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The Secret Life of Brands

Earlier this week, the Ateam went to a really inspiring talk called ’The Secret Life of Brands' by The School of Life and House of Killik.

The concept of the talk was based on a set of Wild Cards designed by The School of Life and The Clearing, to be picked at random with questions to help brands think and continue to develop. The following people were asked a series of questions from the pack.

⌨️ Advanced Marketing @ Google

🏇 Head of Marketing @ Ascot Racing (previously Fulham Football Club

🎥 Marketing @ Curzon Cinema’s

Interviewed by founder of The Clearing

There were a lot of wise words to share, so please do share with your teams or anyone who think may find this interesting.

Q1. Is your job to give people what they want, or make people want what you offer?

Google: For us, the user comes first in everything, even to our own detriment. Sometimes it’s our job to use our imagination and find things they didn’t know they wanted. We’re there to help people discover.

Ascot: We deliver to their expectation to create customer retention. We need to create surprise and delight at each event, whilst sticking to the brand guidelines.

Curzon: Film is a sexy product and our distributors work hard on the marketing to that part isn’t always hard for us 😆

💡 It’s important to find where points of frustration are. After each tournament, Wimbledon ask every single person involved to write what they think when wrong / needs to be improved. This is compiled into ’The List’, one big list of things that can be improved on for next year.

Q2. How do you make sure you have enough fun at work?

Facebook HR department recently released an HR report highlighting that most people leave because of their job not because of their boss.

Ascot: 💡 Celebrate successes to help retention

Curzon: You’re part of the solution if you’re not having fun at work. Can you improve the situation? If not, is it the right job for you?

Google: There’s a lot of talk about work / life balance. It’s about LIFE (don’t separate the two). A lot of people at Google suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’ (people seeming smarter than you). Experience genuine fun, and pause celebrate.

Ascot: When Ascot created a marketing plan to launch their new branding, the branding wasn’t finished in time so they did the full launch internally. This couldn’t have been more successful in enabling people to ‘live the brand’.

Q3. How do you deal with anxiety & uncertainty?

Ascot: We live in the public eye, it’s an experiential brand so we work with uncertainty.

Curzon: “I don’t embark on things that make me anxious. That’s what my kids are there to do. 😆 At work I’m a BIG fan of research. Although you can’t get it right all the time, you do your best.”

Speaker: It would be boring if you know the end result.

Google: “We fail all the time.” but we make ‘micro-failures’ 🙌 that we learn from. If you can clearly tell people what you’re asking, or what problem you’re solving, the problem immediately come easier to fix.

Q4. What’s the worst thing people can say about your brand?

Ascot: The media try to make Ascot ‘chavy’. We cut 25,000 tickets per day last year to reduce the amount of people and manage the brand experience e.g. reduce bad behaviour.

Curzon: Elitist (although most cinemas dread ‘sticky’). We are an independent company, not owned by anyone and are the only cinema group to pay the national living wage. We also like to celebrate history & heritage. This is reflected in the prices.

Q5. Which brand flaws have you learnt to ignore?

Google: We are so user focused that our internal systems are torturous. We ignore the chaos. We live with chaos but can’t show chaos.

Ascot: Our whole brand promise is to ‘raise standards’ so we’re always aware of our flaws.

Q6. What other businesses are you secretly jealous off?

Ascot: Wimbledon - they have a great budget to spend on creating an amazing experience so we do look to them as guidance. Also, from working at Fulham Football Clubs, football fans are the most loyal time of customers.

Google: Amazon, for their customer service.

Other notable statements:

Don’t be boring. Be noticed.


Read ‘learn in’, don’t be afraid to be a nuisance. Be your authentic self. The right people will see you for who you are.

Start each day with a list and don’t get frustrated when you don’t finish it. Delegate and allow others to step up.

80:20 rule. What’s money and what’s enjoyable.

Don’t be afraid to say ‘that’s not working’ and rip it up and start something new (marketing)

I want diverse opinion around the table. You’re only as good as your team.


Start the day slow and finish it with a margarita.

As you get older, you give yourself permission more. People don’t care what you’re thinking, they’re worried about what they’re thinking.


Differentiate between important and urgent.

Always carry a piece of paper around..people will think you’re busy and won’t ask you to do extra things.

Do your emails in 2 slots a day, reply immediately rather than flagging and coming back to them.

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