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

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.

Perhaps he’s simply revisiting the roots of the Christian movement and the source of its inspiration? After all, for those inclined to believe, wasn’t Jesus pretty consistent on the issue of leading by example?

So, while Francis appears to be making strides as far as perception of the Catholic church is concerned, renovation of the brand will require far more fundamental change.

In practice, it simply means applying the core principles of Jesus Christ’s teaching to the day-to-day work of the Catholic Church.

And that’s the tragic irony for the victims of the organised Church’s wilful blindness to abuse in the past: the idea of practicing what generations of clergy have preached has, only now, been acknowledged as critical to institutional Catholicism’s integrity and credibility – and the wellbeing of its flock.

Picture: Catholic Church of England and Wales | cc

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.


Something of a eulogy for Steve Jobs

I first used an Apple Macintosh in September 1989 because I had to.

I’d become managing editor of York Student Vision in the final term of my first year at the University of York and, over the summer, my predecessor in the role, Stephen Womack, and the paper’s editor, Hamish Macdonell, had decided to purchase an SE/30.

After three years of cutting-and-pasting hard copy text onto pre-printed printers grids, Vision was moving to desk-top publishing; the first of York’s two newspapers to do so.

In my role, I would be responsible for the production of a 24-page newspaper which, at the time, was distributed to 3,000 students every fortnight on a single Macintosh.

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