How I Became the Mayor of BSL

It took me three days, but I now don the crown as Mayor of BSL.
In what universe am I a Mayor? In the universe of location based services – more specifically in the universe of Foursquare. What does that title mean exactly? Not much at the moment. But here is a quick rundown of what I’ve learned during my recent rise to power:

What LBS options are available?
I found a
list from Mashable counting down the best of LBS. I decided Foursquare (rated number one) would be my LBS application of choice.

What exactly do you do in Foursquare?

I think this video does a good job of explaining what Foursquare does.

Key Terminology

Similar to a check-in at a hotel, you simply register with Foursquare that you are at a certain location. If you check into a location more than anyone else in a given month, you are crowned the Mayor of that establishment. This status can wield some inviting benefits, such as free coffee at a participating Starbucks.

A Tip is a bit of insider information that you leave behind for the next person, once you exit a location. For example: Order the burger and ask for the secret sauce! As you check into a new location, you can view other people’s tips, potentially influencing your decisions for the better.

To-Do List
You can add Tips and Places to your To-Do List, and can check them off whenever you’re in the neighbourhood.

Your Foursquare friends can see most of your personal profile and location information, while the wider Foursquare community (including Facebook and Twitter) sees more limited information, due to a set of choices you are given in the check-in process. Even among Foursquare friends, you can still choose to check-in off the grid, if you don’t want anyone seeing your location.

Similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Guides – as you achieve specific requirements, you unlock new badges. Some badges are earned by checking into multiple locations in a single day, week or month, while some require checking into a certain type of location, a certain number of times. Badges provide added value and give incentive to explore new places and frequent familiar ones.

Foursquare does a pretty efficient job of tracking all of your check-ins. Each user gets a “Stats” page that breaks down your activity and information in many different ways. Here is a look at my stats page.

My First Impressions of Foursquare
The primary hurdle of Foursquare is the concept of publicizing one’s location – which to some can seem frightening. But you don’t need to submit your location to participate in Foursquare. Security settings offer users pretty good control. You can still collect badges, see local tips and get recommendations from other users. But of course, the experience is enhanced when you do check-in publicly – because you get to run for Mayor.

Foursquare seems to have a lot of potential from both a social and marketing standpoint. You can link to Facebook and Twitter, with the option to publish check-ins to all platforms. You can also keep your check-ins completely private. Stay tuned to the BSL Blog as I continue my adventures in Foursquare, and explore more opportunities for marketers. Look up BSL on Foursquare and check-in the next time you stop by!

Are you using any LBS applications? If so, what are they and what has your experience been like?


New Campaign, New App and New Season for Place d’Orleans

No one experiences spring fever quite like the fashion industry. Shedding our winter wardrobe in exchange for the light and bright is an event that truly gets its own countdown.

As we approach this monumental switch to spring, BSL has been working with
Place d’Orleans on the debut of their new campaign. In recent years we have developed a more fashion-forward image for the shopping centre – one that features a real focus on the latest trends, must-have items and inspiring styles of the season.

Our team hit the road to Montreal once again to stage a full-day shoot for the new campaign. Our feature model breezed into the studio where we draped her in whites, florals and animal prints – just a few of the hottest looks you’ll be seeing this spring. Not only did the day produce a batch of super hot shots for the campaign, but BSL has also put together a
video that captures the fashion magic from behind the scenes.

While you may have seen previous Place d’Orleans campaigns whirring past you on bus wraps throughout town, or hitting your doorstep in the mail, this campaign marks a shift in the media mix. Interior bus ads and transit shelter ads will feature a special QR code, taking users directly to view the
campaign video (which lives on the Place d’Orleans YouTube channel). To support this new media effort, the campaign also encourages audiences to download the new Place d’Orleans app for the iPhone, which hooks users up with the latest trends, tips and promos happening right now in the mall.

The new season may mark an increase in temperature, but for the fashionistas – the arrival of spring is enough to give chills. Be on the lookout for the campaign launch on April 1st.


User Experience 101: 'Click Here' links

In the early days of the Web, words like 'click here' were used as cues to direct people within a website. The defence was that users had never seen a link before, and thus didn't really know what to do with it. Thus, the 'click here' was born.

However times have changed now, where the web is (almost, if not already) an everyday tool, and the 'click here' is now implicit. Instead of 'click here', link text should indicate the nature of the link target. Here are a couple of reasons why:

Search Engine Optimization
Google and other search engines pay attention to the textual information that you put in a link and estimate the relevance of a link. They want to know where you are sending people, and will reward you by using keywords in the link.

For example:

  1. We provide customer focused and innovative services in Ottawa. Click here.

  2. Customer focused innovative services in Ottawa
The second is a much more powerful option from an SEO point of view.
By improving your hyperlinking scheme, you can increase the % of traffic that flows to your site, and in turn, into your business, just by gaining a couple of points in your conversion rate.

We are in a time where more devices are becoming web-enabled (GPS, mobile devices, tablets, etc...) Without getting into too much detail, 'click here' is an action using a mouse. Even though users probably recognize what you mean, you are still conveying the message that you think in a device-dependent way. (i.e. When viewing a site on an iPhone, you're actually tapping, not clicking)

I can go on about this subject, but you can read more about it by clicking here...OOPS, I meant, you can read this article! Don't use "click here" as link text by the W3C Quality Assurance


Creative Ideas for the Cause

On March 11, 2011 Northeastern Japan was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes in history. In exceptionally difficult moments like these, nothing warms the heart quite like witnessing the world join together, to help alleviate the devastating consequences of such a disaster.

Worldwide, many organizations have arranged in various forms to welcome donations to the relief effort. Any idea to get people involved is a good idea, and an effort that stood out to me is one done by Wieden + Kennedy. A creative ad agency with offices around the world, Wieden + Kennedy designed a series of posters to raise funds for Japan, with all profits going to the Red Cross.

Artistry lending its talent for a good cause. This I like. But there are endless ways we can creatively contribute. For instance, at BSL we’ve opted to arrange our own donation to the Red Cross by creating a pool around the March Madness NCAA Basketball Tournament. Half of all entry fees will be contributed to the Red Cross. Even though I don’t know the first thing about basketball – count me in! I mean sure – the last time I touched a basketball was when it collided with my face (ouch), but hey – who says you’ve got to be an all-star to help out?

How have you or your organization helped support the relief effort?


The Opportunity Behind Opt-ins

The potential for direct mobile marketing is growing exponentially every day. In 2010, nearly three quarters of the world’s population were carrying mobile devices in their back pockets. A recent study by the Journal of Electronic Commerce Research reported that the average mobile phone user has their device accessible nearly 14 hours a day. Figures like these have marketers salivating at the prospect of reaching out to consumers one-on-one.

But is the sky really the limit with opt-in mobile marketing, or are users just hitting the ignore button?

The magic behind permission-based marketing is that the relationship between brand and user truly becomes mutually beneficial. The brand targets the user in a personalized, intimate fashion, while the user receives only those messages that are relevant to him/her. Right now big brands like McDonald’s and Nike are sending subscribers messages about the limited-time McRib and the latest neon kicks.

Users who choose to receive these messages are also at liberty to pass the text along to others in their circle. The viral nature of these messages can be extremely powerful, as we all know that messages from a friend or family member earn far more traction than those from Corporation X.

There still remains some mystery behind the future of mobile marketing. For years industry experts have raved of the potential for Location Based Services (LBS) – but we’re still waiting for the boom. Will mobile marketing suffer the same anti-climax? Are marketers just dreaming the impossible dream? Or is our culture really ready to embrace true one-to-one advertising?


It's Nothing Personal

A moderate degree of thick skin is necessary for any service-based business. Especially a creative one. And yet, even I won’t completely heed the advice of my own article, because as I’m writing this I picture the reader smiling at how clever I seem to be – and if they don’t, I’ll figure “they just didn’t get it”.

Ego is a hard thing to avoid when it comes to something we’ve created.

I’m always trying to make myself a better artist. I constantly buy books on how I can improve my skills. I watch more online tutorials than I do TV shows. I eat and breathe my profession but none of that matters if I can’t give the client what they want. And in the end, that’s what I keep telling myself. It’s what they want. What they’ve hired me to create for them.

When I started out in this industry, I used to choke on my own ego. Hearing someone say "You know I don’t think it’s there yet" had me fighting off the demoralized look that would instantly want to mutate my face. My attitude was completely defensive (at least on the inside) and by the time the client left me to the revisions, I felt frustrated and hurt. What do they know? Why would they hire me if they don't trust my judgment? I've been doing this for at least a year – I'm obviously a professional.

I couldn’t have possibly done a good job in that state of mind. In fact, at that moment I had just failed at my job. Why? Because my job is to make great looking stuff for other people. Not for myself. If you paid someone to remodel your kitchen wouldn't you want it exactly the way you want it? You may not be a professional renovator but you know what you like when you see it, right? So why is the situation different when you're the "builder" and they're the customer?

There is nothing wrong with being upset because you've missed the mark. It's natural. But it's something that you bounce back from, and if given the chance, you come out the other end with a better product. When you take things personally, the only thing you want to do is defend your decisions. So much effort is spent on justification that you can't even begin to consider the next step, which is "Ok, so how do I fix this?"

Anytime someone is critiquing something I’ve created, I remind myself that they are speaking about the thing they are looking at, not about me. Yes I crafted it, cared for it and watched it grow but if I can't detach myself from the things I make for other people then this business will drive me crazy.

We all have egos. And that’s not a bad thing. I love my ego. It got me where I am today. Yes I have skill, but my ego is what convinced me my skills were worth something. The trick is not to let it get in the way.

I don’t know if I’ll ever completely rid myself of taking creative criticism to heart, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it. This job is not who I am, it’s just what I do.

So I hope this found a few of you. Some will use it, some won’t. Either way I’ll try not to take it personally.


Getting Creative with QR Codes

In 2008 we posted an article on the emergence of QR codes, which at the time were most popular in Japan, with North America slowly waking up to the mobile possibilities. In just three short years, we’ve seen this tool adopted across many industries, for many different purposes.

For those who didn’t catch our last article (and have somehow avoided hearing about these things elsewhere) QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes that can contain any alphanumeric text and often feature URLs that direct users to sites where they can learn about an object or place (a practice known as “mobile tagging”).

We are seeing more and more use of QR codes on product labels, billboards, transit shelters and on building exteriors. But the possibilities for QR codes stretch beyond just marketing. This groundbreaking mechanism for linking spaces to information is inspiring new thinking and innovation across many industries. QR Codes are now being used for things like commercial tracking, logistics and inventory control.

Right now, the largest obstacle that industries face with using QR codes is awareness. It is arguably still a new form of technology, and many people still don’t know what they are – or at least, aren’t familiar with them enough to keep an eye out. Another challenge for marketers is that the website they are directing consumers to might not display properly on every mobile device.

Prepare for this tool to have some pretty long legs. QR codes are able to store quite complex information in an impressively small matrix. Some of that
innovative thinking I mentioned has already taken place, and you might just end up face to face with a QR code when you go to a concert, park your car, buy a bottle of wine, check into an airport, or even RSVP to a friend’s wedding.

Have you seen any unique uses of QR Codes in your travels?


Organization 101: Tips for Your To-Do List

Let’s face it: most of us fantasize about being more organized with our time. But the ugly, scattered truth is – most people are not very well organized. We are not born to be. But it’s a skill that anyone in any profession can learn, to increase productivity and work more efficiently. My mother was an organized person, so I was fortunate to learn a few tricks that have served me well.

Being organized is about being in control. Control of how you handle paper, email, the phone, your time, and all other tasks and responsibilities that make up your workday. It’s about being aware, and prepared. Proactive, instead of reactive.

On any given day, a BSL Account Executive needs to manage a variety of projects for a diverse set of clients. This means collaborating with strategists and writers, designers and developers, and ensuring that what needs to get done, gets done.

In this article we tackle… The To-Do List.

Customize your list
You should have all tasks and appointments included in the list. The list may be ordered chronologically, by category, or by priority level. No style is better than any other – it’s about what works for you. One good tip is to have a "Keep In Mind" list for items that are not immediately relevant, but that you don't want to forget about.

Respect your list
Just like email, your to-do list is something that needs your attention. It is its own priority. Start your morning by reviewing your daily items. Taking just five minutes at the beginning and end of each day will help you focus on what you need to do, and ensure you are keeping your lists up-to-date. At the end of the day, check off your accomplishments and add any new tasks or goals.

Inspire your list
Start each item with an action verb. Don’t just make it an item – make it an action item! By starting the item with “Call…” or “Schedule…” or “Submit…” you save yourself the extra time in planning how to accomplish the goal. With an action verb staring back at you – all you have to do, is do it.

Stay tuned for my next installment of Organization 101: Managing Your Inflated Inbox.