(With apologies to the mighty The Sundays, here a few of the favorite things I’ve listened to, watched and read in this odd year)

I miss this band

Well what a year this has been. It’s been odd being cooped up for 3/4 of the year (but not as odd as the people doing all they can to keep the spread of Covid-19 not just going, but accelerating) and not going out to shows or movies and seeing friends but it has led to a prodigious amount of media consumption at home. It might not have been the best year…

A few of the favorite things I’ve listened to, watched and read.



2019 may not have some of the stellar releases of the last decade but there was lots of good stuff (as always thanks to the best record store in the world, Piccadilly Records in Manchester, for keeping my ears and mind open).

Bubbling under my top 10 were albums that my daughter Esme got me into (say hello Billie Eilish, girlinred and Clairo), great debuts (Stella Donnelly, Steve Lacy, Sofia Bolt), fantastic returns (Fujiya and Miyagi, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Lana del Ray, Bill Callahan), brilliant, simple rock records (Summer Cannibals, Steve Mason) and some…

A school of UX design thought posits that technology can become more useful to people if it becomes calm, that it should inform and create calm, that it should take up the smallest possible amount of attention. How might these principles help the advertising industry’s situation?

I’m writing this the day after the Superbowl (or, as some of my friends on Boston have taken to calling it, ‘the New England Invitational’). It’s the annual coming out party for the advertising industry in America: weeks of leaks of the work followed by the post mortem on local TV shows. …

The New Year has traditionally been about making predictions about all the new stuff the industry will do, all the new tech, new companies. What would actually make an impact, argues Gareth Kay, is a renewed interest in the things we do that work, and what can make them better. Here are two ways to make 2019 better.

It’s only a few days into the New Year and already my feeds are subsumed with endless predictions about what new shining technology will change everything this year. What shiny new platform, technology, channel or trick is finally going to take off…

Another more than pointless addition to year end lists…here are some of the things I’ve enjoyed listening to, reading and watching this year.


As always, thank you to my friends with better taste than me for keeping me in touch with what’s going on and to the invaluable weekly list from Piccadilly Records in Manchester, the best record shop in the world.


There weren’t any absolute jaw dropping, life changing albums this year but looking back on the year there were more good records than I probably gave credit for as I moaned about the state of music.

Top of…

Brands are rarely made better when we add to them. The more we add stuff — be it for the sake of ‘the new’ or to fend off what we see as competitive threat — the greater the risk that we dilute and obfuscate what we really are.

You’ve seen it for most of your life. Hi fi components adding more and more knobs and lights. TV remote controls adding button after button beyond on, off and channel/volume up and down. Software that was once incredibly straightforward and intuitive suddenly launches v2.0 and it sinks into an unusable quagmire of…

Strategic thinking is getting flabbier and flowerier by the minute, with fluffy language that is highly evocative, imaginative and inspirational but is devoid of the brutal rigor needed to create a robust foundation on which to build a brand or business.

I’ve just spent the past 48 hours back in Manchester, a city rightly storied for its social progressiveness and musical legacy but also its laconic, direct wit. It’s quite a difference to living in San Francisco where far too many conversations feel like you are watching a foreign language movie with the wrong subtitles. …

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

The notion of the importance of “community” in building powerful brands has been around for a long time but has the term now become so overused that it has been rendered meaningless?

One of the strange things in the world of marketing is the way we use concepts very loosely when trying to make a precise point. We’ve spent decades throwing around the term ‘brand’ to the point where it has lost almost all meaning. We create new terms like ‘engagement’ and use it interchangeably to mean anything from customer loyalty to the time someone spends watching a video or…

The pursuit of perfection is slowing marketers down and damaging their ability to build and shape brands that people care about. It is often imperfect brands — the ones that show their flaws and have real roles in people’s lives — that can feel a little bit more perfect.

This month, I want to write about perfection or, more accurately, our rather dangerous pursuit of it. I’ve become increasingly convinced that our tendency towards pursuing perfection is damaging our ability to help build and shape brands that people care about for two fundamental reasons: it makes us too slow compared…

Marketers are increasingly getting stuck in the trap of obsessing about the new, at the cost of obsessing about customers. But customer obsession can transform whole industries, as the success of Amazon and Netflix shows.

People who know me, know I’m very easily distracted. I’m a sucker for falling down a Twitter black hole at any given moment. And on one of these black hole expeditions last week, I discovered an interesting Q&A going on about the changing role of CMOs. The question posed: ‘Is the CMO role becoming largely tech-focused?’ …

Gareth Kay

Founding Partner @chaptersf. Lucky to have Clare and Esme in my life. Unhealthily obsessed by music.

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