You are Invited to a Meeting on the Effectiveness of Meetings

A client of mine, a Chief Marketing Officer at a consumer products company, recently shared an astonishing figure. His month of November was booked with over 120 hours of meetings by October 20th. He flashed me his Outlook calendar for the month and it was filled with bright lines and boxes. This should not be surprising given 11 million formal meetings take place each day in the United States. That is more than four billion a year according to a University of Arizona study.

Weirdly, stupidly, and hopefully not irreversibly, meetings are now synonymous with real work. So many meetings are now held that employees complain they get their work done after business hours and also lie and block their calendars to avoid the mass of invitations.

“Meetings are the most universal — and universally despised — part of business life.” Fast Company Magazine

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The Sanctity of the Bookstore

We have a soft spot for bookstore marketing and advertising. Perhaps because they are becoming an endangered species. Here are two campaigns from Barnes & Noble. The first one, which we prefer, leverages the fact that one can get lost in a book. The second attempts to address the sanctity and benefits of the physical bookstore but is less resonant.

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Brand as Religion

Years ago a study was released proving that children recognized brand logos more so than symbols of century-old religions. The McDonalds’ Golden Arches was called out more readily than the Christian cross. This made for great fodder in the press at the time with many pundits decrying the shameful state of civilization but the dismay was short-lived.

Religion of all stripes and types are horribly outspent from a media perspective by big brands and, in the case of fast food, the fervent will visit a Burger King or KFC much more often than the occasional Sunday service. Churches, 234-ronald-mcdonalds-waisynagogues and mosques have been outnumbered for decades.

Branding has always been about belonging to a club. Brands provide a vessel of perceived shared values and a homogeneity that our tribal natures desire. To put this in context I often joke about the skateboarder and snowboarder tribes asking ‘Why do they all dress the same?’ The sarcastic but accurate answer is, ‘To be different’.

In the past few years I have been exposed to the Ironman phenomena. These grueling contests see participants swim 2.4-miles (3.86 km), bike 112-miles (180.25 km) and run a 26.2-mile marathon (42.2 km). Mont Tremblant, Quebec, where I make my home, has begun hosting Ironman events making a name for itself as a mecca for triathletes (note my deliberate use of “mecca”). The area has now held several Ironmen including the North American Championship in 2014.

My wife and I have volunteered to help out several times serving as security, banquet server, and bike course monitors. We have also been happy to cheer on the sweaty competitors before we retire to our deck for a triathlon of cocktails. In all seriousness, our catbird seat has allowed for some interesting observations about Ironman or what I term an “event and achievement brand”.

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The Future of Pinterest

Sparksheet is a publication that provides “Good ideas about content, media and marketing”.

Pinterest’s unique user base and e-commerce potential means brands and investors are lining up to spend. And that’s why audience retention matters more than ever, writes brand consultant Jeff Swystun.

In May of this year, Pinterest raised another U.S. $200 million, putting the value of the social network at U.S. $5 billion. Smarter minds than mine have arrived at these numbers but it got me thinking about Pinterest’s efforts in customer engagement, retention and loyalty. It is one thing to create hype and acquire users, but it’s an entirely different challenge to keep those people coming back.

The shopping catalogue of social networks

Pinterest investors are attracted to, among other things, the network’s e-commerce and m-commerce potential. At this point, the platform’s key metrics are all trending in the right direction:

70 million: users
750 million: user boards (where people ‘Pin’ their stuff)
30 billion: individual Pins (pieces of content)
14.2 minutes: average Pinterest visit time
98 minutes: average Pinterest user time per month
23%: percentage of users who frequent the site at least once per day
18%: percentage of users with income over U.S. $75,000

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The Advantage of Critical Thinking

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Jeff argues that there is too much me-too marketing.

Jeff spoke at the Canadian Marketing Association’s 2014 National Convention and the presentation is now a paper. Download it here SC_SpeedKills_Paper_web. Tweets from audience members capture reaction to the content.

“A welcome call for a return to critical thinking in marketing.” Josephine Coombe

“@jeffswystun rockin it at #cmac says the ‘vast majority of businesses are mediocre’ and the pink shirt is fab!” Andrew Simon

“The majority of brands out there are mediocre. That’s why the same brands get celebrated over and over.” Kelly Mack

“It is not about speed, it is about better!” Douglas Foley

“Behind every concept, idea & challenge there is complexity. We lose the magic every time we over simplify.” Gabrielle James

“A deflated and dispirited employee base will never build anything great.” Allison Fraser

“#cmanc @jeffswystun Hallelujah! Simple and faster is not necessarily better. “Slow down to speed up”.” Brian Etking

“Thanks @jeffswystun we could not be happier at the response to your talk.” Canadian Marketing Association

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Jeff Keynotes in China

Jeff was honoured to be one of two keynote speakers at the Tsinghua University Design Symposium. He joined Paul Gardien, Vice President of Philips Design along with other great speakers. This is the preeminent design event in China and is held every two years. This time it was in Shenzhen. In preparation for the symposium, the organizers posed four questions to Jeff.

How do you see the conference theme of “design-driven innovation”?

This is a highly relevant and exciting theme. The way I interpret it is good design is the result of observing and serving the needs and wants of consumers. True innovation results when a product or service makes people’s lives easier, more fulfilling and interesting. Even the best marketer in the world cannot help a poor product because the more attention brought to it, the quicker it will fail. Read more

Eminently Quotable

These quotes carry amazing lessons…

“Advertising is a craft executed by people who aspire to be artists, but is assessed by those who aspire to be scientists. I cannot imagine any human relationship more perfectly designed to produce total mayhem.” John Ward

“Advertising did not invent the products or services which called forth jobs, nor inspire the pioneering courage that built factories and machinery to produce them. What advertising did was to stimulate ambition and desire – the craving to process, which is the strongest incentive to produce. Mass production made possible mass economies, reflected in declining prices, until the product that began as the luxury of the rich became the possession of every family that was willing to work.” Bruce Barton

Prada

“It used to be that people needed products to survive. Now products need people to survive.” Nicholas Johnson

“In marketing there are those who satisfy needs and those who create wants.” Juan Carlos Castillo

“The talent for discovering the unique and marketable characteristics of a product and service is a designer’s most valuable asset.” Primo Angeli

“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” Robert Wieder

Clutter

“Genuine ignorance is profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity and open-mindedness; whereas ability to repeat catch phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish waterproof to new ideas.” John Dewey

“Strategy is not a lengthy action plan – it is the evolution of a central idea through continually changing circumstances.” Von Clausewitz

“We tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing inefficiency and demoralization.” Petronious

“The universal current conviction that one deserves better, that one is employed beneath one’s station. Everyone dreaming of the higher job he or she has so richly merited, while botching the one he is lucky to have. And as the waiter dreams his dream of upward mobility, he spills the soup downward into your lap.” John Simon

Tie

 

Did You Watch That New Book?

The publishing industry continues to grow and more people are reading more often. Two trade groups, the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, compiled a recent survey called BookStats. The survey revealed that e-books now account for 20% of publishers’ revenues. That is both impressive and not surprising.

The concern that e-books would doom print has largely abated. Besides, the real issue is the extent to which we are all reading not the device on which our books reside. To me, any uptick in the activity is positive. Reading entertains, informs, and educates. It spirits us away, challenges our conventions and exposes us to new ideas. It allows us to travel and experience so much without leaving our favorite chair. Read more

Sheerly You’re Joking

Losing $67 million on a massive recall of one of your signature products is serious business. More sheer than normal products, dye leaking from some of the brightly colored pieces and other quality issues are undeniably serious.

So Lululemon Athletica Inc. has responded very seriously. Chief product officer Sheree Waterson has been let go. The company apologized to customers and investors. It changed its manufacturing and quality control processes.downwarddog-300

In short, it responded like it’s Tylenol or Toyota.

But it is not. Lululemon is a yoga lifestyle brand. Inherent in that is some degree of brevity and lightheartedness. I understand that its mission is tied to health and wellness and that it is a significant business, but let’s face it, it’s not a pharmaceutical company. Read more

Jeff on CBC Radio

RIM, Reinvention & Canadian Pride

Jeff joined the national CBC Radio program The Current with host Anna Maria Tremonte and fellow guest Tamsin McMahon, an Associate Editor at Macleans Magazine to discuss the Blackberry Brand.

Hear the interview and checkout all the coverage here…CBC/Blackberry.

Jeff thanks the CBC, Anna Maria, Idella, Vanessa, Jessica, and Tamsin for the great experience. And best of luck to Blackberry in what will be one of the more fascinating business and brand stories of the year.

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