Belated message to my loyal readers (yes, both of you)

Sorry but in my haste to get out of the office last Friday, one of the many things I didn’t quite get round to was posting a message saying I’m now on holiday right through to Tuesday 7th August so don’t expect anything very interesting to happen here for a while.

Yes, obviously, I can hear you saying “No change there, then.”  And in fact I am, as you can see, managing to write this brief and rather silly little entry from my holiday.  But I don’t intend to make a habit of it, partly because it takes a million years on a dial-up connection to open up this screen but also because when I eventually succeed I immediately realise that I don’t have anything to say.

“Weather lovely, wish you were here.”  That’s about as good as it gets for the next couple of weeks.

Sorry to go on about it, but this spam thing still baffles me

As any regular readers are tired of hearing, whenever I open up this blog I find loads of spam in the Comments inbox.   I hate it, but I’m endlessly fascinated by it.  It raises so many questions – like why is it almost all for prescription drugs, notably the mysterious phentermine?

Today I have a new question about it.  Why is it that some of the web addresses in these emails turn out to be perfectly innocuous?  In one email this morning, the web address for the prescription-free phentermine was  This sounded unlikely, so I had a look at it.  It’s an extremely worthy American academic site full of details about guitar seminars – no trace of phentermine anywhere.    What’s this all about?

Meanwhile, back on the planet financial, much is going on.  In the field of financial services, everyone who’s anyone is now redoubling their efforts to set about building one of these brand things, either among advisers or among consumers or, increasingly, among both.  Large providers who’ve succeeded for years without ordinary punters knowing anything at all about them are becoming increasingly anxious about their continuing anonymity.

As a result, once again, the good times are back for brand consultants.  You know my view on this:  that leaving something as big and complicated and multi-faceted as brand development in great big people businesses to graphic designers is a bit like leaving the design and construction of a billion pound property development to the wallpaper-hangers.  How the clients don’t see through them will always be a mystery to me.

It all stems, in my opinion, from a simple linguistic confusion:  that the word “brand” has a micro meaning, to do with an organisation’s logo, and a huge great big macro meaning, to do with the totality of the organisation’s aspirations and behaviours.  And somehow or other, the graphic designers have managed to create the impression that their skills in the former area equip them for the latter.

It’s absurd.  It’s as if an advertising person claimed to be able to lead an army on the basis that he or she knew a thing or two about campaigns.  This isn’t a qualification, it’s just a play on words.

Oh well.  That’s the thing about words.  What they seem to offer, and what they actually offer, can be two very different things. As I found a little while ago on


So I have to find something nice to say now, I suppose

This could be hard.  Still, let’s give it a try.

Here’s something:  if there’s one negative perception the financial services industry doesn’t deserve, it’s the perception that it’s stuck in a rut and reluctant – or unable – to innovate. 

This isn’t going to work very well, because I have to put all this in rather vague and general terms, but here is a list of some of the jobs in the creative department at the moment:

-  brand identity and launch communication for a new business with a completely new product idea, launching into the IFA market in the autumn

-  the first-ever advertising campaign for a leading wealth management organisation that has so far relied entirely on its advisers on the ground to build awareness and generate business

-  a global advertising campaign to help pull together a professional services firm that has previously operated on a purely “multi-local” basis

-  a brand development project for a large mutual insurance company undergoing a broad-scale restructuring

-  brand and communications work for a large mortgage lender looking to redefine and focus its position in the intermediary market

-  two branding and launch communications programmes for two major life companies planning new initiatives in the offshore market

-  the first UK consumer awareness campaign on behalf of a very large international financial services group

-  merger communications for the introduction of what is about to become the leading player in the investment platforms market

as well as a whole bunch of relatively business-as-usual campaigns, websites, literature items and so forth for a long list of clients who aren’t actually reinventing their businesses just at the moment.

True, to some extent the work-in-progress list could be said to highlight the fact that agencies like this are very dependent on change in the marketplace.  Change creates work for businesses like us.  By definition, at any given moment, our active client base is going to consist of a lot of organisations that are experiencing change.

But even so, despite this natural bias, I still think it’s fair to say that people in the financial services industry deal with more change than most other industries and – probably as a result – deal with it a good deal more calmly and competently.

There.  And you thought I couldn’t write a piece without grumbling about something.