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Our February 2021 Masterclass was a panel event including one of Yorkshire’s most successful marketing entrepreneurs Jonathan Sands OBE of Elmwood and 2 members of Connect Yorkshire, Katrina Cliffe of KC Communications and Mike Hall of ThinkSmart Marketing.

The event was chaired by Caroline Broad from our Legal Partner Clarion

The Panel

Jonathan Sands – I have been at Elmwood since I was 21, 40 years ago. I did a buy-out at age 28 of a company worth £500k, so I borrowed £0.5m at 16%pa! I took a sabbatical 4 years ago for 3months. I asked our NED to chair Elmwood, as he did a good job, ‘so what next?’ I am now the Vexillifer, i.e. the flag bearer at the front of the legion. Everybody googles it. It’s an opportunity to talk to people.

Mike Hall – Started out in marketing 35 years ago. I did marketing for O2, BT and big corporations for many years. They’d always answer yes, oh what was the question? Got to 50; children left home came up with a new idea and started ThinkSmart Marketing.

Katrina Cliffe – I’ve been in the marketing industry for 20 years. I started as a 16 yr old apprentice selling cars. Hated it. First marketing job was with Attic, a big marketing co. Had children, decided to freelance, work kept growing so started my own company. Work with Medtech devising strategy and implementing it.

After the panel introduced themselves, the first subject was:


Jonathan Sands-I have a picture of Jerry Garcia in my office

 “It’s no longer good enough to be the best in the world, you have to be the only one” – Jerry Garcia.

If you are the only one who does what you do, that’s almost always down to attitude.15 years ago I was walking round Melbourne one Saturday afternoon and saw a pen in a shop window, priced at the equivalent of £3k. It was a gold plated and beautiful Faber-Castell, the famous pen maker, they only made one equivalent pen p.a. It increases in value every year. It defies a rational purchase price; people buy things that defy a logical reason. 

When we think about a brand, think about rational truth. It is an opportunity to buy into a tribe. Brands are tribes. For example, if I’ve been to Harvard, I’m part of a tribe. People wax lyrical about a brand.

Mike Hall – We want a brand to go on a journey and it must have consistency through each process, make it a constant review process.

Jonathan Sands – Competitive brands are mapping and gapping. Where are our sweet spots and how can we amplify them? Brand story is all important. There are 4 key pillars; 2 very difficult to build, but equally difficult to destroy, 2 very easy to build, but equally easy to destroy. Familiarity and Esteem (like defunct Kodak and Triumph). Difference and Relevance.

Katrina Cliffe – Storytelling is vital; we are involved with a manufacturer of windows, doors etc. They must try to understand the end user. We have to do a lot of training to put them in their customers’ shoes. In the last 12 months there has been a big shift in what customers want such as feeling part of a tribe.

Getting Noticed

Jonathan Sands

In one meeting I clapped very loudly in my target clients ears to get to his biomotive responsible. I had to get to the dangerous area of his brain. Usually do the opposite of normal. You must find a way to stand out.

Geek Squad (now 40,000 people) was set up as a tech operator. They wanted a cool car so bought a black and white Renault and put their big logo all over it. Got a friend at CNN to warn them every time there was a major incident, and their strange car was parked in line of the cameras at all the incidents, so became well known. Their tag line is ‘You never saw us, we were never there.’ It cut through attitudes.

Social Media

Mike Hall – Focus on the SM channels that work for you.

Katrina Cliffe – Automatic tools are great but you must follow up leads; any SM contact is good but you must engage with people. Drill down into a clients data on targets and customers.

Jonathan Sands – What you are trying to do will dictate which is the right channel for you. Make it personal, make it sticky, flatter the person doing the post. SM is an opportunity to get your point of difference across.


Nick Butler