Families and people vs institutions

I had an experience today of visiting Bamburgh Castle. It is a historic castle on the Northumberland Coast. Quite spectacular and is like many tourist sites on a sunny half-term holiday. Lots of people having a lovely day out. But what was remarkable was something about the way it was run and how that affected the experience.

It is not run by the National Trust or English Heritage which are large bureaucratic institutions that have an agenda they like to impose on visitors. It is run by a private family who owns the property.

This had such an impact on the experience. All the staff were really friendly and enthusiastic about welcoming visitors. There is no need to book in advance they welcome as many people as the site can hold with Covid restrictions. As a result they were busy but not unduly crowded. I am sure they are more financially successful than English heritage or National Trust or Historic Royal Palaces. But everyone who came joined in and had a nice time. And all respected the need to social distance and queue up where needed to see something.

Also, the exhibits and notices were not lecturing or making a point. They just described what we could see and illustrated the historical context. I felt like I had an insight into the family, their artefacts and the history of the building. No woke, no worthy education. Just for fun and interest.

I wish more places could be run by families and not by institutions.

Simpler approach to tax and money benefits everyone

In the video below, Martin Wolf describes an alternative financial system that would work in the public interest and encourage the right kind of risk-taking. This kind of radical financial thinking is what we need. We certainly need to stop believing what the wealthy tell us who have a vested interest in the current system.

The focus on the simplicity and transparency of economic calendar is similar to some tax ideas I put on Twitter yesterday. In a nutshell, politicians should stop trying to incentivise our behaviour through complex tax reliefs and should run a much ‪#‎simpler‬ ‪#‎fairer‬ ‪#‎transparent‬ ‪#‎better‬ tax system.

As an example abolish all the current tax reliefs and abolish National Insurance switch to

  • £20K tax-free income threshold for people,
  • 40% flat rate income tax on people,
  • 5% income tax for local authorities
  • 5% revenue tax on businesses
  • a flat rate 15% VAT on consumer purchases.

This then stops all the tax avoiding behaviours because there is nothing to avoid. There is no pension tax relief, no mortgage interest relief, no eis. Then people will behave in their own best interests and not to avoid a tax. I am sure the economy would work better.

Martin Wolf understands the financial system better than me and explains it here

How do you feel when some asks…So what do you do?

This picture shows how I have felt inside for many years.


If you have an easily recognised job and you are happy with it, this emotional response may be puzzling to you.  The answer is straightforward for you.  How you feel about giving this answer depends on how you feel about your job. E.g. I am a doctor, architect, marketing director of xxx, consultant with McKinsey etc.

But when you have set up your own business, or if you work in a field that people don’t easily understand, then it can be a scary or tricky moment. At Differentiate we have been working with clients for 16 years and often struggled to “label” or “describe” what we do as a business.

Why is this a struggle?

Sometimes I am worried about sounding undifferentiated and generic and what to be special and distinctive.  So I come up with something that is “different”.  But what I have found is that in doing that, all too often I just come across as unclear.

A solution
So I have spent some of the past 12 months working with Mike Harris to be better at answering this question. Mike was founder of First Direct and Egg Money and developed pitching skills in doing this.  He now has an approach to solve this problem. He calls it Perfect Pitch.

The emotional revelation for me is that creating an elevator pitch is liberating and confidence building.  This means if the situation is just social then I am more relaxed and not worried that I might come across as selling inappropriately.  If it is a business context then this is, of course, the first step in marketing a product or service. Be clear what it is. Your customer has to understand what is you offer. Only then can they decide if it helps them solve a problem that they are grappling with.

This post shares my answer to the question “what do you do?”.

All feedback welcome. Please email, tweet @chrisradford10 or comment here.

  • Is it clear?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Is what we did for you?

Here is the shortest one for the elevator (probably still too long)

I’m a strategy consultant who helps business leaders create growth strategies that everyone is convinced will work. We work with big firms, but are re-engineering our product to work for smaller businesses as well.

I was a marketing director at Pepsi. In 1996, I founded Differentiate to work in consumer products and B2B. Most notably we helped Mars to create CELEBRATIONS and then turn GALAXY into a $200m+ brand in the Middle East. More recently we helped MIRACLE GRO transform its performance as well as reposition some professional service businesses.

Business leaders have lots of ideas but can be unsure how to pick the winners. And then when they do they struggle to convince everyone the ideas will work.

We created the EFFECTIVE GROWTH LEADERS programme to address this. This is about coming up with and picking winning ideas and convincing the whole business team the ideas will work.

We are known for getting results and on a mission to reignite growth in established products and services.

If they seem interested then talk more about the problem and solution……..

Problem – what is the problem I am trying to solve?
We have researched the problems faced by 300 business leaders. They told us they have many insights and ideas but struggle to see the wood from the trees. They sometimes lack the CLARITY they need to pick the winners. Then when they choose a potential winner it is hard to CONVINCE the business to go ahead. This is because BIG GROWTH ideas are disruptive. And disruption creates risk. The business needs convincing the RISK IS WORTH IT. This is not easy. It takes an ENTREPRENEURIAL mindset and determination to do this. We call these people INTERNAL ENTREPRENEURS.

Solution – how do we solve this and why is it believable?
We have a 5 step method to address this. We create clarity and evidence using research, analytical tools and workshops. This 5 step method is the Effective Growth Leaders programme. At the end of the process, you know which changes to the product, the branding, the marketing or the distribution strategy will be most EFFECTIVE at driving growth.

What is our next game? Where is this going?
This is high end consulting that works, but it costs over £50K. Many mid-sized businesses cannot afford this. The GAME CHANGER will be to make it affordable to mid-size businesses.
To do this I am taking the analytical tools online. I am restructuring the approach to run 10 clients in one EFFECTIVE GROWTH LEADERS programme rather than just 1 at a time.

Mission and purpose.
We are known for getting results and on a mission to reignite growth in established products and services.

What is you experience of answering this question.  Do you have a pitch that is both clear and interesting?

Why social media can be a distraction

Effective Growth StrategyCranfield School of Management are repeating a study that they conducted 1 year ago amongst marketing directors.  This study explores the operational and strategic priorities for marketing directors.

You can contribute to the study if you are responsible for strategic decisions click here

The previous Cranfield study from 2012 revealed that marketers priorities were around media and especially around the new fashion for social media.  The writers think this is worrying and I agree.  Will it be different in 2013?  I suspect not.

Read the results click here

The reason for my post is to reflect on why marketers seem over preoccupied with media strategy in studies like this rather than the real growth drivers of product strategy, distribution strategy and innovation.


For as long as I have been in marketing, marketers have complained about their lack of influence at the top table.  It is clear that finance, sales and operations have the power when it comes to major strategic decisions.  The observations made by Cranfield in this study describe this problem.  Yet then when asked about their priorities, marketers still focus is on a narrow part of growth strategy.

I have consistently noticed that the most effective growth leaders prioritise product strategy, distribution strategy and innovation ahead of media.  They see media as a part of the marketing mix and often a secondary part.

As an example of this, I have recently been involved with a group at the Marketing Society who are working on a marketing manifesto that exhorts marketers to focus on business fundamentals.  We also have been looking at the ways marketers build their credibility within the business so they can be more effective. The experienced marketers on this working party know that media is important but not the fundamental driver of success.

Most of the people I meet in business seem to understand this and understand what are the real growth drivers.  But then this study arises and I wonder why we get these results?  It remains a bit of mystery to me as to why we still see results such as are seen in this Cranfield study.

Tip of the week

I am a big user of social media.  It has a role to play and you ignore it at your peril.  It is true that for some new and smaller businesses they built their customers with social media, so it is a priority for them.  But many businesses built their business in other channels and social media cannot deliver the reach and penetration that they need to get growth.

We all know that we don’t buy stuff because we find it in social media we buy stuff because it helps us solve a problem we have got and it is available to us and we can find it when we need it.  This is why product strategy and distribution strategy are the growth drivers

Be clear on your business fundamentals.  Make your priorities on the real growth drivers.  they usually lie in product strategy, distribution strategy and innovation. Experiment with social media, but do not be distracted.

Global Peace Day 21st September

Peace One DayToday is the Annual Day of Peace – Global Peace Day. It is recognised by every member state of the United Nations. I have been supporting this cause because I believe in the benefit of a securing a huge reduction in violence on one day.  This helps relief agencies move practical medical support and supplies to populations in war stricken areas

This post suggest ways you can support this

Continue reading

What do philosophers and marketers have in common

We worry about things that seems not important to everyone else and can use language that is obscure and difficult to follow.

 I was reminded of this when I attended a philosophy lecture
discussing how the philosopher Richard Rorty struggled to reconcile the
fact that he was passionate about social justice and at the same time
want to be selfish and spend time on transient personal pleasures such
as the cultivation of rare orchids. It seemed that the philosopher’s
intelligence led them to worry about things that seem quite
straightforward to the rest of us.


Most of us have accepted that a part of our life may be devoted to
causes whilst other parts of our lives are around personal stuff and
other parts of our lives are economic. We know we have these different
needs. We do not struggle with needing to explain a dilemma as Richard
Rorty did.
As I left I found myself thinking that as marketers we can be seen
to worry about things that the rest of the business are not so
concerned about (e.g. brand essence, brand wheels, abstract ideas).
This makes us seem a bit detached from the day to day realities.
The second tendency marketers share with philosophers is to use
language that seems somewhat obscure to the rest of the business?
happened to me in this lecture where I felt like an outsider observing
a rather strange parallel universe in which the language of discussion
was unnecessarily complex and obscure.
Our own research has shown that marketing teams who do not
communicate internally and have less frequent interactions with the
rest of the business and are less well regarded. 
Whereas, the best market driven businesses have marketers who are
well regarded and have invested time in interacting with the whole
business so that their ideas are practical and useful and they
communicate effectively so people understand the benefits.
There are two behaviours of these philosophers that we have
observed in marketers and if you fall into this then you run a big risk
of seeming detached from reality and reducing your impact on the
Firstly, like the philosophers, marketers can spend time exploring
things that seem unconnected with the reality of getting more
profitable growth.
  I have sat through U&A presentations that
provide interesting descriptions of consumer behaviour but offer little
insight as to how the business could do things differently to satisfy
customers.  Then on other occasions there are lengthy meetings to
develop and discuss things like “brand essence” or the “brand
pyramid”.  These discussions can seem to have little to do with the day
to day business of getting more growth and hitting targets.   These
discussions have little practical bearing on the decisions about
products, services, prices, distribution and marketing communications
that will drive growth.
Secondly, like the philosophers, marketers can use words and
language that seems disconnected
from the reality of getting more
profitable growth. The use of this language can obscure the real value
that marketer’s programmes and ideas might have. So whilst the business
discusses customers, consumers, sales, products, services, reputation,
distribution, logistics, prices, profit margins, promotions. Marketers
talk about branding, brand image, strategy, awareness, design and
identity. Many of these things may well be important but the links to
profitable business growth and real practical decisions are less than
clear to your colleagues in other functions.
So I left this lecture reflecting on how marketers can avoid
behaviours that will restrict their influence and may mean the business
is less market and customer driven.  Try this instead.

1.  Use shorter words.
2.  Use the language of the business, not the language of the text book or the advertising agency.
Make sure that the ideas and concepts you discuss will help you make
practical decisions.  We call these concepts “really useful concepts”.

Thought for the day (maybe even thought for the month)

Saw this on www.gapingvoid.com today




Made me think a bit.  Maybe some of the ideas in the more growth blog could be more useful if we apply this principle to our writing.

Will try it for the next post