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October 2007

Business Is A Stage: How Hollywood Icons Can Inspire Business Leaders

2387_2When B. Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore wrote their groundbreaking book called "The Experience Economy," they concluded that "Work is Theatre - and Every Business a Stage."

It's easy to draw comparisons between the worlds of business and entertainment, and the challenges and successes faced by the Hollywood elite are often similar to those faced by executives and other players in the business world.

Here are some quotes from leading Hollywood icons taken from a book called "Inspirational Hollywood" by Ronald Warren Deutsch. See if you can draw similarities to challenges faced by business leaders today, and apply their advice to solving these challenges.

1) Sir Laurence Olivier (on connecting with your audience) - "If you can reveal to an audience what lies within them, you can be as important as a philosopher, a psychiatrist, a doctor, a minister or whatever. You have to feel and love not only your own role - or some element of it - but also feel and love the audience. Sounds sentimental, I'm afraid, but there you have it."

2) John Wayne (on perspective) - "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we learned something from yesterday."

3) Katharine Hepburn (on attitude and life) - "Life can be wildly tragic at times, and I've had my share. But whatever happens to you, you have to keep a slightly comic attitude. In the final analysis, you have got not to forget to laugh."

4) Louis B. Mayer (on work strategy) - "You know why I'm smart? I got people around me who know more than I do."

5) Samuel Goldwyn (on how to do things) - "I don't want yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs."

Who are your favourite Hollywood icons, and what could they have taught you about life - or about how to run a business? Do you think that the business world contains elements traditionally found in theatre or moviemaking?

Canon Canada Launches Campaign to Highlight Human Side of Technology

Canon_2Canon Canada has launched an innovative new print campaign called "Tell Your Story," which focuses on how the company's home and business products are being used by everyday Canadians.

The campaign features two print ads that use a series of photographs to tell a story. One ad highlights the highly successful story of Canada's The Running Room, while the other features a boy's first experience with a snowball. Future ads are now in the design and development phase.

In an article posted in the October 26 issue of Marketing Daily, Wayne Doyle, Senior Manager Corporate Communications for Canon Canada, is quoted as saying, "A lot of people equate technology companies with the technology they make. They tend to forget that the other side of the technology coin is the human component... Humans use these products to tell their stories, so we thought this campaign was a great way to build that bridge for people.”

The company plans to launch a microsite next year where consumers can tell their own stories by downloading photos to the web. Products and prizes will be awarded every month to consumers whose stories garner the most votes for "Story of the Month."

Valeria Maltoni, in a recent post on her blog Conversation Agent, looked at the implications between story and technology while shopping in an Apple store. She said that the consumer connection happens before people even set foot in the store - it happens "as people's stories come alive in their imagination thanks to Apple products." According to Maltoni, the staff was there to assist you in completing your story, not to tell you theirs.

The relationship between technology and its human component is a strong one, and an area that promises to be of increasing interest to marketers in the future. Competition for technology is fierce, and companies who relate to consumers on a human level will create a better bond with their markets.

What experiences have you had while using technology? Do you think that by emphasizing the human component, companies will be able to better differentiate themselves and establish deeper relationships with the customer? Does storytelling have a place in consumer product marketing - why or why not?

What Business Could Learn from Yoga

643845694_theme_yogaI'm the last person in the world who thought that I would enjoy yoga. My sports were of the more "extreme" variety - competitive downhill ski racing, slalom skateboard racing, horseback riding, biking and roller blading. When it was suggested to me that I try yoga as another means of physical and mental activity, I have to admit I was skeptical.

One year later, I'm still enjoying yoga and am looking forward to more advanced classes. Yoga is fun, and reminds me of my early days in school - when it was OK to experiment and play a little.

The more I practice yoga, the more I realize that its key principles and benefits can be adapted to the business world. Here are some of my key insights:

1) Sometimes, when things aren't going as planned, you have to sit still for a moment to figure it out. When things get chaotic, the answers can sometimes be found in stillness. Stop, regroup, re-strategize - and take a moment to breathe. Things always have a way of working out in the end.

2) At times, you just have to turn everything you know on its head. Success and advancement don't come by doing the same things the same old way. To be innovative and creative, you have to take the time to look at things a little differently. You might gain a new perspective on the world by seeing things from another angle.

3) It never hurts to have a little support. To succeed in business and in life, we all need support. Whether it's from a trusted friend or business mentor, that extra little push may be all we need to get to the next milestone.

Do you practice a sport or activity that has helped you succeed in business? How has exercise helped you grow as an individual? What are the physical and mental benefits of playing sports?

Author J.K. Rowling Brings Dumbledore Out of the Closet

_41181987_dumbledore203Hold your now everyone knows about J.K. Rowling's shocking announcement at Carnegie Hall last week that Hogwarts School Headmaster Dumbledore is gay. According to a BBC News report, Rowling was quoted as saying that she regarded her novels as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority".

As a Harry Potter fan, I have to admit that my first response was really "so what?" As a now famous author, people were reading her books and debating the question anyway, but it wasn't until now that the issue was brought out into the open.

Was the revelation merely a by-product of the work of this literary genius, or was this a brilliant marketing ploy designed to stir controversy and sell more books?

Either way, it still baffles me that the "outing" made front page headlines around the world. With everything else going on in the world, how is it possible that a fictional character can draw such global media attention?

Witness the power of the brand in the arts and entertainment world. The Potter brand has not only earned Rowling a prime spot in the extremely competitive world of literature, it has also made her very rich (way to go J.K!)

In an article in Scientific American, John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Disney Animation Studios once said that "an animator is just that special kind of talented actor who can make us believe that a collection of coloured polygons has heart, gets angry and outfoxes the coyote."

As long as millions of fans all over the world are so mentally and emotionally engaged with a fictional character, statements such as Rowling's will continue to gain international media attention. Not bad for a character that only exists in our imagination.

Do you think Rowling's revelation was meant to stir controversy, or was she merely answering a question from a devoted fan?

Either way, it's still brilliant marketing.


Jerry Seinfeld Promotes Bits and Bees for HP


Jerry Seinfeld bares his computer in a new ad for HP. Strategically placed on the HP homepage, the ad invites viewers to have a glance into what's on his laptop. Seinfeld is asking viewers to vote on a selection of funny videos using the downloadable toolbar StumbleUpon. Viewers can have their say into whether or not a video is funny, not funny - or whether they should just move on to the next clip.

The ad is highly intriguing and effective for several reasons:

1) It offers details into Seinfeld's notebook of choice - the HP Pavilion dv6500 along with a call to action (a link to purchase the product)

2) It gives viewers the impression that they are participating in his career decisions

3) It offers a link to Seinfeld's hilarious HP TV commercial

4) It offers a direct tie-in and link to his new film - Bee Movie with a free downloadable Bee Movie gadget

5) It's pretty funny - you can't help but smile when you see these clips

Using interactive techniques such as these designed to encourage audience participation is a highly effective form of advertising, and highlights the entertainment potential of advertising in the online space. The fact that the ad ties into so many different mediums only increases its effectiveness and likeability. The use of humour makes the ad human, and personalizes the experience. We start to think that we may actually have input into the decisions that Seinfeld makes on the comedy stage.

So..fellow Seinfeld fans...what do you say - a little HP for you? Do you think that this ad will encourage potential buyers to purchase HP?

Grey Goose Vodka Pairs Entertainment with Innovative Content and Creative Storytelling

Icono_216x138_2The November 2007 issue of Vanity Fair features a special foldout advertising section that is hard to miss. Strategically placed so that the magazine practically unfolds to the ad, the section is a unique blend of marketing, entertainment, advertising and creative storytelling.

The ad features highlights from Season 3 of Grey Goose Entertainment and Sundance Channels innovative series "Iconoclasts." The vodka's pairing with Robert Redford's Sundance Channel offers a peek into the thoughts of leading innovators and creators as they discuss their passions and insights through story.

The tagline of the series - "Change the way you see celebrity" offers remarkable insights into how celebrities from all walks of life have managed to make an impact on the world through the strength of their creative vision.

Highlights from Season 3 include features on: Sean Penn and Jon Krakauer on their latest project Into the WildHoward Schultz and Norman Lear as they reflect on their professional lives and philanthropic endeavours, Mike Myers and Deepak Chopra on the role that humour plays in creative transformation and Madeleine Albright and Ashley Judd as they demonstrate their shared commitment to global causes and show us how their fierce independence has contributed to their success.

The advertisement is extremely effective for several reasons:

1) The foldout ad was strategically placed in the front 1/3 of the magazine, making it hard to miss

2) The design of the ad is appealing as it features shots of the celebrities with a small description of each episode beneath the photos and corresponding web addresses

3) Grey Goose's use of storytelling as an advertising technique sold me, and I was intrigued enough to go to the series website and click into videos offering brief synopsis' of upcoming episodes

4) As a reader, I felt engaged and wanted to become part of the(ir) story

5) As a fan of Into the Wild and Krakauer novels, the ad spoke to me and the website offered an opportunity to learn more about the adventure in an interactive way

6) Episode summaries offer readers a "call to action" as there are links to purchase products associated with the celebrities

In your experience, what makes an ad stand out amongst all the clutter? What does it take to get you to learn more about a company's product or service? Can you think of any other campaigns that have engaged you as a reader and consumer?

CEO's Shine at 2007 Canadian Business Leadership Forum


I was downtown yesterday attending the 2007 Canadian Business Leadership Forum. The forum featured insights from some of Canada's top business leaders, as well as a panel discussion of the 2007 All-Star Execs hosted by the editor of Canadian Business Magazine - Joe Chidley.

The general theme was "Creating Competitive Advantage", and each speaker gave us tips on how they are helping their companies stay on top of their competitive game.

Here is a quick summary of the highlights of each speech:

1) Martin Parker - Managing Director, Waterstone Human Capital - "How Corporate Culture Impacts Competitive Advantage"

  • The definition of corporate culture is "It's how things are done around here"
  • "We're in a war for talent - there's a growing scarcity of human capital in Canada"
  • Companies have to create an employer brand based on an employee value proposition
  • When companies hire, they are looking for "fit" (ie. which behaviours will work in our organization?)
  • Companies should get out of behavioural interviewing (often they are merely a performance) and get into business planning style interviews to give employers an idea as to how potential candidates THINK

2) Louie Mele - President, McDonald's Canada - "Keeping the Golden Arches Shining"

  • One reason that McDonald's failed in some cases with new product introduction is that we "took our eyes off our fries"
  • Three of the key elements of competitive advantage are: principles, business models and innovations
  • We build our business model on the principle of the 3 legged stool (Ray Kroc)...customers, suppliers and franchisors. If one leg fails, the whole stool falls down
  • "We operate a global brand in a local way"
  • Our brand mission is to be "our customers favourite place and way to eat"

3) W. Brett Wilson - Managing Director and Chairman, FirstEnergy Capital Corp. - "Partnerships, Priorities and Prairie Ethics: A Survival Guide For Success in Business and in Life"

  • "We partner with people, not assets"
  • You could describe our company as somewhat maverick with a lot of attitude
  • "We all ride for the brand"
  • Giving back and creating a legacy are very important (on the subject of charity work)
  • "Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to make changes in your life"

4) Kevin Dougherty - President, Sun Life Financial Canada - "Competitive Advantage in Financial Services"

  • "Competition for resources and glory can kill an idea in a large corporation"
  • You have to "shift the path of competition in your favour"
  • Business strategies should be cross-competitive

5) Doug Cooper - Country Manager, Intel Canada - "Leading in the Knowledge Economy"

  • On the subject of corporate blogs..."sometimes you just have to let the conversation happen"
  • "Engagement goes up dramatically when you allow your customers to talk to you"
  • "There's a shift from Assets to Values" (ie. from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0)
  • Web 2.0 is a commitment to participate - it encourages conversation across silos in an organization

6) Bill Buxton - Principal Researcher, Microsoft Corp. (author of "Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design") - "Great Ideas Are A Dime a Dozen. It's What You Do With Them That Counts."

  • A recent Conference Board of Canada report gave Canada a "D" in the area of innovation
  • We don't know how to communicate good ideas
  • We are taking all the play and creativity out of kids and then wonder why they're not entrepreneurs
  • "Safe and reliable" is the most dangerous thing you can do - it leads to certain death
  • Design is choice, and creativity can be brought to alternatives and to the heuristics of choice
  • Quote from Alan Kay - "It takes almost as much creativity to understand a good idea as it does to have it in the first place"
  • Innovation is an extreme sport, and involves the right: skills, tools, fitness and partners (just like in mountain climbing)
  • The stuff that will make a difference in the future is already 10 years old

How do you create competitive advantage in your company? How do you foster and encourage innovation and creativity?


BRAND Springsteen

Magic_648_3If a brand could be represented by an artist and his music, then its essence would be Bruce Springsteen.

Springsteen and the E Street Band rocked the Air Canada Centre on Monday night to a full house of more than 20,000 screaming fans. To the non-fan, the response might be..."so what!"

As a lifetime fan and businessperson, what I saw in Bruce that night was more than an ode to the artist and his band, it was an experience of the BRAND.

If we look at the elements that make up a brand, Springsteen represents all of them. A brand:

1) Is timeless

2) Tells a story

3) Connects to the consumer in rational and emotional ways

The experience of being in a concert venue with 20,000 fans singing every lyric in unison is inexplicable. It's pure magic. For almost 3 hours, every person in that room was involved in some sort of communal experience that brought us back to the days of our youth - then, as soon as it was over - threw us right back into the present.

Bruce - we salute you. Thank you for making it real. And yes, Bruce - as do you, we too believe in the Promised Land. 

Thinking About Change? Consider the Art of Possibility!

Cover_smAs the owner of a small business, I find that I'm always taking time out to source new opportunities. Too often, we get stuck in a cycle of the "same old same old" efforts, that result in the "same old" kind of results. To get different results, we have to acquire a new kind of thinking.

In the National Bestseller "The Art of Possibility", Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander outline strategies that can help change the way you think. They open our mind to new possibilities in life, and encourage us to take a second look at outdated models and assumptions that may have outlived their usefulness.

As conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Ben has encouraged people to embrace the extraordinary, and uses storytelling to get his views across. Roz engages in The Art of Possibility from the perspective of a painter and writer, and helps people set the framework that enables their success.

The book is different from most "self help" books in one major way. It asks us to look beyond the obvious, as a way of figuring out why we're at the place we're at. A few catchphrases from the book include: "It's all invented" ("All of life comes to us in narrative form, it's a story we tell"), "Stepping Into A Universe of Possibilities" ("In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold"), and "Giving an A" ("We can replace the narratives that hold us back by inventing wiser stories, free from childish fears, and, in doing so, disperse long held psychological stumbling blocks").

A common thread throughout the book is the implication that we write (and live) our own stories. By changing the narrative, we can rewrite our story and get the results we strive for in life. The authors also imply that a lot of our unhappiness comes from the way we "assume" things work. By revisiting our assumptions, we can build a better model that suits our interests at the time. How many times do we base our decisions on assumptions that might not even be true?

As you strive to re-invent your business, consider The Art of Possibility. Look beyond the obvious. To quote the Zanders:

"Look around. This day, these people in your life, a baby's cry, an upcoming meeting - suddenly they seem neither good nor bad. They shine forth brilliantly as they are. Awake restored! the dream revived."

Starbucks Wants You To Put A Little iTune in Your Latte

Promo_pumpkinlatteLast month, Starbucks announced a deal with Apple that would give customers the opportunity to access music from iTunes and download songs directly onto their portable devices. The iTunes Wi-Fi music store lets iPhone, iPod Touch or laptop users (with iTunes capability) access music anytime their device is within range of a Starbucks wireless network signal. The Starbucks icon pops up on the devices giving the user the capability of purchasing music in digital format.

In a recent article in Marketing Magazine, Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz is quoted as saying "Introducing this new service is a natural extension of our music strategy, which only enhances the retail coffee experience for customers by helping them discover and acquire new music instantly." To promote the new wireless services, Starbucks is giving away 50 million free digital songs in all U.S. stores (apparently there was no comment on any Canadian plans for the service).

The introduction of the wireless music service is Starbucks second venture to try and change the face of music retailing. This spring, the company created its own record label and signed up Paul McCartney as its opening act. Joni Mitchell is the second major artist to be featured in the deal.

In Canada, music retailer HMV Canada's President Humphrey Kadaner agrees that digital sales are going up, but claims that "almost 90% of the Canadian music market still prefers buying CDs to digital music." The company continues to build revenues as a retailer for DVD's and videogames, and claims that HMV is "becoming a multi-channel entertainment retailer, albeit with music as our core DNA."

The whole area of music marketing seems to be at a crossroads. Some music lovers still enjoy the experience of buying and listening to a CD, while others prefer the ease and instant gratification of digital downloads.

Which type of music buyer are you - traditional or digital? Do you still enjoy the experience of wandering around a music store looking for your favourite artist - or do you take the "surf and purchase" approach to enjoying your music?

The next time you walk into a Starbucks store, will the option to buy music on the iTunes Wi-Fi store encourage you to download a tune or two with your latte?