The Fleetlights Initiative

Direct Line has developed a fascinating prototype idea called the Fleetlights Initiative.  It uses drone technology to bring light to rural communities who suffer much higher pedestrian road casualties during winter months.  A great example of complete BRAVE thinking – a really bold, compelling idea using available technology, it’s relevant to significant numbers of people in rural areas who are at risk, helps reposition Direct Line as a fixer of problems rather than just insurance, it’s about as visible as it’s possible to be and the app makes it a breeze to use.  Not only that but video is beautifully produced.  Hats off to the team behind it all.

Watch the video here.

For the Journey

Considering a purchase, researching our options, choosing a brand, listening to other users feedback and making the eventual purchase is what marketers call the customer journey.

But all we’re really interested in is the destination.

Making the path to eventual purchase as simple and efficient as possible. Eliminating any unnecessary steps or friction points along the way. Getting to the destination with dizzying pace and without hesitation or distraction.

One Amazon click and practically anything can be delivered next day. We can ask Alexa to order our shopping or simply push a button for pizza.

We expect things faster and faster and without compromise or trade off. We have to get to our destination… and fast. It’s the tyranny of now.

Now I’m not suggesting we should halt the path of progress or disregard annoyances or blockages in processes. But maybe we should stop for a minute and consider the journey, because serendipity often lives in the journey.

Taking a wrong turn. Bumping into an old friend. Discovering something new or mind blowing.

Maybe getting everything now isn’t the answer. Maybe making the journey more enjoyable, or productive, or interesting is.

HS2 is costing £56 billion to get us from London to Manchester 50 minutes quicker, that’s a whopping £80 million per km.

Maybe if the current trains ran on time, were comfortable with free Wi-Fi and decent coffee that 50 minutes wouldn’t be so much of an issue. And quite frankly, it wouldn’t cost anywhere near as much.

One of the great recent innovations on the London Underground are the LED displays telling us how many minutes the next train will be. Waiting six minutes is not the issue, not knowing how long you may be waiting is.

We all know what life’s eventual destination is, so maybe it’s worth thinking about the journey a little more.

Waitrose Make Braver Soup.

Supermarkets are incredibly noisy places from a design perspective.

Packaging has a really tough brief to fulfil.

It needs to contain the product, keep it in good condition and be useable.

Above all, it needs to get noticed.

Waitrose have recently introduced a new soup pot design.

Yes, really.

While you pick yourself up off the floor, let me explain.

I often buy a Waitrose soup for lunch so consider myself a bit of an expert in soup matters…

Today the world changed.  Today the new soup packaging really gained my attention.

It looks a bit smaller than the old one. Bold.

It’s less bulky so will fit in my always too full fridge a bit better too. Relevant.

Yet, it holds the same 600g as the boring old round one. Two bowl’s worth. A player move.

It’s an unusual shape that stood out to me. Visible.

It even has an integrated spout so you can pour out half and not slop it everywhere (like I do).  Easy.

So, congratulations to the Waitrose packaging team.

You’ve shown how seemingly mundane design changes can be brave too.




Liar liar.

Many people believe it’s possible to quickly spot a liar through eye movements, nose touching or some other ‘micro-expression’.

In fact, these methods are quite inaccurate and can be very misleading, particularly across different races and cultures.

Numerous studies have shown that even trained police officers fail to spot lies this way any more than if they had used pure chance.

Thomas Ormerod is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex.

He has particular expertise in security screening and how to spot liars.

He works with airports and border officials who need to have robust measures in place and helps train their security teams.

Ormerod uses a different method that’s been found to be 20 times more accurate, identifying liars over 70% of the time in one study.

The secret lies in good, old fashioned conversation.

For example, by gently encouraging the deceiver to provide detail to their story, they tie themselves up in knots and holes start to appear.

Even novice security officers had up to 80% success by simply asking open ended questions and slowly building the pressure.

Yet why would this simple approach be so much more successful?

The secret lies in our basic human desire to be considered honest.

Humans are highly sensitive to the fear of disapproval and shame, depending upon the context.

When you know this, it becomes easier to leverage in others.

The need to be honest overwhelms the desire to lie when the potential loss or shame is too great.

This has some implications for the conversations brands are seeking.

Brands are trying to create relationships and ‘dialogue’ with consumers, particularly via social media.

This is great when there’s something positive to talk about.

When the story is less flattering then conversation mysteriously starts to dry up.

Clearly then, if you enter into dialogue you need to be prepared to tell the truth.

Or be prepared for the consquences of being less than forthcoming.

After all, spotting liars is pretty simple when you ask the right questions.




Getting emotional about BREXIT

I wrote a post earlier this week that considered the way the BREXIT/BREMAIN campaigns had been fought here in the UK.

It’s now the day after the night before and I’ll come clean – I didn’t honestly think we’d vote to leave.  I called it wrong.


I believed that people would follow normal tendencies to avoid loss.

However, on reflection I was right(!) they did exactly that.

But I predicted the wrong reason:

“Loss aversion suggests that many will… avoid the more unknown quantity – going it alone.”

“All will be much clearer on 24th June but chances are we’ll behave entirely predictably as a nation of humans.”

In fact, us Brits did vote as a nation of humans.  We were fed a diet of fear after all.

The post referendum election has revealed some interesting voting biases.

Remainers tended to be much younger urbanites.

Or the Scots.

Leavers were overwhelmingly much older voters living in England and Wales.

Fear of loss was an overwhelming factor in their final decision

Immigration fear won the day for BREXIT.

Why? Because context has considerable impact on all our decisions and the context for many ‘leavers’ was feeling disenfranchised and powerless.

The fear of losing control of ‘their’ country was overwhelming.

So whilst we may be either commiserating or celebrating today’s referendum decision, it proves an important point about people.

Emotional drivers will always overcome rational facts.

Especially when the stakes are high.

Why BREXIT and BREMAIN need to be more human.

Us Brits are a rather suspicious, insular lot.

You don’t avoid invasion for a thousand years without cynicism and fear of foreigners.

If truth be told, we’ve never really understood the EU and are at best rather begrudging members.

It’s EU referendum week in the UK and the debate between BREXIT and BREMAIN camps is reaching a climax.

I say debate. It’s more case of pushing entrenched opinions (whether informed or not) and not really listening to the other side.

What’s very striking is neither position is offering much hope. Only potential armageddon.

We apparently have nothing to look forward to.

On the contrary, we have to vote to avoid disaster, to prevent a slide into oblivion.

Our vote is choosing the least worst option.

It’s more a case of BREXIT NOW or BREMAIN FOR A WHILE YET.

During the Scottish Referendum it was rather different.

The Leave campaign as lead by the SNP promised the Scots a much brighter future as independent.

There was not much fear-mongering. It was a calmly presented glimpse of a sunnier, happier future of social justice and freedom.

A Scotland that could be more…Scottish in every way.

Whilst of course being unsuccessful in the independence referendum, the subsequent 2015 General Election saw the SNP sweep to victory in almost every seat.

Of 59 seats in Scotland, the SNP won 56.  That’s 95%.

It was as if the Scots were saying “we weren’t ready to leave completely but we’ll do the next best thing”.

Lots of benefits without the fear of the unknown.

Loss aversion is a powerful human trait – we are disproportionately concerned with loss compared to the benefits of gain.

There’s also very little anyone can do to counter this hard-wired neural response

The financial markets tend to behave the same way.

This probably explains the campaign strategy of both sides in the EU Referendum.

However, a braver strategy for either camp might be to paint a bold new future and show its relevance to us Brits.

Loss aversion suggests that many will warm to either vision but ultimately avoid the more unknown quantity – going it alone.

Assuming we vote to remain, there’s still impetus to seek radical change from within regardless of position.

It’s better to argue in the tent than from outside it.

All will be much clearer on 24th June but chances are we’ll behave entirely predictably as a nation of humans.


Do it on purpose

When my eldest son (3 years old) whacks his little brother (18 months) with something plasticky or fist shaped I quickly have to decide “Did he do that on purpose? Or was it an accident?”

It usually doesn’t take more than half a second to realise when it’s deliberate. There’s a look in the eye. A purity of intent. Nothing will dissuade him from getting his Lightning McQueen car back.

He has purpose. He’s there to prevent his little brother playing with his stuff.  End of.

Legendary England manager Alf Ramsey knew all about purpose. He had clear roles for every player on the pitch and why they were there.  Nobby Stiles was under no illusions about his: “My job was to win the ball, give it to Bobby [Charlton] and let him get on with it”.

Yet it’s remarkable how many brands don’t know what they’re for.  Why they’re there.  The have no defined purpose.

This is a problem.  Brands without purpose lack direction.  More importantly they make less money.

Or to put it another way , brands with a clear purpose are more profitable and return more to shareholders.  Six times more in fact.

Why would this be?

Because purpose keeps focus on who pays the bills. Customers. When you know what your brand is for then there’s a much better chance you’ll sell what your customers want or serve them better. Customers buy into brands that stand for something.

Companies who just focus on metrics lose sight of what their customers think and see them as further metrics to be managed.  They then try and sell stuff no one asked for.

Nearly 20 years ago I worked with a recently privatised water company.  They thought it’d be a good idea to sell washing machines and other white goods.  They thought it would be a nice little money spinner.  Much more profitable than boring old regulated water.

Unfortunately, they were quite a bit more expensive than the well-established competition and customers couldn’t understand why on earth they were doing it.

Sales were, as they say, sub-optimal.

They forgot what they were for.

Work out your purpose and the rest will follow.