Friday, October 31, 2008

Simon Said What?

Think of the last time you came face-to-face with a real, live rock star.

If that's happened to you, its an experience you never forget; the words shared in that fleeting moment, deposited and frozen in your memory banks forever.

"It's all part ... of my Rock and Roll Fantasy. It's all part ... of my Rock and Roll Dream" .

My barber was mentioning the other day, how he vividly remembers working backstage as a caterer at the Moncton Coliseum, hanging out with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp. My amigo JD still shakes his head and utters "jeepers" every time he recalls the time he and my son snuck into the Van Halen soundcheck at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

This past August in New York City, legendary rock drummer Simon Kirke (Bad Company, Free) was a featured panelist at 2008 convention of the National Speakers Association when he spilled what may have been one of the unusually candid motivational lines ever heard at that annual gathering. Keep in mind that NSA is as conservative as it gets as an organization with its roots in the charismatic Christian movement. After confessing that addressing a group of 2,000professional speakers made him feel like a "hemophiliac in a razor blade factory", Kirke summarized his outlook on life this way:

"Respect your parents, don't do drugs, have the odd drink now and again ... You know, we've all got to work together to save the planet, because it's the only one we've got. And besides that... don't be an asshole"

Don't be an asshole?

Audience gasps, nervously laughs and starts murmering, "Did he just say what I think he said?"

That's right folks.

"Don't be an asshole".

Simple, yet profound.

But, is it possible the power of a message could be amplified by the level of respect one has for the messenger?

If you grew up as a die hard Bad Company fan you would know how Simon's words would pack a little more punch. Considered one of the 70s' first supergroups, Bad Company consisted of two former members of Free, singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke; former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs; and King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell. The debut album hit #1 on the Billboard charts and the group consistently sold out stadiums around the world on the power of hit singles such as "Can't Get Enough", "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Rock and Roll Fantasy".

If, for whatever reason, you missed out on the brilliance of Bad Co. back in the 1970's, here is the bands autobiographical number Kirke co-wrote with Paul Rodgers in about 25 minutes. The way he explained it, this is the track that helped put three of his kids through college and paid for five re-habs.

Thanks for the inspiration Simon.


Words to live by.

What about your "rock star" moment?

Was anything said or talked about when your paths crossed that you can recall worth passing along to your fellow TSB readers?

"All these towns, they all know our name. Six gun sound, is our claim to fame. That's why they call me Bad Company" PAUL RODGERS/SIMON KIRKE

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More "Oprah" ... Digg it?

The reaction to the first "Oprah" piece took us by surprise.

It all started with a seemingly innocent question from a veteran broadcaster wandering around the blogosphere, learning about the brave new world that is social media.

The former radio & TV host asked himself ...

"Self... who is the "Oprah" of social media?"

Beginning with Gary Vaynerchuk, a few names immediately came to mind and the post was off and running with a list of five top contenders. What TSB did not anticipate was the amount of e-mails, phone messages and comments suggesting other worthy candidates of this most "unofficial" title to be THE go-to personality on the internet.

So Digg in for another five most deserving candidates, beginning with:

1. Kevin Rose of This video explains his "Oprahness" candidacy very well.

2. Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, an award-winning PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley. A quick visit to his blog at PR2.0 reveals a shocking, behind-the-scene look at what Bono may or may not have been up to while on vacation. It's called Where the Streets Have Names: Learning from Bono's Facebook Dilemma.More at

3. A tie between the married couple of social media mavens Kristie Wells and Chris Heuer. Although Kristie gets style points on presentation at while Chris had some interesting front-page content at

4. Serial entrepreneur Ted Murphy battles hard for this spot. Based in Florida, Ted has founded six companies since 1994 and his latest venture, IZEA operates a variety of social media properties including PayPerPost, the world's largest Consumer Generated Advertising Network. Founded in June of 2006, IZEA has raised over $10 million in venture funding while attracting over 140,000 bloggers and 16,000 advertisers and continues to grow. Murphy is also Executive Producer and star of RockStartup, an online docu/reality television show about running a startup. The show can be downloaded via iTunes or found online at

Despite his many accomplishments, however, Ted, is nosed out by New Yorker Julia Allison, a weekly columnist and co-founder of Described as being a "handful" both personally and professionally, Julia has been characterized as a cross between Paris Hilton and Ayn Rand. She has made over 350 on-air appearances in the past year alone, including spots on CNN, MSNBC, Vh1, E!, CBS, NBC, CW, FoxNews, and others. Julia has a Facebook account, a Myspace page, a Flickr, a Twitter, a Friendfeed, four Tumblrs, three Movable Type blogs, two Vimeos, one YouTube and a photogenic white shih-tzu named Marshmallow.

Her father is still waiting for her to get a “real job”.

5. Last, (but we may have saved the best for this spot!) is PEI social media maverick Amber MacArthur (AmberMac) who made a New Brunswick appearance with her presence at the last ThirdTuesday event in Moncton. Amber is best described as a new media journalist and web strategist, formerly of world-famous Razorfish, in San Francisco, and has worked on projects for Microsoft, Adobe, HP and Bell. Recently, she sent shock waves through the social media landscape by quitting her Toronto TV gig ... on principle.

Kudos Amber for standing up for what you believe in. More about the Charlottetown native at

Having spent about two decades employed in the media-industrial complex that is radio & television, social media has become a recent subject of fascination, especially since I can't help but wonder if we aren't seeing history repeat itself. Radio struggled to find its voice in the 1920's and television of the early 1950's was anything but slick. Early programming smacked of amateur hour as everyone from Uncle Charlie with his ukulele and Aunt Mabel's macrame demonstrations would entertain audiences that hungered for anything being broadcast on the one or two signals that were available at the time. If there is a difference in the 21st century Digital Economy, two factors come to mind. Since there are so many choices available to anyone consuming media these days, the strength and relevance of the message itself becomes crucial to anyone seeking to attract and hold an audience.

It's been an eye-opener learning more about what Kevin, Brian, Kristie, Chris, Ted, Julia and AmberMac are up to and how they influence opinion through their work in cyberspace. Hopefully, you will have a chance to Digg in yourself and see what these folks are doing to trigger "a-ha" moments that may reshape your business and the direction your brand is taking.

TSB is more than aware there are many other deserving candidates for the "Oprah of Social Media" crown.

And more than ready to hear you weigh in with your thoughts.

"Today we are beginning to notice that the new media are not just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression"

p.s...With a little more Digg-ing, a deeper, more penetrating look at Kevin Rose could be discovered through an intrepid reporter that would make even Mike Wallace crack a smile:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shift Happens in 4:55

Crisis or Opportunity?

You decide.

In less than five minutes.

And join a select group of just over 4 million other viewers who are "up to speed" on what emerged from a Colorado "Fischbowl".

In the fall of 2006, Colorado high school teacher Karl Fisch was asked by his administration to speak at a beginning of the year faculty meeting. To kick start the conversation, he created a powerpoint presentation he later posted August 15, 2006 on his blog known as "The Fischbowl". Karl thought it would be easier that way for other staff members to download it and who knows, maybe one or two other teachers outside the building might find it interesting.

By the end of the month, Karl's presentation is spreading, starting with education bloggers; many showing it in staff meetings or to other influential folks. Gradually, it begins to spill into places like area Chambers of Commerces, and some non-education specific bloggers also link to it.

By 2007, over 100,000 people have seen what Karl started.

On January 19, 2007, Dr. Scott McLeod of Iowa State University posts a remixed version adds a MySpace slide, and improves the look before it gets uploaded to YouTube.Since then, Did You Know? went over-the-top viral and is now spreading faster than ever.

However, Karl worries part of the message may be taken out of context or used in ways that may not be helpful. He writes, "For example, most of those two million folks that have seen it haven’t read the original blog post, so they don’t know what its intended purpose and audience was (high school teachers thinking about the world our students are entering and wondering how best to help them prepare). Yes, I know I should’ve thought of that before I posted it, but I really, really, really had no idea it would spread like this. Now I know - pun intended".

Karl beleives that only with context and conversation can anyone move past the “shock and awe” stage and into the, “Okay, this is also kind of exciting and invigorating. What are we going to do about this?!” stage. One of the problems with Did You Know? is that it doesn’t specifically ask the viewer to do anything at the end. For my intended audience – my staff – the last slide “Now you know . . . ” was an implied challenge.

The Seamless Brand applauds Karl and his on-line colleagues for summarizing in less time than it takes to navigate a drive-thru, complex issues of globalization first raised in Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat. Hopefully, Did You Know? helps with the digestion of what best-selling author and futurist Alvin Toffler hinted at with Future Shock; the shattering stress and disorientation induced by subjecting people to too much change in too little time.

Shift does happen and as a result do you find yourself wondering:

1. How much longer our world’s economy will be managed by elected political leaders and appointed experts?

2. Whether our education systems can re-tool fast enough from what is required for academic success ( largely solitary study - few distractions - single subject concentration - loads of written work) to what is essential for business success (working in teams - constant distractions -multi-disciplined - speaking skills)?

3. Will I be able to keep up?

4. Will my organization be able to keep up?

Our planet is hurtling its way to an even more unpredictable, yet exciting future. But, can you already forsee, with speed at which the world is changing and knowledge increasing, the growing need for even more decentralized systems and "seamless" organizations? In this "Age of Speed" as characterized by Vince Poscente, the course for success will be determined by individuals and companies that find ways to harness both speed and passion. For centuries, faster armies with more spirit, have always defeated slower moving, low morale troops. Why would that be any different today?

How is this shift impacting your world and your brand?

Do you see crisis or opportunity ahead?

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" ALVIN TOFFLER

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Synaptic Hangover

"This stuff starts to rumble and explode in your brain like a simmering volcano"

More than 300 conference delegates.

Each wearing name badges draped around shoulders that support human heads that encompass more than 100 billion neurons, triggering as many as 500 trillion synaptic connections.

These are the biological triggers that underlie perception and thought.

Many who were there, will never see their business, brand or career the same way.

“As time marches on, people who were at this conference are going to be fetching nuggets of pure gold from what they witnessed over those three days. For some companies, it will be like a treasure chest of glittering diamonds; shining sparkles of intuitive wisdom for many years to come”

Such is the synaptic fallout from "Taking Flight", the enormously successful, first-ever Atlantic HR Conference that attracted some of the worlds top thought leaders to Moncton, NB for an unforgettable learning experience.

“Whether it was Tyson or Janice from WestJet, Don Schmincke or the "Wizard of Ads", there was an unmistakable theme that tied everything together. Successful organizations and brands have figured out how to tap into the hearts and minds of their people through the use of right-brain pursuits such as story, symbols, ritual and magic".

While WestJet served as a living, breathing example, it was Don Schmincke, author of the best-seller "Code of the Executive", who created a stir with his research findings that point to the need to incorporate "drama' as part of any great internal brand. Calling himself a scientist who went astray into the dark side, Schmincke's renegade theories on leadership and organizational behaviour have produced dramatic business results across a wide range of industries.

We had a chance to chat with Don afterwards about key points from his "Taking Flight" presentation as well as his new book being released this month, "High Altitude Leadership".

To find out more about what the worlds most forbidding peaks can teach us about success, visit

For many HR types, "Taking Flight" was an eye-opener to a world of possibilities that lie ahead for those determined to play an instrumental role in creating great brands from the inside out. Few deserve more credit for making this happen than David Cannon and Rachelle Gagnon from the Human Resources Association of New Brunswick who dreamed of staging an HR Conference like no other in Atlantic Canada.

David, who helped put ICT on the map in the Maritimes and Rachelle, an ACHRA award-winner from Assumption Life staked their reputations on this event with little more than blind faith to go on. If it went bust, their heads would have been served up on many platters. But, instead, with help from a great committee and uber-efficient event planner Alexia McGill from Agenda Managers in Halifax, "Taking Flight" continues to generate unparalleled buzz in our regional business community.

As Roy H. Williams (aka. "The Wizard of Ads") explains, the five senses of touch, taste, smell, vision and hearing all belong in the left side of our brains. But, if we hope to inspire people who work with us internally, it will only happen when the wordless, intuitive right-side of the brain is engaged through languages that include colors, shapes, music, symbols and rituals. Coincidentally the same neurological approach applies to the customers we hope will buy from us.

Who would have guessed that human resource professionals would share so much in common with marketers when it comes to understanding the science of human persuasion?

If you were there, what connections, synaptic or otherwise, did you make?

"All great marketing starts from the inside" ROY H. WILLIAMS

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rocket Man Dan

He appeared one day like a bolt right out of the blue - his note dropping into my inbox on August 5, 2004 at precisely 9:52 p.m.

I will never forget meeting Dan for the first time. Never realizing back then how "normal" it would have been for him to meet in that fashion (via e-mail) and how we would impact each others careers.

As it turned out, Dan had a friend who was attending one of the entrepreneurship seminars regularly presented in the Moncton, NB area through CBDC and the great work of Sharon Geldart. The friend, Cory Schop, was starting a new company with Dan, called Spheric Technologies and as fate would have it, Cory passed along a book recommendation that his buddy, then based in Ohio, jumped all over.

Here is an excerpt from what Dan wrote back:

Knowing I had to drive 6 hours (Cleveland, OH -> Baltimore, Maryland ) I stopped into the local Borders book store and planned on getting a few audio books to help pass the time. I couldn’t find anything good, but I glanced over and remembered Cory’s recommendation for E-Myth so I snatch it up along with a few others.

Anyways, I drove straight for 6 hours late into the night listening attentively to the words of Michael Gerber and the story of “All about Pies”. I remember talking to myself asking, even to the point of screaming out “How do I create a company like you’re describing – just tell me how, I want to do it.”... Finally towards then end of the book he elaborated a bit on the concepts, reviewed the position contracts, and how to ensure everyone was on the same page. That resonated deeply in me, and I sold. I was soo excited that I couldn’t wait to share my new found insight with my business partner that I was meeting. In fact, I believed so much into it, that I thought – “What if he doesn’t see what I see in regard to doing it this way? What will I do” – well, that was simple… I didn’t know much, but I did know this 1) I knew that I didn’t want to run a company any other way. 2) If he couldn’t see that – then I wouldn’t go through with the merger. I would find another way!

There was something about the intensity of that e-mail even back then, that told me this guy's star was going to be rising; that the business he was launching would take off like a ruby rocket sled on rails.

Last week, those prophecies were realized as 28-year old Dan Martell was honored as the New Brunswick recipient of the Business Development Bank of Canada's (BDC) 2008 Young Entrepreneur Award at a posh ceremony held in Vancouver, B.C. Up-and-comers between the ages of 19 and 35 from across Canada are selected by a panel of veteran business people, based on criteria including originality of the business concept, its success, growth potential and social involvement.

In just a few years, Spheric Technologies' Facebook-type social networking innovations have become a hot property with Fortune 500 clients throughout North America. Dan started Spheric as a computer consulting company with a team of high-tech talent working remotely from locations across Canada. To connect with each other, the team developed extensive expertise in social networking tools such as video, podcasting, wikis and micro-blogging. Dan pursued North America's major systems integrators and demand for his team's services skyrocketed with a stellar client roster that includes Procter & Gamble, Bristol & Myers Squibb, Dole Foods, Johnson & Johnson, and more. Cracking the "PROFIT Magazine HOT 50 List", Spheric ( now has 28 full-time employees, year after year of exponential growth and 2007 sales of over 2.2 million dollars. Over the past 24 months, Spheric Technologies has grown by 152% with 89% of their sales generated through export markets. (See more at "Spheric in the Sun", posted on TSB, September 19, 2008).

A key factor in Spheric's growth is the outsourcing of all support functions-including finance, human resources, sales and marketing-to external providers, with requirements for every function fully documented. As Martell explains, "This way, we can easily duplicate our approach elsewhere. When we entered the United States, we just replicated the same model we used in Canada. It has really allowed us to grow." Internally, Spheric is guided by its "triple bottom line": community,customers and company. "Community is a big part of the equation," Dan says."We donate one percent of our time, assets and revenues to non-profit organizations, leveraging what we do best." A local example is the new collaborative online community Spheric is building for the Moncton Boys and Girls Club. The company is donating equipment, money and the expertise of the entire team. Globally, Spheric matches employee donations to, a micro-lending service for entrepreneurs around the world. Thanks to this spirit of this "compassionate capitalism", Spheric also earned the BDC National Community Invovolvment Award which carried with it a $15,000 prize.

A great example of the human spirit that Dan Martell helped ignite at Spheric is personified by these observations from Josh Merchant who shared his thoughts about the company and what they do at a recent Third Tuesday New Brunswick get together.

Thanks to Dan's help, The Seamless Brand was able to enter the social media blogosphere back in late July, yet another example of how this guy is only too willing to pitch in when a friend needs a hand. In fact, there are few more passionate than Dan when it comes to evangelizing the virtues of social media and thanks to people like him and Third Tuesday NB folks like Chris Nadeau and Lisa Rousseau, ordinary people get to learn about extraordinary technologies and how they will impact the way we live and work in the future.

When the all-too-short New Brunswick summer came to an end in August, Daniel could be seen travelling on a plane, heading not to Spain, but to San Francisco where he is now involved in the Silicon Valley venture capital scene. He has been networking and Twittering his ass off, attending dozens of conferences, connecting with people like Tim Sanders, and linking up with angel investors interested in helping "cool start-ups" leave the launch pad.

I know he will hate me for doing this but, hey don't shoot me - I'm only the blogger.

Congratulations Dan, from all your friends and family back home.

Take a bow and stay safe brother.

"And I think it's gonna be a long long time, Till touch down brings me round again to find. I'm not the man they think I am at home. Oh no no no...I'm a rocket man. Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone"

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Jig and a Jud

For Jud, it all started with a few, simple steps.

There was nothing about his background that would suggest Jud would emerge as a global phenomenon. How would working on a cruise ship, at summer camps, being a certified aerobics instructor, a published poet or part- time auctioneer prepare one for worldwide notoriety?

But, then again, why not?
It was in 2002, when Jud started working on a routine while having a little fun amongst friends. Just for kicks and giggles.

Thousand of hours of rehearsal and performances later, he found himself on a stage in Oklahoma where colleges decide which artists they want to invite to their respective schools. His "routine" was anything but.

The video-taped performance hit the YouTube cyberwaves in 2006.

The rest is history.

Judson Laipply of Bucyrus, Ohio, is now in heavy demand as a motivational speaker and comedian who can boast having the #2 Most Viewed Video (All Time), and the #1 Most Favorited (All Time) Video, with over 101 million views as of October 13, 2008. He has appeared on CNN, The Today Show, Oprah and believes that going viral is the next step of evolution as far as branding is concerned.

You can check out more about Judson Laipply at

Is this what happens when seemingly normal people decide to share a personal talent with others, shoot a video clip and upload it?

Does that mean anyone of us could develop a personal brand with the potential to be shared over 101 million times?

Apparently if you're good enough and prepared to sweat, shake, rattle and roll hard enough to perfect your craft, the answer is a resounding YES!

Is this a great world or what?

"Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears all the rappers, they're doing my dances and they're making billions doing my dances. When they do that little thing they do with their hands that's The Fly and The Pony" CHUBBY CHECKER

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dynamic Duo

Regis and Kelly.

Donny and Marie.

Sonny and Cher.

Could the business world ready for the comedy and HR stylings of "Tyson and Janice"?

Early indications would point to an overwhelming "YES" after the WestJet tandem wowed a standing room audience at "Taking Flight", the first-ever Atlantic HR Conference held in Moncton, NB, earlier this month. Janice Webster and Tyson Matheson walked more than 300 delegates through a revealing, behind-the-scenes look at the WestJet success story - an internal branding saga that generates more than 1,200 unsolicited resumes a week while contributing to the bottom-line results of the world's 4-th most profitable airlines.

Janice is the "HR Superstar" while Tyson is the undisputed "Rock Star of People" and the chemistry between the two, on-stage and off, is undeniable. Webster and Matheson shared a vital message to help HR professionals and business execs understand "brand", but with a twist - the type of branding aimed internally, targeting a firms own employees, - who then reflect that brand (what WestJet is all about) when they interact with the airline's valued customers.

WestJet has nearly perfected this concept and we caught up with the "Terrific Twosome" afterwards (with help of our friends and facilities from TV) to learn more about how they create one of Canada's most admired corporate cultures.

So which came first, culture or brand?

According to Matheson, "Definitely culture. The culture of ownership at WestJet has been a key to the airline's internal and external branding, where front-line staff not only have a say, but are empowered to act as well. People here don't wait for things to happen. Good internal branding not only motivates employees but sends a consistently correct image of the firm to its clients. Customers can easily see through the ruse when a company's actions are different than its words - and just as importantly, employees can, too. Portraying our brand is everyone's job, not just the Marketing or HR Department".

Webster adds, "HR’s role is to create a positive and seamless employee experience. In other words, let’s make it easy for WestJetters to do business with us. Everything from recruitment to screening to interviewing, on-boarding, training and orientation should be one seamless piece where company interests are aligned with employee interests".

Just the naming conventions alone go a long way to driving home the spirit and essence of the West Jet brand. Executives are called “Big Shots”. Passengers are “Guests”. Policies are “Promises”. Supervisors are “Team Leaders”. Accounting is “Beanland”.

But what do you call a team like Tyson and Janice?

For those of you who caught their act at "Taking Flight" what was it about their performance that makes you beleive they have a shot at speaking stardom? Do you think this WestJet version of the "Dynamic Duo" needs to be "officially dubbed" with a deserving nickname of their own?

Any suggestions?

"I think there's a little bit of sizzling here. Honestly, I can feel it. The ions are flying back and forth" REGIS PHILBIN

p.s...As always, our thanks to Jeremy Demont and the hard-working crew at PGTV for helping make these video clips possible.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Have an "Ice" Wednesday

It's here.

After an 8-year wait, millions around the world are eagerly handing over cash and credit card information to soak up a re-charged version of a brand that has remain essentially unchanged for the past three decades.

The "Thunder from Down Under", Australian rockers AC/DC are back with "Black Ice", their fifteenth studio album released worldwide this week (October 18, 2008 for Australia and October 20 for the rest of us). It's their first album since the release of Stiff Upper Lip in 2000, also marks the longest gap between AC/DC's studio albums to date.

Incredibly, the product remains relevant while the band refuses to compromise its winning brand formula:

- Angus Young in the school boy outfit doing the Chuck Berry duck walk.
- Brian Johnson back in full voice with his trademark cap
- Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams supplying a stationary stage presence, designed to keep the spotlight on the guys in front.
- Phil Rudd maintaining the beat - minus any drum rolls.

Here is the first video single from "Black Ice", to enjoy with your corn flakes this morning as The Seamless Brand goes for a ride on the "Rock and Roll Train".

With the release of "Black Ice", Columbia Records and Walmart created a "Rock Again AC/DC Store" within all of its stores across America.This is the first time in history where Walmart has taken such a large area within their stores to celebrate the release of a new album. "Black Ice" trucks are also operating on the streets of New York City and Los Angeles for the rest of this week with interactive elements that fill the air with AC/DC music and allow players to demo the new AC/DC LIVE: Rock Band(R) Track Pack game on the truck's back stage.

There is also a social media component being used to spread the "Black Ice" buzz all over YouTube as lead singer Brian Johnson extended this invitation to diehard AC/DC acolytes:

"Black Ice" is AC/DC's longest studio album to date. Some fans are already calling it the bands best release since 1990's "The Razor's Edge".

But how do they pull it off?

In other words, why do legions of fans gobble up even more records, concert tickets and merchandise from a band that has not changed either its look or sound (for the most part) since 1973? Do you know of any other act in any form of show business that made millions just by sticking to the basics?

Is there something in the AC/DC approach to business that could amplify your brand?

"There are all sorts of cute puppy dogs, but it doesn't stop people from going out and buying Dobermans" ANGUS YOUNG

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "Oprah" of Social Media?

As social media continues its meteoric rise in popularity, it should only be a matter of time before it begins to create a new cast of celebrities in cyberspace. Just as television served as a platform to launch brands such as "The Tonight Show", "Donahue", "Late Night" and "Regis & Kelly", why shouldn't we expect similar star-making dynamics to unfold on our computer screens?

Who will be the "one" personality we will be turning to with increasing frequency - online?

Already, serious contenders are beginning to emerge. Let's take a look at five who are making a determined bid for that title.

1. Go to and sample the flavorings of Gary Vaynerchuk, a 32-year-old New Yorker who has made more than 450 daily wine-tasting shows online. His show, with an audience of 80,000 a day, has vaulted Vaynerchuk into the international spotlight with appearances on two of the biggest TV talk shows in the US, the Wall Street Journal and Time. Gary Vee has discovered there's more to it than using online video to sell wine, although it has helped a small family-owned store become a $60m-a-year enterprise. Calling himself "the social media sommelier", he says "I'd rather have a million friends right now than a million dollars. Your social equity is far greater than your financial equity."

2. Jason Falls directs social media strategies for Doe-Anderson, a brand-building agency based in Louisville, Kentucky. Falls is co-founder of the Social Media Club Louisville and comes to the attention of The Seamless Brand with his Oprah-like endorsement of a young entrepreneur out of Moncton, NB as Pierre Martell of Martell Home Builders continues to amaze customers and the blogosphere with his cutting-edge approach to new home construction. You can enjoy the complete story and Falls analysis of "The Martell Experience" at

3. Darren Rowse is a full time blogger making a living from this new and dynamic medium ever since 2002 when he stumbled across an article about ‘Blogging’. Within 24 hours of reading the article, Darren started his own Blog where he explores issues of Pop Culture, Spirituality and Blogging and eventually created an income stream in the process to support his habit. In September of 2004, Darren launched as a way to help others learn the skills of blogging, share their own experiences and promote the medium. Since then he has added over 3500articles, tips, tutorials and case studies including this recent video post.

4. Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman are known as "The Blog Squad" as they help professionals set up and optimize great business blogs. They also operate a "blog crisis prevention program" - dedicated to extreme blog makeovers and learn best blogging practices. These two gals offer pragmatic, no-nonsense, how-to guidance and are committed to helping you Attract, Sell and Profit by integrating blogs with other online marketing tools such as newsletters and ecommerce systems.Discover more at

5. Chris Brogan is a 38-year old father of two and a ten year veteran of using social media to build digital relationships for businesses, brands and people. His impact on the blogosphere is felt each day he posts at lifting his blog in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150, and in the top 100 on Technorati. Chris won the Mass High Tech All Stars award for thought leaders for 2008. Featured in US News & World Report, The Montreal Gazette, Newsweek, and some other places, he is also the cofounder of the PodCamp new media conference series, exploring the use of new media community tools to extend and build value.

Are there any others who should be on this list?

Who do you think will emerge as the new "Oprah" of this new, wired world?

"Newspaper, radio and television is F***cked!" GARY VAYNERCHUK

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crocodile Rock

Are there only two kinds of people in your world? Let's ponder and see where this takes us ...

Have you noticed that in your travels, business dealings and life experiences, there are givers and takers?

Doers and slackers?

Lovers and fighters?

Thinkers and stinkers?

Walkers and talkers?

Canadiens lovers and Habs haters?
(If you're an American, replace Canadiens with Yankees, Lakers or Cowboys and you get the picture).

When it comes to professional wrestling, have you noticed there is a group of people who need no explanation in terms of "getting it"; while on the other side there are folks for whom no explanation will ever do?

Have you also taken note of the same dualistic pattern when it comes to footwear?

Specifically, "Crocs".

Personally, I can't stand them and fall into the "you couldn't pay me enough to wear them" category, but for a brand like Crocs that's a good thing. In other words, its people like me that has people who own a brand like that, laughing all the way to the bank.

Whether you and I are in love with Crocs or not, should not diminish the level of respect for what the brand has accomplished since taking its first awkward steps about seven years ago. It all started with three Colorado honky cats cheering themselves up on a Caribbean booze cruise.

Maybe it was the tequila that made them madmen accross the water.

It was 2002, when Scott Seamans, Duke Hanson and George Boedecker headed out on a sailboat to share a few beers and business ideas. Once at sea, Scott showed his down-on-their-luck buddies a new, Canadian-made boat shoe. Boedecker, a self-made millionaire from pizza franchising with a soft heart and a drinking problem, had invited Hanson, a childhood friend and marketing guy on a losing streak: he’d lost his job and his mother and his wife had filed for divorce. Hanson had moved in with another recently separated guy, electronics exec, Ron Snyder, at what friends called the “Dejected Man House.”

At first, Boedecker and Hanson dismissed the idea.

"The first thing I said was, 'Man, are those ugly", recalls Hanson.

But then he tried them on.

"It was like walking on Nerf Balls".

Unlike other clogs, this shoe was cool and lightweight. Slip- and smell-resistant. (The resin is "closed cell," which means bacteria can't take root.) The partners promptly struck a U.S. licensing agreement with Quebec-based Foam Creations.

Since "Foam Creations" lacked a certain cache, Hanson stepped up with a new name. He was keen on crocodiles because they're good on both land and water, live a long time, and have no natural predators. Then he realized that when the shoe is viewed from the side, it slopes up like a crocodile's snout.

Eureka!. "Crocs" were born.

The newly christened Croc was a hit at the 2002 Fort Lauderdale boat show, where the first 200 pairs were sold in two days and the brand took off from there. Crocs Inc. acquired Foam Creations in June 2004, and in February 2006, it went public. The "Dejected Men" have done well for themselves as sales climbed to $840 million in 2007. Snyder has been CEO of Crocs since 2005 and shepherded the shoe brand through its IPO with a market value that currently exceeds $1 billion dollars.

Despite the goofy appearance, Crocs drew many accolades for comfort. (As one blogger put it, "You have to put on a pair and try them and, I swear, you won't care if they look like donkey balls, you'll just love them.") But there are also a significant number of Croc haters out there as witnessed by the website (Dedicated to the elimination of Crocs and those who think that their excuses for wearing them are viable).

Such is the price one pays for developing an irresistible, magnetic brand.

If you gaze down your yellow brick road and hope to see a brand with magnetic appeal in your future, consider this:

magnetic / mag’netik / adj. 1 having the properties of a magnet. 2 producing or acting by magnetism. 3 very attractive or alluring (a magnetic personality).

By its very definition, the strength of any magnet only ever equals the degree in which it repels that which it does not attract. In other words, many great brands have determined a repellent factor must exist in order for a brand to attract and hold on to loyal customers. Brands like Apple, World Wrestling Entertainment and Crocs have proven the product they sell is less important than the brand they market, but in doing so each makes a choice - knowing they can't be all things to all people. How else do you explain why there are so many Croc fans enduring the ridicule that goes with wearing shoes that make them look so ridiculous?

An overabundance of look-alike products and me-too services, is forcing customers to search for something, anything, that is even remotely different.

Can you think of a way to separate your "Croc" from the clutter?

What is it about your brand that could be used as a repellent? Do you have something you can use to keep the riff raff away?

Are you ready to choose who to lose?

"The great thing about rock and roll is that someone like me can be a star" ELTON JOHN

Friday, October 17, 2008

Swinging at Delight

You are the kind of person who - every once in a while - likes to belt one clear out of Delight Stadium. Over the wall in left. Out into the street below. Your fans go wild! Jumping and down, high-fiving, leaving you with that warm feeling inside that only comes from making someone else's day.

If you ever wanted to truly delight your customers (or even a special someone), in big-league fashion and were dying to know the "secret", this post was written for you.

But you will need to be alone.

Make sure no one is around to interrupt.

If necessary, close your door so the office time burglar thinks you're busy. You might even want to re-heat your morning coffee so it will be ready and waiting by your side in case you need some immediate comfort caffeine to savor this TSB moment even more.

What I am about to share with you in terms of creating "Delight" can only be grasped by a person who is ready for this one at-bat. Prepared to dig in and take this 90-mile-an-hour heater downtown and make joy in Mudville.

Because today is THE day on this season's schedule that the eternal question "What Is Love?" will be answered once and for all - and all at once. Addressed in impeccable fashion by a world-class authority on the subject. Someone with the knowledge, experience and track record to back it up. And it won't take three periods, four quarters or nine innings. This happens in precisely one minute and twenty-one unforgettable seconds:

Thanks to Ron Burgundy and the dedicated, hard-working folks at the Channel 4 News Team, readers of the TSB discover yet again, that ... drum roll please ..."Surprise is the Foundation of Delight"(cymbals crash!!!)

Is there a surprise you've been thinking about springing on someone?

Is there a way you could inject an element of surprise to your business and the way you interact with customers? How could your brand start to hit even more home runs out of the park?

Let us know how it works out ... and most of all, you stay classy San Diego!

"No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference" TOMMY LASORDA

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ain't Talkin' Bout Talent

What makes Tiger Woods so consistently great? How does Eddie Van Halen make his fingers fly so effortlessly up and down the fretboard? What is it that allows an iCon like Steve Jobs to rock the business world? Where does Oprah find her power to connect with everyone from Mandela to welfare moms?

Are these folks just born with a "certain something" the rest of us don't and will never possess? In other words, how much does natural, innate talent figure into any success equation in any field of human endeavour?

Whether it's the pursuit of artistic or academic excellence or competing in the arenas of athletics or business,the good news is the lack of a natural gift is irrelevant - talent has little or nothing to do with achieving greatness. Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings that help us understand raw talent doesn't mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It's an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well. However, British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda have concluded that in virtually every field, most people learn quickly at first, then more slowly and then stop developing completely. Yet a few do improve for years and even decades, and go on to greatness.

My research on this topic led to a conversation with a long-time friend who scouts amateur hockey players for a living. He takes in more than 200 games a year to see if he can discern the less than 2% who have the the potential to make a living at playing Canada's national sport. In fact, I can recall him telling me about an 11-year old kid named Crosby that he felt had the tools to make it one day.

He prepares more than 600 individual scouting reports, entered into into his employers database to help determine who gets selected at the annual NHL entry draft. Nine specific skill areas are evaluated, then carefully compiled and cross referenced by a dozen of his scouting counterparts - 7 in North America - 5 in Europe - before top prospects are further assessed using a battery of physical and psychological testing. The NHL team he works for is widely considered to be among the top 5 in the league when it comes to allocating resources towards ensuring quality decisions are made on draft day.

In my friend's words, "Talent and skill just gets you noticed. The minor leagues of hockey are full of skilled guys; there are guys in the NHL with less skill but more will". In his opinion, elite athletes are no different from the top performers in business or patients who conquer cancer. "They play like their next shift is their last".

Before hanging up, my friend and I agreed that by and large, raw talent accounts for maybe 10% of what it takes to be truly successful at anything. The biggest success factors will always be discovered in the intangible areas of coachability, passion and courage - stuff that is so damn hard to measure, yet essential to performing at a high level. In his best-selling book "Talent is Never Enough", John C. Maxwell (no relation) explores this theme further, and today on The Seamless Brand, dispenses a number of nuggets that help us grasp the concept of how little God-given talent factors into any success equation.

Don't think you have enough talent to succeed?

Don't sweat it.

Just be prepared to start sweating by doing the heavy lifting required to achieve your full potential. Professor K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University published a landmark paper on the talent equation in 1993 based on consistent observations about great performers in many fields. Ericsson and two colleagues focused primarily on sports, music and chess, in which performance is relatively easy to measure and plot over time and concluded:

"There is no substitute for hard work".

There is vast evidence that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten-year rule. And as John Horn of the University of Southern California and Hiromi Masunaga of California State University observe, "The ten-year rule represents a very rough estimate, and most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average." In many fields (music, literature) elite performers need 20 or 30 years' experience before hitting their zenith.

This scholarly research is simply evidence for what great performers have been showing us for years. To take a handful of examples: Winston Churchill, one of the 20th century's greatest orators, practiced his speeches compulsively. Vladimir Horowitz supposedly said, "If I don't practice for a day, I know it. If I don't practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don't practice for three days, the world knows it." In basketball, Michael Jordan practiced intensely beyond the already punishing team practices. (If Jordan was such a natural , it seems unlikely he'd have been cut from his high school team.). Today, Jordan's equivalent is found in Pittsburgh where Sidney Crosby pushes himself to extreme conditioning levels. As for Tiger Woods, he was introduced to golf at an extremely early age - 18 months - fell in love and practiced intensively, so much so that Woods had racked up at least 15 years of practice by the time he became the youngest-ever winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship, at age 18. The greatest of them all in his sport (and possibly the greatest athlete ever) never stops trying to improve, even remaking his swing twice. We're talking about Tiger spending thousands of hours on the practice range with his swing coaches, hitting hundreds of thousands of golf balls.


What is the equivalent to hitting golf balls in your field?

In other words, can you see something in today's post that translates to the world of business, overcrowded with average performers, who by and large just do what needs to be done to get through the day? What hidden talents do you see in yourself or others waiting to be forged on the anvil of excellence through the hammer of hard work? How often do you see people with talent, hit life's inevitable bumps in the road, and conclude they just aren't gifted and give up? Are we life-long hostages to some naturally bestowed magic dust or can we make ourselves what we will (providing there is a kernel of talent to work with)?

Could any success equation depend primarily on lonely work; the buckets of balls one is prepared to hit?

Is there anyone in your world with less skill but more will?

"There's a plaque on our wall that says we've sold over 65 million albums, and I don't feel I've accomplished anything. I feel like I'm just getting started" EDDIE VAN HALEN

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beating Around the BLENZ

Starbucks poobah Howard Schultz might wind up choking on his Pumpkin Spice Latte if and when he reads this.

It is Friday, September 29th, 2008.

The time is 2:38 p.m.

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia.

Wandering into the Starbucks oasis just down the street from the Sheraton, an out-of-province visitor asks Gen-Y guy behind the counter if there is a wireless connection. The helpful barista responds by saying "Yeah we do, but you would have to pay for it. There is a BLENZ location about a block away where you can get it for free".

The potential customer says thanks, turns and heads down the street to drop in on Howard's direct competitor - now with 84 locations to serve coffee fans throughout British Columbia, parts of the U.S., Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and China.

Depending on your perspective, this story will impact you in different ways.

But, Howard and the hundreds of business owners I know might be wondering how does it happen that a guy we're paying to employ, would be so willing to send a potential customer away to one of our direct competitors - especially one that has copied our concept in such a blatant fashion?


Howard may be the 354th richest person in the U.S. but he didn't get that way without recognizing simple, yet powerful truths. Sending business down the street - especially to someone who is eating into your margins daily - doesn't keep you in business and keep that barista working. Interesting to note that in his book, "Pour Your Heart into It" Schultz admits to being afraid "Starbucks may become another soulless big chain."

It would appear Howard's paranoia is well-placed considering the emergence of the many copycat competitors like BLENZ. In 2008, for the first time in its history, Starbucks sales have been slipping. That's a tough cappuccino to swallow for a brand that has made such a determined effort to entrench itself as the "third place" between work and home. Schultz has had lofty aspirations for the Starbucks brand and more than most, has succeeded in taking its game to a level worthy of public recognition. For years, real estate agents have been frothing when Starbucks decides to open a new location in a neighbourhood in which they have traction since it is usually a sign of bidding wars to come.

Despite their current challenges, including some drab locations and some disenchantment from environmentalists (, Starbucks has succeeded in tapping into the pulse of people who enjoy being able to espresso themselves in their daily routine.

But, will Starbucks be able to keep the mojo it has battled so hard to earn?

In January 2008, Howard Schultz resumed his roles as President and Chief Executive Officer after an eight year hiatus, saying his principal challenge is to restore the "distinctive Starbucks experience" in the face of rapid expansion. By late March 2008, Starbucks had more than 16,226 stores worldwide, including 11,434 stores located in the United States. On July 1, 2008, the company announced it was closing 600 under-performing company-owned stores and cutting U.S. expansion plans amid growing economic uncertainty. On July 29, 2008, Starbucks also cut almost 1,000 non-retail jobs as part of its bid to re-energize the brand and boost its profit.

What do you think an otherwise harmless Vancouver incident has to say about what Howard has to do in keeping Starbucks ahead of its competitors? Or is this just a tempest in a green teapot? If you were to calculate the true cost of what it takes to attract a customer through your door in the first place, only then can you begin to appreciate the damaging effects of brand disconnect at the front-line.

What sort of impact does the front-line have on the overall brand experience at any company?

How would you ensure a "seamless" delivery of what Starbucks aspires to be at the store level?

Can't wait to see your comments pour in on this one.

"We believed very early on that people's interaction with the Starbucks experience was going to determine the success of the brand. The culture and values of how we related to our customers, which is reflected in how the company relates to our employees, would determine our success" HOWARD SCHULTZ

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tipping the Sales

If you're serious about growing your business and your brand, have you discovered the three people who create unstoppable word-of-mouth momentum?

In your perfect world, you create a "Tipping Point"; that precious space in time when critical mass boils over, allowing your ideas, products and messages to spread in much the same manner as a virus. In his best-selling book, Malcolm Gladwell points to examples such as the rise in popularity of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the dramatic drop in New York City crime rates in the late 1990s.

Perhaps this post will help explain how three guys from Colorado managed to spread the word about the ugliest footwear ever made faster than a Paris Hilton sex tape. Scott, George and Duke knew they were on to something big when the fire marshal at the 2002 Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boat show started yelling that the crowd gathered around their booth was blocking the aisles. The trio was tossing pairs of colorful boating shoes at passersby, asking them to slip them on.

They did, and sold all 200 pairs of CROCS in two days.

From there, popularity mushroomed. Sales poured in. By 2003 CROCS had become a bona-fide phenomenon, universally accepted as an all-purpose shoe for comfort-seeking, suburban fashionistas.

According to Gladwell, the dynamics involved in generating a "Tipping Point" transcend all product and service categories - even more so in today's Facebook world. And while technology may be connecting more strangers than ever, are there certain fundamentals that have not changed? And what are the implications for leveraging the power of your brand?

Today, The Seamless Brand explores some underlying factors.

Much of Gladwell's analysis as to why "tipping points" occur is based on the 1967"Six Degrees of Separation" study by sociologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram gave letters to 160 people in Nebraska, with instructions to send them to a stockbroker in Boston by passing the letters to somebody socially closer to the target. The study found that it took an average of six links to deliver each letter. Of particular interest to Gladwell was the finding that the three friends of the stockbroker provided the final link for more than half of those letters.

This revelation is what sparked Gladwell's theory that there are three types of people who hold the key to unlock viral forces that will fan the flames of a wildfire brand.

CONNECTORS: These are the people who link us up with others. People with a special gift for bringing the world together

MAVENS: Otherwise known as "information specialists", or people we rely upon to connect us with the latest and greatest trends and technology. They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.

SALESMEN: These are the "great persuaders". Charismatic people with a powerful ability to influence in such a way as to make others agree with them.

In this video, some college kids in the U.S. took a creative, albeit cheesy, crack at explaining these character types in more detail.

Since we rely so heavily on word-of-mouth information when determining what products to buy, which companies to trust and who to believe, can you see the advantage in having some of these "Tipping Point" characters included in your circle of influence? These characters exist in every community and very likely a few happened to strolling along the aisles at a Fort Lauderdale boat show when they saw something that caught their eye. Another great example of a brand that has adopted some of these marketing principles is Apple. Former Apple marketing and sales exec, Steve Chazin has identified 5 of the things that make the folks who brought us the iPod and iPhone such successful marketers. You can discover them in a little 8 page e-Book that Steve calls "MarketingApple: 5 Secrets of the World's Best Marketing Machine".

But as Steve explains, you need something worth talking about for your brand to go viral. In other words, word-of-mouth evangelism are gifts that your customers can give you, but first they must be earned.

Do you have treasures with substance worth spreading? And if so, are you plugged in to the connectors, mavens and salesmen that surround you?

Or, are you saying to yourself, "This post is nothing but a pile of CROC?"

"It will work. I am a marketing genius" PARIS HILTON

Friday, October 10, 2008

Signs of the Wizard

What do you talk about when you are one-on-one with a Wizard?

Nicknamed the "Wizard of Ads" by an early client, Roy H. Williams and his staff have often been the unseen, pivotal force in amazing come-from-behind victories in the worlds of politics, business and finance. "David faced Goliath with nothing but his faith and five smooth stones," says Williams. "We like to think of ourselves as being among those stones." Headquartered on a 30-acre spread near Austin, Texas, Williams teaches the science of human persuasion at Wizard Academy®, a 21st Century Business school led by accomplished instructors from around the world.

Wizard Academy was established to improve the creative thinking and communication skills of educators, business owners, architects, ministers, authors, inventors, journalists, musicians, artists and ad writers. Not surprisingly, they train a lot of sales and public relations and Internet professionals along the way. Would you be surprised to learn the same techniques apply equally to all these professions? Williams' books consistently attain best-seller status and have been translated for distribution in China, Japan, Brazil, Korea and Israel. They can be acquired through

The Wizard was in Moncton, NB recently for the highly-acclaimed "Taking Flight", 2008 Atlantic HR Conference where Williams wowed his audience with a spell-binding talk on marketing in the new millennium and its impact on building great brands from the inside out. Afterwards, he appeared with Gair Maxwell on PGTV to discuss how some of these techniques have been applied to and their award-winning re-branding campaign, featuring its distinctive, round signs. Canada's leader in the emerging Private Sale industry has attracted considerable media attention while generating higher listing counts for 109 franchises from coast-to-coast with only a fraction of the financial and marketing resources compared to some of the behemoths they're up against in the cut-throat, dog-eat-dog real estate industry.

Here is the untold story behind the "Signs of Changing Times".

Williams is also the author of the MondayMorningMemo, a weekly e-mail that at times becomes a practical application and other times a philosophical muse. More often, it will reveal a new perspective you had never previously considered when it comes to the life of business and the business of life. The MMMemo is free of charge and can be discovered at

Was there something that Roy talked about in this interview that had you reflecting and thinking about your business? Is there something to be learned about the connection between intuition and action? What about his thoughts on the way most people advertise and promote their brands?

From the sounds of it, if your brand is not disruptive in some way, then the alternative is to blend in with all of the other polite, non-offending, vanilla-flavored squares.

What do you think?

Is there a "round sign" in your future, waiting to be discovered?

"In a thousand words I can have the Lords Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, the Hippocratic Oath, a sonnet by Shakespeare, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and almost all of the Boy Scout Oath. Now exactly what picture were you planning to trade for all that?” ROY H. WILLIAMS

P.S. ... If you would like to hear a sample from a national campaign that has been banned by at least 15 Canadian radio stations, generated a flood of complaints and at least one death threat left on voice mail, click here:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Keep on Talking in the Free World

What's being said about you and your brand every minute of every day in cyberspace?

Wouldn't you like to know?

Is it possible that all of your best marketing efforts could be completely blindsided by a single incident that gets uploaded, downloaded and unloaded on the masses? Even worse, what if it is an exchange that eventually finds its way to mainstream media? One of the best examples of how social media has levelled the playing field between a single customer and a corporate giant is when Vincent Ferrari jousted with the mighty AOL. Ferrari recorded his conversation with the customer service rep, posted it to his blog and the rest, as they say, is history.

Millions of marketing dollars invested by AOL were essentially flushed down the toilet by this single incident that generated hundreds of thousands of You Tube hits and blog posts. The company was forced to apologize and wound up firing the customer service rep.

But that hasn't stopped the on-line conversations about AOL from continuing:

"Companies generally enforce an attitude of 'you will keep this customer or else' so he was screwed either way. I feel slightly sorry for the guy"

"I freaking HATE AOL. I got rid of them last year, and they gave us a hard time, and over charged us and didn't want to give it back. and they were rude to us over the phone, I should have recorded we are with Yahoo, and we are happy"

"Fuckers took it out on the employee like it was him and not their policies. They trained him to be a jackass"

Can we agree that this would not exactly be the kind of brand image that AOL or any other company would want portrayed on-line or off? A kinder, gentler, machine-gun hand?

According to Radian6 CEO Marcel LeBrun of Fredericton NB, "Your brand is now the sum of conversations about it. Instead of marketers sitting in an office and saying OK, here is what our brand is going to mean so let's buy some ads and push it out there, they now need to be part of the conversation".

LeBrun and his Radian6 cohorts are going where few software firms have ventured, rocking the world with technology that helps clients monitor what's being said about them online. More than 100 PR and Marketing agencies have jumped on the Radian6 bandwagon as well as companies such as Moosehead Breweries and Bell Aliant to discover what people are talking about. As LeBrun explains it, this allows for a strategic view of the social media dialogue.

Thanks to their futuristic technology, LeBrun's New Brunswick-based firm has soared from having only a handful of paying customers and a few employees working out of a one-room office in November of 2007. Today, Radian6 employs 36 people in two offices, with more than 130 customers, including the Interpublic Group of Companies, one of the world's largest marketing, advertising and public relations conglomerates. PR agencies were a natural fit since they were feeling the pain of having to monitor what was being said about their clients on sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The Radian6 software does the job in one neat, tidy package, giving its users a chance to see things (like the Vincent Ferrari incident) unfold in the free world before it goes viral.

LeBrun is also a dedicated blogger with his "Media Philosopher" page, keeps up with his growing legion of fans on Twitter, and as such has emerged as a figure who not only "gets" what the Digital Economy is all about but has some idea of where it is heading. It was most interesting to read his responses in a recent Globe & Mail on-line discussion.

Noel Hulsman writes: If we could back up a couple of steps, I'm interested in your decision to base your company in New Brunswick. I'm a New Brunswick boy, so I'm not taking any shots at my home province, but it has not been traditionally viewed as a hotbed for tech start-ups. The venture market isn't there. Nor are the big clients. Can we get some insights in your strategy behind remaining in New Brunswick?

Marcel LeBrun writes: Well, the venture market is going through challenging times in all of Canada right now, but there is always opportunity for good companies. Savvy investors look for proven management teams, huge/growing market opportunities and sustainable competitive advantage. I have built previous companies from New Brunswick as have the other executives in Radian6 many of whom have worked in global companies like Microsoft and Alcatel as well as tech start-ups. We need to have a global presence, regardless of where our home base is. For any Canadian company, the US market is several times larger and you just need to make sure you are present in that market and can serve the client's needs well. The really cool thing about working in social media is that geography becomes much less of an issue now that you can participate in customer conversations online instantly, globally.

What do you think the implications are for your business and by extension your brand? Could it be that your brand - seemingly overnight -has become less about geography and more about community? And how your brand is being portrayed in those community "conversations"?

Are you curious to know what they're saying about you?

Would it be good business for you to know that?

"You affect the world by what you browse" TIM BERNERS-LEE

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What the Folk?

Can a single YouTube visit help you understand where entire generation is coming from?

"Don't you feel it growin, day by day, people gettin ready for the news" ...

The hero of our story today is a 24-year old, Gen Y son who directs his social media dinosaur of a Baby Boomer father to an Internet video featuring, Grammy Award winners, Flight of the Conchords.

There are few born in the 50's or 60's who would own any of their CD's or caught their series on HBO but, their brand of brilliance has generated global notoriety and international acclaim. New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement bill themselves as "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo".

It has been said that to understand a generation, you need to understand its music. The musical roots of the boomers can be traced to Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones. Swivelling hips, moptops and mod clothing scandalized nations of fuddy-duddy parents who screamed outrage while clinging to their crew cuts and Bing Crosby records.

Today if you're a Boomer parent or business owner, it might help if you could "get" where musicians like Bret and Jermaine are coming from and why your sons and daughters (and their text friends) are buying what F.O.T.C. is putting down when it comes to "Business Time".

Bret and Jemaine were flatmates at Victoria University of Wellington, where they were studying film and theatre before forming F.O.T.C. in 1998. Originally they attempted to write "serious" songs, but when their music was misinterpreted as parodies they read the market and switched to the comedy genre. Does it surprise you to learn that some F.O.T.C. videos have generated in excess of 12 million YouTube hits? And what do you think the implications are with respect to reaching an audience and developing a brand?

“Out of my hundreds of friends, only ONE does not use Facebook or MySpace.”

The 24-year old Gen Y son is part of a group that is more than 3 times the size of Generation X, and almost as big as the Baby Boomers at 72 million. Gen Y has estimated annual incomes totaling $211 Billion Dollars. They spend about $172 Billion while saving the other $39 Billion. Many large and established brands, Pepsi, Levi’s, Nike and others are in a desperate struggle to try and stay cool with this on-line generation that has witnessed corporate collapses, dot com busts and more than their share of family life disrupted by the devastation of divorce. As kids they were encouraged to speak up and as such are used to questioning parents and challenging the status quo.

“I only use email to get a hold of old people like you”

Marketers and Employers share a similar challenge. It doesn't matter whether you are trying to sell to Gen Y or get them to work for you this bunch is more jaded, irreverent and virtually bulletproof when it comes to being persuaded by traditional marketing gimmicks or bullshit corporate speak. They see right through any advertising that shrouded in mouldy, cheesy hype and they have grown up knowing that there is more to life than just work - and life comes first.

They want it real. Warts and all. In real time.

Are you ready to accept the inevitable? Do you see how traditional foundations such as the standard work week are being replaced by a new set of rules based on productivity, not hours at a desk?

What are you doing to plug in to a generation that is less than impressed by your "seniority" and judging you instead on "quality?" How many Gen Y's are you actually listening to these days and have you taken time to study their heroes? Learn what inspires them?

And tune in to the messages in their music?

"What the people need is a way to make em smile, ain't too hard to do if you know how. Gotta get a message, get it on through, oh now, mama, don't you ask me why"THE DOOBIE BROTHERS

P.S. ...Is it just me or do you find it remarkably clever that Bret and Jermaine's video offered nothing in the way of foul language? Is it just a coincidence that "Business Time" happens on a Wednesday, universally known as "Hump Day"? Hmmm ...

The Grande Dame of DeJeuner

I entered the trade show area, turned left and began walking down the far aisle ... and there, in the distance, she appeared in full view.

Live and in living color.

A legend I had heard about, read about. One of those people we tend to admire from afar.

And now, quickly recovering from that momentary lapse of starstruckedness, I'm about to march right over and introduce myself to a woman who has been a source of inspiration for female entrepreneurs everywhere. Her story is one that leaves you shaking your head in wonder.

"How in the heck did she pull that off?"

Married at the age of 21. Became a full-time mother to three children.

Divorced ten years later. Left to her own devices to support three teenagers.

Opened her first small neighbourhood restaurant in 1980 and quickly discovered a passion for customer service. In no time, vast numbers of customers fill her eatery daily, tripling its value. In 1987, she buys a small, abandoned snack bar in Montreal’s St-Laurent area and decides to focus solely on breakfast. Combining fresh fruit, cheeses, cereal, omelettes, crêpes, waffles and French toast, she soon has customers lining up to experience her innovative morning menu.

"When I was young, I wanted to do things in business, but I thought entrepreneurs had to be unique people with special gifts. I think that they are ordinary people who have extraordinary persistence." "Whenever people ask what made me a businesswoman, I always say it was the business that did it. The same way the first child she brings into the world turns a woman into a mother, so my first restaurant turned me into a boss."

Her story is one of overcoming heartache to becoming heartstrong in launching a national chain, spreading its own brand of sunshine from coast-to-coast. Today, the TSB spotlight is shining most deservedly on Cora Tsouflidou.

At last count, there were 96 restaurants in the Cora's chain with expansion plans for 100 more across Canada within three years.

In 2004, Madame Tsouflidou was inducted into the Canadian Professional Sales Association’s Hall of Fame and in 2005 received the Hall of Fame award from the Canadian Franchise Association. Her company, Chez Cora has been named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies and along the way Cora also captured the “Femmes d’Affaires du Quebec” award for Entrepreneur of the year, granted by the “Reseau des Femmes d’affaires du Quebec Inc.”

When it comes to understanding the challenges of entrepreneurship, this lady offers a "been there, done that" perspective that few can match. "It was never really a question of wondering whether it was going to be easy or not: I just did it. Today I realize that the more comfortable someone is in their job, the more difficult it will be for that person because of the sacrifices that will have to be made. That's what makes it difficult to get in touch with our inner entrepreneur, that longing to be in control of our own life rather than being at someone else's mercy. I don't think it's harder today than it used to be. But the more comfortable we are, the more difficult it will be."

Cora's story not only serves as a reminder of the "turning lemons into lemonade" approach to life's challenges, but also recognizes the fact that life - by it's very nature - is unfair to begin with. The consistent pattern from Cora's and other personal success stories seems to focus on how we respond to the unfairness surrounding us nearly every day. Hey, on some days, you just might want to tell yourself, "Gotta suck it up, buttercup".

Working with what she had, and not worrying about she didn't have, Cora decided one day to do just that and "Get Cracking".

Breakfast in Canada has never been the same since.

"You are the sunshine of my life, that's why I'll always stay around. You are the apple of my eye, forever you'll stay in my heart" STEVIE WONDER