When I was a bright young thing in my 20s, I joined the ad agency that had put Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives into power. I never worked on the Conservative party account personally. I wouldn't have refused (as I wouldn't have refused working on Silk Cut at that point) although I would have found it quite daunting. I don't know if everyone who worked on the account had to be staunch Tory supporters, or whether a few wild cards were brought in to challenge and play devil's advocate.
It may seem odd to younger readers, but I didn't necessarily know the politics of my colleagues. I knew what their favourite tipples were, which films they'd seen, their favourite bands and possibly who they'd slept with last Friday (if the office gossip machine was working). But politics and religion weren't discussed. Not with workmates and certainly not with clients. Salary was another thing. You didn't go blabbing about it - maybe that was a deliberate ploy from management in general to avoid transparency and fairness. Maybe it was what we thought at the time - decency and respect, and an avoidance of vulgarity. Or, I expect, a bit of both.
The world is a different place today. I've been spending more time on LinkedIn and a couple of Facebook groups for brand and communication strategists.
To be honest, these online places sometimes feel like snake pits.
Should "we" be buying so-and-so marketing guru's book, given his "uneducated" or "offensive" tweets on a completely different theme?
Pushing of pdfs, books, "voices" to follow and other assorted resources to "educate ourselves" so that "we" finally "get it."
People being sworn at, generally harangued and told they have "issues they need to work on" if they dare to say that (maybe) strategy isn't political.
Everything from hate to food has become politicised.
You could be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled into the desperate-to-impress anarcho-extremist- nihilist group in Fresher's week. I sometimes wonder why on earth these people are working in advertising agencies and for-profit organisations - surely it's all just a trifle hypocritical?
My politics have evolved in the last thirty years. I have achieved some reasonably dizzy heights in my career as well as fallen down in the gutter a couple of times. I've learned from that. But I still don't think I need to talk about who or what I vote for with clients, let alone complete strangers on the internet.
It's not about bravery, or speaking up. Nor do I want to avoid being uncomfortable. A certain amount of discomfort helps growth, I know that.
But it is about understanding people - whether clients, customers, people you're communicating about your brand with. You don't know what they've been through, what their views are, what their experiences are, what makes them tick. And the best place to start for understanding is common ground - something you can agree on as fellow human beings.
From there on you can agree to disagree - a phrase I hear only too seldom these days.
Time goes quickly when you're enjoying yourself. It was over two months ago, at the beginning of April, that I wrote a post about the gush of information and opinions about the New Normal. Well, now we're in the midst of the beginning of it (I think).
One question was which mindsets and elements of behaviour would be carried over as restrictions ease. Would the whole world remain obsessed with hygiene, for example?
Certainly, hand sanitisers and soap-related products have taken a huge hike in sales. The emails that the travel companies are sending me now on resumed services are full of #WeCare and Safety First, and providing masks and cleaning seats, tables and armrests, with links to cute little films should you need extra reassurance.
But what about all the other microorganisms that are killed off in the process? Have the role of the good guys - the gut and skin microbiome - in developing immunity been forgotten?
I have a theory, which could be complete nonsense, but might be one explanation why Germany has not been as hard-hit by the virus as the US and the UK. I wrote a couple of articles in my early years here expressing what I saw as a cultural difference between the Germans and Anglo-Saxon cultures in their approach to use of "hard" chemicals in household and garden, and the preference for plant-based remedies and cures in personal health.
Maybe the Germans are just more in tune with their germs - good and bad?
One thing I need to get round to is a revamp of my website, which is hopelessly out-of-date from a technical and user-experience point of view. And the photos probably don't - ahem - reflect how I look these days. I had a look at it recently to see if the content was also in need of a total rejig - and surprised myself.
It still makes sense.
I'm reading Jung again in the form of The Red Book, a generous and apt gift from my college chums, and I'm rediscovering a lot of what must have influenced my worldview as I started my career and has stayed with me ever since.
The idea of the personal and the collective - Jung applied this to the unconscious but it has a universal application:
For every brand, each individual has a different personal experience of that brand. We must try to understand the collective elements of the brand that we have as shared experience in order to develop communications.
There are elements of brands that are personal to each of us in the way that we perceive brands, and there are elements that form the brand's collective unconscious that unite the users of that brand.
I was pleased to see this theme taken up in an IPA essay entitled The Wide and Narrow of It by Omar El-Gammal from Wunderman Thompson. The author stresses that brands are not built through carefully constructed communication plans that we as marketers somehow control but through the we (shared cultural experience) and the me (personal experience). Thinking about the cultural and the individual is a good way of looking at brand growth.
The collective, cultural, call it what you will would always be my starting point to understand the essence of a brand. I believe that humanity has more in common than that dividing us and it's here that I'd start to find how my brand can be relevant to a broad section of the human world yet still maintain its own individuality and uniqueness.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: