Emergent Leaders


People who can step up and lead when the opportunity presents itself, without having to push to be in the spotlight: but also willing to sit back and be led when necessary.

Courtesy: Digital Strategy Conference, Panel on The Future of Work (lead by Dave Gray et al.)


DDB Canada shares its wisdom with Kwantlen marketing students

Today I attended a tour of DDB Canada’s Vancouver head office. It was an event arranged by the Kwantlen Marketing Association (“KMA”) and it was well-attended by a number of my 2nd year Advertising students and other marketing majors at Kwantlen. My thanks goes out to the KMA for organizing this event and conducting themselves professionally: we have a truly wonderful group of students representing our institution in the community.

We met a number of DDB professionals today who offered up some wise words of support and encouragement for our students as they forge ahead in their education and eventually emerge a marketer seeking their first post-undergraduate job.

Sara: On “Share Value”

Example: Eggonomics

The big trend today is creating what DDB calls “Share Value“. Many consumers naturally want to share content on their own which means clients no longer need to spend a lot on paid media. Share Value puts the consumer in control of spreading the content. It’s free, it’s social, and it’s powerful.

Sara: On Integrated Campaigns

Example: BC Hydro PowerSmart

Integrated campaigns are typical of agency work these days: it’s rare that a client doesn’t want to have some integrated component across media channels. Working with BC Hydro, DDB came up with an integrated campaign to raise awareness around energy usage and inspire conservation across the province. The campaign involved the creation of video, print media, digital billboards, and an online game. Success was measured in the reduction of power consumption, the number of visits to PowerSmart’s website, and overall change in consumer behaviour and attitude around power usage. The campaign also won DDB Strategy Agency of the Year.

Paige: An advocate for education

The PR Director of the agency spoke to the students about the importance of education: quickie courses; short-cuts; and mail-in certifications will not take anyone far in this business. Paige is an advocate for education and lots of it. She holds an undergraduate degree in Business; post-graduate credential in Public Relations; and a Masters’ in Communication.

Paige: On getting your feet wet

Starting your career at an agency is a great way to get your feet wet. The exposure to different areas of business, creative, strategy, production, and industries provides a valuable learning opportunity for all new marketing grads. Employers often look for agency experience when hiring in-house marketing talent.

Zerlina: On what production really does

Zerlina heads up production at DDB which means she manages a team of 8-10 project managers who see client projects from conception through to end deliverable. The team is responsible for budgeting and timelines: they also get involved in strategy, idea formation, and of course, production. From mobile apps to interaction to web development, they do it all (or outsource if the project calls for that). What else does production do? Well, they’re problem solvers Zerlina tells us. They work closely with creatives and techies and bring an idea or concept to life. What skills do these people have? Zerlina tells us that the kind of people who best suit these roles are those who have strengths in organization and working with structure. I’m married to a project manager so I can tell you flat out, she’s absolutely right.

Paige: On developing writing skills

I had to ask this question because I see so many of my students struggle to develop a clear, succinct, professional writing style in many of my courses. Part of the journey from first year to fourth year is perfecting the art of the written word. Communication skills are so important in marketing and although I firmly believe some of us have “raw talent” it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard to develop writing and presentation skills. In particular I have noticed a degradation of writing skills over the years and as educators it’s our job to prepare the students for upper-level courses and the working world.

So what did Paige tell us? She told us to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Get used to having to re-write your work 6 or 7 or 8 times (my students can already attest to that). Always consider your audience first: a news release or formal piece of corporate communication is always going to be written in a different style than a blog post. Paige also said to write your first draft as though it’s your first and only draft: in other words, start becoming a perfectionist immediately. Don’t do half the work and expect someone else to fill in the gaps later. Write each item as though it needs to be the best piece of work you’ve ever written. I sure hope my students are reading this right now.

Josh: On the fallacy known as the “creative process”

I was dying to ask a Creative Director this question all day so when we were invited to ask Josh, a DDB Creative Director working in Digital a question I jumped in.

Andrea: Can you describe the creative process and whether or not you follow a structured creative methodology or if it’s more organic in nature?

Josh: Definitely no structure!

Andrea: Throw your textbooks away everyone! No, just kidding. Please elaborate, Josh.

So, Josh went on to explain that the process they follow is definitely more organic, however the creative brief is still the starting place. He called it a “conversation”, which I liked and could relate to from my past agency and client experiences. Josh said that although the process is less structured it is still governed by clear objectives which give direction for the strategic process.

Sara: On getting started

At the end of the tour Sara wrapped up the Q&A with some insight on how to get started in the business. As a recent UBC Commerce grad, Sara knows what it takes to get your foot in the door. I’m sure many of the students were surprised to hear that it wasn’t grades, or “raw talent”, or creativity. It all boiled down to personality. Working in an agency means you have to have the right kind of adaptable, outgoing, open-minded personality which will enable you to work with clients, creatives, and techies. Even if you are not the most creative cat in the room, you need to have an eye and appreciation for great creative work. Sara said it’s important that you learn to speak up and develop strong communication skills.

I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Sara, KMA, and DDB for the insightful and inspiring afternoon.

The Art of Marketing (2012) Recap – Part 4


Biz Stone is the original hipster. This guy is fantastic to listen to and although his thesis was somewhat lost in his presentation, it didn’t really matter though. You know why? Well, as my colleague Ron would say, “it’s because we always forgive the experts”. Biz is enlightening, inspiring, and very entertaining. He comes across dry and somewhat shy, but his message is strong and meaningful.

Biz on Failure:

To succeed big, you have to be ready to fail big.

Biz on Opportunity:

Opportunity can be manufactured.

Creativity is a renewable resources.

Success means you need to be emotionally invested in your product. Love it, or people will give up.

Biz on Change:

Change is not a triumph of technology; it is a triumph of humanity.

(I think you should pause and go back and read that again. Very profound)

Biz on Altruism:

Consumers AND talented employees are attracted to meaning. Spend money on making a difference. Altruism has a compound impact.Change the world. Make money. Do so joyfully.

I made only one single note on murmuration and it was this:

the many become one.

It made me think back, however, to a fantastic video I saw not that long ago in which Don Tapscott (“Growing Up Digital”) discusses murmuration and the macrowikinomics environment. It’s worth taking a look at this – it may be the most beautiful thing you look at today.

The Art of Marketing (2012) Recap – Part 3

Randi Zuckerberg’s self-introduction is priceless:

Unlike the other Zuckerberg, I went to Harvard and graduated with a degree.

There’s absolutely no doubt that Randi is a tech-guru: she lives, breathes, and thinks technology all day long and in her presentation she showed us some fascinating trends in technology. Instead of regurgitating her list, I’ll summarize some of the themes that stood out to me the most. How do you make it in tech these days? Well, consider at least one of the following when carving out your own business strategy. 

  1. Use a demand-lead marketing approach. Start small, roll-out incrementally. Build a critical mass. Think: Gmail, Pinterest, and Fab. All of these brands fabricated scarcity.
  2. Involve User base in design. From translation app’s to Facebook outsourcing its site translation (it only took users 48hrs to translate Facebook into French and Spanish; and only 24hrs for the site to be translated into Farsi).
  3. Create a Hacker Culture. Keep the magic alive and recruit for this kind of passion and creativity. Give employees the room they need to be innovative and imaginative even if it means staying up all night.
  4. The power of social. Our friends hold us accountable to our goals which is why the social aspect in so many new app’s and sites work. Whether I’ve promised to run 10 miles or lose 10 pounds, when I put my goals “out there” I’m more accountable to them. Example: Nike’s Cheer On app.
  5. Choose one things on mobile and do it really well. No, you don’t need to translate a whole site to mobile. 
  6. Consider “Collaborative Consumption”. Apps such as Task Rabbit and Cherry are all about outsourcing what you have neither the time nor interest in doing. From having your car cleaned to having someone assemble your unassembled IKEA furniture, it’s all about outsourcing and making a job for someone else.
  7. From crowd-sourcing to crowd-funding; fund-raising to friend-raising. Technology is enabling rapid changes to existing business models and in particular to raising funds. Kickstarter and Rags to Radio are both popular examples of the role of “social” in helping businesses and individuals turn ideas into reality.
  8. Build Loyalty. Maybe the best line of the day came when Randi said, “loyalty programs of the future don’t offer points, but instead offer emotional connections.”
  9. Today’s economy is a sharing economy. Purchasing is turning to renting as we see an explosion in business models like Rent the Runway and AIRBNB: from gowns to vacation home rentals, why buy when you can share?


The Art of Marketing (2012) Recap – Part 2

If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to Mitch Joel speak, make it your next priority. He is engaging, insightful, funny, and enlightening. I like how Mitch thinks: he can bring everyday examples to sometimes complicated concepts and distill things down in an entertaining and consumable portion of take-away knowledge.

Mitch had a few really good nuggets from the conference: I’ll share them in point form below.

Mitch Joel

1. Owning the relationship: a great opening question about “who owns the relationship” with the consumer? When a consumer product is available for sale on a retailer’s website which can be accessed through Facebook…ask yourself, who owns the relationship with the consumer? Is it Facebook? The retailer? The consumer brand? Mitch argues that the brand needs to own the relationship: Disintermediation (one of my favourite all-time buzz words that I love teaching to my marketing students) not only means removing channel players from the distribution of physical goods, but it also means removing channel players from owning the relationship with consumers. You build it, you own it. Stay true to it.

A great example of disintermediation also comes to us via Kickstarter: the world’s largest online funding platform of creative projects. If you haven’t checked out this site do it NOW. You’ll thank me later. And be sure to read up on some of the amazing success stories that have come from Kickstarter

2. Sex with Data: say what??? A real Mitch-ism if I ever did hear one; the term “Sex with Data” refers to companies, like Amazon, who are having a field day collecting all sorts of personal data about its users and consumers in an effort to improve personalization in its marketing process. As consumers we forfeit our privacy for “apps” that give us value. An example: Price Check for iPhone is an app that consumers download and use as a scanner when shopping. They can scan the barcode of nearly any consumer product, then the app will compare the price against Amazon’s. The consumer can then decide to buy it on the spot, or get it from Amazong.

Brilliant. Amazon is effectively using its own consumers to gather critical market research information for its own use. To better serve it’s market while keeping an eye on the competition. This isn’t just sex with data people, this is a full-on orgy.

3. Creating Utility: as marketers, we know all about utility, after all, we drill this into our students day one in our Intro Marketing course. We understand form, time, place, and ownership utility. But do we really understand the practicality of creating utility for our customers? Fortunately, Fab.com does. One of the first and fast growing social commerce web sites, Fab.com allows users to, “share, buy, like, and tweet” what they are buying. Even back in 2011, Forbes wrote that Fab.com is, “to Groupon what Facebook is to MySpace”. The social aspect of Fab.com is what makes it a hit. Online consumers want to share. They want to connect. And they want to follow.

Need another example of utility? Ok, let’s talk about public toilets. Gross. Nasty. No thank you. Well, thanks to a handy iPhone app called, “Sit or Squat”, travelers on-the-go can now find a clean and decent washroom in nearly any corner of the world. What better way for travelers to reduce their anxiety in a desperate time of need in an unfamiliar place? Have you guessed who makes the app? Utility all the way…


Thanks Mitch, as always it was a pleasure.

The Art of Marketing (2012) Recap – Part I

This year’s, The Art Of Marketing (“TAOM”) had a very impressive line up of speakers. Some of the content was recycled from past presentations that I’ve blogged about previously (Mitch Joel, Scott Stratten), so I will instead highlight some of the new ideas, technologies, and tricks of our trade. 

David Usher


First up was David Usher…yes, the David Usher. If you were a music fan of the 1990’s then you know just who I’m talking about. Former lead singer of the popular alternative Canadian band, “Moist”, David walked us through creativity and the creative process as he sees it. As it turns out, song writing isn’t that much unlike marketing in that the creativity involved requires about 5% inspiration and 95% hard work (or “grit” as David calls it). 

The excusees for not being more creative can also be summarized as follows:

  1. Listening to the wrong voices in our head: As children we don’t see obstacles; everything is an opportunity to unleash our creative potential and embrace our joy for life and creation. As adults, our child’s voice has quieted and another voice has taken over telling us not to “stand out”, or “take risks”, or “step out of the boundaries”. Creativity means we need to suspend our adult voices and listen to our inner child. Stand out. Take risks. Colour outside of the lines.
  2. The Beavis & Butthead Treatment: I love this description. Although Moist became a huge success in Canada, they didn’t fair as well in the US. David showed us a video of the animated duo, “Beavis & Butthead” critiqueing Moist’s music on one of their shows and the feedback was very unpleasant. Our fear of failure is only over-shadowed by our fear of criticism from our peers or those even outside of our industry. You’ll never please everyone, so stop trying.
  3. Time & Space: Always in deficit, time and space is a perfect excuse to put creativity on hold. David demonstrated this by playing an audio recording of himself practicing a song in his home studio. In the background of him singing and playing accoustic guitar you could hear his young daughter singing along (or to something else entirely – hard to tell), then coming into his studio asking, “Daddy, daddy, where is my Princess Dress? You know, the one I wore to that party. And my high heels?…” Time and space…make the best of what you have now. The perfect conditions for creativity DO NOT exist. Those of you with small kids know exactly what I’m talking about.

Creativity is really about having the “right” kind of attitude: the willingness to change. It means being adaptive, optimistic, and hard working. 

David talks about being a “scientist” when it comes to the creative process: Collect ideas, move things around. Test. Build. Experiment. Await the Creative Collision: the “flash” that comes when you know you have nailed it down. The hard work he refers to is the 95% effort involved in turning that “flash” into something you can Build & Ship.

So what is creativity? It’s grit, grind, discipline, and a little bit of luck. 

On fostering innovation

On the heels of my discussion with my first year marketing students about “first mover advantage” (and disadvantage), I have just come across a quote and a blog post about innovation; each of which has given me a lot to think about.

So I shall share them both and let you ponder the topic of innovation and how you are cultivating this in your company, strategy, or life.

First, the quote:

On why big tech companies fail:

“The company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesmen, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues, not the product engineers and designers.” 

– Steve Jobs

Second, the blogpost:

Why Innovation Is a Big Deal” – by Peter Aceto, CEO of ING Direct Canada

To summarize part of Aceto’s post, here are four key ways of cultivating innovation in the organization:

Remove the hierarchy obstacle. In other words, foster autonomy. The best ideas come from those closest to customers, and traditionally executives are furthest away. Let others hold the keys to decision-making and allow for cross-functional roles to ensure a well-rounded view of industry and customer needs.

Let mistakes happen. Be comfortable with the mistakes, because failure is an important lesson. It helps modify and adjust ideas and reassess objectives. But don’t fail too often because you risk losing your confidence. Simplify the strategy as much as possible. Involve more people early. Make incremental changes.

Allow time for adoption. Comfort around change is not expected. You may experience backlash, particularly if the innovation involves behaviour change, but human beings do adapt. In the words of Steve Jobs “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

 Balance speed and thoughtfulness. Getting something done is good. Getting it done right is better. You shouldn’t need 18 months to execute a new strategy, but you do want to be mindful of making hasty decisions. Don’t let speed cost you a great idea. Fight for quality.

A Case of Semantics: Sponsorship vs Philanthropy and the Pink Ribbon Campaign

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a screening of “Pink Ribbons, Inc.”, an important and eye-opening documentary about the cause-marketing campaign associated with breast cancer awareness. During the month of October our consumeristic world is “pink-washed” with products adorning the pink ribbon, or better yet, recreated in one of many pink hues. We walk, run, paddle, or jump in the name of breast cancer awareness, but do we really know where all our effort and funds are directed? Are we really solving the problem, or creating a host of new ones? The documentary challenges us to look beyond the narratives of breast cancer survivors and take a closer look at how these campaigns impact the most severely affected victims whose numbers are climbing each year.

The film also teaches us that the norotious pink ribbon campaign is not all it’s cracked up to be: what started decades ago as true grassroots activism (men and women marched in the street to address the known environmental factors which cause cancer – toxic byproducts, proliferation of plastics, growth hormones in our food, etc.) has been hijacked into a bottom-line driven campaign to promote consumerism.

The energy and enthusiasm behind breast cancer awareness has successfully distracted us from developing sheer outrage behind the politics of science & research: non-profit agencies, such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, have been allocating the majority of their funds (to date, $1.9 billion for Komen) into programs that address treatment of breast cancer patients, not prevention. It doesn’t take an MBA to recognize that treatment of illness is a win for pharmaceuticals; and, although many might argue that it’s not a direct loss for society (we may, after all, live longer with cancer by a matter of weeks or months) the truth remains that we are not doing enough to address why women are becoming more susceptible to this form of cancer each year.

At the risk of neglecting the purpose of this post I will shift my focus away from the themes of this film and more towards semantics. Sponsorship versus Philosophy. What’s the difference?

When I teach topics related to ethics, corporate social responsibility (CSR), cause-marketing, sponsorship, and philanthropy, I discover that very few students can accurately articulate the difference between these and similar societal-marketing based tactics. It’s not a big surprise, after all, most professionals can’t either so no need to begrudge students for not knowing. But here’s where I have a problem with things: as adults, professionals, and certainly as educators, it’s our responsibility to address the nuances and create clarity where the lines are often (and conveniently) blurred.

Sponsorship is not the same as philanthropy. Yet throughout this film fundraisers and corporate executives speak to their “philanthropic” involvement in the fight against breast cancer. From yogurt, to vacuums, to buckets of fried chicken, each of the corporations behind every persuasive pink purchase is seeking profit and growth. From launching new flavours to repositioning old brands, the breast cancer awareness campaigns offers a lucrative opportunity for companies to expand and prosper.

But it’s all done under the name of philanthropy. And yet we sit back and let this happen, and over time the lines of distinction become blurred and before we know it, every company is scoring philanthropy points because they have hired a supermodel to wear a pink ribbon and light up the Empire State Building as a show of support for breast cancer awareness.

Say what? What?

When did philanthropy lose its meaning? I suspect somewhere along the journey when companies learned that philanthropy isn’t about advertising, public relations, or promotional stints to trigger short-term gains in consumerism. Philanthropy isn’t rooted in brand-switching or creating customer loyalty. Philanthropy doesn’t wave a flag or draw needless attention to itself for the purpose of meeting bottom-line objectives. Philanthropy is not sponsorship or cause-marketing: it is perhaps less known because to draw excessive attention towards philanthropic behaviour only erodes it’s very nature. It is selfless, humble, and inspirational. 

Let’s take a closer look at the differences: 

  1. When an opportunity provides more benefit to the company than the community, it’s not philanthropy.
  2. When success is measured in sales, growth, or other business factors, it’s not philanthropy.
  3. When an opportunity results in considerable attention and recognition for a company, it’s not philanthropy.
  4. If advertising dollars are used to create awareness about the company’s engagement, it’s not philanthropy.
  5. If you, me, and most members of society recognize the company’s activities as mainly promotional, it’s not philanthropy. 

Think of it this way. If you helped a little old lady cross the street today, then went home and told your friends and family about what you did, that’s a form of advertising. If you helped that same old lady out, but told no one, well, consider that a form of philanthropy

There are many causes deserving of our energy and funds and certainly finding a cure for breast cancer is an important one. What we all have the right to demand, however, is an understanding of where our money goes and what is being done with it. We also have the right to demand that companies who are co-marketing themselves with a NFP campaign be held to high standards. From what they are producing to how they communicate their activities. Semantics, after all, shouldn’t just be left up to the academics to tackle. 

And just in case you need an extra challenge in your life, consider this: the next time you perform a good deed tell no one. Not a soul.


Chief Culture Officers (for realz)

When is the last time you’ve had a real legitimate, WOW moment? Well, I had one today. What happened was this: last night in bed I was reading my Twitter feed (as I often do) and came across an article tweeted by HBR and written by Grant McCracken, entitled, “Creating Combustible Marketing“.

I enjoyed the article and in particular McCracken’s thought-provoking concept of creating combustible marketing by mixing “unstable” materials together (eg. like tv personalities as demonstrated in his article with the recent hiring of Michael Strahan as the new co-host of Live with Regis & Kelly – or Live with Kelly as it’s been known for several months now since Philbin stepped down). “Chemistry,” he continues to write, “[w]e have always called this chemistry. Well, it’s still chemistry – except that now, instead of looking for a combination that goes down smooth and crisp, we want something that’s more akin to the product of a mad scientist’s lab, combining things never before brought together.” He continues to state that, “[i]t’s a big shift and it will mark a difficult transition. But it is the new path to success in marketing. Where once marketing worked when it was agreeable and obvious. Now it works when it isn’t.”

Ok, this gets a ‘wow’ (lower case) from me. But it’s still not at the heart of my big WOW (upper case) moment. Hang in there a bit more.

Whenever I like something I’ve read and want to learn more about the author I begin my search for more information. As it turns out, McCracken’s published a couple of interesting looking books all on Corporate Culture – a topic of study I am deeply interested in from both research and teaching perspectives. By the way, both of his books are on my Christmas Wish List in case you are wondering…

Next, I look for the individual on Twitter so I can follow him/her more closely and stay up to date on their publishings, research, and meals via Instragram (joking of course). In this particular case, I looked at the last few tweets to make sure this guy’s the real deal. 

Then I see it. A tweet sent out 23 hours earlier that contains a link taking the user to Pinterest. “Hmm…I wonder where’s he’s going with this?”, is what I say to myself. 

I follow the link and that’s when I see it. WOW. A custom “pinboard” McCracken’s created of Chief Culture Officers (in fact or spirit). What a great way to collect, compile, label, and effectively – digitally curate – information about a specific topic that can be shared immediately and grown over time.

One of my favourite new examples of using Pinterest that doesn’t involve knitting, Ryan Gosling, or Weight Watchers. Well done McCracken.  

Better name for things (video)

Quickly jumping to the top of my list of new favourite marketing-related videos, I stumbled across this clever little number (posted by pleatedjeans.com).

As the story goes, Jeff Wysaki decided to visit his local Target and re-name product categories so they were more descriptive…colourful…cheeky. Take diapers for examples, why call them diapers when you can call them “poop pants”?

This video is a great way to start the school year off with a little chuckle with our fresh batch of marketing students. Show them the fun you can have unleashing their creative juices over the course of this semester and throughout their marketing careers.

Hey…does anyone else feel inspired to create a similar field assignment?…hmm…

Happy fall semester everyone!