The wit and wisdom of Mark Ritson: Top Ritsonisms of 2015

Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson is as well known for his colourful turn of phrase as he is his razor-like insight, the former bringing the latter to life. Relive some of his 2015 highlights, or “Ritsonisms”, below and the articles from where they were born.

Ritson award winner

On the design mistakes that forced Google Glass off shelves:


“It’s taken me much time and analysis to come up with my thesis but I’m certain the fatal flaw in Google Glass was that it made people look like wankers, or, as they became known, ‘Glassholes’. If you don’t believe me try a, ahem, Google image search for ‘people wearing Google Glass’. See what I mean? You get the usual blend of supermodels and, fashionistas but they all, without exception, look like wankers.”

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On a more rigorous alternative to the 2016 CoolBrands ranking:

“My methodology involves first asking my dad and his mate Brian to drink a whole bottle of whisky. Then I ask them to create a list of 100 brands by shouting random words into Google’s voice recognition software while the Shirley Bassey hit ‘Goldfinger’ plays at full volume in the background. Finally, my dog Asia eats the list of brands and I await the resulting shortlist appearing on my front garden approximately six to eight hours later.”

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On the need to rebrand himself:

“It’s simply no longer possible for me to operate within the constrained identity of Mark Ritson any longer. From this week’s edition onwards, I am removing the space between my first name and surname and, what’s more, I will be using only lower case letters from this point onwards in all my communication and presentations. I’m nervous about the change. I’m excited by the possibilities. I am markritson.”

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On Walmart’s lack of imaginatation in its brand partnerships:

Fifty shades

“[Walmart declared] ‘Surprise that special someone with this romantic gift basket featuring a Fifty Shades of Grey theme.’ That got me excited at the prospect of exactly what the retailer had sourced from its shelves to create its ‘special basket’. Ropes from the climbing section? Clamps from the DIY plumbing aisle? Electric car starters from the automotive area? No such luck. Aside from a pair of handcuffs, the rest of the $69 basket consisted of bubble bath, chocolates and ‘specialty dipping pretzel rods’ – not as exciting as they sound either. Trust me.

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On surviving the age of digital:

“I am rarely sure of anything in marketing, but on this one I am absolutely convinced. The only way to prosper in the decade ahead and negotiate the massive changes that the digital era has ushered into our fair discipline is, paradoxically, to approach your 2016 marketing strategy with absolutely no reference to the D word at all.”

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On the marketing disaster that was Windows 8:

Windows 8 breaker

“So bad was Windows 8 that millions of users paid a premium for PCs that still operated Windows 7 or followed the online instructions on how to ‘upgrade’ from 8 back to 7. Perhaps only Microsoft could spend millions to create an inferior upgrade that forced millions of customers to reverse the traditional trajectory of tech, and pay a premium for older versions of its software. A remarkable fail.”

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On millennials:

“The only thing that will kill our obsession with millennials is the deadening certainty that we are only a few months away from a new demographic cohort called Blah-Blahs or Generation Q, who will supplant the now over-the-hill millennials and surprise us with their, you guessed it, discomfort with modern career paths and concern for the environment and social justice.”

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On the merits of having a brand purpose:

“None of it is any good of course. For starters, consumers don’t want brands involved in any of this stuff. They just want a coffee, or a burger, or to be able to use their credit card to buy a pair of shoes. On a higher plane they also want race equality, loving feelings and a great day – but they don’t want hamburger multinationals and credit card companies telling them what that looks like or how to achieve it.”

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On the potential of programmatic:

“In a post-programmatic age, CMOs are fundamentally not driving the bus anymore. The bus is driving the bus. And the bus has a sophisticated satnav that ignores the horseshit being spouted by its geriatric owner and is merrily calculating the best route to market on a second by second basis as it makes an efficient and effective journey at top speed across the globe.”

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On marketers’ fascination with all things new and shiny:

VR headset

“What makes marketers’ obsession with spangly new shit so annoying is that our discipline does the basics so badly. But my only hope to get marketers interested in doing their job properly is calling the standard approach to marketing strategy a ‘thwackometer 4000’ and presenting it exclusively to marketers via a virtual reality app made on a 3D printer that was originally promoted on Vine.”

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On the problem with brand valuation:

“Sadly, most marketers reading this column and, indeed the original report from Markables, won’t even understand what I am talking about. They will look at the league tables, accept the inane explanations for why one brand is bigger than another and take everything at face value. Well fuck that. I would argue that if you can’t agree on the value of something within a $100bn of your peers and if your estimates are shown to be 250% inflated over reality, it’s time to declare the value of valuation to be nil.”

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On the enduring appeal of Davos to CMOs:

“If I was Anne Finucane, global chief strategy and marketing officer at Bank of America, I might have reviewed the appalling financial performance of my company in 2014 and the piss-poor ratings of my bank’s service scores versus most of my competitors and decided that perhaps Davos was not the top priority. But, when there’s a chance to share apéritifs with Bill Clinton and discuss interest rates with Paloma Faith, what’s a marketer to do?”

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