Mulholland Drive and the lesson for startup brands

David Lynch’s 2001 neo-noir film Mulholland Drive left many viewers baffled and perplexed. But many were impressed by the audacity of the invention and creative vision and many critics consider it a masterpiece of modern cinema. It was even voted the best film of the 21st century.

Lynch had to take a massive change of direction to make the movie happen at all.

A TV production company backed Lynch to develop a new TV series to follow the success of Twin Peaks. So he developed a new idea, and shot an open-ended proof of concept pilot. Mulholland Drive was his new vision, his new creative plan.

Mulholland Drive is a good example of a creative pivot. You set out planning to reach a target, but end up finding something you didn’t expect to find.

But when his backers saw the pilot they pulled the funding and decided not to go ahead and produce the series. Lynch’s plan was in trouble.

But he didn’t stop there. Convinced of the idea and his concept he sought a new producer, a new backer to turn the TV pilot into a feature film. He dug deep and found a new way to reach a target he hadn’t set out to reach. Read more

Every great brand tells a great story – what’s your story?

It was Mad Men’s Don Draper who said that every great ad tells a great story. But you no longer need a Madison Avenue advertising agency to tell that story for you. You need good design, a great website and social media channels. And lots of hard work of course!

In my view every great brand needs to tell a great story. If you’re a brand owner or a marketing professional I think you’ll probably agree.

Each new Steve Jobs keynote created a chapter of the Apple story with every new product launch. Usually that was an insanely great story that anyone could connect with.

Enzo Ferrari took the famous prancing horse logo from a design on the fuselage of a World War 1 plane. He added the yellow background and invented the Ferrari logo as a good luck symbol. But you don’t need to be a petrolhead to understand and admire the power and history of the Ferrari brand.

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Five lessons from the Uber brand experience

Many of my clients are exciting startups intent on changing their market and, in some cases, changing the world too. But in the post-‘Zero To One’ business landscape every company is a startup. Every business needs to keep learning and every brand needs to keep evolving otherwise you risk becoming irrelevant. A fascinating long read on the history, failings and ‘uberise’ of Uber in London (you can read it here) led me to an in-depth look at the rise and rise of the Uber brand experience. And of course ‘uberize’ has become a verb meaning to change a market or economic model by the introduction of a cheap and efficient alternative.

1. Your brand needs to evolve

If you live in a city, Uber makes it very easy to not own a car. In fact it makes it cool not to own one, as co-founder Travis Kalanick explains: ‘Uber started out as everyone’s private driver. Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

Where it was once ‘everyone’s private driver’ now the essence of the Uber brand and the product that it sells is movement itself. As Kalanick told Wired, “The early app was an attempt at something luxury. That’s where we came from, but it’s not where we are today.”

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth.

No one can accuse Uber of not thinking big: ‘Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth. If your brand is static you get overtaken. It you don’t move, you get run over. Read more

Total brand experience – use your brand to grow your business

It’s an often overlooked but self-evident principle, that seeing how your brand performs helps you build your brand and grow your business.

The biggest headache for any business, is finding new users and new customers. Having a stronger and more powerful brand can help you solve that problem.

Growing your brand means growing your business. It’s your most effective sales and marketing asset.

Total Brand Experience

Everything you say. Every update you post, or link you share. Everything you do is part of your total brand experience. That’s why everything that surrounds your business is important.

Your latest tweet isn’t just a part of your social media. In real and measurable ways your latest tweet is your brand and your product itself, no matter what you sell, or what sector you work in.

Your social media and marketing is your brand and your product. It’s how your users and your customers see and interact with you. Everything you do is part of your total brand experience. Read more

A little less conversation – the problem with social media

Social media channels are placing less value on conversation. Blue ticks, algorithms and interwoven adverts are killing Twitter. LinkedIn is often seen as a walled garden where users have to pay just to look over their neighbour’s fence. Facebook has always seemed less than the value of its parts. But Twitter has lost value since it became a revenue-chasing corporation.

There’s generally a lot less conversation since the early days of social media. This makes social platforms less valuable, not only for general users but for brands too. The average user is less likely to join a conversation started by a brand. They’re more likely to comment about things that touch their lives and their emotions.

Brands are more than logos. They’re groups of people who deliver a brand experience. To deliver that experience they need to be well-known and appreciated. If not they die.

Problems happen if a brand jumps into a conversation without thought and attention. And if they start their own conversation they risk indifference. Read more

Building a total brand experience for Nuvem 9

Nuvem 9 are a new type of financial and accounting consultancy service that specialises in working with companies and entrepreneurs with ambitions to take the profitability in their business to the next level.

‘We are not advisors with an MBA who have never actually worked in a business,’ says partner Niall McGinnity.

We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

The first thing we did was to sit down with the partners and fully understand their business and even more importantly help them understand what makes their business different from other brands and their competitors.

Only then did we start redesigning the logo to make the ‘nuvem’ or cloud part of their brand more legible and approachable, in keeping with their brand positioning. We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.


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Cola wars – Coca-Cola’s new ‘one brand’ strategy

Around about the time the Beatles were becoming famous, Coca-Cola already had a ‘one-sight, one-sound, one-sell’ strategy in place, along with a worldwide advertising campaign based on the proposition “Things Go Better With Coke”. Developed with the creative input of McCann-Erickson (an agency I worked for several decades later), it was a campaign that dominated the sixties, fighting for attention with Pepsi’s rallying call “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation.”

A brand expert could see Coke’s new ‘one brand’ strategy as a reflection of the ‘one-sight, one-sound, one-sell’ strategy and applaud the consistency of the approach. The problem is that in the sixties, leaving aside Fanta and some other syrupy diversions, Coca-Cola was still essentially a one-product company, but today the Coca-Cola Company manages a series of distinct and different brands. You don’t meet many Diet Coke drinkers who are just as happy with the full-fat alternative.

Jon Woods, General Manager of Coca-Cola in Great Britain & Ireland explains the company’s thinking: “With our new ‘one brand’ approach, we are uniting four distinct brands under the umbrella of Coca-Cola. We believe our no and lower sugar variants will benefit from this closer association with Coca-Cola and that featuring all variants in our advertising will make clear to more consumers the full choice we offer them.” Read more

Copywriting and branding lessons from seven seasons of Mad Men

One of the interesting things about the recently ended Mad Men series was how it so often pitched its way out of the confines of the TV soap opera and into the real world of a creative advertising agency.

As a Creative Director who escaped the clutches of McCann-Erickson myself, there are lessons from the series for not just about every type of creative and marketing professional, but for every business owner too.

Copyhackers has produced the useful infographic below outlining the copywriting lessons from the show from the practical, ‘If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation,’ to the philosophical, ‘We’re gonna sit at our desks typing while the walls fall down around us. Because we’re the least important most important thing there is.’

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Mad Men, Coca-Cola and the big brand dilemma

In the Mad Men finale, broadcast late last night in the UK and Ireland, Don Draper and many of the main Sterling Cooper characters are desperate to flee the all-consuming, skirt-chasing ad agency giant McCann-Erickson. In fact US reviewers have largely overlooked the fact that Don is trying to escape the deathly clutches of McCann’s almost as much as he’s been running away from the everyday horror of his tangled New York existence.

Until a total stranger opens the fridge door of his mind to give him a very Madison Avenue kind of enlightenment, Don is completely lost. A Coca-Cola style of creative immortality seems to call to him on a California hilltop overlooking the ocean. Jack Kerouac meets David Ogilvy.

Mad Men, not inadvertently, raises an issue for McCann’s, Coca-Cola and Mad Men itself. Let’s call it the big brand dilemma.

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Does becoming a more social brand really help grow your business?

Recent research from says 83% of SMBs use social media as a way of driving growth for their business. The same source says 70% of professional marketers claim to have been successful in gaining new customers using social networks. Another survey in tells us 80% of marketers invest in social media to increase brand exposure.

These figures tend to support our own analysis from talking to business owners and marketers in a range of companies. Faced with finding new business and launching a new product or service, for what has become a significant number of business owners and marketing professional in all sectors and locations, social media is one of the first things they turn to. But just how effective is social media in building your brand and growing your business?

I recently talked to customer experience professional and social media expert Augie Ray who is director of customer experience for a blue chip international company. Augie argues that marketers “cannot achieve their goals with the limited and shrinking reach of organic social media.  Within a year or two, I think all social media marketing will be paid/ads, with little effort dedicated to organic and free marketing.”

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Every great brand tells a great story.

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