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!


Tools and Techniques to Unlock Workplace Creativity

This is the fourth 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 have read our previous articles, then you will no doubt be familiar with the benefits of workplace creativity, and the different ways to maximize your team’s unique talents, as well as develop an organizational culture where creativity can flourish

The next step is to provide you with some tools and techniques you can use to help set creative problem solving into action. All of the examples listed below have been tried and tested by the Banfield-Seguin team, and many have helped get us out of even the toughest of creative jams. Enjoy! 


Brainstorming is one of the longest standing and most popular creative ideation methods around the world. The goal of these sessions is to use lateral thinking and collaboration to produce as many different solutions as possible. 

To achieve that, it is important to create an open and positive environment that makes everyone feel comfortable enough to share what comes to his or her mind. This means that judgment and criticism should be avoided at all cost. We always suggest that the person leading the meeting start by letting participants know “The Rules of Brainstorming”, i.e. no judging of ideas, and be open to even the most counterintuitive or quirky of the proposed solutions. With the combined input of the group, something outlandish could morph into something truly innovative and possible. 

Ideas should be evaluated only after the meeting is over. At that point, the most promising ones can be organized into a shortlist and further developed. 

One of the drawbacks of brainstorming is that results are often dictated by the individual tendencies of participants. As mentioned in our second article about unique creative talents, some people find it difficult to spontaneously produce ideas. Others may be afraid their ideas will be rejected. There is also the risk of those with a lot of energy for ideation dominating and/or defending their ideas too forcefully, and failing to listen to others. 


Brainwriting, on the other hand, gives everyone an equal opportunity to contribute. Like brainstorming, it is conducted in a group setting where participants are asked to explore different solutions. However, brainwriting is different in that it is a quieter process that allows for participants to write their ideas down, and not worry about breaking through the clamour of out-loud brainstorming. 

Brainwriting can be done in various formats. One is to use a sheet of paper where each participant writes down three ideas; participants then exchange papers and add more ideas, and so on, building from the ideas already there. 

Alternatively, participants can simply write ideas on cards (or sticky notes). These cards are then placed at the centre of the table (or on a wall) for team members to use as inspiration for more ideas. In turn, news ideas again get captured and shared, and serve as triggers for even more. 

At Banfield-Seguin, we find brainwriting is particularly helpful when trying to solve more complex business problems that require a more methodical, “building-blocks” approach.


Mindmapping is an effective tool when you really need to break out of fixed thought patterns. Our creative teams often use some form of mindmapping to try to come up with truly unexpected, “out there” ideas. 

A mind map is usually created around a single core word or phrase, placed in the center of a white board or a large piece of blank paper. From there, key related concepts are added as “branches,” radiating out from the central node. Identifying the first-level branches is critical because it will guide the thinking done at lower levels. These categories therefore have to be broad enough to allow many sub-ideas to flourish, and relevant enough to the problem to help focus the team’s creativity.

The rest of the process consists of building out from the primary branches, and again from the sub-branches and sub-sub-branches, until you feel you’ve exhausted all possible connections and the mind-map feels complete. Ideally the last level of ideas will consist of unexpected but compelling ideas that will point to highly creative potential solutions.


Starbursting is a creative technique that focuses on questions instead of answers, and serves as a great information-gathering tool. It is particularly useful when faced with a situation or problem that is unfamiliar to the team, or with a proposed solution that is still raw and undefined. Starbursting helps bridge the knowledge gap by taking this new element though a series of questions to ensure all relevant aspects have been considered before work begins.

The first step to starbursting is to draw a six-pointed star on a white board or a large sheet of paper, and to write the name of the item being investigated at the centre. Next to each point of the star, you then write the words ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where,’ ‘when,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’, before proceeding to address each of them. For example, next to the word ‘how’, you might ask the questions: “How will this new service benefit our customers/clients?”, “How will they use it?” or “How will we market it?”. Both the questions and answers should be captured in short form on the startbursting board.

To get the most out of starbursting, it is important that the six headings are explored in a systematic and comprehensive way, every time a new item is considered. This process can also be repeated over multiple stages, with a new set of questions being asked about the answers to the first set. Only stop once you feel every important detail has been clarified.

The Charette

When multiple related issues need to be tackled at once, traditional brainstorming can often be unfocused and unproductive. However, creative ideation can still be effective if you take a different approach to it. One such approach is the charette technique.

The charette takes its name after the French word for ‘cart’ or ‘chariot’, and involves dividing participants into small groups and having each of them brainstorm solutions to a single problem at a time. After a given time period, the problem and solutions brainstormed by one group are “wheeled over” (hence the notion of a cart) to another group.

At that point, another round of brainstorming takes place, with the second group refining the work of the first one and expanding upon it. This process goes on until every group has had a chance to work on every problem, so it is a truly collaborative tool. (And some may note that charette happens to be the last name of our Creative Director, John Charette – an amusing coincidence, for us at least!)

In conclusion, there are many tools and techniques to generate ideas. The key is choosing the most effective ones for the situation. To do that, you need to consider the tendencies and talents of those involved, and the nature of the problem that needs to be solved. It usually helps to use more than one technique. For example, you may want to start with individual mindmapping and then transition to out-loud brainstorming. 

In the following weeks, we will take a look at how working with a creative agency can help you and your team better use the above tools and arrive at even stronger creative solutions.


What do you think?

Which of these creative tools could you and your team use right away? Can you share any other techniques that have helped you produce creative solutions at work? What are the keys to executing these other techniques to get the best possible results?


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.


It’s a Boy!!!

Introducing Tyler Gravel!
We’re thrilled to report that Banfield-Seguin Account Director Julie Gravel is enjoying her time on maternity leave with her first baby boy.

And we couldn’t be happier for her!

Tyler arrived 6 weeks early and caught us all by surprise — especially Account Executive Kelly MacNaull who is backing up Julie while she is off.

At birth, Tyler weighed in at just under 5 pounds but was very healthy and strong – he was even seen kicking around a soccer ball in his incubator on his second day of life (he’s going to be a forward like his mom).

Tyler is now 3-months old and back on track at over 11 pounds. And he's even starting to smile. Aaawww…

Congratulations Julie from your Banfield-Seguin family!


Bon Appetit Ottawa: Taking a Bite Out of the Blogosphere

As a proud sponsor of Bon Appetit Ottawa since 2006, Banfield-Seguin provides services and resources to promote the event, with proceeds going to over 20 local causes. To keep it fresh and interesting for our creative team—and for the event’s benefit—each year, we brainstorm to come up with different and fun ways to reach Ottawa professionals and cocktail party aficionados.

Fortunately for us, one of the fastest growing trends in social media right now is “foodies” flocking to social media to discuss (and drool) over delectable dishes. It turns out people do care what you eat for breakfast, and lunch and dinner for that matter, as a simple scan of Instagram or Twitter could tell you.

So how could we harness the power of this trend to help enhance the show for participants and attendees? By partnering with food bloggers of course!

We started with research to identify credible, trusted food bloggers in our city who might be influential among the target audiences. We also wanted to demonstrate value for the food and beverage partners —who donate their food and time to be part of this incredible event. To that end, we proposed matching the selected bloggers with show vendors to give them some extra exposure leading up to the event and to get readers’ craving show selections in advance.

The results? We selected three local blogs who were available and interested in participating and named them the official Bon Appetit Ottawa bloggers. Working closely with the bloggers, we paired each one up with Food and Beverage partners they were interested in working with to help the show come alive before May 7.

The first week after officially launching the blogger program generated over 100 tweets and since then, the momentum has continued with an outpouring of support from the bloggers and their respective communities, as well as @BonAppOtt and some of our food and beverage participants.

The bloggers have also been posting up a storm, here's a summary of their coverage:

Jodi Samis of Simply Fresh Ottawa hosted a ticket giveaway last week and this week covers one of the  food and beverage partners, the Unrefined Olive.

Katy Watts, who blogs at Sheltered Girl Meets World is our Bon Appetit beer blogger. She's done two posts, covering the best of the local brews as well as the best of the visiting brews at Bon Appetit.

Don & Jenn Chow of Foodieprints will have you craving LUNCH with their in-depth review of the downtown favourite lunch spot, coming soon as one of Ottawa's newest food trucks.

Oh, Don and Jenn are also giving away two passes to the event that you can win! Enter before May 6.

Don’t want to try your luck? This event always sells out, so buy your tickets now. For $85 you get all you can eat and drink all night plus a $50 tax receipt--it's a great deal.

We’ll see you on May 7!

Bon Appetit 2012 - Photos by Earl Conway, Beginnings


What Highly Creative Workplaces Can Teach You

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


Unlike creativity itself, a creative work culture doesn’t just come out of thin air. As mentioned in previous articles, reaping the benefits of workplace creativity requires a commitment from the entire organization and a focus on maximizing everyone’s unique talents

There is no “cookie-cutter” approach to achieving this. From Apple to Google to Facebook, 21st century innovation giants have all had to develop their own principles and procedures to allow creative problem solving to flourish. 

With this in mind, we have assembled a list of suggestions inspired by today’s most productive, creative organizational cultures — many of which we have successfully applied to our own work over the years. We hope that some of them will inspire you to experiment a little bit. 

Balance creative and authoritative leadership 

As with many other workplace changes, injecting more creativity into your organizational DNA starts at the very top. This means that executives and managers must actively demonstrate collaborative behaviours and embrace creative techniques, even in times of stress.

Although some situations call for more top-down assertiveness, generally speaking the key is to strike a right balance between authoritative and creative leadership. A workplace can become more creative, when senior executives and directors exhibit traits from both of the two following columns:

Authoritative Leadership
Creative Leadership
Sustains order
Takes risks
Wants to be right
Welcomes feedback
Avoid mistakes at all cost
Learn from all mistakes
Maybe (can live with ambiguity)
By the book
Can improvise
Approach meetings with purpose and energy

In fast-paced work environments, meetings are often seen as the enemy to creative breakthroughs and innovation. However, there are much more effective ways to conduct them in order to allow them to unleash, rather than stifle creativity.

First, you need to set boundaries by identifying a clear agenda and a firm end time. This will make it easier for attendees to stay sharp and on course, and maintain their energy levels. Plus an emphasis on finding a solution within a limited timeframe can boost creative efforts.

Next, it is important to make meeting participants aware of what is expected of them. Letting them know their role in advance, and that they are encouraged and expected to contribute. This makes it more likely that creative collaboration will occur during the meeting. Also, leaving everyone with concrete, post-meeting “action items” will help avoid confusion and ensure these tasks are tackled right away, and creative solutions come to fruition.

Lastly, it is crucial to keep the meeting positive in order to make the most of face-to-face time. Remind everyone to concentrate on solutions and to save the negative energy and problems for private conversations.

Foster collaboration and cohesiveness

It is often said that good ideas can come from anywhere. That is why having more heads working together on a project usually leads to better, more creative solutions (with the operative word being “together”).

For collaboration to pay its full dividends however, the level of trust among colleagues must be fairly high. This is especially true if some team members are in direct competition for assignments and promotions. Team-bonding activities, shared break spaces and cooperative side projects are therefore all strongly encouraged.

That being said, cohesiveness should not be confused for homogeneity. When hiring, diversity in skills and personalities should be seen as a premium to ensure that the sum of the different parts of your team can become a greater whole. 

Empower everyone to make an impact

Although team leaders are appointed to make the big decisions, there is no reason for them to be making all the decisions. Sharing some of that power with staff members is sure to increase their sense of pride and responsibility. And it will free up managers to apply their expertise to tasks that only they can perform.

Empowering employees also means showing support when they try new things and venture out of their comfort zone. Pushing oneself to be creative is a bit of a leap of faith, which can be scary if no one is there to “catch” you. Consistently providing feedback should help keep your risk-taking colleagues motivated and give them the confidence needed to aim for more innovative solutions.

Break your own rules

When it comes to creativity, rules and process are important. But nothing is more valuable than freedom. So think about rules, formal or habitual, that you may have imposed on yourself over time. Strive to bend or break those rules when faced with a challenge that needs a creative solution.

In future articles, we’ll provide you with some specific tricks and tool to help you and your team do just that, and have a little fun at the same time!


What do you think?

Which of these recommendations could you apply right away to make your own work culture more creative? Can you share any strategies of your own to help workplace creativity flourish? How did you go about making these changes?


The Creative Spark Series is a joint initiative by the MARCOM Professional Development Annual Forum and marketing communications agency Banfield-Seguin, a proud 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.