I have a dream


I have a dream

On 28 August 1963, a quarter of a million people gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.

Before them, Martin Luther King declared:
“I have a dream.”

These were the passionate utterances of a man driven by a belief in his grand fight against racism.

His clarity of purpose provided him with the strength and energy required to fuel this fight against the odds.

This wasn’t about simply changing legislation,
but changing a country.

And to do that he needed others like him.

He needed to stir their souls and rally them
behind a cause.

To call them to live together in love.

He wasn’t alone in his beliefs, but what King could do was put it into words.

With his links to the pulpit, he knew a thing or two about connecting with a congregation.

But more than that, his speech drew on those
of the great orators who went before him.

Shaped by the themes and structures of great speeches of the past.

King used the poetic and symbolic language
of the Book of Amos.

With similarities to Pericles’ funeral oration – delivered to honour those who had fallen in the first fight against the Spartans.

His speech drew on folk memory and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“Five score years ago…”

Barack Obama – another great orator – consciously appropriated the language of both Lincoln and King himself.

King’s linguistic turn and figures of speech made his language dance.

The lyricism of his prose through his use of metaphors and alliterations illuminated his dialogue:

“Rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the summit path of racial justice.”

The tricolons – groups of three – that made his sentence ring emphasised the pattern, making
it more memorable.

And in doing so, it made King’s story
more memorable.

The rhetorical questions through which he challenged his audience shaped an imaginary dialogue.

Through his use of conduplicatio – repeating a word or phrase over and over again – he gathered an irresistible rhythm.

His frequent use of short sentences drummed ideas into their minds.

As did the frequent repetition of key theme words throughout his speech:

Freedom, twenty times.

Our, seventeen times.

We, thirty times.

Dream, eleven times.

Antithesis – the use of contrasts in colour and content – dramatised his use of skin and character, putting them side by side:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged
by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

He knew that the secret of connecting
with his audience is the basic movement of
any effective speech.

What Aristotle – the first Western authority on rhetoric – called ethos.

Transforming the “me” of the speaker and the “you” of the audience into “we”.

His speech wasn’t just about what he believed.

If it wasn’t already, it became what they believed.

Ethos is established by, quite literally, speaking the audience’s language: sharing jokes, common reference points and recognisable situations.

Not forgetting arguments grounded in specifics.

His numerous geographic references.

Mississippi mentioned four times: a place evocative of the strongest emotions and images for his audience.

His use of references to the United States’ Declaration of Independence:

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Martin Luther King’s speech was forceful in its argument, resonant in its references and memorable in style.

He touched them.

He was able to paint a rich picture of how
a different world would look.

And what the journey might be.

His persuasive powers made possible through his use of language, tonality, order, image, attitude
and gestures.

A brave idea and position made identifiable through personality.

As Simon Sinek has pointed out:
“[King] gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the
‘I have a plan’ speech.”

Getting people to come with you takes a passionate belief and a shared language through which to connect.

Whether that’s a social change or a business change, taking up a strong position is critical.

But perhaps it is how it’s expressed that
really matters.

People will often forget much of what you said,
but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

That’s how you turn dreams into reality.

— DB

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The Questions We Asked: JW Lees


The Questions We Asked: JW Lees

This journal series goes behind our work and gives an insight into the issues or opportunities our clients were grappling with that led to our work together. In this edition of The Questions We Asked, we speak to William Lees-Jones, Managing Director at JW Lees.

The brewer and pub company JW Lees is nearly 200 years old, yet William – the sixth generation of his family to lead the business – maintains a restless spirit to keep moving forward. William explains: “This is one of my favourite cartoons. This is a typical family-business board meeting. You’ve got Dad at the end of the table and the kids along the side, and he’s saying: ‘Instead of risking anything new, let’s play it safe by continuing our slow decline into obsolescence’.”

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“My inspiration as the leader of our family business is really just to build a great business that is a source of pride for us all: colleagues working in the business now, those that came before us, and those that are coming next,” says William. This is an attitude that can be traced right back to the founder of the business.

JW Lees was founded in 1828. “John Lees, who was our founder, had a vision. He’d been in textiles and he bought a row of cottages in Middleton Junction and started brewing beer. This was the 19th century equivalent of buying a vineyard in the south of France and retiring.” At this time, customers would go to breweries with a jug and buy their beer. Due to the prevalence of cholera, drinking beer was actually safer than drinking water. This started to change around 1900, when public houses emerged, alongside coaching inns and hotels. As William explains, “The British pub started with the end-of-terrace house and a gregarious person selling beer. These people weren’t actually very good at the business side of things because they were much better at selling beer, so they ended up owing money to breweries. To get paid, the breweries repossessed the pubs, and then accidentally became the owners of these pubs.”

After university William worked in advertising, so when he decided to join the family business at the age of 29, he was tasked with setting up JW Lees’ first marketing department. At that time, JW Lees were still presenting themselves in a very traditional manner.

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He recalls the situation in Manchester at the time. “Boddingtons were the monster; they were the enemy. Boddingtons was the beer of Manchester. Everybody drank it. The thing that kept me awake at night was that if we were going to build JW Lees as a brand that would be anything other than ‘not quite Boddingtons’, then we needed to be really aware of the fact that they had the firepower of one of the biggest international breweries behind them. They were established 50 years before us. They had this great big chimney that you’d drive past every time you went into Manchester.”

One of William’s first initiatives to address this was to create an advertising campaign. While the approach would be seen as very politically incorrect now, it was less so then and they had to do something that was provocative to get people to view the brand as acceptable. “Although people loved the heritage of JW Lees, they saw it as an old man’s drink. We had to position the brand way over on the other side of the spectrum to give young people permission to drink our beer.”

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The advertising helped move JW Lees forward, but it was a phase that William describes as their “adolescence”. By the noughties there were major changes taking place in the beer industry, with an array of mergers and acquisitions. Many of the independent family brewers that had been the backbone of the industry ceased to exist during this time.

“There was a revolution happening in British brewing that nobody was really aware of. We were seeing the beginning of the craft beer revolution, where customers were saying: ‘We want different, individual beers.’ At this point, we sat there with our glass of ale and thought: ‘Is it half-full or half-empty?’ We decided that we needed to become much more specific in terms of how we were reinventing our business for the current generation of beer drinkers.”

Part of the process William initiated was to start thinking about the vision. Every year, JW Lees hold a company conference in central Manchester. Their first attempt to work on the vision was to develop it collaboratively during one such conference three or four years ago. This led to the vision: “Going further together to brew great times”.


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Looking back now, William describes their approach as “one of those worthy, management-consultancy-style ‘we’re listening to you’ type processes”. And 12 months later, no one could remember it: it wasn’t working. There was also confusion between the vision statement and the brand’s strapline (“Be Yourself”) that had been developed a few years previously. While the sentiment of individuality was important, since JW Lees are defiantly not a chain-pub company, it was causing problems. “It was giving colleagues the opportunity to do whatever they felt like. You’d say to people: ‘Why did you do that?’ And they’d say: ‘I was just being myself’.”

Rather than being tied to the past, William maintains a strong desire to keep improving. “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got. No matter how much we try and fight it, things are never going to be how they used to be, because everything will continue to change.” So with the previous vision not working, William had a strong desire to find something that would.

“It was at this point that a mailshot from Squad arrived. It was a really impressive piece, and having worked in marketing I appreciate when people do good work. There are lots of sharks out there. And there are lots of really terrible consultants who want to come into your business and create problems that you didn’t even know existed. But what appealed to me was that these guys aren’t like that.”

Nearly three years later, JW Lees will report an increase in turnover this year of £8m to £78m and net profits are up 41%. Manchester Craft Lager, which didn’t exist three years ago, is now the brand’s fourth best selling beer. As William says, “this has given us the confidence to launch a beer at a premium price in the market whereas previously we always focused on being good value. But probably most importantly, we measure our staff engagement every six months, which is currently at the highest level it’s ever been.”

To read more about our work with JW Lees that took them to this point, please see our case study here.


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Solve the right problem
Solve the right problem


Solve the right problem

Moneyball is a great movie based on a true story.

Of Billy Beane and baseball team the Oakland Athletics.

Beane, general manager of Oakland A’s realised that his best players were about to be stolen by the New York Yankees.

The Yankees could pay salaries five times higher than anything he could offer.

And Oakland was losing ground to the competition.

Which frustrated him.

So Beane met with his group of scouts to discuss who they would sign to replace their stars.

“Harry’s got a good arm.”

“Yes, but he’s 36 years old now.”

“I know, but there’s still a lot left in him.”

Billy watched the conversation; it was clear that he wasn’t happy.

And he started to make a gesture with his hand.

Signifying that it was all talk, talk, talk.

The usual stuff.

And Beane knew that usual wasn’t what was required.

He knew that this wasn’t a case of business as usual.

And he told them:

“You’re not looking at the problem.”

His scouts looked shocked.

“The problem we are trying to solve is that there are rich teams, and there are poor teams, and then there is a 50-feet drop-off, and then there is us.”

Beane faced multiple constraints.

The club’s owner controlled the budget.

The team manager controlled the way the team played.

The players controlled themselves.

He continued:

“We’ve got to think differently.”

So Beane – with the help of Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate – looked at what problem they were actually trying to solve.

Brand, who’d only just started his career, had some radical ideas:

“People who run baseball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.”

Brand understood the stats: how to read them.

How to find value that no one else could see in the overlooked players.

Using mathematics.

He knew that there was a championship team of 25 people that they could afford.

Because everyone else in baseball undervalued them.

For various biased reasons and perceived flaws, such as age, appearance or personality.

So the Oakland Athletics – the team that had finished the previous season with the worst record in Major League Baseball – set a new American League record.

Winning 20 consecutive games.

With one of the lowest budgets in the league.

Beane and Brand had identified their fundamental problem: their massive payroll disadvantage.

They knew that always doing the same thing is always going to get the same results.

We often quote Albert Einstein (he knew a thing or two about problem-solving).

He once said that if he had one hour to save the planet, he’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem.

And five minutes resolving it.

We often work with clients upstream – at a business, category or brand level – in order to find the right problem.

Using a range of tools, workshops and good old-fashioned digging.

We’re able to talk (and understand) the language of commerce, audience, analytics, market and competition so that we can get to the nub of the issue.

Through this understanding and a relentless curiosity, we find the right problems to apply our creativity to.

— DB

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Work in partnership not silos


Work in partnership not silos

John Lennon is one of the most revered songwriters in history.

But when working alone, his songs could be protesting and abrasive – simple melodies with philosophical lyrics focusing on isolation, pain and politics.

Paul McCartney is one of the most revered songwriters in history.

But when working alone, his songs could be criticised for being sugary sweet,  overtly poppy and lightweight.

Even if they were potently melodic.

He was more happy to fill the world with silly love songs.

And even the odd frog chorus.

But together, Lennon and McCartney were better.

They wrote songs that not only revolutionised music but popular culture.

From the off, John Lennon and Paul McCartney decided to publish their songs under both their names.

So all their songs bear the cooperative hallmark “Lennon/McCartney”.

But, some songs were more Lennon’s work; others more McCartney.

Yet even A Day in the Life – a song which on the face of it appears to be a Lennon solo effort bolted to a McCartney solo effort – is an intertwined, combined number.

It was a song that John had started.

Armed with a copy of the Daily Mail for inspiration, he already had the first verse.

Which wasn’t unusual.

One of them would have a little bit of an idea and, instead of sweating it alone, they’d take it to the other.

And work on it together.

Ping-pong style.

Then perhaps the other would write the next bit.

Sitting in Paul’s London music room, the pair pored over the newspaper.

And they just started playing around with ideas.

They worked together on the verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car.

Paul provided the middle section.

A short, bouncy piano piece he’d been working on independently.

A wistful fragment of adolescent reflection.

And from Paul’s dream, we’re back with John.

And his newspaper.

The headline “The holes in our roads” inspired the wonderfully memorable:

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire

And though the holes were rather small

They had to count them all

Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

When recording the song, the piece was knitted together with a swelling cacophony provided by some of London’s finest classical musicians.

Which producer George Martin said was John’s idea.

Until he later changed his mind and said it was Paul’s.

Which is sort of the point.

When you collaborate, the edges blur.

As do roles and responsibilities.

Lennon and McCartney didn’t follow a rigid formula where words followed music or vice versa.

One wasn’t solely the lyricist; the other the melody maker.

They freewheeled.

Sitting down with a guitar or at the piano, they looked anywhere and everywhere for ideas.

Melodies, chord shapes, some words, or just a thought to get started with.

And then they worked it out from there.

Rather like writing an essay or solving a crossword puzzle.

Which is how we like to work.

We see our whole process as creative, not just the part traditionally labelled as such.

Creative and strategist working together.

One not solely the strategist; one not purely the creative.

By applying strategic and creative thinking to business problems, we create more disruptive strategies and can visualise the possibilities.

This is why we often make a rough-cut film as part of the strategic process.

A combination of words, pictures, thoughts and possibilities.

Quickly pulled together, Lennon and McCartney style.

Because every Lennon needs to find his McCartney, and vice versa.

— DB

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