“The great miscalculation of the age is the idea that businesses have to make a choice: to become profitable, or become platforms for change. This is not the case” says Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, in his book Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform of Change.

His point of course is that brands are deeply embedded in the everyday lives of everyone of us. How we eat, drink, talk, connect, meet, travel, work, laugh and love. We are all consumers, seeking brands that we emotionally love and trust, products and services that we rationally need and desire, supported by business models and infrastructures that can engage audiences at huge scale.

Brands are increasingly investing in new technologies, from biotech to blockchain, to stand out from their competitors and make a bigger difference to the lives of their consumers.

This was a big theme at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month, where once again this year many big-name brands were demonstrating their investment in innovation.

Technology with a bigger purpose.

Explaining the purpose behind Impossible Foods was Jessica Applegren, its vice-president of communications. She disccused the brand’s aims to eliminate the need for animals in the food system by 2035, replacing meat with plants using a key ingredient it developed itself called heme. At CES the company announced its latest product, Impossible Pork, and a continuing partnership with Burger King.

“Our intention is to give consumers exactly what they love about meat, but demand very little on their part,” she added. “If you are giving the consumer the same flavors, the same textures, the same pricepoint, the same health benefits and more as well as all the sustainability aspects as well, why wouldn’t you switch?”

“SAP is helping the world to become a better place because we see technology as an enabler,” said the company’s global chief marketing officer, Alicia Tillman. “There are so many companies that have a purpose and a mission and they are driven by values and want to lead by example,” she added before discussing some of the social good projects that SAP had undertaken recently around the world.

Also interviewed in this video by The Drum, about their tech innovations, were Michael Mauser, chief commercial officer for Harman; Fiona Berwick, strategic planning, global marketing for Asics and Jaideep Kibe, vice-president of Coca-Cola:

I’ve been looking forward to Sophie Devonshire’s new book for quite some time. When it came, it was brilliant. I read it at speed, maybe inspired by the title.

Actually it’s around two years ago that I sat down with Sophie in Carluccio’s Richmond to talk about her vision for the book. I downloaded all my thoughts, ideas, experiences. She listened politely. And then off she went to interview some of today’s great business leaders, and from those insights she has shaped a fresh and engaging proposition for business leaders.

Sophie is a super engaging business leader herself. Her obsession with speed and acceleration in business is infectious. She recently became CEO of The Caffeine Partnership, working alongside my friend Andy Milligan, and together they lead this unique business consultancy which works with leaders to find more purpose and pace. You can also join her Superfast community for more, and read the ‘Pacesetter Profiles’ online at superfastthebook.com or follow @s_devonshire on Twitter.

Leading with speed

The back cover captures the book’s core idea: “In today’s fast-paced world, leaders need to move at speed. The rate of innovation and change in organisations and the challenges of impatient investors or shareholders mean leadership decisions must be quick, smart and deliver real impact.

Superfast provides cutting edge inspiration and a host of exciting ideas about how to accelerate performance in an agile and thoughtful way, shedding new light on leading in a world which is fluid and uncertain. You’ll learn the practical solutions to leadership questions which the most savvy global leaders employ, and map your own shortcut to personal and professional success.

Leadership is not just about moving fast, however. Superfast will show you how to use your time in the smartest, most efficient way possible – slowing down when necessary to get decisions right and accelerating elsewhere to unlock growth.”

Here are some of the key messages:

  • The need for speed in business. Pace can drive performance. Leaders need to move at speed.
  • Today’s business environment is changing fast, so leaders need to better balance agility with resilience. Purpose and pace are required.
  • Leaders need to use time as smartly to achieve the most impact as efficiently as possible.
  • But it’s important to be responsible as well as responsive. Sometimes you need to slow down to get things right.
  • The pace race: repeated pace setting is an essential leadership practice.
  • Time is finite but energy isn’t, so manage your energy, not just your time.
  • Purpose drives pace: a true mission creates accelerating power and a great filter for ideas. Define it. Love it. Live it.
  • Structure for speed: create fast frameworks. Delete levels and empower frontline staff.
  • Editing is expediting: superfast means less. Aim for minimalism, reduce decisions for others, make it easy and create constraints.
  • Human understanding: know your audience, your team, and yourself.
  • Truth matters: candour and honesty help resolve conflict.
  • Hire smart, fire fast: take the time to find the right people and then get them in fast. Hire people who can decide, then delegate. Say hello to the best and goodbye to the worst. When you know, let them go.
  • Decide, delegate, deliver: think slowly, act fast.

Coincidentally I’m with Matt Brittin, Google’s boss in Europe, in Denmark this week. I’m interviewing him about his ideas on leadership at the Thinkers50 European Business Forum. He said “Leading at speed is essential in a world of accelerating change, complexity and uncertainty. When the one thing you’re sure of is that things will change, the way we lead people has to change too.”

Finally, here’s a great summary from British Airway’s Business Life

We are in the midst of a new revolution. The internet, social media, and mobile technologies have transformed how customers interact with brands and how companies market their products and services. It has transformed products themselves, customer experiences, business models, and organisation structures. It has transformed markets, customer aspirations and how value is created.

Most significantly it is a mental shift. From marketing organisations built around brand managers, campaign schedules, paid-for advertising and distribution channels – to a world where the only limit is imagination and time – tweets are unlimited, Facebook pages are free, social influence is done by customers. Whilst the technologies are fascinating – VR helmets and data analytics – it is the mindset that makes the difference.

Consider the journey of marketing from a world before digital (the old paradigm of product-push, advertising enabled, mass-marketing) to a world where digital came to the for (today’s world of websites and mobile apps, social and interactive, more connected, more customer-centric). Now consider what the next phase looks like, going above and beyond digital (to embrace intelligence, fuelled and inspired by the new generation of technologies, but only limited by our imagination).

Digital has transformed every market, as well as the very essence of marketing. Marketing beyond digital takes your brand further and faster:

  • Bigger ideas … Marketing is about big ideas, that connect with people in more relevant and realtime ways. Ideas about their lives, enabling them to achieve more. These ideas come from deep insight, building brands with more meaning, and then solving real problems for mutual benefit. Ideas spread through word of mouth, or tweets and likes, accelerated by social influencers and shared passions.
  • Smarter innovation … Marketing is been shaken up in a digital world, no longer centred around products and campaigns, advertising and selling … it is about engaging people in new ways, with new channels, and new incentives, creating business models that generate revenues in new ways. All marketing is digital, it is how it harnesses the power of data and technology to succeed more creatively.
  • Personal identity … Marketing gives people a richer identity, about who they are, what they believe and aspire to be. Brands are a reflection of customers not companies, communities and causes. Markets are increasingly fragmented, tribal and turbulent. Millennials add a new wave expectation and desire.  Customer-centric marketing is all about you – on your terms, what and how, when and where you want it.
  • Radical imagination … Marketing brings new solutions to life through new technologies, co-created or customised with customers, brought to life through virtual and augmented reality, delivered in anticipation of needs by using big data to surprise and inspire people. Marketing can sometimes be accused of selling you what you don’t need, but it is also the platform for exploring possibilities, and a better life.
  • Business impact … Marketing is the driving force of profitable growth, turning ideas into innovation, solutions into sales, futures into financial success. In a world where customers trust each other more than companies, it is networks that drive success – networks of partners, networks of customers, networks of participants. Time to market is accelerated, old decision processes are disrupted, impact can be instant.
  • Unleashing technology … Marketing is digital in everything it does. Digital is more than an app, a website, a fan page or a headset. Digital is about harnessing the power of data and networks to transform markets, and the relationship with and between customers. Whilst routine activities are automated and accelerated, technology gives marketers the opportunity to dream, to dare and to of further than ever before.

Digital is transforming every market, as well as the very essence of marketing. But marketing is now more than digital, it moves to the next generation of technologies, but also to realise its humanity, and potential to transform business and beyond.

In the time Usain Bolt clocked up 9 Olympic gold medals he has become an icon of sports, and of sports sponsorship. Since those record-breaking Olympic victories in Beijing 2008, when Bolt’s only sponsors were Puma and Jamaican mobile phone company Digital, things have changed rapidly –  8 years of incredible sporting performance, global fame and branded impact.

Gatorade, Hublot and Virgin Media quickly snapped up the world’s fastest man to pitch their wares. Gatorade introduced Gatorade Bolt, a new lemon ice-flavored drink. Visa linked him to a deal and used him in ad campaigns extensively in Europe, where athletics has a much higher profile than in the USA. His current endorsement portfolio now includes 10 global partners, ranging in value from $1-4 million annually with Puma being in a class by itself at eight-figures (he also has seven regional partners). Bolt even has his own character in the Temple Run gaming franchise. The game has been downloaded more than one billion times.

Bolt has also been busy off the track in 2016 leading up to the Rio Olympics. He signed deals at the beginning of the year with Japan’s ANA airline and Australian phone company Optus. He signed a deal with Enertor to be the face of the upstart sports insole brand, receiving an equity stake in the business. Bolt launched his new shaving company, Champion Shave, a week ahead of the opening ceremonies. And then he sprinted to immortality – the triple, double Olympic champion.

Sports are like nothing else. The unreserved passion of athletes competing, and fans supporting. The unprecedented performances of human speed, strength and spectacle. There is rarely a better way to add passion and performance to your brand attributes, than to connect with sports.

However, with so many investment opportunities – from sports teams to individuals, sports events and activities, stadia and media programs – to choose from, how do brands ensure their sponsorship portfolio enables them to reach the right people within their target markets for the most effective investment?

The traditional starting point is to look at how many people can be reached. This is where the plan can go wrong.

In effect sponsors get obsessed with maximising logo awareness, and then having a good time in the corporate hospitality tent. Yet we all know that simply seeing a brand’s image, or having a good time, is no longer enough to cut-through the proliferation of marketing messages, and to engage the right clients or consumers in an impactful way.

Instead, the starting points should be the audience:

  • Who is the target audience we really want to engage, and what matters most to them?
  • How is our brand relevant, and how does it add value to what the audience cares about?
  • What associations do we seek to make between our brand and the sponsored entity?
  • How is this different and better than before? What is the change we seek to achieve?
  • What new innovations or activities do we seek to introduce to the market alongside it?
  • How can the audience help to amplify the impact, peer to peer, as brand ambassadors?
  • What is the strategic plan, to sustain the story, and the relationship, over time?
  • How will this drive incremental, profitable business for the brand short and longer-term?

Sport sponsorship can be an incredibly effective marketing tool – strategically in building brands and launching innovations, and building deeper relationships with target audiences – and also in driving sales promotional activity, in more topical and relevant ways.

My experience is diverse – from helping brands like Coca Cola and Visa to use their mega-sponsorships of the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup to transform perceptions of their brand and engage target business partners and consumers in a vision of the future – through to brands like VB Beer, P&G and Tata to embrace the values of sports affiliation to create a brand personality and empathy that resonates with its target drinkers.

With a range of masterclasses and consulting projects, I help brands to connect in the right way with sports, and more importantly the right audiences. To create win wins. To create new levels of passion and performance for your brand, and the sport too.

Here are the key modules, which are customisable in content and duration to your needs and aspiration:

  • The Brand: Why are we doing this, how the best companies build brands more successfully, by embracing sponsorship to engage their target audiences in deeper, more relevant, more topical and more effective ways.
  • The Audience: Who the audience for sponsorship really is, business or consumer, employee or partner, and what they want. Tapping into their passions so that the brand adds relevance and enhances what they love.
  • The Activation: How to bring brands and sponsorship programs in highly creative, practical and profitable ways. Thinking long before, during and beyond the engagement, to build relationships and community.
  • The Impact: What is the real impact of sponsorship – in changing attitudes and behaviours towards the brand, exploring new innovations and solutions, driving trial and purchase – the business case, the metrics ROI, and impact on brand value.

And some useful background articles:


What are best new ideas for brands and marketing in 2016? … How can you apply the ideas to your own business?

I recently visited Guiyang, one of China’s fastest growing cities. You could call it the centre of the world actually. Over half the world’s population live in a circle 4100km around this place!

The Asian tiger is still roaring, and whilst growth is not quite what it was, China and India are still racing ahead, 7% growth in 2016, and on course to become the world’s most important markets. Alongside Indonesia and South Korea, they are incredibly vibrant spaces, where entrepreneurs are thriving, local businesses testing their wings, and western companies are venturing ever more. I love working in Asian markets – there is such a passion for doing better – for learning and innovating, and nowadays less about learning from America, much more about outthinking them. The vast majority of consumers now have disposable income, with a tremendous thirst for fashion and gadgets to demonstrate their progress, and indulge life to the full. Whilst Asia now has a well educated and hard-working workforce, it still lacks some of the confidence to develop new strategies, and aesthetic creativity to develop winning brands. When it does, it will dominate the global economy.

asia korea

Here are 10 treasures from the Asia Pacific region, to help inspire your thinking:

Aussie Farmers Direct

AisleOne was launched recently as the world’s most advanced shopping aisle available anywhere anytime on your smartphone. Australia’s farmers have come together to do things which retailers traditionally could not, offering the widest and freshest range of food, delivered directly to your home. Since 2006, the network has grown from a three people and one milk float, to a company with 250 franchisees who provide 250,000 households across Australia.

Aussie Farmers Direct is one of the 100 case studies in Gamechangers.

Baidu Chopsticks

In rapidly growing markets, its easy to take shortcuts. And some restaurants have been known to not always use the freshest produce in their woks. Baidu, the Chinese internet company, has found a solution, but making Chop Sticks smart. The intelligent sensors within these hi tech implements can tell a piece of meat that is past its best, or beansprouts that have lost their crispness. An example of how technology is now finding practical applications in our physical daily lives, and not limited to interactions with a screen.

Disney English

In Shanghai recently, I was struck by how many local Chinese are now talking English. I asked them how long they have been learning, and where the best schools are. The result was a surprising one. Disney. Not watching Mickey Mouse, but going to local branded schools – for everyone from young kids to business professionals. Language teaching is big business, but with few known or trusted brands. Disney has recognised that it can help bring the world together with the same voice, and maybe have fun learning too!

Frank by OCBC

Frank is the hip, stylish and trendy brand dripping with obvious youth appeal, that comes from one of Singapore’s largest and most traditional banks, OCBC. The concept was based on deep research into the emerging banking needs of Generation Y, innovating new products, designed a cool new store and did it all with heaps of style. Most visible is the vast range of colourful and personalisable payment cards, displayed in the shop looking more like the latest vibrant collection of Swatch watches. The name stems from the phrase “frankly speaking,” and is intended to convey honesty, sincerity and simplicity.

Gogoro SmartScooter

Taiwan’s Gogoro is building the “Tesla of scooters” … The SmartScooter promises a ride like no other … Awesome performance, easy and fast battery swapping, endless personalization possibilities are just the beginning … And from a marketing perspective, whilst the product oozes lifestyle design, and is also good for the environment, the brand proposition focuses on what matters most to the rider, speed … And finally, if the style of the bike doesn’t catch your eye, just look at the website … beautiful!

Haier Codo

Haier is the world’s largest white goods business. The Chinese company was born out of old and bankrupt manufacturing business, but used a spirit of entrepreneurship – and a structure that created hundreds of profit-sharing small business units – to revitalise itself and grow rapidly. From affordable cookers and fridges, it has stretched far and wide, from robotics to new ways to do life’s essential tasks. One example is Codo, the world’s first “pocket washing machine” along with a rapid stream of innovations.

Astana, Kazakhstan

When my plane landed in the middle of the Kazakh steppe I was expecting very little. 10 years ago it was cold barren earth, nothing but an old landing site for Soviet spacecraft. Now Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan could be mistaken for the wealth, scale and amition of cities like Abu Dhabi. At the heart of Eurasia, between Russia and China, and with a nation the size of Europe, it is important too. On meeting the prime minister, we discussed the opportunity for the nation to be a “gamechanger”, both in the way it serves its citizens with the most digitally connected social infrastructure, and also plays a new pivotal role in geopolitics.

Lucky Iron Fish

In Cambodia, a considerable proportion of the population is iron deficient. This has increased rapidly since people have moved from cooking in iron pots to stainless steel, and can lead to anemia, weakness, impaired child development. But one little fish can change all that. The fish symbol is lucky to many, and so throwing it into the cooking pot was deemed a positive thing to do. Within 9 months of the campaign being launched, there was a 50% reduction in reported illness, showing that the best solutions can sometimes be incredibly simple, practical and physical.

Moa Beer

Josh Scott comes form the Marlborough region of New Zealand, where his father developed one of the island’s best wineries. When it came time to have over the business to Josh, there was a problem. Josh didn’t like wine. So he started brewing beer. Great, premium beer made in the finest wineries, and the detail normally associated with wines. The Breakfast Beer kicks off the day, followed by 8 different flavours. Even the IPO in 2012 was different, with the prospectus featuring a rather sophisticated lady, in fishnets and heels, pouring over the economics of kiwi beer.

Moa Beer is one of the 100 case studies in Gamechangers.


Who says the Japanese can’t make great advertising? The flying shrimp commercial was certainly one of the craziest in the world this year, with 6 million views. It was also won of Asia’s few success stories at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this year, the annual awards for the advertising world. Whilst many phone companies emphasise “speed” DoCoMo go further.  “Three-Second Cooking: Explosively Fast Fried Shrimp” is a one-minute story featuring two “TV chefs” who load up a highly-pressurised double-barreled canon with shrimp, to fire through bread crumbs, egg, oil and a flamethrower. The action is set to a suitable death metal soundtrack. Their meal cooks in three seconds flat.

Tsutaya Bookstore, Tokyo

In 1983, conceived as a lifestyle store by Muneaki Masuda, Tsutaya began as a shop renting and sellingbooks, videos, and music. Since then, it has become an all-encompassing Japanese pop culture platform. In 2011, the company behind the Tsutaya project, CCC, introduced an evolved form of the Tsutaya bookstore in Daikanyama. Based on its “T Point” membership program, the brand continues to suggest a new lifestyle concept.

Xiaomi MiBand

Lei Jun is often called the new Steve Jobs, not least because of the way he sees the future, and inspires the crowds to come with him to explore innovations they never realised they needed. 3 years after launching his first smartphone, the MiPhone, Xiaomi is now the world’s third largest smartphone brand. But that’s not even Lei Jun’s business, he sees himself much more in the knowledge business, harnessing digital media and information to make life better. The $10 MiBand fitness tracker is just one example, available now worldwide at a fraction of the price of the Jawbone or Fitbit. Health and fitness is addictive, and the data that flows from the user, is a highly accessible way for consumers to start exploring the Xiaomi ecosystem.

Xiaomi is one of the 100 case studies in Gamechangers.


Around the World in 80 Marketing Ideas

This is part of a larger project to find the best marketing ideas from around the world, real and practical solutions which work in one place – and (with relevant adaption) could work in your market too … Copy Adapt Paste! They were sourced through my personal travel experiences (I visited around 50 countries in 2015 as a keynote speaker and expert consultant), through a crowdsourcing program and with the help of friends Anouk Pappers and Maarten Shaeffer. You can download all 80 marketing ideas in the presentation below:

Read more about

  • Kaleidoscope 2016 … the 7 big ideas that will shape customers and markets, drive brands and innovation
  • Marketing in Europe in 2016 … from healthy chocolate to digital cosmetics and millennial vlogging
  • Marketing in Asia Pacific in 2016 … from flying shrimp to Aussie farmers and intelligent chopsticks
  • Marketing in The Americas in 2016 … from cool carrots to cardboard 3D headsets and superhero supplies
  • Marketing in Africa and Middle East in 2016 … from farms in boxes to walking a marathon for water