Wednesday, December 29, 2010

State of the Blog

Haven't posted in awhile and this will be a quick seems that work is dominating a big part of my time nowadays so here's an update...

Gainfully Employed!
I finally found an amazing job working as an Associate Planner at Critical Mass.  I'm only an intern at the moment, but this is my dream job.  Strategic thinking in an awesome agency environment...who could ask for more?  Plus getting paid is niiiice, especially for real work (ie. not serving).  Four months to go (I'm two months in) till we see if I get the full time offer - fingers crossed!

Dealing with Information Overload...

Of course a new job brings challenges as well.  One is finding time for everything!  So along that theme, here are some tips to help fit it all in.

  • If you haven't tried Rockmelt yet, you probably should.  I was skeptical at first, but having my social feeds built into the browser is actually quite useful.  RSS feeds are also implemented in the same manner.  If you need an invite leave a comment and I'll send one your way.
  • Flipboard, if you have an iPad is a must have.  I'll be getting one at the end of the month, but have played with it on my parent's and it's an incredible way to interact with the web.
  • Evernote.  Alas, I've been trying to use this more regularly, but still can't get into the flow of it.  I miss OneNote and it's full-featured note editor and I find the web clipper chunky.  I might switch to Instapaper (which has integration with my Kobo and Flipboard...we'll see what happens there)
  • The news of Delicious' sunsetting sent many to Pinboard.  I never used delicious but it might be worth a try if you're a tagger.  It's a one time fee ($9 right now) that goes up as more users register and $25/year for their more hefty archival service.
Lastly, I don't want to kill the blog, but time (as always) is an issue, so I think the format's going to change a bit.  The blog will be more of a curated content source with some of the best articles I'm reading around the web and a quick reaction.  See you in the New Year!

Update: I'm now posting on my personal domain.  Find me here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How to Survive the Social Media Craze

There are a lot of bloggers, experts, gurus and ninjas claiming to have found the magic formula to social media success.  It's easy!  All you need to do is buy their ebook, podcast or YouTube video series for the low price of $24.99 and your company will harness the incredible power of social media to grow beyond your wildest dreams.  You can get that boat you've been dreaming about and spend your days in relaxing in luxurious slendor.  And if you believe that, I've got some snake oil for you...

The fact is, there really is a simple key to social media, but you don't need to buy anything because it's sooo easy!  In fact, intelligent businesses have been practicing this "secret" for ages - social media just increases the benefit they get out of this simple thing.

Are you ready?  Here it sales pitch necessary:  Everything you do must be worth sharing. 

Everything should be shareworthy.  If you have a great product, don't cheap out on your advertising budget.  You're great looking store shouldn't be filled with McHires.  It costs money, but did you really get to where you are by cutting corners?

Look at a company like Apple.  Steve Jobs shows their new commercials to a sold out crowd at the company's MacWorld conference every year.  Seriously, who cheers for a commercial?  At a recent keynote, Jobs showed off the company's newest retail stores in Paris to great applause.  At WWDC the company showed off a live demo of their FaceTime software.  The reason people were cheering (and sharing/talking about it online and even in the press) is because it's actually worth talking about.  Apple consistently delivers content that is extraordinary.  The Mac vs PC commercials were FUNNY.  The company's new technology is EXCITING and their retail stores are absolutely GORGEOUS.

If you're worth talking about, people will carry your message online and you'll reap the benefits of that authenticity.  Don't cut corners.  Be sure you're actions are true to the spirit of your company - do this and your company will survive the social media craze.  Hey, who might even make a few extra sales as well!

And because I can feel the glares from the social media experts in the audience - yes, there are things you can do to help stoke the coals... but if you aren't worth talking about, even these won't help.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Marketing?

It's a question that everybody has to deal with at some point.  Why did you pick your chosen profession when you had a million other options at your feet? 

Of course, most of us don't really know why we did what we did in university, so we either stumble through it or attempt to rationalize a decision that probably boils down to something like "it was interesting and challenging."

I believe in marketing.  I believe in it's power to be a force for good in the world.  But that's not why I chose to major in marketing, because I didn't know it at the time.  Maybe on some intuitive level, I did, but it certainly wasn't a concrete sense.  For me, it was interesting.  It was challenging.  It seemed to excite with tantalizing possibilities and a chance to be creative and strategic in business.  Yes -- T-accounts, spreadsheets, numbers and the bottom line are important...but so is creativity. 

Here's what I believe:
  1. At its heart, marketing is about giving a plain, old, boring hunk of metal a personality.  It can can be bold, inspiring, conservative, risky, exciting, fun, quirky, or it can even play the villain.  There are as many options as there are colours in a double rainbow but there is a right one for each product and company.  Marketing is everywhere, in the clothes people wear and the cars they drive, there's plenty of fish in the sea.
    Personality is your table stake.  It gets you into the game with all the big shot agencies and mad men - and you might even get lucky - but the real players set themselves apart in the next two categories.  The game has an element of luck but it takes skill to win consistently.
  2. Marketers provide a means for fans and supporters of a brand to express themselves emotionally.  They remove a certain element of risk that makes it OK for fans to be wildly passionate about a product, so that it's acceptable to show other people a genuine part of themselves that's already trying hard to escape.  Think of a concert with thousands of screaming fans, or the ritual involved in serving a glass of fine wine.  That's passion, harnessed and displayed in a socially acceptable manner.  To me, it doesn't matter whether we're talking about rock bands or restaurants, it's still endearing.
  3. Technology can help.  In fact, it is becoming even more important with time.  Those that don't adapt will be left behind.  What if our ancestors had ignored the hammer, the wheel, or worse yet - fire?  Technology can help marketers turn metal into gold; it can help connect fans and niche interest groups around the world; and it can also permanently change the rules of game - even while we're others are still learning the old rules.
That's what I believe.  It's why I don't have problems sleeping at night and it's something to strive for both professionally and personally.  That's extraordinary marketing.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Once upon a time...

Marketing is about telling stories, taking a bland hunk of matter and creating a dialogue that people can relate to and connect with.  If you don't believe me, ask the new experts.

So here's something to think about, it's a quote from a Douglas Coupland novel:
What is prayer but a wish for the events in your life to string together to form a story - something that makes some sense of events you know have meaning.
And so I pray.
What do you think?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Why I Prefer Late Night Tweeting

They say Twitter is like a giant cocktail party (but with spammers and SEO specialists.)

It's true.  The analogy even holds as everybody signs off for the night and goes to sleep.

Think of the last gathering where you stayed a little later.   As people filter out the noise volumes drop and you probably noticed a shift in the conversation.  Things become a little more intimate.  People go deeper, share more and connect in a meaningful, authentic way.  (just be careful you don't hang around too long and overstay your welcome.)

This is exactly what happens on Twitter as well.  As the masses begin to sign off your Twitter feed slows down.  People tweet back and forth more and advertise their sites, blogs and affiliate codes less.

And this isn't a rant against people who Tweet too much or the result of a poorly chosen following list or anything of the sort.  It just makes sense.  Anybody who has ever been to a pub or club knows that as the number of people in the room goes up, so does the volume.   

In the digital realm, when the numbers go down, you don't have to shout to hear each other any longer.  And that's why I love late night tweeting.  What are your thoughts?  Do you stay up too late tweeting or do you hit the hay nice and early so you can tweet another day?

Monday, September 20, 2010


Good ads are backed by solid creative. They attract attention, and they're memorable for doing something different.

Great ads are backed by just as great products (which are backed by great companies who are, of course, backed by great people and great leaders.) Solid creative complements the entire mix.

Great ads do more than attract attention. They're memorable because they communicate a deep-seated, emotional truth; encompassing the product, the company's philosophy, and its visionary founders.

Good or great?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Buzzword Crossword

Think you know your marketing, business and technology buzzwords? (click for printable version)

I'll post the answers on Monday.  If you need help, ask for tips with the #buzzwordcrossword hashtag on Twitter.

Update: here's the answer key:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Beware the Constant Promo Cycle

While in university, one of my professors gave me a piece of advice that I've never forgotten:
Watch out for companies engaging in non-stop sales promotions.  They're a quick fix to boost sales but they don't get to the root of the problem.

And then we see companies like Ford and Chevrolet reporting positive numbers and paying back government money while they engage in a relentless promotions war.

Ford Family Pricing, Chevrolet Clearance Event - these are signs of a larger marketing problem, a brand with a confused identity.  Beware the constant promo cycle...

Problem/Solution Format (Advertising)

Capitalizing on a meme can be a good way to kick-start your creative process, but it shouldn't replace creative thinking. Unfortunately it did with Microsoft's Double-Rainbow advertisement, seen below:

Double bland indeed.

This is an example of the overused problem/solution advertising format.  You set-up and dramatize a problem in the first 20 seconds of a spot, and then use the last 10 to show how the product provides a solution.

I loathe this format.

It's an easy way out when you can't think of a way to integrate the message throughout the spot.  And the worst part is that problem/solution ads often have so much potential to be great.  They always start with a memorable idea, but they end falling back to the pushy salesman of yesteryear.

Nine times out of ten, the formula creates an ad that is cheap, unoriginal and jarring.  The solution gets overdone and the ad ends up feeling cheesy.  For example, the music in the double-rainbow ad.  Was that really necessary?

Here's an example of problem/solution done well.  It's the famous FedEx 'box' commercial.  The reason it's so well done is because the ad doesn't rely on pushy sales techniques.  The spot ends with a low-sell voiceover solution, allowing the problem to take the spotlight.

More Problem/Solution Examples
Canadian Police Chase : Midas starts out strong with a humorous problem but then cops-out with a bland solution.
Rogers - Elevator : A slightly different take.  Rogers dramatizes the solution instead of the problem.  Really cool execution here.
Snickers with Betty White : I'm not completely sold on the strategic element of this ad, but the spot is well done.

Want more?  Find me over at Restless Creativity.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Critiquing The Social Network's "interactive trailer"

The interactive trailer for The Social Network (seen below) has been getting a lot of buzz lately but is it a success?

That depends on the strategic goal.

If it was to get people talking and generate word-of-mouth around the blogosphere (notice the share button at the bottom of the video), then yes, it was a success.
If it was to highlight the extent to which our lives are influenced by, and actually take place online, therefore underscoring a larger theme of the picture, then yes, it was a success.

But if the goal was to educate viewers, have them read the links and articles and go into the movie with an increased awareness - probably not. The information simply flies at you too fast to be usable in any fashion.

How many of the displayed stats can you remember an hour after viewing the trailer?

Very cool idea though - I look forward to seeing the concept refined in the future.
Imagine how this could be utilized in the future - purchase a DVD (for example, Lost) and gain access to all kinds of additional information and easter eggs.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


From an early age, we're conditioned to value the approval of others.  Whether it's a pat on the back from our parents, or a good grade on an English paper, the people around us help to reinforce this need.  In the world of social media, Bloggers look for re-tweets, comments, likes and diggs.

But social media isn't the real world.  In the real world, as we grow and mature, others grant their approval less often.  We have to work harder to be recognized because few stop and take the time to say 'good job.'  It is expected that as we mature, we become more independent, more confident in our beliefs and actions and less reliant on the whims of others.

How many bloggers have started with dreams of making it big, only to give into frustration when they realize the only person commenting on their blog is their mom?

The solution is to learn to self-validate.  You have to reward yourself for meeting your own goals.  Give yourself a mental pat on the back when you complete a difficult task.  Let yourself feel good about the effort that goes into a project instead of the feedback received.   Don't tie yourself to the opinion of others. 

What does this have to do with marketing?  If you're always relying on positive feedback from others, you'll never be comfortable taking a stand.  And if you do take that stand, you'll inevitably be disappointed when you don't receive the feedback that you feel is deserved. 

Further Reading

Monday, September 13, 2010


Futureshop, riding the coattails of Old Spice with "me2 marketing" at its finest.  Extraordinary Marketing?  I think not.

Social Media is Awesome

A couple weeks ago I posted some comments on Steven Pressfield's blog (which I discovered it through a tweet from Olivier Blanchard aka The BrandBuilder).

To my surprise, I received an email a few days later, offering to send me some of his books - postage paid and no strings attached.  Sure enough these arrived by good ol' snail mail:

Extraordinary!  Thanks for the books!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why Something is better than Nothing

In his highly acclaimed The War of Art, Steven Pressfield discusses the distinction between an amateur and a pro.  It boils down to this:

A professional comes in everyday, rain or shine, and does something - whether it's perfection or well-received by critics doesn't really matter. The professional knows that you have to put in the hours.
An amateur, on the other hand, works in fits and starts and worries more about the validation of others instead of gettin his work done.

Professionals write all the time whether they're inspired or not.  They know the path to inspiration begins with dragging yourself out of bed in the morning.
Amateurs only write when inspired.  As a result, they don't write as often and lack experience so that their work suffers when they actually are motivated.  

Doing something is a helluva lot better than doing nothing.  Even if it's not perfect, you can always go back and edit.  If other's hate it, you still gain a measure of where you stand and where to make improvements.  Sometimes you have to just have to allow for - as an old teacher of mine used to say - diarrhea of the pen.

The Unwritten Contract

In the world of marketing, there is an unwritten contract that few ever seem to talk about.  It's really quite simple, but often gets overlooked.
Marketer's must provide something of value in exchange for their intrusion.
Often this value is provided in the way of entertainment, humour or drama.  In any case, it's the price you pay to gain an audience with the king.

If previous administrations have established a positive balance in your account, then you can get away without the toll for a short period of time, but it won't be long before your customer's hospitality and polite manner begin to sour as they turn against an unwelcome guest. 

Honour the contract.  Pay your dues in full and on time.  Don't skimp on creative.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Doing some construction-type stuff at the moment.  Posts will be infrequent for about a week, sorry!

And now we're back rolling again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How to be More Creative

A collection of tips from books, pop culture, mentors, classes, friends, etc.

  • turn off the radio.  let your mind free associate
  • take an unfamiliar route to work (using GPS is cheating)
  • think deeply, then stop
  • sit on your judgment
  • draw or write with your off hand
  • find yourself a "flow" state (sports, game, etc. - play)
  • use a daily routine
  • then break it
  • talk with others (anyone, even on the bus or train)
  • give yourself permission to make a mistake
  • create a mind map
  • go for a long drive.  don't plan it, just drive
  • talk some more
  • read up on something completely unrelated
  • write your first idea down.  don't filter yourself
  • now keep writing
  • go outside.  breathe

These are a few I've found from various sources.  Some in books, others in movies or tv shows.  Still others from professors or friends.  I've used all of these at one point or another and can honestly say that they work (at least for me).  What methods have you found to be helpful in your personal or professional life?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Scrabble: Buzzword Edition

Legend: next gen, green, crowdsourced, word-of-mouth, synergy, web 2.0, _(iphone,kindle)_ killer, guerilla, sustainable, value add, tail (as in long), buzz, return on investment

Some of my favourite marketing and technology buzzwords. :)
Bonus points if you spot the

Monday, August 16, 2010

ABC's of Marketing

Frontline (employees)
Job (lol)
Risky (sometimes)
It's complete!  I had to use the index of my marketing textbook for a few, and google suggestions for a couple as well.  This was more challenging than I thought it would be (I'm looking at you j,k,x and y)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Extraordinary Marketing Highlight

I wanted to wait a little longer to do this because of the blog transfer and all that but my hand has kind of been forced because such a great example popped up and I really want to touch on it.

That's actually a good lesson for marketers wanting to take advantage of new technology.  Like technology, marketing is a quickly changing field.  The area where these two collide is very turbulent.  The need for a quick response makes it absolutely essential that you be flexible.

And that's OK.  Remember, it's alright to make mistakes.  Being afraid to err is literally paralyzing.  Research shows it's actually a huge barriers towards innovation - something to keep in mind.

And The Award Goes To...
Naheed Nenshi is a mayoral candidate in the intense election for Dave Bronconnier's soon-to-be-vacated Calgary post.  There are 10+ contestants in this race so it's kind of analogous to duking it out for a saturated brand category except in this case the winner takes it all and the loser goes home to lick their wounds.
Differentiating yourself becomes extremely important in such a contested market.

 This is a highlight of somebody who seems to 'just get it'.  Nenshi has a plan (strategy), puts his mind to problem-solving (marketing) and gets the word out in innovative fashion (technology). 

I hate to gush, but really, the campaign is so well executed.  The central theme: "Better Ideas, Better Calgary" is awesome.  It reminds me of Gillette's The Best a Man Can Get - what do you say if you're a competitor?  We're Even Better?  The Bestest?  You're basically forced to change the channel which can be troublesome.

And honestly, if there is an area that has really fallen behind because of failure to take a stand, it has to be the politicians.  Fear of the consequences is understandable because nowhere else are the stakes so high.  There is no consolation prize; the loser simply fades into obscurity.  As a result we see this stagnation where politicians take wobbly positions that try (and fail) to satisfy everybody.

That's why I'm excited to Nenshi unafraid to articulate his vision and take a stand for what he believes in.  I'm just as happy to see him discuss a paradigm shift towards problem-solving and customer service at City Hall but the shining star in this extraordinary campaign has to be the iPhone app.  What a great way to embrace technology and keep your supporters updated.

Kudos to you Nenshi!  Calgary needs a strong leader with a clear vision.  If I could give one small piece of advice it would be to use your vision for Calgary as a missile aimed at the heart, not the mind.  Emotion - not facts and figures - will get people to the polls.  Best of luck in the campaign.

Note: I don't endorse, nor am I affiliated in Nenshi in any way.  My vote remains undecided until election day comes around.  As a marketer, however, I do respect a well-crafted campaign. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Make Great Products (DICE)

Don't you love when you find something so perfectly explained that it actually puts words to your own beliefs in a way that you could not?  In University, one of my prof's used the wonderful expression "born in the same cosmic egg" to describe this type of situation (he taught the History of Led Zeppelin class which may have had something to do with the expression).  In any case, it seems as though Guy Kawasaki and I may have been born in the same cosmic egg.

I've been reading The Macintosh Way lately.  Partly because I wanted to test drive the PDF support in iBooks (better than expected) and also because Kawasaki is currently giving it away for free to his Twitter followers.
As an added bonus, I got to try out Dropbox to transfer the file (and it's also pretty slick). 

Enough lead in.  Here's the excerpt that caught my attention (I've chopped some parts and changed some bits to condense for this post, but the idea remains).
A great product is based on insight and inspiration, and it is an accomplishment - particularly in a world that tolerates and buys mediocrity.  A great product is like pornography - you'll know it when you see it.  There are four characteristics on which to base your judgment: a great product is deep, indulgent, complete, and elegant (DICE).
  1. Deep - The product appeals to both passengers and sailors (as Jean-Louis would say).  ex. techies and non-techies
  2. Indulgent - feeling good (and guilty).  Great products are indulgent.  They make you feel delighted and a little guilty because they are overkill for the tasks at hand.  ex. a fountain pen for signing books, important documents, etc.
  3. Complete - support, enhancements, and infrastructure.  ex. technical support, a stream of enhancements and upgrades, and an infrastructure of power users, consultants and developers that can help a customer achieve maximum satisfaction.
  4. Elegant - ready and waiting.  Great products are elegant.  They have many features, but the features are tastefully and transparently implemented.  ex. MS Word is not elegant, VCR's are not.  The iPhone is elegant.
 To be completely honest, I'm surprised the acronym isn't thrown around more often in marketing circles (especially with our addiction to four-letter acronyms).

How many great products (brands) can you think of that satisfy these requirements?  Starbucks and Apple both clearly do, as well as many designer brands and fashion accessories.  Lululemon might be an obvious example in that category.  Luxury cars like the Infiniti work too but so does the much more affordable pint of Guinness.  I could keep going, but I'll save a few for your comments.

On Marketing Philosophy...

Picture this, you're a young, recently graduated student in the field of marketing.  You went to a respected business school and eventually found your calling.  The classes were stimulating, the people exciting and there was the opportunity to be creative and solve real problems.  There's just one problem.

It's that gargantuan stink cloud that's always floating overhead, polluting the environment and contaminating everything it touches.  It's there when you're attending lectures, in the halls, the coffee shop and even at the pub when you're kicking back a few with your friends.  And what is this rankness?  It's the abysmal, crummy, godawful, pathetic (look up bad in the Thesaurus) reputation of marketing and it seeps into everything this multi-billion dollar industry touches.

Where did we go wrong?  The textbook definition of "The Marketing Concept" is almost noble in it's unabashed calling to serve your customers.  Let's look at what a few of the few of the great business minds have to say about marketing:
Marketing is not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer's point of view. Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise.  DRUCKER
The marketing concept is a philosophy, not a system of marketing or an organizational structure. It is founded on the belief that profitable sales and satisfactory returns on investment can only be achieved by identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer needs and desires.  BARWELL
A philosophy of doing business centered on satisfying the customer as your only hope of ever being profitable.  From a customer's point of view that sounds pretty damn good, doesn't it?  So why aren't businesses lining up to serve us, to strike up a conversation or to make our day a little easier?

How did we, as marketers, get away from this fundamental concept?  I think the answer lies in our recent shift to modern media-centric consumer culture.  Things like television and radio gave more power to large corporations at the expense of the customer who could be easily replaced.  Even the word "consumer" reflects this apparent change in values.  In short, we've become drunk with power. 

Of course there are organizations that have taken the philosophy of marketing to heart.  They're the ones using all their strength and power to improve the world in little ways, to solve their customer's problems and to make the world a better place.  There's more of them than you think.  And as technology continues to evolve it will radically change the relationship between company and customer.  It's an exciting time to be a true marketer (not a telemarketer, or one of the thousands of offshoots sullying our name).  

The Road (Movie Tie-in Edition 2009) (Vintage International)Marketing is not a process, it's a philosophy.  It's a way of structuring how you think about and approach [business] problems.  It's a philosophy that takes a lot of hard work, creative solutions and an unwavering commitment to do good for your customers.  This is why I say that you need to think like a marketer - as though your customer were your entire world.  And if you need some help to imagine what that might look like, read Cormac McCarthy's The Road for a glimpse at the true meaning of love.  With marketing, it's never "just business."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Transferring to Blogspot

I'm working on transferring The Extraordinary Marketing Blog to Blogspot (from for two fairly simple reasons:
  1. Flexibility. If you’re not self-hosted, Wordpress is really quite limiting (can’t touch the template). Blogspot has more options in this regard.
  2. Education. One of the initial reasons I chose to start a blog was to play with and become comfortable with social media. It just makes sense that I should experiment with other platform's.
This page should be up and running like a finely tuned machine by the end of the week (if not earlier). In the meantime, please be patient as I tinker around.

Lastly, if you’ve made this transfer before, let me know how it went in the comments. I’m looking into importing the old posts but it seems most people go the other way (because they move to self-hosting) so if you have a WordPress –> Blogger solution I’m dying to hear how you did it.
Otherwise I might simply start anew. The old posts will be stay over on Wordpress and I'll borrow ideas from the good ones on days when the creative muse remains silent.

I'm really excited for this move! I think it will be good for the blog and lead to better content. Just hold tight during the groundswells and gravitational shifts.

Things will be back to normal before you know it and soon this minor hiccup will be nothing more than a half remembered dream. :)

Hello, World!