Who is in Your Crew?

Confession time – I’ve become a bit of The Walking Dead fan. I’m not quite at the point of live Tweeting during episodes, but only because I have to PVR them. Yes, friends and I have had in-depth discussion debating the hot button topics of the show:

  • Why didn’t the walkers smell the group when they were hiding under the cars in the season 2 premiere?
  • Will poor T-Dogg ever get a decent plot line, or is he just next in line at the Walker Buffet?
  • Who would be on your Zombie apocalypse “team”?

Perusing the Wikipedia entry for the Walking Dead I was interested to learn that the man who brought the series to TV, Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist), had hired three actors with whom he had previously worked with. It made me think how often that happens in film; a director tends to build a “team” of cast and crew that he likes and trusts:

The Coen Brothers

  • Roger Deakins, Cinematographer, 9 films
  • Mary Zophres, Costume Designer, 10 films
  • Frances McDormand, Actress, 6 films
  • John Goodman, Actor, 5 films
  • Steve Buscemi, 5 films

Martin Scorcese

  • Robert De Niro, Actor, 8 films
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor, 4 films (signed to an upcoming fifth)
  • Thelma Shoonmaker, Editor, 16 films

Steven Spielberg

  • John Williams, Composer, 25 films
  • Kathleen Kennedy, Producer, 10+
  • Michael Kahn, Editor, 10+

This pattern of directors choosing to work with the same talent reminded me of the NHL coaching fraternity, where coaches tend to try to acquire their “favourite” players when the get a new job in a new city. Likewise, musicians who choose to work with the same producer or engineer, or an author who has a favourite editor. All of these professionals have surrounded themselves with sublime, like-minded talent.

Have you?

Building Your Team

No business exists in a vacuum – you work with or collaborate with other people day in and day out. But, have you taken the time to build a support network around yourself of the professionals you need? Beyond just your own employees, do you have a team assembled to help you through an apocalyptic business event?

In my book, at the very least you need to have found  a:

  • Lawyer
  • Accountant
  • IT tech
  • Printer
  • Marketer
  • Web Designer
  • Contractor
  • Realtor
  • Financial Planner
  • Insurance Agent

These people should be trusted, respected, and preferably you’ll have a long history with them. Look at the list – can you identify gaps within your circle amongst those positions? You might think you don’t need them today, but what about tomorrow? Or two weeks from now? Better to be prepared now, and ready for what happens in the future. Maybe I’ve just watched too much Walking Dead, but in my opinion its the people who are prepared who are the most successful when things turn sour.


Filed under Uncategorized

Who is Anonymous?

In 1995 the terrible (sometimes mis-referred to as “cult”) film Hackers was released. I won’t lower any IQs by describing the plot, but in general it revolved around the actions of a small group of computer-savvy teens who’s hacking skills foiled a giant corporation’s evil plans. At the time it was completely ridiculous, far fetched, and most would say it’s only redeeming quality was Angelina Jolie.

Interestingly, what seemed so far-fetched 17 years ago has become very nearly reality. Targeted attacks of corporations and government agencies. Stolen personal data, passwords, and emails. Crashed websites and leaked private communications. But, the people behind the hacks are not the photogenic Johnny Lee Miller or Ms. Jolie. In fact, they are completely faceless.

Say hello to Anonymous.

The Anonymous Movement

Anonymous is an independent online group of internet users who combine to affect internet attacks on predetermined targets. Their actions may range from simple DDoS attacks (flooding a site with traffic to crash the servers) to sophisticated hacks of secure online servers. There is no sign up process or initiation ceremony for membership – if you decide to participate in an action, you are essentially a member of the movement. Privacy and caution amongst members is drilled into all activists for protection against reprisals and investigation by authorities. There is no publicized leadership hierarchy, or public face of the organization – as their name states, the leaders, members, and supporters of the group remain anonymous.

Wikipedia does the best it can to document the history of Anonymous, but the actions of the group in 2003 do not really reflect its current state. While many of their initial public actions were described as “simply for the Lulz” (i.e., for the fun of it), today Anonymous focuses on fighting for free speech, and equality. Though they have no “mission statement” as such, they have said that one of their fore-bearers was Beatrice Hall, who said so famously “‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Explaining Anonymous

If you are over 40, it will be very hard to explain Anonymous group to you.  I think Chris Landers of the Baltimore City Paper described them best when he said (as is quoted on Wikipedia):

[Anonymous is] the first Internet-based superconsciousness. Anonymous is a group, in the sense that a flock of birds is a group. How do you know they’re a group? Because they’re traveling in the same direction. At any given moment, more birds could join, leave, peel off in another direction entirely.

How do they decide who to attack? Only the inner circle knows. Who will they attack next? Rarely do we find out until after the attack has already happened. Whom do they target? Anyone who oppresses freedom and equality.

Beware Those who Cross Anonymous

Wikipedia has a great list of previous Anonymous targets which I suggest you check out, as I will only discuss a few here. In the past 24 hours, Anonymous has carried two major attacks, both designed to assault those who would attempt to impinge on freedom and promote inequality.

Operation Blitzkrieg

This operation was a sophisticated hack of major American and European White Supremacist groups’ websites. Personal addresses, phone numbers, and emails  of members were published online, along with email communication between high-level members. In Anonymous’ press release after publication of all the info they cited the Neo-nazi’s hatred of minorities, rampant racism, and their “reluctance to accept the Freedom and Equality that every single human being possesses by right from birth” as the reasons for the attack.

Now, I’m sure most of my readers can get behind this kind of attack; who doesn’t want to see White Supremacists get screwed? But, I would bet many of my readers will find their second target slightly more controversial.

Salt Lake City Police Department

In late January members hacked into the “secure” databases of the Salt Lake City PD and came away with a trove of private data, including transcripts of complaints made by citizens against drug dealers (tips that were supposed to be kept highly guarded). This data was not released to the public, as the action’s purpose was not to gain information but to protest a controversial bill in the Utah senate that would make carrying spray paint cans a significantly more severe offence.

It’s easy to get behind the hack of a Neo-Nazi’s data, but the average citizen’s Crime Stoppers tips? I’m sure for most people that would be much more worrisome, and for many people it would cross the line from “vigilante justice” to “internet terrorism”. This is the duality of Anonymous – they help bring the internet back online for Egpytian protesters, but they also crash the FBI and Department of Justice websites as a protest against the SOPA & PIPA legislation.

But duality is the wrong word, because their purpose is singular – whatever side of the ocean you live on, wherever you fall in the political spectrum, if they think you are repressing freedom or equality, you will become a target.

Preparing Yourself for this New Era

There are many basic steps you can take to make hacking your private data more difficult:

  • Utilize different passwords for every site and email you use
  • Ensure every password is long, a mixture of numbers, letters, and punctuation
  • Password protect all SQL databases, as well as your web server

However, even these steps will only slow down hackers, not stop them; so-called “rainbow tables” can crack your password lifted from a hacked server, poor security by your host can be your undoing, and there is really no realistic defence against DDoS attacks.

It paints a bleak picture, where vigilantes could turn up at your virtual door at any moment looking to mete justice from their keyboards. But I would suggest a simple piece of advice, one that might save your bacon later:

Do not underestimate Anonymous. They are not simply “pimply-faced teens”; they are organized, and they are powerful. If you should fall into their cross-hairs, the only thing I would suggest is attempting to start a civilized dialogue with them, in the hopes you can reach a mutual understanding. It may not be possible to prevent an attack, but listening to what they have to say and acknowledging their right to say it is certainly a good start.

The Anonymous Era

Good friends of mine would probably try to dissuade me from even mentioning Anonymous online; best not to get on their radar, even in a small way. I would hope that Anonymous would support my right to free speech, and my even-handed discussion of their movement. The purpose of this blog was not to cast judgement, but to educate people who cannot fathom what the group is about. But, perhaps all you need to know is their motto:

We are Anonymous. We are legion. We never forgive. We never forget.

Expect us.


Filed under Uncategorized

Revisiting my 2011 Web Predictions

Last January I foolishly decided to make 5 predictions for the web in 2011. Despite the fact that my prediction skills fall somewhere between “coin flip” and “magic 8-ball”, I’m revisiting them here to see how many (if any) I nailed.  If I think the prediction came true, you’ll see Carnac the Magnificent, but if I got it wrong you’ll see Miss Cleo.

#1 Augmented Reality Will Hit Mainstream

Okay, a busted prediction, right off the bat; not a great start. But, I think calling this one is a little closer than it appears. While augmented reality (AR) didn’t pass the “Mom Test” this year (whereby my Mom starts talking about it), it did gain some traction among some major brands, including a well-publicized campaign on the back of Kellog’s cereal boxes:

More apps also appeared using AR, like Skyview for the iOS. But, on the whole, AR has yet to breakthrough into the public consciousness. And, thanks to a year’s worth of perspective, I’ve started to see that it probably will never have a  killer app, breakthrough-type moment, and instead will slowly tip into widespread consumption; people will eventually see AR everywhere, and not even realize they are using it.

#2 QR Codes will get Smaller, and More Common

Despite my best wishes, QR codes did not get smaller this year – they continue to be big, ugly, and largely mis-used. While they did become more common, they have yet to reach their full potential. Instead of being special mobile “short-cuts” to timely, relevant information, they have become a status symbol; if you want to look like you’re ahead of the game, throw a QR code on there. I get the feeling most of the latter people will eventually move onto the next “cool” thing, and the technology of the QR code will never really advance beyond where it is now.

#3 NFL Labor Uncertainty will lead to a Revolution in Social Media Marketing

0 for 3? I’m like the Canucks in a shoot-out.

But, I’m blaming this one on a technicality. Since the NFL was able to avoid a work stoppage, advertisers weren’t forced to consider alternatives to their traditional pigskin buys.

The same can’t be said for the NBA, which lost a huge chunk of it’s season to a lockout (games from October to December were cut from the schedule). But, the NBA is too small to see the massive changes I was looking for from this prediction.

#4 Digg Will Close Their Doors

My New Years resolution – no more predictions! However, I’m giving myself a little more credit on this one – Digg suffered through another hard year in 2011, including the loss of a co-founding CEO, and the tepid response to new product launches. A site that was once among the top 100 sites on the internet is now found below 200th. Month over month their traffic falls, and many SEO experts are predicting 2012 to be the year when the axe falls (except Mashable, who is predicting Digg will be bought by Facebook).

#5 Apple Stock will Fall. Hard.

I’m a genius! Okay, not really, but still, at least I got one of these stupid predictions right. Unfortunately, as you will see, it was on a technicality.

In June, Apple stock was doing pretty well; after starting the year at $329, the stock price had risen to $345 at the beginning of the month. However, on June 20th the stock hit a rough patch, falling all the way to $315 per share; its lowest price in 6 months. The fall actually began on June 6th, the day after Apple’s developer’s conference concluded, during which very little about the iPhone4’s replacement was mentioned.

Apple’s stock did fall hard. But, then it recovered. And it recovered harder. By the end of the year, the stock price was at an all-time high, over $400 per share.

So, where do I get the balls to say I got this one right? Because what the prediction really was about was Steve Jobs, and his position at Apple. In my blog I predicted that Steve’s health would force him to leave the company he had worked so hard to build. And, although I had predicted it would happen in March, and the move actually came in August, I’m still giving myself a pass here.

I never predicted Steve’s death, however, an unfortunate passing that left us all with an enduring message: here’s to the crazy ones.

Bonus Prediction: Twitter will Monetize with Paid Tweets

This was a bonus because I considered it to be a fait acompli, but yes, paid Tweets have started to appear in Twitter streams. I have to say though, that Twitter has done a good job keeping these to a minimum, and the service hasn’t appeared to suffer.

The Biggest Surprise of 2012

I thought I would end by touching on what I though was the biggest surprise of 2012; something even a savant like me couldn’t have predicted. For me, it was the launch of Google+. I had expected Google to do something in the social realm (indexing real time Tweets etc.) but I did not anticipate them launching a Facebook rival. I would say the jury is still out on Google+, but at the time it definitely came from left field.

Goodbye 2011

As one of my most challenging years both personally and professionally ends, I’m looking forward to changing over to 2012. I want to embrace it with a new attitude, and a positive outlook that says “yes, I can do anything!”. That’s why I’m writing my next blog right now, called “Web/Marketing Predictions for 2012”!.

Enjoy 2012 everyone!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Mystery Box

Revisiting AIDA

Ah yes, AIDA; the marketers who read this blog should be having College flashbacks right now. For those who skipped Marketing 101, it refers to a simple formula for converting a potential customer into a sale:

Attention: Grabbing the customer’s attention through packaging, signage, advertisements etc.

Interest: Once the customer has noticed the product, you need something to pique their interest.

Desire: Okay, you got their attention and they’re reading the package/ad etc.; now make them want it.

Action: They want it, and this step is the little push over the edge they need to make the purchase.

Here’s an example of AIDA at work. Let’s say you’re marketing a new brand of laundry detergent, and you want packaging that will drive sales. For attention, you might use loud colours, a call-out with “NEW” printed on it, or a unique mascot. To get their interest a big headline might read “From the makers of Brand X fabric softener” or “Never separate your loads again!”. Desire could come from other bullet points like “Whiter whites in less time!” of “The time-saving laundry detergent”. Finally, you could spring the customer into action with an instant $2 off coupon affixed to the box.

The formula has been around for over 100 years; Don Draper probably pithily quoted it to a client in a deleted scene. The thing is, I get the feeling some modern consumers are getting inured to its standards; smart young consumers have learned to look beyond star bursts and headlines, to look for pure value in their purchases.

Might it be time to suggest a subtle improvement to the formula? Could it be possible to inject mystery into the forumla? Does mystery in and of itself foster both interest and desire?

The Mystery Box

Avid readers of my blog (so, you know, my mom) might remember a post from ages ago where I outlined my all-time favourite TED videos. Closing the list was a talk by renowned Hollywood writer, director, and producer JJ Abrams (creator of Alias and Lost, director of Star Trek and the last two Mission Impossible films).

The theme of his talk was inspiration, specifically where his came from. But, the centerpiece of the presentation was an unopened “Mystery Box”, purchased by a young JJ at a magic shop decades before. He used the box as a metaphor for his love of the unknown, and how he infused that love into all of his film projects. He ended the video by refusing to open the mystery box, since that would remove the real appeal of it; the payoff would never feel better than the anticipation.

“I” is for Intrigue

A good mystery can usually create interest. Asking intriguing questions makes people think, and if you can get them thinking about your product, you’re doing something right. But while the customer ponders the question, they also strive for the answer; they “desire” to learn the answer to the mystery.

A great example of this principle in action is Cadbury and their “Caramilk mystery” campaign. You’ve probably never seen a Caramilk ad that talks about how much better it tastes than competitor’s offerings, or how much extra caramel it has compared to other bars. No, instead Cadbury focuses on the mystery of how the caramel gets inside the Caramilk bar. It’s playful, and memorable, and for one brief moment, it probably does get you to think “hmmm, I wonder how they do get the caramel in there”. By getting customers to pause and think, Cadbury has successfully pushed their product toward top-of-mind awareness.

Let’s revisit the laundry detergent example. Can we replace the Interest (callout, start bursts) and Desire (Whiter whites!) steps with Mystery? What about if we introduce “Formula X”, a secret stain fighter of incredible power? Our packaging might feature a tagline that read “Featuring Formula X, our secret stain fighting molecule!”. Now all of a sudden you have a secret, something no other competitor has. That’s interest and desire, all at once.

Getting Above the Clutter

What I’m really saying here is not necessarily that every product needs to be infused with mystery, just that sometimes you need to explore beyond the basics. Being different is a good thing, and if utilizing a little mystery is enough to stand out against the clutter, then adopt it. It takes guts to be different, but you wouldn’t be in business if you weren’t brave in the first place.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Wink Giveaway: Abbotsford Heat Tickets!

We had a chance to purchase a pair of Abbotsford Heat tickets to support the MS Society of BC, and now we want to reward a lucky Wink supporter with them!

If you’d like to win these great seats, there are two ways to do enter:
  1. Add a comment below as to why you’d want to win. (worth 1 entry)
  2. Send the following Tweet (worth 2 entries):
I just entered to win 2 @abbotsfordheat tickets from @winktweets! Want to enter too? Details: http://ow.ly/7AzQW
If you would like to purchase your own tickets to support the MS Society, contact deanna.mcintyre@mssociety.ca for more info. Good luck, and hope to see you at the game!


Filed under Uncategorized

Campaign Trial: Rating Langley’s Mayoral Campaigns

Recently I had an interesting Twitter discussion with former Langley council member Jordan Bateman (who, by all accounts, is a pretty cool guy) and local business owner Rebecca Troelstra of Mizuna Catering. Rebecca and I were expressing dismay over the clutter-fication of our fine city with election signs; I know this is not localized to just Langley as it seems everywhere I drive tiny signs have been erected.

Jordan argued that while the signs may not be pretty, they were a necessity for candidates:

“you have to do it all – signs, social media, phones, mail, newspapers. Campaigns [are] too short to ignore any medium.”

Last night, driving home from Abbotsford after a hockey game, I got to thinking, “I wonder if it really is all necessary? Is the current campaigning method effective, and what are the results?”

So I thought I could run a little completely unscientific analysis on each candidate to try and determine what makes a good political campaign.


Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to start by listing all the Langley Township mayorship candidates that I know off hand, and what I know about them. I’m only including the candidates for mayor so this doesn’t turn into a 4000 word blog.

Next I’m going analyze each channel to determine what I believe the pros and cons are, and then I will update the candidates list to include any new facts I’ve learned. Hopefully at the end there will be some kind of qualitative results to analyse. At the very least, I will at least now have educated myself as a voter.


I should point out that I am probably the least qualified person to write this blog. I never read the local papers and thus am never up-to-date with the goings-on of the council, or our local politics. I catch the odd snippet on Twitter, but that’s about it. It’s slightly embarrassing to admit, but unless they were planning on tearing down our kid’s school to build a prison I would probably keep my nose out of politics; I’m simply too busy as a father and small business owner to have the time to meaningfully contribute.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re offended by what I’m writing, and you think I’m just ignorant, you’re probably right. But here goes

The Candidates

Here’s a brief summary about what I know about each candidate (again, keeping in mind that what I know could basically fill a thimble):

Rick Green: Incumbent. Embroiled in some kind of scandal that cost lots of money to investigate. Seems shifty to me somehow.

Jack Froese: Has a name similar to Cardinal’s World Series hero David Freese.

Rick Fox: His first name probably isn’t Rick, but it’s not coming to me right now. His sign is probably the most memorable of all I’ve seen, although apparently that hasn’t done his first name any good.

Mel Kositsky: He’s the only candidate that I’ve heard personal anecdotes about. Unfortunately for him none of them were flattering.


This seems the logical place to start, since they are freaking everywhere!


  • Relatively cheap to produce (compared to print/Tv/radio etc.)
  • Casts a relatively large geographic net


  • Requires extensive man power to erect and maintain (and clean-up)
  • Eyesores for the city
  • High probability of “tune out” due to visual “noise” from all the signs (it has been proven that too much clutter prevents accurate information recall)

The Candidates

Here’s what I’ve learned from each candidate’s sign

Rick Green: Nothing

Jack Froese: Nothing

Rick Fox:  His name is Charlie Fox, and he is only running for councillor, and not mayor. Goodbye Charlie.

Mel Kositsky: He looks like he could pull off an awesome Colonel Sanders costume. This is not an insult, but an honest observation.

Social Media/Web

Ah, now we’re talking; a medium where I actually pay attention! A few interesting things to note:

  • When searching for a Rick Green home page, most results were in some way related to controversy surrounding his time in office.
  • I never actually found a Rick Green home page, but did find the “Vote Langley Now” page through his Twitter bio. There was way too much text on that site for me to even consider reading it. Bullet points people, bullet points.
  • Jack Froese’s site was a good WordPress template, although it ended up a little clunky; clicking the Twitter and Facebook buttons didn’t actually go anywhere.
  • Mel Kositsky’ s site was much the same – a nice but flawed WordPress template (clicking the big “Mel Listens” banner doesn’t take you anywhere).
  • If I was asked to rank the candidate’s Twitter feeds, I’d give Jack an A, Mel a B, and Rick an F-. Someone teach that poor guy how to @ mention.
  • For the record, none of the candidates follow me on Twitter. Maybe I ought to revise those grades…
  • Mel and Jack both have Facebook pages, with Jack’s seeming to do very well. Could only find Rick Green’s personal profile, and Vote Langley Now didn’t appear to have a page.


  • Affordable for any candidate, ranging from cheap to free
  • Great reach, but also allows users to speak directly to constituents
  • Multimedia possibilities including pictures, video, and audio
  • Gives candidates a chance to expand on their platforms


  • May be hard to reach older (senior) voters through this medium
  • Long rambling paragraphs will just turn people off (*ahem*, Vote Langley Now)

The Candidates

Here’s what I’ve learned from their website:

Rick Green: Unreadable website. Seems to really hate the current council.

Jack Froese: Owns a turkey farm. Seems to be very involved with volunteering in the community, and local business. Website takes the time to explain his stance/strategy for pressing issues. Is big on fixing a broken council.

Mel Kositsky: Website paints a picture of someone very involved in local politics. Seems to have been in politics a long time. Details a little thin on his actual plans for the next term. Any former Big Brother gets a thumbs up from me.


No one actually called me, so not much to add here.


I never saw a single mailer, most likely because my wife chucked them right into the recycling bin.


I literally had to dig through my recycling to find the latest Langley Times, which contained handy biographies of each of the candidates. (Truthfully, I had to dig for it twice, as my wife hucked it out a second time when she noticed it sitting on my desk during a blog-break). My impressions:

  • Mel definitely feels the newspaper is his best bet, as he paid for an advertorial, and a banner ad.
  • Rick Green’s vote now Langley party took out a rambling full colour, full page ad on the inside front cover of the Times, which was painful to even look at.
  • Jack Froese ran a full colour, 3/4 page ad. Interestingly a good chunk of the ad apologizes for all the campaign’s outdoor signage.
  • The Firefighters really seem to love Mel Kositsky, and they aren’t afraid to show it.
  • The bios for each candidate really just validated what was already on their sites. The only exception was Greens, who took more time to defend his last term and the turmoil that clouded over it.


  • Reaches seniors  (I think)
  • Increases reach of core campaign messaging


  • Many younger voters don’t read the newspaper
  • Paper is crowded with ads, which increases the possibility of people shutting them all out

The Candidates

Here’s what I’ve learned from their newspaper ads:

Rick Green: This guy really, really, hates the current council. Wants to replace them with his own team. Promises three years without tax hikes.

Jack Froese: I think he knows that people hate the signs too. Ad talks about what a great guy he is.

Mel Kositsky: Gets an A+ for alliteration. Ad mostly speaks to his experience in politics.

Painting a Picture of a Man

Based on the various mediums, here’s the composite bio that arises for each candidate:

Rick Green

  • Preliminary: Incumbent. Embroiled in some kind of scandal that cost lots of money to investigate. Seems shifty to me somehow.
  • Signs: Nothing
  • Social Media/Website: Unreadable website. Seems to really hate the current council.
  • Newspaper: Really, really, hates the current council. Wants to replace them with his own team. Promises three years without tax hikes.
Jack Froese
  • Preliminary: Has a name similar to Cardinal’s World Series hero David Freese.
  • Signs: Nothing
  • Social Media/Web site: Owns a turkey farm. Seems to be very involved with volunteering in the community, and local business. Website takes the time to explain his stance/strategy for pressing issues. Is big on fixing a broken council.
  • Newspaper: I think he knows that people hate the signs too. Ad talks about what a great guy he is.
Mel Kositsky
  • Preliminary: He’s the only candidate that I’ve heard personal anecdotes about. Unfortunately for him none of them were flattering.
  • Signs: He looks like he could pull off an awesome Colonel Sanders costume. This is not an insult, but an honest observation.
  • Social Media/Web site: Website paints a picture of someone very involved in local politics. Seems to have been in politics a long time. Details a little thin on his actual plans for the next term. Any former Big Brother gets a thumbs up from me.
  • Newspaper: Gets an A+ for alliteration. Ad mostly speaks to his experience in politics.
Campaign Results
Analyzing what I learned from the various mediums, a few things become abundantly clear:
Signs did very little to help any candidate. Speaking anecdotally, I think their biggest function is to inform people that an election is happening, as opposed to influencing who people actually vote for. Wouldn’t a lot of money (and eyeballs) be saved if every candidate just paid co-op with the city to produce “Election Day is coming!” signage? The argument for them is that it increases top of mind awareness among voters, but lets be realistic; either you’re going to take the time to learn everyone’s platforms, or you’re not. And if you’re too lazy to learn the platforms, then you’re damn sure too lazy to get out and vote.
Social Media/Websites
It’s pretty obvious that when done properly a good online campaign can be very effective in communicating a candidate’s platform. However, the web isn’t a magic box – you need to use it the right way. Noise and clutter will only detract from your message (I’m looking at you Rick Green). A clean site with easy to find candidate bios and platform details is probably the best weapon at a candidate’s disposal.
I’m extremely dubious of the readership of local papers, but I will admit that they are a good method of reaching older citizens. However, I think the editorial coverage the newspaper provides is worth way more than whatever reach is gained by actually paying for ad space. As I noted, the sheer volume of election advertising made the paper extremely crowded, and I think most people probably just tune out all the clutter and read the articles. If I was a candidate, I would forsake the extra cost of newspaper advertising and just live off of the editorial coverage.
So, Who am I Voting For?
I can’t tell you that, it would ruin the democratic process! Having said that, I think objectively the best campaign has been run by Jack Froese. His was the campaign that best laid out his platform for mayor, and his plans for the seat. Mr. Kositsky did this to some degree, but the details weren’t there, while Rick Green waded so heavily into the details that it drowned out his message. Jack seems to have a better handle on social media, and he appears to dislike signage too, which gives him a leg up in my book.
Can we all agree now to scrap campaign signage from the next election? It’s not green, it wastes money, and it looks terrible. Let’s spend that money instead encouraging people to vote, which in this jaded era is no sure thing anyhow.
Voting for Langley Township’s mayor, council, and school board trustees happens this Saturday Nov. 19. Details here: http://www.tol.ca/AbouttheTownship/MunicipalGovernment/Elections.aspx

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mix it Up

Take a look at these sales figures:

  • 1981: 1,000,000 units sold
  • 1983: 500,000
  • 1985: under 500,000
  • 1987: under 500,000
  • 1990: under 500,000
  • 1992: under 500,000
  • 1999: 15,000,000
  • 2002: 2,000,000
  • 2005: 500,000
  • 2010: under 500,000
Now, if you read carefully one number should jump right out at you. For those with ADD or for those who just know I’m going to summarize things anyway, here it is again:

1999: 15,000,000

After successive years of relatively minor success, the numbers leap up to 15,000,000 million units sold. This represented a substantial windfall for the entity in question, and you might be asking yourself “what did they change to their product or service that made such an impact?”. The truth is, it isn’t what they changed about their product, but who they brought on board.

Who is our mystery entity? Well, none other than this guy:

No, it’s not your Uncle Dale

What you’re looking at are the album sales for the band Santana, fronted by the eponymous Carlos Santana. The band had achieved significant success in the late 60’s and early 70’s, propelled by hits like “Evil Ways” and “Black Magic Woman”; their 1970 album Abraxas had gone 5x platinum, and they had performed memorably at 1969’s Woodstock concert.

But, after the mid-70’s Santana started to fade from the public consciousness. Shifting tastes (the rise of Disco) propelled the band out of mainstream music, and off the top of the charts. The numbers don’t lie; for almost 2 decades sales were pretty bleak, and their 1992 album Milagro was just about rock bottom. It was the first Santana album not to crack the Billboard Top 100, and it produced no noteworthy singles.

Supernatural Results
The downward trend stopped abruptly with the release of 1999’s smash hit Supernatural. The album shattered Santana’s previous sales figures, and won him nine Grammy awards. Of the 13 tracks released, two reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and a further track peaked at number 8 on the mainstream rock charts. Most famous of the singles is the Grammy-winning “Smooth” featuring Rob Thomas (of Matchbox-20 fame). I get the feeling you’ll remember it:

Yeah, thought so.

Anyways, the obvious question is, what made the album such a success? A change in personnel? A massive change in consumer tastes? Was it the obvious evolution of “Livin’ La Vida Loca”? It’s possible it was any one of those elements, but most people point to a single factor in the album’s ascendance: collaboration.

You Got to Change Your Evil Ways
The biggest difference between Supernatural  and previous Santana albums are the vocalists featured on the tracks. In the past most of the band’s songs were either instrumental, or featured vocals by a lead singer (of which the band has had 15!). But in a marked departure the band worked with a number of well-known, successful artists to add lead vocals to 6 of the 13 songs, including:
  • Rob Thomas (21 Billboard Hot 100 Hits)
  • Dave Matthews (17)
  • Lauryn Hill (16)
  • Cee lo Green (10)
  • Everlast (3)
  • Eagle-eye Cherry (1)
This list doesn’t include hit producers like Wyclef Jean and The Dust Brothers who helped some of the tracks find life.

In other words, Santana didn’t just work with other washed-up 70’s artists, they brought in big hit-makers of the time to help make the album a success; it was through direct collaboration with those artists that Santana found the greatest commerical results of their career.

I’m Assuming You’re Not a Latino Rockstar
Okay, now what could this possibly have to do with a small business owner like yourself? Surely my advice is not for you to guest star on Santana’s next album (although if that happens, please try to get his autograph for me).
No, what I’m suggesting is for you to emulate Santana’s willingness to collaborate; be open to working with new and exciting people. It’s very easy for business people to get stuck in a rut, to get so focused on meeting day-to-day obligations that they stop thinking outside the box their marketing becomes boring. Sometimes the answer isn’t to do something new, but to involve other people.
You’re Looking for Synergy
The key to any collaboration is that it must be mutually beneficial to each party. Rob Thomas didn’t guest on Supernatural out of largess on his part, he was hoping to give his burgeoning solo career a shot in the arm. Likewise, any deals you make with other businesses must benefit both of you.
For example, lets imagine that you own a restaurant. Instead of throwing your money down the same holes you always have (local newspaper advertising, coupon drops etc.) maybe you could partner with a popular food blog. You could let the blog run a contest whereby a winning blog reader would receive a free meal. Not only would you generate buzz about your restaurant (by readers checking out the contest), but the blogger would also get a traffic boost from the contest.
There are plenty of other “outside the box” ideas for businesses:
  • A mortgage broker and a financial planner might trade leads
  • A bar might allow bands to perform if they can post the live footage on YouTube
  • A piano instructor and a vocal coach might team up to produce instructional videos on YouTube
  • Two different lawyers might get together to create a Podcast
  • A nutritionist and a personal trainer might create special package deals
The point here isn’t so much to give you specific ideas, but to get you thinking about how you might work with other businesses to give your own revenue a shot in the arm. It’s not Black Magic, it’s just good business sense.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

An Awkward Conversation with Google+

Still Together After All These Years

Oh, hey Google+, long time no see! What’s it been, three or four weeks now? Wow, really – July you say? Time flies. Yeah, I’d been meaning to swing by, but you know how it is, always something else coming up, never enough time to get around to see everyone.

Thanks for the invite to your housewarming by the way; it was nice. I thought small and intimate was definitely the way to go, and you really took the time to make everyone there feel special. As far as the layout of your new digs, you had some really cool ideas, and I liked what you did with the place. So yeah, thanks again.

How was the big shindig the other day? I heard you threw open the doors and let everyone in; how’d that go? Must’ve been a wild one, because you wouldn’t believe how many total strangers I had come to my door after swinging through your place. There goes the neighborhood right?

Just kidding. Anyway, how’ve you been? Keeping busy?

Y’know, I thought I heard something about that, the video chat/hangout thing. How’s that working out for you? I’ve heard a few people mention it, so it must be big news around your parts. Although, you just know the neighbors will be building their own soon – it’s hard to stay ahead of the Smiths, Joneses, and Zuckerbergs. Sounds like you’ve been running in circles!

Sorry, bad joke.

I gotta say, Google+, you’re still looking great. It’s a nice clean look you’ve got going, I really like it. I hadn’t seen you a while, but seeing you again for the first time I’m reminded how I liked your appearance from the moment we first met; it’s probably the thing I like best about you.

Hmmm? Oh, yeah, yeah, Facebook and I are still together, doing well. How long have we been together now? Well, just let me try to remember the timeline here…yeah, would be about four years now.

Ha ha, let me tell you – she was a little panicked when she learned you moved in down the street. For like a week she went nuts, tearing around the place trying to spruce it up; she was practically screaming “what do I need to change to convince you to stay? I’ll do anything!”. Things have calmed down now, and she realizes you’re not a threat; she back focusing on us and our relationship together.

Oh, geez, Google+, I didn’t think you’d go there, and I don’t really want to get caught up in a whole big thing. I know you want me to leave Facebook to be with you, but c’mon, you know it’s not that cut and dried. Can we change the subject? Tell me, what’s up with Wave? Haven’t seen them in what seems like forever…

Okay, look, if you really want to go down this road, we will. I don’t want you to take it personally, but to be honest? I’m just not that in to you.

There, I said it.

Hey, hey now, I didn’t say that to get you upset; I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Things aren’t that bad – you’ve got a lot of things going for you, and I’m sure there are plenty of other people who would be happy to be a part of your life. It’s just…Facebook and I are happy together, and I’ll level with you – they give me everything I need, and more.

They’ve taken the time to learn what I like, and they’ve been awesome about organizing my stuff around the place. Plus (oh sorry, not you), they’re not afraid to keep things exciting. I don’t want to kiss and tell, but I mean there’s this new Netflix thing they’re doing that’s just amazing, and don’t get me started on Spotify!

Is she perfect? No, but at the end of the day we’re comfortable together, and we’ve invested a lot in each other, and I can’t imagine pulling out and starting over. I’m happy where I’m at, and you just don’t offer me anything better than what I’m already getting with FB.

I hope you understand, and who knows? Maybe someday you and I can have some kind of special relationship of our own! It might not be the same as the one I have with Facebook, but I still have a great time hanging out with Twitter, so it’s not like there’s room for just one social media platform in my life. But, as it stands, I’m a Facebook man, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Anyways, look, I gotta go; I’m running late for a lunch meeting with someone. Who? Oh, maybe you’ve heard of them – Foursquare? Yeah, we’ve been having a lot of fun together – they really know how to bring something unique to the table. It’s like – I can’t imagine what I did before they were in my life, y’know? Well, maybe you don’t.

Anyhow, good luck with everything, and who knows, maybe we’ll run into each other again some day.

Oh, and if you run into MySpace, tell them they still owe me a few hours of my life back!


Filed under Uncategorized

You Are More Than “Just”

image by Robert Crum

Years ago, when we were child-free and could do “adult things”, we went to a dinner party hosted by our good friends Hamud and Krystine. We were chatting with the various guests over coffee and the topic of careers came up; around the table there were three marketing professionals, a day trader, and a pastry chef. When it came time for my wife to share, she sheepishly admitted that she was “just a supervisor at London Drugs”. Later, on the car ride home, she confided that it was extremely embarrassing for her to reveal her profession in the company of people she considered more successful or prestigious; she felt stupid “just” being a supervisor.

She’s not alone, not by a long shot.  Many people are hesitant to reveal their careers, if not downright ashamed, and today’s blog is dedicated to them, those who feel like their job somehow doesn’t meet society’s expectations of “success”. I have a message for all of you:

Whatever your job, it matters to someone, somewhere, exponentially more than you know.

When Ideas Have Sex

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The video above is a TED talk by Matt Ridley, and if you’re a regular reader of my blog you know that it’s one of my favourites. In it, Matt describes how the multiplying effect of human effort builds efficiencies that allow us to live in this technologically advanced age. He makes a great example of the humble computer mouse of which he says, quite correctly, that no one knows how to make one.

Sure, someone might design it or conceptualize it, but can they connect the circuit boards to make it work? Can they build the resistor that goes onto the circuit board? Can they mine the ore that is smelted into copper which is used to build the resistor that goes onto the circuit board? Of course they can’t – a simple computer mouse is then sum total of thousands of people working independently, yet together, to create something amazing.

The lesson here is that there are no bit players in the creation of the world around us. The iPhone may be a technological marvel, but it’s not just Steve Job’s creation any more than an NFL quarterback is responsible for winning the Super Bowl – it’s a team effort. Some players may be more high profile than others, but without everyone’s efforts there could be no success.

You Could Be What Makes My Day

I was thinking about all of this against the backdrop of my infant daughter’s surgery. She was diagnosed with a tethered spinal cord, and surgery was necessary to ensure that her motor functions would not be impaired as she grew older. Thanks to the fabulous team of doctors at BC Children’s Hospital Lilah’s surgery went well, and her prognosis is very good.

But, as much as we owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Cochran and his wonderful team for their work, our whole experience wouldn’t have been as smooth without the efforts of hundreds of other people, all of whom helped in some way to take the pressure off of us. From the nurses, to the admin staff, to the volunteers, each of them had a role in Lilah’s stay, and we owe all of them thanks, not just the doctors.

It doesn’t end there; without even knowing it, other people helped us get through the day. The folks at Apple who built the iPhone allowed us to stay in contact with family and friends. Whoever made the dressings that protected Lilah’s incisions kept her free from infection. The employees at McDonald’s cheered up Susan thanks to a “comfort food” Big Mac. I guarantee you the girl who says she’s “just” a McDonalds cook didn’t wake up in the morning thinking she would make a difference in someone’s life, but at the end of the day, she did.

Ripples in the Water

You could be having the exact same effect without realizing it. That’s why I want to encourage you to take pride in what you do, no matter what it is. You may not see the immediate results, but somewhere down the line your efforts could be making an important difference in someone’s life. A supervisor at London Drugs may seem like a bit player on the world’s stage, but maybe you’re buoying a senior who comes in every week for their prescription, or maybe your advice is helping someone make the right choices with their health. Not everyone can be a doctor, but we can all play a part in making the world a better place through what we do (gangsters and heroin dealers excluded, of course).

Normally I leave off with some kind of parting thought or summation, but today I’m going to leave that to someone who was far more brilliant and eloquent than I will ever be. It’s one of my all-time favourite quotes, and it never fails to remind me that we are all more than “just” something – we all matter:

“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a high school graduation speech in 1967 (complete transcript here)


PS Have you heard about the campaign to build a new BC Children’s Hospital? Take a moment to learn about their dream for a new facility, and how you can help.


Filed under Uncategorized

What Gordon Ramsay Can Teach You about (F*cking) Business

(before we begin, a warning – this blog contains NSFW language and videos. I love it, but you’ve been warned)

Although chef Gordon Ramsay is probably best known for his show “Hell’s Kitchen”, he has another show that I much prefer called “Kitchen Nightmares”. The latter show features Gordon travelling to struggling restaurants which he endeavors to turn around, both in the kitchen and at the register. I think I like it because it combines three things I love: food, marketing, and copious amounts of profanity.

What I’ve noticed after watching the series is that the problems Gordon finds in the restaurants are very often the same problems many business people run into with their endeavours, problems like:

Letting the Fundamentals Slide

A staple of Kitchen Nightmares is the inevitable clean-up that Ramsay forces onto his subjects. No episode is complete without a fervent browbeating about how a filthy kitchen is symptomatic of low standards, and a lack of concern for the customer experience. Some owners take the news better than others:

Many non-restaurateurs are in the same situation; not necessarily in the cleanliness of their premises, but in their bad habits. A messy kitchen is really just a symptom of misplaced priorities (or laziness); chefs don’t want a messy kitchen, but they often let it slide during the day-to-day struggle of running a restaurant.

The basic fundamentals of running a business can’t be forgotten either. It might feel overwhelming just delivering your product or service to a customer, but it’s vital that all your admin tasks stay up-to-date, even if they seem trivial.

For example, you might think you can let personnel reviews slide because you’ve got more important things on your plate. But what about if your employees start to get frustrated by the lack of feedback, and their morale dips? All of sudden your customer’s experience gets worse, they start to complain, and you’ve got multiple problems on your hands. Keep everything prioritized, but don’t ignore those admin tasks forever; the longer you wait, the harder it will be to scrub clean.

Trying to Please Everyone

Once the kitchen is cleaned, Gordon turns to the menu, and nine times out of ten he finds that it is much too complicated. The new menu Ramsay prepares will  be trimmed down to consist only of customer’s favourites, and dishes that the chef can prepare to a high standard. Gone are complicated offerings that the chef can’t deliver properly – they only serve a select few standout meals.

The lesson here is simple – stick to what you can do well, and don’t water down your core offering with weak alternatives. Own a great coffeeshop? Great – don’t start selling crappy ice cream to “bring in the dessert crowd”. Are you an amazing wedding photograper? Keep shooting weddings, and don’t start producing bad commercial photography.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t expand your services, I’m just saying that if you do it’s important to maintain the same high level of quality that made your core products a success.

McDonald’s started with a milkshake machine, and is now beloved for Big Macs. You know what they’re not known for? Pizza.  Learn from their mistake.

McDonald's Pizza. From 1992. I feel old...

A Lack of Pride

The things Chef Ramsay has seen in the kitchen would appall you; expired food, reused chopsticks, and animal feces have all served to raise his ire. But, nothing gets him hotter than a chef who doesn’t take pride in their food. Mistakes happen, but a restaurant owner who just doesn’t care anymore is something Gordon just can’t abide:

Man, after that, I don’t think I even need to type anything here. All I’ll say is this – take pride in what you do, and don’t be satisfied with your product/service unless it surpasses the standards you set. I would never produce and launch a website I wasn’t proud of – the thought makes me physically ill. If you’re committed to what you do, and you take pride in your work, I know you feel the same way.

Put Your Heart into It

Viewers of Hell’s Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares may get the impression that Ramsay is just a loud mouth, or an asshole, or an egotistical jerk, or all of the above. But, if you watch long enough you’ll catch him in moments of happiness, positivity, and downright pleasantness. What makes him so happy is the same thing that gets him angry – the quality of the food. When chefs deliver poor dishes they hear about it, and if he’s impressed by the food he’s humble enough to heap praise on the person responsible.

What is comes down to is passion; Gordon is fervently passionate about food, and he wears that passion on his sleeve. You should feel the same way about your business.

Not every business needs to be run like a professional kitchen, but adopting their “customer first” approach is a vital step to building a golden reputation. You don’t need to bawl out an employee over every mistake, but it’s your responsibility to instill pride and passion into them, so they intrinsically want to exceed customer expectations. Once every team member is committed to delivering your product or service with pride and passion, you’ll start to experience the sweet taste of success.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized