Trim your social media platforms for 2015: when having less is more

I put out an article a couple weeks ago titled, “Are you a slave to social media?” Evidently it struck a chord, since it was my most highly shared and Tweeted piece this year. It also earned me an invitation to contribute to Social Media Impact, the top trusted social media news site out of the US So I thought we’d follow up on it this week and dig a little deeper for valuable insights going into 2015.

Social_media_overloadDid you know that the average B2C business is now keeping up with seven social media platforms? And they’re spending an average of 20 hours a week on marketing. Much of that effort is the result of an explosion in online marketing choices. Link to the Content Marketing Institute study here.  Or the small business trends study by Constant Contact here or more interesting facts.

On the receiving end of all this is the overwhelmed consumer. With 58% of American adults owning a smart phone, the digital culture has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. According to Nielson, the average American spends 11 hours a day with electronic media. Granted the majority is still anchored in traditional platforms such as TV and radio, but on average 2hrs and 8 minutes of our lives are spent on the internet or mobile device. It’s safe to say that many sub groups of the population are much higher than that. I’m thinking my teenager’s likely hit that daily average before breakfast!

What does all this tell us?

We’re wired more than ever before. And we’re busy with being wired.

Frankly many of us are overwhelmed. A UK study estimated that over 1 million workers fail to take their full allotment of holidays primarily because of anxiety over the work waiting for them upon their return. You can bet that the email inbox with over 1,000 unread messages has something to do with that. So here’s my prediction for social media and content marketing in the future:

2015 will be the year businesses are granted permission to kick under performing social media platforms to the curb.

Instead of chasing everything for fear of missing the next big thing, 2015 will be the year we focus on what works – the 2 or 3 channels where we know our customers reside and where they will share our content. We’ll strategically focus our content, BUT we’ll also strategically focus our channel. If that sounds like a trip back to the future, it is. It’s really no different than picking the most suitable newspaper, magazine or radio station from a mature market where there are many, many offerings in each category. The challenge with social media has been the steady emergence of platforms in such a relatively short period of time. Think of it as similar to trying to buy every newspaper or radio station out there for fear of missing something. That would be utter insanity. I think we’re approaching that saturation point with social media. Of course there will be many new platforms that will continue to emerge, offering micro targeted access to specific markets. But we’ll start to assess them strategically. Rather than just jumping on board, we need to step back and pick what is well aligned with our target market.

A good start is to be very clear about your business purpose and whom it is that you help.

Once you’re clear on those two points, it becomes much easier to focus your conversations. The same principles can be applied to your social media platforms. A narrow well targeted approach with one or two platforms used frequently by your target audience will beat a broad multi platform play any day. Of course creating content for properties you own, such as your website, blog and enewletter, should be your top priority before reaching out to social media, your outposts, to broadcast and engage.

I think 2015 will be the year that platforms shake out and business and consumers rush to stop the insanity, by critically assessing where to spend efforts. It’s time to be strategic and forget about the rest. I’m not necessarily advocating that you pick two platforms and dump the rest. But you could certainly focus 80% of your effort on those two that are well aligned, and put the others you’ve established in maintenance mode – updating basic info from time to time.

So relax and breathe. Feel your inner Zen when creating content. And simply give yourself permission to only focus on what matters.

Did GAP goof? Remembrance Day Sale goes wrong in Canada

GAP appears to be retracting big time on a promotional email put out by head office on Monday Nov 10, that didn’t go over too well with Canadian customers. The offer was on a “puffer vest” for $19.99 on special during a Remembrance Day Sale. Seems many Canadians took issue with the company provoking commercial gain, on what is universally accepted as a somber day of thanks and remembrance, not one to go out and spend just because many have the day off. Gap_goof






Americans as a whole seem more desensitized to the commercialization of holidays. The practice of having sales on Veterans Day is reasonably common place there. I suspect this comes down to subtle cultural differences between Canada and the US, and a decision originally stemming from US marketing directives at Gap. While it’s easy to believe Canadians are similar to Americans in many ways, sometimes US retailers ignore the subtle differences at their peril. In this case, there is not a rich history of commercializing
Nov 11 in Canada. In fact, many retailers with American head offices such as Starbucks
have fallen under criticism for putting up Christmas decor immediately after Halloween,
and not honouring Remembrance Day first, which had historically been a Canadian custom. I also think that this year, Canadians are perhaps hyper sensitive to giving true significance to Remembrance Day, given the targeted hit of two Armed Forces personnel on Canadian soil recently, and our now active involvement in the Middle East. What do you think about all this? CBC Vancouver is doing a piece on at during the 5pm news tonight. I was asked to be interviewed for my thoughts about it, but couldn’t make it. Watch @AndrewChangCBC tonight and chime in with your thoughts!

Click here a link to the Toronto CBC TV news at 5pm piece.

A campaign to make the fur fly

I remember well a day back in 1988 when the advertising sales department at the Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s urban weekly where I was working at the time, fell in the cross hairs of activists on behalf of the inhumane treatment of animals in the commercial fur trade. You see, long before desktop publishing, newspapers were constructed like puzzle pieces – ads created and then placed along side other ads and editorial from a layout mock up based on sizes purchased. What had inadvertently happened was an ad for a well-known local fur company had been placed directly beside an ad for the Humane Society. They both no doubt had been inserted by a dreary eyed graphic artist late at night, and had gone off to print. The juxtaposition of the fur coat sale placed beside a photo of a baby seal was not lost on our readers, nor did it escape reprimand by both clients once they opened the paper.

The battle between the fur trade, fashion and animal rights activists has been going on for some time. While real fur has fallen in and out of fashion over the years, it appears its use is on the upswing once again. And that is what is at the heart of a clever new international campaign that launched today. The Montreal SPCA, the Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals and LUSH Cosmetics have launched #Makefurhistory, an international campaign against the fur industry. The campaign was imagined and created by Republik.

At the heart of the campaign is the objective to raise awareness on the issue of inhumane treatment of animals, and to change consumer behaviour towards real fur. The creative team, led by Jeff Lee, realized that current awareness was high amongst the converted – those that already supported the cause. The challenge was to get the attention of those who were driven by fashion, and at a pivotal point, as the temperatures in northern hemispheres dip and consumers reach for warm and fashionable attire. They decided to tackle the fur industry on its own turf, by launching a fake e-commerce Website: – a new destination for exclusive deals on fur coats and accessories. The fake e-commerce website was launched with a full-fledged advertising campaign that lives on the web, on social platforms and on billboards and public display areas in many Canadian Universities. campaign visualOnce consumers landed on the fake website, they were in for a surprise as their first click redirected them automatically to, the campaign’s official website, and a reveal video about the tragic truths in the industry.


Cosmetic retailer LUSH fully supported the campaign through 200 stores across North America, since they were in a unique position to help educate the target market through the message about the inhumane treatment of animals in the commercial fur trade.

In addition to out of home advertising, there was a significant online component supporting efforts to spread the message through a customized Facebook and Twitter page where they Tweeted at @furdiscounts and then use the hashtag #makefurhistory to channel comments.

MAPPING_OBOX-MASHABLE1The campaign was effective for a couple reasons, most notably the combined use of traditional print and outdoor fashion advertising along with online platforms, leveraged by social media and photo sharing. A retail support partner with a broad reach to the target demographic further expanded the reach. It was also a brilliant use of #contentmarketing to seed awareness and evoke consumer response towards a cause, rather than a purchase. Well done!


Content marketing is hot, but is it time to kick a few platforms to the curb?

Pass the Louisiana Hot Sauce, cayenne pepper or Tabasco. “Content marketing” is hot.

The Content Marketing Institute (yes, there is now an institute devoted to the study of this thing that didn’t exist a couple years ago, that we all now need), defines content marketing as: “A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Keep_Calm_Create_contentContent marketing has been facilitated by many changes, most notably growth of the internet, mobile devices, tablets, social media, and the impact of the financial crisis on budgets and traditional media spending. Really, it was the perfect storm.

So this week I’ve pulled some top line insights from a very interesting study on content marketing, that I wanted to share with you. And I’m going to make a case for how to use those insights to dominate your niche by doing LESS. Interested? Read on…

The B2C Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America study was produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs and sponsored by EnVeritas Group. The global study was conducted in July and August 2014, with 5,167 recipients representing a full range of industries, areas and company sizes. The report findings I’ve used in this piece represent findings from 307 respondents who were B2C marketers in North America. You can download a full copy here:

77% of B2C respondents were using content marketing. Clearly, content is now king. Here’s a summary of the effectiveness of various tactics, how success was measured, what platforms were used, and how often new content was published.

Effectiveness ratings for B2C tactics

  • Enewsletters 66%
  • In person events 63%
  • Photos 59%
  • Social media content – other than blogs 58%
  • Blogs 54%
  • Videos 54%
  • Articles on your website 53%
  • Mobile apps 49%
  • Webinars/webcasts 46%
  • Online presentations 45%

Tools used to assess content marketing success:

  • Website traffic 66%
  • Sales 54%
  • Higher conversion rates 39%
  • SEO ranking 39%
  • Time spent on website 38%
  • Qualitative feedback from customers 35%
  • Subscriber growth 34%

B2C Content marketing social media platform usage:

  • Facebook 94%
  • Twitter 84%
  • Youtube 76%
  • LinkedIn 71%
  • Google + 68%
  • Pinterest 59%
  • Instagram 49%

How often B2C marketers publish new content:

  • Daily 17%
  • Multiple times per week 31%
  • Weekly 16%
  • Multiple times per month 11%
  • Monthly 10%
  • Less than once per month 9%

42% of B2B marketers publish daily or multiples times during the week.

B2C marketers are now using an average of 7 social media platforms to distribute content, compared with 6 last year. All platforms experienced some level of increase this year, except for LinkedIn, which stayed the same. The average company is now creating content for 7 (yes, seven) social media sites? No wonder everyone is so exhausted, and taking a sip from Twitter feels like blast from the fire hose! Quite simply, I don’t think it is possible to dominate a niche with your content marketing by focusing on so many channels.

Social_media_fearThis study clearly demonstrates the value of content marketing, but it also show how we are all running with the masses, afraid to not jump on board, for fear we are missing the next big thing. But really, maybe it’s time to step back and assess and kick to the curb the underperformers. I think our efforts might be better spent picking the top 2 or 3 platforms where our target audience spends time, and then developing great content that they will share on their platform of choice. Having a focus is king in content marketing. Maybe it’s time to have a focus not only on content but also on the platform for delivery?

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: 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:

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.

Re-imagine with abandon. Learn to love disruption.

It would seem that summer has officially kicked into gear. Holidays can be a great time to recharge for many and re-imagine for some. In my experience entrepreneurs by nature are often doing the latter. We’re always thinking of new and exciting ideas, and it’s frequently when we step away from the busyness of life, that the best thoughts come forth.

For those of you who have attended one of my keynotes or workshops, you’ll know I am a big fan of disruption – at least from a marketing perspective. Disruptive companies challenge convention, change their product or offering in a unique way, and usually alter one of the 4Ps of marketing – product, price, place (distribution), or promotion. The really disruptive ones take a run at all four. Re-imagining is the first step to disruption.

So this week, I’m going to challenge you to do just that. Re-imagine something about your business or your life with an eye to disrupt your category. To get the creative juices flowing, we’re going to look at some examples from the hotel and travel industry. I figure that’s in keeping with the holiday theme and just might engage you if I happen to have landed in a hammock with you (on your iPad of course!) Cubicle farmers, take this as your opportunity to look busy…

Disrupting the accommodations industry: Airbnb was founded in 2008 in San Francisco as a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – online or from a mobile phone. They boast 15 million plus guests, 34,000 plus cities, with 600,000 plus listings worldwide in 190 countries. At the forefront of the “sharing economy” they essentially brought the eBay and Craigslist approach to accommodations, branding the portal for listing and booking like a higher end hotel chain, and ensuring some turnkey standards of the experience along the way. It’s no mistake that two of the three founding partners come from an industrial design background. The other is an engineer. While initially dismissed as a niche offering, a recent round of financing now pegs them at a $10 billion valuation, making them worth more than most large hotel chains including the Hyatt and Wyndham. Yes, they are the world’s largest hotel chain, and they don’t own a single property, nor have the expense of property maintenance or staffing. Airbnb is a classic example of disruptive innovation. They started with an under served market and are now moving mainstream. Cleverly they are now extending beyond the leisure market and appealing to business travelers. It’s the same moving mainstream model that Southwest and Westjet airlines both used successfully. disrupted the product, the pricing, the promotion and the place (distribution) of the marketing mix.

AirbnbThe first Ace Hotel opened in 1999 in Seattle, WA. It was a transformed halfway house, meant to appeal to the creative class. The hotel partners had previously founded Rudy’s, an edgy Seattle barbershop concept that eventually expanded to more than a dozen West Coast locations. There are now Ace Hotels in London, LA, New York, Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle and Panama. The properties are all unique pieces of architecture, renovated to reflect impeccable attention to design savvy detail, and offer authentic experiences reflective of their particular locations. The Portland location is run by classic hipsters, serving Stumptown espresso, and locally grown spelt bread with unsweetened hazelnut spread for breakfast. While most rooms have classic king and queen style beds, some can be had with bunk beds or shared bathrooms at a cheaper rate. Rooms are furnished with locally sourced artisan fare such as hand knit blankets and pottery, flatscreen TVs, free wifi, and many have an acoustic guitar, turntable and vinyl records – just because. The stairs are encouraged, there are bikes to use and they’ll loan you an umbrella. You get the picture. They proudly boast that their authentic approach is why people want to sleep with them. Enough said. Ace Hotels disrupted the product experience, went from initially serving a budget market, to being able to serve a very top end market at top end prices – many times in the same hotel, disrupting the pricing model. They also disrupted promotions simply because they don’t advertise. They let word of mouth do it all.

Ever wonder why check out has to be at 11am, when check in is 4pm, and there might not even be anyone taking your room anyway? So did the Olsen Hotel, a stylish 5 star hotel in Melbourne, Australia. They offer the world’s latest check out. Their promotion means that if your room is not needed by another guest later that day or even the next, you can stay on absolutely free. All you need to do is call reception in the morning and find out when the next guest is due to arrive. It’s simple and it’s honest. There are no limits, so technically if there is no booking behind you, you are welcome to continue as long as you like – quite revolutionary. Of course the hotel is popular, so the likelihood of a huge extended stay is probably limited, and most travelers have some sort of schedule that would prevent over indulgence, but the fact that they’ve erred on your side and were honest about it, makes them a winner. Of course they encourage folks to post photos to their Facebook page or on Twitter and Instagram telling others about their overstay, or what they did with their additional time in Melbourne. The value of the free publicity gained I’m sure far exceeds the costs of awarding some late checkouts or extended stays for free. Check out this short video about the promotion. It’s a cheeky and memorable visual. The Olsen disrupted the product and service offering by challenging industry convention. They also disrupted the promotions model by brilliantly leveraging social media in their favour.

While more and more hotels are adapting a pet friendly policy, the industry standard is still to leave fido at home. France has been a leader in this area for decades. Seems the French know how to treat their furry friends like family. I remember cycling in Corsica with my husband, and seeing a couple of customer’s dogs scurrying about chasing a cat in the kitchen of the quaint little restaurant we were dining in. It was memorable particularly because of the barks, squeals, shouts and the emerging pot of bouillabaisse we had ordered; all delivered like things were normal. When in Whistler we often stay at the Coast Blackcomb Suites, primarily because there is an included buffet breakfast that will feed two hungry teens, but also for the pure entertainment and convenience of bringing the dog along. My theory is that human nature is a great regulator. Usually only well-behaved dogs are paraded since the poorly behaved ones are a reflection on their owner. They do have pet-free rooms for those who may have allergies, and they simply charge a $25 fee for the dog, donating 10% of the fee to WAG, the local animal shelter. Nice. They disrupted an accepted industry policy, kind of like the Olsen Hotel.

Disrupting the airline industry: First came Derrie-air Airline, a fictitious airline trumped up by a Philadelphia newspaper running fake ads, to prove people still read newspapers. The premise was simple enough. Sell airline seats by weight, just like meat at the deli. If you weigh more, you pay more to fly. The promotion dates to 2008 and the accompanying website is now defunct, but the ads touting Chicago for $1.40/lb were brilliant.

derrie-air-airlinesFlash forward to 2013, when Samoa Air became the world’s first airline to charge passengers by the pound – for real! Seems the nickel and diming for an extra bag wasn’t doing it, and they cut to the heart of the problem. When passengers book, they note an estimated weight for the fare to be calculated on, then when they check in any discrepancies are recalculated along with the inclusion of their baggage weight. Current charges for flights off the island range from .44 to .94¢ per kilo. Could this be the way of the future? What do you think? Here’s a link to a video of the news item: Samoa Air disrupted the pricing model for their industry.

Disrupting the car rental industry: Conventional wisdom says when you need to rent a car in a visiting city while on holidays or for business, you turn to a conventional car rental company like Hertz, Budget, Tilden or Avis. But what if you are part of the “sharing economy” (think Airbnb success), that says, why own or rent when you can simply share? Car share co-ops have sprung up in urban centers worldwide. Initially targeted at locals who need a car occasionally but not wanting to pay to service it or park it expensively year round, car share companies are now targeting travelers with success. At Zipcar for example, with one simple annual membership, you can access cars around the world. Memberships start at $6/month and driving rates are $7-8/hr. The best part is cars are often available in convenient locations throughout a city. Picture a tourist or businessperson who simply needs it for several hours and doesn’t want to pay for an entire day or parking. Cars can be located with an app on your phone, booked on online on the spot, and a keyless entry code is sent to access them. Zipcar is set to disrupt the car rental industry through product distribution and booking, as well a pricing.

Hopefully these themed holiday disruptions will cause you to re-imagine and disrupt something about your own business. Or maybe they’ll simply serve as inspiration for your next holiday booking, and that’s OK too!

When marketing goes to pot!

Perhaps only from the perspective of the left-coast of Canada could come marijuana infused marketing. Yes, marketing that has gone to pot – literally. No I haven’t lost my mind. Trust me, there will be a marketing lesson in here at the end…

Last week I picked up a tweet from @HiddenWeedYVR. It came via @VancityBuzz which I follow. It noted how someone was hiding bags of weed, then tweeting photo clues. As of last Friday morning they were at 927 followers and currently sit at 3,175 followers. Not huge, but growing.

find_weed_tweet@HiddenWeedYVR is a follow up idea to @HiddenCashYVR that has apparently had a segment of Twitter followers in Vancouver all a buzz tweeting photo clues for randomly dispersed $100 bills placed throughout the city. @HiddenCashYVR with over 24,000 followers was inspired by @HiddenCash, a phenomena started about a month ago in San Francisco. Their random acts of $100 kindness gained them a following of over 460,000. Since then copycats have sprung up in Texas, Tampa, Nashville, Vancouver and the UK.



But back to the bag of weed. Who would do this?

I realize it was launched one day prior to National Donut Day, but surely that’s not some odd placed juxtaposed snacking humour? I think more likely it could be the beginning of a larger campaign, one where the organizer has a vested interest in ramping up a huge Twitter following quickly, albeit from a highly targeted group. They did tag @JodieEmery (wife of Mark Emery, an outspoken political activist), as well as news organizations @CKNW and @VancouverSun and @HuffPostBC. I’ll stay tuned on this one and let you know if it goes anywhere.

Yet another marijuana infused marketing spin comes from Mega iLL, a restaurant on Kingsway at Fraser in Vancouver, that sells marijuana oil-infused pizza. Yes, before the pizza gets baked, it gets baked. The extra ingredient is added for $10, and only to those who are over 18, and who have been prescribed marijuana by a doctor. As specialized segmented products go, I’m pretty sure their offering is exclusive in Canada. Apparently the idea was inspired on a trip to Cambodia, where the owner experienced Happy Pizza, a product using a similar oil infusion process. Here’s a video if you want to learn more:


And just when you thought I couldn’t possibly spin this one any more, yet again from the left-coast of Canada comes a new distribution angle for marijuana.

A vending machine.

Pot_vending_machineYup, only in Vancouver. The machine is located at BC Pain Society, 2908 Commercial Drive, and targets to dispense safely for medical purposes to users who have a card, issued by their medical doctor that certifies they need marijuana. While it’s not directly marketing the use of pot, it is an interesting change to the model of distribution.

So why have I chosen educate you on more than you likely needed to know about access to marijuana on the west coast? Two reasons:

(1) I’ve given you something interesting to share and talk about with your friends. Inadvertently I have made you look smarter and more connected then you were before you read this. Hopefully you’ve had a few laughs too. That’s what good word of mouth marketing does.

(2 ) But most importantly, I’ve illustrated a couple disruptive marketing concepts:

  1. An unusual and memorable distribution model.
  2. What highly segmented target marketing looks like.
  3. How a business differentiates itself from competitors.
  4. Clever methods for gaining a large twitter following and getting noticed by the media.

I love the notion of disruption, and these examples are disruptive on so many levels. Have you seen anything out there that disrupts an industry or category? I’d love to hear about it and have you share it here.

Dove patches: from tricks to truth & remaining true to their positioning

I’m a huge fan of Dove. I love the approach they have taken over the last 11 years with their “real beauty” campaign, advocating empowerment and beauty from within. I’ve commended them many times for remaining true to a big idea, as part of their brand values.

That said, they’ve taken some heat with their latest campaign installment called Dove patches. It was launched globally in 56 countries last week to prove that beauty is a state of mind. The video documents a social experiment where several women wear a “beauty patch”  for two weeks, supposedly containing a breakthrough medical ingredient. They were to document through a diary and video how they perceived their own beauty while wearing the patch. The women recruited were not actors, and there was no association with Dove up front. They were thought to simply be participating in a clinical experiment by Dr Ann Kearney-Cooke, a clinical psychologist. During the two-week trial, the women experienced a boost in self-esteem. However at the end of the experiment, the patch is revealed as a placebo. It has no magical powers, rather beauty is revealed to be a state of mind. View it here:


It’s an empowering message, and one certainly in keeping with Dove’s positioning.

The idea of conducting an experiment with hired professionals is not new to Dove. In April 2013 they hired a forensic artist to sketch how women viewed themselves and to contrast that with how they were viewed by others, in an effort to dramatize female self-criticism for the Dove sketches campaign. Dove Real Beauty sketches was a run-away viral hit, shared widely on social media and viewed by over 62 million on Youtube. View it here: Currently Dove patches is at just over 13 million views

The placebo effect is a well-known phenomenon, and this application certainly proves it. I have to admit though, I felt for the women initially once the fake medicinal ingredients were revealed. They did appear gullible, and that was not Dove’s intent.

However, I do believe the basis for the experiment and what it reveals, even if I had a hard time sharing their emotional reaction to the results at the end. By taking a risk to demonstrate the outcome, Dove earns credit for celebrating the insight that beauty does not come from a bottle, but comes from within.

Make no mistake; Dove is trying to convince women to buy their products, but what company isn’t? The inspiration to remain true to the “real beauty comes from within” theme takes guts, and certainly separates them from their competition. To sustain that approach and keep it fresh for over 11 years is commendable.

And there in lies the lesson for us all. Competitive advantage is often the result of a unique sustained brand position relative to competitors. So here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. How are you positioned differently from your competitors?
  2. How is that reflective of your values?
  3. And what are you doing to keep your message fresh, while remaining true to your position?

Until next week, be inspired, keep it fresh, and remain true to your brand.

Veet’s Don’t risk dudeness dud: lessons from a consumer backlash

I have to preface this weeks post with an admission that I’ve secretly feared Veet (previously called Neet) ever since I was 13. And it’s not because of some misguided teen hair removal exercise. One of my friends had Neet put in her hair during a high school initiation day, and clumps of it fell out in her hands. This image, as an insecure adolescent, is still vivid in my mind. It will also likely have you questioning what side of the tracks my high school was on! This piece of baggage explains perhaps why, even after all these years, I felt some vindication this week towards a product I grew to dislike.

If there was ever any doubt that the consumer is now in control of shaping brand messages in the age of social media, this week delivered living proof. Veet, a women’s hair removal product, announced with great fanfare, that their new Don’t risk dudeness campaign would launch during Dancing with the Stars on Monday. After it aired, consumer weighed in, and it would appear that the reaction is not what the company had anticipated. The backlash was so swift online, that by Wednesday morning Veet had yanked the ads and issued an apology on their Facebook page


For those who haven’t seen it, the man wakes, strokes the leg of his sleeping companion draped over him, to a rude hairy awakening. The person in bed beside him appears as an exceptionally hairy bearded man, who states in a women’s voice, “Yeah, I know, I’m a little prickly, I shaved yesterday.” Then the prescriptive voiceover wraps up, “Don’t risk dudeness, use Veet wax strips. Feel womanly around the clock.” The bearded guy then magically transforms to a women in the final shot. If that description begs for a full visual, you can still view the spot here:

There were two other spots in the campaign. One where a girl in a sleeveless dress hails a cab, only to be passed up, as she appears transformed into the same bearded hairy-pitted man. The hairy dude also appears getting a pedicure, meant to shame all women who thought they could hide their legs while getting those toes painted. The subtext is clear, our norm as a society is men have body hair and women don’t. While shaving, make-up, hair care and heels may well be something many women enjoy, advertising leads us to believe that they’re really not optional.

There in lies the rub.

There’s a certain shaming implied that appears prescriptive. Some viewers even saw homophobic overtones and found that questionable. Beyond the “agree or disagree” with the hair removal argument, I think there was something even bigger wrong with these spots: they forgot who the target market was. Yes they’re edgy, and on some level funny, but in a young male humour kind of way. I usually love funny ads. But the humour in these spots was at the expense of the woman who is supposed to be the target market. One friend summed it up best, “These spots were likely created by a couple guys in their 20s at 3am and approved by a male creative director.” They remind me of how the Old Spice “Creepy moms” ads forgot who actually buys the product for teens boys living at home, when they took aim at Mom. Veet got a few laughs for exposing a known truth, women often host stubble, but in doing so they alienated their buyers by teasing their insecurities and making them look foolish.

There have been other brands targeting women who made this type of misstep. Likely the most memorable was Motrin with an ad intended for young mothers who carry their babies in slings close to the body. Their attempt to bond with their customers backfired when a number of online Mom’s were offended by the suggestion carrying their babies this way was “fashionable” and they were outraged at the suggestion that they looked “tired and crazy.”  Johnson & Johnson, Motrin’s parent company missed the cues of outrage online and didn’t learn of the backlash until it hit mainstream broadcast and print media. Other than the obvious need to monitor social media if you’re going to play there, they learned very quickly to not mess with Mommy bloggers on maternity leave.

At least Veet was closely monitoring consumer opinion, and responded quickly. But it sure does beg the question how the creative could have gotten that far, and been so wrong. Here’s the apology listed on their Facebook page Wednesday:

“Hi…this is the Veet marketing team in the US. We just wanted to let everyone know, we get it – we’re women too. This idea came from women who told us that at the first hint of stubble, they felt like “dudes.” It was really simple and funny, we thought. To be honest, the 3 of us could really relate to these real-life moments and they made us laugh. Not everyone appreciated our sense of humor. We know that women define femininity in different ways. Veet helps those who choose to stay smooth. Our intention was never, ever, to offend anyone, so we decided to rethink our campaign and remove those clips. Thank you for letting us know how you feel.”

It also appears that Reckitt Benckiser, the British company that owns Veet, was trying to distance themselves from this US based blunder, in order to protect their brand reputation globally. The company issued this statement at the end of the week:

“This is a US advertisement, and has only been aired in North America. While the current advertising campaign for VEET running in the USA has been well received by most consumers who appreciate its wacky, tongue in cheek humour, it has also provoked a great deal of comment. We take our responsibilities very seriously and the ad was carefully reviewed before it aired. However we are very concerned by any misinterpretation of its tone or meaning, and in the light of the feedback received we have decided to withdraw it. We would also like to apologize for any offense it may have caused. That was certainly not our intention.”

So what can we learn from this, even if we are not a global brand with a huge marketing budget?

  1. It’s absolutely critical to know your target market well so you don’t offend them.
  2. For many brands there is a difference between influencer and actual purchaser. Again, know which one you’re talking to and don’t offend the purchaser.
  3. Test your creative. Then test your creative.
  4. Consumers will control the final message in the age of social media. Get used to being judged.
  5. The way you respond to being judged is now part of the campaign.
  6. And as any teenager who has ever posted something online that they regret has learned, you can NEVER really withdraw a campaign. The “Don’t risk dudeness” Veet ads will live on popping up like a Whack-a-mole at the fair, because nothing makes folks want to see something more, than being told they can’t view it.

And perhaps this final piece of advice might sum it up best: Be brave, be creative, but be careful!