Daddy’s Good Luck Charm – a story for 80th Anniversary of D-Day

Daddy’s Good Luck Charm – a story for 80th Anniversary of D-Day

While not directly about D-Day, this brand story features a WWII soldier and one of the most famous brands in the world then and now

Daddy’s Good Luck Charm

The day after Christmas 1944, Kevin Bell left his family’s Oaktown farm for the World War II battlefields of the Pacific.

In his duffel bag along with his clothes and some personal things he took six bottles of Coke.

The first time he got homesick, he drank one as it reminded him of life back on the farm. He shared four more with fellow soldiers whilst in Burma.

And the last bottle?

Well, he never opened it. He carried it back to the farm, where it sat for more than 30 years on the mantelpiece in the living room.

An image by Dawn Childs from The Prisoner and the Penguin – my first published book of brand story

When the farmhouse caught fire in 1990, Kevin, by then an old man, rescued it from the burning building – one of the only material possessions he fought to save.

Kevin has since passed away, but his daughter Iris Bell keeps the bottle on her kitchen counter.

”Daddy always said it was a good-luck charm, so I keep it here and my daughters will get it when I’m gone.”

And the moral is great brands make emotional as well as functional connections. What emotion does your brand evoke?

A load of Pollux

A load of Pollux

The Beahon brothers might not be classicists, but they are exemplary brand builders

The Beahon brothers are good at sport. Tom has played football for Tranmere Rovers, and his younger brother Phil has played cricket in the Premier Division of the Liverpool Competition.

More recently they have shown their prowess at business and brand building. Together, in 2016, they launched the rapidly growing premium sportswear brand Castore.

However, despite their numerous skills, the classics aren’t their strongest suit.

Asked where the name came from, Tom explained it thus:

“The name Castore comes from the story of Greek mythology. And in Greek mythology, there were two brothers, Castore and Pollux who took on the Greek god Zeus, My brother and I thought this was quite a nice analogy for us creating a new business from scratch looking to take on the big guys of the sportswear world”

Jokingly he added “Being the incredibly talented and capable individuals that we are, we thought Castore was probably a better name than Pollux… and so far, I think that’s proven to be the right decision.”

That decision as they say seems sensible as it avoids the potential of some derogatory PR.

However , their grasp of Greek mythology isn’t quite so sound.

While there are different versions of their story, in the most often cited version of the myth Castore and Pollux are indeed brothers but they are in fact identical twins despite Castore being the mortal son of King Tyndarus, and Pollux being the immortal son of Zeus.

Castore was a great horseman and Pollux was a great fighter. (Two brothers excelling at two different sports – sound familiar?)  

Together, the brothers went with Jason on the Argo and saved the ship from a terrible storm.

However later Castore was killed in battle, Pollux rather than ‘taking on’ Zeus pleaded with his father to bring his brother back from the dead.

Zeus agreed to immortalize both Castore and Pollux, if they spent half of their time on Earth and the other half amongst the stars as the Gemini constellation.

Apart from the reason for choosing their name, the rest of their brand building story is impressive.

It starts with a change of direction. The brothers realised that while they were both good at sports, it wasn’t a route to real fame and fortune for either of them, so they decided to go into business together and had spotted what they thought was a gap in the market.

“We had grown up and spent our whole lives in rubbish sportswear that would fall apart and smell.” They thought that there had to be something better.

Sensibly they decided to do some ‘research’; “We spent hours stood outside premium gyms in London, speaking to customers in the pouring down rain, hearing what they did and didn’t like about their current New Balance, Nike, Under Armour, and what their pain points were. The same points were coming up consistently – that it smells, it loses its shape after six washes, it doesn’t quite fit right.”

These insights provided the inside track to what they believed would be a real opportunity – a high-quality, high performing, premium and aspirational brand as an alternative to mass-market companies like Adidas, Nike and Puma.

Having had the inspiration now they needed to put in the perspiration, the hard work. The brothers moved to London and for two years, worked in finance to earn enough money to buy the first products, build the website and launch the business.

They would wake at 5am every morning, working on their idea for a few hours before starting their day jobs, returning in the evening to continue planning from 7pm to midnight They used their annual leave to fly abroad to visit fabric mills and build the necessary business relationships.

They also spent some time defining their brand its purpose and its principle which you can still see on their website (and has some similarities to another premium performance brand – BMW)

“Castore exists for one single reason – to make athletes better.

Utilising advanced engineering and unique technical fabrics, Castore creates premium performance sportswear”

Their  mission builds on their version of the Castore and Pollux story with them taking on the existing ‘gods’ of sportswear.

They explain “The sportswear market has forever been dominated by a small clique of mass-market brands. However, Castore’s vision is to be a premium alternative to its competitors.

Deeply infused into our DNA, our philosophy of Better Never Stops is something we strive to live by every day. The natural brand of choice for discerning athletes who demand the very best, Castore was created to bring a new level of performance to both men’s and women’s sportswear.”

To get their business going the brothers spent £50,000 of the money they’d saved, along with a further £30,000 which came from their parents who re-mortgaged their house – a lovely gesture but one which added a bit to the stress. As Tom has said  “It’s stressful enough starting a business anyway, but when you think that, if it doesn’t work, your parents might be homeless, then that is definitely enough to focus the mind even more. So there was definitely a lot of pressure in those early days.”

Fortunately for them and their parents all their hard work seems to be paying off.

Andy Murray poses during the Castore partnership announcement at the Queen’s Club, London.

They have built a highly successful business, now valued at around £1 Billion. The firm has 500 staff and 25 stores. Their list of shareholders is impressive including as it does Andy Murray and the Issa brothers, Mohsin and Zuber, owners of the Asda supermarket chain.

They have a blue-chip list of partnerships including Premier League teams, McLaren F1, USA Rugby and England Cricket and new deals are being struck all the time.

The company has moved to Manchester

And they are looking to the future. As Tom says “We’re a challenger brand. We see ourselves as a brand that wants to go and challenge the big guys. …”

“And in order to achieve that ambition, we have to be harder working, more creative, more innovative than all of our competitors who are a lot bigger than us.”

And of course to make sure their products definitely aren’t just a load of pollux.

And the moral is building a brand takes a flash inspiration and more than a dash of perspiration

What Turkey can do. (Getir)

What Turkey can do. (Getir)

I thought the brand name ‘Getir’ was a clever play on the idea of “Get ‘ere fast” to go with their proposition of delivering to your door in 10 minutes. I was, as I often am, wrong.

It turns out that Getir is a Turkish brand, and that Getir means “bring/get” in the Turkish language and its Turkish-ness is a vitally important part of the brand and its culture.

The origin of the brand is an idea that Nazim Salur had while at BiTaksi, the ride-hailing app he had already founded in Istanbul. One of the first people he shared the idea with was Serkan Borancili, who had been one of the first investors at BiTaksi.

Like lots of good new ideas, it could be summed up succinctly and uses an existing reference point to describe and ground an innovation. In this case, it positioned itself off BiTaksi, and Salur posed it as a question;  “We deliver cabs in 3 minutes anywhere in the city, why not do the same with groceries in 10 minutes?” Borancili could see potential immediately.

A week later Salur bumped into Tuncay Tutek, someone he knew through his wife who had been a work colleague of Tutek’s. Salur pitched the idea to him. He too could see potential but also recognised it wouldn’t be easy so he replied, “it’s a great idea but very difficult, good luck to you,” but added “Let me know if I can be of help with anything.”

Salur obviously thought Tutek could help because a few days later he got in contact again and this time directly asked Tutek if he wanted to join the start-up. Tutek, who had been wanting to start his own business after having worked in the corporate world for many years, decided to take a chance.

The start-up team of five co-founders was completed with the addition of Dogancan Dalyan who also worked at BiTaksi and finally, keeping it in the family, Mert Salur who was Nazim Salur’s son. Mert Salur actually didn’t join the team immediately but finished his studies in the US first and then started at Getir.

One thing that binds the band of founders together is that they are all proud patriots. They share a love of their country and want to show the world what Turkey can deliver. They all want to create a truly global Turkish brand, to become the Turkish company on “which the sun never sets” As Tutek said in a recent interview; “We have great appreciation and respect for the people of this country. It is a source of importance for us to take this platform, built by Turkish software engineers, global”

Tutek went on to explain that the founders occasionally have differences of opinion but it is this joint vision; “our north star… the purpose of making Getir a global brand” that always brings them back together.

They started work in October 2014, initially renting space in other people’s offices, and launched in 2015.

Many people thought it would never work and that Getir wouldn’t succeed. They said the Turkish market wasn’t ready. It’s easy to see why.

In 2014, Turkish customers weren’t used to ordering groceries online.

Smartphone penetration was only between 60-70 percent in 2015 and credit card penetration wasn’t particularly high either.

The average time for grocery delivery was at that time between a day and a week, so detractors couldn’t see the point of delivering in 10 minutes. ‘Why not reduce it to just a few hours or maybe even 30 minutes?’

The team however stuck to their guns, for them 10 minutes was going to be crucial. It was what really made them different. They had seen that some digital supermarkets were already delivering during given slots on the same day or the day after, but they felt the concept of delivering within 10 minutes would be truly different and prove to be their key discriminator and potential competitive advantage. It would also act as a high bar for anyone else to reach.

The team argued that customers would feel like they were getting their groceries “right here, right now” which in a world where customers increasingly want it all and want it now was completely on trend.

So, with that as their goal the team worked backwards from there to architect the software infrastructure and operations to deliver…in just 10 minutes.

The first two years were tough and not a run-away success story.

The detractors weren’t slow to point this out.

The team never lost faith. They saw what for them was a crucial indicator, not only was there a group of early adopters using the service, but they were really appreciative of it too. Getir were banking on the fact that this group of people would grow and grow as word and experience spread and they backed their belief by invested heavily in trial-driving marketing. Based on what they had seen with the early adopters the team were certain that once people have experienced 10-minute delivery they would become converts and advocates.

Their hunch paid off.

They now have around 400 warehouses in Turkey and operate in many cities across the country from Adana to Zonguldak

They became one of Turkey’s first ‘unicorn brands’

They have become the sector ‘generic’ with competitors saying things like “they will do it like Getir”.

And, as of November 2022, they operate in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal. UK and the USA

In short, they are well on their way to becoming a truly global Turkish brand.

And the moral of the story is that its ok to be ahead of the curve as long as you’re sure the curve is going your way. What idea do you have that’s ahead of your market but is rooted in doing something better than has ever been done before?

Up from the ashes, grow the roses of success! – Mumsnet

Up from the ashes, grow the roses of success! – Mumsnet

Credit ; Zoe Savitz

Justine Roberts is a former economist and sports correspondent, a Liverpool supporter, and a mother of ‘five’, her four children and one internet sensation.

A year after the birth of her first children, her twins, she felt in need of some R’n’R – a holiday but  “Sadly we chose the wrong destination, in the wrong time zone, at the wrong resort with, frankly, the wrong children.” She recalls.

The holiday to Florida in 1999 was “a disaster … we hadn’t thought through the time differences or journey. The kids spent the whole plane journey vomiting, and when we arrived, they woke up at 2 a.m. every day. There were supposed to be childcare facilities in the hotel, but the staff didn’t have any training or interest in children. So all of the parents were sitting around the pool bemoaning their choice.”

However rather than just moaning Roberts used it as inspiration. “At the time, everyone was having an internet idea,…” So she had one too about “a website for parents to swap advice, support and, of course, holiday recommendations.”

Roberts had met Carrie Longton, at the time a TV producer, in 1998 at antenatal classes and, following the birth of their children, the group continued to meet up. Roberts now persuaded her to join her.

Neither had any tech skills so Justine asked an old university friend Steven Cassidy  to build the site (who completed the trio of founders).

The original idea had been to grow the business quickly and then sell it but that was to prove to be just a pipedream. The reality was the dotcom crash happened and plans had to change.

“We just hunkered down and we built the community. And actually what we realised is there was a need for it. With any business, there’s got to be a need for it,” recalls Longton “We didn’t earn any money.”

Roberts is equally honest about those times; “The business plan I’d cooked up wasn’t worth the paper it was written on and for the first eight years of our existence, Mumsnet Towers consisted of a back room shared with a washer and dryer. Salaries were remembered fondly from previous careers.”

At times they even posted comments under multiple names to create the illusion of activity,

But slowly and steadily at first then more rapidly Mumsnet began to grow and grow. It became a generally supportive, often hilarious community of mostly women who supported each other through conception, birth, teenage years and beyond.

As Mumsnet grew, so did its muscle and it wasn’t scared to flex its muscle. It mounted a ‘Let Girls Be Girls’ campaign aimed at getting retailers to agree to stop selling products that projected an adult sexuality on to young children, This was followed by a ‘This Is My Child’ campaign to raise awareness of the challenges of raising kids with special needs and even more provocative ones like  “We Believe You” aimed to bust rape myths and Better Miscarriage Care calling for improvement for the care of women who miscarry.

Politicians and even Prime Minsters started queueing up to appear on live webchats.

At its 10th birthday party Prime Minister Gordon Brown referred to Mumsnet as a “great British institution”.

In May 2011, Roberts founded Gransnet, a sister site to Mumsnet for users over 50.

Roberts was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours, for services to the economy.

While Roberts has learnt lots about being a CEO, her key insights from her time at Mumsnet are not surprisingly about mums and include “there is no standard template for an A-grade mother” and that every mum shouldn’t lose sight of herself as a person “a mother is just one of the many things a woman is.”

She does have thoughts on why Mumsnet has been so successful and one of those is “With Mumsnet, there’s a sense of audience. Facebook is too generalised.”

And the moral of the story as Carrie Longton put it “With any business, there’s got to be a need for it.”

Where would you launch the next generation breast pump

Where would you launch the next generation breast pump

You’re launching a new breast pump and the question is: where do you hold the launch events?

  • In hospitals on maternity wards?
  • At doctor’s symposiums?
  • In new parents’ support groups?
  • With leading retail pharmacy chains?
  • Or maybe at the London Fashion Week?

And the answer is, of course, London Fashion Week.

Well, it is if you’re the radical femtech company called Elvie. So it was that in 2018, Argentine model Valeria Garcia took to the catwalk during the Marta Jakubowski show at London Fashion Week wearing an Elvie breast pump under her bra and black trouser suit ensemble.

Continuing that radical approach you, if you’re Elvie, would follow it up by installing four huge inflatable breasts around Shoreditch and the City “to encourage people to talk more about breastfeeding.”

Tania Boler gained health degrees from both Oxford and Stanford and went onto do a PhD in reproductive health. She then spent 12 years working on sexuality education and HIV prevention for the UN, ActionAid and Marie Stopes.

But it was when she gave birth to her first child that she quickly “realized that there had been zero innovation in pelvic-floor health, even though 80% of expectant and new mums suffer with it in some way.”

It was the inspiration behind what would become Elvie. “I didn’t really have an idea for a company, I just thought there was a problem that needed to be solved and that tech could help,” says Boler. She believed that tech could stimulate innovation and aid product design. Something she would then bring to market in equally new and innovative ways.

Boler’s first action was to do her research into the best way to exercise pelvic floor muscles, but as she told The Standard newspaper, “This was done via a horrible device where women had to lie on their back in a hospital with a probe put in. I thought, ‘Why can’t we take the idea behind this thing that hospitals are using, and develop something fun and easy to use at home?’ At the time, sports tech like Fitbit was launching, and I thought those kinds of sensors could be applied to women’s health.”

She pitched her idea to the government-backed Innovate UK scheme in 2013 and won a £100,000 grant. She quit her job to focus on making a better device: a Kegel trainer and app used to help women strengthen their pelvic floor via five-minute workouts involving games.

While working on early prototypes, she met Alex Asseily, the founder of wearable tech firm Jawbone, and he helped her change her mindset. “He came on board as a cofounder and investor, and encouraged me to take a Californian mentality, raising more money and hiring the ‘A-team’ of engineers.”

It was two years before the £170 Elvie Trainer was launched. Already eschewing the traditional venues, Boler and her team hosted sales talks in west London and New York gyms and hosted parties in people’s homes. It took a while for things to get going. “Eventually it reached a tipping point via word-of-mouth success. Then all the retailers who’d thought we were crazy, and said they weren’t going to stock a vagina product, began calling us back,” says Boler.

After six months, the firm turned a profit; within a year, revenue hit $1 million then, three years after that launch, the Elvie Trainer was also made available on the NHS.

Riding on that success and it got it included in the $100,000 Oscars goodie bags and that helped create some celebrity fans of the brand, including Gwyneth Paltrow who featured it on her Goop site.

Boler started planning her next product.

In 2017, Elvie raised £4.6 million from angel investors and started work on “the world’s first silent wearable breast pump.”

Its launch at the London Fashion Week saw Elvie’s discreet pump peeping out of a black bra-wearing model mum. It was perfect demonstration that breast pumps didn’t have to be loud and cumbersome.

The tactics obviously worked because, despite the £250 price tag, “it was an overnight success story,” says Boler.

Turnover is now over £20 million and Elvie has been recognized as one of Wired’s ‘hottest start-ups’ and one of the 15 start-ups ‘To Watch’ by The Sunday Times.

The brand and Boler’s rise seems likely to continue. Elvie has four new femtech products in its R&D pipeline.

As Boler says, “Women tend not to talk about the health issues they’re facing, despite the fact that they’re completely normal. So by launching our products in a lifestyle space, we could normalize it.”

“Until now, the tech industry has always thought that focusing on women customers means changing the colour of a product or turning it into a piece of jewellery. There’s never been a tech brand for women before. That’s our ambition.”

And the moral is that next generation brands can compete in any market, including those targeted predominantly at women.

A brand with a sense of wonder, a sense of poetry, and a sense of foolishness.

A brand with a sense of wonder, a sense of poetry, and a sense of foolishness.

Rob Kalin likes making things.

He makes his own his own wooden furniture, has built his own cob oven to bake his own bread and sews his own underwear. He also manufactures high-end horn speakers, and colours self-made unisex tunics with a home-made carmine dye.

Perhaps most famously though he made himself a millionaire.

He was also a co-founder of Etsy.

His original dream was to be a photographer and so left home at 16 and moved from Brooklyn to Boston and into an artist’s squat. Once he had graduated from high school, he went on to attend five different colleges and in 2004 received his Bachelor of Arts degree.

To pay his way, he worked in numerous small-time, often menial jobs but which he views positively as learning experiences. “I worked many jobs: a cashier at a Marshalls department store, stock boy at a camera shop, freelance carpenter, lowest rung on the ladder at a demolition company, minimum wage floor help at the Strand bookstore and as an amanuensis for an eighty-year-old philosopher from Vienna. All of these jobs prepared me for being an entrepreneur and starting a company,” as he wrote on Etsy’s blog.

Then in early 2005, Rob and two friends, Haim Schoppik and Chris Maguire agreed to work on a design project for, an online bulletin board for crafters.  It made Kalin realise that many ‘makers’ were looking for a place to sell their products. They disliked eBay but didn’t have anywhere else to go. He himself wanted to sell his handcrafted furniture online.

Working out of Kalin’s Brooklyn apartment, the trio designed and coded a modest e-commerce website in 10 weeks. Etsy went online in June 2005.

Many sellers registered immediately and started spreading the word to other crafters and putting up information in online forums.

Rob’s approach was innovative.

Firstly, where others might have counted the number of users, looked at rates of growth or turnover as the most important KPI, Kalin and the team regarded “real conversations ” as the most important KPI. They wanted buyers and sellers to talk about what they made and how they made it – communicating about materials, the crafting process, the story behind the goods.

One of Rob’s early investors put it “Rob’s idea was idealistic, almost anti-commercial.”

Another innovation was the fee structure which Etsy split into two: a small basic fee to get listed and upload products and a transaction fee but only upon each purchase.

Rob and his co-founders also focused on the seller’s needs, constantly adding new tools to the site to help them gain exposure.

By January 2008, Etsy had 650,000 users in 127 different countries. Much was obviously going the right way, but Rob was worried he was making a mess of things when it came to managing the business. So, in June 2008, he demoted himself to Chief Creative Officer, and Etsy’s former COO Maria Thomas became the new CEO.

By late 2009, the brand had doubled gross merchandise value (GMV) and reached profitability.

However, all was not well. There were continual complaints from sellers regarding customer support and the site’s performance. Rob felt that the company had lost its way and, in pursuit of all that growth, was losing sight of its core values. He returned to his role as CEO and in a statement to employees said;” I’m here to restore a sense of wonder, a sense of poetry, and a sense of foolishness to Etsy.”

Putting together some of his quotes, it’s clear he wanted to (re-) establish “a global community of like-minded people”, build “a worldwide platform for creatives from Peru, Tanzania or the Black Forest” who enjoy “the magic of making things.”

He doubled the staff and added new features — including a social media function similar to those of Facebook — as a means of ensuring Etsy continued to move beyond commerce. He explained his thinking “On Facebook, you’re not going to connect with people who have different religious views, different political views, different tastes. Etsy adds a whole other layer on top of that: if a person who has different religious or political views is making me a custom sweater, I’m going to have this long conversation that I would have never had. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.”

He also wanted to “help keep commerce human”, so while many of the world’s biggest third generation companies like Facebook, Shopify, or Google rely on various messenger applications and bots for their real-time customer communication. Etsy under Kalin still preferred the human touch and real conversation.

Kalin and the board continued to have differences about balancing doing well and doing good, and in the summer of 2011, he left Etsy. Chad Dickerson who had been hired by Rob as Etsy’s CTO three years earlier took over as CEO.

As of 31 December 2021, Etsy had over 120 million items in its marketplace, and the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods connected 7.5 million sellers with 96.3 million buyers. Etsy had total sales, or Gross Merchandise Sales (GMS), of US$13.5 billion on the platform and revenue of US$2.3 billion, and registered a net income of US$493.5 million.

Rob now owns and works from a former mill in Catskill, New York with a small community of artisans. He’s doing what he likes best – making things. As Fred Wilson an early investor once said Kalin was “more of an artist than an entrepreneur,” and as Kalin himself said trying to maximize shareholder value was ”ridiculous”.

And the moral of the story is balancing doing well and doing good isn’t easy, and in the drive for growth it can be easy to lose sight of both the original vision and the brand’s principles.

Footnote: Kalin also adopted a distinctly different way of talking about his vision. He read them a children’s book titled Swimmy.
Written by Leo Lionni, Swimmy tells the tale of a school of smaller fish who find strength and power in their numbers. Kalin recorded himself reading the book aloud and posted the video on Etsy’s blog, writing, “We do not want Etsy itself to be a big tuna fish. Those tuna are the big companies that all us small businesses are teaming up against.” – yet in the end that is what Etsy has become, a big fish.



Did you know that the world can be split into a grid of 57 trillion 3-by-3-metre squares?

And did you know they can all be identified by a unique combination of just three words?

Well, you do now, and if you want to use the brand, it’s called appropriately enough “What3words”.

So, if you happen to want to meet on the top of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square all you need to know is it’s powder.logs.evenly

From humble beginnings, what3words is now being used to save injured hikers in the middle of the mountains and to precise target remote forest fires. It’s being used by over 80% of Britain’s emergency services, including the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade as well as many international emergency services including the Los Angeles Fire Department. It helps people find each other (and even their tent) at festivals. It’s a godsend for delivery drivers. It was fitted into Mercedes A-Class cars when they launched in May 2018. It has now become the main navigation system for new cars in India because it is more reliable than local maps which can be vague and have confusing street addresses.

What3words also provides addresses for places where traditional addresses are non-existent, such as Brazilian favelas, and in Mongolia, where about a quarter of the population is nomadic. Not surprisingly, the Mongolian Post Office has begun using What3Words instead of house numbers and street names.

The origins of the brand start, as many brands do, with a problem.

Chris Sheldrick used to work in the music industry, organising live events around the world. However, he was continually having problems with getting the right people and equipment, to the right places. Bands, musicians and instruments getting lost trying to find remote events was pretty common.

Chris often talks about one particularly bad day when a driver in Italy unloaded all the equipment at a venue an hour north of Rome… instead the right venue which was an hour south of Rome. He remembers another occasion when a keyboard player called him and said, “Chris, don’t panic, but we may have just sound-checked at the wrong wedding”.

He figured that there had to be a better way, something that would be easier than trying to remember a long GPS reference and avoid the problems that arose if you got just one number wrong.

Having identified the problem he decided he needed some help to solve it.

He first approached a mathematician friend, Mohan Ganesalingam. Ganesalingam not only had the idea of dividing the world into three-metre squares but also created the first 3-word address algorithm on the proverbial “back of an envelope”.  

They then approached another school friend, Jack Waley-Cohen, who was a linguist with a background in translation. Waley-Cohen suggested the use of memorable words and provided help on how to translate them. This was going to be key as the translations would not always be direct, as direct translations to some languages could produce more than three words.

Three friends and what3words was born. It was incorporated in March 2013

The first attempt at monetarization was selling “OneWord” addresses – namely the ability to brand a location with a word or character string of the buyers’ choice. It had to be between six and 31 characters, and could include letters, numbers and hyphens. These would be stored in a database for a yearly fee.

After a good start, when they managed to sell more than 10,000 OneWords in its first week, growth wasn’t as fast or strong as they hoped and the offering was soon discontinued.

The brand switched to a business-to-business model and started targeting logistics companies, post offices, and couriers, though emergency services and many NGOs would be allowed to use it for free.

Firms that signed up could utilise what3words as part of their in-car navigation systems. For example, drivers can enter their destination simply by saying three words, without looking at the display, reducing any distraction and improving road safety.

Clients include Mercedes-Benz, Ford, the AA and Addison Lee, and delivery/ e-commerce platforms such as Evri and BJS, and the service is now available in 193 countries. Though still relying on venture capital, the brand is growing rapidly and exploring new avenues, for example signing an investment deal with British broadcaster ITV

It is also encouraging businesses to tag their outlets

UK adman Rory Sutherland described it in a piece in The Spectator as “The best navigation idea I’ve seen since the Tube map” and a partner Bosch sums up its benefits brilliantly as safer.smarter.faster (now where in the world is that?)

The moral: The best brands solve problems whilst recognising that specific problems in one sector often occur in many other ones too.

Reports of the brand’s death are greatly exaggerated

Reports of the brand’s death are greatly exaggerated

When the lawyer for a new online trading company first heard the founder’s suggested name, he was a bit surprised to say the least. He didn’t think “Cadaver” was the most appropriate choice. Later when a number of financial analysts weren’t convinced of the business model, instead of saying “.com” they started saying “.bomb”.

That founder would have the last laugh and would soon be able to paraphrase a famous quote saying “The reports of our death are greatly exaggerated”*.

The founder was of course Jeff Bezos, and the brand would go on to become Amazon

The original name Bezos chose for the brand was “Cadabra”, not “Cadaver”, that was just what the lawyer misheard. “Cadabra” was intended as a reference to the word “abracadabra” and to show how magical online shopping was.  However, the lawyer’s response caused Bezos to re-think his plans.

He and his then-wife, MacKenzie Tuttle, began searching for alternatives. They registered the domain names,, and They also registered the domain name which according to reports in Business Insider was a favourite. However, testing on friends suggested it was often felt to be unfriendly.  It was dropped as front runner, but the pair kept the registration and if you type “” into your browser today, you’ll be redirected to homepage. (Go on, try it)

Like some previous brand founders, Bezos’ final choice was led by a letter. George Eastman is said to have come up with Kodak as he liked the letter ‘K’ and thought it was incisive**, but Bezos’ choice of ‘A’ was pragmatic. At the time, website listings were alphabetized, so a word that started with ‘A’ would be a sensible choice.

Bezos started leafing through the ‘A’ section of a dictionary. When he landed on the word “Amazon,” the name of the largest river on the planet, he decided that was the perfect name for what he planned would become earth’s largest bookstore… and more.

Bezos had a vision of explosive growth and ecommerce domination which was summed up in his motto “Get Big Fast”. He contended that the brand would not merely be a retailer of consumer products rather was a technology company whose business would be simplifying online transactions for consumers. He 1996 he handed out T-shirts with the motto printed on it at a company picnic.

It was this thinking that was often met with scepticism and led to financial journalists and analysts disparaging the company and referring to it as Amazon.bomb. Doubters claimed ultimately would lose in the marketplace to established bookselling chains, such as Borders and Barnes & Noble once they had launched competing e-commerce sites. The lack of immediate company profits seemed to justify its critics.

However, the brand was getting Big, Fast. It reached 180,000 customer accounts by December 1996, after its first full year in operation, and less than a year later, in October 1997, it had 1,000,000 customer accounts. Its revenues jumped from $15.7 million in 1996 to $148 million in 1997, followed by $610 million in 1998. In 1999 Bezos was Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

The company quickly began to diversify, selling more than books. Music and video sales started in 1998. That same year it began international operations with the acquisition of online booksellers in the United Kingdom and Germany. By 1999 the company was also selling consumer electronics, video games, software, home-improvement items, toys and games, and much more.

Bezos and his team worked tirelessly to claim the high ground of Internet retailing before anyone else got there.

Looking back in 2015 as he announced Amazon’s results Bezos said “Twenty years ago, I was driving the packages to the post office myself and hoping we might one day afford a forklift, this year, we pass $100 billion in annual sales and serve 300 million customers.”

Looking at the evolution of the logo raises a question for me, did he also choose Amazon as the name because it included the ‘Z’ and the potential to highlight the Amazon was the everything brand? The arrow (smile) linking the A and the Z only became part of the identity in 2000.

And finally, despite its size and success, Bezos can actually foresee the brand’s demise. In a recording of a 2018 all-hands meeting Bezos is heard to say…

“Amazon is not too big to fail … In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years”.

Bezos went on to say (then) that it was his job to delay that date by as long as possible, and ensure that reports of its death continue to be an exaggeration.

And the moral of this story is Think BIG. Amazon didn’t set out just to sell book, Disney is more than films… what is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal?

* The quoteThe reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” is often attributed to Mark Twain but it is not quite accurate. The real quote comes from Twain’s response to a journalist from the New York Journal who contacted him to inquire whether the rumours that he was gravely ill or already dead were indeed true.  He replied “I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

** I tell a longer version of The George Eastman – Kodak story in my book “The Prisoner and the Penguin” which is still available on Amazon (and other retailers too!)

Celebrity endorsement made it better

Celebrity endorsement made it better

The wedding of “Bennifer” and the “Wagatha” trial shows our on-going fascination with celebrities.

As I have written about before, celebrity is a well-used tactic in marketing.

In my first book of brand stories – The Prisoner & The Penguin –  I told the tale of how the highly esteemed Eleanor Roosevelt finally agreed to do a celebrity endorsement. She did a commercial for Good Luck Margarine in which she said, “The new Good Luck Margarine really tastes delicious.”

Unfortunately, the brand was a failure. Asked about her experience she said she had received a sack full of letters in which “one half was sad because I had damaged my reputation and the other were happy that I had damaged my reputation.”   

I recently heard about another celebrity endorsement which centres on Roosevelt and thought I should add it to my collection of brand fables.

The celebrities in this story are the 1930s ‘it’ couple – The Bennifers of that era.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr was Eleanor and FDR’s fifth child and at the time of this tale a Harvard student. Ethel du Pont was the heir to the du Pont family fortune and so one of the richest socialites of her day.

The paparazzi loved them and followed them to every event they attended, and their pictures filled the society pages.

So, attending the Hock Popo Ski Club party at the Agawam Hunt Club, Rhode Island, in November 1936 was nothing out of the ordinary. Nor, at first, was the sore throat and slight cough that FDR Jr complained of the next day. It hadn’t even been bad enough for him and Ethel to leave the party early.

However, things soon changed. The throat got worse and a few days later FDR Jr had a fever and was put to bed. Just before Thanksgiving, and now diagnosed with an acute sinus infection he was admitted to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Tiresome, but still nothing too much out of the ordinary or so everyone thought. He was a strong young man, and with some rest and something to take the fever down all would be well again soon.

Only it wasn’t.

The infection didn’t clear up and in fact got worse. He remained in hospital. His mother was getting more and more worried and insisted on a new doctor, a top doctor specializing in ear, nose and throat.

Checking over his new patient the doctor was very concerned, there was a tender spot under his cheek which looked like it was infected and the beginnings of an abscess. He immediately took a sample and discovered a highly dangerous strain of strep, one that could release poisons and other infections into the blood stream. If that happened it could ultimately lead to the death of the President’s son.

While the White House medical staff considered the option of a risky surgical procedure, the new doctor remembered reading some reports about a new drug, Prontosil, developed by Bayer in Germany. The reports spoke of near miraculous results and initial tests at John Hopkins were also very positive.

He recommended it to Mrs. Roosevelt.

At first, she wasn’t sure but having read more about it and in the face of the still worsening condition of her son, she agreed.

Some carefully wrapped glass phials were duly shipped from Germany to the USA. The doctor gave him an initial dose and followed it with further doses every hour.

Ethel sat in the room with FDR Jr, his mother sat outside working on correspondence. At first nothing seemed to be happening and the hours seemed to drag on and on but in the morning, things started to change.

The swelling around the abscess looked like it was shrinking. FDR Jr was sleeping better and seemed to have more energy when he was awake. Later that day his fever broke.

The doctors were amazed; never before had they seen a strep case that was resolved so well and so quickly.

FDR Jr was released a few days after Christmas.

He would later marry Ethel (the first of his five wives), be decorated for his service in WWII and go onto serve three terms in Congress.

However, what he also did was prove that celebrity could sell (if even his mother couldn’t).

The headlines in The New York Times and other prominent newspapers, the story of his recovery, and the role of the new wonder, heralded the start of the era of antibacterial chemotherapy in the United States and the success for Prontosil

And the moral of this story is …Celebrity sells (well sometimes)

Bremont: Chapter 2 Building the story into the product

Bremont: Chapter 2 Building the story into the product

I wrote a story about the origins of the Bremont brand back in July 2020 ( ) but on a recent visit to the Williams F1 pop up store In Westfield I saw the Bremont concession stand and went to take a look. (They are Williams sponsors)

In main original blog I talked about how Bremont’s differentiator was its storytelling, and the delightful man on the stand backed this up as he told the story of Stephen Hawking and the limited edition watch

Not only did he tell the story but he described how little details are built into the watch designs.

He showed me an astronomical map on the back of the watch incorporating actual little circular parts of the scientist desk to represent the planets and even tiny paper snippets from the academic papers he wrote

Later looking on the website I found this description

The classically styled Bremont Hawking Rose Gold Hawking features a retrograde seconds hand and grand date, contains 4 wooden discs inlaid into the back of the watch taken from the desk at which Hawking contemplated the mysteries of the universe. This exquisite chronometer also contains some meteorite to symbolise the cosmos displayed at the centre of the striking hand-finished case back, as well as an etching of stars from the night sky in Oxford on date that Hawking was born. The serial number is printed on paper from original copies of a 1979 seminal research paper commonly referred to as “The ‘nuts’ and ‘bolts’ of gravity”.

(Having a go on the Williams esports simulators was pretty cool too)