• The Parasite As Host?

    On: February 5, 2019
    In: economics, marketing, technology
    Views: 289

    I has a DM from Lee at the weekend, after we’d caught up last week for the first time in ages: “…loved your comment re Monzo as an incumbent – smart, in an ‘of course’ way. Might make a nice blog* post…”. So here it is.

    I’d mentioned the poster and campaign below, and the weirdness of seeing new financial startups treat Monzo as an incumbent.

    Yes, Monzo now have over a million users. Yes, they’re prepping for a US launch. Yes, they’ve raised £85 million to help fund new product development.

    But are they the banking incumbent? No, not really.

    Perhaps, though, they’re now the incumbent service for a thin layer of people who want banking no thicker than the thin glass layer atop a smartphone, a business that skips along the top edge of the pace layers, feeding on a deeper system below.

    They feed off the slower moving layers below to survive; yes, the parasite metaphor has a metallic tang in the mouth, and probably doesn’t reflect intentions, but as a description of how they’ve captured the mobilista section that the market without really contributing to the lower layers is arguably accurate.

    And now, we see the emergence of others who try to thrive in the whole they’ve burrowed in the host organism. One question emerges though about the campaign; who is it for?

    It’s surely not for people with a Monzo card already, as getting people to switch bank accounts remains notoriously hard work, so why go after a small subset of a market. Viola Black is not going to feed off Monzo in the way that Monzo feeds off the wider system.

    And it surely can’t be for those on the verge of making a decision to switch to Monzo, as any quick search on comparisons of the two would bring back unfavourable results for Viola Black; it is just a pre-pay credit card, as Monzo used to be.

    It’s perhaps more likely that it is just a market statement, for current investors and potential future ones; ‘look, we’re in this market, associate us with these other players’.

    In startup land, you don’t need to live off a real user base, sometimes the fumes of hype will provide enough sustenance for months or years. It’s like vaping success.


    *It’s 2019, so let’s try more blogging, as per this:

    Short fast blogging, rather than having an existential crisis when trying to fashion a passable Medium post. Why is it every Medium post ends up as a Large?

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  • Why Making Things People Want beats Making People Want Things – #adtech_london

    On: September 12, 2013
    In: marketing
    Views: 1741

    My slides from the talk from earlier today at Ad:tech 2013 in London:



    It links back to some of the questions raised in the written piece from a couple of weeks ago.  It’s nearly two years since I stumbled across the phrase as a galvanising idea for the work I do with clients and agencies here at Smithery, so it’s been great to reinterrogate the notion slighty in the context of some other things.  As always, a smattering of economics and maker culture infuses it all.


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  • How Our Work Might Work – my talk from Silicon Beach

    On: September 10, 2013
    In: marketing, media, technology
    Views: 1918


    That nice Dave Birss grabbed me before my talk, for a wee interview.  Though it would fit well here – covers basic ideas of the talks, making things, the new Artefact Boxes, and the Oxford Saïd Business School project…


    A talk I gave at Silicon Beach 2013 in Bournemouth, about how the way in which brands, agencies and makers all might think about how they create the marketing for what it is they do.  Thanks to everyone down there for the brilliant reception, and especially Matt Desmier for inviting me.

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  • Are Brands Fracking The Social Web? [ My talk from Squared ]

    On: March 6, 2013
    In: marketing, media, people, work
    Views: 4411

    I’m not long out of giving a new talk this morning for the first time, at Squared in London to the bright young things who’re just starting out on a six week intensive learning experience.  It’s always a privilege to talk to the future leaders of an industry, and today was certainly no exception.  Find out more about Squared here.



    I was nervous beforehand, given that so much of it was new thinking, and the rest was a different look at some older things I’ve written and talked about.  It seemed to go well though, and it started a good debate (which could have gone on longer, so I should try and shut up sooner next time perhaps).

    More than ever, there’s a lot lost in just having slides here, rather than the full “sound & vision” experience.  But would love to know what you all think, as ever.

    Thanks to Sarah & Jen for the invitation to talk, all the mystery folks who kept recommending me to them for a ‘talk on the social web’, and to Mark Earls for kindly giving it a quick sense check last night at some ungodly hour.

    And finally, thanks to everyone who adds to the dialogic conversation around this stuff, by blogging, writing, sharing and chatting about it.  It makes putting the talks together so very interesting and enjoyable.




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  • The next era of cigarette branding

    On: February 15, 2013
    In: marketing
    Views: 1886


    There is something grimly fascinating about the creation of electronic cigarette products & brands. They seem to veer from the ‘make it look like a cigarette as much as possible’, to the ‘what would they smoke in Tron?’ brigade.

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