To create an online financial advice brand, become a follower of fashion

To create an online financial advice brand, become a follower of fashion

Having worked — off and on — with a number of UK financial brands in my time, something’s alway perplexed me: the default setting for the design of financial services is based on what other financial brands already do.

Brands rarely seem to roam beyond the confines of the financial services archipelago for inspiration in service design.

It means that the development of new services is a painfully iterative process; a fact compounded, perhaps understandably, by a stifling regulatory environment.

Most innovation appears evolutionary: Incremental changes in product design, systems and technology that create efficiencies in transactional processes but not necessarily in the way people interact with services.

Continue reading “To create an online financial advice brand, become a follower of fashion”

Monocle’s Soft Power Survey 2013

Monocle’s published it’s fourth annual Soft Power Survey – a topic that’s fascinated me ever since I listened to Professor Joseph Nye speak on the topic at the RSA in London in 2011 – and Germany’s toppled the UK from its top spot.

Produced in conjunction with the Institute for Government, Monocle’s survey asks which countries ‘best attract favour from other nations through culture, sport, cuisine, design, diplomacy and beyond’. In other words: beyond the bullets, economic sanctions and so on, who packs a soft-centred punch?

The kind of unspun Papal spin that couldn’t be spun by PR spinners

The kind of unspun Papal spin that couldn’t be spun by PR spinners

A piece from The Guardian today that caught my eye: journalist Jonathan Jones claims Pope Francis ‘has renovated a damaged brand not in years, but months’.

And how is this miracle being accomplished? Probably by not attempting to ‘renovate a damaged brand’.

In fact, the universal truth lying at the heart of this epiphanic repositioning of Catholicism appears to rest in the final sentence of the article: ‘Do and say what you believe.’

The idea that Pope Francis has ‘renovated the brand’ is a bit of a stretch.

Continue reading “The kind of unspun Papal spin that couldn’t be spun by PR spinners”
The Bebanking talk I nearly gave at TEDxCheltenham

The Bebanking talk I nearly gave at TEDxCheltenham

Back in October 2012, I was kindly invited to deliver a talk at TEDxCheltenham about the idea of Bebanking that I wrote about here last July.

I’d meticulously rehearsed my lines – learning the the script off by heart – and was all set to deliver the speech.

It went well – for about two minutes. And then my mind went blank. The lines were lost. I stood in the spotlight before an audience with absolutely no recollection of what I was supposed to say next.

Apple’s Tim Cook and the distinction between brand and branding

Away from the furore among analysts about Apple’s – apparently – disappointing results yesterday, the brand’s chief executive, Tim Cook, uttered a phrase which precisely states the distinction between brand and branding.

He said: “We could put the Apple brand on a lot of things and sell a lot more stuff. The most important thing to us is that our customers love our products, not just buy them but love them.”

Branding = ’We could put the Apple brand on a lot of things and sell a lot more stuff.’

Brand =  ’The most important thing to us is that our customers love our products, not just buy them but love them.’

And that’s why Apple is the biggest brand in the world.

 

Are trade unions the answer to the economic crisis?

Perhaps it was inevitable that, with the rekindling of interest in the economic analysis of Marx and Engels on the crest of the current global economic crisis, the idea of organised labour as a force for good would emerge somewhere down the line.

But a couple of columnists – Will Hutton in the Guardian and Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, in the New York Times – both refer to an unlikely advocate for trade unionism in pieces published over the weekend: the International Monetary Fund.

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Britain’s brand: ‘this frail travelling coincidence’

It may sound like a glass-half-full definition but Frank Cotterell Boyce’s reference to this line from Philip Larkin’s The Whitsun Wedding, perfectly pinpoints the poignant curiosities of the British character that his script for the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony so brilliantly conveyed.

The Larkin reference is included – about 12 minutes in – in this fascinating interview for Radio 4’s ‘Broadcasting House’ in which Mr Cotterell Boyce describes the behind-the-scenes experience of what, for me at least, was the defining cultural moment of 2012 in the United Kingdom.

Mr Miliband’s big moment

Last Saturday’s blog post by the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, astutely makes a connection between perception of the present Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, and Clement Attlee.

Attlee’s legacy is formidable. Among other measures in a truly remarkable period in British government, he presided over the creation of the national health service, and established the welfare state and free secondary education. Arguably he was the finest Prime Minister of the twentieth century and the most accomplished leader the Labour Party has ever had.

All this despite – in an era where relentless rolling news wasn’t a factor – being considered to possess a pretty dull, non-media friendly, personality; hence Sir Winston Churchill’s quote, cited by Mr Robinson in his post, “an empty taxi drew up outside 10 Downing Street and Attlee got out”.

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Why reform banking when we could transform it instead?

Once upon a time – a couple of years ago in fact – I was so alarmed by the high cost of payday loans advertised by brands like QuickQuid and Wonga, that I started a small campaign called 2356percent (it’s a link to an article from the Independent, by the way, the 2356percent site is no more).

One thing led to another and, thanks to Greg Mulholland MP, an Early Day Motion, signed by about 30 MPs, was tabled in the House of Commons. Because of that campaign, I was invited to meet with Errol Damelin, the chief executive of Wonga. We had a fascinating conversation and the 2356percent campaign has been pretty much dormant since.

That’s not because Wonga persuaded me that their loans were a good thing; instead, I realised that campaigning against behaviour in a financial services ecosystem which spawns brands like Wonga is not the same as campaigning for an alternative kind of financial services industry.

I reached the conclusion that – no matter how persuasive the calls for the regulation of people like payday lenders from MPs like Stella Creasy – the financial services industry is unlikely to up its game until there’s an alternative way of doing things that really challenges the status quo.

Continue reading “Why reform banking when we could transform it instead?”