Future outlook: Your brand in permanent beta

Recently, I attended the 2013 IABC World Conference in New York City. This annual conference attracts 1400+ communicators from all corners of the globe and features leading thinkers, business leaders and some of the most prominent brands in the world. One session I really enjoyed was the general session: Taking the pulse of the new generation: Communicating effectively with Millennials. Frankly, as someone who sometimes fits into the definition of this generation, I did not go expecting to learn much.  However, I was completely surprised by the smart, insightful and interesting discussion by panellists, including Sandra Lopez of Intel, Nick Shore of MTV and Michael Lewis of Teach for America. The panel was moderated by Jake Katz, of YPulse.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into the session in detail, instead I want to highlight one insight, which, I think as this generation grows and develops into business leaders, is something we’ll start to see more and more of in a business context. One of the panellists described how millenials “live their lives in permanent beta.” Particularly because life streaming is the way they grew up, publishing and presenting their image is not a matter of drafts, approvals, revisions then launch—it’s updated, in real-time and subject to feedback loops along the way from a much broader perspective.

In the end, the person can have a much stronger sense of his or her image and is likely better off for it. The concept of “permanent beta” is not really new. Many startup companies deliberately launch products this way. In fact, I’m sure the term actually came from a brand that truly lives this mindset--Google. Google routinely launches products pre-maturely and intentionally keeps them in the “beta” stage for long periods of time. Gmail, for example, was only moved out of beta after five years.

What if you could apply this to your branding? Since the true definition of a brand is what others perceive it to be, the notion of permanent beta means you are building in feedback loops to your process and constantly refining as you go. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a strategy—in fact to employ permanent beta correctly you absolutely need one, and it needs to incorporate how feedback is handled. If you just take every suggestion anyone provides, you fall into the ‘decision by committee’ trap. Have a process for collecting feedback, interpreting and only changing if it’s aligned with your overall strategy and clearly represents a needed change.

Once you launch your brand you might start shifting your mindset from set in stone to one of constant improvement. Social media in particular makes it easy to ‘listen in’ on what people are saying about your brand, take that to heart and launch improvements when you can.

This is obviously a huge challenge for many companies—you have process and systems in place, stakeholders to please and you’re probably already juggling to accomplish more with fewer resources.
The good news is you can plant the seeds now to move your organization in the right direction.

Three tips to inspire the ‘permanent beta’ mindset in your organization.

  1. Ask for feedback internally, on everything. When working with your team, remember to always ask for feedback. The more you ask for feedback, the more others will feel comfortable providing it. When receiving feedback, keep your common goal in mind and what you are working towards and not to take anything personally.
  2. Use your social media channels to gather feedback. When launching a new initiative or brand, if you’ve got a well-established social media audience, ask what they think. You can do this informally or even use a free survey tool to whip up a quick survey. This activity can help you set the right mindset so in the future your colleagues can imagine baking it into your process.
  3. Acknowledge mistakes as learning opportunities. So many people are afraid to make mistakes, but they are inevitable. When you or a colleague makes a mistake, instead of getting angry or frustrated, look at what the root cause might have been (cumbersome process? Lack of direction? Misinterpretation of instruction?) and work together to extract a lesson from the mistake. Many organizational cultures evolve into a situation where employees are afraid to contribute or to be held accountable for making mistakes—and this mentality can lead to a toxic workplace.
These are three attributes that embody the “permanent beta” mentality. While it might not be feasible in your near future to roll this out across your organization, these three steps can help your team start thinking in a way that promotes constant improvement and innovation.


Banfield-Seguin Wins 2 Summit Creative Awards!

Banfield-Seguin is thrilled to announce 2 wins at the 2013 Summit Creative Awards — a unique international competition designed to level the playing field and raise the creative bar for smaller firms.

We received a Bronze Award for the National Arts Centre’s 2012-13 Season Dance Brochure in the category of Consumer Product/Services Brochure. This is the fourth award we collected for the NAC Dance 2012-13 Season Brochure, and the sixth for the NAC Dance 2012-13 Season campaign as whole.

The second Summit Creative Award we collected was a Silver Award for the Banfield-Seguin 2011-12 holiday card, in the category of Self-promotion/Holiday Card. The “Work in Progress” card, as we have come to refer to it, has also recently been recognized with a Gold Award of Excellence at the Communicator Awards 2013.

Banfield-Seguin is very grateful for the recognition and would like to thank our clients and everyone involved who worked on making these projects a success.

About the Summit International Awards:
With more than 5000 submissions from across Canada, the US and around the world, the Summit International Awards honours the finest creative work. It is the oldest and most prestigious organization that administers an advertising award exclusively for firms with limited billings. Its Creative award has established itself as a premier arbiter of creative and communication excellence.


"Gamify Your Work" Roundtable at MARCOM 2013

For the culmination of our 2013 partnership with the MARCOM forum, I had the opportunity last week to host a Peer2Peer Roundtable entitled “Gamify Your Work”. 

The topic attracted a wonderfully diverse group, including participants from non-profits, government departments, marketing agencies and consultancies. We had a very rich discussion regarding the concept of gamification and how it might be applied to our very different work environments. 

For those not familiar with the concept, “gamification” is the application of game elements to professional tasks and situations — elements such as rules, achievements levels, and rewards. With video games now a huge part of our culture, like it or not, an increasing number of businesses have used gamification to increase employee effectiveness and bridge generational gaps. 

Through our discussion, we agreed that to successfully start applying gamification in a work context, organizations should initially apply game elements to a relatively small, specific project over a finite time-period. This will make the initiative easier to implement, more likely to succeed, and easier to evaluate. Managers can learn from and build on the experience, and make gamification even more effective in future incarnations. 

During the roundtable, we also reviewed other creativity tools and concepts for the workplace, and talked about the benefits of fostering creativity for both employers and employees. Many of these concepts were covered in our Creative Spark series of articles. If you haven't already read them, please do! There are links below. 

In conclusion, I would like to thank Claire Mills and CEPSM, who produced the MARCOM 2013 Forum. The Banfield-Seguin team loves working with them on the creative theme every year, and this year we really took our collaboration with MARCOM to the next level.

Creative Spark Series articles:

The Benefits of Creative Work Cultures
Making the Most of Your Team’s Unique Creative Abilities
What Highly Creative Workplaces Can Teach You
Tools and Techniques to Unlock Workplace Creativity

Working with Creative Agencies


Banfield-Seguin has a great time for a great cause at the CHEO BBQ volleyball tournament!

This past Saturday, a group of enthusiastic Banfield-Seguin employees braved the wet conditions to participate in the 21st annual CHEO BBQ volleyball tournament.

It was a day spent walking around barefoot, falling in the mud and repeatedly getting our pride served to us by opponents. And yet, it was probably the best time we had all year!

One thing that helped our team stay in good spirits, despite the accumulating losses, was the fact that the rain held off until the event was over. This allowed us to (very briefly) come out from under the beer tent to enjoy some of the great food prepared by ByTown Catering in between games.

Despite the unpredictable weather, the event as a whole was a great success. Over 1,500 people took part in the day’s activities, which also included an ultimate Frisbee tournament and a 5km walk.

Our team enjoying a much needed break between games
And best of all, the funds raised by the CHEO BBQ are donated to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to help the hospital provide a wide variety of paediatric programs, research, state-of-the-art equipment, medical and nursing education, and assistance for families in crisis.

Overall, between the on-court competition, the off-court camaraderie and the charitable component, it is hard to imagine how our CHEO BBQ experience could have been any better.

We want to thank the CHEO BBQ, and our very own Kelly MacNaull who serves as the event’s Marketing Director, for putting together such a fun and rewarding event.


Banfield-Seguin Collects 3 Awards of Excellence at the IABC Ottawa Excel Awards!

Without question, it has been a great awards season for us! We’re very pleased to announce another 3 wins, this time at the 2013 Excel Awards, organized by the Ottawa chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

As always, the IABC Ottawa Excel Awards event was a great opportunity to showcase our work with local clients in front of the National Capital Region’s creative communications community. And our projects did not disappoint, taking home 3 of the 12 Awards of Excellence presented. 

First, the NAC Presents brand strategy and launch won in the category of Brand Communication. NAC Presents is a new performance series that brings Canada’s most exciting artists to the National Arts Centre stage. To help bring this new brand to life, Banfield-Seguin developed a vibrant visual identity and an integrated campaign for the inaugural 2011-12 season.

Second, our Place d’Orléans Vlogger Search Contest won for social media. This back-to-school promotion blended multi-faceted social media outreach with traditional marketing tactics in order to connect with fashionistas in a real and relevant way. The campaign successfully continued the evolution of the Place d’Orléans brand into a premier fashion destination.

Our third award went to the NAV CENTRE “Meeting Hero” campaign for photography. This multi-platform initiative was designed to show that the NAV CENTRE – Eastern Ontario’s largest conference and meeting facility – meets all the criteria for a successful corporate event. To give the campaign a unique, authentic look, we used photos of real NAV CENTRE employees in all the marketing materials.

Banfield-Seguin is very proud that the IABC has recognized our work. We would like to thank our clients and everyone who was involved in making these projects a success.

About the IABC Ottawa Excel Awards:

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Ottawa Chapter is the voice of Ottawa’s communications industry. The Excel Awards recognize work across three divisions: communication management, communication skills and communication creative. Recipients are recognized for their contributions in fields ranging from media relations, crisis communications and branding to graphic design, audiovisual and interactive media. Entries are scored by volunteer judges from across Canada, each a leader in the field of communications.


Working With Creative Agencies

This is the fifth installment in a series that explores how applying creative tools and principles in the workplace can help deliver better results and engender positive change. 

If you are attending MARCOM 2013, please join Christina Flavell at the Peer2Peer Roundtable on Tuesday afternoon to learn how to “Gamify Your Work”. 


As we have strived to demonstrate over the past few weeks, creativity can have very positive effects on all aspects of your work. And its game-changing potential is available to anyone who is willing to learn. With patience and practice, a commitment to creativity is sure to pay off. If you haven’t had the chance to read our previous articles already, please do! Links to them are below.

One way to accelerate the creative process and take it even further is to enlist the services of a creative agency. Whether you’re planning to run a multi-platform marketing campaign, or just trying to brainstorm “outside-the-box” ideas, working with an agency can help take the transformative power of creativity to a whole new level. Having been in business for over 40 years, Banfield-Seguin, the co-creators of this series, is very familiar with the benefits of creative partnerships.

The creative agency advantage

In many situations working with an agency can bring new insights, opportunities and added value to in-house marketing and communications, and to senior management teams. For example, Banfield-Seguin works with clients from a wide variety of industries, equipping them with a broad perspective on different markets, audience behaviours and business strategies. This more open perspective, along with a less biased point-of-view, can result in the discovery of innovative new solutions an organization might struggle to find internally.

In addition, full-service agencies staff experts from different disciplines, including advertising, design, writing, digital, video, social media and more. This diverse team of specialists is expected to be informed on best practices and tactical innovations, and offer the best-in-breed across marketing and communication platforms.

With experience running multiple campaigns simultaneously, agencies also develop processes that ensure fast and efficient execution. By leveraging their experience and in-depth knowledge, agencies can more effectively negotiate with printers, media outlets and other suppliers. And in the case of medium and large-size agencies, because of the scale of what they produce, they can sometimes negotiate lower costs as well.

Ultimately, the truth is that agencies are professional service organizations. They are responsible for deliverables that are high quality, on time and on budget — and are always accountable for meeting objectives.

Optimizing collaboration with agencies

Working with a creative agency means entering into a unique business relationship — one in which the client and the agency are ideally true partners. An essential, common factor in our most successful projects is collaboration. Below are a few tips on how to collaborate with an agency to ensure the highest possible quality of work.

The briefing – A clear and comprehensive briefing with specific objectives is perhaps the most critical part of the creative process. Based on the briefing, the agency’s strategist or account executive will develop the “creative brief” which provides direction and insight to the creative teams, and ensures alignment between the client’s objectives and what the agency ultimately develops. Therefore, the creative brief must be a joint effort, with the client providing input and sign-off.

In some cases, clients will prepare the creative brief themselves. In these situations, we ask them to adhere to one key guideline: be concise. A long, highly detailed brief will only make creative development, evaluation and feedback more difficult. To do this, we ask clients to think critically about each section of the document, e.g. “Purpose of the Creative”, “Key Messages”, “Proof Points”, and include only what is relevant. Ideally, the brief tells one unified story from start to end, with every element building to the next without repetition. Additional details can always be provided as appendices to the brief.

Giving feedback – The ideal creative process should always be collaborative and iterative. This means that both client and agency have to be able to communicate openly — something that is especially crucial when providing feedback on ideas and creative concepts the agency presents.

The key to giving helpful, constructive feedback is… the creative brief. Having guided creative development, the brief then serves as the reference point for clear and focused feedback on the ideas presented. It can help move the discussion away from personal preferences, and on to objectivity and objectives. Without the brief as a reference, the feedback and revision process is purely subjective and can be frustrating for both client and agency.

Another secret to solid feedback is to use the magic word: Because. Creative agencies pride themselves in being creative problem solvers, using strategy, writing and design to arrive at uniquely tailored solutions. For us, it is much more productive to find out why clients have a concern with an idea or concept. But often the inclination is to tell the agency exactly how to fix or revise the concept. This leads us down a narrow path that doesn’t allow us to deploy our full problem solving expertise. It’s more likely that we’ll overcome the concern creatively if we know the reason behind it.

In conclusion, although working with a creative agency can have many advantages for your organization, the results are not automatic. It is important to help your agency help you. Whether this means allowing the time to develop a tight, insightful brief, or providing clear and focused feedback, a rigorous commitment to collaboration and process usually pays off. In the end, it is important to remember that successful creative work always benefits both the client and agency.


What do you think?

Do you think you and your team could benefit from working with a creative agency? If you already do, what are some lessons you learned that can help improve such a partnership? Can you share advice on what to include in a creative brief or how to provide feedback?


Past articles:

The Benefits of Creative Work Cultures

What Highly Creative Workplaces Can Teach You

Making the Most of Your Team’s Unique Creative Abilities

Tools and Techniques to Unlock Workplace Creativity


The Creative Spark Series
is a joint initiative by the MARCOM Professional Development Annual Forum and marketing communications agency Banfield-Seguin, a proud official supplier of theme creative for MARCOM 2013. The series promotes the benefits of creativity in the workplace and presents ways to successfully apply creative tools and techniques to inspire, influence and act.


Banfield-Seguin and Canada Post Send Wineries an Important Message in a Bottle

Before a wine lover cracks open a new bottle of wine, they may pause. There is a moment of reflection, bordering on reverence, filled with anticipation for what is to come. 

A little over the top? Perhaps. Still, the key insight that opening a bottle is always an enjoyable moment inspired Banfield-Seguin and our client Canada Post to create a “message in a bottle” direct mail campaign to promote the company’s revamped wine shipping services. And so far the results have been nothing short of sparkling!

Now more than ever, the Canadian wine industry is experiencing increasing recognition and success around the world. In the summer of 2012, federal legislation preventing inter-provincial wine shipments was lifted, with provinces maintaining the authority to set limits on personal importation. Canada Post saw this as a key opportunity to connect with wineries, specialty wine stores and wine-related associations across the country.

The objective of the campaign was to raise awareness of the benefits of Canada Post’s wine shipping solution and generate sales leads. Canada Post’s unique end-to-end solution features the nation’s largest business to consumer distribution network, a suite of advanced marketing tools and a new Deliver to Post Office service — offering unparalleled reach and convenience to help wineries grow their business.

With these key differentiators identified, Banfield-Seguin went to work developing attention-grabbing creative that would spark our audiences’ curiosity, and, of course, deliver on all objectives. The result was our “message in a bottle” concept.

Each of the targeted businesses received a wooden box debossed with the simple message: “Open up new opportunities”. Inside the box, recipients discovered a Canada Post-branded wine bottle in which we had inserted a one-page fact sheet, in the form of a scroll. The fact sheet highlighted key features of the Winery Solution, a campaign URL for more information and a call to action to contact a Canada Post representative.

As further sales support, we also designed a Canada Post-branded package of water crackers, to be delivered in person by a sales representative. Because crackers are used during wine tastings to cleanse the palate, the idea was to offer potential customers a “shipping palate cleanser” to prime them for a brand new shipping option. The packaging was carefully designed to have them stop and think about this new offer and fully appreciate its business benefits.

And mission accomplished! Results from the first phase of the wine shipping solution campaign have exceeded client expectations, with breakthroughs made even with previously unresponsive wineries and associations. Canada Post is also very pleased with the positive feedback received from key industry players and via social media.

We want to thank Canada Post for the opportunity to fully leverage the potential of direct mail, and for their involvement and enthusiasm throughout the campaign’s development and execution.


Alcatel-Lucent IP Video Innovation: Video Case Study

In Fall 2012, Alcatel-Lucent asked Banfield-Seguin to assist with the creative strategy, messaging, image selection and video for a new campaign, IP Video Innovation.

The IP Video Innovation solution delivers video content to customers wherever and whenever they want it, and Alcatel-Lucent needed to prove to today’s consumer that their IP video offering is better than the competition’s. To achieve that objective, we developed the creative concept “Seeing is Believing”.  The campaign challenges the audience to see for themselves how unique IP Video Innovation truly is.

View the video below to learn more about the project and in particular, the captivating still-motion video we produced for the IP Video Innovation campaign.


Banfield-Seguin Collects 8 Communicator Awards — Including 2 Gold Awards of Excellence!

Banfield-Seguin is proud to announce a total of 8 wins for our clients’ print, video and web projects at the 2013 Communicator Awards — one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world.

Banfield-Seguin was recognized for work done in a variety of disciplines and across different industries, both on the national and international stage — a testament to our versatility as a full-service marketing communications agency.

We consider it a true privilege to be able to help clients like Aireon, Alcatel-Lucent, Iridium, and the National Arts Centre take their rightful place next to other notable Communicator Award winners like Nike, Ford, Microsoft, IBM, Red Bull, Verizon, Audi, NASA, Boeing, 20th Century Fox, Intel, AOL, Porsche, Lego and others.

From the over 6,000 entries submitted by companies and agencies around the world, the International Academy of Visual Arts has recognized the following work:

National Arts Centre
NAC Dance Poster 2012-13
Category: Marketing/Promotion-Poster
Company HolidayCard 2011-12
Category: Marketing/Promotion-Greeting Card
Iridium Pilot Ad
Category: Print Ad-Business/Trade Publication
High Leverage Network Website
Category: Web-Corporate Communications
Iridium Pilot Ad
Print Ad-Magazine
Aireon Website
Category: Web-Corporate Identity
National Arts Centre
NAC Dance
Brochure 2012-13

Category: Brochure-Business-to-Consumer
Aireon Corporate Video
Category: Online Video-Technology

These 8 Communicator Awards now bring the number of international awards we received in the past year to a total of 29 — which includes 14 Davey Awards and 7 AVA Digital Awards.

Banfield-Seguin is very grateful for these accolades, and would like to thank its clients and everyone involved in making these projects a success.


About the Communicator Awards:

Founded nearly two decades ago, The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program recognizing big ideas in marketing and communications. It honors work that transcends innovation and craft — work that made a lasting impact, providing an equal chance of winning to all entrants regardless of company or agency size and project budget. As it enters its 19th season, the competition is also introducing expanded mobile and new cause marketing categories, making this year's edition bigger and better than ever.
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Getting Creative at MARCOM 2013

As a proud partner of the MARCOM Professional Development Forum, Banfield-Seguin decided to bring added value to this year’s event by getting creative — quite literally. In collaboration with CEPSM, who produces the forum, we developed The Creative Spark Series, a collection of articles about creativity in the workplace.

Taking place on May 28-29, 2013 at the Ottawa Convention Centre, MARCOM is the premiere educational forum for public and not-for-profit sector marketers and communicators.

As part of our partnership, we also developed the theme design for MARCOM. The title of this year’s forum, Mission Possible: Change Agent, inspired us to create this look and feel, along with the tag line: Inspire, Influence, Act.

Demystifying creativity

The Creative Spark Series was designed to help demystify creativity in order to deal with change more effectively, and to redefine it as an open form of problem solving. We also wanted to make creativity accessible to all by providing strategies, tools and tactics that could apply to any workplace and sector.

Topics covered in the series have included The Benefits of Creative Work Cultures, Making the Most of Your Team’s Unique Creative AbilitiesWhat Highly Creative Workplaces Can Teach You, Tools and Techniques to Unlock Workplace Creativity, and Working With Creative Agencies.

The series will culminate in a Peer-2-Peer roundtable at the conference on how to “gamify” your work. Banfield-Seguin’s very own Christina Flavell, Director of Strategy, will lead the session.

“It all began when we first started working with MARCOM on this year’s theme creative as an Official Supplier to the forum.” explained Flavell. “Claire Mills (Vice-President of Professional Development at CEPSM) encouraged us to further demonstrate and showcase our creativity leading up to the forum. Together, we came up with a plan to provide MARCOM with content that would serve to increase engagement with the MARCOM community and drive more potential participants to the program to learn about its merits. And for us, it’s been a great chance to share what we have learned over the years and to further refine our own creative process.”

Spreading the word

To make the most of the series, Banfield-Seguin and MARCOM developed a distribution strategy that utilized our combined online channels, including blogs, newsletters, emails, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One of our articles was also included in the April enewsletter from MARCOM partner IABC Ottawa.

Judging from the reception to the first few articles, it looks like we’re off to a great start! So far, The Creative Spark Series has garnered very positive feedback from MARCOM organizers and helped increase traffic to the www.marcom.ca website .

Banfield-Seguin wishes to thank Claire Mills for the opportunity to work together on such an inspiring project!