Who was FAB first?

Who was FAB first?

sgt-pepper_1 Fab 5d


It was 50 years ago today that Sgt Pepper taught the band to play. The twenty year anniversary having long since passed.

It was 50 years ago today that Lyons Maid taught the people to lick.

So it was that I found myself, not on a boat on a river, but in my sitting room listening to the remastered Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club band while enjoying that wonderful concoction of strawberry fruit ice and vanilla ice, that had been dipped in chocolate and coated with hundreds and thousands. Noticing the 50 years anniversary mentioned on the lolly’s label I got to wondering ‘who was Fab first/’, and whether there was any connection between the two.

It turns out that there was something else completely FAB that was launched that year and it was this that inspired the ice lolly.

Gerry Anderson’s new television series “Thunderbirds” hit TV screens that May and introduced us to Scott, Virgil, Brains, Parker and of course Lady Penelope.

Set between 2065 and 2067, Thunderbirds follows the exploits of the Tracy family, headed by American ex-astronaut turned multi-millionaire philanthropist Jeff Tracy. He is a widower with five adult sons: Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan. The Tracys form International Rescue (IR), a secret organisation dedicated to saving human life.

Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, to give her full name, was employed by IR as London field agent. She was driven everywhere by her trusty chauffer Parker and the number plate on her pink Rolls-Royce was FAB 1. (She was voiced by Gerry’s then wife – Sylvia Anderson)

“Fab” was also used by many of the International Rescue team as an equivalent to “”Roger” (communications jargon indicating that a message has been received). However despite many people speculating whether it stood for something special, Gerry Anderson has since dispelled the myth. On his website he explained that it means…

fab-2“Nothing! In the 60’s the buzz-word was “fabulous”. This was shortened to FAB and used simply as a call sign like ‘Roger’ or ‘Ten-Four’ to acknowledge received instructions. If it was an acronym, then the best suggestion we’ve heard for a potential meaning is “Fully Acknowledged Broadcast”.

So back to the lolly. It was created primarily to try and attract the 3 million girls in Britain aged 5-15. The boys had been catered for when Lyons had introduced the rocket shaped ‘Zoom’ lolly in April/May 1963, off the back of the Steve Zodiac Fireball XL5 TV series.

The original lolly packaging appears to have had a prominent image of Lady Penelope on the wrapper.

So the Fab lolly was launched in May 1967 and so too was Sgt Pepper, so is this a draw?

beatles bar

Well it seems that the term “Fab four” was applied to the Beatles in or around 1964 so maybe they win on a technicality. Furthermore the Fab Four also competed directly with Fab in the lolly wars for a while as ‘Beatles Bars’ were launched – ‘delicious ice cream bar covered in chocolate crunch’ on a stick (though unlike Fab lollies they are no longer available).

Whatever you decide, for me they will both always be undoubtedly FAB and the only question remaining is whether they will still feed me, when I’m sixty-four.

They will never sell

They will never sell

clarks desert boot



Dick Rowe of Decca is (in)famously believed to have said, “Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr Epstein” in turning down the Beatles.

They have sold more than 600 million albums worldwide.


beetleAfter the Second World War, The British Government looking for a car for the masses turned down the VW Beetle saying, “This car does not fulfil the technical requirements which must be expected from a motor car. Its performance and qualities have no attraction to the average buyer. It is too ugly and too noisy”.

More than 21.5 million of the old Beetle had been sold when the last one came off the production line in Mexico in 2003.

When Nathan Clark presented the design for a new boot, the board felt it was too informal and not in line with their traditional designs and proclaimed, “They will never sell”.

Nathan_ClarkIn 1941, Nathan was stationed in Burma with the British Army. As the great-grandson to one of the founders of the Clarks company, it wasn’t surprising that he paid particular attention to what people were wearing on their feet. He soon noticed that many off-duty officers were wearing simple suede boots with crepe soles.

Investigating further, he found out that the officers were ordering their boots from a particular bazaar in Cairo. They were made to be lightweight (so they were easier to run in), had a grippy sole (for balance on any type of ground) and the suede upper was both comfortable, and good for high temperatures.

Believing he was onto something big, he began cutting prototype patterns out of newsprint. He set these clippings along with drawings back home to the factory, which is in the village of Street in Somerset.

When he got back to England, Clark sources the finest materials and shoemakers to transform his idea into reality. Using an existing last (a 3-dimensional mold upon which a shoe is constructed) that had been used for a popular Clarks sandal, he began to experiment. He used what is known as a stitch-down construction, a method used in other Clarks styles, but opted for an orange thread as a further distinguishing trait.

Sticking to the look he had seen in Burma, he decided on a beige suede, sourcing it from a nearby tannery, Charles F. Stead. The colour of the suede he now recognised as a reference to the boot’s desert origins. The choice of suede however was to be part of the controversy as at the time most men’s shoes were made from stiff, formal leather and came in black or brown.

Presenting his Desert Boot prototype to the board, he was met with a frosty response – they will never sell.

Nathan however still believed in his new boot, so in his capacity as Overseas Development Manager, he unilaterally decided to take his latest creation to the Chicago Shoe Fair in 1949.

There it was well received, and was dubbed the world’s first “dress casual” shoe.

rsz_clarksdesertbootadSo, in 1950 the desert Boot finally went on sale. It was an immediate success.

More than 10 million pairs of what was described in a 1957 advert as the ‘world’s most travelled shoes’ have been sold in 100 countries.

Famous fans have included Steve McQueen, Bob Dylan, Robbie Williams, Cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke and even Sex And The City actress, Sarah Jessica Parker who was spotted buying two pairs — one in brown, one in black — because she couldn’t decide which she liked best.

Pretty greenOasis star Liam Gallagher was such a fan that throughout the 1990s he hardly wore anything else. He went one step further and collaborated with Clarks to design his own version of the boot as part of his “Pretty Green” clothing label.

The boot was named one of the ‘Fifty Shoes That Changed The World’ by the Design Museum in 2009.


And the moral of the tale is that experts don’t always get it right. What do you believe in so much that you will push ahead with it even in the face of rejection?

A ladder to success

A ladder to success

ladder of success

“I’m going to democratize the automobile,” Henry Ford said in 1909. “When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and about everybody will have one.”
model tUsing the highly cost-effective assembly-line method of producing cars he had developed and with the Model T, his Ford Motor Car Company took control of the market.
However, Ford’s vision was to make the car a commodity. He is famous for saying “Just like one pin is like another pin when it comes from the pin factory, or one match is like another match when it comes from the match factory” and “You can have any colour you like as long as it’s black”.
It gave Ford the ability to grow and develop the early market, but also created the opportunity that Alfred Sloan and General Motors were to exploit to overtake Ford and become market leaders.
Alfred_P._Sloan_on_the_cover_of_TIME_Magazine,_December_27,_1926Sloan was born in New Haven, Connecticut and studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He went on to become president and owner of Hyatt Roller Bearing, a company that made roller and ball bearings. They started to supply early automotive companies like Oldsmobile with the ball bearing they needed.
Then, in 1916, on the back of the rapidly expanding car market, Hyatt merged with a number of other companies to become the United Motors Company, which in turn soon became part of General Motors Corporation. Sloan became Vice-President of GM, then President in 1923, and finally in 1937 Chairman of the Board.
Sloan’s approach to business management including managing diverse operations with financial statistics such as return on investment was to make him famous in that field, but he demonstrated a flair for marketing and consumer insight as well.
He realized that consumer tastes changed and evolved, and that not everyone’s taste was the same. While a basic cheap and functional car suited many it didn’t suit everyone especially more affluent customers who wanted more power, more style and to demonstrate their status.
So he came up with a concept he called “a car for every purse and purpose“. The idea was to have five distinctive brands which did not compete with each other (which form lowest cost to most expensive went) – Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac but offered choice and variety to different groups of customers. Customers could, as their income grew, move from brand to brand, moving up what Sloan called “the ladder of success.”
Sloan had introduced a five way segmentation into the market.
To meet the need for changing tastes and to encourage people to want to come back and buy another car he introduced the idea of frequent styling changes, so if you wanted to keep up with the latest trends you would need to buy a new car. It is often labelled as the introduction of “planned obsolescence” though in reality it was mirroring what was going on in other industries like fashion.
The changes, along with Ford’s resistance to change, worked and GM overtook Ford to industry sales leadership by the early 1930s, a position it was to retain for over 70 years.
Sloan’s ladder of success was to prove a ladder to success for GM

Love me, love my dog – Zappos on steroids

Love me, love my dog – Zappos on steroids



Zappos is almost universally held up in the marketing world as the benchmark when it comes to customer experience, so how could a brand ever expect to become Zappos on steroids

Well our story begins in failure,as do so many success stories.

In 2011, Ryan Cohen and his business partner Michael Day had to finally admit that their budding on-line jewellery site was going nowhere …fast. They sold all their remaining inventory at a loss but rather than just give up, they decided to try again

Thinking about why it hadn’t happened for them with the jewellery site they recognised that perhaps, in Ryan’s words “we’re not passionate about what we’re doing.”


This got them thinking about what they were truly passionate about and for Ryan it was obvious, I was his poodle, Tylee. “She’s my No.1” thought Ryan. He knew his was a “Pet Parent”, someone who would happily spend on premium food and products for their dog.

From there it wasn’t hard to flesh out the idea; there must be lots of other pet arents who were willing to spend lots on the best products and a quick review of the market confirmed that there was a gap. “So I was going to the pet store and realized the market online was really under-penetrated. This was a much better opportunity” remembers Ryan.

Ryan and Michael took their thinking a step further and recognised that not only would these pet parents appreciate good products, they would probably want great service from like minded people. As Ryan says: “From the beginning, we came in saying that we want to provide pet parents with the most amazing customer experience. Period. Zappos on steroids”

The food and accessories they offered on their website weren’t really different from what pet owners could buy in stores, so the difference was in the service.


While the two founders originally answered customer calls themselves, they soon needed to hire some extra help. They wanted exactly the right type of people, people they now call “Chewtopians – pet-loving, adventure-seeking, silly hat wearing folks whose sole mission is to enrich the bond between you and your pets.”

As with all things in service its actions and not words that really make the difference and Ryan, Michael and their Chewtopians acted differently.

Perhaps the most famous example of living up to their ideals is the story of Sheree Flanagan, which was initially published in People Magazine.

On December 22nd 2016, Sheree Flanagan’s much-loved dog, Zoe, died and she spent the holidays trying to come to terms with her loss.

Then tragedy struck again on January 30, Thor, her 15-year old cat died.

“Losing Zoe was terrible. We had her for 10 years, but when Thor died that was crushing. He lived with me in New York, then California and now here. He was always my No. 1 boy.”

Trying hard to practical Sheree called the Chewy service number to see if she could return her unused pet food.

Sheree was put through to Chewtopian, Ashley and picks up the tale “Ashley was amazing. She told me she had a cat put down and she really understood. I kept saying that I didn’t mean to bother her and she kept saying ‘No, this is important. Tell me more.’”

As you might expect from a brand dedicated to good service Sheree get a full refund, no documentation was asked for or needed.

What happened next was Chewy’s difference in action. The next day a van pulled up at Sheree’s home. It was there to deliver a bouquet of flowers and a note of condolence. It read “With deepest sympathy on your loss of your little ones. We’ll always be here through the sad times and to remember the good memories your fur babies left on your heart. Love – Ashley and the Chewy Family.


This isn’t a one-off either it part of that ultimate customer service the brand is dedicated to. There are numerous other similar stories on line.

Kelli Durkin, Chewy’s VP of customer service, says of their customer service “We don’t feel we’re talking to customers. We are talking to pets’ parents. We want to hear the good and the bad. We are feeding their children. We are part of their families.”

The company’s personalized service is based on he principle of “zero automation” in the customer service department; about 450 representatives operate the centre, 365 days a year, 24/7, answering calls in 4-6 seconds.

The brand has a WOW department that sends out the bereavement packages, cards and more to customers that experience life events ranging from illnesses to weddings. It donates a portion of its profits to no-kill animal shelters.

All customers get entered into a lottery to win one of 700 weekly hand-made oil paintings of their pet (Chewy now has 200 full-time portrait artists). The company also has a 40-strong TV crew with 3 sound stages producing pet-care tutorials for the Chewy YouTube channel.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Chewy’s sales have grown exponentially, from $26 million in 2012 to $900 million in 2016. It is expected to reach $1.5 billion in sales in 2017 which will give it over 50% of the online pet food market.

(PetSmart is buying Chewy for $3.35 billion, one of the largest deals ever in e-commerce)

And the moral is the biggest and often most profitable differentiator is service. How are you WOW-ing your customers – your ‘family’?

The Wasp

The Wasp

“It looks like a wasp!”


Not quite the endorsement that Corradino D’Ascanio was expecting when he presented the fruits of his hard work to his patron.

Yet within months the Italian language possessed a new verb based on the brand.

To date over 16 million of them have been sold around the world and they are produced in 13 countries.

They have become a screen icon starring alongside Audrey Hepburn in Roman holiday, Anita Edberg in La Dolce Vita, Angie Dickinson in Jessica and Gwen Stefani in her 2007 video for Now That You Got It.

If you still haven’t got the brand, they also appeared in Quadrophenia where ever Mod who could afford one, was riding one.


The brand is of course Vespa.

Following the end of the war, industrialist Enrico Piaggio needed to find a new direction for his company, which had been making planes for the Italian air force. He recognised that Italy had an urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transport. He therefore tasked one of his aeronautical designers, Corradino D’Ascanio, with designing a motorcycle suitable for getting around the bomb-damaged Italian cities.

However, D’Ascanio wasn’t keen on motorcycles. He thought they were too cumbersome, too difficult to repair and generally dirty.

Instead, he took inspiration from having seen US military aircraft drop tiny, olive green Cushman Airbornes to their troops in the war-torn cities of Milan and Turin. The Cushman Airborne was a basic, skeletal, steel motor scooter that allowed troops to nip about the rough terrain.

Adapting his aeronautical expertise to the task in hand, he designed a simple but practical scooter. He moved the gear lever onto the handlebar for easier access. He designed the body to absorb stress in the same way as an aircraft would. The seat position was created to give both safety and comfort while the workings were hidden behind panels to keep the rider’s clothes in pristine condition and the step-through frame meant it was an ideal machine for skirt-wearing women to ride.

In fact, the first Vespas built actually used components from Piaggio’s aircraft; the nose wheel suspension for the front wheel of the scooter.

It was however its narrow-waisted design and buzzing sound that caused Enrico Piaggio to exclaim “Sembra una vespa!” (“It look like a wasp!”). A stroke of fortune as the reaction gave the new scooter its brand name.

In April 1946 the Vespa debuted at a golf club in Rome and was an immediate success. It wasn’t long before  “vespare” (to go somewhere on a Vespa) was being heard on the streets along with the wasp-like buzzing of their engines.

jessiac film

And the moral is that skills in one sector can be successfully transferred into other sectors. Where could you take your brand?

New book launch & the story that gave the book its title

New book launch & the story that gave the book its title

Many thanks to everyone who came along to the new book launch at The Museum of Brands on 6th April.

I introduced the book and told a couple of the stories in it, and then got a couple of my colleagues to retell their favourite story in their own style

If you couldn’t make it but want a flavour of it, here is a short clip of me telling the story that gave the book its title

Its available on amazon if you are interested

Will the real Quakers please stand up.

Will the real Quakers please stand up.


Quakers are members of a group with Christian roots that began in England in the 1650s. The formal title of the movement is the Society of Friends or the Religious Society of Friends
There are two stories as to how the movement got its name. The first says that the founder, George Fox, once told a magistrate to tremble (quake) at the name of God and the name ‘Quakers’ stuck. The alternative theory is that the name derives from the physical shaking that sometimes went with Quaker religious experiences. There is less controversy about where the name ‘Friends’ comes from. General agreement is that is relates to Jesus’ remark “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
There are two brands that are linked with Quakers, one is Cadbury and the other is Quaker Oats. Despite the names, it is the former that is really connected to the Quakers.

The Cadburys were a true Quaker family who had moved from Exeter to run a draper’s shop in Birmingham by the start of the 19th Century. At the time Quakers were barred from the universities so could not pursue professions such as medicine and the law. Nor, as pacifists, could they could consider naval or military careers, which is perhaps why they turned their attention to trade.

Quakers are also teetotal and as such keen to promote alternatives to alcohol, so it was perhaps not surprising that in 1824, that John Cadbury opened a tea and coffee shop next door to his father’s drapery in Bull Street.

He was soon to branch out into cocoa, often grinding the beans himself, and by 1831, the shop was devoted entirely to drinking chocolate. By the 1850s, Cadbury had been given a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria and, in 1860; John’s sons George and Richard imported a Dutch chocolate press and made something akin to what we would recognise as a bar of chocolate.
cadbury barsIt was great success result and the brothers were soon very wealthy. They didn’t however spend all their new gained riches on themselves, instead appalled by deplorable living standards in Birmingham, George and Richard set out on a vision to create a ‘ factory in the country’.

cadbury workersThey bought a farm on the banks of the River Bourn and named it ‘Bournville’. They built not only a huge factory but also hundreds of bright airy homes with gardens and fruit trees for their workers. The village included open spaces, trees and public baths but of course no pubs. When Richard died in 1899, George placed the entire 1,000-acre community into a trust. Today, many of its 25,000 residents still work for Cadbury and rent their homes from the Bournville Village Trust.

There are still no pubs in Bournville – and it contains the only alcohol-free branch of Tesco in Britain.

All of which help re-inforce the image of Quakers as upright, honest and decent people, exactly the qualities for which Henry Seymour and William Heston chose the name Quaker Oats

Neither Seymour nor Heston were Quakers, but they selected the Quaker name as a symbol of good quality and honest value.

quakerman pennToday, General Mills who own the brand say, “The ‘Quaker Man’ does not represent an actual person. His image is that of a man dressed in Quaker garb, chosen because the Quaker faith projected the values of honesty, integrity, purity and strength.”

Early Quaker Oats advertising dating back to 1909 seems to contradict this and in fact identifies the “Quaker man” as William Penn, the 17th-century philosopher and early Quaker. The ad refers to him as “standard bearer of the Quakers and of Quaker Oats.”

Resembling classic woodcuts of Penn’s likeness, the Quaker Man figure was depicted full-length, sometimes holding a scroll with the word “Pure” written across it. This image was America’s first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal. The registration took place on September 4th, 1877.

Since then the icon has gone through a number of redesigns and refreshes – to add colour, to take it away again, to slim the figure.

However, one of the most famous provides a link to another famous brand. In 1957 Haddon Sundblom produced a colour head-and-shoulders portrait. Sundblom’s other famous brand characters include Coca-Cola’s original Santa and his Quaker Man is said to actually be a portrait of fellow Coca-Cola artist, Harold W. McCauley.

Generally, the Quakers themselves have not said much about this use (or misuse) of their name but have occasionally expressed their anger. One instance was in 1990, when some Quakers started a letter-writing campaign after a Quaker Oats advertisement depicted Popeye as a “Quaker Man” who used violence against aliens, sharks, and Bluto.

Footnote: British confectionary and Quaker beliefs seem to have gone hand-in-hand as Fry’s, Rowntree’s and Terry’s were all founded by Quaker families too.

Once upon a brand

Once upon a brand

I want to tell you a story ….well actually I don’t, but I wanted to get your attention.

Brand storytelling is undoubtedly ‘hot’ in marketing at the moment, and it seems everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, and everything is a story.

All of which just goes to show that storytelling as with so many terms in marketing has become over-used and is in danger of being under-valued. This is a shame as storytelling in its various forms has many different uses and has so much to offer.

Having personally already jumped firmly onto the bandwagon with my new book of brand stories about to be published – “How Coca-Cola took over the world”, I thought it might be useful to stop and consider what I thought to be the different categories of stories and their different roles.

While there are probably more categories, I would suggest that there are four variations that are most frequently used. To help differentiate them as with all good segmentations I have given them each different names.

The brand narrative
This is a means of presenting the organisation/brand as a character and its role as a story. Virgin, for example, has positioned itself as the “white knight” riding to save the damsel (us, consumers) in distress, rescuing us from the clutches of big bad corporations. This fits with well with another ‘hot’ topic in marketing at the moment – brand purpose – because a good brand narrative sets out who you are, what you do, why you do it (your purpose) and the benefits you deliver by doing it well.

Brand tales
This is when brands build emotional engagement by telling the little (true) tales about themselves – how the brand started, the origin of its name, etc. These can be used to build emotional engagement both internally and externally. It has increasingly been used in advertising and on packaging.

London pride

The “story-point”
When did a PowerPoint slide last make you cry? (Apart from …with boredom). Writing a presentation as a story is one way to try to avoid “death by PowerPoint”. Using a clear narrative arc, personalising the issues and using other storytelling techniques like ‘the power of three” allows speakers to communicate points in a more engaging and memorable way. People remember stories better than bar graphs.


front coverBrand fables
The use of stories about brands as a training tool, to provide inspiration and/or instruction for the marketing team or broader organisation. They can be used to show how employees should act, as a means of helping your organisation consider how it might perform better, or to encourage people to think in different ways. This is of course where my book sits as the each tale ends with a moral and a challenge to think how you could apply it.

So while this hasn’t been a story, there is perhaps a moral and a challenge –

Storytelling comes in many forms and each has its own role. How and when can you use storytelling effectively?
Originally posted at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-gym/once-upon-brand#Tw3PCWgVWMW5toyU.99

Kirk to Enterprise; Beam me up an innovation

Kirk to Enterprise; Beam me up an innovation


Marketers are often asked to come up with the next big thing; however looking into the future isn’t always easy.
One way I have got round this is to ‘ask’ someone who is better at predicting things then I am – a science fiction writer. And who better than Gene Roddenberry?


Michael Cooper is another innovator who drew his inspiration from the same source. After serving in the US Navy, Cooper took a degree in Electrical Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology and then joined Motorola where he worked on pagers and then car phones using cellular technology. At this point in time, car phones were ‘mobile phones’ only in the sense that they moved when the car did.

By the early 1970s Cooper was getting worried that Motorola’s great rival, AT&T was gaining a lead in car phone technology.

One night he was watching one of his favourite TV shows, when inspiration struck. Seeing Captain James T Kirk using his communicator to call the Enterprise he had an idea. Could they develop a handheld mobile phone and leapfrog AT&T.

From having the idea, Cooper and his team took only 90 days to create and build the portable cellular 800 MHz phone prototype.

On April 3, 1973, on Sixth Avenue in New York City, in front of a group of journalists Cooper made the first public phone call from their prototype handheld cellular phone.

Who did he call?
His wife?
His mother?
His workmates?
No, he decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss and decided to call Joel Engel.
Engel was head of research at AT&T Bell Labs and Cooper called to tell him all about their new invention.

Cooper would later recall, ‘As I walked down the street while talking on the phone, sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call. Remember that in 1973, there weren’t cordless telephones, let alone cellular phones. I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter – probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life.’

And the moral of this story is that innovation can be inspired by fiction, not just fact. Who will you read or watch to get your next big idea?