Brain Food: Speaking Out - John Grant, co-founder of St Luke's

The thought of listening to an advertising guru waxing lyrical about 'Brand Reality' is enough to fill most people with dread.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

So it was with some trepidation that I headed to a hotel in Essex to listen to John Grant, formerly of St Luke's and now an author and consultant. I was pleasantly surprised - despite a shaky start. The poor lighting provided by IMM, the organisers of the international campaign planning conference, made Grant - dressed in scruffy jeans and black jumper - look like a black cat in a coal cellar.

Yet his presentation was full of anecdote and brimming with examples.

Grant is all about debunking the standard ad-speak, and his style is conversational and accessible. His message was that you can do your best to produce the most stunning advertising and promotional campaign but, in his words, 'if the product is shite, the consumer will vote with his feet'. There are now 200 types of media to choose from and advertisers must think carefully about what they promote and how.

He was sound in pointing out that all the advertising in the world won't necessarily build a great brand, and that names such as eBay, Google and Starbucks have built their brands pretty well without using conventional marketing.

Grant has an easy, laconic style that's audience-friendly. Even when he used the 'c' word in an anecdote - something I've never heard before from a platform speaker - his audience laughed with him.

Key moment: The revelation that Nike made its first billion dollars as a result of one of its founders writing the book Jogging.

Key lesson: Talk conversationally, with plenty of examples, and your audience will love it.

Silver tongue or foot in mouth? ... Silver tongue

- A visiting professor of business communications at Southampton University, Khalid Aziz chairs the Aziz Corporation (

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