Social proof and your media

Social proof is “informational influence.” It’s what the internet says about you when you’re not around to speak for yourself. Social proof is something I found myself referencing numerous times this week.


Once was in discussion with my web blog designer, working through a redesign of my site, on the importance of having media logos and designations prominently placed. Another time was while discussing possible speaker recommendations for the upcoming Canadian Internet Marketing Conference with a colleague. I was recommending a speaker from Australia, who I knew planned to be in Canada around the time, following her appearance at Social Media Marketing World. I felt confident in my recommendation, despite only having “met her online”, interacting through email and video, because my impression had been formed outside of that, largely on social proof. We had had numerous online exchanges, and the beginnings of a more personable relationship having made plans to meet up in San Diego at the conference. I knew she would bring solid value, plus I would likely benefit through having recommended her, thereby associating my brand with hers. Who knows if it will wok out, but that is the power of social proof in action.

Social proof comes in many forms through photos, video, articles etc, and can be represented on our owned, rented, earned and embedded media. I’ve excluded paid media here, since social proof is not a “pay to play” model. Social proof is earned, and therefore generally more trusted.

Let’s take a look at our media, and how to leverage social proof.

1. Owned media: These assets include things like your website, blog, enewsletter, podcasts and webinars. Here are some ways to leverage social proof on owned media:

  • Publish testimonials. They’re third party objectivity and add credibility.
  • Feature certifications, seals and badges.
  • Feature client logos.
  • Mention subscriber counts for blog followers or enews subscribers. People want to join others and not miss out. Social Media Examiner suggests you should follow and read what over 250K subscribers are receiving. It makes you think you’re joining a winner.
  • Blog about earned media, and feature logos of those outlets.
  • Blog about embedded media, where you have written for, or been broadcast by a well-known channel with extensive media reach.

2. Rented media: This includes social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pintrest, Vine, Youtube etc. While you customize them like your own property, often decorating them like a home and taking ownership, ultimately someone else owns them and can change the rules at any time. Here are some ways to leverage social proof on rented media:

  • Share influencer endorsements. The more relevant and influential the endorser, the more powerful the social proof.
  • Share when certifications are earned.
  • Share earned media, publicity and coverage online, in print, TV or radio.
  • Allow subscriber and follower counts as well as connections, and strive for high numbers.
  • Allow social share counters for blogged content, and strive for high numbers.
  • Share on social media embedded authored articles or broadcast shows hosted.

3. Earned media: This is third party endorsement. In the traditional sense it is when a print of broadcast media company publishes something about your business, giving it visibility, without you paying for it. But it could also include other online media like the Huffington Post, industry authorities through their social media, or well read blogs. Here are some ways to leverage social proof on earned media:

  • Be aware of ratings and reviews sites, and strive to deliver a great customer experience, while monitoring and responding to any concerns. The clout of external review sites will vary depending on your industry, and whether you think they are valid or not, your customers likely use them. Aim to show up well.
  • Keep track of article links, reviews and mentions, and use media and logos in your marketing.

4. Embedded media: This is where you publish or broadcast as an author using the reach of an established platform. Here are some ways to leverage social proof of embedded media.

  • When you have the authority to publish or broadcast on a well known channel with huge reach, because you have knowledge, be sure to note this in your marketing materials, as well as in your owned and rented media.

Social proof is how you show up online, and much of what you do in leveraging it through your media properties will influence how you appear in a Google search.

In an age of online, good marketing starts with paying attention to social proof.

I am thrilled to be a sponsorship partner of the Canadian Internet Marketing Conference, taking place April 5-6, 2017 in Squamish, BC, just north of Vancouver on the way to Whistler. Now in its third year, the event will attract 1,500 CMOs, marketing directors, business owners and agency folks. LINK HERE to learn more about the amazing line up (with a few surprises yet to come!) As a valued member of my online community, I am able to offer a discount promotional code to save you $200 on registration. Use the code “social200” and you’ll be in, way cheaper then on your own. Hope to see you there!

Consider your social proof. Then leverage it through your media. It will be some of the best marketing you do in 2017!

Most popular blog posts from 2016

I thought it would be fun to take a look at my top 6 most popular blog posts from 2016 to understand what gets people fired up to like, comment or share content online. A few themes emerged that could benefit us all moving forward into 2017. This list involved using some high tech ranking sites and low tech observations from email exchanges, comments, likes and shares on other online platforms as well as offline engagement.

Five themes emerged:

  • Have a contrarian view: stir controversy with a headline, image, or content
  • Generate earned media: get print and broadcast media to share on their channels and through social media.
  • Tap channels with huge reach: tag and generate discussion where lots of people are interacting online.
  • Share trends: be an online thought leader in an area of expertise.
  • Generate lists and “how to” tips: know your audience and be helpful.



#1. How to manage negative publicity: 5 Lessons from Coors Light #BraveTheCold out-of-bounds skiing campaign.

molson-out-of-bounds-adThis post looked at lesson learned by Coors after they blatantly encouraged out of bounds skiing in a beer commercial. It’s the story how their online social media efforts backfired initially, how they recovered, and what the rest of us can learn from it. The spot also attracted local, national and international media attention and for me, quotes and interviews in the North Shore News and Outside Magazine in the US. (Posted: March 25, 2016)

#2. Content marketing and the REACH factor. Nothing like making your living speaking, writing and teaching about marketing, and then being delivered an important marketing lesson over the breakfast table by your teenage son.

PeopleAreAwesome_FBpostThis post looked at the lessons learned when my son’s insane longboard skate video down Lookout Mountain in Colorado was shared on the “People are Awesome” channel, and became a viral sensation literally in the time I was making coffee. I share lessons in the post about how to go viral with video, but as you may have gathered by the title, it’s ultimately all about the reach of various online channels. (Posted: May 9, 2016)

#3. Five ways Trump is winning at media. There is no denying that Donald Trump was a huge media figure in 2016 with his run for president of the US. Love him or hate him, he knew how to leverage media, and social media in particular. This post looked at what the rest of us could learn from that. (Posted: Oct 8, 2016)

#4. How to leverage embedded and earned media.  My Trump winning at media post was the lead up to what ultimately became my MOST controversial article, when I predicted a Trump win a week ahead of the election. In it I called out the media, and social media in particular as channels that were helping perpetuate our existing beliefs, while hiding an undercurrent of unregistered anger.

mary_charleson_cbc_the180promo-the180-smThis post also became an article on the front page of the Huffington Post Nov 2nd,  then earning me a national CBC radio interview with Jim Brown on The 180 Nov 10th

#5. Riding the second wave: 6 secrets to making video go viral. Let’s face it, video was hot in 2016. And in 2017 it will get even hotter, as I predict that Facebook Live will become a paid feature (at least for Facebook Pages and business accounts). But until then, using live, or any form of video, is a great way to stand out and have your message shared – the ultimate secret to generating reach.

ride_waveThis post gave you the secret sauce to go viral…(Posted: Sept 11, 2016)





#6. Content marketing: A strategic slow boil to sales success. Content marketing online can be strategically successful, but it is not a quick fix. Venture into this post ONLY if you are prepared to invest the resources and patience to make it work.

Content-MarketingBut once content marketing it kicks in, it will fuel search, reach and ultimately trust and reputation. And those factors will build your business. (Posted: Mar 15, 2016)



Thank you to all who have taken the time to respond to my survey on business frustrations and challenges from 2016. For those who may not have already completed the survey, would you do me a favour and complete it now? It takes two minutes (could even be less depending on how you answer) to complete this two-question survey? I will leave the responses open until Jan 8, 2017. I’m simply looking for feedback on your business frustrations and challenges so I can serve you better in the coming year. Seriously – it won’t take long, and just respond with what instinctively comes to mind first on both questions. Here’s the link.

Thanks also to those who nominated me for the 8th Annual Top 10 Social Media Blog contest hosted by Social Media Examiner. If haven’t already voted and would like to do so, here is THE LINK. You simply name a blog and URL in the comments section and why you think it is worthy. Nominations must be received by Jan 1st, 2017 so act fast!

As always, thanks to those who share my content or suggest to others they subscribe. Until next week…

Let’s make 2017 the best year yet!



Get real. Great brands have personality.

Have you ever been told to “get real?” According to the urban dictionary, “When someone tells you to get real, they want you to get a reality check and to stop behaving as though you’re living in a fantasy world.” Envision for a moment “get real” rolling off the lips of a surely teen just told to clean the bathroom and retrieve a month’s supply of spoons and bowls currently residing in their bedroom. You get the idea.

From a business perspective, being real means you have personality. You are comfortable with your imperfections. Frankly imperfections are what make us personable.


This great insight came out in conversation with Ron Tite, CEO of The Tite Group, and a marketing guru I had the good fortune to meet at a recent convention in Edmonton. Ron is all about creativity and insights around the brand experience.

Great brands have personality. They are comfortable with their imperfections. Imperfections are what make us personable. People want to see the unedited version, up close, imperfect and real.

“Unedited is what social media offers

when others speak for your business

or brand and not you.”

Unedited is about trusting that process to happen, and occasionally being exposed on purpose. It’s about comfort with vulnerability.

Donald Trump is unedited, imperfect and real. So was Rob Ford. While both characters ruffled establishment and had less then stellar personal qualities, they were seen as real, if not raw. I suppose real can escape the box on occasion.

On my recent trip to Edmonton I flew Westjet. Rather then making the standard pre-boarding announcement, they said, “If you’re heading to the washroom, let us know. We won’t leave without you”. It sounded like something your friend would say, not a corporation. It’s a minor thing, but it all adds to the overall voice of the company, which has remained remarkably personable and accessible through growth from domestic carrier roots. Again in Edmonton, I watched a fellow speaker, Vince Poscentre a seasoned speaking professional and former Olympic athlete deliver a riveting opening to his talk, where he literally transported us to the top of a ski hill moments before his run for gold. It’s an opening he has no doubt delivered countless times. It was brilliant, and absolutely perfect. But it was later, when he was working through new content, specifically for our audience of colleagues that he stumbled a little. It wasn’t a big deal, but it wasn’t slick, and it immediately made him more personable and accessible. Despite the amazing line up of other speakers throughout the weekend, Vince is the one that really touched my heart. He was comfortable with vulnerability. He was real.

Another example was great initiative out of France a couple years ago to sell ugly fruit and vegetables – the “Inglorious fruits and vegetable campaign.” (I’ve used some of their fruit and vegetable imagery above). A global study had revealed that 1/3 of all food produced gets wasted each year. And much of that waste was simply because it wasn’t pretty enough. So the campaign embarked on getting people to buy double-pronged carrots, elegantly morphed eggplants and incompletely formed lemons. It was hugely successful simply because it cleverly drew to our attention that being real, and less then perfect, still tasted good.

If you’re interested in learning more about the “Inglorious fruits and vegetables” campaign check out this link.

While I love the cleverness of the campaign, it’s the invitation to consider how powerful being real can be in your marketing efforts that excites me. That was the take away from my conversation with Ron Tite. When you are clear on what it is you do, what you stand for, how you are different without apology, and you tell and sell that message truthfully, you’re left with something pretty authentic.

What might being real look like in your business? Perhaps it’s acknowledging when a customer is right in a public space on social media. Maybe it’s about trusting your employees with the Twitter handle. Or maybe it’s about making something right after a screw up and NOT trying to turn it into a marketing opportunity. You get the idea. It’s really about being human and decent to others.


I think it would be refreshing to see businesses dump some of the boastful marketing, and just show up the way they really are, being personable and knowledgeable. That’s the approach I’ve taken for the last three years in this blog and my weekly e-newsletter, sharing and engaging. For those who have been here weekly for some time, I thank you for your loyalty and continued readership. And if you’re not currently part of that group, but would like to join in, you can sign up for my weekly 5-Minute Marketing Tips newsletter, right here.

So what do you do, to BE REAL in your business? I’d love it if you’d take a few moments and share in the comments below. And if you feel like sharing even more, do you have any tips for getting a teenager to clean their room?






How to leverage EMBEDDED and EARNED media

Embedded and earned media are two of the five pillar’s of your media marketing strategy. Embedded media is where you publish or broadcast as an author using the reach of an established platform. Earned media is publicity from a third party. It’s when your newspaper does a feature on your business, or you are interviewed on TV or radio.


This post is a case study on how to utilize a piece of embedded media throughout your five pillars, but also on how to leverage it for additional national earned media.

On Nov 2, a week before the US 2016 federal election on Nov 8th, I published an article in the Huffington Post titled Biased Election Coverage and Consumption Will Have Consequences. The article took a look at the role of media – from traditional broadcast and print news outlets to the economic based model of online social media and influencers and how they are all forming our opinions around the US election.

It was largely shared and commented on – both on the Huffington Post site, as well as the various social media platforms I shared it on. And I was delighted to see them feature it on their front-page news Nov 2. That gave it tremendous reach. Of course I also put the link to it on my website. It was a great example of using another established player’s reach to position expertise. In the last two days, Twitter follows have increased significantly, as have Facebook follows and LinkedIn requests.

I thought the leverage would end there.

But then a surprise ending to the election offered an additional opportunity, when it became apparent that my forecast of a Trump win being missed by the media would actually come true.

I used my piece of embedded media to further leverage a major piece of EARNED media this week – an interview for “The 180″ on CBC Radio One, which aired nationally Sunday, November 13 at 11am. You can now link to an archived copy HERE.

I argued a number of theories as to why so much media content seemed to reinforce a Clinton win in the US election, and how that had been misleading, as well as how social media channels with content catered to user profiles, based on opinions of others like us, served to only further reinforce those views.

From an earned media perspective, this was a major coup. CBC Radio One is the largest radio network in Canada, reaching 4.3 million listeners each week. Being positioned as a “marketing and media expert” during a 10 minute interview was great positioning. But it’s the ability to then put that earned content on owned media platforms (blog and website) as a permanent credibility builder that is golden. And of course being able to leverage it out on social channels further added to the reach and value. It’s a piece of marketing that I will be multi-purposing for some time.


promo-the180-smSo here’s the story on how this all happened and what you can learn from it in your own marketing efforts. Being on the west coast, by about 6:30pm results were looking shaky for Clinton. That’s when I went into my office and wrote an email pitch to a producer at CBC that I know. I didn’t send it until later that evening, after 9:30pm. I wanted to be pretty certain of the outcome before hitting “send.” Here was my pitch:


I also sent a text to her cell phone, referencing the email and the Huffington Post article. The producer discussed the idea with several colleagues Wednesday morning, and by 10am I got a call to come to their studio to record the interview Thursday morning.


There were 5 things that got this pitch noticed:

1. A contrarian viewpoint: Most people in Canada though Clinton would win. Because I had predicted that Trump would win a week earlier, it got their attention.

2. A catchy headline: “How biased election coverage and the consequences of consumption and social media prevented us from seeing a Trump win coming.”

3. The pitch was short: The view was based on three forces coming together, and it was substantiated by a previously published piece in a reputable publication, the Huffington Post. Media loves other media.

4. Targeted one influential media contact: There wasn’t time to fan this out to a bunch of contacts, nor did I want to. I pitched one only that I thought was a good match, and it came across as an exclusive offer. This was also based on having rapport with a media producer, and the email and cell phone to reach them in off hours.

5. It was timely: I knew the pitch had to go out that night so it would be talked about the following morning in a briefing session. I also knew the producer would be accessing her email and texts that night, since that’s what producers and reporters do.


One thing worth noting in all this: I keep in touch with media even when I’m not pitching them. I copy people on interesting stories or research I’ve found that they might find useful, or engage them on a piece they’ve put out. I try to help them do their job better, so that when I do pitch a story idea, there’s familiarity and respect.

Hopefully this example has shown you how the 5-pillar media approach of OWNED, RENTED, EARNED, EMBEDDED and PAID media starts to come together. It can be a magic cycle to build branding, identity and expertise when leveraged well.

Choosing what NOT TO DO makes for powerful content marketing

Content marketing and social media are important, but let’s face it, they can take a tremendous amount of time to produce and manage. You can’t retrieve time once spent.


Many of us get caught in an endless vortex of creating MORE content for MORE channels. We write a blog post here. Get some media coverage there. Post a photo to Instagram. Share some stuff on Facebook. Update that LinkedIn profile with awesome stuff. Tweet it. Snap it. Chat it. Maybe give that new live stream video thing a go because everyone says you’ve got to be on it. Then press repeat and do it all over again in the hope that it will push the needle on sales. Sound familiar?

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” – Michael Porter

Many businesses have yet to build a truly loyal audience in any one of these channels, or they’re targeting too many audiences with their content. Is it perhaps time to make decisions on what you are not going to do? Be honest with what is working, do more of that and you’re apt to have the biggest impact.


When we look at great media brands like the Huffington Post or the Globe and Mail, they started by building a dominant presence on a single channel, before branching out to more channels. There’s much we can learn from this strategy, even if you are a smaller player.

Scott Stratten, the UNmarketing guy built his initial following on Twitter. He’s at over 184,000 followers these days. I had the pleasure of meeting Scott in Phoenix while speaking this past summer. He was an early adopter on Twitter, and believed in total real time commitment to the channel, rather then the automation that has taken over the platform for many now. His irreverent musing and total commitment to the platform gave him dominance to then spill over into other channels. Check out his website HERE. Or follow him ON TWITTER.

Chris Brogen is unshakable in his belief that e-newsletters are a core strategy channel for his brand. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him that I’ve applied to my own business. Check out his approach HERE.

Jeff Korhan is making huge gains with podcasts these days engaging with small business owners and their marketing challenges. Check him out and sign up for his podcast HERE.

Jeannie Robertson, a veteran speaker and comedian, plays in a dominant way on Youtube and Facebook. Link to her site HERE.

In all of the above cases, these folks are of course on other channels as well, but they chose initially to dominate one in particular before branching out. They also knew intimately who they were targeting, and created content for that audience. That is key.

Today’s technology allows us to publish in many different places and to reach thousands of people. But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Perhaps we need to consider that LESS could in fact be MORE.

Great brands always have a story

Branding is about more then image recognition for customers. Great brands give their customers something to belong to and talk about. They always have a story.

I was reminded of that last week while in Ontario cottage country visiting relatives and friends before returning to Toronto for some business meetings.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess many reading this have never been to Magnetawan. But those that have will likely know the iconic history of “Downtown Magnetawan” shirts. If you’ve been to the Mag, you likely own a shirt. And if you own a shirt you share the same story and knowledge of the place with others who have been there. Downtown Magnetawan is of course an oxymoron. You could blink and miss it, but that’s the point. This little town of 300 has a global brand. And it all started with a t-shirt.

For years the Downtown General Store sold the shirts. It was the kind of place that proudly boasted “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it” which pretty much summed up their approach to retailing. They had it all. Including the sought after shirts at the front, and a shrine of photos that people had sent them, sporting their shirts in places all over the world. Even former US president Jimmy Carter was pictured wearing one.


On two occasions, once in France and the other time in New Zealand, while wearing a Downtown Magnetawan shirt, I had a complete stranger run up to me and tell me they’d been there, which then provoked a conversation of our shared stories anchored in this little town.

Those that wear the shirt have a shared story. They’re members of a global tribe. And they always have an emotional connection to the place and their time there.

Unfortunately the General Store burned down in 2011, and with it the shirts, and the shelves of photos of people wearing them all over the world, methodically collected and display over the years. In a curious twist of small town politics, the Trademark to produce them remained dormant for five years, further adding to the story. Those that had a shirt then became part of history briefly locked in time. Thankfully this year the Home Hardware store in town acquired the rights to produce the shirts once again, and they are now proudly building up that photo shrine, selling the shirts in store and online, as well as helping people share their stories and photos through a Facebook page and the use of hashtags on Twitter @DTmagnetawan and Instagram.


So what’s the learning in all this?

1. Great brands always have a story. Downtown Magnetawan shirts had humble beginnings in a small town, and became a global brand simply through brand ambassadors wearing them in their travels. That’s a cool story. What’s the story around your brand?

2. Secrecy adds value. Everyone loves a secret, and if those in the know share knowledge about the brand not widely available, except to members of the tribe, it further ads to the appeal. Many people have a hard time pronouncing the name. It’s right up there with Penetanguishene, also in the area. But those who have been there can say it. Being so small, it’s a wonder that so many people have been drawn there from afar, but that is simply part of the secret of its appeal. Magnetawan is a town that joins Ahmic Lake and Lake Cecebe, a beautiful part of cottage and lake country.


3. Give people a way to share their story around the brand. For years the photo shrine helped tell the story of Downtown Magnetawan shirts, but now it is also told through online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

So there you have it. A story and a secret, and a way to share it among members of the tribe. Could great branding really be that simple?



Are you channel surfing or tuning in?

Consider the idea of channel surfing versus tuning in. We’ve all been in the presence of incessant channel surfers. Perhaps you’re even one of them. Surfers skip from channel to channel, certain they can multi-task and watch numerous programs simultaneously. Some just surf out of boredom, looking aimlessly for something to grab their attention. I’ve noticed this habit carrying over to social media as well. Perhaps you recognize it in yourself? Surely it can’t just be me! We skip from platform to platform, one video to the next, an endless crumb trail of links as we chase the shiny object of our fleeting momentary interest.


So here’s my question to you: Are you using the same channel surfing approach to reach out to your customers? Many companies seem desperate these days to keep up with all the new social media platforms and new features. Make no mistake, I think things like Instagram’s new “stories” feature will be beneficial for many. It’s a great feature to engage through visuals and invite one on one contact through messaging, rather then open comments. But it’s not for everybody. Building an audience on new platforms takes time and effort. Blab is super cool, but so was Periscope. Both require audience building. And the channel is only as useful as the reach of it’s audience. Plus the effort to utilize numerous channels often leaves us needing options to manage and schedule content (unless of course you have more then 24hrs in your day to deal with all this stuff). Twitter is a great channel, but there are a lot of people just scheduling content out into the universe in the hopes that it will break through the fire hose of other information. Their auto-responders reply to follows and comments. That’s not being personable or engaged.

We get folks to tune in to content when we engage a channel fully. But it means we need to be present and personable in that channel IN REAL TIME.

As many of you know, I advocate building your marketing presence leveraging the five pillars of your media: owned, rented, earned, embedded and paid. Within these pillars are media vehicles and individual channels. What really has become evident to me, as I’ve observed the actions of wildly successful marketers, is how they have all used the five-pillar approach, but more importantly, how they had selected one or two individual channels to truly engage their audience. Of course those channels were selected with their target audience in mind, and they had a strategy for what they wanted to accomplish in each channel. Seems simple enough eh?

Let me give you a couple examples from the National Speakers Association conference I attended in Phoenix, AZ recently.

Jeanne Robertson, a very successful keynoter and now theater circuit comedian, uses many platforms, but Facebook is undeniably where she truly engages her audience. Link to her Facebook here. It leads to many other places such as Youtube, Twitter and her website, but her primary “channel” is Facebook. Have a look at how she engages and is present in that channel. Note the recency of her posts, the personable responses, the type of “knowing” questions her readers post, obviously familiar with her stories as fans. She is tuned in, and so are her followers.

Scott Stratten, the “unmarketing” guy is another great example of the channel concept. Make no mistake, Scott is virtually everywhere online with his unconventional take on marketing mistakes, but he got his followers initially with a Youtube viral hit, and later as an early adopter on Twitter. @unmarketing is his handle there and he has over 183,000 followers on that channel. But here’s the curious thing: he DOESN’T AUTOMATE POSTS. He only posts in real time. And he only posts when he has something cool to share, and he is present on the channel in real time with exchanges that follow that post. By deciding to actually be social and not an automated app endlessly tweeting into the fire hose of content, he has garnered an audience that tunes in.

It’s not just online channels that work this way. Off line can be a goldmine. Kay Frances is another great example of someone virtually everywhere online for her motivational humor, but her channel of choice for engagement is direct mail. She has built a killer database and she sends out notes and fun promotional pieces to the people who hire her regularly.

I could go on with examples, but what really struck me was many of these successful folks had selected a particular channel to tune in with their target audience, and then they made themselves fully present on that channel. That’s the thought I’ll leave you with. Are you channel surfing, trying to be everywhere with your marketing, or are you tuned in on your channel of choice?

What do you think? Email me with your thoughts.  I’m present on this channel and always happy to hear from you with comments too. Or if you’re more into Twitter, my handle is @marycharleson


Why do people share online content?

This week I’d like to consider the question, “Why do people share online?” At the heart of understanding this is the key to making content go viral and increasing the spread of your content marketing. That’s pretty important stuff if you’re looking to increase marketing effectiveness for minimal budget.

A friend sent me a link to this article by Brent Coker, called: PR Secrets, How to go viral. Essentially he argues it’s about social currency. “People share things because they want to be seen in a certain way – your friend who constantly shares TED talks likely wants to be seen as intelligent, while your friend who shares memes wants to be seen as funny.”

Basically he is saying people will share if they think it will enhance someone’s opinion of them. My friend noted this was likely obvious, but she hadn’t made that link before.

I’d like to add my own spin on this, and ask you to consider this: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. IT’S ABOUT THEM.



I think the secret to having your content shared is to consider the next person in line to share, not yourself. Knowing my audience, if I give you something that you will in turn look good sharing, I have pretty much guaranteed you will continue to share the content. And the cycle will continue. That’s the secret of going viral. Essentially it’s less about making myself look smart, funny, insightful or connected to an inner circle. It’s about celebrating you taking credit for it.

Ruminate on that one for a while. It just might cause you to think differently about what you share and how you do it.

What Crocs, Uggs and Earth Shoes can teach us about good marketing

I distinctly remember the season I spent walking up hill. It was the year that earth shoes were all the rage. For those who weren’t yet born, or would just like to forget them, earth shoes had a sole with a higher rise at the front than the back. The width of the toe was also decidedly broad, presenting a less then sleek and glamorous look poking out from your jeans. Thank goodness flares were also in fashion, or we might all have looked like clowns. Take that back, I think I did anyway. Graced with size 11 feet at the age of 12, the variety of available sizes for my footwear fashion choices peaked early and has been pretty much in decline ever since!

But back to earth shoes. They were ugly, but they sold like hot cakes.


Just like Crocs, those very comfortable, colourful, holey things that really don’t belong in the same sentence as fashion.

crocsLikewise for Uggs, a decidedly bizarre hot weather footwear choice to emerge out of Australia that became all the rage with teen girls a couple seasons ago.


Each of these three items touted comfort over style, but in evoking desire for their comfort attributes, they became stylish despite themselves. Such is the strange world of marketing and creating demand.

What might we learn from Uggs, Crocs and Earth Shoes for our own marketing?

1. You can create desire for almost anything with good marketing.

2. But nobody will buy your product or service more then once if it doesn’t do what is promised.

While simple enough in principle, in practice we often overlook number 2, thinking that number 1 is where our efforts should be. Summed up another way – get good first. Then worry about how to broadcast your value. This message becomes particularly important in an era where word of mouth and word of mouse (online through social channels and off line the good old fashioned way) is so important. It’s also where earned media kicks in when your business becomes newsworthy. And as regular readers will already know, that earned media then begs to be leveraged through your owned and rented channels.

Have you ever bought something because of really catchy advertising, then been disappointed in the product or experience? Likewise have you ever bought something and been absolutely delighted, and then gone off telling everyone?

It’s all about getting good first. That’s the best marketing out there.


Disruption: How Tesla changed automotive marketing

Mark the date April 4, 2016 in your memory. At some point in the future, this date will have huge significance. Elon Musk is also likely to roll off your tongue with the same broadly shared recognition that the name Steve Jobs from Apple does. That’s because April 4th is the day that Tesla pre-sold 276,000 Model 3 cars worldwide, with an estimate to hit over 500,000 well before production even starts. Each person parted with $1,000 down payment on a $35,000 electric car that won’t even physically be available until late 2017. Other then photos, nobody has even seen one. They are however familiar with the very expensive high-end design savvy models currently coveted by many and driven by few.

Sound familiar?



Elon Musk has done to cars what Steve Jobs did to computing. He has disrupted everything. Although the existing premier Model S and Model X helped position the company as exclusive, no doubt the plan all along was for a major launch mid-market. In fact the survival of the company long term likely depended on it.

From a marketing perspective, the new Model 3 not only disrupts the existing automotive industry, it frankly blows it out of the water. I say that because it goes well beyond business, and enters the realm of economics, politics, and world power to have global energy not necessarily driven by oil. That shift now seems not only possible but also likely, with countries such as Norway and the Netherlands stating that they will prohibit the sale of gas powered cars after 2025.

Tesla’s disruption…

Product: Tesla makes electric vehicles only. And the cars are the epitome of art and industrial design meeting German engineering. This isn’t a pet project on the side, like their other major competitors. Nor is Tesla tied into the oil companies like some of the large existing manufacturers. Tesla has also demonstrated that they intend to build out the charging network, further altering what they are actually selling. Is it a car, or a transportation system? Will you buy charges? Get them free with purchase? Buy an annual membership? Whatever transpires, it will no doubt shake up all products and services within the automotive industry – delivery of power included.

Price: Previously Tesla vehicles were for the rich, clocking in close to $100,000 Cdn. The new Model 3 will retail for $35,000 US, putting it squarely in the range of many existing vehicles on the market. Because previous Tesla cars have been seen as so high end, and the Model 3 promises to have the same design sensibilities, it is perceived as being premium by the masses. That really disrupts the existing price structure of competing electric cars. How do they position against price now?

Distribution: Their distribution model doesn’t rely on dealers, or a showroom necessarily for that matter. Tesla sells direct. To date orders are in person or online. Sample cars are on display in a small showroom and test drives can be booked. Not that that mattered to the 276,000 people who put a $1,000 down on one recently. Further demonstrating that even a showroom isn’t needed. Truly, the cars can be bought online and then delivered.

Promotion: Taking a page from Apple’s playbook, Tesla has become a darling of the media, garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars of free global media publicity, simply by being newsworthy. What print and online they do all oozes class.

So why should we care about this type of disruption? Beyond the super cool factor of the car, how it will potentially change industries, politics, economics and world order (that’s a lofty list!)  it’s also just a great reminder that disruption represents both threat and opportunity.

How do you plan for disruption in your industry?  And more importantly, do you take time to think about how YOU or YOUR business could disrupt and do things differently? Think the 4Ps –  product (or service), price, place (distribution) and promotion. What of the four could you challenge or change from accepted convention? Perhaps you can disrupt multiples. Lots to think about for sure – but that’s the way tomorrows leaders are thinking today. What about you?