Why those who are accusing brands of monetising the menopause need to understand how markets form

A busier than ever World Menopause Month equates with big gains. There are leaders and champions in all quarters building positive action. Carolyn Harris, MP, is pushing for change at government level. Organisations such as GenM with its huge membership of brands, Menopause Mandate, Menopause Matters, My Menopause Centre and celebrities and medical specialists are all pushing hard for female health equality. But is awareness enough? I don’t think any of us think so.

GP responsiveness remains varied with anecdotal evidence still reporting women being refused menopause care and offered anti-depressants and sleeping pills rather than hormone therapy. Women continue to leave the workforce at an alarming rate. A menopause specialist who set up a private clinic after failing to get traction within the NHS, says that women are ‘broken’ by the time that they find her. Women are leaving jobs and relationships with later regret – finally having got help, they realise this was a mistake. Education remains poor, services are patchy, products not readily available.

All of this leaves a lot still to do at the close of World Menopause Month. So how else do we help?

My argument is that we encourage more brands to market more products and services to help more women. And to do that, we need to address the ever-increasing resistance.

Hearing loudly the cries of #menowashing when brands enter into the fray, I want to offer a different point of view. I would argue that the change we’re seeing, with brands finally starting to take notice and get involved, is essential to building the female health market we need.

Let’s start with FemTech. Typically niche (it is women’s health after all) recent figures show its continued growth, expected to hit USD 13.3 billion by 2030, and at a CAGR of 11% from 2022 to 2030. The research being funded is leading to more market understanding. And it’s this sensing of new market need that sees new products and services entering the market. Starting to raise market demand.

Researchers behind GlyconAge, for example, a science-based home test kit that measures ‘biological ageing’ learned that the very dramatic ageing in women (which is different from men) happens many years before the loss of the final cycle.

This defined perimenopause as a significant factor in female ageing. And it validated the benefits in preventative action 5 or 10 years before menopause – much earlier than women typically go to their GP with menopause symptoms. This kind of evidence and understanding is good. But we need the products and services designed to address that need. And this is where the issues come.

The accusations are that brands are ‘cashing-in’ on menopause rather than endeavouring to improve people’s health. But I don’t think we can easily separate the two.

Market demand is growing – not least in response to the pioneering work of those listed at the start of this discussion. And as demand grows, the market will respond to offer the range of products and services we need. We shouldn’t knock the influx – it’s essential.

As Julian Kynaston, Founder at Propaganda Agency asserts, “We need the hype – to build the new purpose-driven market women’s health requires. It needs to be sensationalised, flooded, front of mind and dynamic for products to innovate, try (and fail) and for the good stuff to surface. This is how markets form’.

And yes, much of this will be superficial. Much of it won’t appeal to me – and what does, might not appeal to you. But eventually, the good stuff will be apparent. And those products will survive and thrive – helping us to do so too.

Markets don’t emerge or just appear. They are made by suppliers seeing a need and offering their solution to that need. A new market is created when a product or service enters that addresses needs that haven’t previously been met.

Suppliers will keep producing as long as they can sell for a price that exceeds the cost of making. Buyers will purchase providing their satisfaction is greater than the price. If prices rise, additional suppliers will be encouraged to enter the market and supply will increase until a market-clearing price is reached again. If prices fall, suppliers who are unable to cover their costs will drop out.

And consumers are discerning. Peer recommendation is the most reliable form of marketing. Poor reviews determine the product’s life span. The ones that last are the ones we need.

New markets are also created when brands offer an under-served clientele established products not previously targeting them. Women over 40 are out earning and outspending those under 40 for the first time ever and Forbes calls women over 50 Superconsumers due to their household-wide purchasing power. But we’re not being targeted!

GenM, the menopause partner to brands, found that 87% of menopausal women feel overlooked by brands and and 97% felt brands should work harder for them. It’s fair to say the ‘clientele’ is feeling underserved! This is a big opportunity for brands and I want them to deliver.

We also have to recognise that this is not one size fits all. Human beings are not a perfect science. Choice is imperative. ALL people who have a uterus go through this life stage. All socio-demographics, all ethnic groups, all cultures. We need a wide range of responsive brands to come into the market to meet the needs of all the market.

Brands at the moment are dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t. Primark’s sweat-wicking sleep wear has had much #menobashing (and much praise). Primark is well-placed to help women who need help that is accessible, affordable AND effective. It won’t appeal to everyone and it doesn’t need to.

The #menobashing is compounded by the argument that if you take HRT, then all is sorted. Many can’t or don’t want to take HRT. And HRT doesn’t stop me wanting age-appropriate, life appropriate services. Lifestyle is key to healthy living at any age. Weight gain and lack of movement, poor sleep, diet and stress – all of these challenge ageing well.

Founders who have built businesses based on selling wellness services to women of 40+ over many years feel increasingly furious about the new messaging that HRT is a silver bullet – finding it an assault to their livelihood, integrity and purpose.

Because this is about ageing rather than just menopause. Pre, peri and post menopause all bring health challenges AND most importantly, health and life opportunities. Women are not defined by being menopausal, we’re defined by our life stage and our needs.

Market forces have a role to play in raising the expectations of consumers and bringing this into the acceptable – and attractive – public domain. We want this to be a sexy and attractive space for brands to play in.

Perhaps a good summary is a reminder of what we’re dealing with. Statistics from Forbes this week cite 1.1 billion women worldwide at post-menopause by 2025. 6 million women are entering menopause at any one time. In the UK, less than 10% of women are happy with the menopause care they receive. 3 in 5 are affected at work and 900,000 have left their jobs. Women of 40-50 have the highest rate of depression based on age and gender in the US. 1 in 5 women have Alzheimers (compared to 1 in 11 of men) and 1 in 2 women will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

My final point is the analogy to pregnancy – another time of hormonal shift when we seek specialist help. And there is plenty of it. Whether it’s supplements, clothing, exercise routines or nursery designs, it’s all there. And I’ve not yet seen the bashtag #pregwashing.

With women at 50% of the population, surely we don’t want to keep harping on about the negatives. Brands – let’s see you. And if you see us respectfully, insightfully and in an evidence-based manner, we’ll love you.

The great imitation game: Everyone wants to be TikTok

If you’ve ever wanted proof that there’s no such thing as a new idea, social media channel design is a great places to start. From early Instagram being heavily inspired by Flickr, to Twitter’s short lived story feature (RIP, Fleets), social platforms love to copy each other when a user feature becomes popular. And it’s not always a bad thing (though, have you actually watched a LinkedIn Live?), these features are often duplicated as they are seen as useful to users, which will keep us on the apps more, which will sell more adverts. But is that what users really want? More of the same?

The question has been recently addressed for Instagram. In June, the company began user testing a new interface with reels at the centre of the design. It looked an awful lot like TikTok; with a full screen design and abandonment of the classic Instagram square that has been native to the app since it’s creation.

Of course; Instagram user tests new features all the time, but this one sank like a lead balloon. Professional creators Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner were quick to point out that the platform was ‘trying to be TikTok’ which led to Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, posting a mea culpa in the same week, an unusual move in our industry where direct user feedback is typically overlooked. But, history tells us that demands from the ‘special K’ corner of the internet do need to be heeded, as we all learnt when Snapchat’s share price dropped in 2018 after Kylie Jenner declared it to be over. (Side point – is anyone actually still using Snap?)

Instagram continues to be adamant that video is still the future of its platform, with the added caveat that they’ll still continue to celebrate photographic content from creators too. The new interface has been officially abandoned, and they’re back to the drawing board. But, the platform may still look to other social platforms for inspiration.

So, what’s that lurking on the social media horizon? Is it a selfie but with both cameras? Yes. It’s BeReal. An original concept, this app gives a daily notification that encourages users to share a photo of themselves and their immediate surroundings (the double selfie using both cameras) given a randomly selected two-minute window every day. Here’s one I took just now, in the interest of #transparency.

The perk of BeReal is to share content with your friends that ‘catches’ exactly what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and what it looks like. There’s no luxury filter, no hiding your real life. Hence the name, ‘BeReal’. It’s the ultimate competitor for Instagram. Everything the platform isn’t, BeReal is. But, that might not stop Instagram from throwing into the ring something that works in a similar way, either through notification and simultaneous posting, or the ‘double selfie’ feature either. Eagle eyed users have seen the app starting to test this dual camera feature earlier this month. Coupled with organic engagement falling off a cliff, new competitor apps, and the advent of video, could the clock finally be ticking on that ‘Instagrammable’ lifestyle we’ve all been pretending to live?

Let me know what you think on LinkedIn @lucycallaghan.

International Women’s Day: Propaganda Vs. Gender Bias

International Women’s Day is a time for us to put a spotlight on creating a gender equal world. Free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. As Managing Director of a brand consultancy that is 52% women, of which many hold senior positions, it boggles my mind that we have to have this conversation. Yet sadly we do.  In tribute to this year’s theme BreakTheBias, women across Propaganda call out past experiences of gender bias and we discuss the positive steps towards gender equality in the workplace.

 Laura Kynaston, Managing Director.


When I reflect on my career it’s refreshing to see it has been predominantly led by women leaders. Role models that never made me question the lack of women in leadership. When I set out as a fresh 22 year old, I had visions of what it would be like. Exciting creative, famous brands and big presentations. With it came long hours and a 100% commitment to the job and I loved it. When I became a mum I lost confidence having been out of the game for a while and questioned my ability. This is a time when a great employer truly shows.

My questions to mums are: How well do you feel supported coming back to work? How valued do you feel as an employee? Are you still recognised for career opportunities? Have you got flexibility to work around the commitments to your children? 

Just because I’m a mum doesn’t mean I’m not 100% committed to my job. Women should be encouraged to achieve both personally and professionally and I am proud to work at Propaganda where I am supported and empowered to flourish in both my roles.

Jo Parkinson, Account Director, marketer since 2005 and mum since 2016.


Every day I feel fortunate to be surrounded by incredible women. Leaders, colleagues, clients. Women who are raising a family while doing a kick ass job, women who blow me away with their talent, passion, and skill. And most importantly women who inspire and support each other. 

When I read stories of gender pay gaps or “glass ceilings” I can’t wrap my head around it – because I’ve only ever worked at a place where we celebrate men and women in equal measure – and quite rightly so. 

To all the women at Propaganda, I’m inspired by each and every one of you, and to all the men – thank you for never once make us question our worth.

Rachael Kynaston-Turner, Senior Account Director and single mum of 2 gorgeous boys.


As a senior (older woman) I can definitely say the issue shifts from sexism to ageism. Women and men are not perceived to age equally – for men, age brings power and status. For women, we are told, it’s about the loss of youth and looks, and with them, power. But, we are living in changing times and the volume of women fully growing up in the workplace is challenging that preconception. I am happy to say that I have had fantastic roles and projects throughout my career, and they only better with age.

Lately I have often been the only women in the team and the only woman in the meeting – and in that position, all parties understand the value that having that a woman brings. Statistically, we know that businesses with gender balanced boards do better. I am so pleased to be working with Propaganda, who are shining a light on the need for change within business and the marketplace. And that we’re looking at the role that our industry, as well as the brands we represent, has to play in that. Ageing – bring it on! 

Claire Lowson, Consultant, solo mum of two and advocate for positive female ageing

I previously worked in an agency led by women. Its clients were mainly from male dominated industries.  It wasn’t just being a female that I had to contend with, it was also my age. 

As a young female, I was grateful for the women around me, who were positive role models in demonstrating worth and empowered me to be the best version of me. We could do our hair, make-up and nails however we want and still be a boss at our job. 

It was invigorating to not have to change my appearance to be taken seriously. How I looked was no reflection upon my intelligence. I was able to add value and make a difference to my clients. This led to some great, measurable campaign results that I am extremely proud of.

Greta Deans, Project Manager.

For bias to be broken, employers play a vital role in enabling gender equality. Propaganda does not tolerate any form of gender bias today or any other day. It’s that simple.

Julian Kynaston, Chair.

Propaganda helps GenM reach men with important menopause message

The world’s first menopause partner for brands, GenM, appointed Propaganda to develop and orchestrate its first campaign of 2022. Having relaunched its proposition in October 2021, GenM is a world-first collective of responsible brands and organisations that recognise and respond to the needs of menopausal people.

Now, their second national campaign (titled ‘Shattered’) will highlight the importance of men understanding the menopause and the mental and physical effects it can have on the women in their lives. ‘Shattered’ will run through February, featuring on 6-sheet and 48-sheet billboards and gym screens across the nation, as well as digital advertising on the Guardian website throughout the month.

Designed by Propaganda’s creative team, the two striking visuals feature a broken glass effect laid over a black and white portrait of a man and one of a women, demonstrating the shocking and life-changing effects that the menopause can have on lives. The text reads, “Men: Misunderstanding the menopause shatters lives”.

In addition to the adverts, Propaganda has also ‘shattered’ the GenM website. Upon opening the site, the usual homepage suddenly cracks and disintegrates while the campaign visuals appear in an eye-catching animation, forcing viewers to take notice. Propaganda has also designed a ‘shattered’ GenM logo that will feature on the organisation’s social media pages, and has created the same for all of GenM’s Founding Partner brands.

‘Shattered’ was inspired by the story of David Salmon – a man from Yorkshire whose wife, Linda, sadly took her life in April 2020 at just 56 years of age. In addition to the pressures of lockdown and the pandemic, Linda’s mental health had nosedived as a result of entering the perimenopause (the transition period before menopause) and she had been signed off work with anxiety. Days later, she took her own life. More on David’s story can be found here.

David is determined to spread awareness about the invisible mental impact of the menopause so that no other families have to experience what he has been through. GenM and Propaganda approached David after seeing his story in the news and this campaign has been built around him with his input throughout.

Chairman of Propaganda, Julian Kynaston says, “We’re so pleased to be able to bring attention to a very important cause with this striking campaign. We wanted to do something that would draw the eye and really wake people up, which is why Alicja Kowalczyk, our Design Director, chose the smashed glass effect. We worked with David on the concept and feel of the campaign, as well as the tone of the copy, helping us authentically portray his feelings, and also making sure that it would get through to people like himself.”

Heather Jackson, co-founder of GenM, says, “We would like to say a huge thank you to David for being a champion for the menopause. He knows firsthand how misunderstanding it can shatter lives and hopefully he can be an inspiration to men, and to everyone, to learn more about its effects. The menopause is different for everybody and not all will have such a difficult time with it. But everyone who’s been through it would agree that their experience could have been better, and that’s what we’re working towards – improving the menopause experience for all.”

Propaganda Shines A Light On BSW Group Launch

BSW – The UK’s largest integrated forestry and sawmilling group appointed Propaganda to conduct a strategic brand review across its estate of group companies and capabilities. Introduced by Endless LLP, the brief was to enhance BSW’s value through a clear, compelling brand narrative – ultimately preparing the group for exit in three to four years.

Propaganda’s Brand Discovery™ consultative process established how to do just that; positioning the group for accelerated and sustainable growth and communicating the combined value it offers under an overarching group brand – with an overall ambition to be the most innovative, technologically advanced, and sustainable timber business in the UK.

This new direction set out to disrupt a traditional industry and showcase timber “in a new light.” A vision that Propaganda’s creative execution perfectly articulates, through an exciting, vibrant, and progressive identity – one that stands apart from the markets go-to, uninspiring, landscape imagery. Shot in Bramham Park, Wetherby (a BSW managed forest), Propaganda literally lit up the forest to create the unique brand imagery.

“Our primary intention was to break away from the cliché images, which are synonymous with the industry in order to create something futuristic that symbolised the brands ambitions to lead the industry forward. A vision the group also embraced. Images of the woods at night, often look cold and lifeless – a challenge we embraced. We pushed every boundary we knew as the goal was to make the forest feel alive and illuminated, which we undoubtedly achieved.” says Lee Bennett, Head of Creative, Propaganda.

The creative is now live across the full group, with the relaunch including a national trade campaign, and a dynamic website, which showcases the groups positioning.

Prior to the official launch, the group was successfully acquired by Binderholz – Europe’s leading timber processing operation. Our strategy to present sustainable, value-creating capabilities under a group banner echoed Binderholzs’ values and ambition – and was a big part of the attraction.

Following the acquisition, Propaganda continues to work with BSW to support and roll-out the group launch, as well as the creation of various thought-leading initiatives that will drive positive change for the group, and the industry.

Suit Direct Appoints Propaganda To Support Strategic Growth

One of the fastest growing men’s formalwear retailers in the UK, Suit Direct has appointed, without pitch, Leeds-based brand and creative consultancy, Propaganda.

Home to fantastic formalwear brands, including Ted Baker, Ben Sherman, Marc Darcy and Racing Green, and owned by Baird Group Ltd, Suit Direct has over 40 of its own stores across the UK High Street and outlet centres, plus a global ecommerce platform. As part of the partnership, Propaganda will be supporting Baird Group in developing an omnichannel brand strategy designed to position Suit Direct for continued aggressive growth.

It is well documented that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the permanent structural shift to online by 3-5 years. As such, the last 18 months has been challenging for many retailers, those who emerged as winners were already digitally enabled, reacted swiftly, and pivoted to address challenges and opportunities. As a result, Suit Direct has experienced significant online growth over the last 18 months and is now placed to see that growth continue at its current rate.

Mark Cotter, CEO, Baird Group said: “The pandemic has played a key role in advancing the need for next-level omnichannel retailing. We believe that Propaganda, their track record, and their ability to challenge will support us in driving our brand to the next level.”

Julian Kynaston, Founder, Propaganda added: “We’re excited to be working with Baird Group to create a leading brand of distinction in Suit Direct, and to firmly establish the brand in the hearts and minds of the target consumer. We intend to fully harness their incredible ambition to capitalise on the opportunity for growth.”

Rethinking Attribution Challenges In Digital Marketing

It’s pretty standard these days for a brand to utilise multiple digital agencies – a PPC agency alongside a Social Media agency, alongside an SEO agency. And it’s easy to see why. After all, why would you settle for compromise when you can have a specialist in each field working for you? 

But it throws up a question – when all the specialists are focused on their individual areas, who is looking at the bigger picture? As long as their monthly report shows a healthy ROAS or a broad increase in page rankings for example, why would each individual specialist necessarily notice if the brand’s bottom line had stagnated and failed to grow last year? 

What we’re increasingly seeing in our client briefs, is the digital sector sometimes missing the mark in articulating and understanding the complex intricacies of sales attribution, and how they impact their client’s overall marketing strategies. 

Choosing and investing in the wrong strategy can cost a business. We often come across strategies that see the majority of budget focused on brand bidding in Paid Search and typical re-targeting campaigns across Social Media and Display. Whilst this usually shows healthy ROAS figures, what you’re really doing is going after the same pool of potential customers who are already brand aware. This will ultimately result in growth slowing, and eventually flatlining completely. 

It’s common knowledge that there is no ‘one size fits all’ path to conversion in the digital landscape, the modern elements of marketing don’t work independently, they work in unison. In a recent white paper, Deloitte discovered that over 60% of orders come off the back of a customer having been nudged down the sales funnel, having ‘touched’ multiple channels on their way there. As such, digital marketing strategies overall, need to analyse and optimise the part that all channels play collectively. 

The problem is, measuring attribution accurately is costly, technically advanced, and sometimes even questionable, if done as scientifically as the tools will allow. Due to the source data you are having to use, you are entirely in their hands as to the accuracy of what is provided. It leaves a lingering question mark in the background – you simply must trust the likes of Facebook and Google – you have no choice.

Facing these challenges, we created Digital Intelligence. It deploys a process to holistically analyse a brand’s performance from the top down. This doesn’t just include the regular digital channel audit, but a forensic interrogation of the brands operations, trading history, competitor set, positioning, customer behaviour and profitability. 

Ultimately, we want to emerge from the process not only with the insights that empower the brand to make the right decisions, but with a set of clear and tangible strategic recommendations that dovetails a long-term brand strategy with short term digital execution to ensure that the business will embark on a sustainable growth journey.

For more information, get in touch today. 

Why Brands Should be Using the Menopause Market as a Strategy for Growth

After 30 years as a Marketer, it’s easy to become cynical of clients who want to sell products or services that nobody really wants or needs. At the start of my career, I would have welcomed almost any brief. But the older I get, the more depressing it is to be asked to work on such things.

Brands have become short-sighted, focussing only on products or services that rely on agencies to convince consumers that they need them in their lives. Yet, right under almost every marketer’s nose is an underserved market desperate for support, and therefore, desperate to buy. It’s a market with 48 different ‘needs’ for 48 different symptoms, most of which have very little awareness, understanding, and are not being catered for in products or services. And a market that has over 13 million UK consumers, and 1 billion consumers worldwide, all demanding solutions.

Now, let’s take a moment to pause and note that the vegan market, representing just 2% of the UK population, is readily targeted by brands and retailers and has its own aisle in most major multiples.

So, who am I talking about? The answer: the perimenopausal and menopausal woman. She’s often scared, confused and desperate for education and help. She has 48 potential symptoms associated with menopause, of which only three are openly discussed. And she’s arguably the largest untapped market on earth who has been overlooked and made to feel invisible.

It’s times like this when I feel both disappointed and critical of marketers and brands. The world must do better, so we much do better. Rather than inventing product after product that nobody really needs, and agencies creating incredible work to make people want it, why aren’t we seizing an opportunity so big that it could give us all endless work and transformational growth?

I struggle to think of a client who wouldn’t benefit from the commercial opportunities in and amongst the 48 symptoms of the menopause. From beauty and vitamins to education and textiles, 13 million menopausal women are crying out for brands to support them with non-medical alternatives to HRT. In fact, 97% of menopausal women believe brands should work harder to cater for the menopause, and I strongly agree.

Given the numbers, why is this colossal market force being ignored and underestimated? Society has spent years dismissing the menopause as something to deny, fear and eradicate. It remains a social taboo, and there is still a great deal of stigma to dismantle, so it’s no wonder many women feel totally unprepared for this natural transition.

But all this didn’t stand in the way of friends Heather Jackson and Sam Simister who, out of personal experiences, founded a new kind of organisation called GEN M.

Heather and Sam approached me to help them unite responsible brands and employers to improve the menopause experience, normalise the conversation, and end the injustices towards menopausal women, both inside and outside the workplace. In this way, GEN M aims to empower women to enter this pivotal time in their lives feeling supported, educated and without fear.

I didn’t hesitate to help. It made perfect sense. I’m in – and so most of Propaganda’s clients in one way or another.

The first 48 Founding Partner brands of GEN M, named in honour of the 48 symptoms of the menopause, will sign a 5-point GEN M Pledge, which involves being a voice for change and better representing menopausal women in their products, services, marketing activity and workplace policies. Since our work with GEN M, Heather and Sam have already onboarded over 20 major brands, including M&S, Always Discreet, Boots and Bravissimo.

How cool is it to actually do something that will make a positive difference? And I applaud GEN M for having the foresight and passion for instigating meaningful change. We needed to be forthright in asking brands to monetise the menopause, For ALL the right reasons.

If you’re interested in your brand becoming part of Gen M (they are naming their first 48 partners “founding partners” and currently have secured 34 brands – so time is running out!) then please reach out to myself, Heather or Sam.

Paying for Nothing

When I founded Propaganda twenty-five years ago, nearly all the communications I received from people, whether they were trying to introduce me to their business or sell me their products, took the form of handwritten letters. I used to read them all.

Since then, the Direct Mail Marketing industry has taken root and grown into a behemoth. First came the proliferation of over-produced mail-outs, with the guiding principle being ‘the fancier the better’ – often amounting to countless acres of trees being consumed in the process. Today’s equivalent is the quantity-over-quality approach to digital marketing, with campaigns that fill feeds and flood inboxes with impersonal messages; emails which simply ask you if you’ve read a previous email; and best of all perhaps, the ever-mysterious LinkedIn invitation to follow someone who “read your profile and thinks we really should connect”.

It often seems to be the case that, out of a desire to produce something “novel” and “eye-catching”, we are missing the forest for the trees. What if companies were to go full circle by reverting to a simple handwritten letter? A throwback to simpler times, so unassuming that it inadvertently ends up cutting through the noise and saying more than any amount of marketing budget ever could. Essentially, no design or copywriting to be paid for, just a few personal, thoughtful sentences, which the client can often write themselves.

How many agencies would propose that to a client, let alone charge them for it? No big production budget, just an idea. Where is the margin in that? But the smartest client should always be happy to pay for the best strategic answer. Even if that answer is to take no action or spend no money.

To further illustrate this point, consider the following three case studies.

In 2011, when BBH revealed their creative response for British Airways’ biggest campaign for years, they recommended that the new strapline for the brand was… their old strapline. They rightly chose not to make a change, given that the one they already had perfectly answered the brief.

Exhibitions and trade shows are another example of action driven by convention. For most companies, the default option is to invest tens of of thousands of pounds for the luxury of putting their business services on display in a room where they are, unfortunately, guaranteed to be surrounded by their competitors. Inadvertently, they end up investing time and money in their own hard-earned customers being directly courted by the opposition.

What would be a smarter, more strategic approach to trade shows? Simple: not doing them. One soft furnishings firm became famous for diverting their trade show budget into the lease of a rustic stately home. When the guests arrived, all the cows in the adjacent field were ‘dressed’ in the brand’s latest fabric designs. That represents real talkability and real one-on-one business. The ingenious manoeuvre became industry folklore, which everyone in the soft furnishings industry still remembers, while not a soul can remember the participants in that year’s trade show. The smart-thinking firm stole the show, and stole it without even going.

A few years ago, Propaganda was tasked to advise a company who made innovative training cups on how they could combat an established rival baby brand, who were on the cusp of launching their own competing cup. How should their business respond? After undertaking an extensive Discovery process to understand the brand’s competitors, their market, and their place within it, our consultancy announced that the right move was to do… nothing.

It would have been easier to recommend a more conventional campaign. Easier but unwise. Because our client’s brand would suddenly be perceived as small and reactive, rather than the confident category leaders they were. They paid £10,000 to be told to do nothing, and were happy to take the advice and pay the fee. They would have been willing to pay much more, for a whole barrage of tactics, but it wouldn’t have moved the needle, so we didn’t recommend it.

Sometimes, the best course of action is strategic inaction. Restraint has its rewards. And that kind of advice is well worth paying for.