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Brand strategy for a better world

A tale of two bottle caps

August 21st, 2013


Two bottle caps with a different approach to brand

I drunk a couple of bottles of craft beer the other day and the bottle caps got me thinking…

The cap on the left is from Thornbridge. They’ve put their logo on the beer cap, along with their three values: Passion, Knowledge and Innovation. I don’t mind their values being there, but I dislike two of those overplayed words: you shouldn’t need to remind yourself or others you’re passionate about something and innovation is too science-y for beer.  Overall, it’s better than leaving it blank, but a bit straightforward.

I prefer the bottle cap on the right. It made me laugh when I opened it and made me proud to be drinking a craft beer. All about identity. I can’t remember the brewery though!

Agile brand?

June 21st, 2013


Here’s a presentation I recently gave at the mighty Five Foot Six design agency. Can agile be applied to brand strategy?

I’m really interested in this idea. I think some elements of agile fit really well and have the potential to solve problems that brand strategy face:

  • Focus on business need
  • Minimum Viable Product / Brand
  • Communicate constantly

In true agile style this an experiment! I’d love to know your thoughts.


Made in the USA

June 20th, 2013


Screengrab of the apple website
The new Apple MacPro desktop is going to be assembled in the US and some of the parts are going to be made there too.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Apple mention their supply chain.

Interesting to see how Apple talk about this too – framed in quality / accuracy / control of final product to support the positioning of the MacPro as a ultra premium workstation.

No mention of reducing product miles / boosting local economies / worker welfare, but let’s hope it’s a start for more local manufacturing.

You are your customers

May 7th, 2013


This lovely green bike at the top left caught my eye at Spin London. Great name too: Rad’s Elegant Butcher:

It’s made by a company called Saffron Frameworks.

I’d never heard of the company before, but I had heard the names of the people they make bikes for:

screengrab of saffron frameworks website

Joe Birt the creator of coolest mountain biking sheep Mint Sauce,

James Grieg a popular cycling blogger and

Mike Hall – holder of the World Record for cycling round the world in the shortest time.

Suddenly I felt like I knew the brand. They were imaginative enough for Joe Birt. Had enough attention to detail for cycle love’s James Greig. Enough function for Mike Hall.

Got it.


Landscape to cityscape

May 6th, 2013


Richard Diebenkorn, Cityscape I,(Landscape No. 1), 1963

I found an old notebook today, which has this image on the cover: Cityscape I,(Landscape No. 1) by Richard Diebenkorn, 1963.

I first saw this painting in San Francisco MOMA way back in 1998. The shadows from the buildings on the left, falling over the road and on the as yet untouched green fields on the right.  I’m not sure if it’s what Diebenkorn meant, but to me it is all about humankind’s impact on the environment.

It made a huge impression on me and was one of the reasons I wanted to work ‘for’ the environment. Funny how a painting can do that.

Starting the chain

May 4th, 2013



I read about a way to start doing something every day. It’s called Seinfeld’s chain. Every day he writes a new joke or practices a joke and adds a dot to a diary. Then the chain of dots he’s built is an incentive to keep going. You don’t want to break the chain. Gonna try it for the blog.

Watch the bird

May 3rd, 2013


Brilliant identity for an innovation consultancy – a red bird that continually morphs into different positions.

See it in action at I love the way it springs into it’s new shape each time, like a new idea forming. Great work by @tim_nolan



Brand love: Patagonia

May 2nd, 2013


Close up of a bobble hat with the sustainable brand Patagonia logo

This is the first in a series of posts about brands I love. So it makes sense to start with Patagonia – the wisest and originaliest of green brands. The Buddha of sustainable brands.

I actually only own one thing of theirs. And that’s a bobble hat, albeit a bobble hat that as soon as you put it on transports you to being a ski bum in Aspen in 1978.

But I feel like the brand has been with me for ever.

I remember hearing about them way before seeing any clothes. Things like making the first fleece from recycled plastic bottles. Or reading that they train their staff in peaceful protest. And that they started 1% for the planet – the movement inspiring businesses to give 1% of their sales to environmental organisations.

The list of things go on.And it’s through those things that I got to know and love Patagonia. Not through their clothes. It was through their actions. I could never have seen a single item of theirs, but I’d still know the brand. Brand is what you do.

I remember feeling uncomfortable the first time I heard about the recycled fleece. Something was asking me how much I believed. If I was going to step up. Their shop for second-hand goods on eBay is asking me: are you true enough not to need the new and shiny? Brand is what you stand for. I love Patagonia because it stands for challenging ideas about saving the planet.

The idea at the heart of Patagonia is so strong that it can survive without product. A series of Patagonia lodges. An outdoor skills weekend. A march. A lifelong kit rental club.

It’s a brand that can go anywhere.



Do what you love

April 30th, 2013


Milton Glasier's I love new york
It all starts with doing what you love. That’s how you go the extra mile. Do great work. That’s how you tell a story that you care about. That’s why you stand out, people take notice, join you and stuff happens. So many strong brands start here. It’s the only place a strong brand can start from.

Do what you love.

Simple and smart first, sustainable second

December 14th, 2012


The Nest smart Thermostat - a sustainable and smart product

The Nest is a smart thermostat that learns how you use your home and adjusts the heating / cooling automatically to save energy.

The team behind it designed the original iPod. They’ve pulled off the same trick here than they did to the generic MP3 player – simplifying a clunky product, streamlining a user experience, making it desirable. They’ve created a thermostat that people want to display proudly on the wall, not hide in their kitchen drawer.

Although it’s undoubtedly a sustainable product and the team talk in interviews about saving the world, sustainability is not the primary message. It’s a better, smarter, good looking alternative. A world-changing product without a whiff of worthiness.

Products and brands like Nest reposition sustainability as the stylish and smart option.