You might have to fire your media rep

As some of you may already know, my media background prior to my current role was in radio. When I first got into the industry (working for the station I grew up listening to, might I add), I didn't know the rules of the game. I always thought the cardinal rule in media was to be where all the eyeballs / ears / etc are.

I was blindfolded by the university textbooks and marketing tomes I read in preparation for my new career. They always seemed to preach 'schedule' and 'position' and words that, at the time, made sense.

But as I learned more about the industry (advertising - not radio), I started to realize that they were wrong all along. Well, maybe not totally wrong, but a little misdirecting, to say the least.

Successful advertising isn't built on great airtime schedules, or premium positioning in the newspaper. Not a chance. Successful campaigns are built on one thing, and one thing only: what you say to your customer.

I ran a few campaigns in my early years that focused solely on where my clients' spots ran. I focused on getting those ears at the busy times of day - to and from work / home - and didn't pay enough attention to the finely crafted message that those ears were exposed to.

As my career evolved, it became clear where the true power of advertising lies - in the message.

I say this to all the business owners and marketing managers and the like reading this post: if your media rep (radio / TV / newspaper) is talking more about your schedule and how much money you're spending with his company than he is with the nuts and bolts of your creative message and the emotional benefits attached to it, then he / she should have some explaining to do.

He / she should be asking the hard-hitting questions about what makes your customer tick; what reasons they have inside their head when they buy from you; what kinds of results you expect to get out of a successful campaign; etc. If it's simply a discussion of rates and where your spots run, then get yourself a new rep because this one isn't going to help you at all.

I constantly go back to this example:

Run a schedule of poorly crafted spots during the busiest time of day on your local radio station, and nothing will happen. But try running your spots between 1.00am and 3.00am, with the following message:

"Tomorrow only, everything is free"

They'll be banging on your doors.

Try and tell me it's not about the message.


New and Improved. But certainly not different.

Have you ever walked down the aisle of your local supermarket and closely examined the labels of some of the packaged goods that you see before you?

It's a damn shouting match. They're all iterations of the same damn items, just repackaged and forced down our throats as the next best thing.

"New formula"

"Improved grease cutting"

All of these companies are setting a bad example for the businesses out there who are trying set themselves apart.

I read Seth's post today, and I just started nodding my head in agreement to what he was saying. A great quote:
"When you make something that works a little better, you're playing the same game, just keeping up with the status quo. When you make something different, on the other
hand, you're trying to change the game."

Go on. Live a little. Create a point of difference for your business; something that your competitors can't 'improve on' and call their own. Make it yours, make it significant, and make it worthwhile. Do that, and you'll be shouting all alone.

Au revoir, mes amis.



Community, a la BK

As I watched the season 5 finale of 24 last night (Jack's been captured by the Chinese government, by the way - here comes season 6), I was struck by the image / sound of a new foray into advertising by a long-term fixture in the marketing world.

My only question, while watching the telly, was whether it has the legitimacy to succeed.

I'm talking about Burger King's latest campaign that includes a page on MySpace.

I could be wrong, but I think that this is a new initiative for BK (aka the BK Lounge), and I wonder how well it's going to be received by those key members at MySpace.

Just a few weeks back, Jordan posted about California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides joining the MySpace phenomenon in an effort to 'reach out to the community.' There have been mixed reviews about this kind of thing - whether he's really engaging them in conversation; whether this is more of a positioning thing than a legitimate page; etc.

My question in this post is whether Burger King will be (a) welcomed with open arms to the MySpace community, (b) shunned with total disgust, or (c) passed over with complete indifference.

My take is dependent on what BK decides to do now that they're there. Open the conversational floodgates, and I say good on 'em. Stay static and fail to engage, and I say beat it.

How about you?



Extended Absence

Just a quick note to say that I'll be out of blogging range for a day or so, as I skip out of town on some business.

It's a damn shame that this new job is allowing me to fly to the warmth of the Okanagan and take in three days of golf. I almost don't want to go.

I can't say that with a straight face.

When I get back, I expect to see Nettwerks' execution of '100 CDs for 100 Bloggers' the headline at The Viral Garden.

See you in a few days.





Well, no more than you already are, I mean.

Here's the deal:

You're a small business. Every penny counts. You can't afford to spend your hard-earned money on every sugar-coated, flashy new marketing idea that comes your way. You do what you do, and you do it well.

But how can you still increase your business' bottom line without that extra marketing expense?
Instead of focusing your efforts on your external business, let's take a step back and look at things on an internal level.

Say on a daily basis, you get 10 people through the doors of your business. And say, of those 10 potential customers (I say potential because they have gone out of their way, on their own time, to stop in at your place of business, ready to spend), you and your able-bodied staff are able to convert two 'potentials' into actual customers.

And let's say that these two people each day represents the volume of your entire business.

Now consider this: you spend absolutely no extra money on additional external marketing resources, and simply dedicate your time, effort and abundant knowledge to those ten people per day that walk through your doors.

If you were able to convert just a single extra person, each day, from a 'potential' into an 'actual', your business volume would increase by 50%.

Seems almost too simple, doesn't it?

- R.



My bad.

Just realized that the e-mail subscription service to my blog has been disabled for, oh I don't know, the past two months.

Nice work Ashton.

The good news is, I caught it this evening and have remedied the situation. Which means that all 7 of my subscribers will now continue to receive my updated posts.

Go on. Tell your friends. Heck,
tell ten.




I'm also brainstorming for a new name for Command HQ... Ashton Media bores me.

Any suggestions, fire away.



So you'll see that things here at Ashton Media have changed. I've decided to give the look and feel of Command HQ a bit of a different spin. Besides, I had been having problems with my comments section lately (thanks in large part to my lack of knowledge of HTML coding), so I thought I'd fix it up. Make it easier for the masses to give their opinion, ya dig?

So anyway, I have a feeling that you'll see a few different test templates over the next few days / weeks, so don't be alarmed if you happen to show up and everything's blue or something like that. Do not adjust your television screen - everything is A-OK.

The important thing is that the content will be there, no matter what. Enjoy.


Marketing in Music : Part Deux

Over lunch I managed to take a look through the notes I took last night during the seminar at Nettwerk's office.

Not to take anything away from Jordan's stellar recap of the event, but there were a few other points that I just came across which I felt worthy of another go 'round.

Hence, this post.

As Jordan alluded to much of the conversation centred around the marketing of music from the artist's standpoint, and not the everyday marketer. That said, there were a few nuggets of goodness that I feel still apply to us in our everyday marketing duties. Let me know if you agree:

Carter Marshall handles the online / digital marketing for Nettwerk. He was posed a question by an audience member about how artists can use the internet as a tool for marketing their music. One of his responses was to the effect of this: "you have to become close friends with your fan base, and allow them to do the work for you. In essence, you want to create a fan for life."

Something inside me tells me that's something any company could use in their own activities. It's all about building evangelists, and developing that sense of pride so that your fans (read: customers) will feel proud to tell others.

Another panel member, Rich Adams, handles the PR initiatives for Nettwerk, and has moved up the ranks as a veritable expert in what he does for the company. He realizes the importance of a sense of community too: "If your buddy tells you it's a rad band, you'll check it out. You may not trust the article in The Rolling Stone, but you'll trust your buddy."

How awesome is that statement!?

And let's not forget Erin Kinghorn - Nettwerk's expert on sales & marketing. Through it all, she kept coming back to the same point: make it emotional, and really connect with your customer.

Regardless of what your business is - I think there are some valuable gems to take away from this.

Have a great weekend.


PS: I'm working on getting the audio / video from the seminar posted here, so stay tuned next week for your chance to live it all again.


Nettwerk Records: Marketing in Music Seminar

Well, I was going to spend a good part of this morning's coffee consumption period waxing poetic about my experience at Nettwerk's Marketing in Music seminar, held last night in their office on W2nd Avenue in Vancouver. It looks like Jordan beat me to the punch.

Instead of trying to improve on perfection, I'll simply point you over to his post. His explanation is succinct, his recounting accurate, and his looks model-like. The blogging trifecta, right there.

Mack & JD, sorry you couldn't be there, my friends. In retrospect, you probably would have grilled them like a sirloin on a George Foreman barbeque. I think Jordan and I were too nice to them.

Happy long weekend everyone. Get out there any enjoy this beautiful country.


Own Your Brand

I posted the other day about the sense of 'community' with your brand, and what it can mean to instilling a feeling of loyalty and passion about the products you sell and the company you operate. It's about extending the conversation beyond the four walls of your organization, and into the breath of the people that, in all truth, really make it run - the customer.

Mack happened to stop in and take a read, and felt compelled to 'tell a friend' (not ten, unfortunately, but I'm working on it) to stop by and have a read.

Enter Michael Wagner, of Own Your Brand. Michael was kind enough to stop by and give us (me) a little insight into the Saturn way of life. Here's what he wrote:
Mack directed me to your site.

I worked for Saturn for 3 years and it was an amazing experience. I got to see

- how to make a brand an operational reality (it takes hard work and courage)
- how to make idealism (different kind of car company) to the brand
- how to create loyalty like you describe.

In 1994 44,000 Saturn owners went to the first "Homecoming" event in Spring Hill. Amazing not just to me but to others in the industry that had never seen anyone want to see where their Taurus was made, let alone meet other Taurus owners.

People want more than a transaction, they want some sort of transformation. Great brands get that and know how to get past the simple "buying and selling".

Glad Mack introduced me to your site; thanks for extending the conversation!

"People want more than a transaction, they want some sort of transformation. Great brands get that and know how to get past the simple "buying and selling"."

Great point.


Be Community Minded

Although I haven't been doing as much posting as I'd have liked lately, I have been doing a lot of reading. And much of what I've read seems to have the same theme:

Creating a community.

Mack has said it a number of times. Musicians are starting to do it. I read an article on it just five minutes ago. And it was spoken to me loud a clear a few months ago in a book I read - The Culting of Brands (by Douglas Atkins).

It's not rocket science folks.

Create loyal evangelists for your company, and good things will happen.

Did you know that each year, Saturn invites their car owners to an 'owners only' Saturn picnic at one of their plants in Spring Hill, Tennessee? May sound funny, until you realize that thousands of car owners drive thousands of miles to simply 'hang out.' We're not talking a small group of Harley-Davidson riders, or enthusiastic Corvette nuts. We're talking about John and Joe Smith from Delaware who drive a Saturn Vue and take their kids to baseball practice on the weekend.

I'm not sure about you, but I'd almost kill to have that kind of loyalty for my brand.


Jordan and I will be attending the 'Marketing in Music' seminar at Nettwerk Records on Thursday evening. There are sure to be posts to follow, and I'm sure Mack (along with many others) will be eager to learn what Erin and Terry have to say about the long term plans for the industry from a marketing perspective.

So stay tuned.


Going Long

There's something to be said for longevity.

Case and point is right here:

Last year, these five music groups / artists each grossed in excess of $50 million:

The Rolling Stones
The Eagles
Elton John
Paul McCartney
A sure sign of the long trail.
I don't see any 'flash-in-the-pan' acts in that list, do you?
Like Seth says, "we're so busy celebrating the hit of the moment that we forget that the real profit often comes from the long trail." It's taking the time to invest in your product like you actually believe that it will still be around ten years from now.
How many of you have succumbed to the 'get rich quick' mentality, seeking the quick fix that does nothing to establish your business over the long run? Have you regretted it?
Treat your business like you're raising your own child. Invest in it. Nurture it. Prepare it for a long and healthy life.
You want your children to be around for more than 10 years don't you? Why not your business, too?


Visions 2006

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to have attended the Vision 2006 Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver. The conference is an annual affair put on by the BC chapter of the AMA, and this year's theme was the topic of Visionary Leadership.

I haven't been to many of these all-day conferences, so this was a good chance to really soak up some of the information from what I expected to be a laundry list of top-notch speakers and industry professionals.

Arriving at the hotel at 7:30am Friday morning, I was greeted by some smiling faces and tables full of pastries and baked goods (you know how it is at these things). I elbowed my way over to the coffee table, where I discovered the list of speakers that were planned for the day:

1. Doug Lipp Former Chief, Disney Studio's Walt Disney University
2. John Furlong CEO, Vancouver 2010
3. Max Valiquette President, Youthography
4. Michael Kerr Big Kahuna, Humour at Work Institute
5. Janet Kestin Co-CCO, Ogilvy & Mather
Sharon McLeod Marketing Manager, Dove Masterbrand, Unilever Canada
6. Vince Engel Partner & Executive Creative Director, Buder Engel & Friends

A pretty exhaustive list of professionals, if you ask me. I was particularly keen on hearing a couple of these people speak, particularly John Furlong of Vancouver's Olympic Committee, and Max Valiquette, the President of Youthography, who was going to be speaking on youth marketing trends and the impact that they will have on our industry.

The presentation put on by Max Valiquette was probably the most worthwhile of the entire day. His focus on youth and their ever-changing shift in buying trends was a good confirmation of some of the work many of us have been doing over the past number of years in attempting to reach this segment of the population.

Max's presentation focused on two key topics: Intregration Culture and Hedonormalization.

Integration Culture refers to the blending of interests among various profiles in a specific consumer group. Basically, what Max says is that the lines are blurring in terms of being able to specifically identify and target a group. He cites examples in music, specifically, where you see this starting to happen - Linkin Park and Jay-Z collaborating on a duet, joined by Mr Beatle himself Paul McCartney; whiteboy Eminem becoming the world's most prolific rap star; Kelly Clarkson concerts being attended by both mothers and daughters at the same time.

His other topic, Hedonormalization (yes, this is the new marketing term. Use it in your marketing efforts, your blogs, everywhere. Just make sure you credit Max and myself) was one I found to be of interest.

Today's youths no longer view certain topics as 'taboo' as previous groups once had. Sex is now mainstream, thanks to TV programs like 'The L Word' and 'Sex and the City'; remember Beverly Hills 90210? They were all virgins in their last years of high school. Now take a look at today's 90210 - The OC. At the same age, none of the characters are virgins; a television show that has the central character as a mom who deals marijuana.

Hedonormalization is this viewable shift in previously underground topics becoming more 'normal' and more mainstream (kinda like the Philips Bodygroom spot I found the other day, actually).

With all these changes in such a large buying group, how do businesses stay on top and ensure that they're not missing out? We all know these kids aren't stupid, so you can't fool them. So now you have to identify with them. Join their community. Engage them and understand them.

There are so many choices available nowadays, if you're not important enough to their current (and rapidly changing, let's not forget) interest, then they'll just look right past you.


A Community of 60 Million

So the population of China currently sits at about 1.3 billion people, give or take a few (note the sarcasm). I don't think I have to actually spell it out for you in terms of what this might mean from a marketing and business opportunity standpoint (do I?). The sheer numbers should speak for themselves, and businesses that operate on a multi-market scale should take note.

A statistic that caught my eye today, thanks to his Bloginess, Steve Rubel, was this figure:

60 million

That's the total number of bloggers expected to be active in China by the end of this year. That would put China at number two on the charts, right behind the good ol' US of A (110 million).

I'd say it's just a matter of time before this 60 million turns to 120 million, and keeps going.

So what kind of impact is that going to have on the blogosphere as we know it?

First of all, I think it means that we're going to have to adjust how we all engage the community in conversation, as there is going to be a whole new set of influencers out there, with different standards, different values, and a different way of life.

But who will adapt the quickest?


Mindbomb your Customer

About 30 years ago, a revolution began. It all started with an idea, or should I say, ideal, about the way people were handling the earth.

From its humble beginnings in the suburb of Kitsilano in Vancouver, a movement started. A seed of idealism that soon grew to a global phenomenon with media coverage around the world.

No one within the organization was prepared for the growth and support that followed from this simple idea of changing the world, one mental image at a time.

The entity I'm referring to is Greenpeace. And the foundation of their movement was the effective use of a term called mindbombing. A mindbomb is defined as "consciousness-changing sounds and images to blast around the world in the guise of news." This notion helped put Greenpeace on the map and, in my humble opinion, caused a ripple of one of the largest WOM initiatives ever.

Greenpeace's first attempt at creating a powerful enough message and image was on September 15, 1971. 12 rag-tag activists set sail in a rusting fishing boat they called "The Greenpeace." They boldly stood up to the world's largest military superpower, by sailing directly into the 'no-go' zone of an atmospheric test of an atomic bomb. This marked the start of a wave of public support and protest, and created a new force for environmental and peace activism which continues to this day.

From a fundamental marketing standpoint, these mindbombs were pure genius. Global support and the eventual end of atmospheric atomic testing around the world.

I'm not saying you have to change the world, but you're doing what you do for a reason, right? Take stock of your business. Where do you want to make a difference? What's the mindbomb that you want to drop?

- Ryan

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has

- Margaret Mead -


Marketing is Perception

I've always said that it's all about perception. How people view you and your products. Tell them a story enough times, and pretty soon that's what you become known for.

And that also holds true in other areas too, let's not forget.

And by other areas, I mean 'down there' of course.

The adult film industry (read: porn) has been showing us for years, and now Philips / Norelco are promoting the 'optical inch' in a new online ad for their new Bodygroom razor.

You can view the online spot here.

Nice bathrobe, pal.


RSS Appreciation Day

A couple of weeks back, I wrote of RSS and how it's used. Well, today is unofficially the official 'RSS Appreciation Day' around the world.

In honor of that, his Blogginess, Steve Rubel has drafted up a quick 'how-to' guide on setting up an RSS feed using Google. It's quick, it's easy, and it works. Just the way things should be.

All hail RSS.

- Ryan

PS: See, I said I'd be back. With a vengeance too, might I add.


Pizza Pies anyone?


A couple of weeks have passed since my last post, as I've barely had a chance to breathe over that time. To give you a bit of background, I had interviewed for a marketing position a number of weeks back. Well, as luck would have it, I got the job, and am now starting week number two in my role as Regional Marketing Manager of Western Canada for Boston Pizza. What that officially means, I have yet to truly find out.

BP (as it's known here), is a market leader in the casual dining concept, with locations from coast to coast in Canada (and growing by the day) and the US. My role is two-fold: (1) to help local store owners (they're all franchised) build their door business within their immediate trading area, and (2) help our national marketing department carry out their larger-scoped projects on a macro level. Pretty heady stuff, so far. Just starting to get a grasp on things now, having been out to Smithers and Terrace last week to meet a few of the franchisees.

Not only that, but I bought a damn house. Not sure how I pulled it off, but someone out there well and truly believes that I'll be holding this job down for long enough to pay for this thing three times over. Very kind of them.

So enough of the personal schtuff.

In my latest absence, I'll be honest and say that I haven't had a lot of time to focus on the content of my next post. That means today's rant is nothing more than a reference to some quality work out there on the blogosphere. Soon enough I'll have my own great work for others to link back to me for, but at the moment I'm simply going to redirect. But fear not, for now that I'm back in action there is sure to be more on its way.

What I will touch on here today is something that makes more and more sense the more often I hear it. It's not about knowing your customer, it's about understanding them. Mack has been bringing this topic to life a lot lately, and I think it's time I rang in on the subject.

Mack's example of Kit Kat in Japan spans cultural barriers, which makes this example even more monumental. But even on a smaller scale - within your own backyard even - it's still crucial to pay attention to understanding your customer.

I'll be back soon.

- Ryan