Wanting for nothing and why brands have a crisis coming

Brands have got a real problem coming. It’s also going to have a huge effect on some of the biggest economies around the world too.

We all have enough stuff.

Back in Spring 2008, my favourite brand Howies sent a card inside my quarterly catalogue asking if I’d fallen out of love with them, or maybe whether I just have enough clothes for the time being. It has been something that has stayed front of mind for nearly ten years now as I think we are at a stage where we probably all have enough stuff.

I just have enough stuff thanks
I just have enough stuff thanks

I have a newish computer, my car is fine (even with 130,000 miles on the clock) and I have quite a few watches. My Phone is reasonably recent and I really don’t need an Apple Watch, a new TV or another bluetooth speaker. In fact we have TV’s all over the place, bluetooth speakers all over the place and a lovely old valve amp for playing proper music.

I have outerwear coming out of my wazoo, at least six pairs of jeans, two gilets, jumpers, shorts, socks and shirts in every material for every eventuality.

I have access to almost every song ever produced with Spotify and every film ever made, with a combination of Amazon Prime, Netflix and a mildly chipped Firestick.

I adore Oxford United and should make more effort to see them home and away. That’s tribal, it isn’t about the brand. This is an opportunity for tribal experiences like football and they will be one of the few areas to do well out of this.

I love holidays, exploring new places and going to the pub. In fact, probably my favourite thing to do is walk to the pub with the dog, have a few pints and walk home again.

But in effect, I want for nothing.

Which is the problem that any brand faces.

We all have too much stuff.

There is no consumer good that creates real desire, real anticipation and a real need to have it in your hands.

New products are all derivations. Small but barely discernible differences that the brands create to try and make us want them. But the differences aren’t real enough. They don’t add value to our lives and as such, they just become normal, within a moment of owning them.

Social media makes things worse. You can now see that everyone owns everything and we are all bored of this. It’s why so many people are turning away from Facebook and it’s dying on its arse. No-one lives that perfect a life and we can all see through it for what it is.

Showing off.

But if everyone has everything anyway, who is there to show off to and what with?

It’s also why everyone needs to pay less than full price for anything. Why else do you think the outlet villages and discount sites are so prevalent? The only thing left to give you a buzz is the bargain, rather than the brand you’ve bought.

So what do brands do to overcome this?

The answer is to fulfill something deeper than a need to own something. My clever friend Leila pointed out that this is why there’s a huge rise in Mindfulness and Wellness. We are all searching for something more than just the diminishing thrill of owning things. I know with the challenges I’ve been through in the last year, I couldn’t care less about material things, I’m quite pleased to be vertical and pretty much pain-free again.

That’s one hell of a challenge and one thing I can say is that not all brands will survive this imminent crisis.

You can summarise it all very easily in just one line.

If there is no actual need, then the only way to sell is by creating desire.

maybe that is what marketing is all about. Creating desire. The issue I have is that we are all losing our desire for material things and therefore selling anything material is just going to get harder and harder.

It’s a self-imposed austerity that could run for quite a while. With an economy built entirely on buying such things and a Chinese economy built on making these things, I suspect things are going to get a little rocky in the manufacturing-based economies.


New Business Live Conference

I’m speaking at a conference tomorrow (29th jan) at Nottingham’s Trent FM Arena.

It’s called New Business Live and is designed to help new businesses, entrepreneurs and other small businesses to be inspired and improve what they do.


I’ll be talking about branding (surprisingly!!) and how to build a brilliant brand from scratch – even if you are on a very tight budget.

There’s some good speakers overall. Have a look here

Have a look and if its not too late, why not come along and heckle. I seem to have a bit of a graveyard slot and if anyone sits through a talk about legal aspects of setting a franchise up then hopefully my subject area should be a bit more light hearted.

Hope to see you there. I’ll be Twittering for much of the day about what the speakers are like, so have a look here if you’re interested.



You don’t decide – your customers do

For years, we have been saying that it is not you that decides whether your brand is any good, it’s your customers.

That may seem like a bold or even an odd claim, but the growth of feedback websites is proving it.

We are just starting to work with one of the best called Feefo

They are delivering feedback to their clients customers that is transforming their businesses. It has been amazing for BeWILDerwood in that it has helped them learn what they are doing right and wrong and really helped focus some decisions about where to invest in improvements.

For Charles Tywhritt it has been what they have built their entire business model on and 99% of their customers seem to love them – which is an amazing figure for any retailer, let alone an online one.

Gartner inc forecasted some years ago that by 2010 there would be 1 billion camera phones in the market place. Add to that the fact that they are now mostly web enabled and you have a very powerful customer voice indeed.

Richard Branson of Virgin fame, who runs a brand that is properly loved was forced to actually ring a customer who not only wrote him a complaint letter but took pictures of what he was unhappy about and then posted it all over the web. It is one of the funniest letters you will ever see.

Have a look at it here. It’s brilliant and well worth reading.

but here are some of the beautiful camera phone pics he took!

Makes you want to tuck straight in, doesn’t it Richard, tuck straight in.

What this shows you is that with any brand you have to really listen to your customers

If they decide that your brand is offering them rubbish, they will tell the world. What you need to encourage them to do by tapping into the power of User generated Content and the likes of Feefo, is harness the power of their compliments too.

Bye for now


Has Wally Lost it?

I’m not just trying to be controversial here, but at the end of last month, I wrote about the new Wally Olins book on branding which I bought to see if we could learn anything new from the man who taught us everything about branding.

This is it here.

Wally Olins: The Brand Handbook

Well, having now read it cover to cover, I have to say I am a little disappointed. Reading the small print, it is billed more as a handbook on ‘how to do it’ than a book exploring the outer edges of branding theory, but it felt more like a beautifully designed ad for Saffron than anything a decent working practitioner could learn much from.

Maybe we just take it for granted these days, how wide branding projects are and what we get to stick our noses in within any business, but I felt as though this was a bit of a sell out by one of my heroes!

One thing he did say that was really worth reinforcing was the section towards the end about research within a branding context. We have batted on about this for years saying that focus groups are a creativity sink where the bland will always triumph over the brave and not a place to discover great ideas. Thankfully, Wally agrees.