Fighting complexity in marketing and kicking the butt of impostor syndrome

“What if the audience think my messages are too simple?”

This thought came crashing into my mind as I sat in aeroplane thirty-five thousand feet above the Alps.

Beyond the oval window, I could see the clear blue sky, snow-tipped mountains and lakes glistening in the sunlight. I was on my way to a marketing conference in Montenegro to give a speech on fighting complexity in marketing. The organisers invited me because they saw a video of my performance at CMA Live last summer in Edinburgh. So, I should have felt confident, motivated and ready to rock that stage.

Instead, when the cabin crew lady handed me my coffee, I felt a sinking feeling and a rush of nerves.

Fighting complexity in marketing and kicking the butt of impostor syndrome

I thought, “What the hell are you doing?”

“In two days’ time, you’ll on a stage in front of an audience of 150 people for whom English is not their first language. And they’re marketing directors of big companies or marketing agency people.”

“Can I really teach them anything?”

“Will they be remotely interested in keeping things simple?”

I wondered what the odds were the plane would develop a technical fault and we’d divert to Austria. I guess a heavy dose of imposter syndrome came and hit me right between the eyes.

But here’s the reality.

I ran up the stairs to the stage in Podgorica top the heavy beat sound of UK hardcore techno-music (a link to my side hustle as a Body Combat instructor). Imposter syndrome defeated by the atmosphere of the event and the warm welcome given by the conference organisers and the other speakers and guests.

The speech went off without a hitch, delivered in my usual upbeat, motivational style.

Fighting complexity in marketing and kicking the butt of impostor syndrome

And do you know what? They loved the speech. I’d adapted it to compensate for the language difference. For example, they wouldn’t know what “muppetry” meant in the context of big companies doing stupid things. But mainly, it was the same “fighting complexity” speech I’d done in Edinburgh and many times since.

They applauded the simple messages. They wanted to talk afterwards about how simple marketing strategy could be.

My fear the audience would think my messages were too simple was unfounded. They positively embraced the simplicity. They were crying out for it.

After, I was somewhat embarrassed, but humbled some of the guests wanted to take selfies with me.

Fighting complexity in marketing and kicking the butt of impostor syndrome

I felt reassured my wish to help people keep marketing simple is the right direction for my consultancy business and for my future speaking engagements.

Companies the world over make marketing, especially the strategy part, far too complicated.

Young people shy away from it because it sucks the energy and creativity out of them. The veterans resign themselves to it because they lack the will to fight against it. Strategy sucked the energy and creativity out of them long ago.


Can I really teach them anything? Yes!

Will they be remotely interested in keeping things simple? Damn right!

Over the last 2 years as I’ve refocused on my speaking career after a short break. I’ve invested in some top-notch training and coaching. The World Class Communication course with Marcus Sheridan helped me become a better teacher.

Now I want to get out there more and help others find the simplicity they crave.

Now it’s your turn:

I’m taking bookings for 2018. If you want me to give my “Fighting Complexity” speech at your event please visit my speaker page to find out more about what I can do for you.

And if you want to see a little more of the beautiful country of Montenegro please watch my VLOG.

Social Media Warriors Podcast featuring Roger Edwards

I’m a “Social Media Warrior”.

I’ve never claimed to be an expert in social media or, heaven forbid, a guru. How can you be when the world changes so quickly.

But I like Social Media Warrior.

My friend and fellow keynote speaker, Phil Calvert, just launched his Social Media Warriors Podcast and I’m delighted to feature in episode 6.

You can listen to the show by clicking below.

This is what Phil has to say:

In the 6th edition of the Social Media Warriors Podcast we meet Roger Edwards.

Roger comes from Edinburgh in Scotland and is a highly experienced marketer, having had his hands on substantial budgets during his life in the corporate world.

Today he specialises in keeping things simple, and has a compelling dislike for bloated processes, mumbo jumbo language and business jargon.

As a qualified exercise class and yoga teacher, Roger’s also been known to ask his clients to take off their ties and put on their trainers – taking their fitness, as well as their marketing, to the next level.

Oh, and he’s a prolific podcaster too…

Social media warriors

I had a great time talking to Phil on the Social Media Warriors Podcast. We riffed on progressive rock, Genesis and Magnum the bands, fighting complexity in marketing, and using content to get people to trust you.

Now it’s your turn:

Visit the Social Media Warriors Podcast Page

The key to financial services: Be simpler, more human and braver

Be simpler. Be more human. And be braver.

These are the concepts everyone in the UK protection market needs to adopt to be successful in future according to speakers at this summer’s Protection Review Conference.

financial services

Simpler is obvious. Well known campaigner for plainer English in financial services, Rhys Williams of Quiet Room suggested we need less complicated products. Easier to understand marketing and policy material. And quick navigable straight through processes.

Being more human needs product providers to show more empathy with customers, particularly at claims stage. Empathy expert Alasdair McGill described better methods of communications to make the customer experience for bereaved people better in such difficult circumstances.

And being braver meant exploring new product models, challenging established ones and pushing the boundaries with underwriting. Jackie Leiper from Scottish Widows looked at some of the innovations from different insurance markets and the lessons we could learn.

There is evidence of all this starting to happen.

AIG Life’s critical illness product, Key 3, is a good example of making things simple.

The 7 Families income protection campaign proves the power of using video to tell the stories of people affected by illness. That’s a more human touch.

It’s harder to find examples of protection companies being braver however.

Another common thread discussed by the panel that followed these speakers was the need for the industry to better engage with younger people. Journalist Iona Bain, founder of the Young Money Blog put forward some interesting views on the communications challenges involved. In the days after the conference, I found myself thinking more and more about young people and protection. I wished we’d had more time to explore some of the issues Iona raised.


I went away and started looking for companies in other industries that had looked at specifically marketing a product to younger people. It became clear that among marketers there’s much talk about how to target millennial.

Is that what protection providers should do? Come up with a set of products, marketing campaigns and processes that’ll appeal to millennials?

Air France is launching an airline for millennials. Called, Joon, it aims to complement the supposed millennial lifestyle revolving around digital technology, convenience and low-cost.

The more I dug into the idea though the more detractors I found to the idea of targeting millennials. Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson said segmenting an audience purely based on age is “stupid”. And targeting millennials “makes a mockery of just about every principle of basic segmentation”. As I career marketer I agree with this.

“Clearly millennials as a generational cohort do exist – they are the two billion people on the planet born between 1981 and 2000. But the idea that this giant army all want similar stuff or think in similar ways is clearly [rubbish].” (Mark used a much more vivid term in his original article.)

Marketing strategy

Of course, it’s basic marketing theory. Find out what your customers problems are, find a solution to that problem and then communicate with them about why your solution is better than everyone else’s. There are millennials who like rock music and there are those who like drum and bass or dubstep. One size doesn’t fit all.

A protection millennial solution might use the same digital, convenience and low-cost approach to Joon. If young people are more used to renewable contacts on phones and other services, perhaps an annually renewable term assurance would be better?

My conclusion, after reading up on the subject, was that whilst we need to talk to more younger customers and include them in our product development process, the recommendations of the speakers at the Protection Review Conference are the ones to follow.

Being simpler, more human and braver will ultimately work for all customers whether they belong to the millennial generation, that which came before and those that will come later.

Now it’s you turn:

How do you think we can be simpler, more human and braver. In any industry, not necessarily just financial services? Please leave a comment and share on social media.

If you need help keeping your marketing simpler – please get in touch and let’s talk about how I could help you.

Money Marketing Magazine published a shorter, edited version, of this article right here.