Why Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad failed

April 10, 2017

Pepsi recently pulled an ad featuring Kendall Jenner that took a superficial, flaky view of a very sensitive topic: protests for social justice. 

The ad created an incredible firestorm on social media, and prompted ad pundits to wonder what the soda company had been drinking when they approved the spot.

I went on the air with Mark Brennae of CFAX radio to chat about what Pepsi had done wrong. And more importantly, what the rest of us can do to avoid making the same mistake. It was a lively conversation!


Brexit, Trump and the downside of complexity

April 6, 2017

We are living in a time where expertise and nuance are frowned upon. Britain voted with a simple Yes / No referendum to abandon membership in the EU, a partnership that had a multidimensional, complex impact on the lives of ordinary citizens - an impact that is just now coming to light. 

By the same token, Donald Trump has demonstrated his willingness to show experts the door, bringing in inexperienced 'fresh' talent. The effect, if you look at his government's legislative record, has been dismal. 

How did we get here? Why are we suddenly allergic to complexity? And how can tools like communications help us embrace nuance? Ben Cattaneo, a Canadian risk expert living in London, joins me on the show for a lively conversation on the subject. 


Tim Horton’s: a cautionary tale of bean counters and brands.

March 29, 2017

A recent Globe and Mail story described the 'brutal' transformation of beloved Canadian restaurant brand Tim Horton's. The cause of the messy shift? Budget cuts by Tim's new owners - Brazilian holding company 3G Capital and Restaurant Brands International (RBI).

I was invited by Mark Brennae of CFAX radio to chat about this disruption. It was a lively conversation!


Tools for an uncertain age: in conversation with Todd Sivers

February 7, 2017

Todd Sivers is an experienced personal coach with a unique system for helping people unlock their potential. To him, the tension we're seeing between our regressive politics and our unprecedented technological leaps is simply part of a global growing pains.

In this conversation, we chat about everything from the oversaturation of self-help, our insatiable desire to think change without creating change, and our vast untapped human potential. An entertaining chat, with an abundance of learnings for anyone wondering how we as humans are going to, well, deal with it all.


Trump the candidate, Trump the president, and the brand gap.

January 30, 2017

There's no arguing Donald Trump the candidate had a distinct brand. But now that he's president, that brand needs to shift. Can he cross the gap?

CFAX 1070's Mark Brennae invited me to talk about which elements of the Trump brand should remain consistent, which need to be retooled, and what will happen if he can't make the transition.


McDonald’s peanut scandal: is this a Didn’t See It Coming moment?

January 20, 2017

Today, we woke up with the news that McDonald's had decided to launch a new McFlurry with loose nuts - instead of the standard pre-packaged nuts. In a heartbeat, social media lit up as parents of children with peanut allergies decried the move as traitorous.

Was this a Didn't See It Coming moment? Did McDonald's know what it was doing? Why did the food giant turn its back on so many of its core consumers?

CFAX 1070 Radio asked me to weigh in on the move. Here's the interview.



Finding the profit that’s in plain sight.

January 19, 2017

Anne Graham is an expert in something that should be obvious, but isn't - finding profit that's sitting right in front of you. Her insights are both brilliant and brilliantly simple - for example, focus like a laser on bringing value to your existing clients, instead of perpetually chasing new customers to fill the bucket.

Why can't we make our lives easy and more profitable. This entertaining conversation reveals how human nature often is our greatest stumbling block.


How to bring integrity back to marketing? Just ask consumers.

January 4, 2017

There is no stronger marketing than consumer reviews and word of mouth. Sadly, where there's an opportunity, there's an opportunity to scam the system. Enter fake reviews, rigged search results and skewed price recommendations.

Mark How and Shopswell are turning the tables on these lamentable practices, and bringing the integrity back to review marketing. In this conversation, Mark and I explore the essence of the Shopswell idea, how consumers are incentivized to tell the truth, and why it works.

Check out the entertaining conversation, and rediscover your love for word of mouth - the original (and still the best) tool of marketing.


Don’t let your brand ruin Christmas

December 21, 2016

For most of us, Christmas can be a tad stressful. And companies that assault us with terrible ads, grating songs and depersonalized cards only make things worse.

In the spirit of the season, I went on the air with Mark Brennae of CFAX 1070 and created a Santa's list of wishes for brands that want to brighten, not dampen, the mood of their audience at Christmas. 


Fake news, echo chambers and cultural collision - what can brands do?

December 17, 2016

Fake news and echo chambers became headline issues during the recent US election. Whether it was outrageous stories fabricated by the pseudo-press to lure clicks (and ad dollars), or algorithms set up by social media to feed viewers stories that reinforced their worldview while blocking contrary thoughts, the phenomenon raised a disturbing question: are we losing our grip on the truth, and becoming a hostile, fearful world?

I believe brands can play a key role in reversing this trend. After all, they've done it in the past.

Consider Coke's I'd like to teach the world to sing commercial, which gave us a brief respite from political, racial and social tensions during the late 60's.  Or the famous United Colours of Bennetton ads that forced us to confront our racial, sexual and societal prejudices in the 80's.

There is terrific upside for brands that are brave enough today to challenge our fear and hostility towards the 'other'. Which brands will seize the opportunity?