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It’s 1 am and my 16-month-old baby has woken up screaming.

He’s twisted in pain.

As any parent would be, I’m deeply concerned.

I call 111 but while waiting I search on my phone for advice.

I am reading about the possible cause when… up pops a Coca-Cola ad with music, WIN A DREAM HOLIDAY EVERY WEEK.

I’m not in the mood to be disrupted.

This is not the place or time for an ad for Coke. I am in a panic.

Before I rip Coke’s digital strategy team to threads, my son was ok in the end.


1. No parent with a baby reading is going to want to buy Coke – it’s too unhealthy. When you have a baby you start living a healthier lifestyle. WRONG PLACE
2. Although the holiday prize is for 4 people, it doesn’t say so – most parents will assume it’s for one or two people WRONG INFORMATION.
3. I am reading an article that is about medical problems – WRONG FRAME OF MIND.
4. It’s 1am. WRONG TIME.
5. The competition ends on July 9th..errr it’s now July 27th? SO WRONG.
6. By accident (fat thumb syndrome) I clicked on the ad… it took me to a site that said nothing about the competition? WRONG CONNECTION.



Surely someone like Coke can do the basic right? Obviously not. If the digital team can’t get this right on this one occasion, how many others are they screwing up? Loads I suspect.

As for the media strategy, it reinforces what we all suspect, it’s random, no matter what media agencies try to tell you.

I also think that a responsible site like BabyCenter should not carry ads for brands like Coca-Cola. Mumsnet won’t.

Of course Coke, despite their budgets and ability to get the best advice, keep getting it wrong. They killed off Coke Life because it was so wrong from the start – what were they thinking? They obviously got very poor advice. I wrote a piece in the marketing press saying it was doomed (as a specialist in ethical marketing it was easy to see why it would fail). Told you so (and I didn’t get paid).

The problem is, big brands often finding they end up paying for people who agree with them rather than are willing to challenge them. As one researcher told me, “if you want to keep pulling in the fees, tell the client what they want to hear.”

Coke needs to be brave and hire people who tell it as it is, challenge them and be prepared to listen.

Back to the Coke website I was taken to… I am impressed with their attempts to recycle but the public know they produce millions of plastic bottles every day so why will the public give them credit for cleaning up their own mess?

The rest is just RASM (random acts of social media).


Dr Chris Arnold is the author of Ethical Marketing & The New Consumer. A Former director of Saatchi & Saatchi, he is the founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising, The Garage (innovation lab) and co-founder of the UK’s leading community marketing agency, CONNECT2.

Creative Destruction, disruptive innovation and Joseph Schumpeter. And why dyslexia may be the key to survival.

Anyone who is into disruptive innovation at a business level will know the name Joseph Schumpeter (1883 – 1950). He’s one of the 20th century’s most brilliant economists and famous for his theory of dynamic economic growth, known as “creative destruction.”

A theory that innovation, not competition, causes continuous progress and improves economies, lowers costs and raises the standards of living for everyone.


I first came across Schumpeter, though briefly, when studying economics at A level. Whilst my tutor tried to preach Keynes and Friedman theories, it was Schumpeter’s ideas I found most interesting. My tutor’s dismissal just increased my interest.

Like many great people who challenged conventional wisdom and were ahead of their time, it wasn’t until long after his death that his theories and ideas were truly appreciated.

In 1983 Forbes pronounced him a better guide to the tumultuous world economy than John Maynard Keynes.

Today, in a current era of disruptive innovation, his thinking is more relevant than ever.

Here are some shocking facts: “Only 12% of companies in the Forbes 500 in 1955 and still on the list – 88% have gone. The average life of a company is now just 15 years!”

Innovation soon makes the old less relevant and even redundant, though in Schumpeter’s day innovation was more a reference to a new methodology of thinking than digital transformation or technology.

An American economist, political scientist and a professor at Harvard University, Schumpeter was the author of a number of groundbreaking books on economics including his most famous, ‘Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy’ (published in 1942). Schumpeterian economics is regarded as one of the main sources of evolutionary economics.

Born in Austria, he studied economics and law at the University of Vienna. In 1911 Schumpeter took a professorship in economics at the University of Graz and Bonn and was even Austria’s finance minister briefly before emigrating to the US in 1932, due to the rise of Hitler. In 1947 he became the first immigrant to be elected president of the American Economic Association.

Despite his radical views, going against the common beliefs of his fellow economists of the day like Keynes, ironically he rejected all new things, especially innovative technology, living in a Victorian American time bubble.

Schumpeter has been described as a ‘Prophet of Innovation.’ His hero and model was the entrepreneur, “the agent of innovation,” men like Henry Ford, “the pivot on which everything turns.”

Ford, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Anita Roddick, James Dyson, and many more, all have one thing in common, besides being success entrepreneurs – all are dyslexic. It is this ability to see things differently that allows them to challenge conventional thinking and redefine the future. If Schumpeter was alive today, I think he’d be adding ‘dyslexics’ to his list of those that change economies.


That’s not to say he didn’t praise corporations for innovating. He often cited the Aluminum Company of America as an example of a monopoly that continuously innovated in order to retain its monopoly, resulting in lower prices, which made it more competitive in world markets.

“Entrepreneurs are possessed by the dream and the will to found a private kingdom”.

Schumpeter believed that entrepreneurial innovation propels capitalist economies upward, though he preached that that capitalist economies evolve not smoothly but at irregularly regular intervals, a combination of small steps and big leaps.

That it was the innovators, not the bankers or governments, that defined and dictated change.

Whenever a new entrepreneurial idea comes along it disrupts an existing one. It is likely that existing workers, businesses or even entire sectors will be thrown into loss and become obsolete. But longer term, the new model replaces the old. Redundant workers find new jobs in new sectors, which can result in a better economy for all.


“The entrepreneur becomes the revolutionary, upsetting the established order to create dynamic change.”

According to Schumpeter, “it is the entrepreneur who creates innovation.”

And innovation is not only invention, it is also driven by competition to improve technology, finance and organisational structures. His model of the entrepreneur does more than textbook equilibrium theory allows. (Note: the US and UK adopted mathematically oriented general equilibrium models.)

He highlighted that entrepreneurs innovate not just by figuring out how to use inventions, but also by introducing new means of production, new products, new forms of organisation and new models. These innovations, he argued, took just as much skill and daring as does the process of invention.

“Innovation propels the capitalist economy” with “gales of creative destruction” (Schumpeter borrowed the phrase from the German economist and sociologist, Werner Sombart, but history made it his own).

Characterising innovation, he defined it as, “industrial mutation,” which “incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
Schumpeterian ideas remain influential within higher education, his subjects – innovation, entrepreneurship, business strategy – form the very heart of business school curricula. But ironically, not so in departments of politics, sociology, history and economics.

But in today’s turbulent business economies, it is the entrepreneurs, the Davids, that are pulling down the goliaths and rebuilding the economies with new ideas and new models.

The Ubers that challenged decades of the taxi model. Netflix challenging the way we watch TV. Apple changing the way we consume music. Airbnb tearing apart the old model of hotels.

It’s a changing and challenging world and for those companies who prefer a Keynesian approach, their days are numbered.




In 1908 Henry Ford revolutionised the way cars were made and sold. Before the Model T, the automotive industry was essentially a cottage industry but Ford changed all that by adopting a whole new process – the production assembly line. An idea he adopted from a meat processing plant. By 1914, the assembly line for the Model T had been so streamlined it took only 93 minutes to build a car.

The new model of manufacture made it possible to create a car that was easy to mass produce, cheaper to produce, was consistent (even down to the colour) and reliable (for its day). A car middle class Americans could own.

Ford created a new economy – the car and all that goes with it. Proving Schumpeter’s theories.

Henry Ford said of the Model T:
“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

Sales of petroleum rocketed. Car owners could now travel, meaning they could spend their money further afield, benefiting motels, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

With a sudden surge of vehicles on rough unmade roads, new road building programmes were created, employing tens of thousands of labourers.

The mass production of cars resulted in new employment both for those working for Ford as well as all the industries that grew up supplying Ford, plus all those selling, servicing and benefiting from a massive surge in car ownership. Plus the advertising industry, Ford invested big sums in marketing the vehicle.

Within a decade Ford was building cars all over the world, exactly the same way, benefitting other economies.

For trade, the Model T vans allowed them to deliver goods faster (essential if you deal in fresh foods) and further. For farmers, it became a cheap tractor.

By the time the 10millionth Model T rolled off the Detroit assembly line, 50% of all cars in the world were Fords.

Longer term, cars have consistently helped the American economy grow. Without cars, supermarkets would never have happened, or theme parks.

By the time production stopped in 1927, over 16.5 million had been made and Detroit had become ‘Motor City’.


Dr Chris Arnold is a long term Brand Republic blogger. A former board and Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, he is founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising and their disruptive innovation lab, The Garage. (Chris is a Dr of business) Thoughts, comments and feedback to:


Have TV ads gone all Hollywood? The art of advertainment.


Someone once said, “The only people who pay to watch TV ads are the clients, the rest of us would rather pay to see a film.”

The point is obvious, great entertainment warrants a ticket, but ads rarely rise to that level.

Recently I pitched a million pound ad to a client whose overall budget was £2m (a modest budget these days).

“That’s 50% of my media money” he screamed at us, “are you nuts?” The meeting wasn’t going well at this point.

It was an ambitious idea that was using a top film director and crew. And was about as far away from his idea of an ad as you can get. “I’m not a bloody art cinema trust you know.”

Finally he came around and saw the argument, a great film is like a great song, it travels, wins hearts and lives on. A bad one dies quickly, no matter how many times it is played on the radio.

He was a musician and once played in a one hit wonder pop band in the 80’s before going into sales and then marketing, so the analogy worked well.

Alas, he quit his job before he signed the deal, to go on a reunion tour. Life sometimes has anything but a Hollywood dream ending.


Ads are no longer as formulaic as they use to be, they have evolved into forms that sometimes don’t even look like ads.

If you are about to spend on a TV ad, and more and more brands are, then consider the following.


“An ad’s effectiveness is 70% creative, 30% media.” [Google]

As the power of advertising is 70% down to the creative and only 30% media (a well researched Google fact, also supported by Thinkbox), why not spend 70% of the budget on the ad, the rest on media. Surely this makes more sense? This’ll guarantee a great ad, which means the public will do the rest via social media channels, not to mention the media.

Great ads get talked about, just look at Cadbury’s Gorilla ad or the Old Spice campaign.

By contrast, how many brands spend 90% of their budget on the media and then make a bad ad on a small budget, only to wonder why it fails?

The problem here is that some marketing directors have been sold a myth – that media is more important than what you put in it.


Think of it another way.

You have 3 minutes on the X Factor stage, but probably actually 30 seconds before they will buzz you off. 95% of over optimistic performers get booted off. Knowing that, would you do an average performance? Or the best you could ever do?

So why make a crap TV ad then waste money pushing it across the screens of millions of viewers who will just give it the buzzer in the first 5 seconds?

But what happens when it’s amazing? The media and social pick it up. Everyone talks about it.

Try this idea – challenge your ad agency to write an ad for just one paid spot. They have 60 seconds to make an impact. That should test their creativity.


Are ad agencies no longer relevant?

Having just judged the TV and film section of one of the big creative awards, top of the list of great ads has to be the Burberry film. ‘The Tale of Thomas Burberry’ was directed by Academy award winner, and four time BAFTA award winner, Asif Kapadia. Script was by top writer Matt Charman. The film stars Sienna Miller, Dominic West and Domhnall Gleeson.

Burberry turned to Hollywood rather than a top ad agency and made probably the best advert of the last few years. It instantly went viral clocking up 12 million views in just a few weeks. But then again is it an ad, or is it really a short film? (

It works like an ad but performs like a movie. You just want to watch it again and again, which you can rarely say about any typical ad you see on a Saturday night.


Then there’s Wes Anderson’s H&M commercial, ‘Come Together,’ based on his Grand Budapest Hotel movie (winner of a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture) and starring Adrien Brody. (9,689,000 views

Anderson also directed the amazing Prada ad, “Castello Cavalcanti” (2013).

And last year, Ted Baker’s ‘Mission Impeccable’ by Guy Ritchie.

This is really the world of ‘advertainment’, where advertising uses the power of film to convey an advertising message

The results are great films, where quality of direction, script, casting, performance, editing and music rise above the average level of advertising.

Brilliant in cinemas, impressive on TV and ideal for social.

Do you really need an ad agency anymore?

Well if you area fashion brand, where the ad is a bit of a one off, maybe not, but if you are an FMCG, insurance or automotive brand, you’ll need a lot more than one ad, you need a campaign and that’s where ad agencies trump Hollywood.

Bit of advice – if you are smart with your money, go to an independent agency (most are ex big agency staff) and pay half what the big agencies charge – and you’ll probably get a better job.


“The problem is, we have we got the balance wrong on where we invest our budgets. We put too much into media leaving too little to make good ads.”

Ever been to a restaurant with an amazing décor but the food was terrible? Or would you prefer a modest décor with really amazing food?

As an example, one FMCG brand I know spent about 10% on execution, so £200k on the ad (agency fees about £75k, director and production £125k) leaving £1.7m on the media. Not untypical.

The ad was bland. No style. Plain ordinary. In fact boring. It had a typical patronising image of housewives in a kitchen (which women hate by the way) comparing notes. It bombed.

Big brands think big!

The lesson here is if you want to win gold in sales, you need to spend a lot of gold. Advertainment films don’t come cheap, but if you are marketing a chocolate bar with a turnover in multi millions, what’s a million on an ad?

Years ago I wrote an ad for Death cigarettes, that featured John F. Kennedy not being shot because he dropped his cigarettes in the back of his limo, so the shots missed him as he bent down to pick them up. It involved using the original Zapruder film and new filming. “That’s not an ad,” I was told by a fellow creative director, “it’s a film.”

It wasn’t going to be cheap, despite getting the rights to use the original film, it was going to cost a bomb. But everyone know that ad would become famous overnight. It probably only need to air once. It was worth the investment.

Sadly Death cigarettes got assassinated by the government before we could make the ad.


As a medium, TV makes great sense as it delivers the best ROI – the average is about £2.50 to every £1 spent, and if the ad is really good, £3.50. Great ads also find their way into the social stream, amplifying engagement.

No wonder TV is now back in popularity and growing (with a lot of budget coming from digital). Great TV works.

But bad, boring and predictable ads don’t. They just die. Usually followed by the brand.

“No one buys from a dull salesman,” was a David Ogilvy quote.

Having recently judged the Creative Circle film & TV awards section, I was left thinking the age of the big idea, so favoured by adland over the last 40 years (which 50% of the time is actually a pun) has been replaced. Instead we are seeing big budget films that may have a little idea, but a powerfully engaging storyline. Filmic ads that are pure entertainment.

TV ads as we knew them are dead. Long live TV ads. Long live advertainment.


Chris Arnold is founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising (an independent agency) and the disruptive innovation lab, The Garage.

He is also author of Ethical Marketing & the New Consumer and long time Brand Republic blogger.

Feedback to:


The problem with a new year is that there are hundreds of opinions about the future. Every year I buy the Economist year ahead issue, park in in my toilet bookcase and only read it at the end of the year. It’s always amazing how wrong even experts get it.

How many of us got Brexit and Trump wrong?

Experts predict that by 2025, 75% of the top Fortune 500 companies will be names we haven’t yet heard off and half haven’t been even created yet.

We have been told that our jobs are all about to be replaced not by immigrants but by robots, software and new technologies, yet to be invented. Even the Uber taxi driver is soon to be an obsolete model, replaced by driverless cars.

Sure account handlers could be replaced, robots would happily take the abuse and unreasonable behaviour of robotic clients. But creativity?

That all depends if in the new order of advertising creativity is valued any more.

Data is now seen by many clients as a substitute. We have argued for decades that creativity creates impact and memorability, but with data you hit the target with a relevant message at the right time, so who needs a moody prima donna overspending the marketing budget on fads and indulgences just to win an award?

At the end of 2016, as part of the IPAs effectiveness week, The Wharton Future of Advertising saw almost 80 top people from the broader ad industry to discuss the past, present and future of our industry.

Despite a brilliant keynote from Rory Sutherland, the overview was not good news. Economics, politics, technologies, metrics, data, changing consumers, changing times and many other factors are all challenging the conventional agency and media delivery model.

Though opinions varied and degrees of impact varied, there were no lack of people confident in their belief that they could see the future, and it wasn’t pretty.

We can expect the industry to shrink by 2020, with less ads across all mediums.

Consumers will continue to block ads unless the industry improves the value exchange.

It’s going to get tougher, pay rates will decline and it will slip more into a pure service industry rather than a thought leadership role to clients.

Many well known agency names will have vanished as the economics makes it impossible for some to survive. At least one big media group will fall like a house of cards (no prizes for guess which most have a dead pool on).

Digital is no longer new, it’s no as old as traditional advertising to clients and will see a decline. Twitter will be gone as will Yahoo (even under it’s new stupid name), Facebook will be old and several new more exciting channels will dominate.

Everyone is coming obsessed with tech (and rushing off to CES 2017 for FOMO) so expect new technologies to appear within the next few years that will offer new opportunities to engage audiences. Meanwhile VR is all the rage.

B2C is no longer business to consumer but business to communities (probably the best thinking of the day). And B2B is now B2P – business to people.

Marketing by 2020 will be more radically different from today than it is from 30 years ago. We are about to see a sea change in the whole philosophy of marketing, this is the dawn of a new ad age. A whole different way of thinking.


Will we actually see radical change or will it just go full circle?

ITV has seen its share price rise by 25% since July after a long period of gloom as money pours back into TV as brands pull money from digital (TV still delivers the best ROI). TV content has dramatically improved over the last few years and combined with new channels like ITVBe, is pulling in bigger audiences.

Outdoors has embraced digital technology and is seeing growth. Online brands are throwing millions at big media – look at Google, Facebook, Amazon and ebay.

One thing is certain though, currently there are far too many businesses chasing far too few clients, resulting in lower fees and poorer quality. Add to that, clients taking work in house and the industry seems doomed.

But the good news is that many believe creativity will see a rebirth as it reinvents itself as more about the business than the art of ads. Already we are seeing the development of small creative groups in the space between advertising and management consultancies, like The Garage (

These are just views of the future and there are many who see a more optimistic view.

The fact is, no one really knows what will happen, it’s all conjecture. Sadly gloom makes better copy than optimism.

As we know from looking at the wider world, things so often go in unexpected directions. Who knows, we may all get hit by a giant meteorite tomorrow, Trump may start a global war or we all discover we are living in a virtual reality world and someone turns the switch off.



Dr Chris Arnold is long term Brand Republic blogger.

He is a former board director and Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi. He is founder of advertising agency Creative Orchestra and innovation consultancy The Garage.

He has been chair of both the DMA Agencies Council and the Creative Council. m: 07778 056686

Why Kodak failed. A lesson in adapting to changing times.


Steve Sasson, a Kodak engineer, invented the first digital camera in 1975. The initial response to his invention by the Kodak board was:

‘That’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.’

(The Devil’s Advocate by Vince Barabba / The New York Times).

Kodak saw itself as a film and paper company, it sold cameras, often at loss, to create a market for its more profitable products. So Sasson’s camera was seen as a crazy idea – “a camera that doesn’t use film – why would we sell that?”

Despite inventing the digital camera, Kodak failed to see the potential or how it would change the business landscape for the future.

Kodak made over 100 million Instamatics, and before that, the highly successful Brownie. Almost every house had a Kodak camera. For decades it was the number one consumer brand in photography.

Kodak was successful. Very successful, so any threat to their business was initially dismissed. Even when it did finally recognise that it was in decline it seriously misjudged how fast film would be replaced by digital.

The irony of the legacy of Kodak’s failure was that it was killed off by the very thing it invented – the digital camera.

But as we all know, times constantly change and those brands that don’t adapt, innovate and think differently – fail.

In 2001 Daniel Carp replaced George Fisher, after 5 years of decline, as CEO. Fisher had sold off most of the family silver but lacked the vision to move Kodak forward. Instead he tried to prop Kodak up by cutting costs and asset stripping it.

Carp bought vision to Kodak and they soon started to invest in new technology and finally entered the digital camera business.

They built a leading site for online photos, the Kodak EasyShare Gallery. Their EasyShare digital cameras briefly became the best sellers in the US market. Kodak also had a leadership spot in kiosks.

Kodak’s renewed success shocked many cynics in the industry, but it was unsustainable.

A key element in Kodak’s new consumer digital strategy had been misjudged: people using digital photography didn’t want to print images.

Kodak failure is a lesson in failing to understand the changing consumer.

A failure to invest in good consumer insight resulted in making serious misjudgments about consumer behaviour. The world was changing. Consumers were changing. But Kodak wasn’t changing fast enough or keeping relevant.

Behind the scenes it was collapsing internally. Politics, a board in disagreement, lack of investment, structural issues, an inability to sustain growth and a declining bottom line was forcing Kodak down.


In January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

Carp later said that they had based too many decisions on assumptions combined with a failure to think differently. “We tried to follow, we should have led.”

‘If you are being forced to change you are too late.’

As they say, “complacency is not a strategy”.



There really is no company that can ignore change and not explore the possibilities that are ahead.

Companies need to be more agile, think differently and adapt to changing consumer needs. The challenge now is to stay relevant.

Blockbusters, HMV, MFI, and many other goliath brands, didn’t look at the future and failed to explore new possibilities.

52% of top 500 businesses have vanished in the last 15 years.

88% over the last 50 years.

In the David & Goliath economy, smart start-ups, new models and technology embraced businesses are now challenging the established big business, sometimes fatally.

The average life expectancy of a business is now just 15 years.

Big businesses are now having to look for new solutions. Ones not found in management consultants – they lack imagination. Or traditional ad agencies  too focused on ads.

The Garage is a good example of a new model of agency that is helping brands innovate in a different way. It gained a lot of publicity recently for its Steve Jobs recruitment ad with then “dyslexics only should apply”.


So what does The Garage actually do?


The Garage helps businesses reinvent, reframe, reimagine or just rethink where they are.

Like Steve Jobs, they believe in simplicity. Summed up in three words – we think differently. We do it fast, efficiently and without fuss.

They can show what a company would look like if it was launched tomorrow.

This highlights the gaps between where they are now and where they need to go. That can really make people internally think. A wake up call to those defending the status quo. A rallying cry for those seeking change.

They can help staff or management team see new possibilities and new opportunities.


Look at a dice? What’s the maximum number of sides you can see at once? Three. But you know there are six. They help people see the other three. By teaching a company’s own people to think differently.

The Garage is in a disruptive innovation specialist.

 In a new space between marketing (understanding consumers and communications) and management consultancy (understanding business and economics).

The Garage was born out of Creative Orchestra, a new model creative agency founded by experienced thinkers from Saatchi & Saatchi and BBDO. It started by solving the business problems marketing couldn’t. Helping brands look at the problem in a different way.

The ad industry keeps talking about new models but no one has created any yet. Maybe The Garage is the model of the future, less about delivering ads, more about applying creative innovative thinking to business problems. 

Branson, Jobs, Gates, Dyson, Spielberg, Einstein, Ford, Bell, Einstein, Da Vinci, Picasso – why every boardroom should hire a dyslexic thinker.

Think Different’ was the headline on Apple’s legendary ad campaign, unknowingly featuring a large number of dyslexics – Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Picasso, John Lennon, Andy Warhol… and many others.

It was an appropriate headline, as even if dyslexics may be bad spellers they compensate with an ability to be creative and think differently.

I call them the ‘super thinkers’ because dyslexics think in a more dimensional way, which allows them to make connections others can’t see. Put a dyslexic thinker in a brainstorm and they are the one’s coming up with non-stop ideas.

Put them in a business and they see possibilities other can’t and new ways of doing business which in today’s turbulent business world, could make the difference between success or decline.

In an era when even legendary companies are fighting to survive, the phrase “disruptive innovation” has boardrooms running to employ consultants to try and solve their business problems and help then keep up and future-proof their companies.

From management consultants to business strategists to brand consultancies, in an era where innovative thinking is probably the key to business success, what boardrooms are really looking for is a different viewpoint – people who think differently – not a process. Yet a process is exactly what most get sold.

I am a great admirer of legendary business advisors Charles Handy and Tom Peters, but I want to updated their advice to CEOs, which was to ‘hire a maverick’. I get the point, you want people who challenge the status-quo because if you don’t you aren’t moving on. But companies need solutions as well, not people who just challenge. I want to go a stage further and suggest that ‘every boardroom should hire a dyslexic thinker.’

Mavericks are usually disruptive in a non-constructive way but Dyslexics think differently. They see things in an extra dimensional way and see solutions other can’t see, rather than just problems.”

You don’t have to look far for examples – Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Alexander Graham Bell, James Dyson – just a few great thinkers and great businessmen who were all dyslexic. Who wouldn’t want innovative thinkers like that in their company?

The rules have changed, and if you are still thinking in the past then you are probably heading to joining the list of Kodak, Woolworths, MFI, HMV, Comet, Blockbusters and many more.

More established companies (over 50-years-old) have gone bust in the last 10 years than in any other decade, even the world’s oldest company, Kongo Gumi, a Japanese house builder that was established 1400 years ago.

The average lifespan of a company use to be 75 years, now it’s just 15, reinforced by the fact that 52% of top 500 companies have disappeared in the last 15 years (88% in the last 50 years).

According to research by Prof. Julie Logan of Cass Business School in London, proportionally, more people with dyslexia start their own businesses than those without, which makes their success vital to the national economy and wider society. Dyslexia, in some way shape or form, is linked to this creative business phenomenon, and Prof. Logan backs up Gallup’s assertion that “great entrepreneurs are creative thinkers”.

Many companies don’t understand consumer behavior and psychology, consumers are now defining market behaviour not brands. It’s interesting if you study many of the start-ups, especially in banking and insurance, what defines their difference from the monolithic financial institutes is that they all take a consumer-centric approach combined with innovative thinking that utilizes the latest technology.

“Failure to understand your consumer is ten times more likely to send you company bust than not embracing technology.”
This year I launched The Garage, an extension of our ethical ad agency Creative Orchestra. We already have six dyslexics in our team of 12, as well as numerous specialist partners from retail innovation to gaming who we can draw on, Longer-term, we plan to tap into the massive dyslexic business community.

Earlier this year we ran a recruitment ad, featuring Steve Jobs, inviting people who think differently to apply. It attracted over 1000 dyslexics from ex-VPs of the top 500 companies to celebrities and ordinary people who just see the world in another way.

Despite some concerns over the phrase “only dyslexics should apply” being controversial, we have received numerous people thanking us for awakening the business world to the talent that dyslexics can offer.

Far from the old image that dyslexia is some kind of disability that needs curing, progressive thinkers are looking to embrace the power of these ‘super-thinkers’.

Top selling business author Malcolm Gladwell points out in his recent book, David & Goliath, that a larger than normal percentage of successful businesspeople are dyslexics. Proving that “one man’s disadvantage is another man’s advantage”.
Richard Branson, an iconic dyslexia entrepreneur is open about his dyslexia and attributes it to his success. To quote Branson, from a letter to a 9-year-old girl with dyslexia: “Being dyslexic is actually an advantage and has helped me greatly in life. I see my condition as a gift.”

So my message to boards of top companies, if you want to adapt, innovate and even survive, what you need are thinkers like Branson, Jobs, Gates, Dyson, Spielberg, Ford, Bell, Einstein…


Dyslexic entrepreneur Chris Arnold is a former director and Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi. He is founder of advertising agency Creative Orchestra and innovation consultancy The Garage. m: 07778 056686

#ThinkDifferent #SuperThinkers

LINKS: A list of top dyslexics.
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I recently wrote to Avis’ European President (Mark Servodidio) and UK MD (Nina Bell), as much in desperation for them because as a loyal customer I was shocked at how old their model is and how they are missing so many opportunities. (No reply yet.)

Avis, like all rental car brands, aren’t just in competition with each other anymore but facing potential new players.

In ever sector there’s a Uber or Google planning to take a slice of the business with a different way of doing things, it’s called disruptive innovation – new models utilising new technology.

Forbes calls it the age of ‘David vs Goliath business models’. Using consumer centric thinking combined with technology, a 22 year old grad can start a bank in his bedroom – and several have – and in no time steal away hundreds of thousands of customers.

The business environment, according to the FT, has never been more aggressive – 52% of top 500 companies have vanished in the last 15 years! Including the world’s oldest company – Kong? Gumi – which was 1400 years old. There is no certainty anymore.

Look what happened to Kodak. Once the biggest name in photography, it ignored the progressing world of technology while it carried on mass producing Instamatic cameras (over 100m). Along came the camera phone and the rest is history. Today it’s no longer a consumer brand yet almost every home had a Kodak once.

Woolworths, HMV, Blockbuster, Comet, Delta, MFI, Habitat, Jessops, Boarders, BHS… just a few of many large businesses that have gone under.

And like the Titanic, lots of people were saying “look out for the iceberg“, but those steering the businesses choose to ignore it.

I predict many more big name brands will vanish soon. Industries like banking and insurance are ripe for ripping apart. Look how estate agencies are being challenged by new models like Purple Bricks. The model for how we buy cars is about to change too and toothpaste is about to get less boring!

To keep ahead, to continue to be profitable and deliver shareholder value, Goliath businesses need to invest more in innovation. To rethink their business models, their technology, data and even marketing. Yet as Forbes highlights, many traditional models are too Titanic, compared to the more agile new start-ups, to rethink how they do business.

Over the years I have seen more and more marketing briefs turn into business briefs – the solution isn’t another TV or social media campaign, but a need to rethink – reframe, reimagine, reinvent – the brand, the product/service and the whole way business is done today.

It’s not just about data and technology, both essential these days, the real key is actually being consumer centric – creating offerings highly relevant to what the customer wants.

After I left Saatchi & Saatchi, where I had been a board and Creative Director, I wrote in an article in Brand Republic that “agencies needed to think beyond advertising,” that we needed to “look at providing innovative business solutions alongside marketing ones.” And that agencies needed to better understand how their clients businesses worked, which few do.

Too often agencies see every problem in terms of the solution they provide.

It met with mixed reaction. I created a new model agency, Creative Orchestra to do just that. Media neutral, technology agnostic, consumer centric with an ethos of blunt honesty. We have never been afraid to challenge conventional thinking and tell it as it is.

8 years on, we have now innovated again and created alongside Creative Orchestra THE GARAGE (, inspired by the back to basics of companies that literally started in a garage – Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Dell, HP…


And we are also inspired by the way Steve Jobs thought, who like Bill Gates, Henry Ford, James Dyson and Richard Branson was dyslexic – which half our staff and consultants are.

THE GARAGE is also the world’s first open platform agency.

It exists in a space between marketing and management consultancy, a ‘disruptive thinking & innovation’ consultancy. Unlike traditional innovation consultants (most of which seem very lacking in innovation) we don’t sell a process, but an outcome.


We help brands and companies ‘RETHINK’ and ‘THINK DIFFERENTLY’. And like any David brand, we are taking on the Goliaths, from PwC to WPP. If you don’t think big you can’t deliver big.

We have created new models of workshops, like our Dice Workshop that helps staff see beyond the conventional or Vision3D which shows you what you business would look like if you started it today. We have also created a new model of doing business form short to long-term consultancy projects, without an app in sight!

Because you need to move quickly, everything we do has to be done faster than the Goliath models can, so we have cut out the bureaucracy and utilised technology. (Clients resent paying for bureaucracy anyway, they want results.)

Our approach to the market is simple, our challenge to any business is let us challenge you. After all, if you can’t do that, how can you help them challenge the competitors?


Chris Arnold is founder of Creative Orchestra and The Garage.

10 businesses that started in garages



There’s a lot of negativity around about the Brexit vote, it would be fair to say few in the creative industries voted out. I wanted to stay in. Now they are all complaining like it’s the end of the world.

From the film and TV industry to design, digital, advertising, architecture, fashion, product design, music, gaming and many other creative industries, the UK creative economy is the second biggest economy we have after financial and growing. But if we stand still our exit from the EU could see it decline.

When did we ever stand still?

The creative industries accounted for 5.2% of the UK economy, worth £84.1billion – about £10m an hour – and employs almost 1.8 million people (according to a recent report by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport).

London is seen as one of the creative capitals of the world and we come in the top 5 of most creative disciples. But what helps make us so creative is the fact we also attract creative talent from around the world, not just from Europe. Our creative industries are very diverse.

Even after our departure from Europe, the UK will need to maintain and grow this economy and to do so we’ll need to keep attracting the best creative talent. Not just from the usual places but also from places like China, India and South America.

But we are also a nation of entrepreneurs and start-ups are at a record level, the UK is one of the best places in Europe to start a business, with fewer restrictions and more cash, and once out of Europe’s restrictions and bureaucracy it may be even easier.

Our naturally inventive nature combined with our entrepreneurial approach means that businesses within the creative economy will adapt and redefine to be able to compete globally.

But what about non-creative businesses?

So why are more traditional non-creative businesses failing than ever before?

Even without Brexit, it has never been tougher for traditional businesses. Competition from new digital-based businesses (look how Amazon has wiped out book shops) and new model companies (Uber, AirBnB) are killing off old models.

Changing consumer habits and behaviour, fuelled by technology and new values (especially ethics) are making many brands irrelevant. And a fundamental desire to buy cheaper is challenging older models of businesses that have high running costs and are less efficient. HMV employed thousands before it failed, yet Apple’s iTunes business employs a fraction of that.

The complaint of some Brexit voters was “foreigners are taking our jobs”, well traditional companies could also be heard to say, “new businesses models are taking our customers.” Times move on and those that are agile and adapt survive, the dinosaurs become extinct.

Sadly a lot of established companies are too slow to see the challenges and adapt. Restricted by cultures lacking in any innovation and too much bureaucracy and complacency, that lack any agility – an essential element needed to survive these days.

The death of Kodak… along came the iPhone

Look at how Kodak’s consumer division has collapsed! At one time every household had a Kodak camera, over 100m Instamatics were made and then along came the iPhone and the consumers found a better way to take snaps. While Kodak was trying to make a better, cheaper camera, companies like Apple were making a better way to take photos that fitted new consumer behaviour, and a better business too.

Companies like the BHS’ of this world are failing fast. Even without Green’s unacceptable capitalist approach, BHS would probably have failed anyway, it was a dinosaur of retail fashion. Debenham’s and M&S will probably be next unless they can reinvent itself, which given the profile of their boardroom is unlikely.

Globally 52% of the top Fortune 500 have vanished in the last 14 years (88% in the last 50 years). And more established companies have failed in the last ten years than at any other time in history – from Woolworths to HMV. Even the world’s oldest company, Kongo Gumi, a Japanese house and temple builder, went bust after 1400 years.

Blockbusters, once the world’s biggest video and CD retail store didn’t see the download coming. And who’d thought what started as a small company hiring out DVDs by post, Netflix, would become the world’s biggest TV channel.

And the real shocker is that it is all happening so fast. Companies can go from local to global in a year. They can also fail fast, look at Zynga, founded in 2007 and the maker of Farmville, it was once the biggest game on Facebook (they parted company in 2012). But the company has failed to recreate the same success in its transition to mobile. According to Wall Street 24/7, it is a company destined to failure. “Zynga can be considered the single greatest social media failure among recent IPOs. The leading provider of games on Facebook has been unable to match the success of Farmville, its first hit.

But even the new kids on the block can’t get companies, the expected life of a successful business use to be 75 years, now it’s just 15. It’s just as easy to loose the crown you stole to a new player.

The way forward for all businesses is to keep reinventing, reimagining and challenging the status quo. With the rapid speed of change companies can no longer wait until things start to go wrong before they try to take evasive action, it’s too late by then.

It’s no longer about just keeping up but keeping ahead. And to do that you need to embrace creative innovative thinkers.

Dyslexia T-shirt crop

Why every boardroom should hire a dyslexic.

“Who in your company challenges you or your business model? Who is prepared to say we are failing when everyone else is deluding themselves that the declining performance of the business is just a temporary thing? Who will stand up and say there’s a competitor out there that is 1.1000th the size of us but will probably take 10% of our business?”

Those were the words of a management guru at a recent conference I attended. As he spoke I looked at the C-suites in the audience and by the way, they nodded their heads, it was obvious few had anyone in their business who were bold and honest enough to help them see the reality of where their business was going. Sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes, someone to see things differently.

The problem of many corporate cultures is they prefer denial to change. They try to maintain the status quo rather than face the future and when the sales decline they just hack away at the business to reduce cost.

Boards are usually made up of safe, highly responsible people who tend to focus on the numbers. It’s not a place for mavericks, innovators and those that like to challenge.

Which is why brands like M&S aren’t going anywhere. Too safe, too boring and too risk averse. Sorry guys but the accountants don’t have the answer.

The only way to survive is to reimagine, reinvent and reframe your business. And that’s something you can’t do with an afternoon brainstorm.

By comparison look at some of the most successful companies around – Apple, Microsoft, Dyson, Virgin and Disney – all founded by dyslexics. All challenge brands, risk taking, but also all very consumer centric. I really doubt the board of M&S have every met their customer, let along understand them.

Is it a coincidence that so many creative, innovators, inventors and top businesses people are dyslexic? No. Dyslexics think different, they can see opportunities others can’t, they think in a more dimensional way and are able to join the dots in new ways. It is most simply put by this thought, “Hold up a dice and the most you can see is 3 sides. If you are dyslexic you can see all six.”

Top management consultants like Tom Peters advocated that all boardrooms should have a maverick in to challenge the rest of the board. In today’s fast-moving, highly competitive world you need a creative thinker, and they don’t come smarter than dyslexics.

I don’t just say that because I am one, or that half my staff are dyslexic, as a businessman I know the value of having people around me who think different. After all, who wouldn’t want to tap into a mind that thinks like Gates, Branson, Jobs or Einstein?



Chris Arnold is a former director of Saatchi & Saatchi and founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising and The Garage, a disruptive innovation consultancy.

You can email him at



Creative Economy

Think Different – The Garage

All you need to know about Vloggers

How can a 19 year old from Romford, armed with just a video cam in their bedroom, get more viewers than most bands, TV shows, magazines and adverts?

Chewbecca mask

Or a middle aged housewife from Texas with a Chewbacca mask get more views than any social media agency has every achieved? Candace Payne managed to smash Facebook Live’s record by simply laughing in her car as she put on a d mask (145m views and counting).

Video is the new messenger and with cheap technology and easy to use editing software, any idiot can make a fool of themselves online.But one of the most interesting areas of video are vloggers (video bloggers).

It seems that the big audiences are no longer controlled by big media giants, producing well polished entertainment that has been researched to death. Now anyone can turn on a video camera and become a media celebrity. No wonder advertisers are beating a path to their doors.

In a way it’s similar to punk vs prog rock – raw, honest, authentic gut feel entertainment pushing aside sophisticated quality. Kids relate to kids not corporations, well not until they get past 25.

Vloggers have captured massive audiences, mainly among the under 25’s and teens especially. The dominant theme is beauty and fashion, almost entirely by female bloggers, and general fun and even bizarre talking heads from men. There is definitely a defined difference between how the sexes blog.

Zoella LogoZoella shot

The number one UK vlogger is Zoella who has over 10m subscribers on YouTube. She has also found herself a very successful author and now has a cosmetic range too. Her first novel sold more copies than Harry Potter in its first week of sales.

Advertisers have been quick to jump on the bandwagon but not without some consequences. Audiences quickly feel betrayed, as some vloggers have discovered, when they sell out to brands. Some now refuse to because of the fear of loss of audience, however, those pulling in millions of views can make a good living off the ad revenue – one of the biggest global vloggers, Pew Die Pie (44m subscribers on YouTube), makes an estimated £2.5million a year in advertising revenue alone
Connecting with youth

Brands, publishers and even broadcast, desperate to connect with youth have been beating a path to top vloggers doors. BBC Radio 1 hired the popular vloggers Tyler Oakley, TomSka and Zoella to present shows in a bid to cling on to younger listeners.

Namedropping a brand in one of their vlogs can earn them a fee of between £10-50K, which is why the ASA has clamped down on vloggers promoting brands – paid product endorsement now needs to be made obvious. New guidelines (by the ASA and CAP) require vloggers to make paid marketing obvious and label advertising content and explain when they have been asked to feature products sent to them by companies, paid or unpaid.

Some of the top vloggers

Zoella (Zoe Sugg) is all about beauty and make up and is probably the number one vlogger with over 10.6m subscribers on YouTube and over 748m views. Over 2.6m likes on Facebook. 8.1m followers on Instagram. 4.85m on Twitter. 118k on Pinterest. 298k on Bloglovin’. She even now has her own cosmetic range, Zoella Beauty and has written a book, Girl Online – fastest selling debut novel.

Everyday Estée – Estée Lalonde AKA Essie Button. Estée is predominately a beauty blogger. YT subscribers: 349k, over 41m views.

Marcus Butler Snap

Marcus Butler. He likes to have fun every Saturday night- light hearted observational content.  YT subscribers: 4.444m.

Caspar Lee South African vlogger and actor, talks to camera and interview people. Just published his book Casper Life. YT subscribers 6.124m. Over 540m views.

Alfie Deyes, Pointless Blog. Alfie is Zoella’s partner and has over 3.2million followers on Twitter and over 4 million on Instagram. He was named by Yahoo! News as one of “12 Web-savvy entrepreneurs to watch” . YT subscribers 5.17m. Over 390m views.

Shirley B. Eniang does style, shopping beauty. YT Subscribers 683k. 43.5m views.

Lex Croucher has a light hearted channel and uploads dumb internet videos, chats to camera and sings (but not very well). She has two channels, tyrannosauruslexxx and Lexcanroar. YT subscribers: 11,000. 125k views.

Sprinkle of Glitter, Louise Pentland. Louise vlogs about cosmetics, sparkly gems and interior design. She’s also bessie mates with Zoella. YT subscribers 2.48m. 147m views. Twitter 1.76m. Over 1m Facebook likes.

Ugly Face of Beauty (GraceFVictory) – Gracie Francesca. She talks about self esteem, fashion and beauty and describes herself as “The Internets Big Sister!” Ironically Gracie is not very beautiful. YT subscribers 206k. Over 6m views.

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Tyler Oakley is an American YouTube personality and advocate for LGBT youth and gay rights. He does the ‘Psychobable’ series with Korey Kuhl. And also Podcasts. He has become a media phenomenon having appeared on TV, the cover of Binge magazine, on radio and numerous events. YT subscribers 8m.  576.6m views. 5.23 Twitter followers. Almost 3m likes on Facebook. 6.3m followers on Instagram.

Thatcher Joe (Joe Sugg) likes to make a “fool out of himself on camera for your entertainment.” YT subscribers 6.7m. 682m views.

JacksGap (Jackson & Finn Harries). Twins Jack and Finn Harries vlog and blog about the love of travel and storytelling. They have a number of strands, most travel but also do the Shed Sessions – featuring emerging musicians performing in garden sheds.

DanisnotonfireDan Howell has a highly approachable manner and creates light hearted observational videos. “I make videos about how awkward I am and people laugh at me.” YT subscribers:5.8m. 531m views. Twitter: 2.74m. Facebook: 1.22m. Instagram 2.8m.

Charlieissocoollike (Charlie McDonnell) produces fun, entertaining content. Now he’s focused on fun science, which is also a book he’s writing. YT subscribers:  2.4m. 296m views. Facebook: 315k. Twitter: 690k.Instagram: 197k.


Niomismart. Niomi Smart is a lifestyle Vlogger, co-founder of SourcedBox, & author of ‘Eat Smart’. Dates Marcus Butler. YT subscribers: 1.59m. 75.2m views. 1.6m followers on Instagram. 882k Twitter followers. 35.7k like on Facebook.

Joey Graceffa has captured the hearts of millions of teens and young adults through his playful, sweet, and inspirational YouTube presence. He blogs daily and has written a book ‘Real Life – my journey to a pixelated world.’ YT subscribers: 6.2m subscribers. 852m views.

Tanya Burr – beauty, fashion and lifestyle vlogger. She has her own cosmetic range and book ‘Love Tanya’. YT subscribers 3.5m subscribers • 281m views. Facebook: 1.85m. Facebook: 808k.

Jim Chapman – vlogger, writer for GQ and model, known for his pop culture, vlogging and men’s fashion. And dating Tanya. Also has another channel EveryDayJim. YT subscribers: 2.6m. 155m views. Twitter: 1.77m. Facebook: 1m+. Instagram: 2.1m.

Pixiwoo – Sam & Nic Chapman, makeup artists. Founder of Two magazine. YT subscribers: 2m. 261m views. Twitter: 244k.Facebook: 685k. Instagram: 633k.

TomSka – Thomas James “TomSka” Ridgewell is a British comedian and YouTuber, best known for Internet video series asdfmovie and Eddsworld. YT subscribers: 4m. 813m views. Twitter: 262k. Facebook: 221k. Instagram: 51k.

PewDiePie snap

Pew Die Pie – Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known by his online alias PewDiePie, is a Swedish web-based comedian and video producer, best known for his Let’s Play commentaries and vlogs on YouTube. YT subscribers: 44m. 12.141m views. Twitter: 7.45m. Instagram: 8.5m.


The above is part of research done for a new 150 page insight guide into what Millennials & Students are reading, watching, listening to and engaging with by Creative Orchestra & The Garage. 

For a copy please email


Chris Arnold is founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising & The Garage (Disruptive Innovation consultancy).   Feedback:



Thoughts from The Garage ( )

Whatever you think about local community marketing, (LCM) you probably have it wrong. All the rules of national marketing don’t apply. Research companies have no clue, so unless you immerse yourself in the local scene, you won’t either.

Disruptive Thinking is all about thinking differently, and to be successful at a local community level, you need to think different. Very different.

Most big brands, especially retailers, are good at mass marketing from big media (TV, press, radio and outdoor) to below the line – POS, digital, CRM and door drops. But that’s all ‘push marketing’. When it comes to building and engaging their brand at a local level, you need ‘pull marketing’.

However, some brands don’t get it at all. For example one big retailer spends millions on TV, press, radio and outdoor but nothing supporting it’s franchises on a local level. And even stops them doing anything themselves. Insanity? Or just corporate stupidity?

Retailers of all kinds, from supermarkets to coffee shops, fear the power of the small local brand. Brands like Harris & Hoole seem like a genuine local coffee shop chain set up by Mr Harris & Mr Hoole until people on social media revealed they were part owned by Tesco – this created a negative reaction by locals and boycotts. The same reaction we saw with other unholy alliances – Pret and McDonalds, Innocent and Coca-Cola and Body Shop and L’Oreal (part owned by Nestle).

Consumer prefer local over corporates, they trust them more (though that may not always be wise) and would rather use the pound in their pocket to support local than feed fat cat share holders. Basically, most consumers are champagne socialist – enjoying the fruits of capitalism but preferring to buy their fruit locally.

So before you push the brief to promote your store to the locals in Bexley Health, Wesley Wood or Crouch End to the junior marketing person with a ten bob budget, think again. Then think different.

Local engagement has proven to be more important than national levels. When Tesco ran “Computers for Schools” it engaged locals across the UK in a way no other brand has ever achieved. Parents raved about Tesco’s. But that is now history, and today Tesco is anything but loved, in fact protest groups now try to stop them opening locally.

Here is some advice from an experienced marketer but also a founder of the UK’s biggest community arts festival, “Whatever you learn on the big stuff, the small local stuff is a different set of rules.“

FARMS 8-15 CCD - Copy

12 useful points to consider in local community marketing:

  • It’s not WHAT you say but WHAT you do. Positive actions local speak louder than words and if you get the actions right, the words will spread around the community.
  • Spend more than you imagined. Just because it’s local doesn’t mean you should spend next to nothing and expect results. But once you are established you’ll need less to maintain your engagement. So invest at the beginning.
  • Don’t put the juniors in the marketing dpt on it – it’s more complicated than you think and requires a different way of thinking. They mean well but won’t do a good job.
  • Ignore your social media expert with the hipster beard, especially if he has an address in Hoxton. Hijacking local social media can make you very untrusted unless you get it right, and most don’t. Be smart, do stuff that get locals to do that for you.
  • Have a purpose, values (especially ethical ones) and a value to the community. Think ‘value exchange’, ask what are both sides getting from this relationship? Is it balanced?
  • Engage schools, community groups, faith groups, societies, clubs, old and young and especially mums.
  • A lot of community minded people want money for projects – be a small funder/sponsor – they’ll then come to you. You can then publicise what you’ve helped do – clean up an urban space, repair a church roof, fund a reading group.
  • If you have a store, use it as a venue, meeting place, stay open late one evening for a creative evening or cause related like a fundraiser, poetry evening, music.
  • Use your store to tell the story, your customers must already have a positive view of you to be shopping there so convert them to advocates, encourage them to tell others. Remember, simple psychology, 20% will do what you ask.
  • Respond positive to criticism. From fair comment to trolls, you’ll get criticised so be humble. Even invite people to meet the manager.
  • Be human. Consumers hate corporations, especially faceless ones. Make sure the consumers know the real people behind the business. Even the boss needs to meet his customers. Go into local schools and tell them about how your do business, about job opportunities, about stuff.
  • Understand your consumers, forget anything head office says until you have checked it yourself. Corporates tend to hire research companies that deliver generalisations and assumptions. Each local area is different. You need to know your audience and the bet is, it’s nothing like HQ, the research company or central marketing is telling you.


Example: Andrew Thornton – Budgen’s Crouch End. 


Andrew is passionate about ethics and community. He took over a failing Budgen’s in trendy Crouch End, known as London’s Creative Village, and turned it around. He became a hero of the local community as well as an example to other retailers of how to do it better.

  • He introduced more ethical brands and products because his shoppers wanted them. He stopped selling cheap dodgy foods. Ethical products in the basket went from 5% to 15%.
  • He helped a lot of new ethical brands start out by trying them out on his customers, which they loved. Then endorsing them to other retailers.
  • He supported other local businesses by selling their bread, cheeses and produce.
  • He would often walk around his store, watching shoppers and talking to them about how to improve things.
  • He created a roof garden where locals grew their own vegetables and herbs.
  • He supported local charities, schools and community groups.
  • He went into schools to talk about food retailing, food ethics and values.
  • He allowed locals to use his store for small events and fundraising.
  • He put in stalls in front of his store for local crafters to sell their crafts.
  • He made the store a “shop with a purpose”.

What he didn’t do was hire a social media person to flood local Facebook and Twitter accounts with offers or bad copy – so often the case. Yes he still does traditional offer led local marketing but his real sales force are his customers.

Andrew has now since created Heart in Business and is encouraging hundreds of businesses to think differently. ?@heartinbusiness?


Chris Arnold is founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising and The Garage. Author of Ethical Marketing & The New Consumer. And founder of the UK’s biggest community arts festival.