My  case for investment is just published in Aurora ( Pakistan’s leading marketing and advertising periodical) and is reproduced with their kind permission.

I think that the argument applies to all markets.

Agencies, most of which are under competitive pressure and enduring tighter margins, need to invest if they are to be credible business partners for clients – and not just suppliers of communication. How smart is your agency - Julian Saunders

Memories of my recent visit to Karachi and Lahore, at the invitation of Pakistan Advertisers Society, to run my seminar “Brand Building in the digital age”

This piece has just been published in the latest issue of Market Leader and is reproduced with their kind permission. Article hereSaunders

Plus pics of “The welders”,”The landlord”, and the “Wrestler from Peshawar” – who feature in the piece




Last year The Cannes Awards saw many examples of brands trying to “do good business by doing good”. I expect this year there will again be many awards entries that aim to engender brand loyalty by being good corporate citizens. Aurora commissioned me to write a piece about this undoubtedly  big trend.

I have taken an historical perspective to explain why brands adopted “higher purpose branding” covering- 19th century philanthropy, challenger brand thinking courtesy of Adam Morgan and finally looking at the influence of big tech and social media. Brands covered include – The Body Shop, Dove, Google, Microsoft and Uber

A word doc is here which may be easier to read  HPB final



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It is 10 years since I published The Communications Challenge (APG 2004), which opened the door for me to many opportunities to run training courses – on all continents (except Antarctica) for both agencies and clients.

10 years on – what have I learnt?

I hope these notes are useful to anyone commissioning research or those looking for a satisfying new career in business education or as a trainer.

Most useful preparation for being a good trainer

For me it was learning to design and moderate groups discussions (whilst a planner at Ogilvy). In fact writing a book only gets you business it does not make you a good trainer. Nor does being a great presenter. In fact I fancy myself quite a bit as a presenter- but this can lead you to think it’s all about giving a great performance. It’s not. People learn very little from a power point and get bored after 45 mins with an egotistical presenter.

Remember you are designing an interaction

People learn from the holy trinity of interaction, stories and examples. And of these three the most important is interaction – with the trainer and each other. Quite a lot of the value that people get from training comes not from listening to the trainer but getting to know each other and how to work with each other. In a lot of client organisations people work in silos and the culture is not conducive to team working. As the trainer your are enabling this to happen. People enjoy this and it is a blessed release from the daily grind.

Think of presentation as the introduction of stimulus for the next interaction

As a general rule you should have only about 10 slides before having a break out or discussion – if people are particularly responsive presentation can be done as a form of live interaction rather than “sit and listen”. Introduce only one idea and illustrate it with examples during your 10 slides – which should be mainly pictures and carry as little text as possible.

Make sure your delegates want to be in the room.

The trainer needs to bring a lot of energy into the room – but you will only have a great session if it is reciprocated and your delegates want to be there.  Their bosses need to position training a benefit to delegates and you should avoid situations if possible where people have been “told to go to the training”. It will not go well. Similarly if the organization you are training is about to be “restructured” or “downsized” delegates will not be in the mood for -as they will be distracted at best and pissed off at worst.

Find out about your delegates

It is a good idea to ask delegates to fill in a pre-course questionnaire to find out about their hopes and expectations and use what you have found out in the workshop – be flexible.

Delegates want the trainer to be “on receive” and not just “transmit”

Leadership from your client is vital.

Your delegates need to know that the training is important to the organization so you need endorsement from the leader- preferably in person at the start of the session.

You need to lay down the rules

The bane of your life as a trainer is the mobile phone – it used not to be 10 years ago and now it is very difficult to stop those itchy thumbs – especially if your delegates work for an organization where the culture is to respond to emails very rapidly. You can try taking mobiles away provided you understand that your delegates may see this as an assault on their human rights.

Evaluate at the end

Ask delegates to fill in a short evaluation questionnaire at the end. Over 10 years I have learnt a lot from these- especially the point about interaction above

People almost never reference the quality of presentation – they do appreciate a trainer who listens and interacts. They do also recognize when you “know your stuff” and have asked questions and received a thoughtful replies.

Never get stale

I rarely run exactly the same course twice – I normally learn something from running a session and want to make improvements and/or refresh and update the examples I use. For the topics I cover this is essential and there is always new creative work and, embedded in this work, are new ideas about what will be effective. Especially now.

Best countries to run training

Sadly not my own. Brits can be very complacent. In countries like Pakistan, Brazil, China and Nigeria there is a visceral hunger for knowledge and people bring energy and enthusiasm to the workshops. Training in the USA represents some challenges as Americans think of themselves as top dogs and they see themselves as dishing out the advice and not receiving it. (Brits are guilty of this too). So if you are a Brit training in the USA you need to partner with an American.

 What have been my favorite training courses?

Logic and leap – with Patrick Collister A planner (me) and a creative director (Patrick) take you from brief to creative idea in one day – we ran this with independent creative agencies in various parts of the world including RSA (Jupiter Drawing Room), Ireland and Finland. A privilege and a pleasure

Media Creativity Workshop for Unilever- from new product idea to innovative use of media in one day. Agency people and Unilever folk all in one room. A very good mix people learnt a lot from each other. This ran internationally.

Account Planning for Account Directors – bright and ambitious agency folk are always a joy. This also meets a big need- all those agencies out there that what to be better at the strategy bit yet cannot afford to hire a lot of planners.

Any disappointments?

These days I normally work alone – and the reason is budgets. This is a pity.

In the early part of the last decade I was often partnered up. And this made it a lot more enjoyable and less knackering.  So if there are any trainers out there looking for a partner please do get in touch

I do feel watching the British media that there is often a failure of empathy in our discourse about Islam.

So here us my attempt (inspired by the pleasure i have had from visiting Pakistan and the British Museum’s exhibition about Hajj last year)  to explain the appeal of Islam in terms that a western and secular brand marketer would understand. It has just been published in the most recent issue of Market Leader– so thanks to Judie Lannon,the  visionary editor of ML, for entertaining my views. Scan 2

I was asked this question by Aurora magazine ( which is a cross between Marketing Week and Campaign in Pakistan- edited by the excellent Mary-Lou Andrew). It set me thinking. If you ask this question now you are no longer just asking about the narrow question of winning and retaining customers – you are in fact asking about how brands fit into the wider picture of society, technology and government, especially as the state retreats.

Here were my 5

Business for Good

10 years ago companies started to get CSR departments- but was it just a fig leaf whilst the company carried on as before? The suspicion was yes and not the fig leaves were not big enough to cover the private parts

Then Unilever closed its CSR department and said that ethical behaviour was its whole business (see their 5 levers of change). Last year, Jim Stengel ( ex P&G top marketer) said (in Grow the business case for brand ideals is not about altruism or corporate social responsibility. It is about expressing a business’s fundamental reason for being and powering its growth. A big trend- and the likes of Unilever and P&G do make the weather..

The bigger picture is that as the state retreats outsourcing is on the rise- cue more scandals as we resent private companies making profits out of our taxes. Outsourcing is a ghastly word – a damning association for Mitt Romney even in business friendly USA. These companies desperately need to express and believe in a higher purpose- not least as a defence agains public skepticism about their motives.


It was the surprise hit of the London 2012 Olympics- proof that great customer experience is the best form of marketing and the most effective way to build reputation

We are all now interested in how we can keep all that good will and energy going and apply it to other big challenges- especially as the state is in retreat. How can it help in other areas- the health service and social care for example? Volunteering is how the justice system has run in the UK since time immemorial in the form of ( unpaid ) Justices or the Peace. Can the model be applied to other areas of civic society?

The clues are there in the olympic experience  and they are all to do with how you treat people who do the volunteering

Make it feel important , fun, rewarding and sociable- give people a sense of status as volunteers.

Try not to make it feel like ‘ a duty’

This is The Big Society – to make it happen means dropping the grandiose policy wonkery around it and thinking about the things that give us pleasure and make us feel recognised and rewarded.

 Authentic cultural experiences

All trends have counter trends – as many have become more isolated-slaves to a flood of emails and tweets ,so we want to get back into the real world

Music festivals have grown fast over the past decade and now cultural festivals and book fairs are growing too. The Hay book festival has gone international. I expect Karachi’s young book festival to be as big as Jaipur soon – it will be an authentic expression of Pakistan’s vibrant literature and art.

The mobile personal screen

The mobile is no longer a communications device- it is turning into another screen that we carry around and by which we navigate the world.

The drivers of this are device innovation, a dynamic app economy and lower costs. Huawei (chinese) smartphones will make smartphones available to more people soon – not just those who can afford Iphones

To call this “mobile marketing” is to miss the more radical nature of the mobile revolution. This will collapse the separation between the real and virtual worlds. The mobile- as last supported by high speed internet access- will be a tool for adding whole other dimension to your experiences in shops, streets, sports stadia and at events. Of course big data will get in on the act and see this as a chance to target us with relevant messages- right person, right time ,right place is more possible. But the bigger opportunity is to ask – what portable service can i give my customers that they value and use to navigate the world around them and connect with their networks. Foursquare is just the beginning

Food prices and poverty

Food prices are going up as the harvest has been poor in the USA- expect protectionism to grow as countries like Russia seek to hold onto more of their food to feed their own people. This is understandable but misguided and a bad idea for everyone.

These rises will hit the poor hardest as they spend a much greater proportion of their money than the middle classes on just keeping body and soul together. The so-called developed nations will have to get used to more and more soup kitchens in their poorer cities (the Northern ones in the UK).

And for the big food and retail brands it will represent a challenge- the best will seize the opportunity to demonstrate that business is for good and not just for profit.

Telenor’s bold move that deserves support

A striking and different campaign has hit the streets and airwaves of Pakistan from Telecoms giant Telenor. The company is putting a lot of money behind it on TV and in posters (and is one of the highest spending advertisers in the country-they spend more than Unilever and P&G combined.).

When I drove from the airport to the hotel in Karachi it was the poster that really stood out as different from the happy smiling faces of the other big spending brands on the drive into the city. It was the same in Islamabad , where all the government offices are. A large (96 sheet) poster was right outside the airport-Pakistani politicians cannot fail to see it in their back yard.

Kamoshi Ka Boycott means ‘end the silence’ (that can further be elaborated as ‘and raise your voice’) is an invitation to the youth of Pakistan to speak out and text in on the issues that really matter to them-(the ads are branded DJuice-which is Telenor’s pre paid mobile tariff aimed at the young)

Perfect timing

Telenor’s  timing is near perfect- partly planned, partly luck.

The luck bit is that this campaign was being developed before the current wave of change in the Middle East and North Africa but it chimes perfectly with it.

The planned bit is that this campaign coincides with the cricket world cup in a cricket mad nation. Kamoshi Ka Boycott TV commercials appear in the breaks of the cricket shows that cover the exploits of Shaid Afridi and his dashing band of teammates. While other brands are doing light-hearted promotions around the cricket world cup, Telenor has broken with convention and created a platform for people to raise the serious issues

Telenor are in a long tradition of telecoms companies who use communications to bring about a change in the culture and not just sign up customers. It really started with The Future is bright the Future is Orange in the mid 80s in the UK. Yet Telenor’s campaign is and looks altogether more visceral and immediate than that- it has an energy and an immediacy that is needed to start movements and is in the best traditions of political posters rather than brand ads

Will it catch fire?

Telenor has committed  a big ad spend and it has helped to put low cost mobiles in the hands of young Pakistanis so they can communicate their issues cheaply with a text-which is what the first part of the campaign invites them to do.

That of course will be a story in its own right- what will young Pakistanis text in? – a report back on that is worth covering in the media (at home and abroad given the context of the times).

Yet Telenor still need a bit more luck- they need personalities to get behind it-(step forward Shaid Afridi ?)-and they need to tap into a vein of discontent and desire for change. The results as we have seen in North Africa can be unpredictable.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

These are especially difficult times for politics in Pakistan

Two progressive politicians, who stood against the blasphemy laws, have been gunned down by the Taliban.This is meant to silence moderate opinion and tolerant people and it must have an effect-to speak out in Pakistan you do not just have to be good but very brave. Few individuals are prepared to pay with their lives as Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmann Taseer did. Perhaps a force for change is not to rely on a few brave individuals but to engender a mass movement of young open minded people- this is what has brought about a transformation in Tunisia and Egypt.

It is early days in the campaign-what will happen next?