Speech from the Financial Services Forum Annual Dinner 2017

I was honoured to be asked to give the keynote speech at the Financial Services Forum Annual Dinner at the Guildhall in November.

My theme was innovation, disruption and trust building.

You can find the text of the speech following:

Thank you David, for your kind introduction and to the Forum for inviting me to speak here tonight.

The Financial Services Forum has always held a place in my heart since I remember joining in the early years of my career whilst at Deutsche Bank and, of course, I was humbled to win the Marketer of the Year Award in 2008.

I remember being very nervous that night and thinking that I would never win. The chat on my table was excited especially when one of the team came back from a loo break and said that they had overheard someone saying that they had voted for me! Then another person came back from a quick ciggie and she said that she too had found people who had voted for me. So my advice is if you are up for an award tonight, and want to know your chances then I’d hangout in the loo or go for a fag!

Anyone nominated for an award tonight – I wish you the very best of luck.

Tonight I earn my dinner by taking a few minutes of your time to talk about technology and financial services. Finance has been an early adopter of new technology – from the abacus to the mainframe computer and as an industry it has always been critical to our economy. We are blessed that the UK consumer is very open to trying new things. ClearScore, my company, has taken an approach to empowering people with their credit data and we have seen fast adoption, now our product is used by nearly 5.4m users in the UK and 250,000 in South Africa. We have delivered our fair share of disruption. But as I have built my career and operated in our industry I ask myself the question:

What are financial services really for?

Obviously at some level it’s about capital. Looking after money and assets, growing them, making them flow, managing risk. But I also think that at a very deep level, especially in the capitalist democracies in which we live and that are so under fire at the moment, finance is about managing and growing a very different form of capital and that’s social capital or to put it another way trust. In the delicate eco-system that is our economy and our industry, especially in the UK and Europe, trust is in danger of continuing to diminish.

This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer survey showed that still less than half of people trusted our industry. Financial services are the least trusted of all the business sectors and that is as true today as it was in 2007 before the financial crisis. You’ll be pleased to hear that in another survey from 2015 58% of people said all of us working in financial services were at best unprofessional and at worst dishonest.

The good news is it’s not just us. Almost every profession from politician, to journalist, to doctor, have seen decreases in trust over the past 20 years. The media is no longer respected, replaced with news of the royal wedding and Trump’s constant tweeting.

This collapse in trust is very significantly problematic for our economy. Every economy that has thrived has had embedded within it a complex mesh of bonds of trust that help to lower transaction costs. Whether it is the stock markets in the UK or US, or chaebol based families in South Korea, or the local SME business groups that are prevalent across Germany, all of these myriad structures help to make capital flow by creating trust between people.

Almost all change in financial services requires our system to work together at very many levels. We need to operate in an environment where the consumer, the regulator and the industry trusts each other. Now, of course, this mustn’t be blind trust but it also must assume a baseline of trustworthiness otherwise the barriers that we put up to working together, and winning the trust of the consumer, will become insurmountable.

Technology can help build both financial and social capital and it can do it fast. Look no further than Bitcoin. Just this week this new currency broke the $10,000 mark for the first time. The learnings from Bitcoin are numerous. The technology is opensource and transparent. The currency solves several major transaction issues for users in major industries. The system relies on multiple entities working together, competing to create coins but collaborating to innovate around use cases. I’m sure there will be lots of debate over your main course about the outlook for cryptocurrencies but what opensource distributed ledger technology has been able to do is build significant amounts of trust in a very short amount of time and captured increasing amounts of financial capital.

In the UK, for many reasons from Brexit to increasing inequality, I believe we are at a turning point for our economy. Historically we have enjoyed a particularly strong base of trust. From social norms, to our class structure and enduring entities from the Bank of England, to our courts, to the local pub, that have served us very well. And banking has contributed significantly to this system.

The profession of banker was always traditionally seen as solid and dependable. Banks were full of people who were part of our communities, working from buildings on every high street, who were known and were trustworthy and trusted. Products and decisions were simpler, and more transparent.

This reputation for trust across financial services didn’t happen by accident – it was hard won over centuries. We gather here today in the Guildhall at the heart of the City of London Corporation. The corporation is the oldest continuous democratic commune in the world – having existed for over 2000 years. From the Roman’s, to William the Conqueror, to the Stuart’s, the City has survived as a bulwark for the advantages of democracy and free trade, thriving through the rule of law and lots of social ties fostered through Freemen, and Councils, Courts, Halls and organisations like the Financial Services Forum, and of course, the very many bars and pubs that we enjoy to this very day.

But despite this history, our reputation has severely compromised. However, I strongly believe that we can use our collective will, our capital, our ingenuity and technology to redress the balance.

Today the Prime Minister, the Newspaper editor, the CEO are rarely very trusted. Much of the collapse in our reputation is connected with this lack of trust in authority. These authority figures have been replaced by “people like me”. Witness the power of TrustPilot or Glassdoor.

Technology can help bridge the divide between all of us and our customers. The social web, chatbots, artificial intelligence and machine learning fused with real conversations facilitated through video for example allow cost-efficient interactions with a more human feel. Experiences like Cleo which uses AI to chats to me on Facebook about my money every morning, or ClearScore’s financial education chatbots used by more than a million people – these interactions are involving, warm and funny. This can help bring back the human whilst leveraging the efficiency and convenience of a technology enabled bank in your pocket which has often removed human warmth and connection from financial services.

There is no doubt that much of our mind space whether we work for established institutions or small start-ups is dominated by the idea of disruption and disrupters. At one level this is a good thing. The regulator wants more competition, there are still very many under-served consumers, large institutions struggle with new technology, data is opening up all the time, and in many cases markets needs to be made more efficient.

But at another level disruption seem oppositional and aggressive – it creates tension – thoughts of the winners and the losers – it creates sides. And whilst we need to compete fiercely in the market for the good of the customer, dedicating ourselves to delivering better services, at lower cost, more efficiently. We also, if we are to re-establish trust in our industry and rebuild our collective reputation, need to actively support each other and collaborate more.

When I see disrupters attacking banks for over-charging on a foreign exchange transaction, or scandal after scandal from the investment banks, or the government using the regulator through PPI to redistribute money back into an ailing economy, or major financial institutions being reluctant to embrace open banking I wonder whether we are not putting short term commercial gain above longer-term maintenance of the trust that is fundamental to our success. We may win the individual battles, but lose the collective war.

What we create when we attack each other, either through our messaging or our business models, is a confused and untrusting consumer. That consumer is increasingly frustrated with the services with which they are being provided without any real understanding of why they feel this way. All they are left with is a vague sense that they are being ripped off by a system that they don’t understand and is full of bad people doing bad things.

Now whilst there are those in our industry who do the wrong things, most people I know who work for financial services companies are talented, committed people, like you and me, trying to do good things for our customers whilst operating in this sea of mistrust and confusion. Certainly the 160 people who work for ClearScore are some of the most committed and trustworthy people I have the pleasure to know – your teams will be the same.

So, we must continue to execute the obvious functions of our industry well – manage capital, be prudent with risk, help our customers make good financial decisions, create fair and balanced products. But our mission must be to work together to build back the social capital in our industry and our economy.

Tomorrow when we are back at our desks, as we think about our business and brand strategies, or develop our propositions, talk with colleagues and customers, or invent our next new innovation; whether we work for the largest of banks, or the smallest of start-ups, whether we are the disrupted or the disrupters we should take a moment to think back to this evening, to this wonderful room, and the history it represents.  We should dream big about the application of technology to solve real customer problems. But above all everyone of us should dedicate ourselves to continuing to win back the trust of our nation through hard work and our ingenuity collaborating to build a better, more trusted, more trustworthy financial services industry. To achieve this would be a true contribution of which we all can be rightly proud.

Thank you.

Google to Alphabet: smart move but not radical at all

First published in Marketing Magazine 11th August 2015

The move from Google to Alphabet is far from radical; it’s well trodden as a business model by FMCG giants like P&G and Unilever, argues Justin Basini, co-founder and CEO at ClearScore.

With the creation of a holding company called Alphabet they are starting to look more like a Procter & Gamble or Unilever

The blog post announcing the rebranding of the Google into Alphabet this morning has taken everyone a bit by surprise. The markets have generally reacted positively with a 5% rise in the stock with the normal commentary both good and bad. We should admire Larry, Sergey and Eric that for once, in our world of obsessive management of investor expectations they have actually managed to steal a march on the millions of eyes watching Google.

Tradtional and well proven model

Many commentators have hailed this as a “radical” restructure adopting a model akin to Berkshire Hathaway. However, from a brand management perspective the move is treading a traditional and well proven model. With the creation of a holding company called Alphabet they are starting to look more like a Procter & Gamble or Unilever: that is a holding company with a wide portfolio of businesses and brand assets. The manifest benefits of this approach that has served the packaged good behemoths for over 100 years will deliver undoubted benefit to Google going forward.

Nobody likes companies that are too powerful, witness the fall of Tesco as it sought to become ubiquitous and got out of control

There are consumer benefits. Nobody likes companies that are too powerful. Witness the fall of Tesco as it sought to become ubiquitous and got out of control. Imagine if the brands we buy from P&G were not Ariel, Fairy, Pantene, Pampers, Gilette, Max Factor, Oral-B, Duracell, Lenor, Clearblue, Vicks but all of them called Procter & Gamble? We would start to freak out that one company could be so pervasive and dominant in our lives. As Google has broadened their offerings from search to email, to office apps, to mobile phones, to laptops, to household control, to cars; all of these being linked very clearly to the Google name creates the same concerns and worries. Moving to a house of brands under Alphabet will help manage some of these risks and drive growth.

Privacy concerns will manifest at Alphabet

The establishment of lots of different brands potentially may make it considerably harder for us to all understand where our data and information is going

Next, whilst taking the brand benefit, the establishment of a central infrastructure for Alphabet with central management and resources will allow assets to be shared across the different businesses. It is in this sharing that I think the most concerns may arise. Collection and manipulation of data, often playing close to privacy concerns, is hard-wired into Google and will therefore manifest itself at Alphabet. The establishment of lots of different brands potentially may make it considerably harder for us to all understand where our data and information is going. If I use Google search is this going to be shared with my separately branded self-driving car or my central home control unit?

Google has struggled with transparency

I’d also bet that Twitter will be an Alphabet company in the next 12 months

Brand trust is built through transparency and openness. Google has struggled with this in the past and many people don’t trust the brand. This potentially becomes much more complex in a holding company structure. For perspective, the consumer packaged goods companies have wrestled with this as well. They know a huge amount about their consumers across different brands and have experimented with cross promotion by using this understanding at a holding brand level, exploring whether consumers want a direct relationship with the P&G or Unilever brand. Results have been very patchy – people tend to be more suspicious and wary, rather than welcoming. In our hearts we like products and brands that do one thing well, rather than interacting with huge mega-corporations that know rather too much about our habits for comfort.

Alphabet is an engineering company, not an ad business

The last reason why this strategic change shouldn’t surprise is that it is a natural fulfilment of the vision that Sergey Brin and Larry Page outlined 11 years ago when they founded the Google. They have always wanted Google to be an engineering company in the broadest sense. Google is now an information and advertising business. The move to establishing Alphabet allows them to build different competencies and leverage different structures to solve a broader set of problems. Given the astonishing rise of Google and the undoubted benefit that it has brought to the world and all of us in such a short space of time this could be really exciting.

I predict that the move to Alphabet will be successful and create value for shareholders, and hopefully the world. I’d also bet that Twitter will be an Alphabet company in the next 12 months!

Experiential marketing from British Airways

British Airways – engagement and media coming together for a great example of experiential marketing

Last week I came across this great experiential marketing example from British Airways in Victoria Station, London, UK. British Airways had created an installation where people could play a flight simulator game and win tickets to a destination. It was very popular with long queues (probably not what they intended!).  From a marketing perspective it was magnified by the clever use of the digital media across the station from the main digital display boards to the smaller digital boards which were all part of the brand experience.

It would be interesting to see the ROI on this activity but it was very engaging and opportunities to view must have been high in the experiential marketing case study. It was in partnership with Orlando so I would imagine that some of the costs were shared which would have improved it's cost effectiveness. 

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Rebranding lessons of hibu / yell.com

Over the last couple of weeks yell.com has been rebranding as hibu. This is the latest example, in a very undistinguished line, of such rebranding failures.

When the best a CEO can muster about his companies' latest rebranding is this quote below you know the company is in deep, deep trouble. 

'don't read anything into it….It doesn't have any pure meaning behind it. It needed to be short, easy to pronounce and to sound edgy and innovative. It doesn't mean a lot by itself, but if you turn the clock back, neither did Apple and Google or Yahoo!' 

Mike Pocock is the CEO of hibu which in the latest example of rebranding has became the new name for Yell.com. Yell.com has been through at least a couple of major rebrands as it struggles to make any sense of it's Yellow Pages listing business model in the internet age. They recently acquired Moonfruit.com as a way of trying to help SMEs and their internet presence. hibu or as the company might have us write: hibü is the latest work from Landor – that purveyor of snake oil to companies with more shareholder money than sense. I am sure that the Landor team are seething as they read the quotes from the CEO on their beautiful retina displays. 

The rebranding of hibu illustrates some of the key mistakes that are made far too often as a company makes the decision to rebrand and change name: 

1. The new name doesn't mean anything to anyone:

This is most likely to have been dressed up as a benefit by the inventors of the brand hibu. It isn't. Given the companies massive financial issues they are not going to be able to afford a huge marketing budget to vest this meaningless word with brand associations. They may think that it is a positive move dropping all references and equity built up in Yell.com or indeed Yellow Pages but to eschew these assets is foolhardy. The fact that they have gone for the immediate rebrand, rather than a phased approach, again make the journey to establishing the new brand very hard. The rebrand has very little logic – this taken from the hibu website exemplifies the problem: 

To meet the ever changing needs of our merchants and our consumers, we are transforming our business to be more digitally led. We are making it possible for our consumers to connect with our merchants how they want, whenever they want. We are developing innovative new products and a dynamic new brand signals that we are a digital business of the future. When people connect, communities thrive, and we are a vital connection in an ever changing world. That's why we have changed from Yell to hibu.

Now I may be missing something but this paragraph makes no sense as a logic for the rebranding. There is no reason why the move of the business into digital has delivered the name hibu, argubly Yell.com is a more digitally led name. 

2. A brand optimised for the internet age and search?

I bet this was a big part of the pitch for rebranding. I'm sure Landor will have rolled out a 28 year old 'internet and search expert' to bamboozle the board with promises about how this name because of it's construction and newness was going to deliver exceptional power in ranking on Google. This is of course generally an absolute load of old tosh but is so common to hear now – it's the reason for the rash of names with a double "o" in them for example. There was an idea floating around that Google somehow favoured certain combination of letters because they were less competitive to rank on hence Ooyala and the like. The secret to ranking on Google is to deliver high quality content and make your pages search friendly – if anything non descriptive names make it harder to rank not easier. 

3. Lack of engagement from the top down?

From the comments from top management in the press they don't seem that committed to the rebranding and this makes me suspect that the organisation hasn't been engaged in the hibu rebranding process. This is the most common mistake that is made when trying to change a culture, a name, or a business model. It's the people within the organisation that should feel vested in the new name and making it's promises come alive. However most engagement processes start with the brand book or internal roll out campaign once all the decisions have been made. Rebranding and brand renaming needs to come from within and this requires engagement in the process from the very beginning. 

4. A brand name just trying too hard… 

Like Consignia or Monday, hibu is a name that is just trying too hard. I know that's a very difficult thing to substantiate but there is something in these names that come from a process that is vested in focusgrouping and whiteboarding – they lack authenticity. They are artificial creations rather than really coming from a place of organisational difference. Apple as a brand name works for that organisation (or it used to) because it encapsulates the "think different" logic that was Steve Jobs' brilliance. Google works because it somehow embodies the geekiness of that organisation based on algorithms, advanced maths and technology. hibu is just trying to be cool and doesn't embody any of the attributes of that organisation.

Given their latest results are flatlining I think rebranding yell.com is very unlikely to be the knight in shining armour coming along to rescue and somehow give meaning to the company. Yell.com was a smart way of attempting to link the past with the future – it had a logic and could have had a personality. hibu doesn't mean anything to anyone and because of this it is facing an uphill struggle. 

What do you think of this rebranding and renaming? Do you like the name hibu? Leave a comment below and get involved. 

Justin

WHAT IS MARKETING?

What is marketing exactly? This most basic of questions was fired at me by one of my blog readers the other day who posed the question in the context the massive changes wrought by digital marketing, branding, dissatisfaction with marketing teams and directors – so what is marketing today? 

The guru of marketing Dr. Philip Kotler defines marketing as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.”

This is a fine definition of marketing. For more definitions check this out.

But despite this there is no doubt that answering the question "what is marketing?" is more confusing today than ever before. Suddenly marketers can be responsible for a diverse set of functions from core marketing, sales, social media, brand, customer experience, advertising, proposition and product management. But what is at our core and still relevant today as we define marketing and it's role?

From Marketing Management to Guerrilla Marketing to All Marketers are Liars whatever text you read there is always commonality in answering the question of what is marketing for me I boil it down to: 

What is marketing? Great marketing makes the connection between something somebody wants / needs and a product or service – and it does this profitably. 

what is marketing

Let's break this answer to the "what is marketing' question a little further: 

The Need or Want:

marketing owns uniquely the understanding of customer needs and desires

The Product or the Service:

marketing should contribute significantly to the development of the product and the offer to the customer that will tap into the need or desire

Make the connection between need/want and the product/service:

marketing by owning the communication of the product or service owns uniquely the process of mentally joining the dots for the consumer from want or need to the particular product or service

Profitably:

marketing needs to complete the identification, development and connection process so that a profit is left at the end – getting the numbers right is the key deliverable.

What is marketing? Identifying great examples of marketing practise

There are many, many examples of marketing that fulfills some of these criteria but there aren't many examples of marketing that does all four. When you manage it though marketing and business magic can be created – the iPhone is an exquisite example of clear consumer need, a fantastic product, great connections through amazing pitching and advertising of the product all coming together to deliver huge profitability. Keeping with technology, on the other hand, I am unconvinced by Windows 8 or the Surface Tablet.  Whilst targeting an established need these products don't deliver unique value compellingly enough, the communications creating connections in peoples' minds are confused. I doubt either will be profitable in the medium to long term.

What is marketing? Analysis of technology examples. 

What is marketing examples iPhone surface tablet acer netbook windows 8

So how do you create great marketing?

Marketing shouldn't be more complex than educated commonsense: to really understand your customer by listening and learning intently, then think and dream deeply about what they need now and in the future, work with colleagues from across the business to create a wonderful product and service that you can be really proud of, would recommend without fear, and can be delivered profitably, then finally go have some fun telling the story of how you went from consumer need to brilliant delivery. Monitor and analyse everything so that you can ensure that the system of capturing value from a consumer need is profitable for your business. 

So in answering the question "What is marketing?" can we also split out the difference between marketing and sales? Yes I think so: sales is only concerned with the process of shifting as many units of a product or service as possible profitably – a vital process. But marketing helps a company move from ideation through to customer satisfaction profitably. Of course the best sales leaders will understand and influence the entire value creation process but they aren't responsible for it if there is a good marketing team delivering. 

Over the coming weeks I'm going to be delving into more aspects of "What is Marketing?" so please sign up to this blog. And as ever if you have ideas, thoughts and comments please share.

What is your view on the question "what is marketing"?

Justin

Other resources for you to read about What is marketing?: 

What is this thing called content? from this blog

A couple of good videos on What is marketing from The Chartered Institute of Marketing

If you are interested in enhancing your marketing career then check out my new training online course – currently 50% off: How to Become a Marketing Director

BUSINESS VISION – LEARNING FROM SUCCESSES & FAILURES (Screencast)

Business Vision: I was recently asked by a major corporation to prepare a talk on "Business vision" and how to create them. I told two stories one of Citigroup a massive bank and it's flawed vision and one about a much smaller clothing business Patagonia and it's inspirational leader. 

This screencast is a 20 minute version of the hour presentation buts gives you the key points of the stories. 

The key points illustrated by these compelling stories of success and failure around setting a business vision are: 

  • Business Vision requires leadership that listens and learns but can also lead from the front
  • Business Vision requires head and heart to be compelling
  • Business Vision needs to be creative but also pragmatic to be effective 

Here is a great article from inc.com about creating business vision that is well worth reading. 

What do you think of business vision?

What do you think about business and brand visions? Do they inspire you to feel great about the business you work in or run and it's business vision? Leave a comment!

If you want to see the full presentation including the videos then visit the presentation on Prezi.com.

You can also see me speaking here.

Want me to speak at your business or team event? I regularly speak about trust, business vision, brands, marketing or a wide range of topics tailored to your event – please get in touch.

Thanks

Justin

ING DIRECT “CAMPAIGN FOR A BIT OF DECENCY” – DECENT OR DECEITFUL ADVERTISING?

ING today splashed the latest instalment of their 'Campaign for a Bit of Decency' onto the front and back covers inside and out of the Metro. ING Direct has quite a prolific history of copy led advertising. I commented on a mortgage advert of theirs a while back questioning whether simplicity and speed of application was really a desired or desirable benefit when advertising a mortgage.

Brand building by association

classic marlboro advertising

This latest campaign is a good example of a currently very common approach to financial services advertising that uses the classic 'benefit by association' form of persausion. This advertising technique tries to get the man on the street to associate two particular ideas, for example a brand and a benefit, by juxtaposing them regularly to force the association into our poor overloaded brains. You know the kind of thing – think of the classic advertising of Marlboro with their image of a cowboy riding on the wide open plain which was very successful at getting people to think that this particular cigarette was "cool, independent and masculine….".

So why is this type of advertising in such favour by financial services brands at the moment? It's because almost all financial services brands are caught between a rock and a hard place. The simple fact is that as consumers and citizens we loath these brands and businesses for all they stand for and have put us through over the last few years. But unfortunately due to a combination of desperate need to quickly make lots of money (from us as consumers in order to pay us as taxpayers back – ironic eh?), almost total lack of leadership, continued regulatory confusion, and a complete lack of empathy with people (both employees and customers) banks have very little that is meaningful to say about themselves. They equally have virtually nothing that is different and/or better to sell. Therefore they have to rely on the flim-flam associative brand campaign. For Natwest it's emergency cash, for Santander its a range of cashback or offers to tempt us through their doors and with ING Direct 'The Campaign for a Bit of Decency'. So let's look at whether it is good or bad?

Fashionable advertising but how effective?

Well certainly it ticks all the current fashions of advertising and I can see the marketing team and ad agency getting excited:

  • It's social – builds from people and their stories – 'hundreds of us responded' apparently
  • It's eminently Facebook-able and twitter-ified – note the liberal sprinkling of hash tags and urls
  • It's cheap and easy and can fly the banner of "corporate social responsibility lite" – they've picked 10 'decency' winners each of which get £1000 each. "Well that's nice" you may say, good for ING giving money to these very deserving people. This is fine until you realise that the advertising cost for the ads will have been many tens of thousands of pounds – so it seems a bit topsy-turvy – more shouting than actually being on the side of decent people.
  • It's local – celebrating local heroes and stories – they even managed to get a link to the Olympics – ticking another current trend box 

Short term success, long term failure

So what will it achieve? I'm sure the brand tracker will jump up against key equities of trust, friendliness, on your side or whatever combination of words are being tracked by Millward-Brown. Internally employees will probably like it – what's not to like? It's positive, it's 'nice', heck it's even got medal to give away. Bet they've got a programme running internally to celebrate employee decency – and if they don't they should.

But once the bit of decency campaign has been put to bed, the metro ads are in the bin, will it really make any difference to the standing of ING Direct or the financial services sector overall? I don't think it will and in fact it will probably do even more damage to trust in the brand and sector. This type of advertising whilst in vogue is essentially the same approach to marketing and advertising that has been practised over the past 20 years by financial services brands – it's just a more modern and fluffy version.

Trust will only be restored when the hard work starts getting done

The reason that almost all financial services brands wallow in the toilet of consumer apathy, resentment, even hatred, is because the products and service are boring, difficult, unfair, give poor customer service and are focused on extracting as much money out of system whilst delivering as little benefit as possible. The real repositioning challenge in all financial services businesses is to reposition the business model, the internal culture, creating values led vision and letting employees lead with their hearts and heads to deliver better service and better products.

Unfortunately this is just too hard. This road doesn't have the backing of top leadership. The need to try and reinvent the way banking works and both extracts and contributes value to society is just too fundamental a change to tackle. Therefore we continue to get advertising and marketing that just focuses on sleight of hand, diversion, association and playing the same game that got us into the mess we are currently in. We continue to get products that are poor value, difficult to understand and mired in crap service.

…and if that wasn't enough it doesn't matter anymore because ING Direct is dead!

Oh and if you needed anymore evidence that the "Campaign for a Bit of Decency" is a pleasant but diversionary sham, ING announced on the 29th November that it is to sell ING Direct UK to Barclays – so all those customers who started to believe in 'decency' even by association will be thrown back into the mainstream of UK big 3 banking where decency is in very short supply.

What's your view? Please leave a comment!

ING Direct Campaign for a Bit of Decency

ING Direct's Campaign Advertising even has a medal

Best Books for Christmas

Books for Christmas?

Well it's the 1st December so time to offer some help in the run up to Christmas! If you are looking for some Christmas Book inspiration for friends, family, colleagues or your team what better than to give a top business or marketing book to give them something to think about when they aren't passing the port or munching on a mince pie. These are the best books that I've read recently and I've sorted them into four sections: digital and internet, brand & marketing, economics & business, personal & entrepreneurship. Each one would make a great book for Christmas either because they are beautiful or packed full of fascinating and useful ideas.

Digital & Internet Books for Christmas

The Revolution will be Digitised by Heather Brooke

This book is sub-headed: "Dispatches from the information war." And opens with a powerful quote from Thomas Jefferson about the value of ideas spreading being like the air in which we breathe. 

What is so compelling about this book is that it is a series of vignettes from Iraq to Washington to Berlin all about how information and ideas are changing our beliefs and understanding of the world both for good and ill. 

The premise for the book is that we are in an extraordinary age – akin to a new enlightenment where information and knowledge flows freely. However there is also huge negative forces at work – the gulf in information equality, the power of the state and big business, and how our privacy is under threat and no longer valued.  

This is a well written, punchy, easy to read and engaging dip into the war for information that is surrounding us. 

 

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser

I've done a video review of this book in a previous post
 

Information is Beautiful by David McCandless

What with infographics everywhere around us today and the Guardian-style of information communication becoming more and more prevalent this coffee-table book presents a set of fantastic examples of how to bring information and data alive through graphics. 

All of us may have been taught at school with ruler, pencil and graph paper how to draw a table, or chart, and may have even got quite good at graphs in Powerpoint but if you really want to see how information can be beautifully rendered and represented then this book is a must have. 

Information is Beautiful would make a wonderful Christmas Book for the right person interested in data and analysis not just in business but across the spectrum. 

 

Marketing & Brand Books for Christmas

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom

Brandwashed has got a mixed press but I enjoyed it. Like many books of its like it tries to make a huge amount of fuss over what is pretty standard marketing and brand practise. 

We all know that marketing surrounds us all and uses psychology to try and trick us into letting our buying barriers down. Martin Lindstrom's examples are good and the book is easy to read. 

You don't need to be in marketing to enjoy this book just a consumer, victim to some of the £16bn spent on trying to BrandWash us in the UK every year. 

 

Priceless: the hidden psychology of value by William Poundstone

No-one knows the price of anything anymore. Everything is deep discounted or on offer from GroupOn! With DFS shouting about 75% of that sofa how do we actually know what the actual thing costs. 

Pricing is a very modern game from "free" models on the internet to the psychology of the sale this book explores how we think about value and what we use to assess it. This book is packed with examples and experiments into price that expose why we react, for example to £9.99 vs £10 and why. 

A well researched and yet still entertaining book for any business or marketing person. 

 

LogoDesignLove by David Airey

As Christmas Books go for brand and marketing folks this is a winner. Again it is of the coffee table variety but is a beautifully produced object in it's own right. The graphics, typography and illustrations are wonderful. 

This book goes through all the elements of what makes up an iconic logo from Kellogs to Nokia to Google breaking them down into elements, process and the representation of a product that connects with consumers. 

This would make an amazing Christmas Book for someone with a brand design bent. 
 

 

Business & Economics Books for Christmas  

The Economics Book by Dorling Kindersley

Don't let the Dorling Kindersley tag put you off and make you think this is a noddy economics book. Whilst it might not satisfy Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes, for the rest of us it would make a great Christmas book. 

It is beautifully laid out and designed and gives a very satisfying dip-in, dip-out approach to economic history from the earliest forms of economic exchange to one page summaries on the key economic thinkers over time.

A wonderful looking book this would be a great book to give this Christmas. 

 

The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Perhaps a little heavy for Christmas but what better time to think about equality, or rather inequality, than at a time of traditional opulence. Reading this book will make that yearly viewing of Scrooge even more filled with meaning. 

I found this book full of optimism and hope suggesting a powerful diagnosis of why inequality is such a cancer in society and what we, and businesses especially can do to tackle it. Packed full of anecdote and examples Spirit Level is a well written and easy to understand book about an important subject. I also read Will Hutton's Them and Us about similar themes but this book is much lighter and digestible.  

 

Personal & Entrepreneurship Books for Christmas 

The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries

A modern classic and absolutely required reading if you are going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg! This book is packed full of practical and pragmatic advice, which is largely well founded and even when it isn't still makes you think about the way you are approaching building and scaling your business. 

The book is well structured and methodological without being too boring which many in this genre of books are. 

A great Christmas book for any budding or mid way through business and brand builders out there. 

 

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

I absolutely loved this book and it would be a great Christmas book for any budding entrepreneurs. The book presents a 9 block approach to creating a business model from the value proposition to the value chain. It is easy to engage with and written in a very accessible way. 

The rather bland and academic title is perhaps slightly off putting because the book itself is an absolute joy and uses pencil illustrations and clever visual metaphors to deliver a very visually stimulating experience. 

 

And of course if you are still looking for a great book for any business leader or marketer then please consider my book: Why Should Anyone Buy From YOU? which is packed full of great research, frameworks, case studies and interviews about trust and how businesses and brands can build it with their customers. It's now available on Kindle as well. 

 

I hope December is a great month for you – and that your shopping is now a little easier!

Justin

FREEDOM, TECHNOLOGY AND CHOICE

Freedom – I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. Last weekend, Remembrance Sunday in the UK, was a timely and sobering reminder that millions have sacrificed their lives to protect freedom for us and still do. But what are these freedoms that need to be so preciously protected? It seems to me that freedom is inextricably linked to choice. Our freedom is proved when we make the choices we do.

FREEDOM & TECHNOLOGY?

We live today in a world empowered by technology which as well as offering us many new choices also limits our choices in ways that are harder to discover but no less important to discuss. As a result of our hyper-connected and hyper-transparent world we are simultaneously both liberated and shackled. We are liberated to share more freely, interact more diversely and access new and instant knowledge. These benefits however come with downsides, more of our time and attention is demanded leaving us more tired, more overwrought, more stressed than ever before. The choice to switch off from work is made harder by constant availability and speed; connections between people become looser and less meaningful as time spent together is replaced with more frequent, less direct contact; commercial communication and advertising bombards us at every turn cementing the consumer values of our society rather than citizenship. Beneath these more obvious negative impacts are also more sinister and more opaque influences on our freedoms. We now live in a world where almost everything we do and see is a consequence of our past behavior and decisions. This limits access to information, to services and removes the freedom that is to choose to change. See my review of the Filter Bubble – a great book exploring this.

FREEDOM REDUCED THROUGH FILTERING

For example no longer do I see the same output from a Google search that you do. The Google algorithm uses everything it knows about me to give me the results it thinks I want to see and will click on. A computer is blindly making choices for me, filtering and changing my view of what is available in the world. If I am right-leaning in my political views I will see more positive results for David Cameron, if I am left-leaning then more negative. It makes it harder to determine the truth and make informed decision. Computers filter based on our digital footprints in the name of convenience, which of course we appreciate all the more so, because we are so overwhelmed. Extrapolate and you can imagine a world where the choice to access many products and services or be influenced or challenged with diverse viewpoints is largely reduced as it is filtered away either because they are unprofitable or just simply annoying. The available inputs that go into this customization of the world around us are gathering pace everyday. Almost every step of our lives is now recorded in some way. Our identities are virtual and our actions recorded. CCTV on the street, in shops and on public transport watch us. The internet records our every click and view, our email services record who we communicate with and what we say. Our mobile phones record where we are and what we are doing. And these bit of data are becoming more connected and aggregated with each other everyday. The industries that make money from all this surveillance progress three stock defenses: firstly that all this tracking is “blind” as to who we actually are, secondly it is more convenient and lastly that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. These defenses are facile and disingenuous. Whether the identity is a number or address or even an anonymous click stream it takes very little effort to match it to a real individual and this is an increasingly important aspect of the industries that seek to exploit, aggregate and integrate information to make money. It only takes a few variations in the information, such as browser, screen resolution, location, and operating system to identity a specific computer or person and these are available to every website that exists. Convenience is also not a good enough reason to remove freedom to choose – life is diverse and whilst undoubtedly atomizing is still collective and community based. Our well-being and the social good is promoted by creating diverse interactions, information and experience. How much more sustainable would our banking model have been had it maintained contact with ordinary people and it’s social purpose rather than becoming myopic and mono-dimensional. The concept that this level of surveillance is not a problem unless you have something to hide is also dangerous and divisive. It appeals to our sense of right and wrong, or perhaps more accurately, it appeals to the self-righteous. We would do well to remember that centralized intrusion and collection of intelligence on what an individual’s views were and what this could mean about their intentions was crucial for the Nazis in 1930s Germany, the Stasi in communist Russia and the fear and obsession of McCarthyism in 1950s America.

THE RISKS OF OUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS

On a less macro level our digital footprints also lead to security and identity risks. It’s these macro and micro risks that led the European Convention of Human Rights to enshrine the human right to privacy. It should worry us deeply that the ability to track and record en mass has proved too tempting for the UK Government who are trying to ensure that up to three years worth of internet, email and other electronic footprints are stored on the whole population “just in case”. They claim that this intrusion is justified in the fight to protect freedom. It isn’t. It seems to me that freedom is to be in control, to be empowered with time and knowledge, and so be able to make the right choices for ourselves. The technologies we have today help connect us broadly with each other and provide access to thin convenient slices of knowledge, the growing opportunity is to help us control these technologies and the fears they create, thus allowing us to gain more freedom over how we choose to spend our time and energy.