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  • Learning Bit by Bot

    7th February 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in robotify.me

    Tyrell: Would you … like to be upgraded?

    Batty: I had in mind something a little more radical.

    Tyrell: What … what seems to be the problem?

    Batty: Death.

    Blade Runner, 1982

    Robotify.me – what we did, what we learned and what we’re doing now

    In December 2012 we launched robotify.me, an experiment to test our hypothesis that seeing social media behaviour visualized could actually influence and change those behaviours. Perhaps, we asked ourselves, data visualisation might reveal surprising nuances of social media behaviour which might otherwise be overlooked?

    robo1

    How would it feel to compare activity – likes, links, retweets, checkins, photos – with the rest of the group’s data? Would the transparency of the visualisation cause any changes in social behaviour? Would inveterate retweeters be shamed into posting more original content? Could we encourage more checking in, more posting of photographs, more liking by visualising the effect that it had on the robot?

    Robotify.me was also another opportunity to learn and experiment with process. Could we create a service rather than a campaign? Could we work fast and lean and create a mvp? Could we create a product without a brief, without a client?

    robo2

    A little over a year on, the answers to some of these questions are in. The first thing to say is thanks. Thanks to the team who worked so hard (and gave their time so generously) on robotify.me and thanks to everyone who took part in this project. Thousands of you created robots and we loved seeing the project come to life, reading the tweets, hearing your thoughts and feedback on this thing we’d made.

    Much of what we learned is displayed in the infographics accompanying this post and some of our early learnings were incorporated into changes we made live on the robotify site in the early go-live days and weeks. Perhaps our major learning was to do with storytelling – if we wanted people to learn a little about themselves we should, perhaps, have shown more, and told more explicitly. Knowing when to intrigue and when to explain is something we will take with us in the future.

    robo3

    We also learned that when you have a team with demanding day jobs it’s impossible to schedule daily scrums and the focus and scheduling required for an iterative workflow are not easily applied to side projects. When we plan future Labs experiments (and more on that very, very soon) we’ll definitely be thinking about the sorts of projects that lend themselves to a leaner approach. Stretch is good, but restraints will help define scope from the very beginning.

    So, we’re going to be pulling down the shutters on this particular garage and disassembling the robotifier, cleaning down the work surfaces and wiping down the whiteboard in preparation for a new swathe of Labs experiments, robotify learnings fresh in our minds. We’ll be keeping the service up in it’s current form for another month, so you can still create a new robot, revisit your robot mirror-self or download and print out your robots for your digital files.

    Finally, thanks again for supporting our Robotify.me experiment.

    Bleep. And out.

  • Ecosystem Management: why marketers must learn to think like ecologists

    24th January 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Brands, Social

    Author, Ben Shaw, Strategy Director/Social Strategy Lead, BBH London. Originally published in Marketing Magazine

    Marketers could learn a thing or two from ecologists on the maintenance of ecosystems. We live in a world of always on brand communications across multiple platforms and communities that require the same care and attention as the Amazon’s most delicate wildflower. Over the course of time, new parts of a brand’s ecosystem must be created, grown and nurtured, whilst being careful to think how these new presences will impact the rest of the system.

    Like any good ecologist, marketers know that overinvestment and focus on just one organism or resource can leave the rest of the ecosystem malnourished. However, when looking to develop beyond their status quo, new platforms and opportunities are often discarded as a distraction or a gamble compared to the reliability of their main channel. But it may be a bigger gamble for marketers to not care for, or develop, the rest of their ecosystem. What happens when that once fruitful resource dries up?

    Organisations are continually encouraged by Facebook to first invest to build an audience and then spend again to actually reach them (thanks to Facebook’s ‘clever’ Edgerank algorithm). They get an immediate positive return, their fan numbers shoot up and the reach of each post is in the millions. But then, as they grow, they have to spend more to reach the same audience. And then Facebook tweak the algorithm and it becomes harder to reach their original audience, so they spend a bit more. Then their original audience gets bored with all the branded content on Facebook and starts spending more time on other platforms. By this time, the brand has invested so much time and money into this one platform, it would be a waste to stop now. Wouldn’t it?

    Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman recently admitted that  “We did see a decrease in daily users, partly among younger teens”. Immediately after this, they had £11.2b wiped off their share price. Everyone remembers the infamous collapse of previous all-dominating social networks and although Facebook is now so big and so ingrained it is unlikely to ever end up as dried up as MySpace or FriendsReunited, marketers mustn’t take this news lightly. This should be the warning bell for brands to start tracking the changes in their consumers online behaviours and deciding how their brand ecosystems should change accordingly.

     

    Brands should be looking to diversify and experiment across new platforms as their online audiences develop. Snapchat didn’t exist 18 months ago and now more photos are shared every day than on Facebook and Instagram combined. This should be the time when brand’s ecosystems are reappraised every month, not every year. As audiences develop new behaviours – like teens are with mobile messaging apps – brands should be figuring out how they can connect with, and add value to, audiences on those platforms.

    This requires brands to build and develop their ecosystem, which takes planning and continued management, not just to ensure the brand is covered at a basic social hygiene level, but to ensure the brand is gaining value from all of their activities. This need is why social media teams have developed from a sole community manager just managing a page to a team of analysts, strategists, creatives and now editors ensuring a consistent brand presence, narrative and experience across the ecosystem.

    Ecologist Norman Christensen defined Ecosystem Management as “management driven by explicit goals, executed by policies, protocols, and practices, and made adaptable by monitoring and research based on our best understanding of the ecological interactions and processes necessary to sustain ecosystem structure and function” – which sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

    Things to consider to help manage your ecosystem:

    1. Track your audience – Pay close attention to where your audience is moving online and decide where to follow them

    2. Experiment before investing – the best brands act like users on social platforms, so follow their lead by cheaply creating content to see what your audience likes in different platforms

    3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – As with any B2B service, it can be dangerous to solely rely on one platform – build your ecosystem across multiple platforms

    4. Look to build retained data – ensure you’re building for the future and collating valuable consumer data to add value to future opportunities

  • CES 2014 Round Up: Sympathy for Sherlock

    13th January 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in technology

    Author, Helen Lawrence, Social Engagement Director, BBH London

    “Two high pressure jobs, probably the city. Foreman’s a medical secretary, trained abroad, judging by her shorthand. Seven are married and two are having an affair, with each other it would seem. Oh and they’ve just had tea and biscuits. Would you like to know who ate the wafer?”

    Ah, Sherlock. Impossibly switched on and observant to the point of obsession, though ultimately a troubled man for it. These scenes of fast paced detectivery delight the audience, but leave Sherlock a frustrated man. Too much going on, not enough pace, no one is keeping up, he can’t switch off, nobody else can switch on, notice something, notice something, notice something…

    The trends for CES were set in stone before the last crumb of mince pie was brushed off a knee – automotives, 3D printing, gaming, TVs, phones & tablets, wearables, smart homes. And of course, the nerd glue holding all those together – connected devices. I’m struggling to think of a single product shown at CES that didn’t connect to something else in some way. Razer, Garmin, Epson, Sony, LG and Spree all launched some form of self-tracking wearable at CES.

    So, nothing unexpected there.

    Belkin, Goji  and Sleep Number introduced tracking watches, mattresses, light bulbs and locks. Even a connected slow cooker.

    Again, nothing unexpected there.

    WeMoSlowcooker_large_verge_medium_landscape

    Each product was, in itself, a good idea (curved TVs being somewhat of an exception), but look at it all collectively we’re in a bit of a nightmare. We’re back to Sherlock. Notice something, notice something, notice something… beep, beep, beep, beep.

    None of it works together. A lack of interoperability across devices and platforms will suck our time, not give it back to us. Endless notifications leave us stuck in an inescapable chain of device control. The traffic is bad. Get the heating to come on later. Delay the slow cooker turning off. Record the show you’ll miss. Get the washing machine to come on later. Stop 3D printing the cake decorations.

    Brilliant that we can control such things. Amazing. But we’re looking at maybe a dozen apps here, all independent and all probably built on the manufacturer’s own proprietary system. If nothing else, the dominance of ‘smart phone controlled devices’ at CES will inevitably mean we all run out of battery about five minutes after leaving the house. I’m serious about this one – Mophie are going to sell a whole load of extra battery packs if we’re all going to start controlling our slow cookers from a meeting room.

    So, for 2014 and then ahead to CES 2015, I’m less interested in the devices themselves, but instead the platforms and systems that bring them together. Will we see an open platform and data standards for device control and tracking, allowing developers to add the cross device connectedness that the manufacturers can’t? Security is a big issue, of course, but until then expect 2014 to be the year your wrist doesn’t stop buzzing with notifications. Perhaps embrace it, buy a deerstalker hat and a great coat. Rival Sherlock with your real time knowledge of any situation. Notice everything. But don’t expect it to be a smooth ride, just yet.

  • Talk Like a Tech Brand

    14th November 13

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in strategy

    Authors: Jim Carroll, Chairman & Nick Fell, Strategy Director, BBH London

    artgame

    From Art Game, by Leo Caillard

    The Marketing World is in awe of tech brands.

    It has visited the Valley, gathered at the Googleplex. It has listened to their leadership and consumed their case studies. It has invited them in for partnerships, hangouts and huddles. It has adopted their products, processes, principles and patter. It has acquired their interior design, appropriated their casual clobber.

    But has the Marketing World learned how to talk like a tech brand? Is there an underlying assumption that tech brands can teach us how to behave, but not how to communicate? An ongoing suspicion that the engineer-led cultures of tech brands don’t quite ‘get’ communication?

    We suspect the Marketing World has a long held, deep rooted belief that tech brands obsess too much about their own product and experiences; that they’re introverted.

    Tech brands may make cool products, but they’re not so hot on insights and benefits, emotions and humanity. They don’t understand empathy. And whilst tech brands revel in the complex, coded and arcane, they’re not schooled in single-mindedness and sacrifice. They don’t know how to drill down or ladder up. They may get big data, but they don’t get big ideas.

    So for all their many virtues, there’s not much the Tech World can teach the Marketing World about communication. Or so the conventional wisdom goes.

    But conventional wisdom may actually be an albatross around our necks. This same wisdom tends to create a convergent mush of mood board marketing, a farrago of facile insights and shallow lifestyle posturing. Modern brands from all sectors would do well to look properly, not just at how tech brands behave, but at how they communicate.

    Let’s consider a few themes.

    1. Pride in product

    Tech brands spend the vast majority of their time and energy in the pursuit of innovation; creating astounding products is their main obsession. There is always something new to say, whether it’s a big breakthrough or a modest upgrade. Which is why their communications are so firmly rooted in product truth.

    This might be considered old-fashioned in a world of purpose-led brand building. But it provides a refreshing break from the pseudo-insights, hyperbole and overly-elaborate ideas which fill much of today’s communications landscape.

    2. UX meets advertising

    User experience has been defined as “the totality of an end-users’ perceptions as they interact with a product or service” (Kuniavsky, 2010).

    Tech brands employ user experience design to create products which we love to use, but the influence of UX is also clear to see in how tech brands talk.

    Thinking in terms of “end-users”, not audiences, means the usability of the communication is given primary importance. The result is often a visual language which is clean, precise and with plenty of white space (more on the rise of “flat design” in Adam’s post here). Tech brands also use as few words as possible to meaningfully make the point. This type of communication is disruptive precisely because it respects our desire for space and time.

    3. Narrative through product

    Tech brands cannot rely exclusively on the elegant delivery of product truth to succeed.

    As in all other categories, communications which evoke an emotional response help brands to create affinity and preference. However, tech brands do not treat emotional and rational approaches to communications as mutually-exclusive, like oil and water. Instead they intimately combine the two; using the product as a medium to weave rich and emotionally-engaging narratives.

    For example, telling the story of a teenager building a media empire through interactions on a web browser in BBH’s Google Chrome campaign or showing a dramatic rescue through a GoPro camera attached to a fireman’s helmet.

    4. Cultural collaboration

    Conventionally, brands employ celebrities as a means to gain attention and credibility. These are often one-dimensional, transactional relationships.

    Tech brands, on the other hand, enter into genuine partnerships with individual and institutional players in culture with the aim of creating something fresh and interesting for the world to explore. Google and Arcade Fire, Samsung and David Bailey and Intel and Vice are all examples of this.

    In these relationships, both parties have a part to play; the cultural collaborator is the “cool kid” to the tech brand’s “geek” persona, bringing creativity and humanity to code and hardware.

    When the most innovative tech brands work with the foremost tastemakers, the result can be an irresistible combination of science and art, left brain and right brain, intelligence and magic.

    5. Built-in marketing

    With the previous themes, we have considered the unique way in which tech brands talk in their marketing communications.

    But tech brands are also highly skilled at building marketing directly into their products. When we use Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and SnapChat, we also promote them. For example, to access my friend’s pictures on WhatsApp, I have to download the app. This built-in network effect means that WhatsApp has grown to over 350m unique monthly users, with 400m photos being shared every day. All of this without any significant marketing investment.

    So, let’s not just admire the Tech World’s innovative culture, agile processes and beautiful products. Let’s embrace their very particular perspective on communication. It’s a perspective that could perhaps lead us out of some of the cul de sacs of contemporary marketing. Whatever business we’re working with, in whatever sector, shouldn’t we all consider talking like a tech brand?

  • Get Lucky for the City of Good

    16th September 13

    Author: Nicolas Jayr, Team Manager, BBH London

    CityOfGood_Concepts_0000_1

    Could your career do with a one-on-one mentoring session from Sir Nigel Bogle?

    Or do you have a speech (or resignation letter!) that needs copywrangling by multiple award winning copy legend David Kolbusz?

    Or maybe your profile could benefit from an audit from BBH’s top social media strategists?

    These are just three of the dozens of unique experiences that will be auctioned or offered as lottery prizes as part of the CITYofGOOD project. Other items available include a wine tasting session with BBH founder (and vineyard owner) Sir John Hegarty, a racing top signed by Usain Bolt and a portfolio review from BBH Executive Creative Director Nick Gill.

    All money raised goes to support Brazil NGO Grupo Ruas e Pracas and is part of The International Exchange initiative which brings together communication professionals and NGOs working in developing countries.

    You’ve got until 10 October to decide which fantastic experience you want to bid for and make your offer. Follow @bbhcityofgood for updates and good luck!

    Nicolas is heading to Recife (North-East Brazil) in November as part of the TIE initiative to work with NGO Grupo Ruas e Pracas, whose mission is to empower children and adolescents living on the streets through an educational process based on street education.

  • Keep it Simple, Stupid!

    9th August 13

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in digital, UX

    Authors; Kimberley Gill, Creative, and Adam Powers, Head of User Experience

    BA1

    We live for our holidays, and yet sorting them out has become a self-service chore. So it didn’t feel right to just tell people that British Airways *do* holidays, we wanted to deliver on their brand promise to serve, by creating an experience that actually helps people to plan their perfect break.

    We talked about how holiday planning  begins with a picture in your head, and it’s these images that resonate emotionally – when people pick up a guide book they go straight for the photos pages. This made us think – wouldn’t it be good to make a tool that stimulates the senses and imagination, helping you plan your holidays with just your eyes?

    Coming up with the idea of choosing your holiday through pictures was relatively quick,  but the biggest challenge was executing it in a simple, functional amator porno and pleasing way. We explored a few options with different levels of interactivity. One involved asking people a series of visual questions, another was a sort of ‘paint by numbers’ –  but both these seemed to add an unnecessary layer onto a very simple idea. This exploration made us realise that we should use as few words as possible and make the most intuitive experience we possibly could.

    The tool simply needed to read image choices, then suggest bespoke holiday options to match. This felt like a new way to inspire and buy a holiday in itself. And that’s where the name came from: ‘Picture Your Holiday”.

    BA2

    The soul of the experience was always going to be in the animation and interaction – no amount of beautifully designed stills could bring it to life – so in order to ‘see’ this we had to prototype the build. Moving quickly to prototype gave us a number of advantages – it helped focus the team, which unearthed the key interaction challenges very early on. This proved to be cost effective and allowed us more time to really think hard about solutions.

    We were able to explore the tool across mobile and tablet simultaneously, adapting the development branch so that each was optimal but largely from the same code base. Which in turn meant the interactive six sheets at Westfield are essentially running the same version of the tool that works in your browser. Added effort early on made for a much more effective roll-out towards the end of the project.

    There was also a great sense of excitement at the point where we shared it with the client, they could see for themselves the simplicity and delight in the idea. We were then able to do real world guerrilla user testing with the prototype to get feedback and roll it into the iterative dev cycle. Several recurring key findings changed our approach, one of those being the labelling of buttons.

    As the prototype evolved into what would become the final tool, parallel activity to develop ‘campaign ideas’ were set aside. We realised that the product WAS the campaign and the concertina of beautiful images would become the key visual for all communications platforms.

    Behind the elegant interface is a data driven system for all device types. We created a spreadsheet of attributes for each destination and then assigned a value to each. It was then exported as a JSON file, means that the whole thing can still be updated easily, should BA wish to add new holiday destinations, by simply deploying a new file to the cloud.

    ba3

    The end result is something which feels elegant, inspiring and fun to use.

  • Logo Echo

    21st June 13

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in design, personal

    I must have been around five or six when I at least subconsciously realised that my dad worked for ‘a brand’.

    Taxiing through Schipol yesterday I saw the iconic KLM logo everywhere and it was for the Dutch airline, with its consistently modern, clean, emblematic branding, that my dad worked.

    KLM_logo

    As children my sister and I saw plenty of that logo. On company Christmas cards and letterheads that lay around our home. On the multilayered paper tickets (always standby, always a nervy adventure) that took us away to places I now realise were exotic destinations in the 70s. And everywhere in the office at Heathrow, where we sometimes spent the day with Dad at work, in the dog days of the summer holidays.

    And so yesterday it struck me that my taste in design might hark back to those days, to that logo. The simple morse-like arrangement of cross, over four dots over long dash. The discreetly powerful, squatly confident KLM in Noa Light. An imprinting of intelligent, stylised, corporate identity leading to a fetish porno fondness for deliberate, thoughtfully bland urbanity. An interest in unplaces. The appreciation of the aesthetics of the shipping container and transport logistics hubs. Digitally rendered fictional suburbia. Street view art.

    And taxiing through Schipol I thought about this. And this small thought, the memories, speak to the power of good design and branding and how a logo, assuredly deployed, can imprint itself on a person and shape them, years later, like a paternal hand from the past.

  • Accentuate the Negative

    29th May 13

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Failing, Gaming

    I spent a wonderfully stimulating day at Kill Screen Magazine’s Two5Six conference recently – a chance to listen to some smart thinkers and practitioners from the independent games scene talk about their ideas, their projects and the wider gaming & cultural landscape.

    Game folk and advertising folk have much in common; their powerful interest in user/consumer motivation; the importance of design as a tool of differentiation; a shared vocabulary around community management, UX and behavioural economics; a belief that ‘problem solving’ lies at the heart of what they do.

    But an exchange at two5six did force me to consider whether there were also some fundamental differences between us – maybe even a wholly different world-view.

    I was telling the game designer next to me about my son who, aged nine, spends quite a bit of time designing and playing games on his computer. While the Labs Dad in me is keen to nurture this, I did twitch when I saw this post on his tumblr.

    Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 10.23.44

    Two minutes after describing this common modern family issue, I saw a twitter @ message.

    This struck me as a wonderfully elegant solution to ‘a problem’, and a solution that is most unlikely to have come from an advertising mind. Our instinct is to hamile porno accentuate the positive and sell the benefit. We’d have looked for an emotional product demonstration, the product being a beautiful spring day. We might have tried inventing a new game that could only be played outdoors. We might have partnered with an ice-cream firm to exchange cones for game cartridges. But creating ‘more fail’ when the sun shines brightly? An idea that could only come from the delightfully twisted mind of a game developer.

    There’s lots to learn from gamer types. They know UX, they know behavioural economics, they know problem solving. But most of all they understand failure in all its glory. Its power to motivate and drive behaviour. Its ability to throw into relief even the smallest triumphs. That overcoming a thousand tiny failures sometimes beats a single big win. That perhaps fail alone can get a young gamer out of the living room on a sunny day.

  • Something for the Weekend?

    28th March 13

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in reads

    (Massive Printer, film by Newspaper Club)

    Yes, we snack, we graze, we nibble, we heartily partake of the morsels, the canapés of content offered our way on the trays of twitter, google reader (sob) and flipboard. But sometimes it’s nice to loosen our belts, turn off the stream and get stuck into a something a little more filling. So, here are some of the longer reads that have sated our appetites recently, instapapered for your mobile reading pleasure.

     

    On Disney’s pursuit and capture of Lucasfilms and its plans for the Star Wars franchise

    ““I felt a disturbance in the Force, as if millions of geeks were shocked in an instant,” tweeted one ecstatic fan boy the day the news broke. It was a common refrain. The fans, too, had watched what happened when Disney bought Pixar and Marvel and many felt that the company could be trusted with R2-D2 and Princess Leia. “Their handling of the Marvel properties has given them a lot of geek cred,” says Swank, the RebelForce Radio co-host.

     

    On trying to create the dynamic of a realistic city in SimCity and enjoying the process of failing at it

    Cities, he [Geoffrey West] points out, are physical manifestations of human interactions. The data reveal those social dynamics, but do not necessarily shape them. From Lagos to Los Angeles to Mumbai, the physical world is experiencing a great rushing tide of urbanization, which creates huge environmental problems and at the same time concentrates the creativity needed to solve them. In the Sims’ world, though, the masses migrate and settle, then file passively through their lives. SimCity’s engineers have repeated the same mistake made by countless potentates, forgetting that cities are forged both by master builders and the people who hack their grand plans.

     

    On learning about the fragility of passwords by learning how to crack them

    At the beginning of a sunny Monday morning earlier this month, I had never cracked a password. By the end of the day, I had cracked 8,000. Even though I knew password cracking was easy, I didn’t know it was ridiculously easy—well, ridiculously easy once I overcame the urge to bash my laptop with a sledgehammer and finally figured out what I was doing.

     

    On the marketing  of diamonds and the commoditisation of romance

    The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.

    On the erosion of privacy and thirty-four other arguments against Google Glass

    Google Glass is a snazzy set of specs that will part the Red Sea if you tap it from the right angle. It aims to fuse smartphones and computers into a hands-free user experience more pleasurable than sex, religion, and world domination combined.

    And finally, a transcript of a story conference between Lawrence Kadsan, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, on Raiders of the Lost Ark!

    At some point in the movie he must use it [a bullwhip] to get a girl back who’s walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.

    Let us know in the comments if there are any other choice meals to add to the menu. Bon Appetit.

  • Branded Gentry

    28th March 13

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Books, People

    Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London

    branded-gentry1

    Why assign your own name to a brand? What drives the founders of eponymous brands? What lies behind the success of the successful?

    These are questions addressed by Branded Gentry, an engaging new book by Charles Vallance and David Hopper. The book comprises a series of interviews with people who ‘made their name by making their name into a brand’. The likes of Johnnie Boden, the founder of the casual clothing company, James Dyson of the innovative household appliance brand, Jonathan Warburton of the baking dynasty, and our own John Hegarty.

    I found it a refreshing read. Conventional business books encourage us to think of commercial success in terms akin to scientific case studies. We isolate key learnings, critical success factors, best demonstrated practice. We are introduced to models, mantras and metaphors. We are given a picture of achievement which is ordered, constructed, replicable.

    Branded Gentry invites us to consider the psychology of the founders of successful brands. Their relationship with their parents, the view from their childhood bedroom, the emotional milestones that mark out their career. Each chapter is a character study, an elegant pen portrait of often charismatic, compelling individuals. Consequently it paints a picture of success that is disordered, spontaneous, instinctive. And of business that is personal, passionate, human.

    The decision to give one’s own name to a brand is significant. If brands are fundamentally about trust, then a brand that carries a founder’s name has a particular sense of integrity. The tag-line of Warburton’s bread is: ‘We care because our name’s on it.’ And as Boden puts it, ‘If you don’t believe in your name, how can you expect other people to give you money?’

    Inevitably perhaps, there is a consistent theme of ‘failing forwards’. Tripping up on the way to success, maybe being humbled by mistakes, but also seeing in them learning and experience. The eponymous brand owners come across as enthusiasts. They’re often breezily confident and positive about life. Many of them seem more emotional than you might expect, more active listeners.

    But there’s also a dark undertow. A wariness of good fortune, a suspicion that bad times may be round the corner, a fear of debt (which many of them have experienced). The Branded Gentry are  restless souls. Listen to James Dyson: ‘I’m not satisfied; I’m still not satisfied. The moment you’ve done something, then you’re onto the next thing, which is full of new problems you’ve got to solve …It’s a life of failure and dissatisfaction whatever your private wealth’. Or as the potter, Emma Bridgewater, puts it: ‘The trouble with being an entrepreneur is that you never think you’ve finished. You’re always thinking of things you haven’t done… I’ve got a lot of parallel lives unlived, but you suddenly realise it’s probably not going to happen. It’s the inherent sadness of ageing.’

    I guess I had imagined that success came easily to the successful; that they had had a leg-up from life, a helping hand to get them started. In fact I was rather struck by the fact that, whilst some of these entrepreneurs were born into material wealth, most of them had rather tough childhoods.The broken home, the lezbiyen porno unsympathetic father, the parents that passed away before their time. Illness and ill fortune seem never too far away. (Dyson points out that over 80% of British Prime Ministers lost a parent before the age of 10, compared to only 1.5% of the general population.)

    I grew up committed to a clear separation between work and life beyond it. Of course in the modern age it’s increasingly difficult to sustain the divide. For these Branded Gentry life is work and the eponymous business is fundamentally an expression of self.  According to Dyson, ‘I had developed a latent desire to make things around me better and that desire was the very part of whom I was.’ The authors conclude that their subjects ‘didn’t go out into the world to fit in with it. One way or another, they set out to make the world fit them.’

    Branded Gentry is very well written. There is a commendable amount of descriptive detail and direct speech. One often feels one is in the room with the interviewee, observing his or her furniture, inflections, physiognomy. I welcome the book’s commitment that business is about people not just processes, passions not just practices. For Vallance and Hopper the personal is professional.

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