What Business Are We In Again? When Diversification Leads To Disaster.

As companies diversify, they often drift further from their founding purpose. The original brand strategies that made them distinctive, compelling, and drove their success become less and less connected to the companies they are trying to become.

Unfortunately, when brands become unclear in the minds of their customers it spells trouble. Even more troubling is that they become unclear to the most important people of all, the ones tasked with delivering the brand experience to customers—the employees.


What are the consequences of this lack of clarity?

At best, it can lead to decreased sense of purpose, demise of corporate culture, lost sales, and ultimately a decline in profits. At worst, it can lead to outright business failure.

This isn’t to say that companies should not diversify.

Diversification is unavoidable for many companies, and in some cases it’s a necessity to remain competitive. When a company already dominates the market in their core business, and they have no other choice but to launch or acquire new businesses to drive growth, innovate, and fend off new competitors, then diversification is inevitable.

However, most companies (yes perhaps even yours), do not fit this model and therefore, the best thing a company can do to put itself in a dominant market position is to specialize. Be known for doing “one thing” ridiculously well, rather than many things mediocrely. Darth Vader wouldn’t lead Vader Industries into the alternative energy space, even if he saw an opportunity to make some sweet coin. He would stay the course until his goal of destroying the rebels and ruling the galaxy was complete.

But it is to say, you should aim to rule your galaxy.

Otherwise, why be in business at all? There are a ton of things businesses do to dominate. Here are but three practices you can adopt into your business’ strategy.

  1. Embrace and socialize your company’s purpose. Know what it is that you do well, and always aim do it better than anyone else in your industry. Period.

  3. Use a consistent brand and naming architecture. It’s amazing how many companies out there strive to be forgettable. Clarity and consistency are key to communication. Make sure you use your name, descriptor, logo, tagline, and key messages consistently through all methods of your company’s corporate communications.

  5. Create a cohesive visual identity. You wouldn’t go on a first date wearing sweatpants with your new Boss jacket would you? The same holds true for your company in the corporate dating scene. Establishing a design system and guidelines for usage ensures your staff are always able to present the company in the best light, as it’s intended.


The Pitch. Everything I Hate About Advertising.


The Summary

The Pitch, a reality show aimed to capitalize on the success of AMC’s Mad Men, pits two advertising agencies against each other for a real account. So far, companies like PopChips, Frangelico, Subway, Waste Management, and JDRF (a non-profit organization funding Type 1 Diabetes Research) have been the “prize” accounts in each episode. One firm wins the account worth millions of dollars; the other is left in disarray, trying to pick up the pieces and explain why it lost. Sometimes in tears.

Awww. Doesn’t that just tug at your heartstrings? Yeah, me neither. But I digress.

The Pitch is actually a pretty accurate glimpse into today’s ad world and if you are considering hiring an ad agency, you should strongly consider watching the series with an objective eye.

The Purpose

The purpose of the post is two-fold.

1. It serves as a place for me to rant my abhorrence for certain short-comings of ad agencies, and

2. It serves as a place for me to rant my abhorrence for certain short-comings of ad agencies.

The Pitch

At the very least this post should give you some things to think about the next time you are in a pitch session with an Edmonton advertising agency.

At the very most, this post will end up saving you bags and bags of money.

Advertisements are literally farts in the wind.


Really. Expensive. Farts in the wind. For every one killer idea like “Just Do It.” or “Got Milk?” there are millions of loser ideas worth billions of wasted dollars. As Edmonton-boy and Jones Soda founder, Peter van Stolk, says “Advertising is tax for being unremarkable.” And he should know. He took on the two biggest soft drink companies in the world and won. Without advertising.

Ads make noise for a moment.

And then they’re gone forever.

Ad agencies tend to primarily be staffed by kids.


And while there’s nothing wrong with a little piss and vinegar, it’s the seasoned vets who you want working for you. The challenge with kids is that kids are distracted. Kids don’t pay attention to details. Kids are busy LOL’ing, Pinning, and Tweeting. Kids don’t know better. And if kids don’t know what’s best for themselves, how can they possibly know what’s best for the client’s business?

Hi I’m your new account coordinator. Wanna Tweet me? 😉 ❤

Ad agencies think they are more creative than anyone.

I’d even go as far to say ad agency folks think that they’re better than all of us too. Of course we would all like to work in advertising if we could, but we’re just not quite clever enough to.


Sorry to burst the bubble, but great ideas are the ideas that work. The admin assistant from the client’s office is just as likely to come up with a great idea as any ad agency. In fact, she’s even more likely because she’s on the front lines, living the experience every day.

Ad agencies tend to be staffed by ‘yes men’ (of both sexes).


NO. I will not expand on this.

Ad agencies sell fixed concepts.


Instead of healthy collaboration to solve business challenges such as how to strengthen the company’s position, how to improve office culture, or how to realign the corporate vision, advertisers are only able to resort to the one trick in their bag—”The Big Idea.” You know, those cute-sy concepts and and “cool,” “clever,” “sticky” campaigns.

(If you ever hear the word “sticky” in a presentation or pitch, run. You can thank me later.)

The Conclusion

The days of Mad Men are over.


Except the part about drinking scotch at 10am. That’s alive and well. Advertising is just a part of the marketing mix these days. It doesn’t rule the mix any more than social media or a website does.

While there will always be people who love advertising agencies, many realize that for any integrated campaign to work, it needs a strong brand foundation built on clarity, purpose and promise.

Sadly some organizations always go to an ad agency first, and that is usually to the detriment of the client and the campaign as a whole.

How to Select an Edmonton Marketing Agency

First, the bad news.

Agency selection is a pain in the ass. You’d think it would be fun, but it’s not. It’s akin to getting pummelled by Evander Holyfield for ten full rounds.

Next, the good news.

If you are able to endure, you’ll end up coming out on top without having to throw any haymakers or losing an ear.

ROUND 1: Disqualify “agencies.”

This is the easy round. First, invite only members of the Canadian Marketing Association and the AdClub of Edmonton. These organizations only accept reputable marketing-based companies and people into their membership. If you’re really keen, post your job profile on the AdClub’s website and see who bites. This act alone will eliminate most of the insolvent, unethical, coffee mug peddlers. In one step, you’ll eliminate 90% of the self-declared “marketing agencies” in Edmonton. At this point only genuine marketing firms, graphic design studios, and advertising agencies will remain.

Side note: Throughout this entire process make sure you kick to the curb anyone with a glaring weakness, high-and-mighty attitude, or slow response time. You are not obliged to be courteous, or reasonable, or even rational. If they don’t return your call promptly, tell them to beat it. NEXT.

ROUND 2: Understand implicitly what are you buying.

What do you really want? Is it creativity? Prestige? Methodologies? Independent objectivity? Strategic branding? Marketing expertise? Golfing buddies?

This is likely the most important round you’re going to fight because you need to know what you want and need. If you don’t know what you want you’re likely to be disappointed with the end result.

ROUND 3: Look to qualify, not disqualify.

This round can be tricky. In many cases it’s difficult to determine what an agency brings to the table. However, if you want to confirm the positive contributions an agency can potentially make to your organization you should base your qualifications on how well the agency sells itself. What do they believe in? Do they have a regularly updated and insightful blog? Is their portfolio top notch? Do they have testimonials from previous clients? Do they practice what they preach?

ROUND 4: Choose the best.

Bigger ain’t better. Smaller ain’t better. Only better is better.
There is no economy of scale in the marketing business.

Can a marketing firm or ad agency be too big for you? Absolutely. Some won’t return your phone call if your budget is under one million dollars or your project is less than 10% of their total billings. If you are less than 10%, there’s an extremely high probability that your work will be shuffled down to the junior varsity the minute you turn your back.

Think about size another way: at any given moment, in any agency anywhere, your account is in the hands of a small team of dedicated professionals working from a blank piece of paper. What the heck does it matter how many people in the agency are NOT working on your business?

Can an agency be too small for you? Absolutely not. If you could get Jack Trout, Seth Godin, or Stefan Sagmiester all by themselves on a city park bench, you’d have all the strategy and creativity you could ever hope for. Well, okay, if you’re a multi-national conglomerate and you need international capabilities, some places might be too small. But if you’re a Canadian-focused organization and you want Canadian-focused strategic and creative power, go back three paragraphs to “bigger ain’t better…” and read it again.

ROUND 5: Don’t trust history.

A portfolio is essentially the doctor’s old prescription, but even less meaningful. Many design studios, marketing firms and agencies will show you work created by people washed away two downsizing bloodbaths ago. The questions to ask are Who will really be on your team? Key people or juniors? Will you see agency principals more than once a year, gladhanding at your sales meeting?

ROUND 6: Trust chemistry.

Do business with people you like. Seriously. It’s a radical philosophy, but Urban Jungle has followed it for years, and it works. Life is too short to put up with brilliant-but-annoying asses. Choosing an agency is like marriage (or at least moving in together), and you don’t want to be stuck with people you can’t empathize with.

(Suggestion: offer to buy beers and answer questions for each semi-finalist team, early on. You will learn more after 20 minutes in the pub than in most 90-minute capabilities presentations.)

Also, when you put together a scorecard for the finals, make sure “People Chemistry” is at least 50% of the points. I’m not kidding about this. A year from now, the problems may be different, the opportunities may have changed, the Oilers may finally have their crap together and win a Stanley Cup, but the people you work with will probably still be there. As such chemistry should tip your scale one way or another.

ROUND 7. Explore brand equity issues.

It’s the single biggest profit lever for the next ten years. Does the agency understand how important findability has become, where prospects search for you, or are they still in last-century hunter-gatherer mode? Can they conduct a Brand Asset Review? Do they know how vital your people are to achieving your brand vision? Do they understand any branding disciplines other than advertising? Or are they just an ad agency?

ROUND 8. Test assignments are unfair, but can be useful.

Nobody should actually use creative or strategy developed as a test assignment. Your challenges are not so simple that a campaign whipped together in a short time is going to be perfectly on brand or on target. On the other hand, test assignments let you evaluate something tangible. If you go that route, you should interact with the agencies in the process…because the process will be more telling than the results. Should you pay the finalists for their test work? Absolutely, if for no other reason than to own the legal rights to the content.

ROUND 9. As long as you’re going to be unfair…be very unfair.

A week or so before the agencies are scheduled to present to you, show up unannounced at their offices (Hi! I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop in.) at 5:10 in the afternoon. If you can find anyone to talk to, ask to meet the people working on your presentation. You’ll learn something (probably a lot) by how they respond. For starters, you’ll learn who’s really working on your business, as opposed to the polished suits you’re likely to see grinning at you in the formal presentation. Chat with the real foot soldiers. See what makes them tick.

ROUND 10. Be very, very unfair.

Give a test assignment, let the team get a good start, and then 48 hours before the presentation, change the assignment. (Gee whiz gang, I’m sorry but some new research showed blah, blah, blah, and so the campaign now has to be in a magazine instead of a banner ad.) Sneaky? Yes. Unfair? You bet. But last-minute, 180degree changes like these (you know, like the ones that happen in the real world) test an agency’s character. Find out now whether you’ll get workers or whiners on your team.

I can guarantee you this process will be painful, but if you slug it out, you’ll have a much better chance of finding great working partners.

Inspire Alberta – Creating the Alberta Brand

The optimist in me likes to think something big in Alberta is happening — a monumental shift in the way Albertans think. The recent Alberta election was surprisingly one of the most emotional and passion-infused elections I can recall, with the PCs staving off the Wildrose party to remain in power for another term. That said, Albertans seemed to deliver a message that we will not tolerate government corruption, mismanagement, or lack of accountability any longer.

Has Alberta shifted from complacency and indifference to inspiration and leadership?

While it’s nice in theory, the pessimist in me wonders what is to prevent Alison Redford’s Tories from making the same mistakes as their predecessors? Having recently elected the ‘president’ and ‘board of directors’ to run our $41 Billion company, how are Albertans to ensure they succeed? These are tough questions, but I believe the answer is quite simple.

Alberta needs a mission.

The only way Premier Redford can deliver on her promise of “positive change that moves Alberta forward” is to have a clearly-defined mission for Alberta. A mission allows Albertans to always know whether or not our leaders are staying the course. It allows us to evaluate the province on an ongoing basis (not just at election time) to know whether or not we are achieving our mission.

So in January 2012, I set forth with my Alberta pride to try and do my part in the only way I know how. I offered my firm’s branding services to Premier Redford at no cost to the province. A move that could have saved Alberta taxpayers millions.

When the premier’s office came back with “Thanks, but no thanks,” I decided to show Albertans what is possible by creating a mission based on the traits that define the province: research, progressive thinking, and the desire to make a positive impact on the world.

And thus, Inspire Alberta was born. A grassroots initiative “by the people and for the people.”

What is Inspire Alberta’s objective?

Inspire Alberta’s objective is simply to create, deliver, validate, and activate a mission, position, and mantra for what is the “Alberta Brand.” The mission Inspire Alberta has proposed is the first piece in building the necessary framework to unite the province through shared values, purpose, and meaningful actions.

I believe this framework is essential to guide the government’s leaders, foster accountability, and allow Albertans to collectively change the negative perceptions others have of us. Most importantly, I believe it will enable Albertans to discover and achieve their greater sense of purpose for life in the province.

I hope you decide to be a part of evolving Inspire Alberta from a grassroots initiative into a movement, and I encourage you to support to help in the best way you know how.

Go to InspireAlberta.com »
View the news release »
Follow IA on Twitter: @InspireAlberta »
Twitter Hashtag: #inspireAB
Visit the Facebook Page »

Design Inspiration can Come from Anywhere

As designers, it’s easy to look at a singular item (be it a logo, a business card, a brochure, etc.) and think to ourselves, ‘I like this, I don’t like that’… but pulling together a cohesive brand identity, and incorporating the look, the energy, the spirit, and the voice across multiple mediums can sometimes be frustrating, and at times even impossible. Especially when you have a myriad of stakeholders and agendas involved.

One thing I have always tried to maintain in my creative process is to constantly be open what’s going on in other creative outlets. The cool thing about design inspiration is it can literally come from anywhere. For example, the curves and lines of a brochure piece might be inspired by the lines of a clothing design; a colour composition for a new corporate identity might be inspired by an abstract painting. Even the most brutal designs can inspire if you (like me), are one of those people who always strive to make it better.

Painting above by the amazing Marie Danielle LeBlanc.

Almost everything I see and do gets digested (either consciously, subconsciously, or superconsciously) and comes out in my work. Designers, like painters, sculptors, writers and musicians, have a distinct way of looking at the world around them and translating what they see into something new and beautiful so that others can learn to appreciate it.

Everyday I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore my creativity through work, and I don’t think that is something everyone can say.

Are you a designer? Where do you get you inspiration from?

5 Reasons to Rebrand (Redux)

Why rebrand?

And when I use the term “rebrand”, I’m not talking about creating a new logo. I’m talking about redefining your mission, position, and strategy. When is it time to chart a new course? Here are five great reasons to seriously consider rebranding your company.

1. You have no competitive advantage.

Cool sells. Bottom line. Apple is a prime example of the ‘cool’ that other companies attempt to copy but rarely duplicate. Apple’s cool was not by accident. It is the result of a killer strategy and precision execution. Cool companies don’t chase or copy cool. They create it.

If you look and sound exactly like your competition what does that say about you? What makes you different? What makes you better? What makes you cool enough in the eyes of your potential customers that they must have you?

Did you write your cliché-ridden content yourself? Do you use lame, inexpensive stock images? If you do, you’ll find comfort in numbers because so does everyone else. Instead, why not hire a professional to write your content. Why not create your own photo shoot using real people — your people in real situations? Did you know that getting a professional writer and photographer is usually cheaper than doing it yourself?

You can’t fake cool. Either you have it or you don’t. If you are truly as different as you say you are, your brand needs to portray its uniqueness through everything you do.

2. It’s unclear what you do.

Don’t laugh. You’d be shocked at how many businesses strive to be unknown. The quickest and easiest way to become unknown is to expand your product or service offering. Sounds odd doesn’t it? I mean doesn’t expanding your offering communicate to your customers that you can fulfill their every need?

No. As the saying goes, ‘trying to be everything to everyone, means you’re nothing to no-one.’ Instead of trying to be pretty good at everything, why don’t you absolutely dominate one category? Own a position and leave your prospects with little doubt as to who is the best choice.

Sure it’s okay that you offer other products or services, but as Curly so eloquently put it in City Slickers, you need to find your ‘one-thing.’

3. You’re irrelevant.

Staying relevant has become increasingly difficult for companies over the years. Twenty years ago it was fairly easy to stay competitive. There weren’t as many competitors, products had longer shelf lives, and consumers were comfortable with using the same product for longer periods of time. Gradually the landscape changed. There’s now infinite choice, constant advancement in technology, and consumers have evolved. We’re smarter, better trained, and more apt to choose companies whose value systems are closely aligned with our own.

We especially respond positively to what is new. We are always looking for the newest smart phone, the newest paint colour, the newest car, the coolest hairstyle, the newest fashion…new, new, new, new, new.

And while new doesn’t always mean better, old is rarely better. Perception as I’ve already mentioned goes a long way. A brand can tell us how much they care about themselves and their customers by how in-tune they are with staying relevant. A tired brand; a brand struggling to remain relevant, doesn’t have a clear mission or position, it doesn’t have clearly visible values for customers to align themselves with, and it gives customers the impression business isn’t good. This usually leads customers to believe the product and service aren’t up to par as well. (And chances are they’re right.)

4. You look unprofessional.

Many new businesses leave the image of their brand at the bottom of their to-do lists. The reasoning is it allows the business to get up and running while dodging the initial discovery and design costs. This is totally understandable and depending on the type of business, sometimes I recommend it. The company needs to discover itself through the formative years. Quite often a company doesn’t realize their true identity or their niche until they have a few years of business under their belt.

That being said, there comes a point in time when your ‘DIY’ attitude towards business needs to stop. The problem is many business leaders don’t know when to put their company’s image to the firing squad. And because of this, there are many companies out there with images that represent the way they used to be.

A good rule of thumb is to update your brand image when it doesn’t portray the professionalism you want it to. If you stick to this rule it could mean that you’re re-imaging after a month, or even after a year if business goes well. You have to remember that whether you like it or not your company has an image, and good or bad, it’s always representing you. An unprofessional image can often do irreparable harm because much of our decision making as consumers is based on preconceived perceptions. If you don’t look the part, how can you expect to attract the right kind of business?

Business is like dating. And in this case, it’s like you’ve landed a long-shot date with a supermodel, and you decided to wear your Zubaz pants to the party. Impressive? Not so much.

5. You don’t inspire.

The best brands defy convention and build excitement. It’s important for your customers to feel something when they buy from you. How does a customer get inspired? Well, you’re a consumer — what brands inspire you? What’s so inspirational about them? Do they have a funky space you love to hang out at? Is their product so unbelievable that you tell everyone about it? Do they have staff that are so helpful, so knowledgeable, and so cool you’ve become their biggest fan?

Inspirational brands start by inspiring their employees. The employees should be as much a part of the brand as the brand itself because they are the ones delivering the experience. They need a brand they can believe in; and if they don’t, quite often it means it will be tougher to believe in themselves. When your employee pulls out their business card, don’t you want them to have the comfort of having a brand they can stand behind?

Too many business owners don’t build inspirational brands and then wonder why their sales team can’t sell. You might have the best product out there but if people don’t believe in you, you might as well pack your bags and call it a day. Crash the car. Go home.

When inspired, your employees can potentially become your biggest evangelists and thus your most inexpensive medium for advertising. It’s called word of mouth marketing (and as we all know, word of mouth marketing is the most powerful form of advertising around).

Alberta Election 2012: Party Branding. Who Gets a Passing Grade?

As a branding professional, naturally I’m very interested in what political parties are doing to effectively position themselves, especially come election time.

As the 2012 Alberta Election draws near, with little time on our hands and in many cases unable to read through the loads of content on party websites, how effectively are the parties communicating to Albertans in one minute or less?

Do we know what their mission or vision is? Do we know how they are different from the other parties? Can we quickly get their stance on important issues? Can we easily find their beliefs and values to understand if they are closely aligned with our own?

The following is a brief report on the five major parties in the upcoming election. I’ve evaluated them with a grade of A+ to F on how effectively they are communicating their party’s brand, taking into account their mission/vision, position, platform, citizen engagement, and overall visual presentation.

Alberta Party: D-

Mission: Not readily available on website

Position: Not readily available on website

Platform: Better Healthcare, Better Education, More Transparency in Government, Better Jobs, More Investment in Communities

Why a D-?: When the revived Alberta Party relaunched in 2010 I was excited to see where it would go. Many of Alberta’s influential people seemed to support the party as well, which was encouraging. Fast-forward roughly two years and the Alberta Party has withered into obscurity, completely irrelevant. Finally after reviewing their website I have some ideas why.

Unfortunately in my one minute review I have no idea what the Alberta Party stands for. Dreaming bigger, re-imagining, and reinvigorating is apparently all we need to do to become a better Alberta. It’s easy to say everything can be better—we already know things can be better, but how? Despite its positive and inspirational outlook on Alberta, the Alberta Party says a lot but doesn’t actually say anything. There might be some seeds of insight in their platform, but if these seeds exist they require too much digging to find the truth. The only thing preventing me from giving the Alberta Party an ‘F’ is its smart looking identity and fresh visual presentation.

Website: http://www.albertaparty.ca/

Liberals: B-

Mission: Committed to manage public money responsibly, and to build an Alberta that our children can grow into with confidence in their ability to succeed.

Position: Unlike the PCs and Wildrose, we believe in universal, public healthcare and education.

Platform: Guaranteed Health Care Delivery, Eliminating University Tuition, Direct Funding of Neighbourhood Associations, Instant Run-Off Voting.

Why a B-?: While the Liberals don’t have the prettiest website presentation in town, the most important information — what they stand for, can be quickly located in under a minute. Their commitment to Albertans is communicated and their platform is easy to find. The Liberals position themselves fairly well—noting why they’re different than the two right wing parties. In addition, they’ve gone as far as creating a microsite called “Tory? Or Wildrose?” noting the striking similarities between the PC and Wildrose views. A half point lost for their cliché-isms and one point lost for their DIY visual presentation.

Website: http://www.albertaliberal.com/


Mission: Not readily available on website (It may reside on the About page, unfortunately, this page was down at the time of my review.)

Position: Most Albertans are not getting their fare share under a PC government. We believe it’s time that Alberta’s prosperity, drawn from our shared natural resource wealth, worked for all Albertans, not just a select few.

Platform: Quality Public Healthcare, Affordable Electricity, Education for Success, Protect Our Environment, Oil Sands Prosperity

Why a B-?: The NDP has both solid design and succinct communications working for it. The website boasts the strongest visual presentation of all party websites, making information easy to find, and most importantly, the position and platform can be found in seconds. One point lost for failing to provide some type of mission or vision statement, and a half point lost for the About page being down.

Website: http://albertandp.ca/


Mission: Not readily available on website

Position: Not readily available on website

Platform: Not readily available on website

Why an F?: No clearly defined mission or vision, no positioning, and the PC platform is buried. Deep. So deep in fact, it took me about 20 minutes of Google-searching and reading to find something that resembled a platform. This proves to me the Tories don’t care what Albertans want nor do they feel like they need to tell us what they plan on doing. I suppose when you have the power to manipulate the media it doesn’t really matter. (Oops. Did I just say that out loud?)

The website should score a point for its contemporary visual presentation and on-site search engine (shockingly the only party to have one); however, pretty design is insignificant when concise and transparent communication efforts are an epic failure. Thus, an ‘F.’

Website: http://www.votepc.ca/

Wildrose: A-

Mission: To dethrone the PCs and restore order by putting taxpayers first. (While this isn’t an “official” mission, after a quick assessment of the website it’s pretty clear.)

Position: We believe in government transparency and accountability. We believe Albertans deserve a direct share in the success of the province’s energy sector; neither of which we’re getting under a PC government.

Platform: Balanced Budget and Savings Act, Wildrose Family Pack (Make Life More Affordable for Albertans), Alberta Energy Dividend (All Albertans share in our energy wealth), Decrease Patient Wait Time, Alberta Accountability Act (Make Government Accountable to Albertans)

Why an A-?: Whether you agree with the party’s views or not, from a branding standpoint the Wildrose party is pretty tight. They have a strong position, a strong platform, strong communication, and a nice, clean visual presentation. Wildrose is focused and they have clearly defined why they are different than the only party that has mattered to Albertans for over 40 years.

Like the Liberals, they’ve also created a microsite called the “Redford Files,” which focuses on the culture of PC corruption in Alberta. If that’s not a good positioning strategy I don’t know what is. From a strategic standpoint, this explains how a relatively unheard-of newcomer has resonated with so many Albertans and surged into a front running spot above the Liberals and NDP. Wildrose has
something to say and they’re saying it loud and clear.

Website: http://www.wildrose.ca/

Still undecided on who to vote for?

Don’t know where all the parties stand? Short on time?

In 5 minutes you can quickly find out which party you’re most aligned with. The answer might surprise you.

Check out CBC’s Vote Compass or keep reading to see where the parties stand on top issues. (Unfortunately the Alberta Party is not included in the Vote Compass results.)

Aboriginal Affairs

Alberta should contribute funding to schools on First Nations reserves.

Disagree: WR
Agree: LIB, NDP, PC

First Nations should have more say over how Alberta’s natural resources are used.

Neutral: PC
Agree: LIB, NDP, WR


Worker safety laws should be more strict in Alberta.

Agree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC, WR

During economic downturns, government spending makes it worse.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Agree: PC, WR

It should be easier for workers to organize a union.

Neutral: PC, WR
Agree: LIB, NDP

When businesses make a lot of money everyone benefits, even the poor.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Agree: PC, WR


Alberta government should freeze tuition for university and college students.

Disagree: PC, WR
Agree: LIB, NDP

Private schools should not receive public funding.

Disagree: PC, WR
Agree: LIB, NDP


The minimum wage should be raised.

Disagree: WR
Neutral: PC
Agree: LIB, NDP

Welfare recipients should get more money.

Neutral: WR
Agree: LIB, NDP, PC


Alberta government should freeze electricity prices.

Disagree: PC, WR
Neutral: LIB
Agree: NDP


Environmental issues should be solved by industry, not government.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC
Agree: WR

Environmental regulation should be stricter.

Disagree: PC
Neutral: WR
Agree: LIB, NDP

Environmental damage caused by the oil sands industry is exaggerated.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Agree: PC, WR

Family Values

Taxpayers should not provide funding for abortion.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC
Neutral: WR

Federal Relations

Albertans pay more than their fair share to the rest of Canada.

Disagree: NDP
Agree: LIB, PC, WR

Health Care

The private sector should have a bigger role in health care.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC
Agree: WR

People should be able to pay for faster access to medical treatment.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC, WR


The Alberta government should limit rent increases.

Disagree: PC, WR
Neutral: LIB
Agree: NDP

Immigration & Multiculturalism

Immigrants should adopt Albertan values.

Neutral: NDP
Agree: LIB, PC, WR

More should be done to accommodate religious minorities in Alberta.

Neutral: LIB, PC, WR
Agree: NDP

Landowner Rights

Alberta government should have more say over what landowners do with their property.

Disagree: LIB, WR
Neutral: NDP, PC

Law & Order

The blood-alcohol limit for drivers should be changed from .08% to .05%.

Disagree: LIB, WR
Agree: NDP, PC

Oil Industry

The Keystone XL pipeline will take jobs out of Alberta.

Disagree: PC, WR
Neutral: LIB
Agree: NDP

Alberta government should take a bigger share of royalties from oil and gas companies.

Disagree: LIB, PC, WR
Agree: NDP

Public Sector

Alberta should scrap the Human Rights Commission.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC
Agree: WR

Most provincial government workers are paid too much.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC
Agree: WR

The provincial budget deficit should be reduced, even if it means fewer public services.

Disagree: NDP, PC
Neutral: LIB, WR


Corporations should pay more tax.

Agree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC, WR

Wealthier people should pay more tax.

Agree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC, WR

It’s Time Your Company Rethinks the Work Week

Who decided on the five-day, 40-hour work week anyway?

Is it really required in today’s ultra-streamlined, fast-paced digital world?

When you stop to think about it, people tend to find a way to fill up their time with things like Facebook, Twitter, checking email, texting, extended coffee breaks, etc. so their work stretches the course of the five-day week. Employees also take loads of personal days under the guise of a sick day too. You know it’s true, because you’ve done it. So if we all do it, why don’t we just decrease the time frame in which we do our work? You know…”get ‘er done,” and go home.

I know when it comes to questioning my stress management and work-life balance, five days at work is not equal to two days at home. I’m not a math major, but that sounds like a pretty imbalanced equation.

A lot of companies say they offer a work-life balance, but do they really practice it?

I’m not talking about one Friday out of the month or Fridays off in the summer. I’m not talking 10-hour days to make up for the day off. And I’m definitely not talking about a decrease in salary or benefits in lieu of time off.

What I’m talking about is Fridays off. Forever.
Four-day work weeks. Eight-hour days. Full salary. Full benefits.

Image credit: carsonified.com

In 2009 I made the decision to move Urban Jungle to the four-day work week.

After my daughter was born the decision was easy. I wanted to spend as much time with her and my wife as I possibly could and the only way I could do that was to take an extra day to ourselves. While some may question this move and think of it as too laid-back, over the course of the last three years I have found it to be the exact opposite.

Productivity is up. Creativity is up. Energy and enthusiasm are up. Instead of everyone thinking, “Ugh, it’s Monday,” it’s, “Sweet! It’s Monday!”

Fridays off is hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made for Urban Jungle.

Knowing we have Fridays off means we can bust out to the lake if we want to. We can cut the first tracks in the fresh powder at Marmott if we want to. We can use the extra day to catch up on errands, go to the AGA, read a book, bike in the river valley, pamper ourselves at the spa, and spend more quality time with our family if we want to.

If you are an employee, I ask you push your management to rethink the work week. If they say, “hell no!” tell them to call me. If you are a manager, I encourage you to rethink your company’s work week. I promise you will see a marked improvement in your office culture, starting with the staff and eventually trickling down to your customers. Over the last three years “sick days” and “personal days” at Urban Jungle are virtually zero.

Happy Staff = Happy Customers
Happy Staff + Happy Customers = Happy Boss

These are balanced equations everyone can understand.

Why Rebrand Alberta (For Free)?

Earlier this week, Urban Jungle announced it is offering to rebrand Alberta at no charge to the province.

It seems this issue has raised a few brows and lots of questions. People want to know why the heck are we are offering to do this? And why for free?

Why rebrand?

1. I believe Albertans still need direction:

The rebrand would address where previous efforts failed. In 2009 Albertans should have been presented with a vision. We weren’t. As a result, here we are, three years later, still without a direction.

If Albertans are guided by a clear vision — one that’s defined by the people and for the people, instead of a fluffy slogan with lofty-expectations; a vision that’s aspirational and achievable; a vision that speaks to people from all walks of life; and a vision Albertans can adopt into our daily lives — then we have a strong foundation to becoming the living essence of the Alberta brand.

Clearly we do not have this shared direction and I hope that Albertans agree that it’s needed.

2. I believe Albertans can be more as people:

With the exception of immediate family and friends, I believe most Albertans feel disconnected from each other. Edmontonians and Calgarians constantly slag on the other and the rest of Albertans don’t feel like they matter. They’re left out of the conversation and left to fight on their own.

I also believe that Albertans feel left out of the processes in shaping our culture and society. Most people probably wouldn’t know how and where to even start. As a result, many people simply lose interest in taking part.

3. I believe we can be more as a province:

It’s no secret that Albertans are the “haves” of Canada, as Alberta is economically, socially, and resource rich. That said, I believe we are in serious danger of squandering our province’s advantages and potential, as we sit precariously in the balance of our most lucrative export—oil. It’s a scary prospect to think we have nothing else to hang our hat on other than oil don’t you think?

What’s even scarier is leaving a legacy of underachievement, mediocrity, and disadvantage to our children and grandchildren. I can’t accept that.

Alberta has the means to be global leaders.

Unfortunately the majority of Canadians (and the world over for that matter), consider us arrogant, greedy, oil-addicted, environmentally careless, Texans of the north. I think that’s really sad. Albertans shouldn’t accept this. We have a heck of a lot more to offer the world.


1. I believe in doing something positive for Albertans.

An initiative like this is the best opportunity I’ve had to date to make the biggest contribution to our society. I am in full agreement with the premier’s position that the current branding efforts for the province has not achieved, and will not achieve, the intended results, and that a solution is required. Since my company is uniquely positioned and has the expertise and ability to donate our services to the taxpayers at no cost, I’d like to step up and help get it done right.

2. I believe the frivolity has to stop.

Did you know? The current logo, slogan, and ad campaign was created less than three years ago by ad agency Calder Bateman at a reported cost of nearly $25 million over three years.

Are you okay with spending another $25 million for the next “re-branding” exercise? I’m not.

Wouldn’t this money be better spent on healthcare, education, family services, low-income housing, or infrastructure? There are so many things (and people) this money could have a lasting impact on, instead it’s being frivolously spent with no accountability.

The government has had their chance.

And they’ve proven they do not understand the process and function of branding. To that end, we believe they will undertake another misguided re-branding exercise and waste even more taxpayer money.

Shouldn’t your government be accountable to their mistakes? Shouldn’t they own up to the mishap? Shouldn’t they offer Alberta taxpayers an apology along with a “do-over” at no extra charge?

I do.

Questions? Comments? Kudos? Insults? Start the conversation by adding your comments below.

It’s Smarter to Travel in Groups

It’s not too often I comment positively on advertising, but every once and a while a rare treat arrives in my inbox that’s too good not to share.

Today is one of those days, and this is one of those treats.

The following is a series of advertisements for De Lijn (pronounced de lang), a Belgian travel company. From start finish, you’ll completely lose yourself and forget these are ads. The concept is brilliant and the execution is even brilliant-er.