers, about opportunities, about the future

Economic downturns are the worst and best times for marketers. Whilst some may rush to slash the advertising budgets, they forget that marketing is about much more than communication. And indeed, that communication is much more than advertising. It’s a time for focus and efficiency, but also for rethinking some of the fundamentals, doing things differently, and making a few bold moves. 

As the scientific genius Albert Einstein said “you cannot solve aproblemwith the same thinking that created it” whilst creative genius Pablo Picasso reminded us that “times of turbulence provoke the greatest ideas and opportunities”.

10 September 2008, CERN : Large collisions that will expain the invisible world

It will generate a new age of physics – understanding the world around us. It may find the predicted “Higgs Boson”, that gives matter mass. And if we follow the logic of super-symmetry, that everything has an opposite, then it will find “dark matter” which is supposed to fill two thirds of our Universe. It may tell us about new dimensions beyond time and space, and many other phenomena that our minds have not yet predicted.  The anti-matter findings could come quickly, but other interpretations may took a number of years.

  • Mars: “Phoenix” landed earlier this year, a 6m vehicle designed to scour the planet’s surface looking for water and carbon that offer the possibility of life.
  • Genetics: “1000 Genome” mapping the most common variants of human DNA, from which we can assess susceptibility to disease, and improving health.
  • Space: “Ligo” project seeking “gravitational waves” as first predicted by Einstein in 1916, by looking for ripples in space-time using the reflections of mirrors.
  • Life: “Corot” telescope launched into Earth’s orbit is searching for Earth-like planets beyond our solar system, assessing the habitability of planets.

This week’ s spectacular CERN events all seem a million light years, from my own days as a particle physicist, in my research lab seeking to replicate superconductivity at temperatures closer to room temperature. By cooling my exotic compounds down to almost Absolute Zero (-273 degrees Celcius) with liquid nitrogen, we were able to make particles behave in mysterious ways, to escape the bonds that normally hold them together. Some of these mixtures even managed to “superconduct” at temperature 125 degrees higher, a real breakthrough.

At the time it seemed slow and irrelevant to the real world (which is why I soon moved to the supersonic, kerosene-fuelled world of airline marketing). Yet in recent years it has started to have a fundamental impact on business, and the way we live. Nanotechnologies, for example, now enable your windows to shine brighter, and car scratches to dissolve away. They are rapidly changing the whole structure of medicines, the natural as well as artificial ways in which we can enhance wellbeing.

23 August 2008, Beijing: Puma 9.69 seconds, KFC 19.30 seconds, Coke 37.10 seconds.

Lightning didn’t strike twice, but three times for Usain Bolt when he struck three golds and three world record times in the highest profile, and most competitive events of the Beijing Olympics.

We watched in awe and amazement. It was phenomenal, unexpected and truly inspiring. We wondered if man could run any faster, we thought that Michael Johnson’s record would last forever, but bolt munched his KFC, downed his Coke, put on his Pumas and showed the world what the world’s most remarkable sponsored athlete can do.

He is likely to have won much more than a bag of gold thanks to his sponsors. His personal sponsors Digicell forked out in excess of $1 million for the second time in a year (world record bonuses), and kit sponsors Puma rewarded him even more handsomely. Meanwhile a deal between BMW and the IOC earned him a new BMW, whilst that doesn’t include the sudden rise in appearance fees to around $250,000 at track meets from Zurich to Tokyo.

Of course athletes are not rockstars or footballers, and Bolt is still an emerging talent, however he will have earned at least $15 million from running down the track a few times this year – more than Carl Lewis earned in a lifetime.

More broadly, there are 12 "Worldwide Olympic Sponsors" where the highest level of sponsorship, costing an estimated $70-plus million each, with only one, Lenovo, based in China. Others are Coca-Cola, Samsung, Johnson & Johnson, GE, Atos Origin, Kodak, Manulife, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic and Visa. As the price tag has risen, so has the sophistication of sponsorship deals, although the actual sponsor budgets are typically around 10 times the amount they pay the IOC, spending on supporting events and advertising around the world. There are also local and supporting sponsors too.

Exclusivity for sponsors is managed with paranoia. Non-sponsors Nike for example, have had to be ever more creative in securing impact from their athletes involvement in the Games using “guerilla” tactics. Back in Atlanta in 1996 they bought every billboard site in the city, to get more exposure than official sponsor Adidas, and for a fraction of the price. Adidas complained, and the organisers got wise to such tactics (the boards are already bought up for London 2012). They had to be even more creative in Beijing, although fellow unofficial sponsor Puma stole the limelight this time.

Other brands were being creative too. Samsung created “head pods” for people to watch the many different sports by putting the 360 degree pod like helmets on as they sat in the coffee shop, or even in the stadium. They could have the best view in town thanks to surround-stadium vision and head-wrap screens, but also be there in person to sample the atmosphere too. Similarly, BMW’s Mini were making their mark on the Chinese capital, with customised rickshaws combining bikes and Mini rear-ends. Another very “mini adventure” for its passengers!

Coca-Cola was the most effectively-marketed “Olympic” brand within China according to CSM Media Research Olympic Performance index which measures the impact of brands sponsoring the Olympics before, during and after the games. The Atlanta drinks giant had an uncertain start, concerned about associating its brand with the PR-disasterous torch relay. But once the games began, Coke regained its fizz, and has truly left its mark on the nation. Samsung (the head pod brand), Adidas (the most popular strip sponsor) and Volkswagen (the car that led the marathon every step of the way) also did well in the homes of China.

Meanwhile Sport Markt claims that the Olympics as an overall brand has 52% unprompted awareness, with 54 per cent of Americans interested in the games, 48% of the population in the top five European markets showing strong interest, 63% in central and Eastern Europe, 56% in Central/South America and 51 per cent in Africa and Australia. This dropped to 42% in Asia, but in China itself, research showed that 53% of respondents were very interested in the Summer Olympic Games, with a further 36% interested.

14 July 2008, London : Back to the future - Inspiration for a Downturn

Bananarama, the eighties pop band with hits like Cruel Summer, Robert de Niro's Waiting and Venus, were phenomenal on their return to the big stage last night. From what I remember of them (it was 20 years ago, and I was very young!) they were all pop, pink and plastic - this time they were cool, classic and compelling.

It made me think of the current economic downturn - the doom and gloom, the pessimism and anguish - last week described by the US Federal Reserve as "the perfect storm" - sky high oil prices, falling house prices, rising inflation, falling stock markets, loss of confidence.

And it reminded me that everything works in cycles - just like the return of Banarama - maybe 2008 will feel like a cruel summer, but as we all know, downturns are followed by upturns.

Downturns are moments for rethinking, for focusing on what makes you special, for getting close to customers, for smart and bold moves, for shaking up the market, for asserting yourself competitively, for reaching out to new customers, for staying positive.

Indeed, analysis in my new book "Business Genius" (just published) considers the business cycles of the last 150 years and find that the points of maximium innovation come just before the upturns, and that these companies bold enough to invest whilst others are losing their heads (a Kipling quote in there, somewhere) are the ones who go on to be winners.

So here are 10 strategies for surviving, and thriving in a downturn:

1. Strength – downturns sort the wheat from the chaff, the robust business models from those developed on a wing and a prayer. Some companies will go under whilst others will be ripe for acquisition. Look at the airlines, the banks, the supermarkets.

2. Speed – some companies have the foresight and agility to respond to changing conditions, and others don’t. Virtual companies, franchised brands, and small businesses can flex business models, reduce costs quickly, and respond to changing consumer motivations.

3. Focus – we know we don’t need all our products, or even all our customers - 80:20 revenue, 90:10 profit - but we are usually too lazy to do the analysis, and make the hard decisions to focus on the value creators, and eliminate the value destroyers.

4. Icons – customers typically focus more on the big ticket savings – downsizing their houses, buying a smaller car, taking fewer holidays – rather than the small items, which can be less prone to reduction. Travel less, but still buy Starbucks.

5. Selective – whilst customers might buy less, they become more selective about where they spend money. In emerging markets, people might have little money but still want a Louis Viutton handbag or an Audi car.

6. Value – the mid market that combines smart quality with a good price becomes fashionable again, good quality and design but at better prices – a Swatch not a Rolex, Gap not Calvin Klein, Pret a Manger not Carluccios.

7. Innovation - applying innovation to other areas from business models to sales channels – reduce cost and risks by moving to a franchise model, improve speed and efficiency with direct sales, move to minimal (and eco friendly) packaging.

8. Upturns – follow downturns like night follows day – so as long as you can survive the slump, the winners in the next upturn are those who invest during the downturn, change the industry structures, redefine value. Low cost airlines become mainstream, online banking the norm.

9. Stories – brands are storytellers, typically about dreams, achievement, fulfilment - helping confirm to customers why they are buying. In downturns brands need to evolve to tell a different story – about practicality, restraint, choice and good value.

10. Champions – there is ultimately no better tactic than to be on the customer’s side during a downturn – emitting empathy and support, helping people to save money, in more human and collaborative ways, reflecting the time, balancing prudence and passion. 

6 June 2008, Jūrmala : The Brilliance of the Baltics

Jūrmala, the small Latvian seaside town 20 minutes from the capital Riga is one of the world’s most engaging places. Whilst it doesn’t quite have the exotic appeal of the Caribbean or Indian oceans, it was once the favoured holiday resort of the Soviet elite, with its 40 km of endless white sand, dense unspoilt forests, original wooden houses, and the most beautiful sunsets.

I had come here to work with Best Marketing in bringing together the best marketers of the Baltic countries for two days of “Marketing Genius Live” … challenging the old models of marketing, exploring the emerging best practices - from Abu Dhabi (Syeneditt) to Arizona (Virgin Galactic), Beijing (Shanghai Tang) to Barcelona (Camper Shoes) – and thinking how can we apply these to the heritage brands and hi-tech innovators of the Baltic region. Companies like:

Aeroc: rethinking and innovatively segmenting the building materials market in order to sell faster development to one customer, amazing architecture to another, rather than bricks.
Go Travel: designing propositions that are less about flights and hotels, more about helping people to explore the world, engage their passions, with more aspiration and profit too.
HansaLeasing: what is the iTunes of car leasing – any car, anywhere, anytime, paid by the minute, with the key always in your pockets – the next generation of Zipcar in Estonia?
Lattelecom: considering what it means to be truly customer centric – and learning from diverse pioneers around the world like 118 118 and Skype, Apple and Vertu.
Laima: exploring the possibilities of Latvian chocolate, and its many adjacent markets – is it about food and drink, or taste and luxury, or wellness and belonging?
Olympic Casino: the environment is a global challenge, and even gambling can do good – perhaps by applying the lessons of M&S “Plan A” and GE’s “Ecomagination”.
Spice: why do we go shopping, and what more could it be – one of Latvia’s leading malls considered how to transform the retail experience, learning from Umpqua and Virgin.

As I ran along the deserted but sparkling beach early the next morning I felt inspired by the opportunities of the small but beautiful country of Latvia, and its adjacent Estonia and Lithuania.

Small companies and small markets, but with innovative people who do not see their business sectors or geographical borders as their mental boundaries. Latvia recently became the 4th fastest growing exporter in Europe, Estonia is building a reputation as the new tech capital, and Lithuania is a practical hub for companies going eastwards and westwards across Europe.

Today’s world is a vast portfolio of niche markets, and sectors blur in the mind of consumers. Big businesses are not the most loved or most profitable any more, and nor are the big countries. It’s time for the smarter, faster, smaller companies and countries to shape our unlimited markets.

Thinking of where you are now, and relying on a legacy of past success, is almost irrelevant compared to the potential of new ideas and innovation.

My ambition is that our two days “Live in Latvia” will be the start of a network of inspired marketers and brands, maybe even facilitated by myself and Best Marketing, working together to share ideas and build confidence, to collaborate and think creatively … and maybe to come back each year to the beautiful place called Jūrmala, where the world is full of possibilities.
I hope to be back again soon! 

2 June 2008, Istanbul : Bathrooms + Cosmetics + Electronics + Finance

Eczacibasi is Turkish for “the pharmacist”, and indeed what is today one of Turkey’s most innovative and diverse companies, has its origins in the pharmaceutical business.

That has all now changed, with the recognition that a fast changing world of nanotechnology and global brands, and the old pharma business being sold off in order to invest in Istanbul’s hyper-active property boom. Kanyon, recently voted one of the world’s top shopping destinations symbolises the new Eczacibasi, and now occupies the site of the old drug factory.

Marketing and innovation are the priorities for the business today – driving its many businesses such as Vitra bathrooms and kitchens, Villeroy & Boch tiles, Selpak tissue paper, OK condoms, and licensed brands such as Nivea and Schwarzkopf. On the B2B side, Eczacibasi is becoming a leader in mining, welding, electronics, ceramics, property, medical care, insurance, and fund management.

For almost two years we have worked with all of Eczacibasi’s marketers in a unique “Market Accelerator” experience – bringing together real business issues and projects with new ideas and techniques – driving a more customer-centric, innovation-driving, value-creating agenda across the business. Indeed the business repeatedly seeks to double its market value at least every 5 years.

This week, “Marketing Together” was the annual gathering of those marketers – updating each other on their progress, seeing the connections between brands, catching up with the latest consumer trends and marketing ideas from around the world. It was a tremendously inspiring day.

Eczacibasi is now a genuinely international business, “helping to make peoples lives better”

Of course, there is much more to do, but it is a tremendously innovative company – transforming a tile business into luxury “bathroom culture”, developing the mirrored “Ladycard” credit cards in Ukraine, helping hairdressers to acquire Toni & Guy franchises in order to promote its hair colour, taken 4-ply toilet tissue to the hills of Kazikstan, and liberating the joy of sex in a culture where such words were previously unspoken.

The value-doubling challenge from the CEO is no small target. It can only be achieved by working differently and smarter – not just the same and harder. What are our assets? How can we exploit them in new ways? What can we do that nobody else can? How can we combine our capabilities to drive innovation? Together, brands and marketers can do so much more … smart connections and networks really are the key to any business that is serious about significant and sustainable growth.

23 May 2008, Berlin : Fusing the old and new worlds in retail.

Berlin is a fascinating city. The last time I visited, almost 20 years ago, the wall was still being dismantled. People were walking around in disbelief.” Trabbis” (the old East German Trabant cars that ran on elastic bands) were spluttering alongside their new cousins from BMW and Mercedes. Today Berlin is one of the world’s most contemporary cities. Steel and glass, design and efficiency confront you at every corner. The space around the Brandenburg Gate, then a wasteland, is now crowded with commercial buildings, each competing to have their ego closer to the icon of Germany.

Berlin was a symbol of all that was wrong with the world, of a terrible past and uncertain future. Now, despite a national economy still struggling to come to grips with a post-Industrial, post-communist world, Berlin is a beacon of the new world order, competing with Moscow and Beijing, New York and Mumbai as global megacities.

Retailing is in need of a similar reinvention. I was here to deliver the keynote on “Creative Genius – Innovations for the 21st Century” at the Retail Leaders Conference, this year in Berlin.
Retailing might seem like a modern business, but the physical world of shopping appears to be more interested in architecture and property development, than transforming the experience of its customers. Whilst the likes of Amazon, eBay, And Net a Porter have built innovative retail models online, shops have lagged behind. Most shops are still boring square boxes, with piles of products on shelves, seeking to maximise transactions in the space available. Not much thought about the individual, their experience before and after purchase, or indeed the broader role that a retailer might play in people’s lives.

Of course there are great retail examples around the world – like the emotional experience of Build a Bear Workshop where you give birth to your own living teddy bear complete with birth certificate, or Tchibo where impulse shopping is de rigour, ranges change weekly, design is fused with low price, and people can;t help but buy, sometimes with a coffee to stimulate their impulses further. Or retailers could look to Umpqua Bank’s transformation of finance retailing, inspired by Starbucks and Gap, fusing the physical and virtual experience to create great social places that look after your money too.

21 May 2008, Moscow : Nike v Adidas in the Champions League.

It was the all-British final (well 10 of the 22 players were British) that transplanted itself to Moscow, as Russia sought to showcase its new role in the sporting world. It was the battle of American (Glazer) and Russian (Abromovich) owners, the most important 90 minutes of the year for Manchester United and Chelsea FC, but most significantly the dual of the world’s leading sports brands.

In the past, footballers used an old pen to scribble their names or numbers on the sides of their boots. This year’s final saw players running out in their designer boots, personalised to the occasion. Wayne Rooney has his signature stitched into his black and lime green Nike space age shoes, a mesh case surrounded by plastic technology more often seen in racing cars. Didier Drogba was not left behind, with his Adidas black blades, ready to power his way through the best defence.

Nike and Adidas kicked off, and after a nervous start Nike (and their new Ronaldo sub-brand) showed why they can claim to be best footballers with a strong header. Just before the break Adidas volleyed the ball back to equality. The second half saw the Three Stripes start to dominate, but the Swoosh stayed firm. In extra time Adidas lost its cool, and luck started to shine on the brand from Oregon USA. A penalty shoot out is always a nervous affair. But it was the men with a “just do it” attitude stayed cooler, and went home with the news coverage, the financial windfall, and champions of Europe.

16 May 2008, London : My interview with Richard Branson

Meeting Richard Branson was the most scary and exciting experience of my business life. He’s a hero who I have watched, dismissed, admired, worked for, talked about, laughed at, but never failed to be impressed by. U2’s Bono said that there are two people, in his view, who light up any room when they walk in – Bill Clinton and Richard Branson.

He walked in the door. We were alone. We were backstage before the London Business Forum. My task was to spend the next 2 hours interviewing him in front of 2000 people. He’d heard about my new book, Business Genius, and wanted to see it.

Next he was asking if he could take a copy and if I could sign it for him. I thought this was supposed to work the other way. He’s an incredibly relaxed, interested and nice guy. He wanted to know what I thought of Virgin sponsoring the London Marathon (fantastic) and of Alan Sugar (not so fantastic). He’s an incredibly good listener. He brought along his father too, well into his nineties. This was a special day for Richard because his Dad was there too.

It was nearly time to go on stage. He wished me luck, and gave me a hug. I thought I was supposed to be looking after him. The warm-up acts, Magnus Lindkvist (the frowning, futuristic Swede) and L Vaughan Spencer (the Ali G-style rapper of the business world) came off looking exhausted but exhilerated. Mike Oldfield played his Tubular Bells, and we were on stage.

• What’s he most proud of? Launching his airline with one old 747 and no experience.
• Does he do his own emails? He reads them on paper, and dictates answers.
• Have a mobile phone? Yes but keeps losing it (until it rang mid-session!).
• How does he divide his time? 30% on his businesses, 70% on doing good.
• Prioritise his time? He keeps his own pocket diary (and has a great PA).
• Will he run (his) marathon? Yes. He’s swimming 2 hours a day to get in shape.
• How does he manage his businesses? Hands off influence and inspiration.
• What about finance, risk, decisions? Big decisions are about doing the right thing.
• Excel spreadsheets? No thanks. Not even sure of difference between net and gross.
• Scariest moment? When his co-pilot jumped out the hot air balloon and left him to it.
• Buy his own food and clothes? No, cant you tell. Always the same jeans and shirt.
• Where go on holiday? Neckar with friends like Larry Page, and pull up the drawbridge.
• How keep his brand fresh? Keep focused on the detail – the little things matter.
• Terminal 5? No he doesn’t plan to use it – preparation is always important, isn’t it.
• His best attribute? Listening – respect every person, and you learn so much more.
• What’s he spend his fee for speaking today? His various AIDS/HIV projects in Africa.
• Business leader he most admires? Steve Jobs. Coming back. Transforming his market.
• His biggest failure? Don’t remember - always look forward, never back. Screw it, lets do it.

The audience laughed, cheered, and as he departed he invited everyone to join him and his family in space on Virgin Galactic in less than two years time. He really did light up a room, We walked off stage. He was buzzing. Great gig, he said. Unusual questions too. We hugged once more, he signed some of his books this time, and he was off to catch a flight to Kenya.


9 May 2008, Rome : The space business inspired by Romans.

The Colliseum. The Roman Baths. Circus Maximus, Those ancient Italian warriers left us with monuments of breathtaking architecture and scale. As I was driven through the city, I was inspired by their size and ability to endure after thousands of years.

Maybe it was fitting, therefore, that the (don’t snigger) fast-growing world of Self Storage chose Rome for its annual convention. In the States, self storage is now used by 1 in 10 people (as we acquire more stuff, we seek to declutter, we move more often, transient in our careers and lifestages). In Europe only 1 in 50 people use self storage, so a significant opportunity.

And whilst one self storage company has created a modern icon (a lighthouse) on a sprawling suburban landscapes, inside these facilities, the dark passages, neon lights and metals doors look more like a set from a sci-fi movie, where monsters and aliens lurk around every corner. Surely its more than the lock-up? What about helping people do what they do? Relocation is a profitable business. Interior design even more so. This is what customers do, not what conventional self storage businesses have done. Maybe that’s the biggest opportunity. Extend the experience. Think problem not product. This solution not service.

I wasn’t sure how my Einstein Picasso keynote speech would go down with the lock-up types. But they loved it. This is what their industry needs, they said. This is what they keep telling their colleagues. However somebody needs to take the bold step forwards – to be the Steve Jobs, the Nicolas Zenntrom, the Amancio Ortego of their industry.

Shape your market, shape your destiny, or forever live in a shadow shaped by others.

30 April 2008, London : Lovemarks in a new blue world.

As Bob Geldof said in his closing act, the Royal Albert Hall is more used to artists and rock stars than to business people and politicians. But we had both. The annual convention of the Institute of Directors, was an eclectic mix of doom and delight, corporate sponsors and genuine leaders, strutting stars and serious CEOs, national introspection and new global thinking.

Kevin Roberts kicked off, direct from Heathrow airport, with his usual fusion of passion and brands, or Lovemarks as he rebranded the genre. What’s his? The All Blacks, Shanghai Tang, HP Sauce. What matters most in the hyper connected, warp speed world? People and emotions. So stop trying to bombard your customers with messages, logos and choice. Do something special for them. He’s also bored with turning the world green. Like our new book proposes, green issues are one of the biggest opportunities for business growth, but maybe to turn the world blue rather than green.

We then had the non-confrontational contest between the Prime Minister Brown and Crown Prince Cameron. Whatever their politics, I left liking Cameron and not Brown (not my normal way of thinking). The Conservative challenger was inspiring and evocative in his vision of business and society (except when he made the rather stupid assumption that every business leader attending must have had a private education), whilst the PM was gruff and heads down, talking about numbers and hard choices, and legitimacy and equity, and lots more things that I got completely lost in. He is the world’s worst communicator. He thinks that facts and logic will win people’s hearts and minds.

The Saatchi & Saatchi CEO was right, it’s an emotional not a rational world, Mr Brown. Maybe there was more than one meaning to his description of an emerging blue world.

18 April 2008, Antalya : Heads up for leaders, heads down for managers.

Antalya is where the beautiful people of Turkey hang out. Hillside SU, for example, is one of the most extraordinary hotels you could ever visit – inspired by history and future, night clubs and art galleries, but certainly not trying to imitate every other luxury hotel you might visit. They avoid the curse of sameness by looking across borders, geographies and sectors, inspired by other worlds.

My task at the Akbank Leaders Summit was to challenge and inspire the top 500 managers in the business to truly think differently about their role. Their culture, inevitably is one of heads-down hierarchy. Nobody dares do anything much, doing their jobs safely and with minimal disruption. This is no different from 90% of the worlds large companies, and particularly those in areas such as banking. But the world moves on, and the challenge from their chairman was to change too.

Leaders and Managers are two different animals, united in one person. Managers are heads down people. They make decisions and deliver the plan. Leaders are heads up people. They create the future and inspire people to follow them. Leaders have the courage to challenge the conventions, the rules and taboos, they work across and upwards as well as down.
Leaders should remember three very special words

Ubuntu – the Afrikaans word for togetherness, together you can each so much more
Otako – the Japanese word for being remarkable, something people talk about
Tutku – the Turkish word for passion, throwing your whole self into the challenge

Leaders need all three of these, and businesses need real leaders more than ever.

9 April 2008, Barcelona : New agenda at the World Retail Congress 2008.

Barcelona saw retailers converge from every corner of the globe – from leading US economists to officials of the Chinese Governments enterprise unit, the mood was immediately set in terms of economic downturn, price inflation and a gloomy time ahead for retailers. However the CEOs of both Carrefour and IKEA quickly challenged this pessimism by arguing that there is no better time for innovation, and that those who engage customers and invest in their businesses during the downturns are also those who thrive in the inevitable future upturn.

My challenge was to introduce “the customer agenda” – a surprisingly unusual starting point for many retailers who are blinkered by the thrills and spills of property development and sales per square metre. So what are the emerging trends for retailers? How are the motivations of consumers evolving and refocusing, and where are the best opportunities to innovate?

The customer agenda polarises for different people round one of three domains

• Me – all about me, my expectations and desires, my wellbeing and reputation
• My world – all about my family and friends, local and related, fast and connected,
• The world – all about the big issues in the world, such as ethics and environment.

Consider some of these trends that relate to these areas, and how retailers could use them as the catalysts for innovation and competitive advantage:

Personal – what I want, when, where and how eg MyShape, Quintessentially
Wellbeing – being healthy, wealthy and happy eg Innocent, New McDonalds
Desire – aspirational, indulgent and luxurious eg SampleLab, Adrenalin Store
Connect – sharing passions, beliefs and tribalism eg Nike Women,
Express – projecting your identity and opinion eg Livestrong, Facebook Fashionfix
Participate – contributing and collaborating eg Jones Soda,
Simple – quick n easy, aggregating and editing, eg MyDeco, 3Luxe, Apple
Authentic – the original, heritage, or even used, eg Wholefood, Kikkoman
Good – ethically, environmentally and socially eg M&S Plan A, Visa Swapshops

And what about customer loyalty which continues to fall? Well stop thinking about databases and club cards, points schemes and rewards – start thinking about people and relationships, service and empathy. Look east – to China for example, where loyalty is to those who are your friends and family, and rethink loyalty in a more human, local and emotional way.

1 February 2008,  Seattle:  Microsoft searches for Yahoo

It could be the defining moment in the story of search, the moment Google's luck ran out, the story of how Microsoft finally did seize the road ahead. Or it could be one of the biggest white elephants in business history. $44.6bn (in cash and shares) is a lot of money for a business that has lost its way in recent years, and watched its shareprice decline as Google rides high.

Yahoo shares have fallen 46% since reaching a year-high of $34.08 in October and just last week Jerry Yang cut his company's revenue forecasts and said it would have to spend an additional $300m this year trying to revive the company.

According to Nielsen online, Google has a 56% share of the search market in the US, compared to 18% for Yahoo and 14% for Microsoft's Live facility. Microsoft, itself, admits that its search business has been losing business in recent years, and is said to have been making friendly overtues to Yahoo! for at least the last year.

However the real context is the future of the search business, and its primary revenue stream, online advertising. As consumers get comfortable with web ads, and companies get better at using them in relevant, engaging ways, the huge TV and direct mail budgets are moving online. In Europe alone, 52% of adults are regularly online, spending more time doing so than watching television. the annual value of of online ads is projected to reach 16bn euros ($22bn) by 2012, more than double that of 2006, says Forrester.

24 January 2008, Spaceport America : Virgin Galactic launches SS2

Virgin Galactic has released the final designs of the craft that will take fare-paying passengers into space. It is a refinement of the X-Prize-winning concept - a rocket ship that is lifted initially by a carrier plane before blasting skywards.

SpaceShipTwo, SS2 is larger than the original SS1, able to carry two pilot astronauts and six fare-paying passengers. They will fly initially from the newly constructed Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert, starting 2010  Watch the SS2 preview video

The journeys will last about two-and-a-half hours, and seats cost $200,000. Virgin Galactic says more than 200 individuals have booked, and another 85,000 have registered an interest to fly. Book now at

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has his own scheme, as does the Paypal founder, Elon Musk. Currently, the only way to buy a trip into space is to pay for a seat on the Russian Soyuz launcher. Tickets purchased through Space Adventures cost a reported $20m and take the recipient to the International Space Station for a short holiday.

23 January 2008, Davos : World shaping in the snow

This year's World Economic Forum opens amidst global financial turmoil. The threat of “the worst recession in 60 years” will be uppermost on the minds of the 27 heads of government, 113 cabinet ministers and several hundred corporate titans – everybody from Sergei Brin to Tony Blair, Michael Porter to Paulo Coelho. Can they save the world?

The agenda reflects the mood of a turbulent world, with debates such as "planning for a global recession" and "if America sneezes, does the world still catch a cold?" The role of emerging countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East will be more important than ever in answering these and other questions:

• Dividing the world again: will old fault lines destroy new international collaborations?
• Mysteries of the mind: advances in brain research, knowledge, memory and learning?
• M&A mayhem: the impact of private equity, and the of the credit squeeze?
• Hedge funds: how much power do they really have over global markets?
• Minority shareholders: why 1% shareholders are having a big influence over business?
• State funding: the implications of state funding, worth $12 trillion in 5 years?
• Human greatness: what makes people “great” and the impact of culture and taboos?
• Waterless world: will a third of the world live amidst water scarcity by 2025?
• Nuclear energy: balancing the need for nuclear power with the threat of weapons?
• Cure for cancer: prospects of a cure that would save 11 million lives a year by 2030?
• Cyberspying: how vulnerable are governments, companies and people to e-spies?
• Iraq: how to improve security and stability in the world’s most dangerous region?
• Silent dialogue: an experiment to find out what happens when the talking stops ...

21 January 2008, Seattle: Starbucks for a Dollar

Starbucks has started selling a $1 cup of coffee in certain stores in Seattle as a trial.
The premium coffee brand, with a small (sorry, tall) latte usually costing closer to $6, saw its shares fall 40% last year due to falling custom and higher costs of energy and food (including paying more for its Ethiopian coffee).

McDonalds have launched a gourmet coffee, alongside other low-cost competitions, and some other coffee – such as Pret’s – just tastes better. Last year, founder Howard Shultz was also brought back as CEO of “the third place”.

10 January 2008, Las Vegas : Bill Gates' Farewell Gig

In his last ever keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show, Gates speculated on the future of technology in the next decade. He believes screens, from television sets to mobile phones, will go high-definition, connect seamlessly, with consumers using "natural user interfaces," such as speech recognition and touch-screen technology. Simple navigation will be key.

More funky was when Gates wondered about what his last day at Microsoft would be like after he steps down in July. In his self-deprecating video he awkwardly tries rapping Jay-Z's Big Pimpin. "It was great," Jay-Z tells Gates, before turning to the camera and whispering, "not so much."

Gates calls Bono off-stage during a concert to beg for a job playing with U2, only to be denied. Stephen Spielberg shoots down Gates' audition reel. Jon Stewart rejects Gates' request to co-anchor The Daily Show. And both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama turn down his pleas to serve as their running mate. In the video, Obama isn't even sure who's calling him. "Bill?" Obama says into the phone. "Bill Clinton?"

Watch the Gates retirement video 

7 January 2008, Dehli : The world’s cheapest car

Last week the world’s fastest growing car manufacturer Tata Motors announced plans to acquire two of the world’s most famous luxury brands – Jaguar and Range Rover. This week it launched a car that is likely to do for rural Indians, what Henry Ford’s Model T did for Americans.

100,000 rupees ($2,500) will buy you a shiny new “Nano”. It might not have air conditioning, electric windows and power steering – and only a 624cc engine - but it’s still got a modern, cheeky design, 5 seats (and crucially, 4 wheels). It also achieves 50 mpg petrol consumption. Tata is clearly targeting the huge local market, and indeed other emerging markets.

India currently has almost 65 million scooter riders, but only 6.5 million car owners. However, with Tata’s help, that number is likely to double within 5 years, and with the Indian car industry growing at 17% every year this century, and 14km of new road built every day, the $145bn Indian car industry is likely to contribute twice as much to the nation’s GDP within a decade.

Of course, all this is not such good news for climate change, and reducing the world’s carbon emissions. The reality, of course, is that emerging markets will quite rightly grow and increase their material consumption. The challenge is to do this in more environmentally-friendly ways. The developed markets, meanwhile are the ones who need to consume, and emit, less.

1 January 2008 : The Marketing Agenda 2008

Marketing connects consumers and business. It’s therefore interesting to look at the business and customer agendas (below) and consider marketing role in connecting the key factors for 2008. Bringing together many sources, here is the “Marketing Genius” Top 10 for 2008:

1. Individuality: from segments to insights, what really makes people tick?
2. Niches: there is no mass market - youth, boomer, gay, digital, green
3. Customer power: doing business on their terms, engaging their uncontrollable voice
4. Innovation: what’s a better idea, including the channel and application too?
5. Engagement: cutting though the noise to gain attention in relevant, enduring ways
6. Affinities: engaging customers through clubs and charities that matter more
7. Real green: making it real through recycling, carbon, organic, local, ethical
8. Networks: making your own networks, and working with customer's communities
9. Cocreation: from user-generated content and collaborative innovation
10. Advocates: customer loyalty is much more than a “net promoter” score

At the same time marketers will continue to strive for more influence within their business, and more effectiveness of their actions:

- Influence (the point is not that they need to be on “the board” which is more about independent governance, but rather that they should be a key part of the CEO’s team, driving market-driven strategic, business-wide innovation and customer thinking)

- Effectiveness (measuring and improving the ROI of marketing, not just short-term, but its role as the by far most significant driver of shareholder value – driving the future profits through better market and product focus, and better innovation and relationships)

However marketers can only achieve this through engaging customers on the factors that matter to them, and doing so in more innovative ways.

1 January 2008: The Business Agenda 2008

My new book “Business Genius: a more inspired approach to business growth” is published in March 2008 (it seems a long time since I was sitting in the Catalan mountains last summer exploring the real challenges of growth and entrepreneurship, innovation and change).

So if you’re a CEO, or anybody else in the business, who cares what matters to the CEO (don’t we all) then here are the “Business Genius” Top 10 issues for 2008:

1. Growth: new ways to stimulate and sustain demand in new and existing markets
2. Profitability: profitable growth is what really counts, through focus and perceived value
3. Global: managing complex and virtual organisations, whilst acting locally
4. Innovation: more strategic (business models), more disruptive (markets), more lasting
5. Sustainability: reducing and resourcing – environmental, social, natural, ethical
6. Reputation: protecting image in a transparent world of customer power
7. Talent: attracting and retaining, growing and energising the best people to work for you
8. Customers: retaining best customers, learning and getting more from them
9. Intangibles: learning to manage and unlock the intangible assets that matter most
10. Stability:
maintaining confidence and market value in volatile markets

Get a sneak preview at

1 January 2008 : The Customer Agenda 2008

Happy new year, and let’s as we mean to go on by thinking like customers - and by customers I mean consumers to anyone in an FMCG business still obsessed with their retailers.

At the moment I’m writing another new book “Customer Genius: transforming your business from the outside in” which will be published later in 2008 (eventually there will be four genius books – exploring business from the left and right, future back and outside in!).

Whoever you are in business, the customer agenda is surely your agenda. So here are the “Customer Genius” Top 10 issues for 2008:

1. Wellbeing: health and fitness, education and happiness, for you and your family
2. Doing more: enabling customers to do achieve richer applications, new possibilities
3. Status: premium lifestyles, personal identity and recognition, desire for luxury
4. Instant: expectation of speed, drive of impulse for anything, anywhere at anytime
5. Right thing: about me (eg education), my world (eg community), the world (eg poverty)
6. Connected: online and mobile, interactive and informed, everything on my terms
7. Authentic: real and genuine, heritage and original, natural and human
8. Exploring: travelling, learning, aesthetically-good arts and adrenalin-fuelled adventure
9. Surprise: more spontaneity and responsiveness, entertainment and excitement
10. Anchors:
something to hang onto in a fast, crazy world - trusted, familiar, enduring

But don’t take my word for it, get out there and talk to some of your own customers (ask open questions, listen to what they really say, dig deeper to understand motivations and dreams), and then reflect on what really matters most to your business this year.

31 December, Beijing : China ready to take centre stage

The last year has seen China preparing to move from emerging market to new economic superpower. Signalling this emergence, more than anything, is the Beijing Olympics. Indeed the chief choreographer for the opening ceremony has promised to represent the new and creative, youthful and ambitious nation, rather than one based on heritage and tradition, uniformity and surpression.

Looking at the global economic performance over the last 12 months highlights China’s role as the most successful global economy. Research by Jupiter Asset Management shows how the world’s markets fared in 2007, ranking the best by their 1 year average stock market returns:

1. China 99%
2. Peru 80%
3. Brazil 66%
4. Turkey 59%
5. India 58%

We’ve heard a lot about the rise of the BRIC nations, so less expected were the outstanding growth of Peru and Turkey (although perhaps not given my recent Istanbul experience). Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table are some old favourites like Ireland, Sweden and Japan. The markets with the worst returns in 2007 were

1. Ireland -25%
2. Belgium -10%
3. Japan -9%
4. Sweden -7%
5. Bermuda -5%

9 December, Istanbul : Fast markets, fast marketing

“Speed” was the theme of this year’s European Marketing Conference in Istanbul – with over 2000 delegates, 50 speakers it was an exhilarating event to chair as always (this year being my fourth and last time in the hot seat!).

Fast insights, fast trends, fast channels, fast innovation, fast strategies, fast communication, fast distribution, fast media, fast solutions, fast networks, fast results …

What is driving this speed (particularly when, actually, the world economy is not growing any faster than before)? Is it that customers expect faster answers? Or that competition is just much faster? Or are we responsible for it ourselves - like a hamster running faster and faster, but not getting any further?

• Costas Markides argued that it is better to be “fast second”, to learn from the insights and mistakes of others, and then be quick to come up with a better solution

Don Tapscott explored the economics of networks, where the connectivity of audiences and businesses drives demand and value created in more interdependent ways.

Danella Krautsack reflected on the use of non-traditional, ambient, transient, social media (landmarks, clothing, vehicles, nature, packaging) to engage people faster.

Magnus Lindkvist inspired us to think about what kind of future we are creating for our children, and how we would explain to them the world as it is, and we want to be.

There were many other amazing moments, from international and local sources – TurkTelecom for example is about to launch the world’s fastest commercial broadband service next month; whilst mobile rival Turkcell described how they hand-picked marketing talent to work faster and more creatively as a team.

Download more of the presentations from

7 December, Kiev : Finding Apple in a struggle for democracy

The Ukraine has been through a turbulent time in recent years – who can forget the long evening of the “orange revolution” as pro-democracy supporters refused to accept the initial results of the presidential elections. A re-run proved them right, but since then the reformers have struggled to move forwards, and the latest elections proved inconclusive – although a compromise is in site.

The Ukrainians are warm and welcoming, yet the Russian influence is still very noticeable to an outsider. Unlike most of the rest of eastern Europe, the streets are still full of communist-era icons. The language, the buildings, the department stores, the signage, the uniforms, the interior décor, the cars …

Amidst all this, I delivered the keynote at the Ukrainian EFFIE Advertising Awards – organised by Best Marketing. The audience as always was engaging and eager to learn, both from wester and eastern companies, from real and digital worlds. But there in its midst I met a fascinating ex Apple marketer – Steve Chazin - who will tell you the real story of Apple, its rise and fall, and rise again, and what really makes Steve Jobs tick. Check out his blog at

Download The Five Secrets of the World’s Best Marketing Machine

6 December, Bucharest : Marketing in the new Eastern Europe

Romania’s capital is still dominated by the incredible, crazed, indulgent buildings of its infamous former dictator. My taxi driver was keen to show me these “sights”, but more proud of how the city was rediscovering its Parisian-inspired past, with a more stylish, cultured part of town.

The flags were still out celebrating Romania’s national day when everyone had come out onto the streets and the city council had served food and drink to everyone, free – an echo of a socialist era, or of a strong community that has endured many trials and tribulations. As for the “people’s palace”, it looked dark and isolated – about a quarter of it lit up and used for government offices because nobody else wants to go there, and the extensive grounds are unkept scrubland.

The two-day Marketing Genius masterclass, organised in partnership with Stamford Global, was truly exhilarating, for me as the presenter/facilitator (and hopefully for the delegates too – indeed many said they left truly inspired, but that’s for them to say, not me to claim!). To be honest I have never met such a passionate and intelligent audience, passionate and eager to learn.

From the snack manufacturer to the motorbike importer, the mobile operator to the investment bank, the supermarket chain to the cheese maker, they all had their challenges. But by being prepared to throw away their prejudice, to think like real customers, to learn from unrelated industries, to embrace new practices, and insights from around the world – they left inspired by opportunity.

See details of more Marketing Genius masterclasses

See my new Romania Market Watch column

20 November, New York : The Truth about Climate Change

We’ve all now seen Al Gore’s epic powerpoint slideshow, read the book, or watched the movie. And of course, now that the Oscar and Nobel prize committees think that he is a winner, the cynics have started to back lash. Let’s see how many of those critics are still laughing in ten years time, particularly if they live near the sea, hope for stable weather patterns, or care about their children’s futures.

Whilst An Inconvenient Truth is principally designed to raise awareness of a fundamental challenge, the debate at last seems to be moving to what not if – deciding where the trade-offs must come, and how to both reduce our emissions, and fast forward new technologies that help us achieve our ambitions, but in a better way.

Anybody still arguing about the evidence – fools that they are – about whether carbon emissions are really increasing, and how far temperatures and sea levels are likely to rise – need look no further than the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Control. The IPCC has no political agenda or personal ego, simply the best scientific analysis and projections around. So if you’re still questioning the logic, read it, and if you accept it, get on and do something about it – particularly through “green innovation”, driving growth that is also good. 

Key scientific report:

Graphical presentation:

14 November, Istanbul : Fast Lifestyles

Hillside Beach Club has built a reputation as one of the world’s leading holiday destinations in recent years. Renzo Rosso, the man from Diesel recently swapped his vineyard for the turquoise waters around Antalya and the uninhibited personal indulgences of the beach club.

Hillside, however is much more than a beach resort, having started out as a network of designer fitness clubs catering for the beautiful people of Istanbul – live DJs whilst you work out have now become common but started here first. Indeed, the boutique hotels and spas, exclusive restaurants and shopping malls all start from a simple premise – to capture your imagination, rather than imitate the competition.

CEO Edip Ýlkbahar is adamant that Hillside’s secret lies in its constant desire to create newness, to take ideas from completely different places, and fuse them together into something new and inspiring. Walk into the luxurious colour-changing Hillside Su hotel, and you will be dazzled by the largest disco balls you have ever seen, and then chill out in your room with two double beds – one inside as conventional, and one on the balcony so that you can dream under the stars.

This week marks another lifestyle innovation from Hillside – with the launch of a new hotel, restaurant and shopping experience for the time-poor, lifestyle-rich of Istanbul – Hillside City Club-İstinye - so that you can get the ultimate high speed workout, excellent cuisine, and the perfect gift, all within your lunch hour. Fast cars, fast fashion, and now fast luxury is de rigour in the 21 century melting pot of Istanbul.

9 November, Tallinn: Silicon Valley 2.0 

Whilst the Baltics are still a blur on the map to some people (head north from Poland and you cross into Lithuania, keep going through Latvia, and you arrive in Estonia, and only a 20 minute ferry trip to Finland), they are fast establishing themselves as the centre of the new European economy.

Tallinn was recently described by Fast Company magazine as one of the world’s 25 hottest cities (for technology and innovation, not for the weather than is). Perhaps some of that Nokia-harnessed high tech culture has slipped across the water from Helsinki. Skype now has around 300 people in its head offices here, and many other tech companies are recognising the city as “the new Silicon Valley”.

At a local level, the innovation is perhaps having most impact on government, and using electronic voting and other developments to increase speed of decisions, and public participation in government. Similarly companies like Mobiil-ID are leading the way in wireless identification, enabling a transformation in the way people interact, do business and do their shopping. is a leading event organiser, and business community for marketing and innovation, leadership and customers.

8 November, Riga:  Stenders Soap Factory

The beautiful Latvian city of Riga is admired for its architecture and style. The old buildings reflect a fusion of central European influence, whilst the well dressed women look as though they have just emerged from the latest Moscow boutique or nightclub (the Russian influence is particularly strong here). The shops reflect a rich heritage in art and crafts, although they are complemented by the very latest high fashion branded stores.

“Stenders Soap Factory” is a great example of making heritage a cool, designer concept for the 21st century. With its traditional soaps and fragrances, old wooden cupboards and fusion of aromas, Stenders has build its own quirky personality, but also a rapidly growing footprint across the cities of Europe.

The company was established in 2001 by Zane Berzina and Janis Berzins, two young entrepreneurs from Riga. All of the "Stenders" products are sold exclusively in branded shops. By April 2007 the company has already 135 shops in 9 countries – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Georgia, Hungary, Ireland, China, The Netherlands and Finland. 

18 October, Llubljana: Fast Growth in Slovenia

Nestling in amidst Alpine mountains, but with the hint of Italian style and Slavic culture, Llubljana is a small compact town at the centre of a fast growing country. Indeed recent analysis revealed Slovenia (alongside Estonia) to be the fastest growing nation within the EU.

The relaxed charm of the riverside restaurants in the town centre seem at odds with that speed of growth. Indeed the country is still not identifiable with any strong brands, business sectors or particular aspects of innovations. The challenge for Slovenia is to develop and monetise its own ideas, rather than just being a outsourced factory for other nations. As the country prospers, costs will rise, and Slovenia will no longer be a low cost option.
Just like a company, or individual, nations need a strategy too, if they are to grow profitably and sustainably. Time for the Slovenians to focus on their brains rather than brawn, and to decide what they want to be great at.

1 October, Istanbul: Boom time on the Bospherous

Istanbul is a thriving, exhilarating, dynamic city – its chaotic and stifling traffic jams testament to a mass migration from the country to city over recent decades. However it is also a rising star of the fashion world – with many home-grown artisans, designers and architects now coming to prominence.

Visit the “Kanyon” shopping centre, one of many boutique-laden centres to have sprung up in recent years, and you will be surrounded by the Porsche-driving, Gucci-wearing lifestyle set. Harvey Nichols is a thriving anchor tenant, and the many surrounding stores and bars in the curving open-air malls are testament to a wealthy, cosmopolitan society, at least in part.

The head offices of Eczacibasi, one of Turkey’s leading holding companies, sits atop the complex, an example of a Turkish business with a rapidly growing international presence. From Egos hair gel to Selpak tissue paper, Villeroy & Boch ceramics to Vitra kitchens, this is a pharmaceutical company turned property developer is at the forefront of rapid commercial and cultural transformation.

25 September, Budapest: Marketing in the new Europe

With a total population of around 330 million, the CEE region represents a very large and dynamic economic area with considerable potential for further growth. Consumers from new EU member states and candidate countries are evolving at an incredible pace, and it is likely that decades of change in the West will be encapsulated in a much shorter time period in the East. Therefore, identifying and understanding the needs of the consumer will be even more critical than in the mature markets of the West. And now is the time to do so.

The inaugural CEE Marketing Summit brought together a fantastic collection of leading marketers, fantastically diverse case studies, and the most important issues for driving growth and innovation across the CEE. Examples such as Avon’s networked marketing approach to Russia, Erste Bank’s rebranding across local markets, Podravka spreading its love and heritage into new markets, Red Bull exhilarating the sleepy Hungarians along the Danube, and many many others.

The most significant discussion focused on the differences between markets – how to market differently in Poland from Hungary, Russia from Ukraine, Czech from Slovak republics. The most significant conclusion that this is the wrong way to look at these fast emerging markets. The commonality between segments within each market is far greater than the difference between geographies.

Join me in Bucharest (3-4 December 2007) and Warsaw (12-13 March 2008) in exploring these and many other CEE marketing issues further in the "Marketing Genius" masterclasses.

7 July 2007. Planet Earth: SOS

As Live Earth concerts brought home the urgency and magnitude of our global crisis, with concerts spanning every continent, and watched by around 2 billion people, Al Gore introduced his call to action,  Live Earth’s 7 point pledge on climate crisis:

• To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

• To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become “carbon neutral;”

• To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

• To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

• To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

• To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

• To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

Have you signed up yet?

29 June 2007. New York : Hello

We will look back on today as yet another milestone on Apple's journey of innovative design and market transformation. The sleek, high tech iPhone - combining phone, iPod, email, internet, and most dinstinctively, brand and design - hit the shelves of US stores today. Even the $499 price tag didnt put off the overnight campers. Apple really is a master of creating mystique, curiosity and love around their products - the buzz takes on a life of its own.

The first TV ad, sreened during the Oscars, carried the simple line "Hello". The New York Times said "the iPhone is so sleek it makes Blackberrys look obese. But even better is the software. It's fast, beautiful, menu-free and dead simple to operate" but added "its amazing, but not yet perfect."  Newsweek called it "a significant leap - a superbly engineered and cleverly designed solution to merging a phone, internet and media player" whilst USA Today said "this expensive, glitzy phone is worth lusting after" ... I want one. 

20 June 2007, Madrid : The Real Deal

Real Madrid received at least £300m in marketing revenues from their £25m investment in David Beckham, according to marketing director Jose Angel Sanchez, and the 1 million Beckham shirts sold in the first 6 months was enough to cover his transfer fee. In Beckham’s two years at the football club, sponsorship revenues from the likes of Adidas, Audi and Siemens Mobile have grown by 137% to £30m, and merchandise by 62% to £36m. Commercial income totals £80m and accounts for 42% of Real Madrid’s total income (compared to less than 10% previously), the remainder coming from £48m match-day sales, £44m from television rights and £16m from tours. Real is now ranked the richest club in world soccer. As he bids “Adios” and heads for LA Galaxy, the new La Liga champions will miss more than just his right footed crosses and free kicks.

18 June 2007. Sunnyvale : Just like the old days.

Jerry Yang is back in the saddle at Yahoo! to revitalise the once pioneering internet but now struggling search business. Yahoo! is an internet giant, but has tended to throw more and more random ideas onto its basic search engine. The company has an annual turnover of $3.2bn, 12,000 employees and more than 500 million individual users. Not bad for a venture that started as a small web site run by a two undergraduate students at Stamford University, seeking to create a directory of cool internet links. Yet compared to the mighty Google, Yahoo! is becoming an also-ran. The two companies are roughly equivalent in terms of staff and audience size - but Google's advertising revenues are 50% higher, and its profits four times that of its older rival. So all is not well in Sunnyvale, California, at the Yahoo HQ. Can Jerry find his old magic a decade on?

10 June 2007, London : Swap Shops

As green is the new cool, so recycled goods now become the thing to buy. Charity shops, nearly new stores, online exchanges. Or simply doing a direct swap with somebody else. Freecycle is a not-for-profit movement that swaps stuff within communities - turn up with your old lawnmower and walk away with bike.

The Visa Swap Shop in London's Knightsbridge is open for three weeks only, enabling people to trade points for unwanted designer clothes and spend them on designer gear they do want. Is swapping the new shopping? As the invitation goes: Welcome to the world of Visa Swap, an entirely new concept that enables you to spring clean your wardrobe and ‘buy’ new clothes without spending a penny. Plus all this can be done safe in the knowledge that your eco-halo will be gleaming like Liz Hurley’s wedding ring.

Everyone has items of clothing languishing in their cupboard that were an impulse-buy, a tad too big or small or purchased under the spell of a particularly enticing discount. Finally there is a way to be green and recycle these pieces whilst exchanging them for something that you might actually wear. Yes, retail heaven is coming to a store near you, as Visa Europe has linked up the the charity TRAID (Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development) and is opening a temporary pop-up shop.

1 June 2007, London : Get funky for the 2012 Olympics

The Olympics is one of the most powerful and populous brands in the world. Each host city takes the five ring emblem and values and presents it in a ever more contemporary, and locally inspired fashion. Logos from Moscow and Montreal to Barcelona and Sydney are still immediately recognised, capturing the athletic memories as well as the zeitgeist.

London, with the help of design firm Woolf Olins has launched the icon that represents everything that they hope 2012 will be ...  Whilst derided in the popular press, brands we should remember, don’t just reflect what we are comfortable with today, but of the changing world which we aspire too. The graffiti-inspired, constantly changing, multi-media and luminous logo followed the brief that it should be “like nothing before” and “reflect tomorrow’s youth”.

In the Olympic world, it is like nothing before. A multi-visual, multi-media icon for the mash-up world. And whilst it challenges me too, I am sure I will grow to love it, as I do the Olympics. So well done Seb Coe and his team for your boldness and vision …

25 May 2007, Vilnius : Baltics from the future back

Strategic innovation is rare. Most innovation is focused on product improvements, incremental changes, which are quickly copied and compromised. Starting from the future and then working backwards is more interesting. It is uninhibited by the conventions, commercial and competitive pressures of today, and naturally a whole host of implied disruptions to the status quo. However the secret of designing a business from the “future back” is the way you link it back into “now forward”, what different business actions you take now which can lead to a more distinctive future.

“Future back” strategy and innovation requires a better understanding of tomorrow – distinguishing the fads from the trends, and the possibilities from the plausibilities – a leadership commitment to this future model, gained only through hands-on involvement in the process, and then a disciplined focus on the capabilities and competitive actions that will create the symbols of change, and quick win results as stepping stones to the future. In Vilnius, our one day “Future Back” masterclass embraced the expertise and foresights of Magnus Lindqvist, the Swedish futurologist and pattern recognition expert who identified “individuality, transparency and speed” as the biggest drivers of the next decade. See

17 May 2007, Beijing : Mickey and the magic gourd. 

China has proven a difficult market for Disney so far, but it has now turned to an enchanted vegetable to spearhead its new market entry. The Magic Gourd opens at the end of the month and could be the first of many locally-made Disney-branded films around the world. Based on a 1958 novel written by Zhang Tianyl, and developed in partnership with China Film Group, the story is about a young boy who discovers a wish-granting gourd. The state-run television station CCTV features a cartoon based on the story as well. There are already more than 4,000 Disney Corner retail outlets in China.

15 May 2007, Prague : The Rise of Central Europe

Lower-middle-income consumers in Central and Eastern Europe have been largely neglected by Western marketers and represent a major opportunity for growth, according to new research by Boston Consulting Group. Around 60 percent of CEE’s 350 million consumers - ie more than 200 million - live on lower-middle incomes (defined as above the poverty line up to median household income). This group, which has jumped in size by the steady economic growth of Russia and Ukraine over the past six years, is significantly larger than in Western Europe and controls half of the CEE's disposable income.

The BCG report argues that this market has been strikingly underserved by Western companies. "The media often portrays Central and Eastern European consumers are either super-rich or super-poor … In reality, most consumers earn enough to make purchasing decisions daily, yet they face a lack of affordable goods and services beyond basic necessities. Western companies have a huge opportunity to tap into this segment by creating tailored, affordable offerings." Companies that entered the region during first wave of expansion in the 1990s focused on high and middle-income consumers, bringing similar products as in the West and marketing them in similar ways at similar prices. They also tried selling old and obsolete products from the West. This strategy allowed them to skim the top 15 percent of the market. In the next wave of competition, consumers with lower disposable incomes will become the new battleground.

15 May 2007, London : Heads down for customers?

“European Customer Management World” is supposed to be the state-of-the-art conference on what’s happening in the worlds of customer service, relationships and management. Yet there seemed to be something missing here, between the “heads down” managers of call centres, databases, and loyalty programmes – and the inspirational messages from the likes of

Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline): "Who is in control? Neither companies or customers, but nature ... See the bigger picture, the outside-inside system ... The bubble of the industrial age is now bursting ... Consumers care more than about product-price transactions, more about their impact on their world ... You can never get enough of what you really need to make you happy."

CK Prahalad (Competing for The Future):  "Organic growth is at a premium; it is not common or easy; and demands more strategic innovation ... Focus on the next practices not the best practices ... Amplify the weak signals ... Harness the nodal networks, the developing markets, the bottom of the pyramid ... Cocreate in new consumer contexts." 

Most of the EMCW audience seemed stuck in the 1980’s introverted, incrementalist, TQM-compliant, Tom Peters-worshipping world of undirected "customer focus" worship. They really do need a shake up, to wake up and see the new digitally-enabled, collaborative and personal world of customer business. To see more clearly what customer-centric business is about.

8 May 2007, Kalamata : Digital is all Greek down here

Running through the quiet villages of southern Greece - the olive trees and the orange blossom, the old ladies in black and men in flat caps, the horse-drawn carts and the fallen-down shacks – I could be forgiven for thinking this was not Europe. As I accelerated past, with my latest Nike shoes and shades, I felt I was passing from a future age. Is this really Europe of the 21st century? Does the world of 3G and wifi connect down here? Having spent much time in the emerging eastern Europe markets, it strikes me that the new Europe is more about North v South, rather than the old splintering of West v East. Or maybe there is much to be said for their slow, quiet life!

27 April 2007, Rome : The new customer agenda

Visa is an interesting business, one of the world’s most valuable brands, and one that touches us every day. And also a membership organisation that uniquely brings together the banks of the world. The future of electronic, contactless, intelligent payment systems is now upon us – much more than a payment card, much more than payment. We explored “the customer agenda” – in particular customer drive for simplicity and individuality – but also why any brand now needs more humanity, more purpose, and more passion to succeed. Not easy for a company traditionally seen as a background infrastructure provider, but essential if it wants to be trusted and desired. See

25 April 2007, Zagreb : Marketing the “ing"

The two most admired local brands in Croatia, according to our Genius survey, are a tie maker and boat maker. Not what you would expect. The tie company, Croata, engages national pride in this reborn country, building on a national heritage in ties (you learn something every day!), whilst the boat company is not about boats at all, but about sailing. It’s passion for water engages customers with a similar passion, building a community of sailors facilitated by the manufacturer. About the sailing not the boats. Brands need to find the “ing” in what they do for customers. This is what customers buy.

19 April 2007, Budapest : In the Heart of New Europe

Budapest is a fantastic, historic city, bang in the centre of Europe – although the long vacated shops with their old, ornate decoration can make it seem as if it is frozen in a pre-communist era. I learnt that Hungarians are an opportunistic race – they have an idea, and rush to make it happen, which often means that half-baked business ideas struggle to survive long. Early this morning, running along the banks of the Danube, I could feel history under my Nike Air cushions. Looking across at the towering parliament buildings, and the lofty Austo-Hungarian palaces from an empire long ago, this was once a mighty city. However Budapest is becoming a thriving centre again, a hub of central Europe, a booming digital town, and with some amazing people too. See

16 April 2007, London :  All the Books in the World

There is no shortage of books in our world. At this week’s London Book Fair you can find every possible shape, size, colour, title. What’s surprising is how few books are actually driven by understanding the needs of their customers, their readers. Publishers tend to commission books on a whim, and authors seem to write them with an abstract notion of reality. For fiction this is fine. For business books this doesn’t work. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have time to read 300 pages to find one or two good ideas, with practical application too … I seek to write Genius books differently (there will be three new ones coming out next year!), with a disciplined “pyramid thinking” focus (thanks to Barbara Minto) and an objective to write something significant on at least every other page.

10 April 2007, Houston : Moleskine gets connected.

If the digitally-enabled, hyper-connected world of Web 2.0 sounds a bit scary for you, then take inspiration from Moleskine, the little black notebooks that have embraced blogging. With its new range of city notebooks, which feature street maps and local information, the brand has also introduced a series of city-focused blogs for London, Milan, New York, Paris, and Rome. Eventually, the blogs will spin out into wiki-style pages of user-generated content with travellers and locals all contributing tips. If a notebook company is brave enough to embrace the new world of social networks, then maybe the rest of us should too. Incidentally, Moleskines’ turnover was up 50% from 2005 to €100 million.

4 April 2007, Riyadh : Customer-Centricity in the Sand

The Gulf is a fascinating market – a fusion of riches and poverty, religion and culture, it’s not easy to apply the largely Westernised ideals of management. And the countries in the Gulf are diverse too, Riyadh for example, having none of the glamour and technology of nearby Dubai and increasingly Abu Dabbi. Yet these are lucrative and competitive markets – just look at the price paid for the latest 3G licenses. So how do you compete? And what does “great” customer service look and feel like in this very different culture? Do people want passion, experience and theatre? Building a customer-centric business is not easy at the best of times, but even harder here. But if you can fuse the Western best practice with local cultural desires and sensitivities, it could be a powerful advantage.

22 March 2007, Manchester : Living Life a Little Better

The “conscience consumer” is now an important segment of our markets, increasingly demanding, discerning and different. Having watched the melting polar caps, the record-breaking weather of this spring, and the passionate call of Al Gore to face up to “An inconvenient Truth”, they want companies to do much more. As Innocent’s Richard Reed says “it’s not about tobacco companies offsetting their guilt by building a children’s playground”, or even offsetting your carbon emissions once they’ve caused their damage, but finding ways to do better business. Ethics and environment are the fast growing consumer motivation, so embracing them at the heart of your propositions and business models now makes competitive and commercial sense too. This is what the Cooperative Bank are doing. Imagine, for example,, a car insurance where the premiums are based on the carbon emissions rather than the driver’s risk (where there is potentially a correlation between the two anyway). A truly differentiated, higher margin, more engaging and socially responsible idea.

13 March 2007, London : Customer and Convergence

Technological convergence is obsessive. Many white papers and consulting hours have been spent considering the implications of fusing telephones with televisions with broadband with mobile. Triple play and quad play mania hit the big time in the UK recently with the launch of Virgin Media. Whilst many other players have attempted to “bundle the wires” the customer didn’t really care. All it gave them was a good price. Virgin’s latest business has typically taken a customer view, realising that the techno gobbledegook is the fastest way to commoditisation, distrust and bankruptcy. They have a more enlightened approach, demonstrating how simple, convenient and more fun it can be in a converged world. Tech companies really do need to stop thinking products, technically sophisticated, but customer irrelevant. Seeing things like customers do, is a far broader, more enlightened view of the market, with bigger and richer opportunities.  Have you seen the iDog?

12 March 2007, Seattle: Cookie-Cutter Coffee?

Howard Schultz, the respected chairman of Starbucks, has slammed his coffee chain for commoditisation in a leaked memo. Schultz is concerned that Starbucks’ rapid expansion has damaged its brand experience. “The results have been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores versus the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile [and] cookie cutter,” he wrote. Now Schultz must grapple with the age-old quandary – how do you stay small when you’re big?

6 March 2007, Riga : Creative Hotbeds in the Baltics

The Baltics seem to have leapt from the Medieval ages to the 21st Century - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have embraced their EU membership with gusto. It wouldn't surprise me if the next Nokia, or Apple, did not come out of one of these fascinating, beautiful countries (Skype already has its base with 250 people in Tallinn). In fact they are very different. Latvian capital Riga’s old town gives plenty of clues to its German, Scandinavian and Soviet pasts, Estonia is more like an extension of Finland (just a short boat hop), whilst Lithuania is more akin to Poland. These are high tech cities with more mobile phones, free wifi and laptop carriers per head than virtually anywhere in the world. They are ambitious too. In Latvia for example, there are plans to build “The Wall of the World” containing the signatures of at least a quarter of the world’s population. With a little vodka, anything is possible.  See

25 February, Leiden: From Skype and Kazaa to Joost

The Scandinavian founders of Kazaa and Skype Niklas Zennström, a Swede, and Janus Friis, a Dane have launched a new peer to peer service for TV. Will it disrupt the traditional TV advertising industry in the same way that Kazaa overturned the music industry and Skype threatens telecommunications? Joost is based on P2P software that runs on people's computers and combines TV with the internet. Unlike many other TV internet businesses, Joost is a free service with advertising breaks but offers viewers playlists rather than scheduled programmes

20 February 2007, Belgrade : Rethinking Serbia

Voda Voda is the most innovative bottle of mineral water I have ever come across. Monolithic plastic contains water from the high mountain springs in Serbia’s northern mountains. This is a country seeking a new start. Almost a decade after the many terrible conflicts in the region, Serbia is desperate to present a more positive view of itself to the world. Whilst political uncertainty continues to slow foreign investment, this is a country of intelligent, hard-working people. Yet it is also a nation of two mindsets, one is the contemporary, youthful, blogging innovators – the other is the lets keep things as they always have been. Perhaps that is like most markets. Yet when the “has been” is unchanged over half a century, and the innovators have more white paper than most, it is a country with extreme potential, if it can get its act together. See

30 January 2007, Paris : Innovators and Adaptors

Innovator or adapter. Which are you? That was the question I posed to the global management summit of one of the world’s leading paint manufacturers this week. And what does it mean to be an innovator? Are they mad inventors, with wacky hair, stuck in a lab, challenging the conventions, with little commercial sense? And what about the adapters? Are they less good? Or just work in more incremental, down to earth ways, with less ambition or risk? You need both of course. But the point is, you need both. Most businesses squeeze out the innovators, they don’t easily fit. But if you want innovative strategies, innovative concepts, innovative products, innovative people, you need a more diverse mix of people. Employ some artists, artisans, musicians, scientists, actors, engineers – and respect them all for their difference, not for their fit. After all, innovation is the only platform from which to create sustained, profitable growth.

24 January 2007, Davos : Less apres ski at the WEF this year.

Climate change, the rise of Asia and the next web revolution should dominate the agenda for the likes of Gates, Blair, and Bono at the World Economic Forum, starting today in Davos. The five-day talking shop in the Swiss Alps brings together business leaders, politicians and campaigners, make up the 2,400 participants from 90 countries. Let’s up hope it delivers because Asia is booming, the climate is in crisis, and web 2.0 could have far more lasting impact on our lives than its first version. Professor Klaus Schwab, the WEF is expected to kick off the event in his Second Life character. He reflected, our "increasingly schizophrenic world" gets "harder and harder to understand", and the need for real debate, and even more tangible action than ever. Otherwise all we will have is a virtual world.

11 January 2007, Los Angeles : Brand Beckham goes to Hollywood.

So David Beckham will leave the galacticos of Real Madrid for the relative small US Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy at the end of the season. The 31-year-old former England captain will sign a five-year deal, reportedly worth £128m, a fee which reflects salary, but also sponsorship and branding rights. His stated motivation is to build soccer as a major sport in the US, but I think it also says much about the South American influence in today's USA.

9 January 2007, Cuppercino : Jobs conjures up the future of phones.

Apple boss Steve Jobs unveiled the long-awaited iPhone at the Macworld Expo in the US. The announcement was greeted with plenty of enthusiasm by many - but not all, including those who had already trademarked the iPhone name.  However as soon as the lights went up and the last strains of James Brown faded out you could hear Mac fans all around expressing their wonder at, and lust for, Apple's new iPhone. Whatever it is eventually called, I want one now!

3 January 2007, London : What is your Economic IQ?

The Economist Intelligence Unit has compiled a trendsurvey forecasting what will affect us up until the year 2020. Among the principal findings are

  • Global redistribution of economic power. Emerging markets, China and India in particular, will take a larger slice of the world economy.
  • Demographics. Population shifts will have a significant impact on economies, companies and customers. Europe in particular will struggle to grow due to an ageing population.
  • Atomisation. Network technologies and globalisation will enable firms to better use the world as their supply base, alongside new forms of fragmentation and collaboration.
  • Personalization - Price and quality will matter as much as ever, but customers in developed and developing markets will place more emphasis on personalisation. 
  • Knowledge Management - Improving the productivity of knowledge workers through technology, training and organisation design will be the major boardroom challenge of the next 15 years."

Download the full report:

2 January 2007, London : The Science of Future 

As part of New Scientist's 50th anniversary celebrations, the magazine asked over 70 of the world's most brilliant scientists for their weird and wonderful predictions. Discover the future at

Another great source of future trends comes from “Delta Scan” which is Stanford’s futurist think tank on science and technology. Explore more at

Or for a more jargon-centric view of the future, you can explore Gartner's Hype Cycle. What’s changing? RFID is past its hype peak, whilst Web 2.0 has reached "the peak of inflation". Meanwhile VoIP telephony has reached "the plateau of productivity", ie it's here to stay. See more at 

Making sense of the future also requires an understanding of where we have come from. A website that has exemplified this is who has created a timeline from 1750 to 2100. Trends are more enduring than the fads which we typically obsess about. Learn more at

On a similar reflective theme, Time Magazine explores the biggest moments of the last 12 months, and concludes that YOU are the person of the year,9171,1569514,00.html?aid=434&from=o&to=http%3A//

1 January 2007, Geneva : Welcome to 2007

The World Future Society has recently published their annual forecast in The Futurist magazine. Read more at where predictions include

1. Generation Y will migrate heavily overseas.
2. Dwindling supplies of water in China will impact the global economy.
3. Workers will increasingly choose more time over more money.
4. Outlook for Asia: China for the short term, India for the long term.
5. Children's "nature deficit disorder" will grow as a health threat.
6. We’ll incorporate wireless technology into our thought processing by 2030.
7. The robotic workforce will change how bosses value employees.
8. The costs of global-warming-related disasters will reach $150 billion per year
9. Companies will see the age range of their workers span four generations.
10. The rise of obese Americans will strain public transportation systems.


The big issues of individuality, connectivity and sustainability will challenge and transform the way we succeed in business.

  • Power

The fundamental shift in power from business to customer, and diverse individuality of customers, where people don’t buy standard products generically pushed at them. Do you really do business when, where, and how customers want?

  • Networks

The connectivity of new technologies removes the old market inefficiencies that were the source of many companies’ revenues, and creates intelligent communities. Networks are now about the web of peer-to-peer connections, not just with the centre.

  • Sustainable

The rapid rise of our ethical and environmental conscience, at last and urgent as it is for all of us, only amplifies the customer’s lack of trust and engagement in companies and brands. Sustainability is not about box ticking, it is the biggest opportunity to innovate and grow.

             Genius = intelligence + imagination = extraordinary results

Genius” addresses these challenges with a more integrated and inspired approach to doing business - describing how to bring together customers and business, today and tomorrow, intelligence and imagination to achieve high performance.

  • Outside in + inside out

How to do business from the outside in, rather than the inside out. How to make customers and markets, rather products and capabilities your starting point. How to do business on customer terms rather than your own.

  • Right brain + left brain

How to take a more thoughtful, creative and holistic approach to your challenges. How to be embrace new ideas, rather than be a slave to numbers. How to free your creative side, to focus your imagination in a more intelligent way on what matters most.

  • Future back + now forward

How to create tomorrow whilst also delivering today. How to seize the best market opportunities, unlimitedby real and perceived conventions of your business or market. How to start from what is possible and then turn the radical ideas into practical action.

The fusion of Einstein and Picasso, in terms of their paradoxically opposite approaches (the scientist was the more artistic, the artist more scientific) provides a symbolic way to consider each aspect of business activity. How would Einstein and Picasso develop strategy, build brands, innovative markets, price products, engage customers, measure performance?

© GeniusWorks 2012