Career Ladders Are Like Jungle Gyms

Isn’t it funny how we like to pretend that most journey’s are linear. You go from A to B, you hopefully get there in one piece, and all is well. Maybe there’s the odd bump along the way but for the most part - you end up roughly where you wanted to. Marketers pretend that many customer journeys operate in a similarly linear fashion but we all know that neither of these things are true…

That’s why I love this new(ish) cartoon from Hugh gapingvoid because we’ve all been around the houses several times to get to where we currently are. This isn’t a deep and thoughtful post ~ it’s just a nostalgic reminder to myself…

  • I grew up wanting to be an stockbroker (seduced by Gordon Gekko’s red braces) and set about my journey to study maths, economics and theology on the way to City University to study investment banking in London.
  • I worked in a bar for a while doing the whole cocktail juggling thing, while I decided what I really wanted to do.
  • From there I did marketing for a hi-fi retailer
  • Ended up in my dad’s print, design and brand agency for a bunch of years
  • Left to set up my own agency
  • Had a big car crash
  • Worked as a giraffe keeper
  • Moved to a farm in Wales and wrote a book
  • Consulted for a few cool brands
  • Got a job in social media for a telco retailer 
  • Moved to London
  • Ran strategy at Facebook’s ad agency
  • Moved to Adobe
  • Ended up with my dream job at Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud 

Most of that journey seemed incredibly frustrating and very chaotic at times. And of course every time my career took a different turn I convinced myself that from then on things would calm down and straighten out. I do wear a waistcoat but I don’t wear braces.

Looking back I understand that beautiful things come out of chaos. And in retrospect - I wouldn’t want it any other way…


"Attribution" Is A Long Word Used By Small People

If ever there was a misleading headline….

The title is actually a quote I heard recently and thought this post seems as good a place to use it as any. Yes the person was being a douche-bag but they had a point. Kinda. So… whilst my Dogbert tweet continues to take on a life of it’s own, the same thing seems to have happened to one of my friends. I few emails and DM’s later and I’m in the middle of a feisty five person debate about attribution…

My Dogbert Tweet

Jack’s #MyNYPD Tweet

What both of us did was share something that we knew would add value to our communities on twitter, but we also did it quickly, as part of a wider conversion for fun. No commercial intent. No agenda or ulterior motive. Just sharing a cool piece of content that neither of us produced.

I bring this up because I was taken to task by someone on Twitter upset that my tweet had travelled so far, and they felt that I wasn’t crediting the author. As much as I don’t pay too much attention to follower counts, I did raise an eyebrow when I noticed that Alex had 205,000 followers ~ and so thought it was worth a deeper conversation. 

Coming back to my friend, Jack shared a killer quote from Unmarketing’s Scott Stratten which had been transformed into a clever image. What he had no idea about was that I actually created that image. He’d seen it in many presentations and liked it enough to want to share it with his followers.

"People share emotions, they don’t share facts".

And I think this raises a couple of interesting points. Both pieces of content credited their respective authors (Scott Stratten and Scott Adams), but their was a disconnect between the publisher and the person who was responsible for promoting it. I would argue that none of this matters because as social marketers, both Jack and I just wanted to share something cool with the people who take notice of our stuff. We weren’t passing off anything as our own or intentionally ignoring the original author.


Where this gets interesting though is around the debate that brands have on the same issue. Their social content is created with commercial intent. It may be with a long term view that converts somewhere much further downstream, but for that reason attribution is very important. But my point is that attribution (tying content back to the original author) and tracking (tying content back to the original publisher) are two entirely different things.

It’s a small distinction that some brands get confused about. Yes of course you should be tagging your content (or appending a custom url in order to track it’s performance in your analytics tool of choice), but getting hung up on permissions means that some great content never gets shared or sees the light of day. I’m not saying you should beg forgiveness instead of asking permission, but I believe if you understand your audience well enough, they will always respect your intent.


Jack and I understand that GREAT content does one of 6 things;

  • Inspire
  • Inform
  • Educate
  • Entertain
  • Solve’s Problems
  • Challenges

My tweet was close to the truth for many marketers and challenged them to have a conversation about exactly what value dashboards provide. Jack shared a great quote that inspired and informed social marketers about what social media should be used for. 

Both of us shared links quickly (knowing a name was credited in the image) knowing that the right message, posted at the right time, would resonate well if targeted to the right audience (in our cases ~ our twitter followers). We could do this because we understood our audiences and we were prepared to add value to a conversation - without any commercial intent or desire to ego-surf or grow our own personal social networks.

In Tom Standage’s brilliant book, Social Media, The First 2,000 Years - he talks a lot about community and ancient civilisations using social media and creating sharable content. One such group were the early Christians who used a word called agape. It’s actually one of the only words in the Greek language that hasn’t been translated into English, and also the only word for love that doesn’t have any double meaning.


I love you means lots of different things to lots of different people (mum, dad, brother, friend, girlfriend, wife) it can also be applied to an object. Agape on the other hand only means one thing, “love that wants nothing in return”. I mention this only because it’s that kind of intent that creates viral content. Something put out into a community that doesn’t expect anything in return. But for that very reason, some kind of digital karma often rewards a publishers genuine intentions with lots of eyeballs.

Audiences aren’t stupid. They can usually recognise commercial content, no matter how well it is disguised. What we need is more digital marketers who genuinely want to add value to the communities that their organisation live in. This, by the way, is the main reason that digital marketing tools exist - in order to make sure that all content, shared at scale across many audiences, countries and languages - can be tracked, monitored and analysed properly, in order to better understand the way that people behave online. That in turn helps to create better content and provide better experiences for everyone.

Secret to content marketing: Audience first. Commercial intent second.

And that’s the difference between traditional marketing and good content driven digital marketing. The best digital marketing has an element of ‘agape’. Traditional marketing on the other hand is driven by commercial considerations first and audience second. (Not all traditional marketing, but most of it).


If you’re interested in the wider debate around attribution and crediting the source of any cool stuff you share ~ Austin Kleon’s new book "Show your Work" is a short and playful little read, but also one of the most thought provoking book I’ve read in a while. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Looking around Heathrow today, it’s funny how Virgin Atlantic cabin crew seem to carry themselves differently. Is it a business culture thing? Is it Richard Branson? Is it the Red Shoes? Probably a combination of many things ~ but what is clear is that they are different.

In order to win in business you usually need to be “different, first or best”.

What I love about the creatives at Virgin is that all their messaging communicates that their service staff are like superstars. Just google any of Virgin’s TV ads. One of my favourites is the 80’s Frankie Goes to Hollywood ad that Virgin ran to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2009. This ad captured perfectly the spirit of Virgin, but also put their flight crew on a pedestal. I’m not surprised people love working there

I have a friend who is ex-Virgin cabin crew and she confirmed my assumptions. Virgin “feels” totally different to work for. No wonder there is such a huge waiting list to join the team. This is why I find it fascinating that other airlines still seem to promote their planes, journey times, in-flight entertainment, aircraft or prices instead of their people.

I made a deliberate effort to make a similar point when I wrote my 80 Rules of Social Media. Referring to the worlds most successful digital brands, I said that “community managers are the real superstars of social media”. I don’t know why I was surprised that of all 80 rules, this was the one that seemed to resonate with the most people. People win over product positioning every time ~ just ask any good (Virgin) brand manager.

Sex, Brands & Rock’n’Roll ~ How Will JFK’s Name Be Remembered?

4 years ago today I wrote a book called “Sex Brands & Rock’n’Roll”. I wrote it more as a personal project than for any commercial reasons, but it started a chain of events that placed me in me my current job ~ and led to be writing my first ‘real’ book, “The 80 Rules of Social Business”, due out soon. 

So having stumbled upon my original notes this afternoon (I cringe at some of the cheesy writing now), I thought I’d share a chapter here just for old times sake…

How Will JFK’s Name Be Remembered?

John F. Kennedy was the first ‘celebrity politician’ and the 35th President of the United States of America until he was assassinated in 1963. He was only in office for 2 years (during which time he didn’t actually appear to achieve much), and yet he is regularly listed alongside Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa as one of the most admired people of the 20th century.

  • Time Magazine cover 1961
  • JFK is Remembered for 5 Things
  • He was the President of America.
  • He was shot.
  • He gave one of the best speeches of all time with his, “ask not what you can do for your country” inaugural address.
  • He announced in 1961 that his government would put man on the moon within a decade.
  • He had an affair with Marilyn Monroe.


So Why Was His ‘Personal Brand’ So Successful?

Like any great leader, he knew exactly how to connect emotionally with the American public – his target audience. He understood branding (which is essentially just about story telling anyway), so I wasn’t surprised  to find out that while he was studying at Harvard Business, he produced a celebrity magazine called ‘Freshman Smoke’. It was ‘an elaborate entertainment magazine’, which featured outstanding celebrities of the radio, screen and sports world. He knew what people were interested in, what was relevant and even more importantly, he knew how to communicate it.

You only have to see the effect that he and his wife Jacqueline Bouvier had, influencing fashion trends and appearing in magazine photo shoots, to realise that they were treated more like pop singers or movie stars than politicians. In the dull world of politics and ‘grey’ personalities, their brand was memorable and multi-coloured.

Why Should Brands Care About JFK Now?

1960 Presidential Debate with Richard Nixon. You’ve got to remember that while many of us are still discovering ways to embrace ‘new media’ today, in the 1960’s TV was new media. JFK was the first real president of the ‘screen era’ and he realised early on how he could use television as a tool to win the presidency. When there was less than 0.2% of the popular vote between him and his opponent Richard Nixon, he focused his campaign around the first ever televised presidential debate. Most newspapers agreed that the way he communicated his message on TV ultimately won him the election.

JFK Had 42 Seconds to Change the World

In 1960, the average attention span for political sound bites was estimated by researchers at Harvard to be around 42 seconds. That was the amount of time JFK knew he had to communicate his message to the American people. During Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, that figure was down to around 9 seconds. The Obama campaign suggested that our attention spans were less than 5 seconds and they ran their “Change” campaign accordingly, with brief but powerful media slogans. 5 seconds!

They still communicated their pledges effectively and didn’t dumb down their messages; they just split it up into bite-size chunks that were media-friendly. It certainly puts the 30 seconds elevator pitch into a new light doesn’t it? You’ve not got 30 seconds to tell me why I should listen to you anymore – you’ve got 5!

So… How would you reduce everything you stand for into just one sentence, so that people will remember your name? What would your sentence be? I’ve worked with a few people who have taken their own one sentence so seriously that they’ve taken a weekend away with only a notebook and a pencil to figure it out. Try it for yourself. I guarantee it would be time well spent.

I took the liberty of suggesting what JFK’s ‘one sentence’ might look like, how about:

“He was ‘The original rock’n’roll President’ who inspired a generation, was adored like a celebrity, put man on the moon and slept with Marilyn Monroe”.

Not such a bad way to be remembered…

"Having the check-in button as the main interface every time users opened the app created a noticeable hurdle for engagement. "Imagine if you opened up YouTube and the first thing it asked you to do was create a video. That would scare off a lot of people

Just like you don’t need to tweet to enjoy Twitter, splitting the app in two will help make it clear to a big audience that you don’t need to check in to find value in Foursquare.”

Bijan Sabet, one of Foursquare’s early investors and a current board member.

I was chatting to 4SQ founder Dennis Crowley tonight and I’m now convinced that splitting 4SQ into two (and giving birth to Swarm) will actually make these single apps greater than the sum of their parts.

More here ~

Marketers Need To STOP Thinking “Outside The Box”


At ExactTarget Marketing Cloud we like to say that “Marketers need to stop thinking outside the box”. It’s not intended to be a provocative statement and it doesn’t aim to demean the creative process, but we think that there is often too much “fluff” in marketing and not enough substance.

Freedom in a Framework?
Since I joined the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud I have heard the term “Freedom in a Framework" mentioned many times in various contexts and I like it. The basic premise is that marketers need to think more like engineers, engineers could be more creative, and creatives would benefit from thinking more like marketers.

In order to make this happen successfully, people need frameworks. They need a process. A direction. Some form of roadmap or strategy that helps them achieve (and exceed) their objectives as quickly as possible. This usually comes in the form of a framework (or a box) that gives shape to a process, but once you understand what those parameters are, you have the opportunity to be as insanely creative within that box as you can be. Freedom in a framework.

Is Marketing Now a Tech Business?
I sat in on a CMO roundtable last week and my overriding thought at the end of the day was that these senior marketers (representing various huge global brands), all thought in frameworks. They were marketers and creatives by trade, but they explained that the biggest challenges they faced were not creative, but technological ones.

A few of their concerns were:

  • How do I make sense of all my different customer data sets / silos?
  • How do I understand what my customers are talking about (fast enough to respond instantly on the correct channel)?
  • I have so much customer behaviour and purchase data that it’s difficult to make sense of it…
  • How can I have a single view of every one of my customers online (mobile, tablet, desktop) AND offline (in-store, call centre, support channels)?
  • How do we get marketing and IT on the same page with a unified vision?

Whilst these CMOs all had very creative roles with PR, brand and creative functions reporting into them, it wasn’t the creative process that concerned them the most. It was keeping up with the speed of business.

Survival of the fastest. My friend Brian Solis, analyst at Altimeter Group likes to call this “Digital Darwinism”. Thinking outside the box wasn’t anything these successful marketers worried about. They were surround by BIG ideas, people and great agencies for that. They needed frameworks to help bring their plans to life and address any challenges that they encountered along the way.

Joining the dots between business functions and different departments, all with different objectives, was their biggest challenge. A recent IBM study found companies where CMO and CIOs were in sync were 76% more likely to out-perform in terms of revenue and profitability. CIOs love to think in frameworks… 

"Since when did marketing become the make it pretty department"?

I’d love to dive deeper into the various frameworks that I have seen work for some of the world’s most successful brands, but I’ll leave that for another post. Maybe you can use this as a reminder to encourage you and your team to create meaning and significance, by applying some simple structures and frameworks that might help you be more effective. There’s lots of resources out there, but to get you started, here’s a couple of useful frameworks that I’ve seen successful marketers use well:

* Thanks to Hugh Macleod at GapingVoid for the (Orange!) Infrastructure cartoon

Today I shall be mostly talking about this ~ Too many marketing types are thinking outside the box. They need to stop. Better to find a good box (decent size, warm, dry and relevant to their business) ~ and climb inside it. @Exacttarget we call it “freedom in a framework”. Structured thinking that gets stuff done… (at ExactTarget) High-res

Today I shall be mostly talking about this ~ Too many marketing types are thinking outside the box. They need to stop. Better to find a good box (decent size, warm, dry and relevant to their business) ~ and climb inside it. @Exacttarget we call it “freedom in a framework”. Structured thinking that gets stuff done… (at ExactTarget)

The Beatles Were The Best Because They Never Did The Same Thing Once


This quote from Steve Jobs sums up everything I love about the Beatles and all the things I admired about Jobs. Both brilliant innovators and both outstanding story-tellers…

We all know the Beatles were a big deal ~ but it’s sometime easy to forget how much of a BIG deal they really were. For context, just look at these viewing figures covering all 10 seasons of X-Factor going back to 2004 ~



Not so much when you look back to the Beatles first ever show on US TV. Yes it’s a different territory… Yes it was a different era… BUT when The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, Nielsen measured an audience of 73.7m viewers. That’s more than the first seven seasons of the X-Factor combined! What makes this story more wonderful is that the band were introduced one by one, for fear that the viewers might not even know who they were. 

The Beatles were big. This is not news. But my point is this ~ The Beatles had a plan which is as relevant for creatives, marketers and entrepreneurs today, as it was for them 50 years ago.

Let me explain ~ The Beatles management helped the band create more content than arguably any band has ever achieved since. How did they do that? And how did they manage to sustain it? (Bearing in mind that the band AND the management understood that they were in an industry where the majority of bands never made it past their second album)

And so in one year alone The Beatles produced;

  • 4 EP’s
  • 3 Singles
  • 2 Albums
  • 1 Movie
  • Tour of England, Europe AND USA

How did they do this?

They had a 100 day plan. 

No different to a President or Prime Minister assuming power, The Beatles management knew that their best work needed to be done as early as possible ~ in blocks of 100 days. Obama’s team widely believed that the majority of everything good that Obama would be remembered for, would be accomplished in his first 100 days in power. 100 days is a manageable enough block of time where you can make quick gains and move fast to change anything that isn’t working.

I also heard recently that author Seth Godin has a similar philosophy, which explains his prolific writing skills with factory-esque production rates. Andy Warhol adopted a similar strategy which he put down in part to the success of his “Factory”. Damien Hirst apparently plans major installations within a similar timeframe.

Simon Woodroffe, the founder of Yo! and one of the original Dragons, claims that his success was down to 100 day plans. If he didn’t know what to do, which new product to launch or whether he should pursue a new strategy, rather than doing nothing ~ he broke down all his tasks into 100 day blocks.


Woodroffe suggested that if he just gained 1% more knowledge and insight each day, in 100 days he’d know 100% more than he did at the beginning ~ and he’d be in a great position to make an informed and intelligent decision. Cheesy? Perhaps. But he found a plan based upon action and insights that helped him build a $10m business in less than 6 years.

"Unsure what to do next? Gaining just 1% more knowledge each day means that in 100 days you’ll know enough to make an intelligent decision".

Simon’s story is all the more inspiring if you know his background and knew about the years he spent in front of a mirror. Every morning he recited the same routine, convincing himself he would one day be successful. Despite only having 2 O’levels, he set up one of the most success franchises (pre-Facebook) with £0 investment. Something unheard of today. He had a vision. He knew some people. He just set 100 day plans to make it happen and constantly reviewed them. Cliched? Maybe. But true. 

There’s even a cute life-hacking community site called Give It 100, which challenges you to master any task within 100 days. It’s a simple concept that seems to work for everyone, probably because most people believe that breaking things down into 3 month chunks is a lot more manageable than a 6 month or multi-year plan.


"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler". Einstein

So whatever challenges you are facing, or whatever projects you want to build / create ~ it seems to me that a 100 day plan would be a pretty good place to start…

Further Reading?


Social Media Wants To Kill Me ~


Social Media these days is far too much "Media" without anywhere near enough "Social"

It seems like my social news feeds are like a never ending game of tetris. The second I work through them, they’ve got out of hand again…

So for what it’s worth, I’m going to try and take back control of how I consume content / engage, given that I have a grown up job and some big things to take care of. I obviously don’t want to miss out on any juicy developments in the world of digital marketing / tech either, so I’m going to try this for a while…


[First thing in the morning / at the gym - 60 minutes]

  • The Financial Times
  • BBC
  • Wall Street Journal
  • New York Times
  • Mashable
  • Guardian


[25 minutes on my way to work / at my desk]

5 x 5: I’m concentrating on just 5 social networks and going to review each of them for just 5 minutes every morning. Plenty of time (with some decent filters applied) to find out what’s been going on…

  1. LinkedIn (business)
  2. Twitter (news)
  3. Facebook (friends)
  4. Instagram (fun)
  5. Google+ (the ghost town that is becoming less ghostly)

I’ll be checking in less frequently with Pinterest, Slideshare, Sina Weibo, Tumblr.


  • Twice a day - Review 3 Private lists (No more than 200 contacts on each)
  • iPhone Notifications ON for 15 of the people who’s tweets I value the most that I wouldn’t want to miss


  • Bloomberg West ~Tech news show each evening at home (45 min magazine round-up of the days tech news - conveniently broken into 3-4 minute segments). Only watch the relevant / interesting bits. [iPad or On demand]
  • Blogs - 15 mins to review to the 30 blogs that I value the most over lunch on my iPad (Flipboard)

"There’s more to life than increasing it’s speed"Ghandi

This is all hardly rocket science and possibly only interesting to me, but I figure this will give me an extra hour EVERY day (and that seems like a big deal). One hour more to work on cool stuff - new ideas, write, draw, create… all the stuff I want to do but never seem to find the time. This probably means I’ll post a LOT less - maybe only once a day and RT less stuff, but I’m quite sure that’s no bad thing…

Social media is a bit of a monster and it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t respect your time, your potential for new ideas or your creativity.

Time to take back control….

You’re a Digital What?!#

Today marks my sixteenth day as a digital strategist at Salesforce ExactTarget MarketingCloud. I seem to have spent a lot of that time explaining to people exactly what I do. Truth is, I’m still figuring that out myself ~ but the basis for what I do is the same as every other strategist ~ I get to ask "Why?" a lot, before I try to figure out the "What" and the "How"….


…. I actually had a whole post written about strategy to post here, but I just read it and got bored myself, so I deleted it! Tumblr not the right place for something like that anyway. I’ll leave you instead with this fine image that pretty much sums up my role…


If you’re at all interested in what I do, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn ~ I’ll be spending a lot more time there from now on.

Have a great week ~ I’m off to play Farmville….

Behold the World’s Tallest GIF!

Now that March Madness is over and the UConn Huskies are the 2014 NCAA champions, all the win probabilities produced during the tournament by FiveThirtyEight (Nate Silver and his team of foxy data analysts) have been combined. This graphic combines images of the winning probabilities of each team from the end of each day of tournament games, into a single animation that shows how those probabilities changed as the tournament played out.

I’ll be writing a lot about predictive intelligence for digital marketers over the next few months, so if that’s your bag ~ stay tuned or reach out to me on Twitter for a chat… High-res

Behold the World’s Tallest GIF!

Now that March Madness is over and the UConn Huskies are the 2014 NCAA champions, all the win probabilities produced during the tournament by FiveThirtyEight (Nate Silver and his team of foxy data analysts) have been combined. This graphic combines images of the winning probabilities of each team from the end of each day of tournament games, into a single animation that shows how those probabilities changed as the tournament played out.

I’ll be writing a lot about predictive intelligence for digital marketers over the next few months, so if that’s your bag ~ stay tuned or reach out to me on Twitter for a chat…