November 2023 newsletter – fourth time unlucky?

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November 2023 newsletter introduction

You’re still reading? Great! Welcome to my November 2023 newsletter which marks my 4th issue. I am not excessively superstitious – but living in Hong Kong rubbed off a bit on me.

Golden Fortune Cookies

I developed a love of milk tea, found the ‘hit women’ cathartic and am still leery of the number 4. 

The number 4 is considered unlucky. In Hong Kong buildings, there is no fourth floor – in a similar way to their being no 13th floor in the UK high rise and office blocks. So I hope that this fourth issue doesn’t bring misfortune.

The clocks have gone back and the sun rises reluctantly over the horizon every morning, disappearing earlier each afternoon, but that doesn’t mean that inspiration stops. And it will be Christmas before you know it.

New reader?

If is your first time reading, welcome to my November 2023 newsletter! You can find my regular writings here and more about me here

Things I’ve written.

  • Dimensions of Luxury based on a mix of stuff that I have read from Sense Worldwide, Horizon Catalyst and books on luxury trends.
  • Every wondered why its dot com rather than full-stop com? So did I.
  • Analysis on IPSOS research on the value to brands of reputation.
  • MCN – multi-channel networks. A business type popular in China and Japan is taking a record label approach to a stable of influencers.
  • A little bit about the Whole Earth Catalogue and more things.
  • The Brand Vandals conversation – reflecting back on a conversation I had in 2012 with Wadds that became part his book Brand Vandals.

Books that I have read.

  • Material World: A Substantial Story of Our Past and Future by Ed Conway. Prior to working in advertising, I had a background in manufacturing and consider myself reasonably well read, but some of the material in Conway’s book was completely new to me. Its narrative approach reminds me of the vintage TV documentary series Connections presented by James Burke, that can be found on YouTube.
  • Beyond Disruption by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. This book looked at non-disruptive innovation. This is diametrically opposed to the way innovation is discussed in Silicon Valley and the mainstream media. More on my view of it here.
  • The New Working Class by Claire Ainsley. In the advertising industry, we have an acute perception that we might not understand life outside the M25 as we think we do. I thankfully have friends and family in the North to keep me somewhat grounded from the metropolitan elite lifestyle that I lead. Until I read this book, I didn’t realise how grounded the advertising industry was compared to our counterparts in national politics. That this book had to be written is a damning indictment of how out of touch politicos actually are. 

Things I have been inspired by.

Project Gutenberg Open Audiobook project – Microsoft, and MIT have worked together to create thousands of free and open audiobooks using text-to-speech technology and Project Gutenberg’s open-access collection of e-books. Via Matt’s Webcurios newsletter.

IPSOS research video seminar on Unlocking The Value of Reputation. This is the closest I have seen to making the case for earned media activities. The full whitepaper is available here. Thanks to Stuart Bruce for the link!

My friend Ian recommended the Honest Broker newsletter to me and I have found it to be a great read alongside my long time subscription to Bill Bishop’s Sinocism.

DDB Remedy’s meta analysis of marketing science work and academic scientific research on how emotion work for effective campaigns. How The Unexpected and Emotion Work to Influence Behaviour Change – focuses on how surprise when paired with emotion led creative had an increased impact. It all makes sense when you think about the power of salience and distinctiveness in communications; but it’s great to see that someone has drawn the multi-disciplinary research together in a cogent argument.

SEMRush have published a report for 2024 trends in social media platforms: The Vision in a Social Era that is worth downloading and pillaging for ideas that can be sold into clients.

I don’t know if inspired was the right term to use but I noticed 2023 Girlguiding Girl’s Attitudes survey thanks to a former colleague of mine from the start of my agency career. This is a survey that the Girlguiding movement has run over 15 years. Having freelanced on Dove’s ‘Real Beauty‘ campaign back in the day, this one statistic stood out to me.

From the 2023 Girlguiding Girl's attitudes survey

If I were the Dove UK brand director at Unilever, this chart would be pinned to my wall or have it as my laptop wallpaper. You can read the full survey here.

It isn’t just a UK problem as this article on American teens gives more food for thought: What It’s Like to Be a 13-Year-Old Girl Today – The New York Times. It will be interesting to see if the Nike x Dove Body Confidence initiative makes a difference.

DeBeers is returning to its ‘A Diamond Is Forever’ campaign. The print campaign image is beautiful with a great use of negative space. DeBeers is spending 20 million dollars on media in the US in China. In the US, I think this makes total sense.


I don’t know how well it will work in China? There isn’t the mental model built up in west over decades around the campaign theme. While the wealthy in China realise that diamonds are recognised as a store of wealth – the guo chao mindset may see gold (and possibly jade) jewellery favoured by at least some younger consumers.

This has been exacerbated by a decline in the number of marriages by just under 11% and a trend to prefer gold has an 18% reduction in diamonds sold in China over the past 12 months. In the meantime the sale of gold has risen by 12%. 

I look forward to seeing how the campaign goes.

According to Numerator, online retail platforms will be the big winners from Christmas shopping. The news for the food and beverage services sector isn’t so great.

Finally ‘Knowledge is Power with Kidney Disease took me back to 1988. Rob Base has remade It Takes Two for Bohringer Ingelheim in the US to highlight the linkage between kidney disease and type two diabetes. The message is poignant as Base’s creative partner DJ EZ Rock died in 2014 and suffered from diabetes. 

Producer DJ EZ Rock was responsible for the hype backing track based around Lynn Collins ‘Think (about it)’ and backing vocals from Rhonda Parris. (Parris has a short-lived recording career, releasing just one solo single No, No Love – a bit of a proto-House banger heavily influenced by freestyle if you like that kind of thing). Those that knew also had the Derek B remix of It Takes Two, with a heavy kick drum underpinning from a Roland TR-808 drum machine. 

Things I have watched. 

It’s cold and dark and I make no apology for my films being unapologetically escapist and and entertaining to try and counterweight the drab conditions. I do have some standards through and got material for this November 2023 newsletter.

  • Zerozerozero – follows a single drug deal between the Mexican cartel and the ’Ndrangheta. However things don’t go according to plan, so as the conspiracy unfolds we get a walk through the international drug trafficking trade across Latin America, Africa and Europe. This was done as a limited series, but I watched it as a boxset. It is directed by Stefano Sollima who did the Sicario films and Subarra.
  • Novembre – A French fictional dramatisation of the government response to coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris at Stade de France and the Bataclan concert venue through to the Saint Dennis raid that resulted in the death of police dog Diesel, which trended on social media with the #jesuisdiesel hashtag. Jean Dujardin shows the range of his ability as an actor from the comedy of his OSS117 film series, to the deadly seriousness of this film.
  • Diva – I originally watched Diva as part of the Moviedrome series of curated films introduced by Alex Cox. At the time Cox personally disliked the film due to it being ‘a film of style’ rather than narrative. I loved it and revisited it on Blu-Ray. It was sharper and I got to appreciate the Vladimir Cosma soundtrack with its mix of opera, classical music and avant-garde compositions.
Alex Cox’s introduction to Diva for the much missed Moviedrome film seasons that used to run on BBC 2.
  • The Continental – Amazon Prime Video has some great tentpole content and The Continental adds to this. It’s a prequel of sorts to the John Wick universe and starts with a beautifully made feature length pilot. The action would find it hard to live up to the John Wick films, but the impeccable soundtrack manages to surpass them. The alternative past New York of the film has similar vibes to shows like Pennyworth and Gotham

Useful tools

Better Miro, Mural or Figjam alternative

I have started using Milanote as an alternative to Miro for personal projects. Like Miro it has a mix of templates to get you started. There is an iPhone app and a native Mac app, so you don’t have to rely on running resource hungry pages in your internet browser of choice. It might even replace Omnigraffle in my personal software stack for some of the tasks that I do.


The sales pitch.

It was great to collaborate this month with my Hong Kong and Shanghai-based friends at Craft Associates on a prospective exciting new project. Now taking bookings for strategic engagements or discussions on permanent roles. Contact me here.

The End.

Ok this is the end of my November 2023 newsletter, I hope to see you all back here again in a month. Be excellent to each other. Let me know what you think or if you have any recommendations to be featured in forthcoming issues.