How to spot a shit brand consultant

A friend sent me a great link to a Mark Ritson rant in marketingweek yesterday. Mark Ritson is something of a God for many in the marketing business and sells himself really well. And so he should as he’s won more medals than Michael Phelps.

In the rant which you can read here, he recalled a recent evening in London where a friend told him how he had been ripped off by a brand consultant. Ritson doesn’t share how the friend was ripped off but goes on to outline a seven point system for identifying ‘shit’ brand consultants so you can avoid them like the plague.

Mark Ritson - more gongs than just about everyone
Mark Ritson – more gongs than just about everyone

The list goes something like this:

1) If the consultant mentions millennials, run a mile.
2) If the consultant offers advice without qualitative or quantitative research to back up his recommendations, run a mile.
3) The more concepts the brand consultant tries to sell you, the more ‘crapper’ he is.
4) If the brand consultant uses trigger words, he is unworthy. An example of a trigger word is Innovation. According to Ritson innovation ‘is a product orientated word and worthless as a result.’
5) Any brand consultant that mentions Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be shown the door – after you’ve thrown something heavy at him.
6) Likewise, if the brand consultant shows you a picture of a cow being branded.
7) And again, if they tell you reputations take decades to build.
8) If the brand consultant has a trademark attached to their special branding methodology or they use an acronym like ‘RESULTZ’ or ‘PERFORM’ then walk out of the room, but before you do write WANK on the nearest whiteboard.
9) If your brand consultant waxes lyrical about Steve Jobs and Apple and insists that what he did is relevant to your business, head for the door.

OK that’s a 9 point list but I’m only the messenger. So what do people think of his rant and list? Judging by the comments section, most of his fans agree with him. However, John Robbins of newzpoint blames ‘shit’ brand managers rather than shit brand consultants, “Although I can’t help but think the main reason there are so many shit brand consultants is because there are so many shit brand managers and the fact that you have to prepare a guide for brand managers because they generally can’t tell the difference between good and bad consultants is recognition of this.”

Robbins continues, “Try talking in realistic terms to a shit client (there are tons of them, easy to find) and most of the time their eyes glaze over because they find common sense rather tedious and prefer to listen to inflated bullshit as it excites them more. The emperors cloths continue to be sold and resold every day and no doubt will for sometime. As the old adage goes – brand managers get the brand consultants they deserve.” Powerful stuff from Mr Robbins.

Another comment from Claire who focused on the reference to the millennial segment, “I am apparently a millennial and I’m married with a kid. My brother and sister in law are technically also millennials and living it up with no mortgage in London. The idea that we are both basically the same segment for targeting is ludicrous.”

So what do I think of it? Well I think Mr Ritson is spot on really. I mean the concept of doing anything and making any recommendations without doing research is borderline criminal in my book. But the research must be focused on identifying value requirements of target markets and not be determined by age or decade of birth.

Who needs logic when you can pay for for inflated bullshit?
Who needs logic when you can pay for inflated bullshit?

I mean, in an era when social media allows you to find like minded souls in groups on Facebook and other platforms, the concept of a ‘segment’ like 18 – 24 year olds or people born in a certain year or decade is rather naive.

Every customer is a segment now and they must be engaged with content that resonates with them. And that doesn’t have to be done through marketing. Indeed, it’s hard to do so, but it can be done when the prospect is researching the product or at the point of sale, after a connection or after a sale. If any segmentation is required, it should be separating prospects from existing customers.

Or as John Robbins said, the problem is often the client. If a client wants a brand consultant to go straight to implementation without doing any research, what is he supposed to do?

Should he walk away? Undoubtedly and many brand consultants probably do but if the economy were tanking and the pipeline was bare, who can blame them for taking the plunge? After all, the client will spend their money somewhere.

And besides, once on board the brand consultant can always try to convince the client to do the proper research.


What do you need, a creative agency or a brand consultancy?

This post from the poke on how to start a creative agency is actually very funny yet at the same time a sad reflection of the confusion around building brands.

Unfortunately, too many firms are under the impression you hire a creative agency to build a brand using creative driven tactics and in particular advertising, that are pushed out across media that few consumers pay any attention to. And even if the advertising is on digital platforms, it rarely understands how consumers live their lives, the environment they are advertising in and the needs of those consumers.

Too many CEOs are seduced by the creative industry
Too many CEOs are seduced by the creative industry

The ‘suits’ as they are called of the agency seem to have an almost hypnotic power over clients. And when they tell potential clients that the way to build a brand is with creative driven advertising that costs a lot of money they nod and write the cheque.

Then, when you ask the suits (if they haven’t moved on to another company) why the advertising didn’t work, they often blame the client and tell him that he shouldn’t have approved the initial campaign or the campaign was right but he didn’t spend enough money the first time around.

And the only way to solve the problem is do it all again and despite failing the first time, they are the team for the job. Sadly, most clients will agree and waste yet more money on a creative campaign that rarely helps build the brand.

Some advertising is very good but that doesn’t mean it works. The reality is that most advertising doesn’t work, especially with millennials who have seen their parents let down by so many products that failed to deliver on promises made through creative driven advertising. Instead they trust the opinions of their friends or others like them who share their space and their interests and have no ulterior motive but to help a friend or like minded soul.

Authentic Brand consultants understand this better than any creative agency. They know that to lay the foundations for your brand you must develop a customer centric organisation that looks at delivering economic, experiential and emotional value to customers at every touch point and every time.

Sometimes this involves advertising but more often than not, it requires nothing more than improvements to the delivery system. It’s not as cool as advertising but it is much more effective. And more often than not, it’s a lot cheaper and improvements are immediate.

For more information on the difference between a brand consultant and an advertising agency, please read this.

2010 in review

Just in case you are interested, here is an analysis of the number of visitors to my blog in 2010 and where they came from.

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2010. That’s about 29 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 72 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 109 posts. There were 73 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 19mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 9th with 122 views. The most popular post that day was The Maldives is ‘rebranding’. Why?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for redang island, maldives, tiffany ads, pangkor laut, and the maldives.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


The Maldives is ‘rebranding’. Why? November 2010


Malaysia getting ready to be major player in world’s largest service sector industry April 2010


Creative campaign not the solution to smoking issues in Singapore June 2010


How to brand a city like Ipoh June 2010


Singapore Airlines Suites, branding blunder or recession victim? January 2010