Saturday, 26 November 2011

Training Hybrid Thinkers

Companies want training in all sorts of things. But what if instead of social media, digital marketing or project management training, you actually taught yourself to be a better problem solver? After all, 90% of what we all do every day would be THAT much better if we actually asked the right questions and deconstructed problems in a systematic way from various different angles.

That's why i heart this article by Co Design about the Girl Guides. My favourite part is about training hybrid thinkers...
Solving the ambiguous problems that plague our society, such as health care or access to clean water, will require working across multiple disciplines. Instilling the value of hybrid thinking--the mashing up of disparate disciplines--will ensure that we have leaders ready to tackle pressing issues.
I've always tried to build cultures of hybrid thinkers. It isn't about one school of thought, it isn't even that i think hybrid thinking is a school of thought in itself. It's about different ways of thinking and different thinkers coming together to solve complex problems.

And that's the key:

Complexity doesn't mean we have to individually get smarter, but we have to smartly bring collective experience to the problem solving Team.

Being a hybrid thinker and being open to hybrid thinking just makes it that much easier.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The University Of Me

Yesterday, Fred Wilson announced Union Square's investment in a new start up Code Academy. Cee got totally pumped and joined right away. A couple hours later she had been through the beginners and was wondering what the second language was that was required to go through the intermediate stage.

A couple hrs later, she was testing out her costume for Halloween. As part of it, she ended up with a harmonica (which she had never played) and with the help of Peter and the Web, she had learned Blowing in the Wind within a couple hours.

And it's not just cee. It's an entire generation of kids hacking education in a way that we could never have imagined it. They set themselves a learning goal, go to their devices and with a bunch of patience and a whole lotta discipline, they can get up to speed on the basics within hours.

It's the 'DIY Generation' welcoming us to the biggest campus on the planet, the "University of Me"

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Brand Is In The Details: Ode To Steve Jobs

A commenter over at AVC this morning posted a great story from Vic Gundotra.  Net net, Jobs called Vic on a Sunday with this urgent issue:

"I've been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I'm not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn't have the right yellow gradient."
Jobs was one of the greatest markers in the world.  His Agency partner Lee Clow said it best:
"There isn't a single thing Apple does that isn't a message that confirms or reinforces how you feel about the company.  I often tell people that the best ad we ever did was the Apple Store.  We do great TV commercials, we do wonderful billboards, but you walk into an Apple store and you're now immersed in a brand that's going to change your life."
Jobs said that Apple stood for People with passion can change the world.  He executed to that vision in everything the company did - from products, to packaging, to the advertising, the website, the store - the vision was the culture at the core and everything became an expression of it.   Brilliant brands are in the details, and Steve Jobs was the master of all of them.
"… You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."  (Stanford University June 2005)

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Social Opinion Vs. Public Opinion

With a Provincial election coming up, lots of people are watching social streams in order to gauge public opinion on a wide variety of subjects.  But similarly to Toronto's last municipal election, what the social opinion in our various networks happens to be and what the reality of how the majority of voters may act, may not in fact, be the same thing.

It's an important to remember as we collectively utilized social data and user comments to drive everything from product development to marketing approaches, that it is only a mere 10% to 15% that like to comment within the social sphere and that they do not necessarily represent the other 90%.

Social opinion does not automagically equal public opinion - and assuming that it is, may end up being a mistake.  

Change Doesn't Just Happen

I sometimes let my frustrations get the better of me.

Today I made a rather offhand remark about a start-up having a lack of diversity - in their case - no women other than the office manager. It's not a revelation. They are one company of many including Google that I've noticed this with.

The comment was off subject and didn't really contribute anything to the conversation that everyone was having which is when I know that something else is bubbling with me.

Here's the thing.

Change doesn't just happen.

I know there are many in the tech world who are bored of the whole change the ratio thing. That people who do conferences don't want us counting how many women presenters there are or how few women are on the sr. executive teams of start-ups.

But change doesn't just happen.

I see the eyes rolling and i hear people when they say, we don't see gender. And, I actually believe that they don't.

But here's the thing - change doesn't just happen.

And i'm sure as some people say, there are fewer women in UX or wanting to go to a start-up environment. That may also be true.

Equally true, change doesn't just happen. 

Active involvement and participation creates change. Deciding you are going to stop being annoyed and start contributing to solutions creates change. Maybe that means you should start looking at diversity across all your hires and challenge yourself to do better. Maybe you should create a program - get a intern or hire someone who wouldn't normally get the chance or have the connections to get a job in our industry.

But if we don't actively make it happen, it will never change. And i just can't stand the thought of that.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Boxed In By Google+ Circles

Google+ is like a book that everyone tells you me is awesome, but I can't get seem to get passed page 5 no matter how hard I try. People keep asking me why and I've been thinking about it and I think it comes down to one simple yet fundamental matter:

The circle sort.

They make me SORT my social network. They want me to LABEL people. I have to think about the relationships I have with people, determine a hierarchy of sorts and decide what i'd like to share within that.

I tried. I swear i did. But I couldn't do it. More importantly, I didn't AND DON"T want to!


Think of someone new who followed you on Twitter and you follow back. What is your relationship? Well, nothing really. See and that's the problem I have.

ln healthy ecosystems, relationships aren't prescribed they emerge. If i put people into circles, how is that suppose to happen? All of a sudden I will be filtering my content, editing what i say to whom and conversations and relationships won't emerge over time.

I hate that idea. It's counter to every reason and every thing I love about my weak tie networks.

So I haven't done it. I'm open to changing my mind. Feel free to explain the whole circle thing to me. I'm open to the conversation but or now those damn circles just make me feel boxed in.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Game Changing Leading Edge Innovative Mobile Idea!

If you want to see a game changing leading edge innovative mobile idea...

click here: X

Ad Spend Infographic

I was sent this infographic which i thought was kinda interesting. It's the Ad spend for top 200 brands. I'm curious what dollars they refer to. I"ll assume paid media. Chevy high. Starbucks Low. One day someone is going to accurately get a picture of where marketing budgets are going. Now that's an infographic I'll look forward to.

I'm just going to link to it bc the length of it is insane. It can be found here ....

Advertising Spend Infographic

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

F-Commerce & The Implications Of Arbitrary For Brands

There has been more than one large Fortune 500 company who has casually mentioned to me in passing that their commerce team is considering how to utilize Facebook for a future sign-in method for their Corporate site.

The marketing power of getting earned media messages from your owned property to influence others inside the gated walls of Facebook is something large brands can't afford to not consider.

However, when i read posts like Mathew's here and Jillian York's of the Electric Freedom Foundation here it gives me pause.

Facebook may have a "right" to take down whatever pages it wants for whatever reason it wants (and I'm sure there are a lot of people who believe that), but what are the implications of that on your business? What is the cost of a disconnected Facebook sign-in for an hour or two while they figure out if they've made a "mistake" or not?

F-commerce and Facebook Connect may seem like the best marketing idea but until Facebook comes clean as to how these "mishaps" keep happening, if i were you Corporate IT and e-Commerce departements looking towards the social commerce future, I would seriously consider the ever changing Terms of Service at Facebook and the Implications of what arbitrary could mean for your brand.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Like A Rolling Stone

This drives me nuts. The owner of Rolling Stone and US Magazine Jann Wenner says that he thinks the ipad will take a generation or two before we see major behaviour change that will see an en-mass switch from print magazines to the ipad.

I'm not really sure which generations he's talking about. I mean, maybe he's referring to my 2 and half year old who just showed my forty something friend how to turn off the ipad the other day when she couldn't figure it out. But even if he is ...

It was only twelve years ago that I sat with a group of Sr. Executives at a major video retailer here in Canada. We told them they were going to potentially be out of business within the next ten to fifteen years and needed to consider their long term business strategy in the context of the work we were doing and pointed to Netflix. Guess what. They thought we were out of our tree. And then they said.....

"Who's side are you on anyhow?"

Well, last week my local blockbuster put its entire movie library for sale last week. Going out of business.

I think it's best to give Bob Dylan the last word on this one:

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Business Of Brand & The Challenge Of Transmedia

I've been following the blurring of the line between Brands and filmmakers for a while now. l love the idea. I love what Gunther Sonnenfeld and others have to say and agree with many of the fundamental tenets as I've worked with brands my entire career to create content and narratives.

Where I stumble - particularly with brands creating (meaning leading the process, having approvals, going through legal etc.) deeper narratives with cultural impacts, is in the fact that brands often have very narrow platforms for the creation and building of value/s.

In the work that we do at Gravity, we have processes to expand brands to wider platforms in order to better operationalize them and in fact I've been using that process for over ten years. However, powerful narratives are often based on complexity. It's about characters or situations that could be morally ambiguous or are filled with the complexity of a range of our human characters both good and bad.

Brands, even great ones, will never be able to encompass that level of complexity because it ultimately goes against the principles of building great brands in the minds of customers in order to sell products. Having worked on a number of projects now that are films looking for brands or brands looking for films, the conversation inevitably goes towards approvals, control and a discussion on what are the impacts to the brand if the content goes off course from the values of what the brand stands for.

The business of storytelling and the art of it might be blurring, but they are NOT the same thing.

I fear as a brand marketer and innovation driver that many companies and agencies are going to go down wrong minded paths. It wasn't so long ago that many Agencies sold their clients large scale multimillion dollar websites for pet lovers and now they are doing the same for communities of interest (come tell YOUR story about OUR product and WIN as if that's interesting to anyone). What's next?

I believe there is a significant role that brands can play in this so called Transmedia world. I'm working on a number of projects as we speak. But it sees the role of brands often as investor, empowerer, enabler and participator vs. controller and creator. I think there is a big difference and I think we should all give a great deal more thought to how this could play itself out or we will end up not only wasting a lot of brand dollars but we will damage a market that is clearly ripe for change.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Start-up Marketing 101

Having a failed start-up has been one of the greatest learning experiences I've ever had on many levels. In particular, I've learned a great deal with regards to being efficient with marketing. But as I've watched the start-up market, I've realized that it goes beyond that. It because they have no marketing budget, they have to behave differently when it comes to how they build ground-swell for the company and products. Build it and they should come, is not really a winning strategy. It all comes down to passion, connection, culture and community. So, I put together this slideshare presentation as a way of gathering my thoughts around what exactly they were doing that big brands and all of us as marketers could learn.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Developing Network Brands

Oh beware my hyperbole. Rather than doing Yoga this morning in an attempt to help my aching back, here I am writing a blog post about branding.


I said i strongly disagreed with this post by @jinal_shah

Now strongly disagree was probably the wrong phrase. Because sure I believe a lot of the things she is saying in the post. That being said, how one constructs or approaches something is as important as the common sense that is underneath it. I would say that I think there is some wrong mindedness that is going to lead people in the wrong direction. For today, I'll just start with the first sentence (and I'll try to get to some more commentary on the weekend when i have more time).....

"Digital is a broad term and encompasses a variety of skill-sets and channels to achieve specific goals"

Well, sure i guess so. However, this is where the problem starts.

If you don't see digital as a universal language that has driven the convergence of devices, applications and standards then you won't understand that digital is everything...

People in the advertising industry talk about digital as a channel or skills. They create departments and put people in them that have words like social media in their job titles. This will lead you to integrated or convergence communications which isn't a very new idea or way of doing business at all. It's status campaign quo at this point or should be.

It will not lead anyone to understand why brand now have to have purpose - or create shared beliefs with their customers. Building a network brand and the concept of thought leadership are not interchangeable. While Brands need POVs, the concept of a networked brand is so much bigger than that one piece it again leads one down a wrong path to view them as the same.

Ok sorry, that's all i have for you this morning. The toddler is throwing his iPad in my general direction. If you want some more on network brands and how I view things have changed you can always go over to slideshare and read the two presentations i have up there - Web Circa 2000 an presentation on digital branding from 2000 and Ecosystem Marketing from 2007.


Saturday, 30 April 2011

Dear Blackberry, I'm Leaving You

Dear Blackberry....

We've been together since 1997. I remember when you were just a cute little pager. I never realized how much you were going to change my life. You were there when no one else was. We grew up like teenagers together. Remember, the first time I typed GTG. TTYL8R? And then the blueberry. OMG. You were so big and you talked! You always changed and grew with me. Let's face it, you were a bit of an addiction for me.

I never even looked at other smart phone options even when that gorgeous iphone was announced with all those geeks drooling over it.

I've been there all along and gave you all my love, affection, attention and support.

But then the issues started. I don't know if i can pinpoint exactly when it happened. The bickering. The discontent. Maybe you got insecure and thought i was going to look at other smartphones. Maybe you thought I wanted you to be prettier - or - change who you were inside. That wasn't true. The truth is, the reason i loved you wasn't because of fancy design - it was because you always met my needs, even when I didn't know what those needs were. You evolved and I evolved with you.

But then you got distracted. When I started to become more mobile and use browsers more, it's like you didn't care. You were mad at me or something. You let all the wireless carriers put their own dumb applications and browsers on the phone. But worse, then you started to tell me what i wanted.

"You don't want to mix your business life with your personal life"
"Photos aren't important to how you do business every day"
"You shouldn't be browsing so much, get back to work"

I kept telling you that things had changed with me. I kept seeing us grow apart and tried to talk to you about it. But the truth is, you didn't want to hear what I had to say. I talked to people at headoffice. I tweeted my frustration. I talked to my wireless carrier. I even got my friends who know both of us to try. But it's like you got stubborn and insecure and most importantly,


So this letter is to tell you that I'm leaving you.

I'm sorry to kick you while you're down. I have at least a couple years with this new iphone 4. Maybe in that time, you can figure out what happened and change your ways and then we can talk again.

I want you to know that you were my first smartphone love and always will be. I really wish you well.



Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Robot Army Doesn't "Get" The Youth

Shitharperdid released a great little video today talking about the Robot Army Vs. Young Voters.

They make the point that these pollsters rely heavily on calling land lines.

Guy 1: Landlines? You mean people unaware of the sea or sailing?
Guy 2: No. Those are land lovers.
Guy 3: Right. So...What's a landline?

It's hard to argue their logic. And it begs the question, are we in the middle of a complete revolution when it comes to assessing the pulse of citizens?

At the same time, we know that only a small majority of people are the ones actually posting. Listening can have it's own issues because the most vocal do not necessarily represent the mass majority. Case and point, if you only took your assessment of the last Toronto Mayoral election based on my Twitter feed you would have been shocked when Rob Ford won.

For the next time around i can think of a bunch of monitoring and research solutions but for now, the one thing i'm pretty sure of and can agree with our video friends with on, those polls we are seeing in traditional media channels are not representing the scary votes and opinions of Canada's Youth.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

People Love Cool Sh*t

One of the great things about what i do is that i get to be involved with many Social projects that involve research and listening. While i think it is probably stating the obvious, I think it's amazing how much positive sentiment can be created for Brands if they just do cool sh*t.

Maybe it's an iphone app.
Maybe you've done a customer service innovation worth talking about.
Maybe you just have something original to say or something creative we haven't thought about.

Regardless what it is, if it's cool we will care and your brand will be the receptors of our appreciation for it.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Happy Birthday Twitter

Rachel our community manager at It's Time To Shout had posted a note this morning:

It really struck me. There are a lot of really annoying things about Twitter.


I don't know another technology platform that has been so fundamental in helping connect weak networks in such an incredible way. For our project It's Time To Shout, it has allowed us to connect with women, families and communities who have been dramatically impacted by Ovarian Cancer. The stories posted to our site, the emails that we get that are private thank yous for the work that we are doing. The ablity for us to bring such an important message to women out there everywhere.

Twitter has been a big part of our success. So today, Twitters Birthday, we want to say thank you thank you thank you Twitter and may you continue to grow and help us change the world for the better.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Digital Isn't Riding A Wave - It's About Sea Change

I get asked to write a lot of digital strategies. My response to the query is always the same:

"Well, if you understand that digital is now everything, then I'm fine to write a digital strategy"

They always look at me funny and agree regardless and only afterwards really understand what i meant. As we go through the process, they consistently say things like:

" this isn't about digital, it's about a way of thinking across our entire business"
"your talking about completely redoing our marketing plans"
"we now have to stop looking at our marketing from a media channel perspective and start looking at it from a customer/solution perspective"
"you aren't looking at how to take our mass media brand online, your actually evolving it so it can encompass an overall brand experience!" (well ok they never say that exactly but they say they now "get" what i was talking about regarding expanding brand)

This isn't about digital. It isn't about looking at how big Agencies look at the latest wave because it's our most current obsession as this blog post talks about near the end.

It's about reinventing our businesses and our brands to respond to the deep cultural shifts that have been changing the way brands and customers interact since the advent of the commercial web.

The Agencies and startup newcos that get it ISN'T A WAVE BUT A SEA CHANGE are the ones who are going to be able to become cornerstones partners to the Brands they work with verses interchangable creative executors who judge the value of what they do by a series of shiny awards.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Feedreader Continuum

When the New York Times implied that blogging was dead, Mathew disagreed. He instead rightly pointed out that it has evolved to a continuum of publishing. In his words:

What’s really happening, as Toni Schneider of Automattic — the corporate parent of the WordPress publishing platform (see disclosure below) — noted in the NYT piece, is that what blogging represented even four or five years ago has evolved into much more of a continuum of publishing.
It was interesting because Scott asked me yesterday if i had any new blogs that I love for creative brain food. My reply to him was that I've started to use as my content aggregator. I subscribe to many Twitter key word's as well as a few nicely curated newspapers on subject matters that I find interesting.

The challenge of sifting through the gazillions of links, blogs and general smart user generated content is only becoming a harder daily mountain to climb and I'm always looking for newer better ways to solve that particular problem.

So would i say that the feedreader is dead? Well if we consider a feedreader as Bloglines or Google Reader then it kinda is from my perspective. But if we see feedreaders as a "continuum of aggregation" models then I say we've only just begun.

Friday, 18 February 2011

All "LIKES" Are NOT Created Equal

I was speaking to a friend who has recently resigned from a well known PR firm here in Toronto. They feel that their industry is being transformed by Social Media but not necessarily in the best way. It's become a tactical world of promo driven conversations that are selling snake oil to clients who are only too willing to buy it. Ultimately, we were talking about the marketing crisis of "LIKE".

What does that mean?

You know what I'm talking about.

Build my Social Media [fill in the blank] presence.
We need conversation generation about [really anything].
We need more .... dare we say it -- "LIKES"!

I get it.

-Lots of companies are not using their own URLs anymore and instead have Facebook URLs.
-Traditional advertising is loosing its affect with some key demographics.
-Marketers are being judged by their peers as to their KLOUT score or Facebook Fans.
-The few successful Social Campaigns are consistently paraded out by everyone at the strategy meetings as what we "must do" to be successful in the coming calendar year

The list of reasons are plenty.

But see here's the problem. Let's take Faceobok as the example.

Facebook is not traditional media.

It's actually a social network.
It's my network.
In fact, it's my media.

So what does that mean for marketers?
I think it means many "important ignore at your own peril" things.

You have to understand the underlying dynamics of networks.
You have to consider why people are spending their time there in the first place.
You have to understand the difference between PAID media and EARNED media.
You have to consider that those who feel that this is their media don't want YOU to co-opt it for marketing purposes.

Buying LIKES through contests, coupons, promos is not the same as building community.

It's not the same as having passionate advocates.
It's not building engagement with your brand.
It doesn't create a shared belief system between you and your customers.

There is no smart marketer in the world who i know who would put an entire marketing plan around how to get people to join a contest or use their coupons. So people, if that's what your Facebook plan looks like, I say it's time to get a new approach.

The dynamics of this new era of social enabled networks presents a world of opportunity to become meaningful to the culture, the people and the world around you. Don't waste it on buying yourself some Facebook LIKES.

You will find very shortly that all LIKES are simply not created equal.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Social Meania - In Defense of Kenneth Cole

Whenever someone uses the term #boycott I pay pretty close attention. So when I saw the #boycottkennethcole hashtag the other day I immediate wondered what was going on and clicked through.

What was I going to find? What kind of tweet could get people’s ire up so dramatically? I clicked through to see this:

Millions are in an uproar in Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at x URL
hum. Ok. A silly comment about a very serious issue….yes. Weird for the Kenneth Cole brand…yes . Inappropriate? Sure. But they posted an apology only 23 min later both on their Twitter and Facebook account and seemed genuinely regretful (As I am sure they are) about the misstep.

Having been a watcher of the tech sector for a while now, I’m used to seeing blogosphere pile ons. People get their ire up and next thing you know, it’s flame posts all over the place. It’s just that it’s usually the angry mean boy tech bloggers and honestly I have no patience with it.


As marketers we tell brands to risk being in Social Spaces. Be more current.


Well guess what. When you are twittering every day all day long, at some point you are going to make a HUMAN mistake.

If we want an environment of experimentation to exist, we have to have compassion when a mistake is made verses being a pack of wild vicious dogs really to pounce.

Maybe it’s because we don’t have to have the poor community manager right there in front of us teary eyed and apologetic. Maybe it’s the protective cloak of technology that allows us to throw rocks from behind a wall with a group of our friends.

Maybe that is the mean of Social Media where we bring out the worst in ourselves – if it is I say, shame on us.

And Kenneth Cole ….about your apology… I for one accept it.

update: one thing i will say - smarter posts are criticizing KC for the #hashtag and trying to join the #Egypt conversation from a reach perspective. Let's hope more than not saying something stupid in future, that KC never does that again bc that is far more unforgivable

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Case For Simplicity

Great comment on Quora as to why dropbox beat out its competitors by Issac Hull who co-founded a competitor product called Synchplicity.

"After I left Syncplicity, I ran into the CEO of Dropbox and asked him my burning question: "Why don't you support multi-folder synchronization?" His answer was classic Dropbox. They built multi-folder support early on and did limited beta testing with it, but they couldn't get the UI right. It confused people and created too many questions. It was too hard for the average consumer to setup. So it got shelved."

Hull suggests that no matter how loudly your users may want functionality, if it doesn't work for at least 80% of your users then it isn't worth it.

I think this is a lesson in marketing that can never be stated too often - fewer, smarter, better. Middle gray or just being good is a sure path to failure. No matter how big or small your budget is, be brilliant or be gone.

At the end of the day, it's the business case for simplicity.

Friday, 7 January 2011

That Screen Formally Known As The TV

"Sure my kid watches primetime TV. Only he doesn't watch it in prime time and he doesn't watch it on his TV"

When my daughter was five, we walked by a house on garbage day with an electric typewriter on the lawn ready to be thrown to the trash. She walked right up to it with a quizzical look on her face and turned to me with one hand in mine - and simply asked - what's that mommy?

Boy did i feel old.

And I guess that's how people feel when they start to debate about if people want Internet on their TV.

TV? What's that? Oh you mean that flat panel screen on our living room wall?

Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist at Rovi, says that an entire generation is going to have to stop watching TV before app enabled TV's cross the chasm. It's true that most people haven't really figured out how to get the wireless in their devices to synch and up and running.

But this isn't going to be a ten year proposition.

With the ubiquity of smartphones finally becoming a reality (more kids own a cell phone than a book), the always on pervasiveness of the network will finally have people realizing that their focus should no longer be device specific - because there won't be three screen strategies over at the cellular and cable companies anymore -

There is only one strategy:

- the single screen strategy -

Meaning whatever screen i happen to be looking at in any given moment - be it my cell phone, my book reader, my ipad, or that thing formerally known as the TV screen on my living room wall.

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