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getting brands to spring into life: james bidwell on era defining innovation

Described as Selfridges’ ‘ringmaster extraordinaire’, entrepreneur and trend spotter James Bidwell joined Michael Hayman on Sunday’s Capital Conversation to talk about taking brands to new heights.

He told Michael about transforming Selfridges – ‘a down and dowdy department store’ – into a retail destination, while warning that others are finding their own business models out of date – “if you’re not born digital you need to be transforming fast.”

The secret ingredient to that model, said James, is not algorithms and technology but putting people first, “We’re dealing with rapid growth and change across the world, so what CEOs are now saying is that they need an agile culture and workforce to deal with what’s to come.”

As chair of ideas-spotting network Springwise, James hunts down world-changing inventions. Having identified the potential of Facebook and Snapchat in their early days, he now warns that they are a growing threat to the health of young people:

“The science is only just catching up with the surveys that say there may be a link between social media and mental health issues amongst children. Society as a whole has a balancing act because these devices are incredibly useful but open to manipulation.”

The former CEO of Visit London and part of the London 2012 Olympics delivery team later in the interview lamented how the capital may have lost its spark, “The London brand is not what it was, which is very disappointing.”

He explained, “It primarily comes down to Brexit and people saying they are fed up with it. A lot of my European friends are moving back to Europe, and businesses are finding this very difficult.”

Despite the concerns, James gave a positive forecast for the future: “We do have the ingredients to get our brand back and I remain optimistic we can.”

You can watch the full episode here

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Chapter 1 outlines the concept of mission and how the breakthrough brands of today have succeeded by building a mission that inspires belief, generates a following and instils a purpose beyond profit.