And the Winners Are…

The BSL Holiday Treats contest is now officially closed for this year. We are pleased to announce the lucky winners of the Holiday Treats Gift Packs:

Marcelle Labelle, Rogers
James Dolan, Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority
Caroline Clouston, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Kim Meier, Brookstreet Resort
Michelle Hill, Alcatel-Lucent
Deborah Woodman, Canadian Medical Association
Nancy Bickford, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

The goodies in the Holiday Treats gift packs were baked lovingly by the
Mississippi Grannies. Funds raised from this bake sale go to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign that helps support families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa, launched by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in 2006.

Happy Holidays from all of us at BSL!


Kitchen Encounters:
Cooking up a Holiday Treat

The Idea:

After hearing some conversations at lunch one day, something made me think of an idea. We could send out a BSL holiday cookbook. 10-12 pages in pdf format, so clients would be able to print it out. Staff can submit their holiday faves. We could print them out and have them bound for whoever wants one. We could send out a teaser like What's Cooking at BSL for the Holidays followed up by the cookbook. All the recipes would be baked for a certain day and a lucky client would be drawn to win a basket of fresh baked goods — the recipes in the booklet. Could be posted on our blog.

Just throwing it out there.
— Barry

The Response:

This sounds nice and warm and friendly (& memorable) to me…
— Chris

I think it's a great idea, Barry. It's electronic and so client's can print it out if they want to. It would be a real keeper and something that staff can really participate in and enjoy as well.
— Mary Ellen

I think it’s really nice! I should probably let you know what happened the last time I made Angel Food cake. Let’s put it this way … it didn’t look ANYTHING like the photo you’ve included! I think this will go over really well with the staff.
— Nancy

Meet the bakers

Download your own Holiday Treats recipe book

Enter to win some sweet sensations

Meet the bakers

The Stories:

Hmmmm… my challenge was that it was a two day process to make them (nothing like instant gratification) and an even bigger challenge was not eating the yummy peanut butter balls before they got their chocolate-y coating.
— Carolyn

I had to squeeze in the somewhat time-consuming process of making bread into a busy weekend, and it was tricky in that my mom had all of the ingredients for the bread, including the most important component - the food processor - at her house in the East end, when I now live in the West end. I had to transport the quickly-rising dough from there to my place - the dough sitting on the seat next to me in a big bowl covered loosely with plastic wrap - with heat turned up to a comfortable temperature it would take kindly to... Other challenges came when it came time to braid it, I didn't have a pan large enough so I had to be creative, and when it came time to bake it I realized I didn't have even one egg yolk so had to quickly make a trip to the store in the snowstorm!
— Julie

My biggest challenge was trying to decorate enough cookies well to photograph (I have a reputation to uphold after all those years of art college!). The icing was not co-operating! If that wasn’t difficult enough, I had to keep my husband and son from eating the nicely decorated ones (which looked much more enticing than the others) before the photo shoot.
— Nancy

The minute I knew we were going to do the Holiday Treats recipe book – I knew I wanted to find my mom’s “Jam Surprises” recipe to submit. The first challenge is that the recipe was handwritten by my mom and had very short, vague directions. Obviously she had made them a lot and just “knew” what to do when she made them. I had to figure out how to make a soft dough and also how long to cook them. I didn’t really know what she meant when it said to seal the corners either. After a visit with my Aunt Emily this weekend I found out something that makes the recipe even more special to me – it was actually my grandmother’s recipe! I didn’t even know that…
— Chris

I'm so far from being in the same class at making biscotti as my mom and sister — but I had a blast taking on the task anyway! Taking the photos of everyone's yummy creations was also a lot of fun. It was hard not to take a nibble while looking behind the camera at the sweets! So get dunkin’!
— Barry

Download your own Holiday Treats recipe book

Enter to win some sweet sensations

Meet the bakers



Now I'm not slinging mud at anyone here. I just love it when I stumble upon things like this.

Fido Campaign - 2007

Samsung Website - 2004


Crack Shot

Thought this was an
interesting video in that it shows how a concept in photography becomes reality with the use of some inspired thinking, powerful software and a fair degree of effort. Its really quite a fun concept and the video of how it was done gives a great insight to what goes into pulling off a little photo magic. There are plenty of examples of elaborate photography out there and certainly some are better than others but it is seldom you get to see the "how did they do that" documentation. Have fun!

Measure Your Web 2.0 Activities

Web 2.0 allows a different type of interaction with your customers in that it promotes longer term relationships. It remains integral to measure immediate conversions such as sales, however understanding your visitors over time is also key within the web world. The reason for this is that one interaction may not result in an immediate conversion, but it may influence an action the next time the consumer interacts with an element of your campaign.

Some are quick to judge one part of their campaign, for example the offline portion or online display ads, when their pay per click campaign appears to be generating the highest conversion rates in terms of sales. What they cannot see, is the value that the other campaign elements have on a visitor’s perception of the brand by the time they are exposed to the pay per click ad.

A sports apparel company that wants to understand the effectiveness of each aspect of their marketing mix which includes RSS, display ads, and paid search, would benefit by doing this type of session-by-session evaluation. I've named our persona “Jim” for the sake of personalizing this description.

Session 1:
- Jim finds the sports apparel website by clicking on a display ad that pops up while he’s reading sports news.
- Jim browses through a few pages of content, registers for RSS and then leaves.

Session 2:
- Jim regularly reads the company’s RSS feed and sees one article of special interest, so returns to the site.
- Once back on the site, he continues to look around for about 20 minutes, interested in additional related content.

Session 3:
- Jim is searching for articles on the Grey Cup game and responds to a natural search listing for content on the apparel company’s site – the cheerleaders were outfitted with their clothing.
- Jim posts a comment on the article and then leaves.

Session 4:
- Jim continues to read the RSS feed regularly and after reading many strong reviews on the company’s clothing, he becomes more committed to the brand.
- One day, Jim is in need of a new dry-fit top for working out, and so he accesses the apparel site directly and makes the online purchase.

Now, if the session-based data were analyzed as individual units, then all of the marketing activities would be undervalued or the last activity resulting in the conversion would be assigned a false high value:
- Display ad didn’t convert
- RSS didn’t convert
- Natural search didn’t convert
- Accessing the site directly converted

You need to see the complete picture to make appropriate decisions, and if the sale is the desired end goal, then measure it, but find a way to follow the paths consumers take to get there. There are tools out there such as WebTrends and even Google Analytics that are capable of it (some more sophisticated than others). It will take pre-planning and thought to set things up properly and of course time to analyze results regularly so that they are meaningful and actionable.

Marketing is an evolutionary thing, and moving visitors along in the sales cycle should be seen as equally important as the activity that results in a sale. Other types of activities, such as signing up for RSS or commenting on an article, are still ‘conversions’ – and therefore should be measured and considered to be successes within their own realm.

Fortune Telling

Back in September I posted a piece on Apple and their brilliance in business building. Well it seems that Fortune magazine agrees! CEO Steven Jobs tops the list at number one of the 25 Most Powerful People in Business. What does the future hold? One certainly hopes that Apple continues "creating new innovative products that will surprise and delight our customers". Bring on the iPhones, movies, music, touch-screens and all. For my part, I look forward to something a little more straightforward — not having the PC /Mac chasm to deal with. Within our own walls and between our customers and ourselves the investment in IT and cross-platform challenges come at a price. Perhaps Mr. Jobs has the kind of power to make that manifest.


Seven Amazing Lead Gen Tips!!! Absolutely Free!!!

... but to get them you have to fill out a two-page registration form, give your credit card information and they're only free for 3.74 minutes.

This drives me crazy.

I'm referring, of course, to e-newsletters that promise one thing and then in a back-handed way get you to give them something else. Not only is it bad business practice, it's also breaking a cardinal rule of permission-based marketing.

By now you as well might be feeling a bit ticked off too. After all, I promised lead generation tips and so far you haven't got them. The fact is, I can't tell you what that e-newsletter had to say about lead generation, because I refused to pay for something I was told was absolutely free. And not only that, I will never know what kind of pearls of wisdom that service might "share" with me, because I not only deleted the e-mail, I unsubscribed from the service.

I'm not going to give you seven lead generation tips (at least not in this posting). I'm going to give you one tip about permission-based marketing. The advice stands for certain kinds of lead generation as well: to get something, you have to give something of equal or better value in return. This is best done in a climate of confidence and trust. If you say you're going to give me some great advice for free, and then you don't, I won't trust you. But if you say that I can have access to some great time-limited information for free and that I need to register, I will at least be able to respond to you in good faith. You might get fewer click-throughs. But you'll also get a lot fewer people who will unsubscribe from your services in the future.

In my next post, I'll share some advice about using search engine optimization to boost lead generation. I promise.


Jersey Day Polaroid Gallery

This Flash implementation takes a series of photos (either by a
Flickr RSS feed or an xml file with the list of photos) and then randomly spreads them out on a surface like a stack of Polaroid photos. The photos have captions, as if they were written on the bottom of the Polaroids. You can drag the pictures around, and double-click on them to open them in a larger view. You can also cycle through the pictures by clicking on the right and left arrows.

These photos are from a recent theme day we had at
BSL; Jersey Day. The cool thing about this gallery is that you don't have to know anything about working with Flash. It's incredibly easy to add your own photos and post it to your server. It took me about 5 minutes.

Click the image above to see the gallery.
You can download everything (including source .fla if you want to see how it was made)


High Anxiety

I am in the habit of taking long walks at lunch for a couple of reasons. The first is purely health related and the second is to clear my head. I sometimes take my camera along and shoot things that catch my eye and that serve to inspire my creative efforts. I have shot public transit, signage, parks, flowers and buildings both old and new as I find architecture a fascinating subject.

Recently I was walking down Preston street at lunch (a very busy restaurant area) taking pictures from the street of anything that caught my eye. There is a brand new corporate building just south of the Queensway that offered some interesting architectural design elements and so started to snap a few angles. The security guard came out of the building and questioned me about my purpose and then informed me I had to get permission to shoot from the “management’.

Now I understand we live in anxious times. Security concerns have shaped mindsets to the degree that one has to allow for suspicion of motive when hanging around sensitive areas (e.g. CSIS) with a telephoto lens. But I have waltzed by the American embassy among other such places blithely snapping away from public thoroughfares. Now I find that I will have to research my rights as a photographer in public spaces beyond the usual reproduction rights. Seems a shame really. I wonder what will happen to the camera clicking hordes of tourists that may need to get permission to shoot every building that finds its way into their lens.


Don't Be Afraid to Go "Below the Fold"

There is a web design principle called “Above The Fold”, which refers to the space a user sees on a web page without having to scroll down the page.

The myth has been that users do not like to scroll down pages, so the idea is to cram as much content and information above the fold.

Here is a study that demystifies this idea and concludes that users will scroll to view content.

Click here to read the full blog post.


Open Source Everything

One of the big changes building on the Web over the past years has been the availability of increasingly sophisticated applications - for free. Some web developers who at one time invented from scratch are now becoming expert integrators of open source applications. It's an exciting development because it means more of us can be creative and inventive. You'd be amazed by the number of really impressive websites are built using open source applications like WordPress, Joomla, or SilverStripe. Or the incredible knowledge-sharing possibilities of wiki-based intranets and extranets.

Open source software isn't quite the same thing as social networking sites or web-based APIs such as Google Maps. Facebook, Myspace or even Blogger offer users free access, but are supported by data mining and advertising to pay for the servers, development and technical support. Open source systems are hosted on your own servers (or the servers you pay for), and stand apart from other installations of the same system.

Conceptually, though, open source and social networking sites share a basic principle: pooling knowledge and sharing expertise create value. Many open source systems are designed by individuals and groups who believe in collaboration (and the possibility that their system will catch on and they can go to IPO). I am constantly amazed and impressed by the dedication of core developers and the more casual contributors who bring tools into the digital commons.

Some links:
Top 10 Wiki Engines:


Sweet Canadian design of yesteryear

Catalogue for Amercians wishing to order 16 mm films : '76 -'77

CP Air carry-on bag... not sure exactly when...70's?

Logo for the 1976 Montr
éal Summer Olympics

Postcards for Expo '67


Web 2.0 on the Inside

In past blog postings we've talked about grassroots marketing as part of Web 2.0. A recent McKinsey report talks about adoption of Web 2.0 as part of a grassroots initiative within a company, and for a company. I find it interesting that Web 2.0 applications are not only changing the relationship between customers and companies, they are also changing the relationships among employees within a company.

Among Web 2.0 technologies, collaboration and communications technologies are the clear winners. I’ve “snipped” some interesting stuff from the McKinsey report (which you can see in full
here, once you subscribe for free):

Wikis, which involves software enabling a group of people to contribute to an online document, encourage collaboration within companies, in particular for developing shared knowledge. One executive noted that they are particularly useful to develop a commonly agreed-upon terminology set - starting from the centre and translated into terms that are meaningful in specific end users' contexts. Wikis are also appealing because they capture anecdotal or unstructured information that might otherwise be lost, either because there was no way to capture it or the organization has outgrown its ability to gather and share knowledge informally.

Blogs were mentioned by many executives, as a way to communicate with customers and engage with critics, and therefore performing a productive discursive role. Some companies were also using mash-ups (combinations of two technologies to create a new application), such as displaying locations or photographs on maps, to address customer demands. Mash-ups using Google maps are one of my particular favourites because they are so easy to implement and they visually create a de-facto sense of community.

In an online discussion meant to derive insight from the quantitative results in the McKinsey report, it became clear that the ease of adoption of Web 2.0 was driving the grassroots push for communication and collaboration tools. One discussion participant claimed: "These projects started at the grassroots level, however the value was rapidly demonstrated."

The ease of exploring and adapting Web 2.0 technologies are elements that help advocates avoid typical implementation barriers. Among many respondents (described as Senior Executives), top-down management was seen as a hindrance, and that the best role for senior management was one of enabling adoption and setting of boundaries.

Measuring the impact of newly implemented Web 2.0 initiatives is not so straightforward, however. Some respondents were unable to claim that the use of Web 2.0 was providing clear competitive advantages. Other respondents claimed more qualitative effects such as engaging customers for product-development ideas and encouraging interest in collaboration and a stronger sense of community.

This last point brings us back to where I began. Web 2.0 is about enabling participation from all quarters, and this is the crux of how it is changing communications, business and communities.


Social Media Marketing: A Six Step Program

Recently, I have noticed a flurry of activity in my inbox from the usual e-newsletter suspects about what to make of the new social media.

Here are just a few of the e-mails I received this week: "How to Use YouTube to Generate Leads: 7 Video Posting Strategies & Tagging Tips" and "How to Use Social Networking Sites for Lead Generation" - both from Marketing Sherpa; "Social Media - Not Just for Kids" - from IMedia Connection; "The Build-it Yourself Approach to Social Marketing" - from IT Business Edge.

These newsletters attempt to answer a great question: as a marketer, how can you use, benefit from, and not get burned by sites like Facebook, MySpace or any of the more targeted social networking sites out there. Now is an appropriate time to share some answers, as we have been turning increasingly to social media (often with great success) on behalf of our clients.

Here is a six-step program for success in marketing with social media:

1. Research appropriate sites and groups to market to…
At the end of this article, I have put together a list of social media sites to get you started.

2. Or create your own.
If you can't find a group that meets your needs, create one on any of the more popular sites (Facebook is very popular - with about one in five Canadians using it).

3. Understand your target and create personas.
Due diligence requires that you a) Understand your target market and what they’re interested in by spending time reading what's being said, and b)Develop personas that fit in the reality of the social media group you’ve chosen.

In social media, every site is an expression of an individual’s "persona". In the context of social media personas sites sit somewhere between the literary definition and the user experience methodology definition of the word.

In literature, a persona is a "second self" through whom the narrative can develop. While they may share many characteristics, this persona should not be confused with the actual author.

In user-centred design, we create personas to help us understand the likes and dislikes of typical users and to define their goals and expectations.

Having a persona doesn't mean you need to say much. You may decide, having done your research, that your persona builds connections and mostly remains anonymous. Or, you may decide that your persona is quite gregarious, and will comment or offer insight on a regular basis. The most important thing about your online persona is authenticity. Be genuine or nobody will listen to you. The second most important thing is to remember you have to give something to get something.

4. Tread very carefully and post generously.
Marketing Sherpa describes a successful business-to-business intitiative1 using social media in which the company developed a mix of white paper titles to meet various expectations of the social media audience. These white papers spanned recommendations from the very specific to the very general. Each title resonated with different audiences, and was designed to generate leads.

5. Use a variety of channels for expression.
On many social media sites, there are many "media" being used, such as RSS feeds, blogs, and discussion forums. In sites like Facebook, many add-ons have been created to extend your presence (My Travels, photo galleries, event calendars, etc.). Facebook has received a lot of well-justified praise for enabling users to build applications that anybody can use.

6. Measure and follow-up.
Develop mechanisms to measure and enhance success. If you are using social media to generate leads, it is important to establish what information you want to receive, and to develop mechanisms to act on those leads. For more on social media and lead generation, click here.

As promised, here is a list of social media sites (other than Facebook and MySpace):
www.eons.com (a lifestyle portal for those over 50)
www.boomj.com (lifestyle portal aimed at boomers and "Generation Jones" (those between the boomers and Generation X)
prime.lavalife.com/ (dating for boomers)
http://www.cafemom.com(for active new moms)
http://www.mothersclick.com(for wired and active moms)

1 Marketing Sherpa referred to

Customer Experience and Branding

The other day I had to do some banking with a bank I don't normally deal with. I was speaking with a customer service person, who said to me: "Well, I don't know what YOUR bank's hours are; but we're open till 8 o'clock."(it sounded nicer when she said it).

It struck me that this person had internalized her bank's new brand expression and had personalized and expressed the brand differentiator in a very concrete way. Put simply: her bank's brand is all about extending operating hours to meet the needs of customers. She is evidently proud of this fact. She communicated this to me. In addition to seeing the bank's big green chairs on billboards around the city, I got the brand message first-hand from a customer service person. This is effective branding.

It speaks to the power of the customer experience and how pride in your company's customer service motivates staff to be brand messengers. It's human nature: you're proud of what your organization does, so you shout it out. And it means that knowledge of the brand and the notion that customer experience is important, have to run deep in your organization. As a marketer, you can't simply state, "We offer excellent customer service". You need to back it up with real action. The nice thing is, once you do, the message has a way of getting out, from the ground up.


Trillium Troubles: Ontario's "Improved" Emblem

Ontario's emblem has changed, and although this "improvement" has been in existence for about a year, I'm sure there are those of you who weren't aware of this. Is there any way to reverse the decision, from "3 guys in a hot tub" back to the sweet vector trillium that has been Ontario's identity since the early '60s?
What do you think?

Misleading advertising - is it ever a good business decision?

I was reading a women's magazine this past weekend and came across an article that focused on how to read nutrition labels. It gave some tips on how not to take food packaging labels at face value. Given the health – or lack thereof – of our nation, it really angers me because nutrition labels are often confusing - if not outright misleading, making it more difficult for consumers to make healthy, informed choices.

This is particularly the case when it comes to the advertising on the front of food packaging. For example, do you know what the differences between ‘100% wheat’, ‘100% whole wheat’, ‘whole grain’, and ‘multi grain’? They all sound healthy - don't they? But they are not all of equivalent value to your health.
Click here for a resource that explains them in simple terms.

In Canada, the statement
‘fat free’ can be used on the labels of products containing under 0.5 grams of fat per serving (serving size as specified by Health Canada). So a product with 0.2 grams of trans fat and 0.2 grams of saturated fat per serving can still make the claim of being 'fat free'. Interesting, isn't it? See for yourself just how complicated things can get by visiting the Health Canada website.

What about the brands that have the word
‘organic’ in their names? Are they truly organic? Or is it just a devious tactic they are using to make you believe it’s so? There are many different organizations that establish organic standards, and their standards are not all created equal.

It's important to be aware that labels don't tell the whole story. Without lying, companies can intentionally mislead in their quest to get you to choose them over the other guy. My question is whether they are at all worried about backlash, as consumers begin to learn their nutritional ABC's? I wouldn't wait around to find out, if I were them.


"Like a visit to the dentist..."

The most common expression among marketers (aside from “It isn’t rocket surgery”) must be: "They see (insert unpleasant but necessary purchase here) like a trip to the dentist". So your intrepid blogger/marketer just went to the dentist to see how the analogy stands up. And curiously, while there, I learned something about marketing.

At the heart of it, dentistry is about getting your teeth cleaned and fixed. But like so much of the world's commerce today, dentists make a significant portion of their revenue through up-selling services, such as cosmetics, little plastic things they put in your mouth to stop your teeth from grinding, and so on. The challenge for a dentist office is to know when to offer these up-sells, and who to offer them to.

In my case, they really went about it all wrong. As the hygienist was poised to attack the plaque on my teeth, and I was in the midst of that terror that only dentistry elicits, she offered something to stop the grinding, for some enormous sum of money, “because”, she explained, "you grind an awful lot". Then, after investigating the depth of the problems inside my mouth, she offered up caps, replacements, and whitening, all of which I knew would cost a small fortune. Enough, already! Besides the cost, it made me think that I was in grave danger of severely offending my dentist because of the gravity of the situation in my mouth. I nearly got up from my chair and left.

Curiously, though, I was much more open to suggestions once the appointment was over.

So what could my dentist learn about marketing?

I refer to the first law of up-selling: provide the basic service and then maybe I'll believe in the value of other services you offer.

First-off, listen to your patient (or customer). I didn't go for extra services. Just give me the basics when I ask for them. Do not tell me the myriad of ways you want to separate me from my money while you've got your dentist tools hovering over my mouth.

Secondly, provide the dreaded service professionally (which my dentist did). Wait until we've gone down that road together. Once I have reached that sense of achievement and my teeth are clean, then, by all means, tell me how they could be even better. At that point, you've proven the quality of your service, we've gotten to know one another a bit, and I know you've listened to me. As a customer, I'm ready to move to the next step. And I may, after all, end up with that grind-stopping plastic thingy.


More than one way to get a gamer's dollar

I’ve recently been taken in by an addictive little PC game called DriftCity. A free-to-play online driving game that launched earlier this month, and it had me reflecting on the changing economy of online video games.

The subscription revenue system has worked for a long time on game-behemoths like World of Warcraft and Everquest, both of which have been around for several years and have raked in billions (yes, with a B) of dollars. But games with lesser production values and hype have been left with a problem of not being able coax players away from the game they are paying for monthly in order to try something else they will need to pay another monthly fee for.

The result of this dilemma has been a number of interesting new ways of getting money out of gamers and games.

DriftCity for example uses a revenue structure that is very common among games originating from the east, Korea in particular. A player can download and play their games for free, but the player is also allowed to purchase in-game currency using real currency. This allows them to obtain special items which will either increase their character’s stats and/or decorate their character to fit the player’s liking. An example of this would be a new hat costing about 30 cents in real-world money, allowing a player to look unique while giving them an in-game advantage, such as making the character slightly stronger or faster. Only a small percentage of players will ever actually reach for their credit cards to do this, but it is enough to cover the game’s server/staff costs, and then some. This revenue model has been surprisingly successful. The genius here is that people with only a passive interest in a particular game will likely at least try it out, thus creating a large community of registered players, the larger the group is, the more likely that game will be mentioned in the media, thus getting the attention of even more potential players.

Second Life, for example saw a tidal wave of new players join its ranks over the past year, due to the all the hype it received from news sources reporting on large companies, like Sony and Ford buying space in the game simply to advertise their products. The game itself is, and has always been free to enter and explore, but real money is required to purchase property, very similar to the Korean free-to-play model. The hype from name-brand companies creating their presence sent Second Life’s population from the hundreds and thousands, which it had hovered at for years, into the hundreds of thousands. Many groups and organizations from political campaigns to musicians and fashion designers have jumped in, and are buying up their own virtual space to show-off their real-world products.

That’s all I’ll say for now, but perhaps next time, I’ll address a new spin an old idea, in-game advertising.


I want one

Fiat has unveiled its new Fiat 500 at the Frankfurt Auto Show. For those of us who spent time in Europe in the 1980s, when there were still plenty of the originals around (Fiat produced the "Cinquecento" from 1957 to 1975), the new car is a shining example of well-packaged nostalgia. The new car evokes the old - and unlike other contemporary updates (the Mini, the New Beetle), it's still tiny, with a tiny motor (my motorcycle's engine is bigger).

There is apparently a real taste for retro-styled cars with pricey options. The company is building 120,000 a year and is afraid it won't meet demand. The car isn't even cheap - prices start at around 10,500 Euros.

Why so much success, given you could fit the car in the back of a North American SUV? It's not just the Italian love affair with the Cinquecenti. The car is the embodiment of great design. Fiat has said it wants the 500 to be the "iPod of cars": simple, clean, useful and fashionable. I wondered how long it would be before someone started building cars like iPods. In fact, I've wondered why Apple hasn't started building cars.

I took the image from iht.com

The i's have it

First, I admit openly that I am an Apple fanboy. Have been for a very long time and for reasons that would bore you to tears. But truly, I am amazed at the business velocity and dazzling maneuverability of this phenom CEO Steve Jobs.

iPod – if you don’t have one (and most of you do), you want one, and in any case you know the brand. It’s the Kleenex of mp3 players.

Increase market share? Increase power & functionality of the core concept but keep it simple and elegant — iPod video. Now make it freaking elegant and droolingly desirable, add a phone, and take away all the buttons! Voila, the iPhone. Literally everyone I talked to knew about it, had seen it and wanted it. A lot! Market lust allows for high initial price point. Even AT&T lock doesn’t dissuade early adopters.

Now, the coup de grace. Update the
iPod with all that iPhone goodness. Cut the price of the iPhone (the real money is is the service contracts) and instantly expand market share in the smart phone category. Play hero and issue a credit at the Apple store to the early adopters (gee, who benefits from that?) and further cement brand loyalty. And give everyone who has service plans with providers other than AT&T an affordable WIFI iPod Touch that pretty much is the iPhone (yes, voice too, if you think VOIP). All in a few short days, ready for the Christmas stockings. Mix well and serve in Europe. Simply stunning!

Yes, there is a risk in this kind of volatility, but compared to everyone else – all other competitors seem, well, boring.


Marketing the Mundane: Ikea Goes Viral

When one thinks of furniture, and more specifically, mattresses, words like ‘exciting’ and ‘buzz worthy’ aren’t the first descriptors that come to mind. IKEA, however, has been able to accomplish just that with the ‘Swedish Guy’ character that has been the voice in their radio spots for over a decade.

The Swedish Guy is no longer just a voice. For the first time ever, IKEA is using him visually in some of their advertising campaigns. They've launched a
‘mattress microsite’, and Swedish Guy is featured as a ‘sleep coach’. He gives advice on how to choose a mattress, how to test it, etc, and his delivery is simple, yet hilarious, as would be expected.

“Click one of these to learn more about our mattresses, but don’t click anything if you like looking at me”.

Swedish Guy is recognizable, quirky, and lovable (although to some, annoying) and
IKEA has most certainly succeeded in giving their brand more personality and strength by using him in their ads.

Check out the
microsite and see if he looks like you imagined he would.

Facebook Follow-up

I just read a great article about some things every marketer should think about when it comes to Facebook.

See it


Your brand is a person. A person on Facebook

Sometimes when we talk “brands” with clients, we refer to them as "people". It's a way of helping clients understand what is at stake in their brand, how to manage its growth and direction. A brand, after all, has a personality, it acts in the world and it makes promises. Referring to a brand as a person is a way of bringing it right down to earth.

So I’ve had this thought: “if brand X is a person, what kind of presence would brand X have on Facebook? And would Facebook be a good place to understand brand X?

What if you used Facebook to better understand your brand?

I don't mean that your brand needs a real Facebook profile - unless of course Facebook is part of your marketing mix. But the Facebook model could be used to flesh out many important aspects that drive brand strategy.

Consider some of the core features of Facebook:

1. A Facebook profile has an image (could this be a logo?)
2. A Facebook profile supplies answers to a number of questions that reflect the person's personality and interests (what makes your brand different? what is your unique sales proposition? what is your unique selling language?)
3. Facebook invites networking (what is your sales force doing?)
4. Facebook includes e-mail (how do you communicate with your customers? does your brand reach consistently across all touch points?)

So here is a test you can try:
- Create a hypothetical Facebook profile for your brand
- Fill in all the blanks using the various features offered
- See how your brand behaves from the highest strategic level down to various brand touch points.
- See what you learn, and apply that learning to your brand.


Letting Customers Talk the Talk: Grassroots Marketing through Consumer-Generated Content

In an effort to spread the word without spending a fortune, what marketer hasn’t considered engaging their consumers in the process of content creation? After all, you don’t own your brand — your customers do. Chances are, they also own a camcorder — or at least a cell-phone with built-in camera — and are not afraid to use it.

V-CAM, or viewer-created ad messages, have taken marketing by storm, and are becoming an important element of grassroots marketing in the YouTube era. If part of your goal is to support a living brand, then consumer-generated content can be an effective way to get results — so long as it is properly planned and executed.

The idea of getting consumers to create your content is sometimes called brand democratization. Many big players are doing it: Audi, GM, Nike, and L’Oréal Paris. Sometimes it works brilliantly. Nike’s consumer generated ads for Converse led to a 300% increase in site traffic and an 11% increase in sales. But there are also risks. VW, for example, ended up in a socio-political minefield when a V-CAM was created featuring a VW Polo that thwarts a terrorist attack, confining a suicide bomber’s blast to the inside of the car. Politically sensitive material, to say the least.

Because of the inherent risks, and the fact that V-CAM works best (and worst) with the world’s biggest brands, pure consumer-generated ads may be more of a fad than a movement, and are unlikely to see widespread use.

Consumer Collaborated Ad Messages

So how do you mitigate the risks and still engage your customers in the life of your brand? Call it consumer collaborated ad messages.

Provide all of the creative elements you want to see in an ad, then let your customers “mash them up” to create something they can call their own. The Internet, with its combination of Ajax tools and cultural shift toward user-generated content, is an ideal place for this kind of customer engagement. Give them a sense of brand ownership — let them create, judge, share, and encourage their friends to try making their own ads — without endangering your brand.

You can take the idea of consumer-generated content a step further by integrating customer input into your overall brand message. Think of those charming couples wearing Tilley Endurables in exotic locales. You can control the results to some extent by providing examples of the kind of submissions you’d like to receive. As a bonus, what you receive may provide some insight into your customers’ minds.

Think your brand could use a boost from the grassroots? Effective communications thrive on three key aspects: how a message is delivered, who delivers it, and what the message is. We have found that who delivers the message can be as important as how the message is delivered. Messages from peers are often perceived as more genuine, and may provoke a greater response. And that’s the key to grassroots marketing.

Like any marketing campaign, engaging your customers in content creation requires heads-up planning and clearly stated objectives.


YouTube VS. Virb

I had heard about the quality of Virb compared to YouTube, but never actually tried it for myself. So I thought I'd post the same AVI file to both websites and see how the results turn out. This is some footage of a recent BSL excursion to Adventure Laflèche. If you didn't know about Virb before; now you do :)


Camping: a user's experience

Camping is a great way to see places, to meet people and to be in the great outdoors. But not all campsites are made equal.

I began to wonder - having recently spent a couple of weeks in campsites that ranged from terrible to terrific - whether my user experience there could apply to brands, and if so, how.

One thing at a time.

The product:
Campsites provide space for campers to set up tents, park their cars or RVs, and provide additional features like electricity, water, toilets and play structures for kids. Beyond this, campgrounds provide access to sites, activities and scenery.

The differentiators:
If I could bring it down to one thing that differentiates one campsite from another, it's probably the resources available to start and maintain them. Public campsites tend to be infinitely better than private campsites. The differentiator leads to the success of the public camping "brand."

This differentiator has a huge impact on the brand promise. Before even getting in the car to go on a camping trip, I plan my itinerary around the accessibility of public campsites. I'm not the only one. While in the Gaspé on a family vacation, I spoke with countless people who had stopped at
Parc au Bic (A provincial park about three hours east of Quebec City), then at Parc de la Gaspésie (Another provincial park about 3 hours further on) to finally end up at the majestic Forillon National Park.

In the case of camping, then, the brand promise gains something significant through association. And the user gains something through trusting the importance of this association, sight unseen.

User experience:
The user's experience at a campground almost completely determines the success of that campsite's brand.

How do provincial and national parks do such a good job of delivering on the brand promise? Obviously they cover the basics very well. They provide clean, well-maintained and campsites that aren't jammed up against each other. They provide excellent facilities. Forillon Park has a band of roving "naturalists" who describe natural phenomena in a way that kids and adults can understand. Beyond this, national parks offer consistent graphical references - even the roads are paved in a way you'll see nowhere else. You know you're in a national campground whether you're in The Pacific Rim, Banff or Forillon.

The parks are a holistic example of branding done across a wide spectrum.

What does all this mean for your company's branding? Too many times it seems companies believe a brand is a logo, a wordmark, and an attitude. A good brand is much more than that: it resides in the experiences of end users.

A brand in a crowded marketplace must differentiate itself through consistency across channels, relevancy and quality. Associations can be valuable to boost credibility. Consistency of graphic designs (like the brown and off-yellow signs in national park). Consistency of user experience (think of your website the way a national park architects its campsites). The quality of service. The relevancy of the offer. And nice added touches, like those nice narrow two-lane roads that meander through wooded areas leading to beaches, mountains, and other sights. If you look at your brands the way our national parks look at their layout, you're on your way.


SO del.icio.us

I recently started using the social bookmarking website del.icio.us and I’m beginning to thoroughly enjoy it. For those who haven’t heard of del.icio.us, it’s a web page where you can store all your ‘favourites', rather than saving them to your browser. It means that you can access your bookmarks from anywhere – without having to be on your home computer. It allows you to share them with friends, family, and other del.icio.us users. It’s a great tool for collaborating with co-workers on research projects.

Besides the benefits of access, flexibility, and collaboration, the next greatest advantage for me is that I don’t have to assign each bookmark to a folder. There are no folders. Instead I use tags (or ‘descriptive words’) and I'm able to choose which and how many tags I want to use. To make it even more simple, del.icio.us displays a list of ‘popular’ and ‘recommended’ tags I can choose from – or I can make up my own that are more relevant or meaningful to me.

del.icio.us also has a search tool, and I love having the option of using it when I know exactly what I’m looking for. My searches always turn up results comprised of my links and links (classified ‘public’) from other del.icio.us users. Generally, people bookmark sites they are especially fond of, and so the ability to share, pick, and choose sites from other people’s lists by subject category, is so efficient.

As I become better acquainted with del.icio.us I’m sure I’ll discover even more uses and benefits. You can visit my page and see my public links at

For those of you who currently use del.icio.us, how do you use it, and what do you like or dislike about it?


Search marketing and your brand

"Memo to brands: fear the wiki," states Sandeep Krishnamurthy frantically. I don't agree.

Krishnamurthy's point is that when you search your brand, one of the top results is the Wikipedia entry. And Wikipedia, given its aim to be the online user-generated point of reference encyclopedia, might say something you don't want to hear about your brand. After carefully crafting your image, turn of phrase and vivid brand personality, the supposed objectivity and authority that Wikipedia exudes can "muddy" your brand's waters.

Well, yes, of course the brand waters are muddied. You might create your brand, but you don't own it. Your customers, clients and the public at large do. Say, for example, you put a lot of work into a new wordmark, colour choice, motto. But your customer service people don't stay on message when they answer the phone. What is your brand then? "Nice logo, shame about the folks on the phone."
That's your brand.

Your brand's Wikipedia entry can be an excellent research tool. It can tell you what matters about your goings-on in the world. Read it, engage with it. And work on fixing what Wikipedia says is broken through a combination of pro-active communications and changes to the fundamentals.


Why wait? Web 2.0 is here to stay.

My colleague Tim and I recently attended an intensive one-day course in Montreal on the subject of social media marketing and Web 2.0. It was instructed by Mitch Joel, Owner of Twist Image (a digital media company in Montreal), and social media guru. I thought it was extremely well presented, and the content was a perfect mix of explanations and examples. I emerged at the end of the day feeling energized and excited to share all I had learned with my coworkers, not to mention, the rest of the world ;)

Web 2.0 seems to be all we’re hearing about these days - and rightly so. Mitch explained that this industry (marketing, advertising) has changed more in the last 2 years than it has in the last 20. He gave some startling statistics on web use – who is using it, how they are interacting with it, what they are doing and why. The hard numbers make it all very difficult to ignore, and hearing it inspired me to make a point of absorbing everything I can on the subject from here-on-in. Did you know that in 2006, Canadian online advertising exceeded $1 billion?! (
IAB Canada)

Here's a brief list of things that I feel are definitive of the Web 2.0 concept, and what social media marketing is all about:

- Hands-on (user-generated content ie/
YouTube, and virtual worlds ie/Second Life)
- Blogging
- Podcasting
- Wikis
- Syndication
- Tagging (ie/
- Social Networking (ie/
facebook, MySpace, Linkedin)
- Viral Marketing
- Mobile devices

Participation, as opposed to push or pull, is the name of the game. Consumers want to feel a part of your brand, and so by allowing them to contribute by creating - they are helping to shape it. This also prevents your marketing campaign from fading into the background and from fading too quickly – if people are interacting with it you can be sure it lives on!

If there was ever a time that cookie-cutter approaches fail - it's now - today and tomorrow. We all must start to embrace Web 2.0 and make the necessary transition in the way we approach marketing our products and services.


Coffee Break for BSL staff

The BSL staff got a little treat this afternoon after our Controller, Don Austin, won a ‘Stress-Free Coffee Break’ from the good people over at 98.5 FM. So thanks for the mugs guys, it’s very much appreciated.


iPhone isn't as flashy as I'd hoped

Coming out of WWDC are reports that Apple has officially admitted that the Apple iPhone will not support Adobe's Flash plug-in in Safari.

Flash support has been a long unanswered question about the Apple iPhone. Steve Jobs had made comments early on that we might see Flash in iPhone according to
David Pogue:

Markoff: “Flash [in the iPhone]?”
Jobs: “Well, you might see that.”

Of note, Jobs did say that Youtube support would be in the iPhone... but by sidestepping Flash altogether:

Jobs: “Yeah, YouTube—of course. But you don’t need to have Flash to show YouTube. All you need to do is deal with YouTube. And plus, we could get ‘em to up their video resolution at the same time, by using h.264 instead of the old codec.”

Funny; this ad tells us that the iPhone version of Safari provides "the real internet" and not a "watered down" version. For me, that includes a Flash plugin....MX at least.

Source: Mac Rumors

Web 2.0 - the other revolution

I held a couple of round-table discussions on Web 2.0 at the Marcom conference in Ottawa this past week. I spoke about Web 2.0. I began my discussion by defining the concept and talked about how Web 2.0 is both a set of tools and a change in attitude among consumers. We had a great discussions with some great folks in the public and not-for-profit sectors. Almost all of them are planning the next generation of their web presence to take into consideration the immense opportunities that Web 2.0 tools support.

I came away with as many questions as I had tried to answer in the conference. If the tools have changed, and end user attitudes have changed, what needs to change inside an organization to make the most of it? How do people and organizations move from considering their websites as a technical issue toward a platform for dialogue? Could this be the other Web 2.0 revolution?