Five keys to marketing success – learning from Target’s failure to hit the Canadian bullseye

This last week the announced exit of Target from the Canadian market was a piece of business news that dominated discussions. One does not enter a market with 133 stores and then pull the plug less then two years later without feeling an effect. That’s a lot of rent per square foot, retail sales and lost jobs you hear rushing for the drain hole being flushed from the Canadian economy. And there’s really no good reason for it to have ended the way it did. Many Canadians harboured a secret love affair for “Tar-jay” with all its chic savvy offerings and shelves of intrigue. At least that’s what they found south of the border. In Canada, the retailer seemed mired in supply chain and inventory issues, poorer quality of product, and a higher overall cost structure that was reflected in higher prices compared to competitors. They thought we’d accept it all in blind love, but we didn’t.

If anyone should have understood strategic competitive advantage it should have been retail battle veteran Target. And yet it would seem they misunderstood the competitive landscape, their target market and what was at the heart of their unique selling proposition.

All that to say, even the big guys fail. And when they fall, they fall hard.

target-logoI found the Target story an interesting backdrop for two events I spoke at last week, right in the middle of all the breaking news: A Small Business BC Marketing seminar for entrepreneurs on Friday and Mini Enterprise Conference, held at UBC on Saturday, the largest conference of its kind in Canada for grade 12 students looking to gain insight into the world of entrepreneurship.

There’s something inspiring about engaging with hundreds of the Lower Mainland’s future business leaders and those already rolling out their plans and dreams. While the questions from both groups where varied they all in some way lead back to five key areas. Curiously, one could argue, these are areas where Target also drifted when it entered the Canadian market. Let’s take a look, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Unique selling proposition: What do you do differently, that your competitors don’t, that your target market cares about, that’s not easily copied?
  1. Strategic competitive advantage: What combination of resources, systems, supply chain, cost structure, culture or product or service offering give you that unique positioning?
  1. Target market: How do they define their primary and secondary target market from a demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioural standpoint?
  1. Competitive field: Who are your primary and secondary competitors? What are their unique selling propositions and competitive advantages?
  1. Trends and external forces: What societal trends or external forces could affect your business over the next several years? And how have your prepared your business to benefit?

What makes small businesses viable and able to thrive is really no different than big business. That became very evident while discussing entrepreneurial dreams and marketing plans with the backdrop of Target’s failure with both groups.

So here’s my challenge to you this week. How would you answer the above five question areas? Can you define your answers clearly, without hesitation and with pride?

Top 10 online marketing trends for 2015

 

Jobs_quote_invent_tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

1. Content will continue to be king
This trend will continue, simply because social media and mobile devices have provoked and enabled the growth in content available for consumption. Content can position a company or brand like nothing else, and it can drive prospects to points in the pipeline closer to becoming a customer. And creating content and leveraging it online through social media is largely low cost compared to traditional forms of advertising.

2. Visuals for short attention spans will dominate
Be it photos, video or infographics, visuals communicate a subject in a timely and simplified manner. In 2015 visuals will be hot. Just look to the explosion of Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Youtube and Vine. Visuals are also the perfect antidote for a perpetually time starved, attention deficit disorder society that we have quickly become while absorbing the content coming our way online. But the scientific reality is this: it’s human nature to respond quickly to visuals. Expect visuals to rule in 2015.

3. As Facebook matures – pay up or flee
The reach of Facebook Pages dramatically decreased in 2014, and we have now entered the era of “pay to play” on this platform. It’s really just the maturing of a media channel. Facebook is in the business of making money for shareholders. That said, of all the social media platforms, Facebook likely has the broadest demographic and geographic coverage of any, and if the selection of criteria to boost posts is done well, it can be a viable for some businesses. It’s just that you’re going to have to pay for it. Look for this trend to continue, at least for enhanced services, as social platforms mature.

4. Online communities and membership for exclusive content will grow
Niche communities already exist for the mundane to the obscure. Communities within blogs or more private groups such as subscribers to an e-newsletter or a course will be of great value to the business that hosts them, as well as participants. Expect to see more businesses harness and leverage the communities that they host through owned assets such as blogs, podcasts and e-newsletters. This will become especially important and prevalent as the reality of paying for access on social platforms becomes more accepted as those platforms mature.

5. Privacy concerns will remain high
In the age of social media, we’ve been conditioned to accept that the trading of personal information is the price to pay for free access. It still doesn’t mean we’re happy about it. And as more and more social platforms monetize the ability to broadcast, we will become even more guarded about having shared our information. Canadian Can-Spam legislation in response to email spammers was an attempt in 2014 to legislate. Expect more backlash in 2015 over privacy, and the possible growth of platforms such as Ello, that boast they will not collect or sell personal information – ever. Bottom line? Practice good ethics when it comes to privacy in 2015.

6. Leveraging influencers and brand ambassadors will be critical
Influencers and brand ambassadors are the folks online with tremendous klout within the circles that your customers travel. Having a third party endorse you has always been better than shouting from your own soapbox, but in the age of social media it carries even more weight within such a cluttered content space.

7. Think Mobile everything
Content is now consumed through the mobile internet and apps at a staggering pace. You need to consider that in planning your “real time” and “right time” marketing efforts in 2015. Think not only what should be put out, but when, and in which format.

8. Social listening will be key
Social listening involves monitoring and responding to conversations online, be it through websites, blogs, and social media or using hashtags to monitor channels of content. It could also mean monitoring competitors channels so a ready response can be made in a time of opportunity. Social listening means you are marketing in real time. Companies who get ahead of this curve will be served well in 2015.

9. #Hashtag your channel will be like claiming your URL
In 2015 brands that own hashtags will build community. Hashtags are a branding tool that cross all platforms and create a channel for those who tune in to see what is happening in their area of interest. In 2015 you want to dominate your chosen hashtag channels by consistently picking several that appear in all your online content.

10. Use digital to amplify an analogue message
And finally amidst all these digital trends, 2015 could be a year to stand out by tapping an analogue approach. I mentioned last week 2 campaigns that made my top 5 marketing wall of fame – simply because they poked fun in a clever way at how dependent we have become on technology. Both the Ikea “book book” spot and the Lululemon “give presence” campaigns held up a mirror that reflected a simpler time – when we actually read books, or put down our devices and spoke to people. They were both brilliant creative and I think they each illustrated our collective craving to occasionally escape this crazy digital world we have created for ourselves. That sentiment might we well worth remembering as an insight for 2015.

2014 Top 10 Marketing Wall of Fame & Wall of Shame

I was inspired to pull some thoughts together on this when I was approached by a producer at CBC TV to add a Vancouver spin to a national “Marketing Fails 2014″ piece they were airing by Dianne Buckner. If you’d like to view that segment, which aired Dec 29, 2014 you can link to it here.


CBC Vancouver Marketing Fails 2014: Rene Filiponne interviews marketing strategist, Mary Charleson – who comes on at the 2:39 minute mark to talk about Vancouver examples.

2014 Marketing wall of fame

1. Ikea’s Book Book
In a world of high tech, going low-tech or no-tech can be a way to stand out. Witness Ikea’s brilliant spoof on an Apple product release to preview their new catalog and its distinctly analogue features.  You can view the ad here or link to my original article about the campaign.

2. Lululemon Give Presence for the holidays
The #givepresence Christmas campaign from Lululemon gets top marks in my book for it’s simplicity of drawing attention to the obvious – our collective obsession with technology and multitasking at the expense of real connection with the person we are with. You can view the original ad here, now at over 3.5 million view or read more about it in a blog post I featured on it.

3. Westjet’s Christmas Miracle 2014
Quite simply it was the authenticity that the company can claim by supporting a community in the Dominican Republic that makes this true spirit of giving spot a winner. You can view it here or read about the campaign.

4. Sam Sung, former Apple employee auctions off his Apple gear on eBay for a cause
This isn’t a campaign you’ll find in the awards books, but it’s a winner from a personal branding standpoint as well as the simple gesture to help others. Read more about the campaign here.  Or you can get the original background story on how it is a guy from Vancouver with a real name of Sam Sung found himself working as a product specialist for Apple. You can’t make this stuff up!

5. Wren clothing’s “First Kiss” viral hit on a $1,500 budget
The idea of pairing up 10 couples, that did not know each other and filming their first kiss was edgy and original. Then toss in the fact that they just happened to be wearing Wren clothing, but that’s about as commercial as the spot gets. It was immensely shareable, tapping emotion, vulnerability and voyeurism and achieved over 69 million views in the first week, and substantial media coverage for doing so. You can watch the video here or read more about the campaign.

2014 Marketing wall of shame

And now for the ones that were memorable for all the wrong reasons…

1. Malaysia Airlines bucket list contest
A bucket list is generally accepted as a list of things one wants to do before they die. How seemingly inappropriate it was then, as a contest name for an airline that lost two planes this year. Did the term get lost in translation?  You can read more about it here. Old

2. Air Canada got #rouged
It’s never a good thing when your new discount carrier name “Rouge” becomes a trending negative hashtag on Twitter. But that’s exactly what happened when some Air Canada pre-booked seats were switched to Rouged flights and passengers were left with less leg room and no seat back entertainment. You can read the full story here.

3. Old Spice taps Moms insecurities to sell to teen boys but forgets who buys the product when they’re living at home
This is one of those ones where I actually think the creative is brilliant, but I’m just not sure it sold product. The crazy portrayal of pathetic Moms taps Freudian attachment theory and societal shifts as boys live at home longer. But while the target user may have loved it, Old Spice offended many of the actual buyers – Moms. View the spots here. And read more about the campaign.

4. Veet’s Don’t risk dudeness
While women may hate to shave their legs, they certainly don’t need their man to infer they’re a hairy beast, which is exactly the trap that this ad fell into. It was yanked promptly after consumer backlash on social media. You still view the spot here.  Or read about how a campaign that was supposedly tested got through.

5. Joan Rivers Tweets from the grave about her new iPhone 6
It wasn’t enough that Apple paid U2 a ton to be able to gift the new album to customers this year, and then had to promptly add a remove button for customers who were angered that it showed up without permission. Yes, Apple appears to have had a deal with Joan Rivers to Tweet about her new iPhone 6. Problem was, Joan died unexpectedly and the pre-scheduled tweet wasn’t deleted. Oops. Apparently Steve Jobs could not be reached for comment either…

And that wraps up the Top 10 list of marketing fame and shame for 2014. I’ll be back next week with some marketing trends and predictions for 2015. If you enjoyed this post and you’d like to receive my 5-Minute Marketing tips enewsletter directly weekly, you can subscribe here. I share lots of insider marketing knowledge and insights with content aimed at entrepreneurs and marketing managers.

Christmas ads and the power of storytelling

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for sentimental. With only a slight guilty conscience I will readily confess to harboring my kid’s kindergarten works of art, old letters from friends, and photo albums filled with childhood memories in treasured locations throughout my house.  I’ll also readily admit to being a sucker for history. I was that weird kid in high school who actually loved history class, perhaps because I had several amazing teachers who didn’t so much teach, as engage us in storytelling that was captivating. It’s with that backdrop, that we take a trip to Britain, where the competition for best Christmas ads (or adverts as they like to call them), is like sport – watched closely and fiercely fought for attention. These Christmas ads and their ability to communicate on such an emotional level is based on great storytelling techniques. As marketers we can learn a lot from that.

Best pause right now to grab a box of tissues. Both of these ads will push the emotional triggers with story, images and music.

1914 Christmas Day truce on the western front

Check out Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas ad here. This ad captures brilliantly a piece of British world history.

Sainsbury_Christmas_advertAnchored in historical events during WWI where it was documented through letters home that the front trench lines between Britain and Germany laid down arms for a 24 hr truce 100 years ago on Dec 25, 1914, sang Silent Night together, and engaged each other as comrades, exchanging small gifts from home. I remember clearly being told this touching story in my high school history class, and this commercial authentically brings the moment to life. It was made in partnership with the Royal British Legion. You can watch a short film of the story behind the Christmas ad here. Of course the chocolate bar, appearing in a hero role, was made available in its historically retro wrapper at Sainsbury’s. But before you shout bah humbug at the retail consumption angle, you should know that profits from the choc bar, made in Ypres no less, are going to charity.

John Lewis – Monty and the Penguin

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this cute penguin ad making the rounds from John Lewis, another British retailer. Currently at over 20 million views, it has all elements of an emotionally packed segment: great music, a story told through pictures, a friendship between a boy and a penguin, and a magical ending transcending the world between childhood imagination and reality. Watch it here.

John_Lewis_pneguinSo what might be the marketing take away from these two segments, other than to keep the tissue handy? I think what’s really at the heart is the incredible power of storytelling. Both ads featured a classic storytelling formula:

 

  1. The intro
  2. The hero versus the villain
  3. The low point
  4. Overcoming the villain
  5. The climax
  6. The outcome and resolution

They both told the story vividly through images and music, featured characters that we could immerse ourselves in for their point of view, and they were rich in the recording of everyday gestures, habits, manners and details. Really, when you analyze them from a cinematic point of view, they were mini movies.

I think there’s a powerful lesson there for marketers if we embrace it. Storytelling works. Good storytelling is riveting and universal, which brings me full circle back to that high school history class and why I loved it so much.

So here’s my question to you: What is your business or brand story? How would you make it into a 2-3 minute movie? How would you tell it in a 1-minute pitch? Those are the thoughts I’ll leave you with over the holidays.

Branding with emotion and giving presence this holiday season

Two much-loved global brands (with Canadian roots), Westjet and Lululemon, take the spirit of the season awards this week for marketing initiatives that stand out in a month traditionally fueled with excess and consumption madness. Hot on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Lululemon’s holiday campaign “Give presence,” as well as the third in a trilogy from Westjet’s holiday miracle series.

Lululemon holiday campaign values presence over presents

I received a link to the Lululemon video last Monday from a loyal newsletter reader Jill, who said it hit her like an emotional brick that morning. Jill notes, “I had spent the day at work in front of two computer screens and my cell phone. At home I found myself with the TV on, laptop open, iPad and iPhone in each hand, catching up on emails, social media, and grabbing up Cyber Monday deals online for Christmas. I went to bed feeling overwhelmed.” I wonder how many of us can relate? And when she woke, she found (yes somewhat ironically since it was shared on social media), this video from Lululemon about giving presence instead of presents. It was a mirror resonating truth.

Lululemon_give_presence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The #givepresence campaign features a number of yoga and meditation instructors and asserts that the greatest gift you can give this holiday season is your undivided attention. My favourite quote is by friend Daniel Laport, who states, “Everything that’s on your plate, you said yes to.” Isn’t that the truth? The video is currently sitting at 3.4 million views.

In a world of personal devices, and multi layered conversations online, it simply asks us to look up and give the moment you are in, your full presence. It seems like such a simple message, but one easily been forgotten in our busy and connected world. What makes it so powerful for the Lululemon brand, is that it is congruent with their existing brand values. Make no mistake, it is a marketing play, but they own the position with some authenticity, having wrapped the brand in their “Manifesto” of statements such as “Dance, sing, floss and travel” and “Friends are more important than money” since they launched. Individual stores are being given the freedom to envision how to embody the spirit of the campaign. That could be as grand as offering a customer a flight home for the holidays if they mentioned they weren’t seeing family this year, or something as simple as offering coffee to a guest on a cold day. They are also using unbranded hand addressed greeting cards to help spread the message of #givepresence.

Westjet:

After striking holiday gold with their Christmas miracle campaign last year, Westjet is back again for a third year, this time bringing presents to people in the Dominican Republic. But you could argue that they too were bringing presence, since the move is far from just a shallow marketing ploy. Westjet has been supporting the communities in the Dominican for some time building houses and giving back. Their “presence” in the country is genuine. Although I had spotted this one early in the week, once again a loyal newsletter reader, Victoria, had alerted me to it. Seems she had a soft spot for Westjet too, since the company supports the Global Initiatives program at Carson Graham, a high school in North Vancouver that has students participate in building homes in the Dominican Republic also.

If you somehow missed the 2013 Christmas Miracle, you can view it here. Last year, guest boarding a plane were given the opportunity to talk to Westjet’s blue Santa on screen in the departure lounge, and tell him what they would like for Christmas. Once the flight departed, Westjet employees at the destination city frantically shopped and wrapped the gifts, so they could be delivered down the baggage carrousel to the surprise and delight of passengers at the arrival city.

westjet-christmas-dominican_horseThis year they bestowed gifts to the people of Puerto Plata, one of the four destinations Westjet services in the Dominican Republic. Airline staffs have been visiting the community for several years to build houses in partnership with Live Different. This year they staged a beach party for locals, where after having talked to Santa electronically the previous day, they were treated to the arrival of gifts. What made the gifts so touching is how they differed so dramatically from the flat screens of last year (although I’m still getting over the guy who asked for socks in that campaign). This year, we see the arrival of a washing machine, a car engine, and a horse.

Westjet_Dominican_washingMachineThese are all items that arguably will benefit many, and in some cases fuel the well being of an entire community. At the end, blue Santa reveals one last gift, a playground for the community’s children. The campaign is centered on the company’s ties to the community. That is what makes it genuine. View the 2014 Dominican campaign here. It had posted over 2.5 million views within the first 5 days. It’s also interesting to hear the back-story on why they did it. View here: “Why we did it” video.

Three commons themes run through both of these campaigns:

  1. Both companies owned the positioning and values portrayed with authenticity. Their actions were congruent with their history, making it more than just a marketing ploy.
  2. The campaigns touched an emotional trigger. Share of mind is good, but share of heart is better.
  3. Both campaigns are about doing something for others, which inadvertently benefited them, but that wasn’t necessarily why they were doing it in the first place.

As increasingly businesses realize there is value in positioning around social responsibility or charity, I think it’s critical to note the importance of authenticity and actions being a reflection of existing company values. Well done Lululemon and Westjet, two Canadian global brands that can do us proud!

 

Inspirational small business stories to celebrate “October small business month”

This past week Small Business BC hosted INSPIRE, and annual event to celebrate entrepreneurship, and a kick off to Small Business Month in British Columbia during October.

Moderated by Judy Brooks, a serial entrepreneur in her own right, having launched built and sold three successful businesses, guests were treated to a panel discussion and insights from some of BC’s emerging and successful business leaders. Here’s a run down on the panelists and some insights from the evening that might benefit your business.

Kyle Vucko, Co-Founder, Indochino
As a University of Victoria student struggling to find a well made and good fitting suit at a reasonable price, Kyle recognized the potential to shake up the men’s online fashion world. He saw a missed opportunity in the space – delivering men’s custom apparel cost-effectively. So he dropped out of university, and spent three years in Shanghai, building a vertically integrated company that has done for the suit category what Zara did for fast fashion – deliver the goods quickly and inexpensively, and in Indochino’s case, custom fitted. While it initially was an exclusively online offering, he experimented with pop-up retail locations and today he has over 120,000 customers in 130 countries, and showrooms in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, New York, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. Not bad for a guy who gave up on business school. http://www.indochino.com/

Brian Scudamore, Found 1-800-got-junk, WOW 1 Day Painting, and You Move me
Inspired to launch 1-800-got-junk in the late 1980s while sitting behind “Mark’s Hauling” truck in a Kerridale McDonalds drive through, Brian realized there was an opportunity to apply good branding and a strong customer focus to traditional service-based offerings such as junk removal. The rest as they say is history. Today, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has more than 850 trucks on the road throughout 170 locations in Canada, the US and Australia. In 2012 he met the founder of a unique, one-day painting company and together they created the WOW 1 DAY Painting franchise. Brian launched his third brand, You Move Me, a different kind of franchised moving company in 2013 in response to his own bad experience. I would venture a guess that this high school and university drop out knows more about business than many of his previous teachers.
http://www.1800gotjunk.com/ca_en
http://wow1day.com/
http://www.youmoveme.com/ca

Jim Wyse, Founder & proprietor, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
For 25 years, Jim was a property developer in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and Oklahoma City. In 1993, serendipity led him to purchase relatively inexpensive and abandoned vineyard land south of Oliver that has since become Burrowing Owl Vineyards, specializing in award winning wine, a fine dining restaurant and guest house.
http://www.bovwine.ca/

Ravy Mehroke, CEO & Co-Founder, Bombay Brow Bar
Who knew there was business opportunity in convincing women (and maybe a few men) that monthly maintenance of their eyebrows, just like their hair, was a necessity? In 2010, sisters and founders Ravy Mehroke and Amy Minhas opened their first brow bar in Yaletown. In just five years, Bombay has grown to a highly coveted beauty brand with additional locations in Kitsilano and the Shangri-la Hotel downtown.
http://www.bombaybrowbar.com/

Although there were many great insights from these panelists, three themes really emerged as things to note for your own business growth.

  1. Great brands are wrapped in a story. Each of these entrepreneurs saw a problem or opportunity and solved it in some unique way that was hard for others to copy. And in doing so, they created an endearing story that has become the heart and sole of their branding and identity. Does your business have a story? And can you tell it in a compelling way?
  2. Mentorship matters. Without exception, all panelists credited strong mentors with helping them achieve success. Brian Scudamore spoke of his self made MBA – as his “Mentor Board of Advisors”. One of his notable mentors, Fred DeLuca, the founder of Subway, became a fast friend after Brian read his book and simply called him to talk. When is the last time you read an inspirational business book cover to cover and then contacted the author?
  3. A founder first inspires but ultimately must lead. It was very evident that all of these company founders were inspired to grow something unique and had no problem catching others up in that enthusiasm. But shifting to the leadership role had been a hurdle for some as the company grew.

I shared these highlights with subscribers of my weekly enewsletter last week, and then asked my readers to tell me their own small business story. In the spirit of highlighting small business in BC, I’m sharing their additional two stories below. Because not every business necessarily gets the recognition it deserves, and maybe this blog can help spread their stories.

Rowena List, CEO & Founder, Getting it Together After a successful career in sales and a move into management as a trainer, Rowena saw a need for self employed women to be more organized. At the time she started helping them organize their home office and clothes closet. Word quickly spread about her ability to simplify life and her clients expanded to corporate women in business and stay at home moms. They all shared one thing in common: overwhelm. Rowena helps clients keep it simple, live with less, live with purpose and get rid of overwhelm. http://gettingittogether.ca/

Natacha Beim, CEO & Founder, CEFA (Core Education & Fine Arts) Seeing herself as a teacher first and an entrepreneur second, Natasha established CEFA, Canada’s first private junior kindergarten school in 1998, for infants and children up to five years old. As a passionate and trained teacher, she was frustrated with what she saw as a gap in the market: preschools and daycare’s offering care and play based settings, but nowhere was there a place offering pre-learning in reading, writing and math, and exploring the arts. She saw an opportunity for creating an enriched curriculum combining core subjects such as reading and math with fine arts, including drama and yoga, to provide children with the freedom to learn and grow through play. Following the successful launch of her first school, she is now franchising the program across North America. Link here for her full story interview video.

http://www.natachabeim.com/

http://www.cefa.ca/

As you can see, these additional two featured entrepreneurs have similar themes to their success as the SBBC INSPIRE recipients: their business and brand is wrapped in a story inspired by personal passion and they are leaders with a vision to help others.

 
 

 

 

Five steps to fuel word of mouth: Learning from Tim Horton’s recruitment pop-up store

Suppose you need to get the word out about something, don’t have a huge media budget, and you want to stand out from competitors. Sound familiar? It’s a challenge that pretty much every business has faced, but now, more than any other time in recent history, we actually have the tools to accomplish it. Enter social media, the increasing popularity of photo and video share platforms, the prevalence of mobile devices, and traditional media hungry for eye catching stories in order to stay relevant. Add a dash of creativity on your part and mix with human nature’s craving for story telling and sharing, and voila! It’s a recipe for success. So how do you do it?

Let’s look at a real life example from this past week: Tim Horton’s

While many Canadians are still reeling from the news of the imminent arranged marriage of their darling to US based Burger King, a suitor with dated plastic décor, seemingly oblivious to health trends with heart stopping massive burgers and a creepy plastic faced “King” mascot, they understand that to grow, financing and distribution inroads are needed. Of course the real challenge will be in growing the Tim Horton’s brand in the US beyond Border States, but in the mean time, the company is shoring up strength in the homeland.

Enter the campaign to find employees as quickly as they can to open restaurants. Tim Horton’s is looking to hire 5,000 new employees nationwide, of which 2,000 will be in Alberta and 250 specifically in the Calgary area. The communications challenge was simple: generate interest and excitement to work at Tim Horton’s in Canada. The traditional approach would have been through recruitment ads in store, online and in newspapers across the land – expensive and of questionable ability to actually deliver.

Tim_Hortons_pop-up_houseInstead the company created a pop up restaurant overnight in SW Calgary at 303 Oakfern Way in Oakridge. Literally, they transformed a home in a family neighbourhood into a Tim Horton’s restaurant overnight, with the objective of being open 6am-12pm Sept 23 only, and generating as much publicity around the surprise event as possible. The distributed gift baskets to the neighbours, conducted random acts of kindness, such as raking leaves, and of course treated the hood to breakfast with free coffee and donuts (the Next door-nut) with the message, “thanks for being our neighbour”. They had treats for dogs and their early morning walkers, and even used street chalk art to send the neighbourly message to come on down for breakfast. Promoting the use of #TimsNextDoor hash tag, photo sharing was encouraged to get the word out on social media.

Neighbour_donutAnd of course they invited traditional print and broadcast media to cover the event. In short, they generated buzz for the brand, which extended across the country courtesy of social and traditional media, and created an atmosphere of inquiry about working for the iconic brand. As a stand-alone stunt, it was no doubt expensive to execute, but I would argue the value of word of mouth, mouse and mobile via social media and traditional media could not have been purchased.

Link to Global BC news video coverage: http://globalnews.ca/news/1577925/calgary-home-transformed-into-tim-hortons-for-a-day/ This news piece alone generated 32,000 Facebook shares within a day, and over 600 Tweets. And that was just one news organization among hundreds. Print and broadcast outlets went crazy for the story because of the human-interest value to Canadians, and frankly the curiosity of the story.

What can we learn from this example about generating word of mouth these days?

  1. Stage an event that can be wrapped in a story: It’s human nature to want to share entertaining stories.
  2. Tap emotional triggers: In this case patriotism, and being a good neighbour were used. Humour is also a great trigger.
  3. Remember why people share: It’s about them, not about you. Give something to make them look connected, insightful, and in some way on an inner circle of knowledge. This piece got shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds because people wanted to be the first to tell their friends the crazy story or document the fact that they were there.
  4. Make sure the event is visual: With the increased prevalence of smart phones and photo and video sharing social media platforms, you want to invite sharing. Make it visually appealing and invite easy sharing and tracking with hash tags.
  5. Seed social media initially, but leverage traditional media as the second punch. Know that the reach of TV, radio and print will generate exponentially more online sharing, so make them a critical part of your media plan. News outlets need content, so be newsworthy.

Of course all this seems simple enough, but obviously having the creativity to come up with an idea is key. Well done Tim’s. And thanks for still spelling it “neighbour” in Canada despite those new American owners!

iKea’s iBook Book – Brilliant marketing

Amidst the marketing flurry around the latest announcement from Apple about their much-anticipated iPhone 6 and wearable technology, comes a brilliantly timed piece of marketing from Ikea.

In a world of high-tech, sometimes going low-tech or no-tech is the way to stand out. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I’d like to acknowledge how Ikea has taken a “page from Apple’s playbook” with the release of their 2015 catalogue.

Enter the bookbook. Or as I’ve decided to call it the iKea iBookBook.

iKea_iBookBookIf you have yet to see it, you MUST have a look at this ad. It is brilliant in it’s use of hyperbole to emphasize the attributes of the 2015 catalogue, framed from a play on technology perspective, meant to yank us back to the reality of enjoying a good old fashioned book, or in this case, a catalogue.

View the ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOXQo7nURs0

The spot opens with, “Once in awhile, something comes along that changes the way we live, a device so simple and intuitive, using it feels almost familiar…” It then goes on to note that the new device has no cables or power, comes fully charged, uses tactile touch for navigation to browse, has no lag time loading images, and can be downloaded free through your mailbox or in person.” So why does this ad work so well?

  1. Timing. Make no mistake, in the world of advertising, this was a well-timed execution, meant to go viral on the tails of this weeks announcement of much anticipated new product from Apple.
  1. Parodies work. Especially when a company with a lot of online traction and social followers such as Apple, is the object of the joke. The parallels and poking clever fun at the way the product features are announced compared to an Apple commercial are striking. Parodies go viral because they are usually funny and entertaining, two key components for getting material shared.
  1. They zigged when the rest of us where still zagging. While it seems many brands jump on board the latest trends, getting caught up in technology and social media, Ikea was different by drawing attention to the old fashioned attributes of book browsing. In an age of ebooks and online everything, it made them stand out. Plus it called out the elephant in the room, the fact that people still like to browse a catalogue to shop, and it made it socially acceptable to admit it. Well done.
  1. It was optimized for social media. Of course this ad could have been placed on TV, but when the objective is to make it viral, allow your army of Ikea followers to use their media channels, and to no doubt generate free publicity and pick up from traditional media such as TV and print, why would you? Putting it on Youtube and making it easily sharable through social channels was a brilliant media strategy.
  1. Simple works. The communication is simple and the visuals are simple, in an iconic Ikea design sense. Even though the audio is in English, and much of the play on words rely on this, the concept of what is being communicated can be understood through visuals.

Well done Ikea. This is brilliant marketing.

Drones, sharing economy delivery & revamped postal services: Distribution experiences disruption

The internet has offered a revolutionary way to promote and sell online globally, but at the end of the day, unless you’re selling something that can be digitized, it still needs to be delivered. As yet, Samantha can’t wiggle her nose and teleport it across the ether. Apologies for the age specific pop culture reference, but I just experienced a Bewitched moment!

The distribution and delivery of goods is experiencing disruption. Government postal services are reeling to reconfigure their infrastructure to handle more parcels and less letter mail, as much communication shifts online. Encumbered by expensive fixed costs and union contracts, this has been a challenge. Indeed, in Canada we are headed for a 5-year phase out of door-to-door delivery of letter mail in many urban areas. But parcels, that stuff you order online, are likely destined to become Canada Post’s bread and butter. At least that appears their hedged bet. Canada Post officially opened a new $200-million, 700,000 square foot processing centre by Vancouver International Airport recently. It’s meant to capitalize on major growth of e-commerce across Canada and the Asia-Pacific Rim. On an average day, the new centre will process 4 million pieces of mail, letters, and parcels. Being close to YVR and Canadian Border Services is very strategic. See a video tour of the new facility here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO6oo_K8bD0

Clearly Canada Post sees their competitive future in what traditionally have been the courier business, and the domain of FedEx, Purolator, UPS, Canpar and DHL. They’ve essentially gone from a crown corporation to a private business, whether they realize it or not.

On the other end of the distribution disruption spectrum, in the small packet local one-day delivery category, is Zipments. Launched in the US, and brought to the local Vancouver market in 2013 by Rob Safrata, owner of Novex Couriers, the business model is part of the “sharing economy”, a huge growth trend lead by successes such as vacation rental, Airbnb.com and private taxi service, Uber.com. Zipments (http://zipments.ca/) utilize drivers already on the road to deliver packages, mostly from retailers to customers who have ordered items online. Based on a similar model to Uber, a sales representative, a commuter or even a Mom already driving from A to B, is contracted to deliver the package. Drivers are independent contractors who earn $6-18 per delivery. They can log in with an app, and deliver packages when it works for them, based on their current location and where it needs to go. Safra has 25 lifestyle couriers working for him, and the company uses Nova Couriers as the back up. The company has signed on several large local companies such as MEC and Purdy’s and is solidifying agreements with several large national retailers. This is definitely a disruptive and innovative move in the same day delivery service category.

prime-air_high-resolution011

And then there’s the promise of drones, those remote controlled helicopter things that Amazon and Google are looking to use to completely innovate and disrupt the delivery category. Amazon has applied to the Federal Aviation Authority to allow the commercial use of drones for package delivery, essentially allowing the shopping giant to map the sky. Click here to see a video of Amazon Prime Air in action – quite something: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98BIu9dpwHU

So what’s the marketing lesson in all this? I’d say there are two. Even something as traditional as distribution and delivery of goods can be disrupted and businesses have to respond to remain competitive. Big or small, this example illustrates that competition can come from many different angles. And given some of these changes afloat, if you’re in the business of delivering goods purchased online, as a marketer, you’ll likely see opportunity in these examples from a cost and speed perspective.

Leveraging your personal brand – the Sam Sung story

I love Apple products, but I have to say right now I’ve become a huge fan of Samsung, as in “Sam Sung” the man, not necessarily Samsung the product. Sam is a former Apple employee, an irony not lost on many, when reading his business card that states: “Sam Sung, Product Specialist, Apple.”

Sam_SungNow working for Halloway Schultz & Partners, a recruiting firm in Vancouver, Sam put his name on the line recently through eBay for a good cause. He auctioned off his old Apple uniform and business card to raise money for Children’s Wish BC and Yukon, an organization that grants wishes to terminally ill children. The auction closed on Aug 15, and the top bid was $2,653 US ($2,894 Cdn) from a buyer in Germany. While there were several bids topping $10,000 they were later proved to be invalid by eBay. He plans to donate back all funds raised. What an incredible gift to a worthy cause.

Sam_Sung_auction_finalAvid readers of my blog and past newsletters may well recall my interactions with Sam Sung. It all started when a customer of his Pacific Centre Apple store posted a photo of his business card and it went viral. You can read the original post here: http://fiveminutemarketing.com/2012/11/sam-sung-a-specialist-for-apple/

While I picked up the viral chatter initially from a friend in Australia, and then another in the southern US, I was actually able to confirm it was indeed true, rather than a hoax, as many were speculating at the time. I subsequently had several interactions with Sam as an employee at the store (and yes I have his business card), and we’ve stayed in touch since his move into recruitment. Perhaps most memorable is his wicked Scottish brogue, having moved to Vancouver from Glasgow Scotland several years ago. The juxtaposition of his accent and obvious Chinese heritage was somewhat disarming in Vancouver, a heavily Asian populated city.

This selfless act to auction off his former uniform and business card for a good cause is a terrific way to have leveraged his personal branding and identity. Indeed Sam has noted that while an employee at Apple he was quite uncomfortable with all the attention his name drew. It was only after he had left that drawing attention to it seemed appropriate, and then not specifically for personal gain.

Still we can note that he has brilliantly leveraged his name, brand and identity via a social cause. While his chosen charity was the primary benefactor, there is no doubt that his identity as a recruiter will benefit in an industry where personal integrity is critical.

This story really helps drive home the fact that when you do things for others, it will no doubt benefit you, perhaps just not directly. It was far easier for Sam to gain publicity around this initiative since he made it about others and not himself. His name and the irony of being a former Apple employee had curiosity, but it was the charitable component that gave it traction and made it attractive to the media. By giving people a reason to share his story he gained far more coverage and social media sharing than he would have otherwise. Both a terrific cause and a great guy benefited. It was brilliant marketing.