The In-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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Building a Sustainable Brand Community

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 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

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.

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Lululemon 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

Promoters of the Unnecessary

Have you ever wondered where you can find bandaids with witty Shakespearean insults printed on them or a tongue cover that will help you swallow your pills or thumbtacks in the shape of thumbs. I suspect that these items do not appear on Wall-Mounted-T-Rex-Head-Hunter's-Trophy-2_sqyour shopping list nor would you even expect they exist.

In this world of needs and wants, these items are in their own league. They are things that we could not even dream of requiring and practically we don’t. I cannot imagine thousands of people demanded that a company produce a large T-Rex replica dinosaur trophy head to hang on a wall.

Getting ahead of the consumer has always existed in business. When asked how much research played a role in the launch of the iPad, Steve Jobs cooly replied, “None. It isn’t the consumers job to know what they want.” Of course, there big is a difference between the iPad and a designer chair shaped like female genitalia (yes, it exists). Read more

Jeff Talks Blackberry

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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You Had Me At Gin

I appreciate cool packaging but in the case of liquor am usually quite happy just with the liquid.

BOMBAY-SAPPHIRE_Electro_MediumNow Bombay Sapphire is being distributed a “The Electro Global Travel Retail pack”, a limited edition gift pack using electroluminescence. Electroluminescent ink is used to light up the Bombay Sapphire design, accentuating the motto, “Infused with Imagination”.

The current is conducted from the battery on the base of the pack which uses a hidden mechanical switch to activate it. When the package is picked up, the current runs through the various pathways illuminating them sequentially thereby creating a cascading effect. Each cycle of animation is 18 seconds long at which point the sequence stops until activated again.