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Lions Tour Awards

Every tour should have an awards ceremony to celebrate the highs and lows. These are the awards I would give:

Player of the tour: Leigh Halfpenny
A point kicking machine and safe pair of hands at the back of the field. No player came close to him.

The difference maker: Will Genia
When he played well, Australia played well. When he was quiet, so were his team.

The unstoppable force: George North
A beast of a man who threw himself about, often with his opposite number on his shoulders.

The immovable object: Adam Jones
Locked in the Lions scrum in the third test and still one of the best tight heads in the game.

Best sidestep: James Horwill
Beautifully sidestepped not one judicial panel but two.  A memorable feat. Unlikely to be matched any time soon.

Biggest hit: Warren Gatland
Smashed O’Driscoll out of the final test ruthlessly. Vindicated by the result, but the thump still echoes around the rugby world.

There is a house in Old Town Prague

I was very fortunate to be in Prague over the weekend and even more fortunate to find myself with some time to myself. It’s a beautiful city and a wonderful place to wander around, to reflect and find little details that make you think.

Only a few minutes from the high-end stores on Pařížská Street, down a little side road you’d only walk down if you were visiting someone who lived there, was a house that really did make me think.

The house in Old Town Prague

The house in Old Town Prague

I only noticed it out of the corner of my eye, but its elaborate and decaying front door grabbed my attention. I had to take a closer look.

The door up close

The door up close

The door, flaking, warped and studded with iron is beautiful. Although run down, it’s still imposing. It feels strong. How old could it be?

The plaque

The plaque

Slightly to the right of the door, sitting worn away in the crumbling façade is an iron plaque. I don’t know what the words say, but the number 1890 is clear. Could this building with its beautiful door have lived through world wars, Communism and revolutions? What must it have witnessed?

Crumbling plaster and roughly cut stone

Crumbling plaster and roughly cut stone

The crumbling plaster on the exterior of the building has exposed the brickwork underneath. The bricks appear to be roughly cut stone. They’re uneven, crumbling. There’s a warmth to their colour. Like many of the buildings in Prague, the plaster is made to look like stone. So an old house, built of cheaper stone, plastered to look like fine stone and with a grand front door. What is it like on the inside?

Well, this is where it gets really interesting. Walking down the side of the house, past more crumbling plaster, I looked through a window with rusting iron bars and smashed-through glass and a decaying frame. What did I see? I saw a room with a lovely, arching ceiling and I saw another window directly opposite. An open window, that appears to have glass in it. And through that window, a luscious, green courtyard of some sort. Is this a building decaying only on the outside? Is it the garden of a neighbouring property? How did this fine building come to be in this state?

Through the window

Through the window

This house inspires so many stories in my head. It really makes me think. I know nothing more about this building, but I do know this: there is a house in Old Town Prague, it has many stories to tell and I wish I knew them.

This post was also published here on Medium.

Great expectations

There has been no shortage of landmark moments recently at Apple. In the past couple of years they have lost their talismanic leader, launched the (very poor at the time) Apple Maps, become the most valuable company in the world and have subsequently lost a third of that value. One thing they haven’t done though, is change the world.

We’ve all become used to a new iPhone being launched once or twice a year. We’ve been conditioned to expect a rolling six-month cycle of product upgrades, new features and, occasionally, a whole new, category-defining product.

However, after three years without launching a new product (iPad mini doesn’t count), people have become impatient. Apple watchers trawl through patent applications trying to guess what the engineers at Cupertino will come up with next. Others simply declare that Apple is no longer innovative.

Tim Cook needs a game changer

The oft-rumoured Apple TV set is still nowhere in sight. Talk of an iWatch seems to be the driven by little more than fanboy and fangirl dreams of what Apple could do to improve the Pebble. Meanwhile Google has stolen a march with Glass. It is becoming tech media consensus that Google is now the most innovative company around, some even say Google has the best designers.

All this puts into context the importance of yesterday’s Apple developer conference. Tim Cook needs a game changer, he needs an iPod, iPhone or iPad equivalent. And he needs it yesterday.

So what did we get? We got a very thorough, thoughtful redesign of an operating system. From colour palette to logic, iOS7 at first glance seems a very well designed upgrade. Crucially, it signals a new design direction.

Under the guidance of design-lead Jony Ive, Apple’s software design is becoming as simple as its hardware. We also saw the launch of a completely redesigned Mac Pro, out with the old clunky box and in with a new, much leaner cylinder.

Simplicity is the new watchword. And everyone knows that creating things that are simple to understand and simple to use takes time.

Expectations had clearly become so great that Apple could no longer deliver; no company could. When this happens, brands tend to falter, some brands fail entirely and collapse. Despite the conjecture about their ability to innovate, one thing Apple clearly has not lost is its confidence.

Tim Cook and Jony Ive have seemingly set out a new strategy. Apple is backing away from the tech trend of having products in perpetual beta that are continually updated. The pace of product launches will slow but development will not. Each new product is likely to see a thorough reworking, not just a better camera or faster chip. Yesterday Apple took the first step in resetting our expectations.

This article originally appeared here on the Huffington Post.

A marketing lesson from Victorian engineers

An irrigated field, Punjab

Punjab is often referred to as the ‘granary of India’ because of its high agricultural output. With five rivers flowing through the northern Indian state, it is naturally fertile, however, vast tracts of it were uncultivated until the late 1800s. That was when, during the British Raj, Victorian engineers transformed Punjab by creating a vast network of canals and waterways, irrigating wasteland into productive agricultural land. Like much Victorian engineering, those canals and waterways are still irrigating the farmland of Punjab.

So what on earth do canals built in the 1800s have to do with marketing? Well, they usefully illustrate that distribution is valuable in its own right.

During the late-Victorian age, Punjab’s farmers increased yields and overall output rose as existing farmland became better irrigated and wasteland was made productive. Similarly, social and digital channels are providing marketers with the opportunity to gain an extra foothold in the minds of those who are already customers and access to others who were previously out of reach. Just like the canals of Punjab distributed water, these new channels provide a useful method of distributing marketing activity.

Crucially, for social and digital channels to be effective from a marketing perspective, they need to be connected, with a logical flow that links directly to core marketing activity. Those who execute distribution well across all channels should expect to see higher sales from existing customers as well as an increase in overall sales brought about by capturing new customers.

To be clear, this is not yet another call to action for integrated campaigns – that argument was accepted a long time ago – this is a call for marketers to think about all the channels they use and make sure they’re sensibly connected. How often do you go to a corporate website and click a link to Facebook that takes you to a page that hasn’t been updated since 2010? Every link to an unused or disused social media page directs a potential customer to a dead end.

Social media provides immense marketing opportunities. Viewed as a distribution channel, it can potentially increase sales. However, to achieve the sales boost, companies must audit the channels they use and ensure that they are as well connected as the Victorian waterways of Punjab.

This article was originally published here on Medium.

Marketing in India Today

Whenever a friend or family goes abroad and asks if I’d like anything, I always cheekily ask for a magazine or newspaper. This is partly because I like reading about news from a fresh perspective and partly because I like to know what the ads are like.

I was recently given a copy of India Today, a weekly topical news magazine. The Indian perspective on the world is nothing new to me, but the advertising has moved on somewhat since I last really looked at it.

The immediately noticeable innovation is that the front cover is less wide than the rest of the magazine. This allows a thin strip from the advert on the first page to be present on the cover. It’s a clever way of giving advertisers greater exposure without compromising the cover.

India Today

As you move through the magazine, there’s a definite sense that the ads are there to drive sales and only drive sales. There’s little or no advertising that focuses on brand positioning. There’s certainly nothing that tries to make you feel warm and fuzzy or capture the feeling of a particular moment.

This Volkswagen advert (below), for example, tells you the product’s stylish, throws some features at you and then tell you to text a number to arrange a test drive.

Volkswagen ad

The call to send a text message recurs throughout the ads in the magazine. From test drives to paint colour charts, all can be arranged by sending a text. There’s also a whole host of QR codes.

Essentially, where marketing teams in the UK put social media information to build engagement. Marketers in India put direct links to sell. Both sets of marketers are taking advantage of new technology, but the Indians are bypassing the sophistry of relationships in favour of building revenue.



My adventures in the world of Lomography continue. I’ve recently procured an instant back for my Diana F+. It provides all the retro, light leaking fun of a Lomography but also provides instant gratification in the form of a credit card sized photo. There’s a certain element of magic in watching an image slowly appear on what looks like a plain white piece of paper.

You can have all the usual fun with coloured filters and double-exposures, etc., so definitely worth playing with.

Star jumps in the kitchen

7 day streakOne week in and I’ve hit my daily Nike Fuel target for seven consecutive days. Tomorrow, my daily goal rises to 2,500. Some days have been pretty easy – walking the long way from the station, a game of squash – others have seen me doing star jumps in the kitchen at 10pm in a desperate bid to hit the daily target.

The star jumps have got me thinking about the nature of commitment. In particular, about how it fades over time.

Thinking back to GCSE physics, I think there’s a useful analogy with the half-life of radioactive materials. Right now, one week in, my commitment levels are high, how long will it take for me to become half as committed as I am now? How long before I decide that I’m willing to miss a daily target rather than jump around late at night? More importantly, how do I prevent the rot from setting in?

Well, #ASE_Fit_Club is itself a way of staying committed. Collaborating with others who have similar goals and sharing experiences helps maintain focus. I’m also posting updates on Faceook and Twitter as well as blogging about it – by regularly, publicly re-committing to my goals, I hope to extend the half-life.

It seems slightly negative to talk about fading commitment this early on, but it’s important to recognise that it happens and to generate ideas to maintain commitment.

How do you maintain commitment to a goal? What techniques do you use?

This blogpost was originally posted here on #ASE_Fit_club.

The first rule of fit club

It’s always easier to achieve your fitness goals if you’re part of a group who’s committed to achieving theirs. I’ve been lucky enough to find such a group: #ASE_Fit_Club.

Now, I’m not an ASE consultant, so am a bit of a gatecrasher. However, they’ve been kind enough to include me and I’m definitely going to push myself harder as a result. My goal is to get back into the team.

You can follow my progress on my fit club page and track the group’s progress and find out what we’ve learned about collaboration, data and a whole host of other things on the fit club blog.