Another excellent conference and excellent value

Here are  a few  things i took away

Steve Hilton may sound modern (took his shoes off in public/wore T-Shirt etc)  but his ideas are really a reworking of ideas launched by the levellers in the 16th Century, and developed by Romantics in the 19th century- he wants things on a human scale and thinks that big things (Govt /Big Business) are (mostly but not always) in opposition to this ie are dehumanising. Romantics said similar things about the factory system. Steve’s plea that we should turn offer our mobiles and get back to nature could have come out of the mouth of Wordsworth ( if mobiles had been around then). A man with interesting things to say but you would not want him running anything – much that makes modern life enjoyable and safe is the product of big business and big government. Steve may be right about back to nature- it’s just a really old idea. I notice that hipsters/visionary policy wonks rarely acknowledge the intellectual traditions that they draw on.

Baroness Susan Greenfield talked about the plasticity of our brains ( how each of us is encoded with memories from our individual experience ). Interesting bit for branding people is how different senses (sight,sound,touch,smell/taste) are processed in different parts of our brain. Sight ( ie reading and following narratives) in the front of our brains. Sound and smell in the deeper more primitive parts of our brain. A strong brand/category should try to encode memory through all the senses. That’s probably why we love coffee shops: they satisfy all of the senses from the story of the heritage, to the smell of the coffee, to the sound of the artfully chosen playlist coming out of the speakers. In Starbucks you can even feel the coffee beans

Richard Watson: the idea that AI can replace humans is largely fantasy as you can’t code a machine to learn  a combination of  unpredictability, individuality and imagination.The problem with self driving cars is not the tech but the unpredictability of the humans the cars might bump into.  A more likely future is the increasing use of AI tools to support human efforts. In fact we already do this when we search on Google or use face recognition on Facebook. Doctors will use AI to make better diagnoses. But a machine wont be able to read the will of a patient to get better. The film ‘Her” is worth seeing as a credible dystopia of a world in which we will be served by AI “personal assistants”. Some shopping/organising of our lives will be done for us by these in the future

Russell Davies: The problem with technology is not humans- we as individuals adopt and adapt all the time- it is organisations. Big ones are very bad at it ( hence all those failed Govt IT projects) and the ones that are good at it have tech in their culture.(Tesla, Google, Amazon etc)  Basically you can’t plug in new technology into an organisation led by people who just “don’t get it”. These are the types of people who (earnestly) go to a seminar about the impact of social media but have a Facebook account which they rarely bother to look at. They know they should know about it – but they don’t live it. This describes much senior management today

I have just designed a new course for APG ( see blurb below) – Book here 

What makes brands grow? How to base your strategic proposals in evidence based thinking – 20th April 9am to noon.

This 3 hour workshop is a hands-on look at the critical evidence based thinking that you need to know from marketing science and behavioural psychology, and how to apply it.

Fast, furious and intellectually stimulating, during this workshop you will learn the concepts and ideas that underpin the best and most authoritative contemporary thinking, from Daniel Kahnemann, Byron Sharp and others, and how and when to apply them to create effective strategies that clients will buy.

This interactive workshop  will look at the truths and untruths that underpin industry thinking and help you to harness the evidence that matters to underpin your work.  

You will learn how to use data to challenge wishful thinking about brands and communication and how to take strategic decisions with confidence

The RA’s new blockbuster show Painting the modern garden  is a sure fire hit. You can be guaranteed at least two hours of calm and visual joy contemplating all the paintings of flowers and gardens, and Monet’s  Waterlilies in particular.

You would not think that they were created at a time of dramatic growth in inhumane factories and grimy cities or that the ghastly products of the armaments industry was shattering mens bodies on an industrial scale in the trenches of The Great War. That is (part of) the point: the British fell in love with their gardens as a places of sanctuary and retreat from the modern world. These paintings are as calming and satisfying as a session of meditation.


What has this to do with Kittens?

Each day we watch endlessly depressing news broadcasts and each hour we dance attendance on email, twitter and linked in. So we too need a place of sanctuary. Google researchers (when i worked there) found that a big reason why we can’t resist kitten videos is they make us feel relaxed. That is the insight behind this short film called Kitten Therapy.  I am sure that you won’t be able to resist it. 8 million others have found it irresistible too

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If you like RA show you are sure like Delacroix and the rise of modern art  at the National Gallery, a 15 minute walk away .He is the missing link from classical art to the likes of Cezanne , Monet and Renoir. He invented colour theory- the way that certain colours in combination create a particular effect. Take a geeky pleasure in seeing how his love for vivid turquoise and green crop up all the time among his successors, as at the show, you can see his works displayed alongside his disciples.



£3.00 gets you into all three shows at the photographers gallery. Saul Leiter is worth the price of the ticket alone. (He is the antidote to Liebovitz’s relentless pursuit of people in the news and boosting of the celebrity machine.)  Although he did commercial work , mainly he walked the streets of New York-often looking through a window made blurry through condensation to capture a passing moment. Oh and he clearly loved snow and umbrellas in the rain.

Documentary on YouTube here . Good to watch before you go. He was going to be a Rabbi before he took another direction. At a time  when most shots appeared in black and white in the prints he spent his own time experimenting with colour. Images are muted and nostalgic- an effect he achieved by using expired/used film. He trained as a painter and so saw the potential in photography for abstraction and painterly images. Here Some shots i grabbed from the show

Aurora magazine recently asked me where and how i look for insights online, so i thought i would share. Here are five I find really useful (heavily influenced i guess from working at Google )

ThinkwithGoogle (www.thinkwithgoogle.com) a treasure trove of think pieces and case histories about good digital marketing .

 Google trends www.google.com/trends: what is trending in search right now? What are people searching for in your market right now? What does that tell you about how culture is changing or how your market is changing? You should check it every day. It might change what you think is really relevant to your brands customers.

 Slideshare www.slideshare.net. Presentations shared on more topics than you can imagine. Want to know more about Behavioural Economics and its practical applications? You will fine several presentations about it here.

 Twitter www.twitter.com If you search Twitter you can find high quality articles. But you need to narrow down it down a bit to get the right stuff. “Milllenials” as a search might be too broad “Millenial employees” or Millennial insights “ or “Millennials brands” gets you a more relevant result (assuming that is what you are looking for)

 YouTube Re:View www.getsubsciptions.withgoogle.com A selection of the best of YouTube every week.. An insight what’s hot in American culture. Sit back and soak it up

Just back from the Marketing Society Annual conference where much of the talk was about how technology +data are leading to innovation. It’s all about brand building through better more personal experiences, services and speed of new products to market ( with advertising getting barely a mention.)

What are good examples of this? Here is one of my favourites

Disney ‘Magic Band’: “Park guests” use the Magic Band to gain access to the park, get in priority queues for the attractions, pay for their purchases at the concession stands, and even get into their hotel room. Each family member has a wearable band with GPS and radio transmitters that track each other’s location in the park. At the end of their stay, Disney presents the family with a photo diary of their park adventures, having used automatic cameras to snap pictures when the Magic Bands are nearby. And imagine the face of a newly-turned six-year-old who just had his favourite Disney character address him by name and wish him a happy birthday. Disney made a billion dollar investment to create a wearable accessory that changes their park experience completely.imgres-1.jpgimgres.jpg