22 posts categorized "Marketing"

February 12, 2015

Your strategy does not interest me. Next! #28daysofwriting

Andy maslen

NoTosh doesn't just help scores of schools and private business with their strategy; we're in the process of adjusting our own course, too. What I've noticed, is that the activity known as 'wordsmithing' is normally referred to dismissively, with disdain, as something someone else will do much later on, once they "real work" of strategising is done. These leaders could not be more wrong.

Far from the afterthought or polishing to which the task is often reduced, getting the wordsmithing right as you create your strategy is vital if you want people to really believe in it.

To help me on NoTosh's own strategising I've been diving into Andy Maslen's tomes (that's his distinguished mug on the top of the post). For a copywriter extraordinaire, he tends to spend at least half his books helping the reader understand what it is they are trying to do and why the hell they're doing it. I can imagine a few strategies dying a necessarily premature death by around p.43 of most his books. 

A key point that resonates as I undertake a few schools-based strategy projects, is this one:

People want to know what's in it for them (WIIFM?).
They don't care how clever you are.
They don't care that you are proud / humble / honoured about anything.
They don't care how much excellence you promote.
People want to know what's in it for them.

He suggests a couple of writing tools that will help education strategists (any strategist, really) to convey their 'why', and in turn the WIIFM, so much more clearly:

  • KFC:
    What do you want your reader / student / parent / teacher / peer to know, how do you want them to feel about it, and what do you want them to commit to?
  • Don't use the 'F' word - use the 'B' word
    Don't list off the features of your latest product / school / initiative / programme of work / technology roll-out. Tell us the benefits in our lives. This works in the same way as I suggest people should pitch new ideas to their peers: start with a 'pain', turn the thumbscrews until we're begging for an answer, and then tell us all about how your idea is going to make our lives so much better.
  • FAB: Grab me by the ... benefits
    Features first, then tell me the general advantages of working in this way might be, and then tell me the benefits to me personally.
  • Don't assume I'm paying attention
    Too many governmental policies, school strategies and "research-based" approaches to learning simply assume that the audience should be receptive to the new idea. This is a fatal flaw, and undermines even the best ideas. Assume that your audience has plenty of other far more interesting things to be doing, and write your strategy or pitch to wrestle their attention back towards you. Try starting the strategy with the words "How" or "Now" and see how people want to take part in making it happen.


February 02, 2015

Angostura Bitters and the mistakes we live by - #28daysofwriting


Last Friday the legendary Creative Director Gerry Farrell gave a talk about all things 'ugly', and many stories revolved around how we deal with failure, or apparent failure. In one story he talked about Angostura Bitters, an alcoholic mixer with which I had a brief relationship during a passing phase of enjoying the ladies' drink "Long Vodka". 

In the early days of the drink, the two brother team who created it decided to get recognition for their new drink by entering a contest. In an efficiency move, one was charged with choosing the best bottle for the job, the other brother placed in charge of the label production.

One small mistake: they didn't communicate on the size of anything.

When the bottle came back with a label that was far too big for the bottle, it was too late to fix. They entered the competition regardless which they promptly lost. However, one judge remarked about their "signature labelling", and the rest is history. Ever since, they have kept that original  label, too big for the bottle with too much text on it.

In most creative organisations (including schools), the 'mistake' is what kills the idea before it even gets a chance to compete. Releasing even imperfect ideas, like a blog post rushed out in 28 minutes one morning, is better than ditching the whole damned thing. And we invent lame excuses for not creating / releasing / writing publicly. If I were to replace any of your school language with the Angostura story we'd end up with:

  • Who'd be interested in (this drink)?
  • I've spent all this time thinking about making (a drink) but I don't think people will try it.
  • (The bottle) is the wrong platform for (this drink) - we need to wait until we buy the right one.
  • The boss won't like (the drink) that I've made. Better I keep it quiet, never let anyone drink it, than go let him taste it first.
  • OK, the boss hates (my drink) - it lost the competition - so we'd better throw in the towel. 
  • If I don't get permission to make (great drinks) then I just won't try it.
  • I've got too many (drinks) ideas to choose which one to make first. So I'll do nothing.

I could go on. These excuses take seconds to come up with. Actually doing something takes a lot longer.

This kick up the backside, that no-one will make your ideas happen for you, is the very thing I go into depth in, on my new book How To Come Up With Great Ideas.

July 27, 2014

Why not?, and the power of getting on with it


We are all artists. But not all of us should exhibit.

So says John Hegarty in "There Are No Rules", which I continue to dip into during my break in Tuscany. I laughed when I read this line, because, in my own drawing/sketches case, it's too true. We can all be creative, but not all creative produce is equally stop-you-in-your-tracks creative. The thing is, you don't know until you start to create, whether or not it's going to be worth exhibiting. You've just got to start. And this is why starting is so hard - we can be fearful that what we produce will not be worth exhibiting, so we don't even bother to start it off.

But when I'm on holiday, I don't care so much about what other people think. Most tourists display this characteristic, with their clothing choices perhaps, or their behaviour in the bars on the Southern Spanish coast. I display this characteristic in "having a go" at things I'm normally afraid of wasting time on: writing, drawing and sketching.

I tend to create more on holiday than I do during the working year, the audiences being smaller (Facebookers are also on holiday, the readership lower, the conferences closed for another season) and the canvas being less daunting. One of my favourite holidayish things to do is to draw on paper placemats before my meal arrives, using my daughters' coloured pencils to create whatever comes to mind. I've spent this week on honing my horses skills, learning how to draw them again (when I was 3, I could draw a good horse, jumping over a hedgerow).

During the working year, all of this would draw a simple question: "Why, Ewan?". But during holidays, no-one questions WHY I want to draw horses. On placemats.

It's the distinct lack of "why?", in fact, and the implied criticism that seems to come with those three letters, that relaxes me, helps me concentrate, helps me focus my efforts on one thing, and doing it best I can, and often a little bit better than that, in fact. No devil's advocate. No "have you thought about doing cats instead?". No "why?".

Just a "why not...?"

Cross-posted to the fabulous NoTosh Facebook wall.

You can pre-order my new book, to be released in August: How To Come Up With Great Ideas And Actually make Them Happen.

November 19, 2013

It's in if... Strategies for focus


Originally posted on NoTosh's fabby Facebook page

When you're writing a strategy for education, it's vital to delimit what *really* matters, and there's a simple project management tool that can help.

Jamie Arnold is the most rigourous project manager I've ever had the pleasure to work with, during my time at Channel 4. He's the PM on the award-winning new gov.uk website of the Westminster Government in London, and over the months of development has shared much of the agile management setup he and others have been managing, in order to get the site up and out on time, and to budget.

One of my favourite takeaways is the "It's In If..." list for the project, pictured, which sums up in a few pithy phrases what the core activity of his organisation is. It helps when team members are faced with a personal challenge of whether or not to do something, or include a factor in a build. If it's not in, then it's not to be done. If it's not a core value that *only* your group, team or school can offer, leave it out or point people in the right direction, where that offering is better.

Schools and school districts could do with their own "It's in if..." lists to help focus the innovation of everyone in the school community. But if you were a teacher, writing your own "It's in if..." list for, say, resources used in a unit or making a decision to have a teacher-led section of a lesson or not, what would you put?


May 31, 2013

Making music with one instrument: your mind

My Flemish pal Kris Hoet has been at it again with his collaborators at Duval Guillaume, producing this incredible clip about a team of music lovers, musicians and DJs who, despite having physical challenges, are able to create music manipulating a programme with only their brainwaves. The goal of Smirnoff, the advertiser? To show that there is the power to create in every one of us.

October 10, 2012

Raise Your Hand For Girls! The new brown eye, blue eye from Belgium

Just released on YouTube is a new campaign from Belgian agency Duval Guillaume, where they changed the operation of schools for a day. Boys went to school to learn. Girls went to school to clean out the toilets and undertake other menial tasks.

It feels to me like a modern-day, marketers version of the Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes experiment from Jane Elliot in the early 1970s. She undertook an experiment in arbitrary discrimination between "underclass" brown eyed people and the upper class blue eyed people. She did it against the fallout of Martin Luther King's assassination. We need something fresh like this today to make sure that we don't tolerate the tolerated, that all girls get to school, wherever they are in the world. Our fallout is last week's shooting of 14 year old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, shot because she believes girls should go to school.

Next week I'll be in Antwerp to hang out with Kris Hoet, the Director of Digital at the agency who came up with the idea. I wonder what questions educators might have about how we might harness the power of digital and the savvyness of great marketers to improve learning outcomes for more children?

June 19, 2012

#NeverSeconds: Students can change the world - when we get out of the way

When I was at school, I wrote an article in the student newspaper (the Pupils' View) about how fresh, healthy food was disproportionately overpriced compared to the "yellow food" on offer in the school canteen. The result was that the Catering Director for the Local Authority actually left her job. And I got into a fair bit of trouble.

This all happened in Dunoon Grammar School, part of the Local Authority Argyll and Bute who, with similar sense of grievance and bullying last week attempted to silence one nine-year-old Martha Payne with a brutal, long-winded press release and ban of Martha's online activities.

Martha First Meal
Since the end of the Easter holidays, Martha has been writing a daily food blog about her school lunches, with the support of her dad, as a self-initiated writing project. It also set out in the noble aim to fund the building of kitchens for less fortunate children in Malawi, through the Mary's Meals charity.

Her first posts revealed the tiny portions (hence the name of her blog: NeverSeconds) and, yes, the rather yellow fried nature of her food. But things improved within barely weeks, and most meals were absolutely fine (a summary average of the scores she gave to each meal results in something over 7.5 - not bad for mass-produced school meals, but with room for improvement, a point which was very much Martha's).

Where Martha forgot her camera, she took to drawing her meal. She scored not just out of ten, but also on a health rating, how many mouthfuls it took to get through and, disturbingly, how many pieces of hair were found in it (I've yet to spot the post where there is some hair; again, a good sign).

Within weeks, her notoriety was such that school kids from elsewhere around the world were sharing their meals for Martha to publish on her blog on their behalf. 

TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn championed her and invited Martha over to learn how to cook herself.

Nick Nairn

Vitally, her food portions became bigger, so that a "growing girl" like her had half a chance.

So far, so good, so much a passionate kid with a passion for food, and a good way with words. And a nine-year-old changing her school's approach to food. 

Until last week:

This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today. 

I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either. 

Argyll and Bute, the school district rather than the otherwise very supportive school itself, issued a damning edict, preventing Martha from taking any more photos, writing any more blog posts about her lunches. Dinner ladies were, said the illiterate press release (we serve "deserts" to our children, really?), "afraid for their jobs". It was, according to one legal journalist, "one of the most piss-poor justifications of a ban of anything from any public authority".

Martha Payne legal tweet

Celeb chef Jamie Oliver, known globally for his crusade against poor school food, waded in to get people to lend their support with a simple retweet of his "Stay strong, Martha".

Martha Payne Jamie Oliver Tweet

Mary's Meals, for whom Martha's blog had raised £2000 by Thursday night, the day of the ban, issued a statement outlining the consequences of the ban on her efforts to build kitchens in schools in Malawi, a country with whom Scotland has a long-standing official partnership.

Martha's "Goodbye" post earned over 2000 comments and Twitter's #neverseconds tag went into meltdown. #NeverSeconds, the girl Martha Payne and, excruciatingly, Argyll and Bute council all hit the top trending terms in the UK. Her blog, having reached 2m hits in just over a month already, now saw its blog counter unable to keep up as she broke through 3m in one day.

And I was livid for her. How dare councils, and this council in particular, once more attempt to bully those in its learning community. I sent a quick tweet to the Education Minister, who is also the member of the Scottish Parliament for the area, requesting he do something in what had already been established a ridiculous and illegal abuse of power. He tweet back that he agreed, having requested the Head of the Council to lift the ban immediately.

Martha Payne Mike Russell to EM

Within 20 minutes the Head of the Council was on the radio, announcing a change of tack.

Argyll and Bute finally managed a new statement, the politicians showing more sense than their feckless faceless bureaucrats and lifting the ban.

As a result of the debacle, Argyll and Bute has gained a global reputation for awful PR, a tortoise-like reaction time on Twitter and, potentially, an interesting place to go on holiday. Was it all a tourism ploy? Given the repeated mess they get themselves into, they're almost certainly not not that clever.

But, on a positive note, Martha's long-term goal of raising £7000 for a new kitchen in a Malawi school was rather superseded: she was at nearly £50,000 ($100,000) at the weekend just past, now at £100,000 ($200,000) with more rushing in every day

She has also created the beginnings of, hopefully, lasting change: she will head up a council summit on school meals and work with them longer term on improving the quality of food for every child in the district. Happily, she's back to blogging it all once more with the support of her school and, reluctantly or not, her Local Authority. She has now had her first kitchen in Malawi named in her honour.


Martha shows every facet of great learning: real world change, making the environment around her better, sharing her thinking with the world, having a conscious for the world beyond her immediate horizons, and robustness in the face of incredible media and social media pressure. She is another 'Caine', with a supportive parent and facilitating adults around her. She'll go far.

Donate to Martha's campaign through her blog: http://neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk/

October 30, 2011

Tweeting for Teachers: Improving CPD through social media [Pearson & NoTosh report]

Tweeting for Teachers

It's six months since Tom Barrett came on board with me on Ship NoTosh, and in that time we've done a hugely varied amount of work, much of it under wraps due to the nature of our clients, and some of it high profile.

In the latter camp, we were delighted last week to launch Tweeting for Teachers, a report (that covers a lot more than Twitter) showing policymakers and school leaders some simple recommendations that will help more teachers than ever uncover the potential for turbo-boosting their own professional development through the use of social media and offline unconference events, such as TeachMeet and its younger cousin EdCamp. From the NoTosh blog:

Tweeting for Teachers – key recommendations

School leaders should:

  1. learn about and engage with the social platforms that their teachers, parents and pupils are using every day;
  2. use a social media tool as part of their communications with the school community;
  3. validate and support their staff in using social media tools for ongoing professional development;
  4. turn online activity into offline actions, in order to harness the benefits of face to-face interaction alongside those of online interaction;
  5. implement robust systems for evaluating the impact of CPD on teacher effectiveness and student outcomes.

National and local policymakers should:

  1. publish guidelines and support for teachers and leaders to help them use social media in schools;
  2. consider how they will begin to unfilter social media sites for use in schools;
  3. recognise and celebrate self-directed professional learning by teachers using online tools, and the role of social media in this learning;
  4. create a common online space where the whole education community can find each other;
  5. ensure that all Initial Teacher Training courses demonstrate a strong focus on the use of social media tools for ongoing professional development.

NoTosh undertook a significant piece of working in bringing together case studies of teachers and heads who are effectively using social media to take control of their own professional development, and making these accessible through film as well as integration to the report.

The report is one seeking feedback for constant improvement – starting with the 500 tweets during the one hour launch event – and films will continue to be shot and uploaded to the report over the next weeks and months.


We also undertook case studies of how businesses are using social media for professional development, and what education could learn from this. Finally, we developed recommendations for how teachers, heads and policymakers could further exploit the potential of social media to help teachers develop in a cost-effective way.


There are plenty more videos that I may well find the time to go through on the blog, but you can dive in yourself over on Vimeo now and come back over the next few weeks as more education and business video case studies are added. You can read the report on the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning site, and read more about our role in building it on the NoTosh blog.

November 03, 2010

Culture Popped: what can pop culture teach museums, the arts and education about engagement?

Success with digital media for museums, education and cultural organisations isn't about scrambling to sign up to the latest fads, those teasmades of technology, and more about attitudes of organisations and the individuals within them. What are the handles we can grab hold of to begin or better develop our journeys into digital media use in the world of exhibition, performances or engagement of new audiences?

A couple of weeks ago I opened the Digital Futures conference, part of a project exploring how social media interfaces with museums, galleries and other cultural heritage organisations, funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a partnership between the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, National Museums Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland.

The presentation is now up on Slideshare, and above.

It tries to make a few points, some more successfully than others, no doubt. Key amongst them:

  • how to institutions do better what is now so easy for everyman to do?
  • is there anything to be learned from the world of startups where coming up with a compelling problem that needs solved?
  • what are the problems museums manage to solve? Do they need to think in that way at all?
  • what potential is there for cultural organisations to open themselves up to new audiences by tackling the same content and ideas in alternative ways and on different platforms?

October 24, 2010

Thinking our way out of over-engineering solutions

Bike sharing scheme
Free and unregulated cycle schemes sound like an impossible nightmare that we could never really make happen: someone will steal the bikes, they'll end up all over the country. Institutions therefore rally around and make it their business, quite literally, to provide secured bicycles for rental so that people cycle more.

It all seems so logical, but it's the kind of (successful but expensive) thinking from an old model of paternalistic "what can your country do for you", while some of the most exciting ideas, web platforms, institutions and technologies in the past five years have been all about "here's a platform, now what can you do for your country/peer group/friends".

I wanted to explore what a new business model around the old problem of bike sharing schemes might look like.

The $10,000 bike, versus the $150 bike

Bike sharing schemes.017 London's "free" bike scheme cost the locals and sponsors Barclays £25m for a programme that will run for x years. The cost per bicycle is therefore £4166. It's been a hugely successful scheme, with its millionth ride clocked up in just 10 weeks, and hardly any have been stolen (the bikes are a good bit heavier than Paris', where nearly 70% have been stolen or vandalised and required replacing).

But £4166 seems a lot for one bike, with Mayor Boris' £25m giving him only 6000 or so bikes. How much more powerful could things be if we did away with the expensive secutiy measures, expensive (heavy and cumbersome) bikes, big IT that supports such a project (and breaks down) and replaced them with the cheapest bike we can find, no security measures and a good dose of trust in our citizens, providing 163,000 bikes instead?

It wouldn't work here [insert any Western country].

Paris shows us that vandalism and theft of their cute with-basket model was a costly mistake. London has "beaten" its Gaullic neighbour with its highly secure and tech-ed up solution. Countless others, including some who've already tried totally unregulated free cycle schemes, have floundered, seeing all their bikes stolen in months.

Google Bikes But then Mountain View, California, sees its streets relatively free of the automobile (we are in the land of the automobile, after all). Most people opt to take one of the free red-yellow-blue-and-green bikes their main employer leaves unlocked, lying around. Why is Google able to do what entire Governments seem unable to achieve?

Is it cultural? It's partly that, but Google have done something that Governments are notoriously poor at: it's generated the culture it wanted, a culture of mutual respect, a culture of the gift economy, both through its business model, large free lunches and orange juices for visitors, staff and the visitors' taxi drivers, but also through its bike sharing scheme. We'll gift you this bike - and keep replacing them - but in return we ask you not to take us for a metaphorical ride.

And it works. It works, I think, because these bikes are everywhere and they're fun. They've been gifted by a neighbour of yours in the city, not provided for you.

So, if we were to take the Paris or London models, what is the answer to stopping people stealing bikes and having them appear all around the country? I'd argue that if Governments want people to take the bike and not the car, that's no bad thing. In fact, if we can harness thiefs as the distribution network for one bike per citizen, then I'd see more cash heading into the core solution to the problem: more bikes for people who don't yet bike.

As in Mountain View, there comes a point where the proliferation of an idea or an object turns it from scarce valued thing into a commodity. It lets everyone know where the bike came from - it's been beautifully painted in the company colours. Let's get our nations cycling to work (and cycling for play) by making cycling a cheap commodity. We used to give £250 for every child that was born. What would happen if we give a £100 bike for every adult who wants one?

More importantly, though, how could we harness the Google lesson I think I've spotted, in making public services gifted to people, rather than provided for them? What would the social fall-out be in terms of changing this language? What would the advantages be?

Nick Hood suggests that one of the education assumptions we have in the Western world is that education is a right; he asks "what would happen if we said that education was a privilege" or, in Google words, a gift?


About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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