Nike+ – A Great Example of What Collaboration Can Accomplish

Today, I completed my longest run in about a year. Actually, it was my longest run since April 3rd, 2010 – when I ran 18.96km in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 29 seconds, at an average pace of 6 minutes and 37 seconds per kilometer.

How the heck do I know that? Well, I record my runs using the Nike+iPod sports kit, the ingenious collaboration between Nike and Apple that has benefited runners worldwide since its launch in 2006.

There are two main reasons why I marvel at Nike+:

1. An innovative product from a unique collaboration

I believe that over the coming years we are going to see more instances of companies – sometimes even competitors – joining forces in unique collaborations.  There are many potential benefits to be gained, including shared knowledge and data, shared resources, and opportunity to develop new and innovative products and services by leveraging and combining strengths.

2. It’s social and community-driven

The Nike+ experience extends well beyond the runs, thanks to a fantastic website and online community that has been cultivated. Not only can Nike+ users record and track runs using the website, they can share their experiences with runners worldwide while also benefiting from some rich content – including a training tips blog.

Recently, Nike+ also added a “Challenges” section, through which individual users can create running challenges and invite community members to participate. Sample challenges include “365 miles in 2011”, in which all participants are challenged to run 365 miles, and “Fastest 5km in 2011”. Each challenge includes a leader board, adding some incentive for participants to compete against one another.

Buckle Up

As I write this, I am fresh off of a much-needed vacation in the Rockies. It was great to spend a couple of days with my family, and at the same time, have some “digital down-time”. I did not check-in to a single campground using Foursquare, so sadly I am not on the road to becoming the major of a campground anytime soon! Nor did I access Twitter or Facebook multiple times a day. In fact, I even went a couple of days without checking e-mail. *Gasp!*

In reducing my digital intake, my vacation allowed for some time to reflect on the digital and social media madness that seems to have encapsulated my life – both the positive and the negative aspects.

There’s no doubt that my life has changed as a result of social media. Thanks in particular to Twitter, I have formed a variety of new friendships, with great people whom I otherwise likely would never have connected with. From a learning standpoint, my RSS feed is jam packed with amazing articles that are abundantly rich in information about the changing business landscape. It seems that innovation, particularly in terms of new products and services, and changing business practices, is now happening at breakneck speeds. Mass collaboration, conversations and connectivity are changing everything. I have an open mind, and am excited about the future. I sense that, as a result, my career will evolve in a manner I never thought possible a few years ago.

At the same time, I wonder what the true costs of our increased connectivity are? More and more often, we seem to hear about people needing to go through a “digital detox”. A few years ago, people debated whether they should bring Blackberries with them on vacation, devices that made them accessible to employers and clients 24/7.  Now, look at the plethora of ways in which people are connected to the Internet – there are more channels that need to be disconnected. With cars (see the MyFord Touch) and appliances becoming Internet enabled, will it even be possible to escape digital life in the future, short of going on a back-country adventure into the middle of nowhere?

I wonder if a new profession is going to evolve? Digital Life Manager? Digital Therapist?

I still think I need to work on balancing my online connectivity with time I need to spend off-line. This last week reminded me of that.

However, using a human lifespan analogy and starting from when the Internet truly became accessible to the public, the Internet is really only just emerging from it’s teenage years. What kind of ingenuity and collaboration are we going to see over the next decade? What businesses will arise?

Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride. But don’t forget, it’s OK to step out and take a breather along the way. Sanity is a good thing.

A Golden Idea!

Kudos to Rethink Communications and Science World for a refreshingly creative and innovative outdoor execution.

Today, they unveiled a gold-covered billboard by the entrance to Granville Island on West 4th Avenue. The billboard uses two ounces of gold, pounded to cover 200 square feet, and is part of the advertising strategy for Science World’s summer exhibit, Treasure!

The billboard, which cost about $11,000 to build, is being watched by a security guard and will only be up for a couple of days before being put on display at Science World. It has generated strong PR through media coverage and mentions on social media.

Timely Outdoor Advertising by BMO

I often find that outdoor advertising is lacking. Lacking in elements that engage passersby in delivering a message that will drive brand awareness or impact sales. Some companies are now turning to digital billboards, which I believe are conundrum from a safety standpoint; I would much rather that drivers keep their eyes on the road.

That said, this Bank of Montreal billboard ad, located near my house, caught my attention today. I think the billboard is beautiful in its simplicity, and the timing is great given the recent rise in mortgage rates. Kudos to BMO and their agency on a smart media buy.

Personally, I think it would have been great if they went a step further, by including a call to action to visit a mini website that answers some of the many questions current and future homeowners likely have.

Marketing in a Sales-Driven Culture

I have been working as a Marketing Manager at my current company, Texcan, for a couple of years now. When I took on the role, I knew from the onset that it would be an interesting challenge. Texcan, a distributor of cable and wire for various industrial markets, is a sales-driven organization. Marketing, although deemed important, was not exactly at the forefront when I started.

Personally, I viewed the role as a great opportunity to make an impact, while taking the lead in creating and growing a more strategic marketing mindset in the organization. Although there is plenty of work to do, much has changed during my tenure. Senior management and sales see marketing as a critical function and asset in driving growth, both through new customer acquisition and incremental sales amongst current customers. Further, marketing now has a more prominent role to play in corporate planning.

How was this achieved? Here are a few simple steps that I took.

Build Trust and Relationships

It goes without saying that relationships are such a cornerstone in business. From the outset, I made an effort to build personal relationships with the sales team. I listened to them, to gain an understanding of their unique sales challenges. Making an effort to attend become involved with sales meetings, and in general just make myself accessible, has made a difference.

Educate Colleagues

A strong component of my role at Texcan is to educate staff on the value of marketing, and provide a vision for what is possible. I consider myself to have a strong grounding in marketing fundamentals, I suppose the classic 4P’s we all learn. However, I also spend at least an hour each day educating myself on the latest in business and marketing innovations. Through communication with sales and senior management, some great ideas have been generated.

Be Proactive

Change can be hard, often times it’s much easier to stick to the status quo. Armed with insights gained from challenges faced by our sales team, I was assertive in providing strategic recommendations to senior management. I outlined challenges faced by our sales team, as well as opportunities, with corresponding strategies to execute and intended results. No, not all of my recommendations were approved, but some were. More importantly, however, by providing valuable insights I have gained management’s ear.

Demonstrate Results

Wherever and whenever possible, I communicate results of our marketing programs to senior management. For example, last year we re-launched our website in conjunction with a focus on search engine optimization. Our Google ranking, corresponding website traffic, and qualified leads from our contact form have all increased significantly. Senior management has gained confidence that our marketing initiatives generate strong returns, and as result funding has increased.

Have Patience

Change doesn’t happen overnight! It’s been a process at Texcan, and change is still ongoing. However, it’s been neat to see the transformation that has already occurred.

Read and Recommended (Feb 11)

A pre-Olympics edition of Read and Recommended!  Hare are a couple of articles and a blog post that caught my attention over the past few weeks.

Why Visa’s Going Big for the Olympics

(AdAge.com) Longtime Olympic sponsor Visa is broadening its exposure this year, for the first time launching a global campaign tied to the Games.

How Toyota Can Flip the Funnel

(Joseph Jaffe’s blog) It’s tough going these days if you work for Toyota or any of its partners. It’s tougher being a customer especially with the doubt surrounding loose floor mats and sticking accelerator pads and safety concerns in general. And then there’s the perceived broken trust and the lost credibility associated with a brand that seemingly reigned supreme in terms of relationship, bond and loyalty.

In the Age of Friending, Consumers Trust Their Friends Less

(AdAge.com) Whom do we increasingly trust less? Us.

It’s a finding that strikes at the foundation of many a social-media marketing philosophy: Tapping into peer-to-peer networks is a way for marketers to tell authentic, credible stories to consumers whose confidence in corporate CEOs, news outlets, government officials and industry analysts has taken a beating. But according to Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer, the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company dropped by almost half, from 45% to 25%, since 2008.

Ambush Marketing

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With the Vancouver Winter Olympics fast approaching, the city is now fully adorned with ads from Olympic sponsors. All of the city’s outdoor advertising, including bill boards and buses, has been purchased by VANOC. In a classic example of ambush marketing, Pepsi capitalized on it’s sponsorship of the World Junior Hockey Championship in Saskatchewan, running a national contest to develop a new cheer for the Canadian junior team. The winning cheer, “Eh, O’Canada-Go!”, is still being heavily promoted – particularly at point-of-purchase. Of course, Coca-Cola is an official Olympic sponsor.

In another example, ScotiaBank recently launched it’s “Show Your Colors” campaign, depicting cheerful Canadians adorned in red. Based on the picture on the right, would you perhaps associate them with Olympic sponsorship?  Are VANOC or RBC particularly pleased with ScotiaBank’s campaign? Nope.  A smart marketing ploy by ScotiaBank? I would have to say yes.

Next League of Kickass event – Gaming isn’t just for gamers anymore

I am very excited to share details about the third League of Kickass Business People event to be held in Vancouver, “Gaming isn’t just for gamers anymore”.  I hope to see you there!

*****

On Thursday, February 4, find out how gaming is revolutionizing your business and your world. You’ll learn how gaming trends are shaping everything from customer experiences to community building, leadership training to team collaboration, simplified interfaces to communicating complexities – and how gaming’s impact will accelerate in the next decade.

We’ll get the evening started with a panel discussion led by Vancouver’s gaming industry leaders (and with appetizers and beverages).

We’re counting on you to get in the game… and keep it going by exchanging ideas and building relationships with heavy hitters in Vancouver’s business community.

GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

Our last event was a SOLD OUT success. Book your tickets now to avoid disappointment.

Pricing for Members: $30 in advance and $40 at the door (to become a League of Kickass member, just create a profile at www.theleagueofkickassbusinesspeople.ning.com- it’s free!)

Pricing for Non-Members: $40 in advance and $50 at the door

Order Today: http://lokbpgetinthegame.eventbrite.com/

EVENT DETAILS

Date: Thursday, February 4, 2010
Location: Network Hub, 422 Richards St (3rd floor)
Networking: 6:00pm to 6:45pm
Introduction: 6:45 pm to 7:00pm
Panel Presentation: 7:00pm to 8:15pm
Apres party: 8:15 pm onwards

FEATURED PANELISTS

Steve Bocska

Steve is President of Pug Pharm Productions Inc., a company focusing on social networking online games. Steve is the past lead designer, producer, and executive producer at Disney Interactive, Black Box (E.A.), and Radical Entertainment respectively, and past-President and CEO of Hothead Games, winner of the Canadian New Media Association’s award for “Most Promising New Company of 2007”.

McElroy Flavelle

McElroy has been making games for 22 years. He is the CEO of Compass Engine, a company creating the tools and services that will allow developers to build the next generation of location based games.

Ian Clark

Ian runs RealSpace, a local interactive 3D studio that utilizes video game technology to train people. This can range from simulating life threatening situations to everyday tasks.

Victor Lucas

Victor is creator, executive producer and co-host of “The Electric Playground”, creator and executive producer of one of the world’s first High Definition videogame TV series “The Art of Play” for Gameplay HD, and creator and Emmy-winning executive producer and host of “GameTap News”. Over the years he’s worked with partners including Activision, Sega, Kojima Productions, Bethesda, Disney and Warner Brothers.

Mark Magnusson

Mark is a User Experience & Creative Consultant with Magnus Media. With a 15 year career in digital media, Mark has helped clients win awards from the World Media Festival, Popvox Awards and The Webbys.

MODERATOR

Eric Brooke is Principal of Friuch Consulting. With over 17 years of executive-level marketing and11 years of corporate leadership experience, including serving as Vision Critical’s past Vice-President of Marketing & Communications, Eric works with clients to develop strategy, facility innovation and build organizational infrastructure, teams and approaches that drive success. He has recently founded a new tech startup called Professional You with the intention of ridding the world of resumes.

EVENT SPONSORS

Agent Wildfire | Flip Video| Vitamin Water| Granville Island Brewery | Artisan Wine Company-Rigamarole Wine | Network Hub

Tickets can be brought at http://lokbpgetinthegame.eventbrite.com/

Read and Recommended (Jan 15)

Here are a couple of articles and a blog post that caught my attention over the past few weeks.

2010: The Year of Mobile

(Peter Kim’s blog) A year from now, we’re going to look back on what happened this year and declare that it was finally the “year of mobile.”

Social Media is the New Super Bowl: Pepsi Refresh and What It Means to Marketers

(The Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals) If you track Social Media news, I’m sure you saw the eye-catching headline: “Pepsi’s Big Gamble: Ditching Super Bowl for Social Media”. For the first time in 23 years–23 years!–the brand will not be purchasing a Super Bowl spot.  Instead, it is sinking $20M into a Social Media program called Pepsi Refresh. The Pepsi Refresh site will allow people to vote for worthwhile community projects, and Pepsi expects to sponsor thousands of local efforts via this program.

The #1 Problem Most Brands Have

(Mitch Joel’s blog, Six Pixels of Separation) It’s not about profit. It’s not about customer service. It’s not about inventory. It’s about consistency.

Looking Forward to 2010 and Beyond

This post is also published on the BCAMA marketline blog.

Ten years ago at this time, on New Year’s Eve 1999, there was a significant amount of uncertainty worldwide regarding potential computer failures. Ah yes, the infamous Y2K bug. It was also a time for reflection and anticipation, particularly given that it was not just the dawn of a new year, but also a new century.

It is amazing to look back and observe the innovation and changes that have occurred over the past ten years.

From a marketing standpoint, we have witnessed a number of things, including:

  • The rise of Google and the importance of search engine optimization. “You are what Google says you are”. Try typing in the name of your own brand, or heck even your own name, and see what you get. As many as 59% of online consumers now use search engines as a source of researching product information. How did I find that stat? Well, using Google, of course!
  • Media fragmentation. Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of available methods for communicating brand messages to target audiences. A recent global study revealed that, for the first time, the Internet is more popular medium than TV. Now, more than ever, companies need to figure out who their target market is, and determine the best methods for engaging them.
  • Social media. Some companies, such as Starbucks and Ford, have done a great job at leveraging social media to truly engage consumers, deepening relationships and enhancing loyalty. However, it seems that many companies and their respective agencies are still trying to grasp the power and potential strategic applications. See Motrin and Toyota. With countless blogs, and tens of millions of people using social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, social media is here to stay. Your customers are talking about you. Have you joined the conversation?
  • The long tail. Made possible by the Internet, and popularized by Chris Anderson in a 2004 Wired magazine article and his book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More”, companies such as Amazon have achieved success through a niche selling strategy of selling a large number of unique items in small quantities. This has resulted in some new marketing techniques, including the strategic use of word-of-mouth and viral marketing.
  • Mobile access and smartphones. Smartphone usage and WiFi access is increasing worldwide, and so is mobile commerce. Consequently, companies must consider optimizing their websites for mobile access. Opportunities also exist to develop marketing strategies involving mobile applications and augmented reality.

These are just a few highlights that came to mind, as you know there are scores of others.

As I write this, on New Year’s Eve 2009, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds for marketing and advertising. However, there is also significant opportunity for companies to thrive  – leveraging new mediums and technology to grow awareness for their brands, as well as engage and deepen relationships with consumers.

The computers did not stop working on January 1, 2000, and the sky is not falling right now. Far from it.

It will be interesting to see what the next ten years have in store. What are your predictions? Please feel free to share your thoughts here. It would also be great to hear your insights on the decade that just passed.

Wishing you all of the best for a successful and prosperous 2010.

Cheers,

Eric