Wednesday, 26 September 2012



Sunday, 23 September 2012

Eighteen years ago I came up with the name theoryB, for my business.

A lot of people asked me what it meant.

It was humorous to me when I formed it into a Limited Company and so it became TheoryB Ltd.

But in eighteen years no one has ever remarked on the gag.


No more waiting for the man who finds himself here.

Friday, 21 September 2012


My son is studying psychology. (Note to self: I'd better watch out or he'll be able to find out what a shit I really am).
He has just come across the famous Milgram experiment. It's a (dare I say it) shocking insight into human responses to authority.
Here's the original video
I remember being shown this film when I first became a young brand manager at Unilever, a position demanding influence without authority. It made a real mark on my consciousness. The experiment has, I understand, been repeated a number of times since the original. Somewhere around two thirds of people comply with the authority figure, even into the dangerous range of electrical shocks. What would you do? What would I do?
I remember also repeating for myself the experiment in my own fashion. I had gone to Coventry, and was in a supermarket with a friend of mine. I can't really say why, but I found a relatively innocuous item we needed, say a bag of pasta, and said "here, catch this..." and threw it to her. She caught it. I moved on to butter. The same. Then something like, say, a pot of yoghurt. Also, with growing concern, caught. Finally, I threw a frozen turkey. A big one. Wide eyed with horror, she caught that too. The idea, I guess, of a frozen turkey going slithering down the supermarket aisle was too much to handle.
Sometime later, my friend thought she'd get her own back. "Here," she called, in another town, another supermarket. A frozen chicken arced gracefully towards me. I did not disappoint. I jinxed slightly to one side, and the chicken flew past my ear, landed on the shiny floor, and slithered beneath the wheels of an elderly lady's shopping trolley.
These days, you'd have to do that experiment in a high viz bib.
But I still maintain that the turkey test is as good as any other as a test of character.
Before you run away with the idea, though, that I'd be immune from authority figure compliance, I also recall going to Dachau concentration camp a few years ago. Strangely, although I had great sympathy for the people who had suffered there, the people I found I could most identify with were the fresh faced young German soldiers and their Officers. I had the clear realization, that, given a different time, a different regime, a different media, a different sense of what was supposed to be right and wrong, that could have been me.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


If you were designing schools for twenty first century Britain you wouldn't start here.

With working parents trying to juggle child care with a working week, you wouldn't design schools to start at nine, the very time for which parents are struggling to get to work. And you wouldn't design them to finish at three thirty or four - a time which also impinges on the working day. Additionally, you wouldn't then compound the error of a shortened school day by setting homework and initiating for many a lifelong blurring of work and leisure time.

And you wouldn't design them with seven or so weeks holiday in the summer. Nor with set time holidays at other times in the year which create scheduling and cost problems for everyone.

No, you'd design them to fit with the needs of modern Britain. Everyone knows that other educational systems, especially in the developing world, have this timekeeping aspect much more right than we do, and that their kids are working longer, learning more, ready to claim their competitive place in the new world economy.

Whilst we are complacently bungling along in a nineteenth century model, simply because we daren't face the challenging labour relations issues of changing it.

Monday, 17 September 2012


It's strange that blunt and sharp are often the same thing.

Friday, 7 September 2012


Families are marketplaces. The commodities being traded are love, and attention. I hear parents say, "I can't understand it. I've brought my Jimmy and my Johnny up exactly the same and yet they've turned out the exact opposites of each other." But Jimmy and Johnny have not been brought up exactly the same. Jimmy was there first. His infant world was him and parents. Johnny on the other hand entered a world of him, parents, and Jimmy. Where was the place for him?
I believe infants are prematurely clever at spotting the ways of gaining what they need most - love affection, attention, nurture. Like any marketeer, they realise that differentiation in a market is key. Jimmy is busy establishing his market positioning as good, so I'll be.........bad. Jimmy is noisy, so I'll be...... quiet. Jimmy is boisterous and physical, so I'll be...... sensitive and intellectual. I believe kids manage their brands in this way, with many interesting consequences.
The most obvious is difference between siblings, often mirror images in the same family. A second is the inevitability of sibling rivalry, even if this can be managed in such a way that all out war is not a regular feature of family life. Less obvious, but still pronounced, is the tendency for oldest or single children to have qualities which coalesce around "good", "dutiful", "achieving", "hard working", "agreeable". One can understand this as a likely consequence of the market conditions. Free of competition, the only people to please are the parents, whereas later siblings face internal competition in the nest. I encounter a lot of second children who have formed personas around "difficult", "rebellious", "naughty", "bad".
Awareness of these ideas generally comes as a surprise. But awareness of such patterns, and their formation seems critical to me in establishing choice as an adult. We are all concoctions of our conditioning, but not inevitably. If a panel of family psychologists were to read what I've just written, I have little doubt that it would be seen as an over simplification. But thinking out my familial marketing strategies, their relevance to my family life, and their possible relevance and efficacy (or not) in my adult life has been a treasure trove of awareness for me, and for many others whom I have had the privilege of accompanying on their particular journey.


Ignore the score.

Go deaf.