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A few years ago, I wrote a post about Douglas Holt and his then new book, How Brands Become Icons. The post was called "Douglas Holt has come to save us all" and he may well have pulled this off a second time with his latest book, Cultural Strategy.

Monumentally dull though the title is, Cultural Strategy, which Holt co-authored with Douglas Cameron of Amalgamated fame, may well be one of the most important books on advertising and branding in the past ten years.

Broadly, Holt and Cameron contend that while every marketer craves innovation to provide new sources of growth for their brands and businesses, on the whole they are looking in the wrong place. For most, innovation is either a functional endeavour - introducing new product benefits or colonising additional markets - or else it is purely about emotional territory - owning different "need states" or "mindspace". This philosophy of innovation is unfortunately rampant in our clients' organisations and it is rendering the big marketing companies impotent when it comes to creating the "gamechanging" ideas that they desperately want and need.

Instead, Holt and Cameron advocate what they call cultural innovation, which does exactly what it says on the tin. This is about innovation in the cultural, rather than functional or emotional, space by introducing or playing with the ideology of that brand; ideology that at best conflicts with the cultural orthodoxy of the moment. This is not a million miles away from the idea we often talk about here of brands with positions and not positionings.

For Holt and Cameron, it is cultural innovation that is best able to deliver immediate and sustainable growth for brands and businesses, not more and more brand extensions or SKUs. As they say in the opening chapter: "The list of cultural innovations that have launched or reinvigorated businesses worth billions goes on and on: Marlboro, Coca-Cola, Levi's, Diesel, Dove, Axe/Lynx, American Express, American Apparel, The Body Shop, Target, Virgin, Pepsi-Cola, Polo, Harley-Davidson, Seventh Generation, Method, Burt's Bees, Brita, Whole Foods, Patagonia, Jack Daniel's, Mountain Dew, Absolute, Starbucks, Volkswagen."

And, boy, is this good news for people like us. While many of the cultural innovations they talk about at length in the book are down to the entrepreneurial visions of the founders of those businesses, the second-most-important source of cultural innovation is advertising agencies. Advertising agencies, mind, not brand consultancies, design agencies, digital agencies, research companies, innovation specialists, trend forecasters and all their fellow travellers. And that's because the raw material that ad people work with is first and foremost ideology and the manipulation of ideological meaning.


The old adage that any publicity is good publicity is well and truly proven by the just-released Media Value Report from General Sentiment. The report looks at the media coverage (positive and negative) generated by brands.

And top of the list is Apple with over a billion dollars-worth of coverage in the media. The Top Ten is as follows: 1. Apple 2. Google 3. Microsoft 4. Yahoo! 5. Hewlett-Packard 6. Intel 7. eBay 8. Oracle 9. Nokia 10. Ford.


You've got to laugh at these celebutantes who pump themselves up to E-cup deliciousness and then end up regretting it after the fact. Apparently, that's the sentiment UK Big Brother star Chantelle Houghton has about her surgical boost to 32E.

But that minor issue didn't stop Houghton from using her assets to make a little money along the way. In a new campaign for La Senza, Houghton proudly flaunts her generous curves for the lingerie brand.

Sharing her regret over having the surgery, Houghton told Heat magazine: "They're just too big. Now I just want to hide them. I thought I wanted to go up to that size and I loved them at the time, but now I wish I'd never had them done."

Well, Chantelle, hoisting your pulchritudinous puppies into some revealing lingerie is hardly going in the right direction if concealment was your goal.