Death Match: Chief Growth Officer vs. Chief Disruption Officer

There’s an interesting trend in company job titles I’ve been observing recently, the number of large businesses who are hiring (or creating) Chief Growth Officers.

Growth is word which hangs in the air in Silicon Valley and start-up-ville, where growth is the key metric for businesses. The phrase Growth-Hacking was coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis of Dropbox marketing fame, and defines “a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of ‘How do I get customers for my product'” – using smart, lean and agile techniques to grow userbase without huge paid for marketing spend – what we’d probably call owner and earned in a media agency. Let’s get the largest possible number of people on our platform.

I worry that Growth as an objective points us in the wrong direction.

Growth, in my opinion, should be a metric or symptom of excellence, not an objective.

Focus on doing brilliant work, creating wonderful things, making people smile, and growth comes from that.

We constantly reference businesses who have remarkable growth, Amazon, Google, Uber, Airbnb, yet we use them as examples of disruption in the marketplace, because they have done something different, they have taken the status quo and broken it, to much success. Airbnb broke hotels. Uber broke taxis. We don’t applaud businesses who have huge market caps who are just growing within a category by eating up competition or eroding their margins and suppliers in the hunt for larger numbers.

We need more focus on experimentation and disruption, to discover potential areas of new opportunity, to understand what breaking things can do for our companies and our clients and ultimately people at the end (and most valuable part) of the chain, our customers, our consumers: our friends, our families, us.

You could argue the case for a Chief Disruption Officer then, a Chief Innovation Officer, a Chief Experimentation Officer (indeed, that’s my job), but it goes way further than that.

We cannot have an individual who is responsible for the disruption and innovation and doing things differently, but rather we need to foster cultures of creativity and challenging the status quo. The permission to try something, to question and break things, to go in a different direction needs to be given and supported to every individual within an organisation, and then, the role of the Chief Growth Officer is to look at how that small kernel of an idea can be scaled massively, to grow it from an actionable thought into something profitable and valuable for everyone, at speed.

Perhaps we need new job titles which focus on the support and growth of people and culture within organisations, from within which come the ideas that money is generated, rather than a focus on the money itself.


What does the future hold for Spotify

I spoke to the BBC for Radio 2, BBC World Radio and BBC World News TV on Tuesday about Spotify launching new forms of content on their platforms. Some of the video and audio is available below. There’s so much more to say about Spotify getting into video, but here is my summary:

– Spotify don’t turn a profit, despite huge revenues – and video content is generally less complex and costly to license, so could be a valuable route to turn down.
– More choice for consumers within one platform will always be better for Spotify, as the longer they can retain users within their application, the more data and potential advertising revenue can be generated
– Video advertising (to their free users) is generally more costly to advertisers than radio advertising, so will additionally increase their revenues from this source
– Daniel Ek hinted at creating original content, Spotify as a commissioner or creator is an interesting but ambitious objective. Could they be the Netflix for audio?


Wearables don’t need to be screens.

I think we’re missing the point of wearables. The future of smart devices placed around the body isn’t about creating more screens, but about creating more data points which can connect to other screens.

This example of Dominos Android Watch ordering app is completely wrong. Why would you order a pizza on your watch when you have a larger screen device which makes this so much easier sat in your pocket?

I believe two principles are worth bearing in mind for small screen devices and wearables:

  1. Small screens are for glancing at and simple interactions – prompts of bitesized information (how fast you’re running, your next meeting, your proximity to a friend) and basic actions prompted by this (arrange to meet that nearby friend, pick up the pace a little, tell your team you’re going to be late for the meeting). Fingers are big. Design for that.
  2. Wearables don’t need a screen – BLE and other technologies mean we can connect to more appropriate screens for interaction tasks. Stand next to a bus-stop paired with your wearable to find the upcoming bus on a 6-sheet sized screen, rather than peering into a tiny screen on your wrist. Connectivity exists. Design for that.

Wearables are better placed to capture and connect than create more interfaces.

NFC payment technology like ApplePay/Oyster provides us with proximity authentication techniques – lean on a wall, and you can be connected to that wall. Turn the wall into a screen, and that’s a wall sized screen to order your pizza on.

Let’s put screens into things which are best to be screens, and identification and sensor technology into the things which are best to be sensors – then connect up the two to allow best-fit interfaces for the task at hand, rather than squeezing a complex task into the palm of your hand.


Sounds of January 2015

Not a huge month for new music for me – mostly because I’d been listening to a lot of existing playlists on my new Sonos (because browsing the dynamic playlists is way harder via Sonos AND there’s no easy way of quickly adding a tune you hear to a favourite when you’re not near to the machine.. interesting usability challenge, when you’re not near a device, or if you’re running, how do you add a track you’ve just heard to your favourites?)

Although, a number of notable new artists added to the playlist: Tove Styrke, Veronica Maggio, and Panama Wedding who were getting the lion’s share of listens this month.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 21.51.05


LoveThink – a new project for 2015

You may have already seen a few tweets and posts about my new project for 2015 – lovethink.

It was sparked by a few recent conversations about the rise of Tinder and similar apps, and during exploration of the explosive category of connection platforms, from to OKCupid, from Happn to Cuddlr – it struck me that they all start with one thing – physical attraction.

Clearly, this is a fairly fundamental biological drive, and years of evolution demand that physical attraction has purpose way beyond just wanting to be with someone ‘nice looking’, but I think we’d all agree that it isn’t the most important dimension, and certainly not the only one.

Fast forward to today – and I’ve been developing a platform to test a question: can you create romantic connections without physical appearance being the first filter?

In all honesty, it’s developed from a thought/concept design to talk around into a quick wordpress hack to see if something was possible, and now I’m interested in whether people will take part, and what might happen.

As with most of my projects, I’ve not really thought this through, or am too worried about what might happen and how – I’m more interested in just seeing what happens. I’d be keen for as many people to just take part, whether they’re single or not, whether they’re looking to meet collaborators, friends or something more.

You can register for an account at and we’ll be posting regular updates here on the project as it develops, as well as what I discover or start to think about the concept as it unfolds.

Fresh baking ingredients

Recipes for iOS

There are a handful of ‘task series’ which i regularly do on my phone.

The most common, I think, is:

  1. Turn on Wifi
  2. Turn on Bluetooth
  3. Pair to my speaker
  4. Open Spotify
  5. Start the ‘_currently‘ playlist

I pretty much do this every time I get home at night.

There are others, like ‘close all apps’, or ‘go into low battery mode: close apps, switch off wifi, bluetooth and lower the screen brightness’ or ‘go running: launch the ABGT podcast, open runkeeper, start a run’.

I’d love there to be functionality where you can sequence tasks into a little shortcut which lives on the home screen, and to build upon that further, then set up triggers to fire those tasks, for instance, run the ‘Start my music’ task above when i ‘enter the proximity of home’.

Sort of IFTTT meets AppleScript.


Hey. How was your day?

I’m mostly bored, so I reply to requests on dating sites like Tinder and Guardian Soulmates with long rambling fantasies. Oddly enough, I don’t get asked out on many dates.


Her: Hey. How was your day?

Me: well, first of all, i visited our local A&E to tend to burns on my hands and arms from spilling hot coffee all over myself this morning before i’d left the house. at the emergency ward, a patient in the next bed was talking in his sleep, about a cache of stolen nazi gold which he had hidden in his east-end lockup. he had been arrested and was handcuffed to his bed. some hours later, a darkly dressed man entered the ward, and shot my murmering fellow. whilst police swarmed, i was discharged, and decided to make haste, with the memory of the location of the gold firmly lodged in my mind. my plan was to reach the gold, sell it on the black market, and return the funds to local charity organisations, as my good deed for the day. upon arrival at the gold stash, it seems i was not the only person in that hospital who had overheard our now deceased antagonist. a doctor, a nurse, a registrar, a hall porter, two nuns, a DHL driver, a fifteen year old pizza delivery boy, a cat with a twisted ankle who had mistakenly confused the hospital for a veterinary centre, and a vending machine had all arrived with the very same thought – steal the gold for themselves. fortunately, i was late and i enter the location to see the results of an all out battle between the cast of would be criminals. only the vending machine is left standing, his face dripping with the blood of his adversaries, hunched over the still warm bodies, sobbing, in the realisation of what the desire for gold had turned him into. i slowly walk up to the vending machine, my face white with fear of what may happen next. my foot brushes a pile of gravel, making a soft noise, but enough to startle the vending machine, who spins around, pointing a make shift knife, forged from the thigh bone of the wounded cat, straight at me. frozen to the spot, i slowly raise my hands, panting. “I.. I..”, not able able to get the words from my mouth. I see a tear roll from the machine’s change slot. it stares at me silently, but somehow i understand completely what it is feeling and thinking. I go to speak, to console it, to explain that I… when he jams the cat bone shiv into itself. I look away, determined not to see any more death, destruction or pain, and just start walking, walking faster and faster until I break into a sprint. I don’t stop running until I reach work. I would normally make myself a mug of coffee when I get in, but even just the odour of coffee now has the attached to it pain of a dozen lives lost driven by greed, and reminds me of what could have happened to me, if I had been just a few minutes earlier.

So I made myself a cup of tea, and nothing else really happened for the rest of the day. Sort of boring really.

How about you?

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 10.15.56

Streetview Ghosts

I used to appear on Google Streetview a few doors down the road from where I lived at the time. They’ve clearly sent a car around again since that day in 2012, as I’ve now disappeared from the live maps.,-0.3229111,3a,15y,329.45h,77.37t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sYwczGaadQphsXHyWKn4-kA!2e0!5s20120701T000000

But not to worry, you can seemingly scroll back in time to see Street Views historically.  Click on the little clock icon, and you’ll be able to select three snapshots in time of the same patch of wall – two without me, one with.

I love that Google are capturing the historic views of a location – and in time (perhaps decades), we’ll have a unique and powerful tool to see the change of our urban environments over time.


Predictive Poetry

iOS8’s new little ‘predictive typing’ tab creates strange poetry if you just keep hammering at the buttons. Here’s a creation of the OS:

the fact I can get it right away
with the same thing to say
it was the best of the year
of high quality of life
and the rest of the year
of high quality of life
and the rest of the day
before I get a follow
back on my way home
and I don’t think I’m going to the gym today
and it is not the same thing

to say it was the best of the day
before I get a follow
back on my way home
and I don’t think I’m going to the gym today
and it is not the same thing

as the most beautiful girl is the only thing that would have to go back
and I don’t think I’m going to the gym
today is a good time
with the girls in my head
and the rest of my friends are so cute
I can’t even see you soon enough
for you and your friends are so cute
I can’t even see you soon enough
for you and your friends
are the only thing


A word from the wise

In the interest of making a year of cataloguing my door mat more than just photos of leaflets, I wanted to get the inside track on why we receive mail based marketing. I spoke to Ben Cunningham, Head of Direct at Carat UK, for a few insights into how door drops work.

You can follow the complete project at

Why do you think we get so much marketing material pushed through our doors?

Door drops (eg non addressed leaflets that go through the letterbox) are an effective media channel due to a number of factors.  They are better are targeting regionally than many other media channels because you can target only the postal sectors that have a high penetration of your target audience segments rather than relying on the delivered audience of radio or regional press. Retailers use door drops because it offers the least wastage when looking at particular audiences within certain drive-times of stores which is also cost effective when using local free newspapers for distribution (circa £10 per ‘000 which is lower than other channels).  The second big factor is the creative potential.  You can practically door drop anything, so supermarkets like to drop booklets of all their offers which they couldn’t do cost effectively in other channels.  Also because you can include more information on a leaflet to explain the product and to encourage response they tend to work well for direct response advertisers.  Lots of telco’s, mail order, charities, financial services products all delivers cost effective volumes of response through door drops, generally using Royal Mail as the distribution method which is more expensive (£40 per ‘000) but more effective from a response perspective due to standout.  So because you can target audiences effectively, deliver a detailed message which gets into the hands of homeowners you tend to see that door drops are one of the most cost effective channels for driving acquisition.  Response Rates of 0.1% would equate to positive ROI for most advertisers.

Does randomly non-targeted mail make targeted-mail less effective? Does it at the very least give it a bad name?

I haven’t seen any studies that compare one to the other.  For advertisers using a combination of DM and door drops to the same household they would certainly have to apply frequency capping across both because there will be an optimum level over a year. Direct mail (addressed) typically achieves the highest response rates, often as high as 0.1% – 1%.  Door drops may be 0.01% to 0.1% with press, TV etc at around 0.005%.  DM and Door drop probably does combine to give each other a bad name but response rates are still effective and not on the decline because of poor perception.  The response rates may decline due to changing response habits to digital or increased competition in a category.  Personally because I receive shedloads of door drops for virgin media I wouldn’t even read any DM they sent me so it would negatively impact results for me.  But they are playing a numbers game, they can only deliver cable into certain postal sectors so door drop is the perfect medium to reduce wastage, so whatever decline in performance they get from this approach it is still better than other channels with higher wastage.

What is the key to making content like this stand out?

Like any other media channel the advertiser needs to know their customers or prospective customers extremely well in order to provide a relevant leaflet that speaks to them in the right tone, provides a relevant service at the right time.  A good door drop advertiser builds postal sector ranking models based on multiple data sources which varies by category.  EG in car insurance you know geo-demo profile of target audience, number of cars in household, renewal data, claims data, etc, etc.  So because of all this you can be broadly happy with your targeting (as much as you can be for a postal sector rather than individuals).  So once you have the targeting correct then it’s all about using the leaflet format creatively.  This is often achieved through standard approaches in terms of benefit led, product detail, strong call to action etc but occasionally you see very creative items which are made out of different materials (I saw one from DIY retailer which you could plant and turn the leaflet into flowers).  More recently clients have started to try to use the door drop as a way of accessing content via QR codes, etc.  More needs to be done, linking door drop to mobile makes total sense.

If people are frustrated about the amount of door drop content, is there anything they can do about it?

You can register on the mail preference survey list.  Also Royal Mail has its own list as well to stop unaddressed mail but this won’t stop teams or local paper distribution so they propose the customer uses a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on the door.  The Direct Marketing Association are a good source of options available.

Projects and Thoughts.