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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Pirate King

publiffed Oct 2004

Here’s an exclusive interview with Adam Morgan below. Adam Morgan’s career has covered BMP, TBWA and Chiat Day in the USA. He wrote Eat the Big Fish which has become something of a classic and put Challenger brands on the map. On the back of it Adam started his own consultancy Eatbigfish. His new book The Pirate Inside was published in July 2004.

You can read my review of The Pirate Inside below that. Click here to read the review.



Buy the book , listen to the interview read the review

Listen to the Pirate Inside Interview
The following extracts come from an interview I conducted with Adam Morgan on Sept 8th 2004 at Eatbigfish off Bermondsdey Street. Some of his answers run to a couple of minutes but I didn’t want to break the flow! So you really need broadband to listen to the interview. The figures attached to the questions give an indication of file size – about 1 megabyte per minute as a guideline. Click on the icons to hear the mp3 files play back.

    play How did you come to get into the challenger business?? (3.1MB)

    play How would you describe what a challenger brand is? (787K)

    play How different is what you do now from when you were an ad planner?? (1.2MB)

    play What’s the elevator pitch for the Pirate Inside? (716K)

    play You spend some time saying it’s about different individuals but in the Wrapping chapter you talk a lot about subcultures..and country brands (2.2MB)

    play What changed in your thinking between writing Eat the Big Fish and Pirate Inside? (1559K)

    play Is this a book for pirates, privateers or monarchs on how to manage privateers? (2.4Mb)

    play How much piratical thinking is going on in agencies at present? (1.7MB)

    play You recommend that a piratical crew has a set of articles, a group contract? What’s in the Eatbigfish contract? (941K)

    play You’re doing a pulsing workshop later this month. Where does pulsing fit? (1.9MB)

    play You’re already promised another book. What’s Fugitive Indigo about? (1.48MB)


Review of The Pirate Inside

Pirates is a very different book from Eat the Big Fish. What it shares with its predecessor is quantity – in an era when someone with half an idea pumps out a business title – it’s a pleasure to read a book with so much substance to it.

Pirates is about the kind of culture that produces challenger brands – Adam Morgan is responding to the most common objection to Eat the Big Fish – “It couldn’t happen here”. The original title was called 6 Excuses for the Navy. His argument is that with the right team and an understanding of the challenges which a brand needs to overcome – there’s no reason why any brand team shouldn’t start to engage in a little piracy of its own.

Pirates should really be put alongside that category of business books about startups and business development, the difference being that he is writing about how to grow and develop a a living brand culture within the client organisation not the company itself. And to counter the perception that what you need is a strong brand founder he outlines the complementary roles that the brand team needs to have within it if it is to have any hope of success. There are a host of case studies – the book was built on some 50 interviews with people who successfully created or turned around challenger brands. And the book includes a section on why challenger brands fail, and how a client organisation can nurture individual brand teams without feeling that its own culture has been compromised or watered down. This really is a book for organisations rather than start-ups.

The chapter on Wrapping – a different kind of communication is very intriguing. The idea is based on country brands which have their own belief system, culture, dialect and iconography – and despite what politicians would like to believe – these emerge spontaneously and have tremendous power. When I first read the book I wondered if the Wrapping chapter really fit – it seemed to outgrow the chapters around it – almost to merit a book of its own. But the reason the country metaphor works so well is that it is a much more organic way of considering brand development – one very different from that of an external supplier. Brands don’t come to life from flipcharts – the map is not the territory. And the country brand is a fantastic metaphor for the idiosyncracy and inconsistency that forms around living brands – and the way they develop – not according to organograms and Gantt charts but as layers of meaning are wrapped on – some of it sticks, lots of it doesn’t – this is live brand building from a client perspective and I can’t think of another book which unpacks this so effectively. A country brand is one which not only the client team own and are passionate about building but one which a customer recognises, empathises with and wants to become a citizen of. Worth the purchase price for that chapter alone!

What I like about the book is the very invidual take on the motivation of those involved – Eat the Big Fish is much more like a classic text book – Pirates is about the thrills and spills of growing a business. And it has an energy about it which I certainly associate with being a brand proprietor rather than a caretaker manager. And it does raise the question as to how agencies as so called business partners can help to drive challenger brands – so much of the dynamic comes from a sense of ownership which refuses to lie down or take no for an answer. I don’t think Pirates will have the same broad appeal that Eat the Big Fish has enjoyed. But personally I prefer it.

Click here to order your own copy of The Pirate Inside

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