Latest Posts Subscribe to this blog RSS

Robot Focus Groups – the future or just theatre?

Stephen Hawking is warning about the dangers or relying too much on robots.


Writing in The Independent, Stephen has warned there are “no fundamental limits” to what machines may be able to accomplish in the future.

“One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand”

Take a look at this newsreader in Japan – 


It’s not too hard to imagine focus groups being run in a similar way, is it?

You won’t actually need focus groups in the future, of course, as we’ll all be providing every emotion, thought, behaviour, intention, justification and more through our wearable technology (contact lenses, fingernails, jewellery, clothes, etc.) – but we’ll still have focus groups because of tradition and some organisations will like the entertainment value.

So if Stephen is worried what do other experts think?

Well, Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX and Tesla motors, reported that he thought robots were “dangerous.”

“There have been movies about this, you know, like Terminator.”

Despite his reservations, Musk himself has recently invested in an artificial intelligence company.

Modern day Pinocchio or glimpse of the future?


(This builds on my earlier posts –

Forget about the BRICS

There’s only one kid in town – BRAZIL.

That’s right, the World is about to go even crazier for amazing Brazilian products.

My 8 year old son has even clocked it – drinking the Brazilian Guava Lucozade. According to him Pele even drinks it!


Have you ever doubted whether Latin America can impact creativity?

Well, take a look at this little case study from Puerto Rico – and try not to be inspired!

This is going to be a cracking year!

Time to get excited …

(by the way did you see that Gareth Bale goal?)

RoboEarth, RoboCops, Robot Market Research – Part 2

Further to my earlier post – – let’s throw this news into the mix, from the BBC website –

Basically the article reterm2veals that in Eindhoven a series of inter-connected, separately developed robots are all talking to each other to better surgery based on their collective knowledge. At this stage they are not working on proper surgery with proper humans but surely it is only time before that happens?

When we fuse this emergence with some of the other things I’ve blogged about – Scanadu –, the Centre for Existential Risk – – it is clear that advances in robotics and automation are significantly more sophisticated than most of us in the marketing services industry are capable of understanding.

It’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to consider a market research report created entirely through machines, using machines as the data source and the interpretation, developing creative briefs for campaigns which in turn are designed to prompt people to puchase certain products through their smart phones / google contact lenses – all in an instant.

Is it?

Are we a nation of Pepys?

Samuel_PepysPepys was a voracious writer. He was an ordinary clerk writing for his own purpose, with no expectation that one day he would be a famous, scrutinised and adored diarist.

Who could say the same for the masses of tweeters, bloggers and self-promoters?

Nobody really knows why Pepys kept a diary – does anyone really know why they tweet and blog? Is it for themselves or is it for another reason?

Writing is a dying art and many could do well to take a look at Pepys. He kept his own counsel and did not see the need to broadcast to the masses.

A certain irony, I too am writing this with the intent of others seeing it.

In which case I would urge those reading to take the time to comment, to discuss and share opinions.

Are diaries supposed to be read, kept secret – or is the whole process of diarification the new gamification? Will we start to see businesses using diarification to leverage and obtain consumer insight? After all, diaries are more personal than surveys, more self-driven and more suited to today’s technology.

Diarification – a new concept?

How ideas spread – The House of The Rising Sun

These days people call it viral marketing, contaigon theory – whatever.

In the past it was called mythology, wisdom, old wives tales, etc.

As I mentioned, I am in New Orleans. I promised my daughter I would get her a photo of The House of the Rising Sun (her casio keyboard has a demo of The Animals song in the songbank). However…

  • Nobody in New Orleans has ever heard of the song

  • Nobody seems to know if the House ever existed

  • Nobody knows whether it was a jailhouse, a bar, a slave station, a brothel – or something else?

Most historians seem to think it is an English folk song taken to the USA in the 18th Century and eventually grafted to the New Orleans setting.

When I think about the brands I wonder how much fact there is in the history. I also wonder whether it matters.

My highlight of the AMA – a showcase of some of the best marketing in the USA – was a case study by Niels Schillewaert on the Consumer Consulting Board. It showcases the power consumers have in guiding business – classic C2B marketing that places a value on the consumer – an example of the consumer shaping the direction of a business and being rewarded for their proactivity.

A single powerful insight can transform a brand, spread an idea, shape the future – the rise in digital means this can happen every day more quickly. It also makes it harder for the idea or insight to spread.

Which circles back to the beginning … the good wives tales that have a root in a brand or product truth will last the test of time – even if we can’t trace the root.

Coca Cola is the same … 2 billion mouths a day, nobody knows where the name came from, a secret, perfect recipe – but the brand mythology is a critical part of the identity.

Muddled thinking, fuzzy logic – it demonstrates that marketing is still an art. Even in this age of data science the artistry is essential – just as it was in the days of Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and The Animals.

n2 n1

New Orleans – Big Data and The Big Easy

I am in New Orleans at the AMA (American Marketing Association) conference.

Just as the best gumbo is a perfect blend of many ingredients and spices, the best marketing conference should be a blend of different ideas and perspectives.

You need a big appetite for big data.

However, a useful reminder for us all – 93% of word of mouth recommendation is done face to face! In the race for digital let’s not forget about humans.

10 fun historical facts about the city.

  1. New Orleans is where opera was first performed in the U.S., back in 1796.
  2. The first Mardi Gras parade took place on Shrove Tuesday 1838 in New Orleans.
  3. New Orleans is the largest port on the Gulf of Mexico, the second largest in the U.S. and the third largest in the world in volume of cargo handled.
  4. The Superdome is the largest enclosed stadium/arena in the world.
  5. The first U.S. theater was established in New Orleans.
  6. Antoine’s, established in 1840, is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Louisiana.
  7. The name “Uncle Sam” was coined on the wharfs of New Orleans before Louisiana was a U.S. territory — goods labeled “U.S.” were said to be from “Uncle Sam.”
  8. Poker was invented in New Orleans in the 1700s.
  9. When individual states had their own currency, the Louisiana dix (French for 10) was a favored currency for trade. In English they became known as “dixies” and the term “Dixieland” was coined.
  10. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, which still reigns supreme in the city today. Later, jazz spawned both the blues and rock and roll.
no1 no2 no3 Paddle Boat on Mississippi River

Heated pavements in Helsinki

I know I am late to this, but how amazing and obvious is this?

Like everything, obvious when it slaps you round the face.

Here I am, speaking at an industry event in Helsinki.

There is snow everywhere except the pavements around all the major tourist hotspots.


Underfloor heating. Under-pavement heating.

Supposedly some people complain about the energy use and cost but, as a tourist, it creates an amazing first impression.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

“Blowing in the Wind” in Vietnam

Proving that musicians leave long lasting loving legacies through their music, over 30,000 people gathered on 31st March at Phu My Hung Urban Area, Ho Chi Minh City, to celebrate the 12th Anniversary of the death of the late musician Trinh Cong Son; considered to be Vietnam’s own Bob Dylan, with his immortal songs about the love of people and the profound human values.

Three veteran divas Hong Nhung, My Linh, Thanh Lam and singers Duc Tuan, Ngoc Mai and the band of musician Vinh Tam came together to celebrate Trinh Cong Son’s life together with the crowd. And, their collective voices singing the song “Noi vong tay lon” (Open our arms wide in a great circle) got them into the record books for the largest number of people (30,000) singing together, as certified by the Vietnam Record Book Centre.

This musical night was organized by the late musician’s family in collaboration with Le Bros Company, a member of the Worldwide Partners network.

Phu My Hung Urban Area

Surprising Advertising Trends in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of those countries, which is still listed as an emerging market. But is it really so “emerging” when it comes to the advertising industry? Learning from the Worldwide Partners Inc. agency in Saudi Arabia, Focusadvertising, we can understand more about the opportunities in the marketing communications sector as well as what challenges still exist that slow down the progress.

These days, a lot of renewals are happening in Saudi Arabia. And many of them appear to have a direct impact on the advertising industry.

Mexico is looking great!

News about drug cartels, favelas and violence, seem sexier to the media than great news about business in Latin America.  Many people tend to think of México in terms of the violence, pyramids, beaches, tequila and avocado.  All of which exist as well as the fact that México is one of the largest automotive and technology producers in the world, in the top 3 to be more precise.

Business Monitor international indicates that Mexico stands out as among the best-positioned markets in Latin America to attract investment and see businesses establish operations over the next several years.  Sadly they also stand out as countries with the worst press.  Mexico is the the second largest economy in Latin America, 13th largest economy in the world and 11th in purchasing power parity.  Around 78 million people make up its labour force.