Quality & Speed in Sustainable Recovery

Reserach report evaluating perspectives on sustainable recovery solutions post COVID-19 pandemic

In July 2020, Continuous Improvement Projects Ltd launched a survey, where Dr Monomita Nandy took part in. This market research, supported by academic research, is intended to support businesses and the Government in tapering their approach to achieve sustainable economic recovery.

A total of 16 different industries participated in this research project and the findings of this research provide an evidence-based perspective on how businesses are responding to the pandemic and planning for the post-COVID era.

The findings of this survey emphasise the need for immediate efforts to be focused on people and operations. There is confidence amongst business stakeholders that they will grow within the next 2 years. However in order to achieve this, transformational changes will be required to to operations, delivery of services and products, and technological infrastructure in order to manage and optimise their workforce to generate greater value.

The Evidence document outlines recommendations on potential support packages and areas of focus for the Government to consider, based on recent survey data, lessons learnt from the past, professional experience and respected academic models.

This research is intended to support businesses and the Government in tapering their approach, and will be used by the team of specialists at CIP to reflect on their  own strategy and target operating model so that they can adapt an approach to better support the future needs of businesses.

E: info@ciprojectsltd.co.uk
W: ciprojectsltd.co.uk

Apple is starting a war over privacy with iOS 14 – publishers are naive if they think it will back down

This article was written for The Conversation by Dr Ana Canhoto (Reader in Marketing at Brunel University London) and is republished under a Creative Commons licence.

iPhone users are about to receive access to Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 14. It will come with the usual array of shiny new features, but the real game-changer will be missing – at least until January.

For the first time, iOS 14 is to require apps to get permission from users before collecting their data – giving users an opt-in to this compromise to their privacy.

This caused a major backlash from companies that rely on this data to make money, most notably Facebook. So why did Apple decide to jeopardise the business models of major rivals and their advertisers, and will the postponement make any difference?

The backlash

The opt-in is not the only change in iOS 14 that gives users more privacy protection, but it has attracted the most attention. Privacy campaigners will applaud the move, but the reaction from the media business has been mixed. The likes of American online publishing trade body Digital Content Next thought it would potentially benefit members.

But Facebook warned the opt-in could halve publishers’ revenues on its advertising platform, while some publishers are loudly concerned. The owner of UK news site Mail Online, DMG Media, threatened to delete its app from the App Store.

Whether publishers win or lose very much depends on their business model and customer base. Publishers’ model of selling their product to consumers and selling space to advertisers has been badly damaged by the internet. All the free content online drove down physical sales, which in turn eroded advertising income.

A few publications, like The Times in the UK, managed to convert readers into online subscribers, but the majority didn’t. Consequently online advertising revenues have become very important for most publishers – particularly behavioural or targeted advertising, which displays different ads to different viewers of the same page according to factors like their location, browser, and which websites they have visited. The adverts they see are decided by an ad trader, which is often Google.

Despite the importance of behavioural advertising to online publishers, they receive under 30% of what advertisers pay. Most of the remainder goes to Google and Facebook.

These two companies’ power comes from ad-trading, and because they own many platforms on which publishers’ content is consumed – be it Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or the Google search engine – and sell advertising on the back of the user data. To increase behavioural advertising income on their own sites, publishers are left with either attracting lots of viewers via clickbait or inflammatory content, or attracting difficult to reach, valuable customers via niche content.

Clickbait tends to upset customers, especially highly educated ones, while niche content tends to be too smalltime for large media publishers. The reason some publishers welcome Apple’s move is that it could give them more control over advertising again, not only through selling more traditional display ads but also by developing other streams such as subscriptions and branded content.

For instance, the New York Times saw its ad revenues increase when it ditched targeted ads in favour of traditional online display in Europe in 2018 to get around the GDPR data protection restrictions. Conversely, DMG Media’s reaction to iOS 14 is because it collects and sells customer data on the Mail Online app, and also uses content with shock value to attract visitors and advertisers.

Privacy politics

Another important factor is the growing signs of a pushback against highly targeted advertising.

With online users becoming increasingly concerned about online privacy, they are likely to engage less with ads, which reduces’ publishers’ income. They might also stop visiting sites displaying the targeted ads.

This is particularly true of more educated users, so curbing data collection could help publishers who serve these people. Online advertising also attracts more clicks when users control their data, so this could be a selling point to advertisers.

More generally, making traditional display advertising more important will benefit large publishers, since they have bigger audiences to sell to advertisers; but also those with clearly defined niche audiences (the Financial Times, say), since they offer a great way for advertisers to reach these people.

Online advertising represents 99% of Facebook revenues, so its resistance is not surprising. Online advertising is also important to Google revenues, though less so, and Google is also betting on the growing importance of consumer privacy by limiting data collection too – for instance, by third-party websites on the Chrome browser.

Apple’s perspective

Apple has little to gain here in the short term. It may even lose out if the likes of Mail Online leave the platform. But this is not a short-term move.

Apple wants to be known for a few things, such as user-friendly interfaces. It is also known for not aggressively collecting and exploiting user data, and standing up for consumer privacy.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which exposed Facebook’s lax privacy practices, Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said his company would never monetise customers’ information because privacy was a human right. The iOS 14 uneviling fits this approach. It helps Apple differentiate from competitors. It protects the company from privacy scandals. And it helps develop customer trust.

Moreover, Apple doesn’t need to exploit customers’ data. Apple’s revenues derive mostly from hardware products and software licences. This business model requires large upfront investment and constant innovation, but is difficult to copy (due to patents, technical capacity and talent) and creates high barriers to entry.

Therefore Apple’s decision to postpone the opt-in until January is not a sign that it might backtrack on the feature. Privacy is core to Apple, and the company’s share of the app market is such that ultimately it is unlikely to feel threatened by some publishers withdrawing. The delay simply makes Apple look reasonable at a time when it is fighting accusations of monopolistic behaviour and unfair practices. So publishers should get ready for significant changes in the app ecosystem, whether they like it or not.

Small businesses hit by the pandemic to access support through government partnership with Brunel Business School

Brunel Business School is working with the Small Business Charter to deliver a specialised government-funded programme for leaders of small businesses to survive and thrive in the coming months and post-coronavirus. This new scheme comes as part of a £20 million package the government is providing to help small businesses in the long term.

To aid business resilience and future growth in the current climate, the Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP) will create peer groups to develop stronger leadership, innovation, operational efficiency, marketing and finance.

Coronavirus has put untold pressure on directors and CEOs of small companies trying to navigate unchartered waters. According to a recent McKinsey online survey of UK SMEs, 80% of small businesses reported their revenues were declining in June in 2020.

The government has made up to £30 billion available to support economic recovery ahead of the autumn, and businesses can continue to draw upon a range of financial support during this challenging time, including loans, tax deferrals and cash grants. The SBLP will help businesses to bounce back from the impact of coronavirus and prepare for any future disruption.

Brunel Business School, part of Brunel University London, was accredited earlier this year by the Small Business Charter, a national accreditation awarded by small businesses to business schools who excel in supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the local economy.

The practical syllabus provides business leaders with access to small business and management experts from Brunel Business School. The SBLP is free and fully funded by the government to enhance small business resilience and recovery from the impact of Covid-19 and develop potential for future growth and productivity.

The short and focused programme will be delivered online through a structured course of eight 90-minute webinars over the course of 10 weeks and will provide the knowledge needed for businesses to tackle crisis situations. It will also give businesses the opportunity to strengthen their business network. Participants will develop strategic leadership skills and the confidence to make informed decisions to boost business performance.


“As we continue to grapple with the coronavirus crisis it is also essential we look long term to ensure small businesses are supported to build resilience, survival and growth. Business schools can provide the expertise and knowledge all business owners and directors need to continue to thrive in uncertain times.”

Anne Kiem OBE, CEO of Chartered Association of Business Schools and Executive Director of the Small Business Charter

“The strength of small businesses up and down the country will be vital as we begin to bounce back from coronavirus and re-build our economy. The Small Business Leadership Programme will help to equip small business leaders with the leadership and problem-solving skills they need to grow their firms in the wake of this pandemic.”

Paul Scully, Small Business Minister

“At Brunel Business School, we are excited to be part of this national programme that enables us to continue our efforts in supporting local small businesses. We believe the first step for small businesses to bounce back from the impact of coronavirus is to better understand the process of business survival, resilience and growth. We will help small businesses adapt, enhance and future-proof themselves. We are ready to welcome small business leaders to kickstart their engagement with our world-class academic expertise, practice-based knowledge, facilities and business partners.”

Prof Jane Hendy, Dean of Brunel Business School and Professor and Chair in Organisation Studies



Professor John M.T. Balmer (on the left) talking to Wally Olins in 1995. 

Professor John M.T. Balmer’s article on the celebrated English corporate brand consultant WALLY OLINS CBE has been recommended by the Journal of Brand Management (JBM) as a worthwhile read over the summer. On 18th June the Journal of Brand Management posted the following on Twitter and suggested an interesting read by those with an interest in branding might by Professor Balmer’s tribute to Wally Olins the celebrated brand consultant.

Professor Balmer also penned what is, arguably, the most-respected biography of Wally Olins for the prestigious Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

John M.T. Balmer, ‘Olins, Wallace [Wally] (1930-2014)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biographyhttps://doi.org/10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.108553

Professor Mustafa published a blog post in International Review of Sociology

Resistance against sexual orientation equality and the LGBTI+ movement: Cis-Gender Privilege, Heteronormative Fragility and Compulsory Heterosexuality (Mustafa F. Özbilgin and Ebru Soytemel)

Politics of sexual orientation equality, and the resistance against it again have come to centre stage in national politics across the world. Reflecting on the particular case of Turkey and other international examples we argue that we should explore how and why sexual orientation equality threatens the cis-gender privilege, exposes the fragility of heteronormative cultures and institutional structures and the compulsory nature of heterosexuality.


Professor Balmer achieves top university downloads on 4 occasions on ResearchGate

On 4 separate occasions between March and May, Professor John Balmer had the distinction of having the greatest number of reads on ResearchGate of any academic member of staff at Brunel University (w/e 19 July: 1221 downloads, w/e 25 May: 1643 downloads; w/e 18 May: 1962 downloads; w/e 15 March :2172 downloads; w/e 8 March: 2112 downloads).

ResearchGate is a social/professional network platform for researchers, students and others who wish to share and discuss academic research.

Commenting on the news, Professor Balmer reflected: “It was a pleasant, if not unexpected, surprise to be informed of this news. Although there are more important measures apropos the impact of published output, it is gratifying that there is interest in previously published work by ResearchGate’s community of scholars and students.  Of course, there is nothing more disheartening to find that your published output is not being read, so this news was   a real turn up for the books! I was, to be honest, a rather late convert to ResearchGate but I have this platform to be a useful additional, vehicle via which to disseminate published output. What I find intriguing is the interest that is shown not only in recent work but, amazingly, some very early published output as well. I had almost forgotten some of those early articles myself to be honest!”

Marketing and Corporate Brand group seminar on consumer’s engagement with film brands, based on Dr Gurdeep Singh Kohli’s PhD Thesis

The launch of a Summer Research Seminars presented by Marketing and Corporate Brand Research Group faculty began with a joint presentation on Wednesday 27th May, 2020 by Dr Dorothy Yen with Dr Kohli and Dr Alwi as co-presenters on the subject of  Film Branding. The research seminar was based on an article which has been accepted for publication in the British Journal of Management **, and which is based on the PhD thesis of Dr Gurdeep Singh Kohli.

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It was noted that, film branding research is in its infancy and only a small number of films reach the state of being considered film brands. Furthermore, film‐brand identification is notoriously difficult to achieve. In the presentation it was observed  how the  research uncovered that film‐brand identification occurs via the mediation effects of popularity, sequels and emotional bonding, whilst marketing effort, iconic status, franchising/merchandising activities and timelessness are highlighted as key moderators, resulting in positive brand engagement behaviour.


The seminar generated a great deal of interest and there was an enthusiastic Q&A session. The event also formally celebrated the appointment of Dr Gurdeep Singh Kohli’s as a lecturer in marketing.


Professor Balmer noted that the seminar was a splendid way to launch the short summer series of research seminars and welcomed Dr Kohli to the research group.

**Full details of the BJM article-in press-is as follows:  Kohli. G., Yen, D., Alwi, S and Gupta, S (2020). Film or Film Brand? UK Consumers’ Engagement with Films as Brands. British Journal of Management (in press).

Dr Meng-Shan Wu delivers inaugural presentation on luxury goods in Taiwan to members of the marketing and corporate brand research group

A long-standing tradition of the Marketing and Corporate Brand Research Group is for new faculty colleagues to deliver an inaugural presentation on their research and scholarship.


Mindful of this tradition, Dr Meng Shan Wu (who has a research specialism in luxury brands) delivered an online seminar on Wednesday 10th June to faculty colleagues in the Marketing and Corporate Brand Research Group on the theme: “An analysis of variables impacting on the purchase of luxury goods in Taiwan”.

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Her presentation explored the luxury purchasing behaviours of Taiwanese customers and examines whether the self-concept is an influential mediator between consumer’s purchasing behaviour and luxury purchases. Dr Wu explained how research and scholarship apropos Far East luxury groups in limited.  A lively Q&A session followed. On behalf of the group, Professor Balmer thanked Dr Wu for her interesting presentation and, again, welcomed her to the research group. This inaugural presentation was part of a series of Summer Research Seminars presented by Marketing and Corporate Brand Research Group faculty.

You are not forgotten! Scholars from around the world send greetings and words of encouragement to members of the Marketing & Corporate Brand Research Group during Covid-19 lockdown

They say you know who your friends are when you are in trouble, and this is certainly true as the dramatic Covid-19 lockdown took hold. As such, via an initiative of Professor John M.T Balmer, and on behalf of the Marketing & Corporate Brand Research Group, around 20 scholars from around the world were invited to send messages of greetings and encouragement to members of the research group in order to chivvy them along during these difficult times. By the same token, Professor Balmer sent words of support and encouragement in return.

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Consequently, some extremely warm and thoughtful messages were sent by an impressive line-up of scholars including 3 Deans of Business Schools from the USA, South Africa and Hong Kong; the editors of the Journal of Business Research, Journal of Brand Management and Marketing Theory; from Professor Stephen A. Greyser-the celebrated Harvard Business School scholar and from many other distinguished academics including the prominent branding scholar Professor Professor Kevin Lane Keller (Dartmouth College) and customer identification academician Professor Sankar Sen (City University of New York) along with academics from Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

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Professor Balmer reflected:

“One response to Covid-19 lock-down is to open up. I felt it was extremely important, at this difficult time, to remember our international credentials and networks as a research group and for us to ‘reach out’ to our colleagues from all parts of the globe. Certainly, the messages we received gave us as a research group a very real fillip and the messages brought a smile to our faces. There were serious messages, motivational messages, somewhat tear-inducing messages along with some humorous one too! What was so nice were the many flattering words leading scholars said about the group’s research and scholarship over the last two decades: that was wonderful!  As HM Queen Elizabeth reflected, although we may have more still to endure, better days will surely return: we will be with our friends again and we will meet again. These are wise sentiments that are worth holding on to particularly when we think of our research colleagues both far and near. We will meet again and what a party we will have!”

Professor Danae Manika, recently appointed professor of marketing and business education, gives inaugural seminar

Referencing Covid-19, Professor Manika’s inaugural seminar (Wednesday, June 17th, 2020) focussed on her research interests and publications relating to effect of the knowledge-behaviour gap on health behaviour change.

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The inaugural address was the third of a series of mini, online Summer series of seminars, organised by Professor Balmer, for faculty members of the Marketing and Corporate Brand Research Group.


In a highly topical, interesting, and thought-provoking presentation, Professor Manika stressed how her studies revealed there to be a difference between what people know and what they think they know; the latter affecting health behaviour change more than the former. She also noted how the more someone objectively knows, the less the risk they perceive they have. However, the more someone thinks he/she knows the greater the risk they conceive they have. Furthermore, the more people think they know the less likely to seek health information via mass media and friends/family. As such (thinking about Covid-19), pandemic information needs to be relevant and applied to the self to engender preventative action etc.

Professor Balmer (Head of the Marketing & Corporate Brand Research Group) formally introduced Professor Manika to the group, and Dr Geraldine Cohen (the longest-serving member of the research group) read out highlights of Professor Manika’s career to date. A lively discussion ensued after the address and the Q&A session which was chaired by one of the research group’s more recent members, Dr Pavel Laczko.

Commenting on the presentation Professor Balmer reflected:

“Unquestionably, Professor Manika’s research findings have clear policy and practical implications and, as such, this chimes with Brunel’s corporate brand promise where our research seeks to marry the practical with the theoretical. Moreover, the insights from her studies are highly germane for policy makers’ responses to Covid-19 in terms of their stratagems. Furthermore, her conclusions are also relevant for the design and execution of health-related, government communications, in addition. Professor Manika’s presentation made us all think and that’s no bad thing!”