August 2, 2019
Solar lighting as a brand is beset by misperceptions. People still overwhelmingly believe the lights break, the batteries don’t last, the whole category is a cheap, Home Depot novelty.
Winning hearts and minds over to solar may be a big challenge. But the reward for breaking down the misperceptions will be huge.
Justin Taverna, co-founder of First Light Technologies, is determined to make First Light that breakthrough brand.
I’ve known Justin and his First Light co-founder Sean Bourquin a number of years now. I helped them streamline their brand message then, and I’m helping them figure out how to reach more customers now.
Justin and I sat down a short while ago to talk about the evolution of the solar lighting brand, the a-ha moments he’s had, and the brand space he believes First Light can stake in consumers’ minds.
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July 31, 2019
Quick, name two top tech cities. San Francisco, and, ummm...
Being a top tech city and being known as a top tech city are two quite different things. I challenge that the difference all comes down to brand.
Here in Victoria BC, my hometown, we're blessed with an exploding tech industry. Even better, we have an amazing tech city brand. At least part of that is due to the hard work and creativity of people like Dan Gunn, CEO of VIATEC.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dan and unpack the elements of the Victoria tech brand. Among other things, we dug into...
- What's in a name - and why Tectoria (the name created as an umbrella for everything from conferences to VIATEC's building) is a great one,
- The complexities of creating a brand in a city where virtually none of the stakeholders sell their products,
- The brand power in Fort Tectoria - an HQ that is open to the public as well as VIATEC staffers and stakeholders
- The connection between tech, spilled wine bottles, and inflatable killer whales,
- Creating a consistent brand code, and ensuring that code is based on the true personalities that live it,
- Why orange is cool,
- The power of metaphors in describing an industry that is often criticized for hyper-complex, unintelligible communication,
- Origin stories, and why they work for VIATEC the way they worked for Superman,
- Why people are the best ads, and
- Why tech industry leaders are coming to Victoria to study how Dan and VIATEC pulled this off.
I hope you enjoy the conversation. As you might guess, it's jam-packed with brand information anyone can use - and there's nary a tech term in the entire 30 minutes!
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July 18, 2019
To me, podcasting is a passion - I simply love bringing guests on who have an interesting perspective on brands, marketing and communication, and I love sharing their ideas with my audience. If someone gives me business because they enjoy my podcast, that's icing on the cake. Nice, but not necessary.
So it was very interesting to me to read this story in the New York Times about 'Peak Podcast' - a state where monetization and get-rich-quick podcasting schemes seem to be ruining the industry. Hey, podcasting is about building my brand, but for how long?
To that end, I invited Craig Thomas on my show. Craig does guest relations at CallForContent, a company that helps podcasters get more listeners, grow their show, and all the other noble things podcasting is supposed to do. Over the course of half an hour, Craig and I chatted about the evolution of podcasting, what podcasters absolutely have to get right to succeed (in all senses of the word), and what the future holds. It was an entertaining conversation. Enjoy!
If you enjoyed this show, make sure you subscribe to my podcast. And if you want to chat about your brand, drop me a line at email@example.com.
July 17, 2019
The Calgary Stampede - the greatest outdoor show on earth - just wrapped up. This year, the show was marred by the tragic deaths of 6 horses in the chuckwagon races, sparking outrage among fans and activists alike.
Is it time for the Calgary Stampede to evolve its brand? Or can it weather the storm? I went on the air with CFAX's Mark Brennae to talk about the Stampede's brand, and what elements of a brand need to evolve in order to keep it vibrant, current and prosperous. Enjoy!
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July 5, 2019
My journey through the world of marketing has had its fair share of ups, downs, goods, bads and uglies.
So when University of Adversity podcast host Lance Essihos dialled me up to relate my stories to his audience, I happily obliged.
Our little chat covered a lot of ground. From getting my start as a writer in a country where English wasn't the primary language, to the ad factories of New York, to learning how not to run my own agency, to my current role as brand consultant, we went through it all - and we didn't pull any punches.
I hope some of these stories help marketers and entrepreneurs. And if you're neither, there are some pretty fun misadventures to smile at. Enjoy!
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June 19, 2019
On Friday June 21st, the UK enacts a regulation barring gender stereotyping from advertising. It's a noble initiative but, I believe, a futile one.
Advertising, to paraphrase Malcolm McLaren, is all about sex. Sex sells. And with sex come stereotypes of gender that are hard, if not difficult to shake without dire implications for the bottom line.
Yes, I believe things will improve. They've already dramatically improved. But legislation will not eliminate stereotypes.
In this interview with CFAX's Mark Brennae, we explore the journey of gender stereotypes in advertising - from the abysmal 60's to today - and try to find the path forward into the future. It's an entertaining conversation. Enjoy!
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May 28, 2019
There's never a shortage of great marketing and brand-related stories. But we really hit the jackpot the last little while. So I went on the air with Mark Brennae of CFAX to talk about it.
First, what's up with Drake? Is he the new Toronto Raptors mascot, or a genius marketer? If you haven't been paying attention, the rapper is front and centre at Raptors games, and his visibility has gone through the roof during the playoffs. How much exposure is too much? Which brand benefits, and which brand pays? It's all in the first half of my show with Mark.
Second, the EU election happened yesterday, and the results were certainly not what populists were expecting. But had anyone really paid attention to the complex worldviews of euro-constituents, the rise of the Greens may have made perfect sense. Worldview thinking is something we marketers do as a matter of course. I talk about it during the second half of my show with Mark.
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May 13, 2019
The other day, I was strolling through Costco, and saw McDonald's coffee pods on sale. I was amazed - not so long ago, I was working on the McDonald's account as a creative director and writer, and the coffee was our Achilles' Heel.
How did they do it? I mean, people were now not only ordering java at McCafes, they were buying the stuff to take home.
To answer this question (and gaze into the McDonald's crystal ball) I sat down for a chat with my friend - and former McDonald's marketer - Brad Gamble. Brad and I have known one another for 20 years...which made the conversation casual, and fun to listen to.
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April 16, 2019
Today was a big one.
First, Tiger Woods made sporting history with one of the greatest comebacks of all time. What implications were there for Nike, the brand that has stuck by Tiger through thick and thin - and what does this say about the role of brands in teaching us integrity?
By the way, it's estimated Nike made $22,540,000 with Tiger's win. Meditate on that a moment.
In a VERY unrelated story, Donald Trump tweeted advice to Boeing, makers of the beleaguered 737 Max aircraft. According to Trump's tweet, making good on the terrible deaths of hundreds of crash victims would be as simple as fixing up the problems with the aircraft, putting in some great new features, and rebranding it. Soooooo, what should Boeing do with that advice?
Those are the stories I went on the air with today, chatting with CFAX's Mark Brennae. The conversation was lively, to put it mildly. Enjoy!
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March 19, 2019
A few days ago, the hallowed halls of elite colleges like Yale, Stanford and USC were blown apart with news that wealthy parents had paid college entry 'consultant' Rick Singer upwards of $25 million to short circuit the admissions process for their children.
Buying entry into great schools is nothing new: the most famous example is Jarred Kushner, whose parents paid millions to have their scion attend the school.
What's new here is that Singer told the parents they could do the scam for far less money, and he could guarantee the results.
To me, this is a classic status brand story - people doing anything and everything to attain ethereal status, and brands stepping in to fill their void. So I went on the air with CFAX's Mark Brennae to dissect the story, and provide a checklist of how to create a status brand. Enjoy!
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