Edmonton Loses the Indy! (Part 1 of 2)

That’s next year’s headline. I’m calling it right now.

No, I’m not an oracle, and no, I didn’t ask Zoltar — but I can show you why we’re going to lose what could be— should be— a world-class Edmonton-based event.

Let’s start by looking at the recent Edmonton Sun poll, then we’ll Tarantino this debacle.

84% of people don’t care about the Indy.

Do you know why? Because we haven’t been given a reason to care! There’s no public buildup of excitement. There’s no celebrity endorsement. There’s no branding to turn the Indy into a can’t-miss experience.

I have to be honest: I’m a little embarrassed to be an Edmontonian right now. Our city was awarded an amazing opportunity. The Indy should be a world-renowned event, even more attractive than the Calgary Stampede. After all, racing vehicles at mach speeds and laying down record times is a bit more exciting—and relevant than racing chuck wagons and putting down horses. But the powers that be are completely squandering the opportunity.

How did this happen? (Please circle the best answer.)
a. Many years ago the City awarded an exclusivity deal to Northlands to market and manage all major events (whether penned or implied is irrelevant)
b. Corporate greed, laziness
c. Politics
d. All of the above

If you chose “d,” awesome! You get a gold star.

Exclusivity promotes laziness, complacency, short-sightedness, and greed.

Don’t believe me? How inspiring and memorable is the “Make it your Indy” campaign? Laziness brained it, and laziness approved it. What you see in this campaign is the business model of “let’s do the least amount of work possible and still get paid.”

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. Organizers should be going above and beyond to make this one of the most memorable events in Canada. Northlands isn’t working hard or getting creative because they don’t have to. They’ve got the job. They’ve got all the jobs. Why put any effort into creating vibrant and exciting events that tell the world that Edmonton is the place to be when you don’t have to?

Northlands is not a marketing or branding company.

Northlands’ business is to provide space and coordinate the logistics of events (and they do a really good job at it), but that’s it. They are not a marketing or branding company. They have failed to generate buzz and excitement around events and draw the throngs of people that should be attending because that’s not what they do!

That’s right. The wise decision makers in our city made an exclusive arrangement to market events that could draw who knows how much tourism with a company that isn’t a marketing company. While this might not be killing Edmonton, it’s definitely holding us back.

Instead the City should award the contracts for creating buzz around events and attracting large crowds to branding and marketing companies. (Earth-shattering idea, isn’t it?) Then they should hold those companies accountable. The current zero-accountability situation simply doesn’t work and is a waste of taxpayer money.

What would happen if accountability existed? For starters, the marketing of the Indy wouldn’t be left up to the sponsors, as it seems to be now. This is ridiculous and something no professional marketing and branding company would do. When sponsors are solely responsible for marketing, they aren’t getting the potential value out of the partnership. No wonder they’ve had an impossible time trying to secure a title sponsor and must find new sponsors every year. I wouldn’t renew my sponsorship either.

Make us care, and we will show up.

We are blessed with a many great cheerleaders in this city. @MasterMaq, @CaryWilliams, @ChrisLaBossiere, @KenBautista among others are all doing their best to help Edmonton evolve into a world-class city. But I’m worried that they too will one day give up, (Please don’t. You guys are awesome!).

Edmonton city council needs to start acting like a business. That means caring about its customers and creating brand experiences that we love and are proud of. Like any business, Edmonton must give the people what they want; otherwise, we will suffer the consequences of our customers’ choosing the competition. Vancouver is our competition. Calgary is our competition. Right now, they have much more to offer our customers.

I find it odd that Mr. Mandel is scoping Shanghai’s World Expo right now. It’s great that he’s taking the initiative, but I find it a little presumptuous. We can’t even manage a little Indy event properly. Does anyone seriously believe that Edmonton could land Expo 2017 if we were to lose Indy? And if we did, what impression would be left at the end of it?

Enough is enough. Quit killing opportunity. Quit killing creativity. Quit killing evolution. We need some new players—people and companies willing to do all it takes to make Edmonton a world-class city. The exclusive arrangement with Northlands has to stop if Edmonton is ever going to have a chance.

I bet the Indy will be pulled from Edmonton’s portfolio within the next year. Perhaps it will be given to a city that actually gives a damn about evolution, creativity, and inspiring its residents to live there. Vancouver—you’re well in the lead. Calgary—you are a close second. Edmonton—you are the dark horse I am rooting for.

A New Twist on Animals in Advertising

Are you as sick of seeing animals in ad campaigns as I am?

Usually their presence in ads is completely irrelevant to the product or service they are selling, and generally they’re used as a ploy to distract you from how bad the product or service is.

Telus is apparently “unleashing” something new this week. Let me guess…a lion? Perhaps a tiger or maybe even a bear? Oh my. How original. While Telus’ animal theme is one of the most memorable campaigns in Canadian ad history, after 10 years of the cuteness I now find it all rather boring. It’s time for something new.

GoAuto? Same thing. We get it — dogs.

Fido? Ditto. Cute puppies. Very unique.

Playing off animals is such a played-out theme.

So I was pretty skeptical when I heard that AT&T was going to be jumping on the animal bandwagon. However, after seeing the ads I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.

Using just hands and a phone, AT&T melds 2 popular ideas of painting hands, along with animals to make a moderately unique campaign. Not only do they incorporate beautiful colours and localization, but they maintain a unique style and inject the human element back into the animal theme. Yes! Humans!! Go figure. They’ve successfully put a new twist on the animal concept by making it relevant to the humans that use them, which in my opinion is pretty cool.

A Toast to Georgie and Young Edmonton

A couple of Fridays ago I rolled up to a bar I’ve been to many times, and as we rounded the corner from the alley to the front street I proclaimed, “no worries, there’s never been a line up here.” Approaching the door I realized that the abnormally large smoking crowd hovering on the sidewalk, was actually the never before seen line up. Oops.

One thing about this city, word of a good thing spreads quickly. The bar was hosting the launch party for Georgie, a new local magazine, and everyone wanted to be a part of it. Skinny jeans, driving loafers, back breaking heels alike, all trying to get in to say they were there, on the scene of the seen and be seen.

I hate line-ups.

I don’t want to be in line, but I was happy to see the crowd. It’s nice when a young crowd in a city, or many young crowds in the same city find some common ground. Something to rally around that will only improve what the city already has to offer. Now it also has a new, intriguing, even sexy medium for showcasing what the city has to offer. It’s the magazine you want hanging out of your mac case or your messenger bag. It shows you’re up on, or down with the happening. You want to make your business walk the walk and have people glance at you and know that you’re in the know?

Come chat with us at Urban Jungle. We can hook you up with the swagger.

Amen.

Vancouver City

A glimpse into the ethereal experience that is Vancouver.

This video has it all, beauty, mystery and sensuality. Thank you InnerLife & Linda Ganzini; you’ve inspired me to want to share the beauty of my city.

Are You a Marketing Hostage?

What is the biggest marketing issue facing companies today?

Some might say it’s developing new approaches as the traditional mediums become increasingly obsolete.

Others might say it’s demonstrating marketing’s ROI.

While others might even say that given the world economy it’s simply a basic need like keeping a job.

All of these are great arguments but in my opinion there is one that’s still bigger.

Marketing people at many companies are hostages of their own profession.

The trouble with silos

In working with some of our larger clients, one of the bigger challenges we are usually faced with is the silos of organization. The organizational flows and micromanagement tend to slow down decision making, and it makes it difficult (sometimes impossible) to reach an agreement on critical issues such as brand values, communications strategies, new offers, and messages.

The silo—the disconnect, often exists between marketing and other functions, such as finance, HR, sales, and operations. Yet there are even silos within marketing itself—usually between research, communications, and creative. Sure the ads look pretty but if they missed the mark they’re useless and they’re a complete waste of everyone’s time & the company’s money.

Fresh perspective

As outsiders with fresh eyes the results are usually obvious to us, as the organization proclaims different messages based on different strategies from its various groups and functions. Corporate management, public relations, advertising, sales, and investor relations each tend to create messages that address their respective audiences, but they generally fail to take the extra step and marry them with common themes that best reflect the value and essence of the business in its totality. In other words, the brand.

The result is that companies rarely speak with one coherent voice. And the consistency of the brand—one of the key drivers of value, is undermined.

And marketers, assigned with the task of developing and executing clear positioning and communications, end up spending an enormous amount of time struggling against the many voices within the company, often begging and pleading with everyone to agree.

How can you solve this problem?

The solution to this problem can be found first by recognizing the need to have a coherent message. This unified voice creates the perception of leadership that naturally allows others to gravitate towards.

Through the course of communications, be it public debates, speaking events, press releases, social media, etc. messaging can being taken to a dynamic and more strategic level through better research techniques. Rather than testing messages in isolation on variables like appeal, current and potential messages can be tested in head-to-head comparisons against current or potential opposing messages. Then after being exposed to the pro and con messages, respondents can then be asked to choose one—an approach that gives a vastly more accurate and precise picture of public attitudes.

By flushing out a number of view points simulating all the expected paths the issue might take, the company is then in a better position to see how client/prospect attitudes will play out, often before the first message ever comes out.

So what is the structure and process that makes this approach successful?

I am by no means a political expert, but an example of a successful approach can be drawn from politics. (Yes politicians have managed to do something right!)

In a well-run political party, there is “the communications team.” The communications team includes people from management, research, strategy, policy, speech-writing, advertising, and PR. They all sit at one table to decide the strategy then decide how to execute on the strategy in the most effective way using each of the different communications channels as a tool. Everyone at the table accepts the reality that “everything communicates,” which means they have to agree on one message.

This consolidated organizational structure for managing communications is intimately involved in the research process itself. Everyone on the communications team can, and is encouraged to, suggest strategies and messages. This full range of perspectives is then put into the research, in an open and transparent process. That way, everyone gets their ideas tested and, when the research comes back, they know what messages won and lost. And, most importantly for attaining buy-in and agreement across the group, everyone knows their ideas had a full, fair, and objective chance.

The results are powerful, crisp communications that have an enormous impact in projecting competent leadership, building reputation, and enhancing brand value.

Our self-imposed Catch-22.

Through old habits, fear of change, and inertia, most companies have their marketing people using aged techniques. They still judge messages against historical, and largely irrelevant, benchmarks. As a result, the CEOs and other senior executives, lacking accurate and reliable information to guide their decisions on messaging, are (rightfully) reluctant to make the organizational and process changes needed to let the marketing team own and guide the full spectrum of the communications agenda.

We need to adopt the latest and most effective research techniques and in making the commitment to align communications around research results.

Better research and organizational changes are the 2 inter-related keys that would allow marketing to escape from its silo. If companies, and marketing organizations in particular, implemented these 2 simple techniques, they would find their organizational cultures far more focused, effective, and respected; and brand communications would realize its full potential.

Battle of the Brands: Apple vs. Everyone Else

Have you ever bought an Apple product?

If you haven’t I’m sure you want to, and if you have—did you ever regret it? I know I sure haven’t. I realize some people find issues with Apple, but let’s face it, buying an Apple is an awesome experience.

I bought my 3rd Mac last week and I swear the feeling will never get old. The packaging is beautiful and everything is laid out perfectly. All you need to do is plug it in, turn it on, and suddenly you are flying through space and time, grooving along to the funky Mac beat as your new computer greets you in a multitude of languages. A couple simple forms later and in literally 2 minutes you’re doing whatever it is that you love to do. For anyone that is subscribed to MobileMe it will automatically fill out the forms for you.

I want to contrast my experience with my friend’s recent experience with Dell. He’s an IT manager at a major Edmonton-based software company so they purchase hundreds of PC’s a year, and while he always downplays the awesomeness of Apple, I know he secretly wants one.

A few weeks ago they received their latest shipment of computers. He starts by opening the boring brown box with a blue D. It sure isn’t enticing and it sure isn’t Apple. After unboxing the first computer he plugs it in and hits the power button. Nothing. It’s completely dead. He then moves to the 2nd computer and hits the power button. This one responds by putting form after form in front of him. He was forced to install a ridiculous amount of applications and tools, and after 3 restarts and 29 minutes of staring at progress bars, the computer was finally ready to be used. Thinking about an experience like that brings back horrible memories and makes me remember why I originally purchased my first Mac.

So what is Apple selling?

Are they selling computers and smartphones or are they selling a lifestyle? Look at all the apps you can download to your phone to make it so much more than what it actually is. There truly is “an app for everything.”

Every single one of these apps represents a story, and as I have said many times before, stories are what sell people, not information. I dare you to find one person who hates their iPhone. In fact, I think that you’ll find those who have an iPhone are Apple’s biggest evangelists. These customers are more powerful than any ad. Apple has taken Word Of Mouth Marketing (which is undoubtedly the most powerful form of advertising) to a whole new level. Those that have an iPhone and those that have a Mac will tell everyone about how awesome the product is. I am a prime example of that and I’m not alone.

How many people do you know who go above and beyond what is considered rational to their friends about their Blackberry? How about their Dell? Of course people like their Blackberries and their Dells—they are great products; but I’d be willing to bet Blackberry or Dell owners don’t go to the same level of ‘selling’ their family & friends like an Apple owner will.

Apple gets it.

They make buying easy, and owning fun. And when buying is easy and owning is fun it’s usually means you’ve had a pretty rewarding experience. It actually makes you feel like you’re investing as opposed to buying.

While so many companies are focused on making the sale, they end up forgetting about making the person happy once they have purchased their product. Apple understands that it’s far more expensive to reach new consumers with marketing dollars then it is to keep existing repeat consumers. When you see a message with the product thanking you for the purchase or calling you a loyal customer, this is the company trying to overcome your feelings of anxiety and that’s how repeat business is made.

Urban Jungle Shakes the Shackles of the Hourly Rate

Next time you are at the zoo you might notice a 10-ton elephant tethered by a flimsy rope to a 3-foot pole.

The elephant has been trained to believe it has no choice about staying in its current position.

And so it is with the hourly rate, which marketing firms, law firms, accounting firms, business consultants — and of course all of our clients, are trained to believe is the only way to price our services.

But just as the elephant could potentially break free from the pole, we are breaking free from the hourly rate.

Although the concept isn’t new, there are only a select few innovative thinkers who have already adopted the model. There is still however, a long way to go. While it is unlikely, we hope with one big collective jerk at the rope by our industry, the hourly rate will be a legacy of a bygone era.

The hourly rate has always been a major thorn in Urban Jungle’s side.

It greatly devalues and undermines the expertise, service and quality of work we provide. More importantly, companies are not interested in paying for our time. They are more interested in paying for a result.

Their thoughts are, “If you don’t produce a result, why should we pay you?” On the other hand they also think, “If you produce results, and you produce even greater than anticipated results, why shouldn’t we pay you more?”

I once had a client jokingly ask,

“Are you thinking of ideas while in the shower and then charging us a half hour for it?”

He was half right. Of course I think of ideas in the shower. And his main concern about charging him for my shower time, was a valid concern and I completely understood.

It happens all the time in our industry and as a company we are sick and tired of defending a billing concept that we never believed in the first place. Quantifying price based on time is ludicrous. How can we put value on time? How is my time worth more than your time? How is your time worth more than their time? Yes time is money, but time is just that—time.

Dumping the hourly rate is all about reaching an agreement with clients on value.

Every project has potential measurable benefits and value. Of course, some values are easier to measure than others. To orient yourself in the discussion of what branding services are worth to you, consider the possible drivers of the value below.

Do you believe branding can increase:

  • Visibility?
  • Revenue?
  • Profits?
  • Growth?
  • Value?
  • Retention?
  • ROI?

 

Do you believe branding can reduce:

  • Costs?
  • Time/effort?
  • Complaints?
  • Risk?
  • Turnover?
  • Conflict?

 

Do you believe branding can improve:

  • Quality?
  • Loyalty?
  • Reputation?
  • Information?
  • Morale?
  • Service?
  • Processes?
  • Productivity?

 

Do you believe branding can create:

  • Strategy?
  • Systems?
  • Processes?
  • Business?
  • Products?
  • Services?

 
You place different levels of value on each of these items, and as a consultant and expert in these areas it’s up to me to find out how much value you place on them, not how much you will pay me for an hour’s worth of work.

How much is it worth to you to elevate your company’s status to that of a brand?

To increase your visibility in niches you never thought possible? To improve your reputation and the loyalty of your customers? Or to improve the design of your products? Investing into your brand via better strategy, smarter design, and more engaging experiences will result in higher perceived value, better customers, increased profits, fewer complaints and returns, and a lower cost of stocking merchandise.

Branding is equally important (if not more-so) for your staff as it is the customers who invest in your brand.

After all, they are the ones who are delivering the experience to your customers. What would improved morale among your staff mean? A brand with an excited and motivated workforce means the managers spend less time in HR meetings and more time running the business. What is it worth to have fired-up employees instead of absences due to low morale?

In the future, we believe all marketing firms will have to quantify the benefits which are relevant to the projects they create. They must; because quantification (not time) provides the crucial context to determine the value. We are excited to finally break free of the shackles of the hourly rate and we are confident our clients will too.

Congratulations Advico!

On behalf of the Urban Jungle team I’d like to congratulate Advico Professional Investment Services on the Grand Opening of their new Sherwood Drive location.

Advico, a financial advisory representing Professional Investment Services, Austral-Asia’s fastest growing financial services company; officially opened its doors to the public yesterday. We are honored to partner with Advico in helping them achieve their vision.

I know this year was very challenging for everyone at Advico, but as the saying goes, “The things most worthwhile in life don’t come easy.”

Only 1 year ago, owners Ryan Jewell, Chris Korte, and Dallas Ferro decided to take a big risk—leaving the comforts of the large international financial services company they worked for, and establishing their own one-stop firm.

The vision was to build a company that helped people create strong financial futures for themselves. Needless to say, the gamble paid off and their dream is now a reality.

In addition to supporting many charitable organizations and initiatives, the Advico team helps foster growth and betterment of the community they call home and we are proud to be associated with them.

Congratulations Advico! I can’t wait to see where you take things next.

Battle of the Brands: WestJet vs. Air Canada

Which airline do you prefer? WestJet or Air Canada?

My preference hands down is WestJet. They are problem solvers. They are built on the philosophy of helping people and making them happy.

Air Canada on the other hand seems to cause more problems and headaches than they fix. I have no idea what their mission is, but if I were to guess, it would probably be to increase share holder value. Regardless of whether or not that is the case, they seem to be missing one very important element…make your customers happy and the rest will take care of itself.

A few months ago I booked a flight online with Air Canada. It wasn’t by choice, it was my only ‘option.’ There was a problem with the booking system that reserved the wrong flight for me. After I printed off my receipt and realized I was scheduled for the wrong flight I immediately called in to get it changed. “That will be twenty dollars sir. Which credit card would you like to put that on?,” said the customer service rep.

Are you freaking kidding me?! I couldn’t believe I had to pay for their mistake. Since then I have tried to avoid flying with Air Canada at whatever cost.

Sick of waiting in line to check in?

WestJet offers web check-ins where you can view your seat on the plane. Don’t like being stuck in the middle seat? Their online service gives you the option to choose a new seat if you like. Headset sockets? You can use your own headset as opposed to having to create an inordinate amount of waste using Air Canada’s double pronged headsets.

Today I flew to Vancouver with WestJet and (other than the ridiculous cost for my ticket) it was a pleasant experience from start to finish. I was processed through lines very quickly and I was greeted with a smile and a warm welcome by every employee.