Friday, November 28, 2008

Gorilla Marketing

- Ritchie Blackmore's incessant riff that drives "Smoke on the Water".

- Randy Bachman's stutter on "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet".

- The ominous chimes that herald impending doom with AC/DC's, "Hells Bells".

- Tom Hamilton's hypnotic bass line on "Sweet Emotion".

- Ozzy's shrieking that opens "Crazy Train".

Signature moments in classic rock songs have a way of stamping themselves into our collective musical psyches. Few are as memorable or powerful as the Phil Collins drum crash that punctuates "In the Air Tonight".

But what happens when a chocolate bar company decides to mix that musical climax with a 400-pound gorilla?

One of my new BFF's told me about this Cadbury commercial in the back of our limo the other day as we headed back to another rocking session at University.

Little time was wasted in looking this up and learning this spot has generated more than 3.2 million YouTube hits, also sparking a massive viral dialogue, debating its artistic and commercial merits.

Feel free to let us know if this works for you or not.

"Beyond a certain point, the music isn't mine anymore. It's yours"

P.S. ... Thanks for the heads up on this one Allie!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ferriss is a Wheel

How rare is it for a first-time author to create a runaway best-seller?

Happens about as often as ... (slow tympani drum roll ...)

- Imelda Marcos passing on a shoe sale. (rimshot!)

- Charles Barkley saying "no" to a microphone or a cheeseburger.(double rimshot!!)

- John McCain texting Paris Hilton.(rimshot with whistles/catcalls)

- Michael Jackson inviting the gang from Lynyrd Skynyrd over for a night of Texas Hold 'em poker. (Loud cheers, triple rimshot!!!)

Timothy Ferriss is the exception.

His book. The 4-Hour Work Week, exploded off the charts with bucketloads of positive reviews, mainstream interviews and even spin-off websites.. It eventually hit number 1 on both the New York Times bestseller list and the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Tim's blog catapulted to the Top 1000 on Technorati. According to Fast Company, it is read by many of the "top tech CEOs in the world."

He has become a "big deal" in the world of "big wheels".

But wait ... there's more!

In 2008, Ferriss won Wired Magazine's "Greatest Self Promoter of All-Time" prize and was named one of Fast Company's "Most Innovative Business People of 2007."

"The 4-Hour Work Week"?

Tim's book owes a lot its success to his deliberate choice of a provocative title, designed to elicit an emotional response - one way or another. As the author explained to Leo Babauta at, "You can’t have strong positive responses without strong negative responses, and beware — above all — the lukewarm reception from all. “Oh, that’s nice. I think it’s pretty good.” is a death sentence".

Ferriss tested potential book titles and subtitles with Google ad words, using keywords related to content covered in his book (world travel, retirement, etc.).

Some mocked the title.

Others were offended.

Jay Leno parodied it on-air.

All by design.

"You can’t have strong positive responses without strong negative responses"

The 4-Hour Work Week may or not be an unrealistic goal.

Who cares?

"You can’t have strong positive responses without strong negative responses"

Has Tim got you thinking differently about "Lifestyle Design", considering things like "what NOT to do" and escaping the hamster wheel of endless tasking?

Does his choice of book title also have you stewing a little about how you could cook up a strong response for your brand?

“I don’t create controversies. They’re there long before I open my mouth. I just bring them to your attention.” CHARLES BARKLEY

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stunting Originality

What price does one pay for possessing original thought?

And what is the real cost incurred by the loss of such creativity, first in our school systems, followed by graduation to the "real world" of work?

Originality and creativity are essential ingredients for uncommonly remarkable people and brands to emerge in this information overloaded universe, however, it would appear those that display those traits are required to ante up in ways few are willing to bear.

Recently, an acquaintance was anguishing over bureaucratic handcuffs she is wearing that prevent her from doing what she was hired to do. Fearing the career consequences that come with speaking a little too loudly, she reluctantly allows the student she cares for, to remain "Prompt Dependent", thus perpetuating a state of learned helplessness. The child in question is approaching his teenage years. Her attempts to implement new methods to help the 12-year old become more independent are squelched with supervisory language that dictates, "Don't ask why, just get him to comply".

At what point, one wonders, does "Prompt Dependency" become "Opportunity Deprivation"?

Doesn't sound like the taxpayers who fund this public education system are getting much bang for their buck in the way of originality or creativity from either student or educator in this case.

Status quo, it would appear, has carried the day.

Here in New Brunswick, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock and all district superintendants are challenged like never before with helping equip children with skills for adulthood in an increasingly turbulent world. However, based on recent first-hand observations at school visits and in-person intel picked up over coffee talk leads me to believe that New Brunswick is no different than most jurisdictions.

Which means, as a 21st century education system, it is:


and ...

Organizationally ...

... to deal with cataclysmic forces of technological, societal, environmental and economic change playing havoc with the "real world" our kids are being prepared for.

Fortunately, here on TSB, there is an uncommonly remarkable voice willing to stand up.

And, as a Ph.D, his message has a better chance of being heard and hopefully, help those in lofty positions who make vital decisions, see their way out of the education wilderness.

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments in Europe and Asia, international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, national and state education systems, non-profit corporations and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations.

His riveting 22-minute presentation at TED Talks, has been edited to 8:22 so forgive the digital cut-and-paste job that was done in the interests of saving time.

1998, Robinson was invited by the UK Government to establish and lead a national commission on creativity, education and the economy. Leading business people, scientists, artists and educators all weighed in and The Robinson Report was published to huge acclaim. The London Times said: ‘This report raises some of the most important issues facing business in the 21st century. It should have every CEO and human resources director thumping the table and demanding action’.

How much longer can we afford the human, emotional and financial costs incurred by archaic, top-down, command-and-control thinking where bureaucratic protocols effectively eradicate precious resources yearning to be discovered and shared through original, creative thought?

How many government leaders and educators are grasping what "Whole New Mind" author Daniel Pink was offering in the way of insight this past weekend in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal? Can any economy compete on a global stage with a work force supplied by left-brain dominant education systems that stunt right-brain creativity?

How OK are you with paying that price?

"Employers are already saying a degree is not enough, and that graduates do not have the qualities they are looking for; the ability communicate, work in teams, adapt to change, to innovate and be creative. This is not surprising ... the traditional academic curriculum is not designed to promote creativity. Complaining that the system does not produce creative people is like complaining that a car doesn't fly ... it was never intended to. The stark message is that the answer to the future is not simply to increase the amount of education, but to educate people differently"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2500 in 2009

As the Christmas retail rush approaches, some people in business are already looking forward to what lies ahead for 2009. If what you do even remotely has something to do with sales, The 2500 Formula will be of interest to you in determining what you have to play with in terms of available resources to make things happen in the upcoming year.

The 2500 Formula?

Breaks down this way:

• Hours/Week/Year = 2500 (10 hour days x 250 working days/year)

• Standard non-usable time = 375 hours (15%)

• Training, sales, company meetings = 250 hours

• Vacation Days = 180 hours (two weeks)

• Statutory Holidays = 80 hours (ten stats)

• Sick/Personal Days = 40 hours (5 days)


Given those numbers, your 2009 forecasting has to account for how much of your available time you are actually out there selling. And what percentage of those hours is actually producing sales results?

Sales effectiveness is the ability to move a prospect as efficiently as possible through the decision making process and do so in a manner which provides a solution that meets their needs.

Here is what research has shown us:

• Salespeople not employed in their “dream job” = 84%
• Salespeople doing a poor job generating new leads = 52%
• Sales teams with weak/mediocre product knowledge = 50%
• Sales people not meeting quota = 41%

Here is what we also know:

• ALL career salespeople want to be successful
• Quick fixes don’t last long
• Root problems need to be addressed with a combination of clarity, and
strategy supported by systems and processes wrapped in a brand promise that matters.

Oh, and one more thing.

One of the best sales professionals of all time is Jeffrey Gitomer, author of the "Little Red Book of Selling", among others and he believes all of the above makes absolute sense provided at least one other factor comes into play.

2009 promises to be an even more uncertain, unpredictable, up and down year than 2008 could ever hope to be. Stronger brands, already better positioned, will likely get stronger while unfocused, misaligned competitors fall by the wayside. A strong brand, supported by an effective sales strategy on the ground can actually be in a position to leave some competitors choking in their dust - forever.

Economic downturns provide a massive window of opportunity for any brand focused on gaining market share and 2009 will be no different.

It would appear there are about 2500 opportunities to make 2009 your best year if sales is an important part of what you do. Or, to be more precise, 1575 chances to make things happen.

What sort of 2009 do you envision?

"Obstacles can't stop you. Problems can't stop you. Most of all, other people can't stop you. Only you can stop you." JEFFREY GITOMER

Monday, November 24, 2008

S.E.A.M.L.E.S.S. @ Zappos

Zappos gets it!

They have grasped an incredibly simple concept - this business of branding - and how it propels a business model or a career to new heights.

Regretfully, this ridiculously simple idea is often made overly complicated by a host of marketers, designers, advertising firms, media reps and business consultants, delivering superficial tactics - such as logos, taglines and inauthentic, ineffective advertising - and calling it branding.

Not so at Zappos.

My friend/compadre Dan Martell gave me the heads up last week about Zappos and their wunderkind CEO after attending the Tony Hsieh (pron. Shay) presentation at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. What Herb Kelleher and Southwest is to airlines, Tony and Zappos is to shoes. And, if I'm not mistaken, "Dan the Social Media Man" is one of the nearly 20,000 Twitterites following Tony and his every move.

Over a nine-year period, Zappos has gone from zero to $1 billion in gross merchandise sales. A huge number of its 1,600 employees are as fanatical about Twitter like Imelda Marcos is about footwear.

Clearly, a tribe is forming and growing this dynamic should not be surprising to anyone who sat for a spell with Seth Godin's best-seller, "All Marketers Are Liars". In it, as well as his new release "Tribes", Seth describes the power of authentic stories delivered to the right audiences in a compelling manner and how these stories are made even more powerful when they permeate an organization's culture, setting up endless audience and customer connections.

It would appear from this video, that Zappos has adopted a S.E.A.M.L.E.S.S. formula in a way that allows these stories to spread, contributing greatly to the runaway success of this brand.

To help your brand get to where Zappos is going, (part of the never-ending quest for clarity on this subject), here is a S.E.A.M.L.E.S.S. model for you to mull over:

"S" is for STORY - "A brand is a story embedded in the mind of the market". In other words, do you have a story with a chance of penetrating the mindspace of people you want to reach? Customers don't buy goods and services. And people don’t follow leaders. They buy stories about how products, services and leaders make them feel. For evidence, refer to a brand called Obama.

"E" is for ESSENCE - What is at the emotional core of this brand it terms of what it stands for and - more importantly - what it stands against? Years ago, a group of business executives touring an automotive plant came across one of the workers, a middle-aged lady assembling seat belt components. “What is it you do here in this factory?” asked one of the suits. The woman wearing overalls looked up and replied “I’m saving lives”. Have you defined your core?

"A" is for AUDACITY - How high are the hopes and how far-reaching the vision? A business, an organization, an individual, a country will only ever grow to the size of its vision. Only become what it dares to imagine. Imagine the dumbfounded looks and "yeah right" comments that would have been directed back in the seventies to a couple of California guys named Steve, who were dreaming about a personal computer in every home. Some folks must have Wozniaked why those two applelytes just didn't go and find themselves some Jobs.

"M" is for MEANING - In what way does your brand matter to those who would care about it? Both the people who buy from you and those who work with you.

"L" is for LEADERS - Culturally, your people are your best brand ambassadors and as such live, eat, breathe the concept of "Leaders without Labels", with a spirit of 100% Responsibility and "Servant Leadership" in daily interactions with customers - both internal and external. WestJet and it's much admired prototype Southwest Airlines routinely make this look easy when we all know its anything but.

"E" is for EVERYONE - To make and keep a brand promise that matters, the STORY has to be shared and believed by EVERYONE, starting with employees. When employees understand the STORY, embrace it and are empowered to apply it, your brand mojo spreads like wildfire.

"S" is for SMASHINGLY - Different, in the way your brand is represented through visuals, shapes, colors, sounds, words and all of the other elements designed to get people to notice who you are and understand what you are all about. Few do this better in the small business arena than Jim Gilbert's Wheels & Deals in Fredericton, NB - otherwise known as "Canada's Huggable Car Dealer".

"S" is for SYSTEMIZED - In the way your brand leverages technologies and processes to ensure smooth as glass operations on-line and off. Systems that support a profitable business model that allows your brand to sustain itself and the people it serves.

What started out as an online footwear business has since expanded to handbags, purses, eyewear, apparel and watches. Zappos provides free shipping, offer a 365-day return policy and a call center that is always open. According to CEO Hsieh, the No. 1 driver of that growth has been repeat customers and word-of-mouth. On any given day about 65-75 percent of the business comes through repeat orders.

"We promise customers they’re going to get their shoes in four to five business days, but actually, for almost all of our customers, we do a surprise upgrade to overnight shipping. We run our warehouse 24/7, which isn’t the most efficient way to run a warehouse, but it gets the orders out to customers as quickly as possible", adds Hsieh.

Zappos gets its people to "bleed the brand" by investing in a four-week orientation program for new hires with an emphasis on company history, philosophy about customer service and the importance of company culture. No matter the position being filled, everyone goes through the same training experienced by the call center representatives. Zappos offers all newly trained hires an opportunity to take a $1,000 bonus and leave the organization. The 90% who turn down the money in favor of the job, turn out to love the job more than the moolah.

Zappos has also embraced technology, social media and the impact it has on brand building to such a degree that it was only logical for Zapponians to be starring on their own YouTube channel known as Zappos TV.

Tony Hsieh made his first million by the age of 18.

He has appeared on "Oprah" and is one of those guys who prefers a cubicle over a swank corner office. He drives a Mazda, wears jeans and believes success is about living within your means, focusing on what you are good at, not getting too big for your britches, being organized, and sticking to your goals.

Does it appear to you as though Tony and his Zappos cronies have this branding thing figured out?

And how the marketing component can be seamlessly interwoven with culture, HR and operations?

How many other brands are you seeing these days that "get it"?

"We're a service company that just happens to sell shoes." TONY HSEIH

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Manhattan Project

Maximum number of Starbucks locations you could visit in a single day???

Not only visit, but actually walk in, make a purchase and consume the product???

Mark Malkoff was determined to answer those penetrating questions for you and and set new global standards for first-hand consumer research.

Mark Malkoff is a comedian, writer and film maker who currently works for Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. He also made national news by moving into and living in an IKEA store in Paramus, New Jersey for a week when his apartment was being fumigated. Watching him "do his thing", one gets the feeling he would be doing this "thing", even if he wasn't getting paid.

As he explains:"I’ve been doing comedy videos since I was a kid. I do these comedy videos all the time; it’s just that the two I did involving corporate entities are the ones that got me the press. But, most of the stuff I do does not involve corporations. I pick premises I think are funny and just do them"

It would appear a childhood obsession has been a huge influence on Mark as adult.

Hmm ...

Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated: "Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him". Thomas Carlyle added, "It is the first of all problems for a man to find out what kind of work he is to do in this universe".

Don't you admire people who have figured out what they're born to do ...choose a vocation they love and were meant for ... and then jump right in and do it?

What "thing" did you love to do when you were a kid like Mark?

"Starbucks represents something beyond a cup of coffee"

p.s... Another atomically-powered creative force like Mark Malkoff, quietly on his way to getting noticed is New Brunswick's own Ian Varty. Tucked away in the idyllic, rural setting of Cambridge Narrows is a writer/photographer, carefully honing his craft, patiently waiting to be "discovered" by those who appreciate an IV of imagination.

Here is what TSB savoured after a recent visit to

"When you write, nothing is beyond your grasp. You walk through doors posted 'no entry'. You refuse to take your shoes off for airport security and imagine the tragic consequences. You spread a tablecloth on the peak of Everest, pour a cup of yak butter tea and inadvertantly elbow the scones into Tibet"

Kind of makes you wonder what Ian keeps in that backpack of his ... doesn't it?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The "Golden Arches" of Logos?

"Just like the golden arches represent fast food, we believe this round sign will be the ICON for the private sale industry."

KEN LeBLANC, President National Conference
On board the Carnival Ship "Imagination"
Somewhere in the Carribbean
February 12, 2008

Would you know a great logo if you saw one?

What qualities are required for a logo to be considered worthy of greatness? And how do you know if your logo is truly effective or not?

When editorial cartoonist Pat Jollimore of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald decided to lampoon the federal governments decision to sell off crown assets, evidently there was a visual icon buried deep within the subconscious of the artist. Afterall, if the Harper government opted for selling their real estate privately, substansial commissions could be emptied back into the public purse.

"Sell the CN Tower. Keep the Power".

The caricature depicting Prime Minister Steven Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was published this past Saturday, indirectly adding more fuel to the re-branding wildfire generated coast-to-coast by Just as Ken LeBlanc envisioned at his company's 10th Anniversary Conference, the bold decision to stand out as a round sign among a sea of squares, has captured the imagination of home buyers and sellers in more than 110 Canadian communities where a franchise is located. Not only are they noticed, many people can even identify the street locations where they see the round signs popping up.

Which leads to an interesting question today on TSB.

What are the Top 5 logos today that deserve to be in the hallowed "Golden Arches" category? What images "swoosh" into your brain if you could only select the first five logos today that you think about upon hearing and reflecting on this question?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but because of the not-so subtle hints in the previous paragraph, we're going to exclude McDonald's and Nike from the list and reserve a special place them in the just-created TSB Logo Hall-of-Fame. So if you were asked today (which you are) to name the Top 5 logos that immediately come to mind, what would they be?

From where we sit, the Top 5 on the TSB list includes:

1. Google

2. Apple

3. Starbucks

4. Harley-Davidson


Many people confuse a logo as being the same thing as a brand.

Not so.

A "brand" is a story, embedded in the mind of the market, and made up of numerous aspects of a company, from a front desk clerk to a radio commercial. Logos are critical to anyone who is serious about brand building since they serve as the simplest visual trigger of a brand, attaching itself to everything the business produces and represents.The right logo - one with visual snap, crackle and pop - is something a company can use as a way to rekindle associative feelings that may leave one craving for everything from a Big Mac to a skinny latte as you shuffle your iPod searching for "Detroit Rock City".

A great logo can make a brand memorable, but it needs to be more than great art in order to serve its functional purpose for a business. TSB Logo Hall-of-Famer Nike continue to reap exponential value that results from iconic design as witnessed at the 2005 Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

What five logos do you think are cutting the Heinz mustard these days in terms of fusing business functionality with fabulous design?

And did TSB leave out any Hall-of-Fame candidates?

"You now have to decide what 'image' you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

High Voltage Branding

What does a rock band known as the "Thunder from Down Under" share in common with exceptional visual branding?

Are parallel principles of greatness detectable in both sight and sound?

Like a great song you just can't stop humming to yourself, the words of Ryan Maxwell often echo in the neural chambers of anyone who has ever attended one of his riveting visual brand presentations. In a speaking style imbued with only slight tints of Ron Burgundy and Dr. Evil, this national-award winning art director enlightens and entertains audiences as he details what separates the top from the slop when it comes to eye-arresting commercial design.

Ryan, who has already racked up a number of brand portfolio chart-toppers, captures the essence of visual branding this way:

"Great design and great visual branding is actually very simple. Decide on a few basic rules - and stick to them"

Ryan goes on to explain that clear distinctions and decisions have to be drawn on choices that include fonts, colors, shapes and other key elements that determine whether your visual brand gets noticed. Once those choices have been made, your brand has an opportunity to become visually consistent, no matter what marketing and promotional vehicles are selected. As Ryan puts it, "Far better to invest time and energy up front to figure out what's going to last over the long haul. That way you're not always going back to the drawing board".

The other night, on a ride back from Fredericton, grooving to the new AC/DC album "Black Ice", the parallels were coming on like a hurricane.

"Decide on a few basic rules - and stick to them"

Holy Hells Bells Batman!

Isn't that how Aussie rockers AC/DC built and sustained what is arguably the #1 music brand in the world? If anyone could conduct a seminar on the Art of Brand Longevity, it would be the brothers Young and their chord-crunching cohorts who continue to build a growing legion of rabid fans with the recent release of "Black Ice", their first album in eight years.

The AC/DC "formula" has provided enough creativity within structure to allow for more than three decades of loud, blistering hard rock that sells out football stadiums in minutes and has millions of hard-core fans gobbling up merchandise by the truckload.

The basic rules of this tried and tested "formula" include:

- Lead guitarist Angus Young, dressed in schoolboy attire, brandishing his trusty Gibson SG; a whirlwind of on-stage kinetic energy which is only magnified by the relatively stationary positions taken by his more reserved bandmates.

- Lead singer Brian Johnson, a drinking buddy for "everyman", always adorned with his standard "good ole bloke" flatcap.

- Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young and bassist Cliff Williams, jeans and t-shirts guys who march straight up to their microphones to deliver background vocals - and march right back again. No muss. No fuss.

- Drummer Phil Rudd who refuses to fill any AC/DC track with any drum rolls, preferring instead to keep a steady, no-nonsense beat. (Listen to any cut and see if you can find a single, sustained drum roll. No one would ever put Rudd in the same category for drumming excellence as someone like Neil Peart of Rush, but that's not the purpose of the chain-smoker sitting behind the AC/DC drum kit).

- In terms of songwriting structure and production, you won't find AC/DC employing acoustic guitars, keyboards, synthesizers, techno beats or female voices. Power ballads, unplugged melancholy, Celine Dion duets and politically-charged anthems fall way outside the basic rules and consequently are NEVER part of the AC/DC brand mix.

Within the framework of this foundation, AC/DC has carved out a reputation second to none in its genre, so much so that its brand strength has allowed it to make bold business decisions impacting the bottom-line in a big way. "Black Ice," is Number One in 29 countries, which is even more interesting since it is only available at Walmart. The band decided not to allow the album to be sold on iTunes, which has some critics of the Walmart-only strategy eating their words as over 5 million copies of "Black Ice" have been shipped worldwide. With another 5 million in catalog sales, the band is poised to sell over 10 million units this year alone.

"Decide on a few basic rules - and stick to them"

This formula has worked "seamlessly" for more than 30 years in a way that has expanded the AC/DC customer base in a way few would have predicted when they burst on to the scene in the early 1970's with classics such as"High Voltage", "TNT" and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap". Brand value allowed AC/DC to withstand an 8-year recording and touring hiatus and the audience still grew as teenagers discover the band through file sharing. Last night, I asked my 12-year old nephew, proudly displaying his "Back in Black" t-shirt what makes AC/DC so special, to which he replied, "They're unlike any other band out there today".

Are there lessons from the AC/DC success story that could be applied to your brand? What unshakable, no-compromise rules could you establish as philosophical and visual foundations for your business and career?

Can you define a rock-solid essence able to sustain generations of societal and technological change in a way that will have customers grow increasingly loyal?

Does your brand need to revisit some basic formulas to put business back in the black?

"I'll tell you folks, it's harder than it looks. It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n' roll" BON SCOTT

p.s... One of the maladies that prevents a brand from becoming "seamless" is a condition TSB refers to as "Disconnected Brand Disorder". You can decide whether Celine effectively served her brand with this Anastasia duet. Feel free to let us know whether this number shakes you all night long.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Biting the Big Apple

He doesn't actually own one of these devices, but that hasn't stopped this man from taking a stand.

New York Times columnist David Pogue is a personal-technology guru, an author or co-author of seven books in the "for Dummies" series and an Emmy award-winning correspondent for CBS news. In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Pogue contends marketers in Canada are lagging behind the digital technology curve.

To illustrate his point, the former Broadway conductor and arranger, has achieved a four and a half star YouTube rating with this musical video.

Pogue admits he doesn't actually own an iPhone but loves how it shook up the cell phone world.

Everybody, it seems, wants an iPhone.

Including teen muggers in New York City where kids ages 11 to 19 make up a growing proportion of the crooks arrested this year for theft, fueled in part by their lust for the iPhone. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly confirms electronics - mostly iPhones, iPods and Sidekicks - are the stolen booty in about 20% of the robbery arrests.

And let's not forget several high-profile businesses, such as Genentech and Disney (both with strong ties to Apple CEO Steve Jobs) have declared their intentions to work with Apple on deploying iPhones inside their corporations.

It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to RIM's response to the iPhone with the release of the BlackBerry Curve 8900. The Waterloo-based company has added an enhanced multimedia player, making the unit capable of airing podcasts. The phone also features a built-in global positioning system and an updated camera. RIM has been taking it on the chin since the iPhone came to Canada in July, with Apple moving 6.9 million iPhones in its fourth quarter compared to the 6.1 million BlackBerries RIM sold in its quarter ending Aug. 30.

As this business year begins to wind down, how much thought have you given to how your brand will benefit from mobile, digital technology in 2009?

How badly do you need an iPhone?

"In spite of all this noise, customers are still definitely buying in North America, and they're really, really buying internationally"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seamless @ Southwest

Historically, this organization just might be the original "seamless" brand.

"Seamless"; defined as an organization that makes and keeps a promise that matters to its customers through a business model that maintains consistent authenticity and delivery in the key areas of marketing, HR and operations.

To earn that distinction, a “seamless brand” is who they say they are (in their marketing) and do what they say they'll do (internally with their people and the way customers are served). And for more than three decades, one company, above all others, has emerged as the undisputed leader in the “seamless” category.

And to think it all started on the back of a napkin.

This organization is consistently named among the top five Most Admired Corporations in America in Fortune magazine's annual poll. It is also:

- The largest airline in the world by number of passengers carried.

- Maintaining the 5th-largest passenger fleet of aircraft among all of the world's commercial airlines with 3,500 flights daily.

- Serving twice as many customers per/employee as any other airline.

- One of the world's most profitable airlines, posting a profit for the 35th consecutive year in January 2008.

Southwest has been trendsetters since they started, with the first profit-sharing plan in the U.S. airline industry in 1973. Southwest consistently receives the fewest ratio of complaints per passengers boarded of all major U.S. carriers and they were one of the first to recognize the value in creating an environment to foster a vibrant, internal culture to create a distinct, competitive advantage.

With operations and HR running that smoothly, the Southwest brand becomes "seamless" in the way marketing messages are delivered to the outside world.

Legend has it that Herb Kelleher and one of his law clients, Texas businessman Rollin King, created the Southwest concept on a cocktail napkin in a San Antonio restaurant. Rather than the traditonal hub-and-spoke method, King drew a traingle on the napkin symbolizing the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio as the routes.

Kelleher who became Executive Chairman in 1978 is one of the few men in America who still smokes and drinks without apology. Years ago, when he turned over the reins as chief executive, Kelleher sat in a Frank Sinatra-like pose for the cover of Fortune, a glass of Wild Turkey in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Over the years, whenever reporters would ask him the secret to Southwest's success, Kelleher had a stock response. "You have to treat your employees like customers," he told Fortune in 2001. "When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us."

"We've never had layoffs, we could have made more money if we furloughed people. But we don't do that. And we honor them constantly. Our people know that if they are sick, we will take care of them. If there are occasions or grief or joy, we will be there with them. They know that we value them as people, not just cogs in a machine."

From its birth in 1971 — Southwest has succeeded by daring to be different: offering low fares to its passengers by eliminating unnecessary services, providing their own wacky brand of in-flight entertainment from its employees and using a remarkable hedge strategy to save hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel costs. For most airlines, fuel constitutes about 40% of their costs, up from 10 percent just a few years ago. But not Southwest. Not when 70 percent of the company's fuel is hedged at $51 a barrel — which is fantastic when your competitors are paying the going rate as world oil prices climb to about $126 a barrel. They are also one of the few Fortune 500's to bravely enter the blogosphere with a platform for both customers and employees to communicate with one another.

Can you begin to see why investors who bought $1,000 worth of Southwest stock at the IPO in 1972, would own investments worth about $1.8 million today?

Product or price advantages are difficult to come by in any category since they can be easily duplicated. But, a strong customer service culture, built on a "seamless" foundation is virtually impossible to copy. No question, WestJet has been able to pull it off in Canada, and yes it has led to incredible market share growth and profitability, but as the "Rock Star of People" Tyson Matheson shared with TSB, in an earlier post, it has been anything but easy.

If it was, everybody else would be doing it.

How many other brands would you refer to as "seamless"?

Who else has figured out a way to synchronize marketing, HR and operations and do it with both speed and passion?

"A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear" HERB KELLEHER

Friday, November 14, 2008

Slash on SunPop

First heard about SunPop on a trip to Austin in the summer of 2006.

Saw for myself, a glimpse of the future as far as on-line video was concerned.

The brainchild of Rex Williams, SunPop is a Texas-based production company specializing in unscripted, genuine and humanizing online videos. You might say SunPop has an appetite for destroying anything that smacks remotely of plasticized posing in front of their cameras.

Recently came across one of their latest projects and thought this 2:32 clip was way beyond cool.

Latest research indicates worldwide online video revenue is expected to quadruple over the next four years - leaping to $4.5 billion in 2012 from $1.2 billion in 2008. And SunPop is quickly carving a niche as being one of the best in this growing segment of the video production business.

It's so easy to see why.

Rex Williams recommends business owners to always be mindful of the end result they are striving toward when considering on-line video as part of their overall marketing mix.

And, most of all, keep it real.

"Slash sat me down at his house and said, You've got to clean up your act. You know you've gone too far when Slash is saying, Look, you've got to get into rehab" CHARLIE SHEEN

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Messing with Words

Waiting for a flight several years ago at Dallas-Fort Worth International, I wander into an airport souvenir shop. With time to kill and a few dollars to burn, it isn't long before the eyes of Texas are staring back at me in the form of a coffee cup.

The message is loud and clear.

"Don't Mess with Texas"

Right away, I'm taken aback by the spirit of bravado. Was this some kind of threat? The words seemed to be packing their own kind of heat, with a lazy drawl dripping from the lip of that menacing mug. As the message sinks in, I'm under the immediate impression there will be dire consequences if any hombre is so foolish as to look the wrong way or cross any native of America's 28th state.

Weeks later, I discover the real story.

And further evidence of the human behaviour-shaping power of words.

In December 1985, a bumper sticker bearing the words "Don't Mess With Texas" began appearing on pickup trucks across the Lone Star State. There was no explanation. Just four words with a small red, white, and blue Texas flag.

Fast-forward more than 20 years to today and the longest-running public service campaign in Texas is also the most successful anti-litter campaign in history, reducing litter on highways by an astonishing 72 percent. The media campaign, premiered with a television advertisement, at the 50th annual Cotton Bowl, January 1, 1986, featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Since then, numerous musicians, athletes, celebrities and other famous Texans have appeared in "Don't Mess with Texas" radio and television ads including Warren Moon, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, George Foreman , and Leann Rimes.

More than its immediate success at reducing litter, however, the slogan became a Texas cultural icon and the slogan adopted for general use. "Don’t Mess with Texas" has also earned a spot among the best advertising slogans ever with a plaque on the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame and a place in the Advertising Hall of Fame.

The words we choose to describe our businesses, our brands and how behaviour can be influenced can have gi-normous repercussions - provided they are chosen wisely and handled with care. The first time that became apparent to me was back in the spring of the year 2000, on a 5-hour hockey road trip to Cape Breton. Sitting at the back of the Tim Hortons All-Stars bus, Robbie Forbes hands me a copy of "Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads". I soaked it up from start to finish, hooked by the gripping effect of Chapter 1 where author Roy H. Williams articulates why words are electric and should be chosen for the emotional voltage they carry.

"Words start wars and end them, create love and choke it, bring us to laughter, joy and tears. Words cause men and women to willingly risk their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor. Our world as we know it, revolves on the power of words"

What are the words your brand revolves on?

Will the readers of your website discover hollow, polite or sluggish words? Do the people who work with your organization pepper prospects and customers with self-promoting hype, pomposity and puffery?

Or are you open to the possibilities that await by discovering fresh, active and vivid words to electrify and illuminate your brand?

The careful choice of four simple words has inspired millions of Texans to keep 261,797 square miles free of trash.

Have you chosen the right words to unleash the energy of your brand?

"You can go to hell ... and I'll go to Texas" DAVY CROCKETT
p.s... If you're a fan of eloquent phrasing and impeccable writing, The Wizard of Ads trilogy and Roy's weekly memo are highly recommended by TSB. Visit or

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Conversation is OPEN

The effect of social networking on brands cannot be overstated enough.

So, the subject is coming up again today on TSB.

Thanks to some help from American Express and a tip from the Thursday File, ( we have two of the most reputable authorities in the business world, Seth Godin and Tom Peters sounding off on the subject.

(Just be sure to click the BACK button, so you can return safely to the TSB post)

Did a little digging and I found myself admiring the work of Susan Sobbott, President & General Manager of OPEN from American Express, the division dedicated exclusively to the success of small business owners and their companies. It didn't take long to learn why OPEN is the fastest-growing proprietary business unit within American Express, and the nation’s largest credit and charge card issuer for small business.

Daughter of the owner of a small trucking business, Susan was named President of the OPEN team in 2004. Since then, OPEN has achieved and retained record numbers of new card accounts, leading to a doubling of charge volume and pre-tax income. Under her leadership, OPEN has captured many awards including one from B2B Magazine as one of Business to Business Best Brands of 2006.

Judging by the company Susan keeps, you and I can readily see why success is becoming wide OPEN. There is no shortage of expertise to soak up here:

Since dipping a proverbial toe into the swirling waters of the blogosphere in early August, this has been like a Rollercoaster Ride called Confusion, where one learns quickly to test, fail and adjust - quickly! Kudos to American Express for making experts like Seth Godin and Tom Peters so readily available for those of us who crave deeper understanding on subjects like these as we seek to make our own adjustments as needed.

How do you feel?

Pardon the pun, but do you think AMEX deserves a little credit for this type of initiative?

Excellent firms don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change. TOM PETERS

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

It was called the "war to end all wars" and it ended as pen was placed to paper in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest, just outside Paris, on this day in 1918.

And with that final stroke at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, signalling enough blood had been shed, the principal signatories, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of the Allies and Matthias Erzberger of Germany, concluded a treaty that ended the First World War.

Erzberger a civilian who had made a passionate plea for peace in the Reichstag more than a year earlier, protested the harshness of the Allied terms. Before leaving the railway car, he wrapped up by saying that "a nation of seventy millions can suffer, but it cannot die". (Marshall Foch ignored Erzberger's attempt to shake his hand and is said to have replied, "Très bien".)

Erzberger later became Germany's finance minister in 1919 before being assassinated by right-wing extremists who viewed his signing of the armistice as treachery.

Decades later, American author Joseph Campbell would write, "A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself".

What is understood ... need not be said.

"It's a song that was written about the military cemeteries in Flanders and Northern France. In 1976, my wife and I went to three or four of these military cemeteries and saw all the young soldiers buried there"

The song "Willie McBride" is still a powerful indictment of war, and has been recorded many times since it was composed by singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1975. A version by Makem and Clancey is reputedly the largest selling single in Irish history. The song has also been covered by the Chieftains, the Dubliners, John McDermott and the Dropkick Murphys among others.

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row. That mark our place; and in the sky, the larks, still bravely singing, fly, scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead, short days ago, we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throw, the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow, in Flanders fields. JOHN McCRAE

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why Start?

On Wednesday of this week, a new audience of would-be, somewhat starry-eyed entrepreneurs will discover the real reason a person starts a business.

The real reason?

Would you believe that in most cases the real reason will have very little to do with entrepreneurship.

This is one of those seminars I always look forward to presenting. You just never know who you will bump into that just might take off like a meteor, changing their world, the world around them and creating jobs for others in the process.

Yes, I have seen this happen. On more than one occasion.

Over the course of a single day, I will attempt, whatever humanly possible, to reveal the good, bad and the ugly of entrepreneurship in a way I wish someone else had for me way back when.

My purpose?

To try and save any entirely predictable and preventable loss of time, money and emotional heartache (is there any other kind?) by providing unusual clarity to "the way things really are" for anyone who fancies the idea of owning and operating their own business.

Essentially, everyone sitting in the audience this Wednesday has thought about what it's like to "be the boss".

That's one of the big reasons why they're there in the first place.

There could be other reasons as well such as downsizing, rightsizing or wrongsizing. They may have been fired, laid off or just got so fed up one day with working for someone else or performing work they were meant to do they simply listened to their heart and quit.

The reasons for how anyone found their way to Wednesdays class (or any of the future sessions, coordinated by the Mother Theresa of our local business community, the wonderful Sharon Geldart) matter less than the FACT they have signed up for BOSS class.

This is only the beginning.

It has been said that if you want to go somewhere, it is a good idea to find someone who has already been there. One of those people would be Robert Kiyosaki who still calls himself a chubby kid from Hawaii. In his best-seller Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Kiyosaki explains that:

1. As an employee, you have a job.

2. As a self-employed professional, you own the job.

3. As the owner of a business, you hire people to perform the job.

By definition - Being the BOSS - means that YOU are responsible for making business happen.

That's YOUR job.


Being willing to do what no one else is willing to do. And that is ... drum roll please ... BRING IN THE WORK!

Because if you don't "bring in the work", there is no business for you or anyone else to work at. That being said, there is another major difference between the function of "bringing in the work" and the reasons that would motivate you to do that in the first place.

Guy Kawasaki is another "been there done that" type who also happens to be from Hawaii.

He was instrumental in helping Apple launch the Mac, has BA from Stanford, an MBA from UCLA, has authored eight books and is paid anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 for a single speaking engagement. In this TSB post, Guy, shares some profound wisdom and solid advice to anyone contemplating being the BOSS, from his recent best-seller, Art of the Start.

Kawasaki adds that " If you cannot ignore the naysayers who tell you that it can’t be done, it shouldn’t be done, it isn’t necessary, you can’t be an entrepreneur".

You really want to launch your own business?

Can you discover a meaningful reason why you would want to start and become married to that business in the first place? Something you are so passionate about you lose track of time in the thinking and doing of that "thing" that you do? Are you wedded to a purpose greater than just the desire to make money and pay your bills?

If so, be fully aware that if you truly want to be the BOSS, "bringing in the work" is Job 1.

Otherwise,stop dreaming. Right now.

Don't even start.

"The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way" ROBERT KIYOSAKI

Friday, November 7, 2008

Runnin' with the Beatles

I am trying to "imagine" how John Lennon would feel about this.

Personally, I thought this video was too cool to pass up, especially on a Friday. And particularly after lengthier posts earlier this week, exploring deeper issues of learned optimism, defining "brand" essence and the psychology behind recent business success stories.

As you look forward to the weekend, why not kick back and think about simple pleasures like driving your car (with the top down), cranking the volume and easing the seat back so you can barely see the road.

Thanks to the wonder of technology, the web and the power of musical synchronicity, TSB is pleased to present for you today ... none other than ...

The Beatles and Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth ... runnin' together at last!

Is this blasphemy to Beatles fans everywhere? Do the vocal talents of Diamond Dave seamlessly fit with the Fab Four?

How do you think John, Paul, George and Ringo would react to this?

What about Eddie and Alex?

I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass. DAVID LEE ROTH

"Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted" JOHN LENNON

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Learned Optimism?

Have you noticed that in the wake of Barack Obama's victory in the Presidential elections on Tuesday night, people suddenly seem to be more optimistic?

Those who are naturally upbeat are re-convincing and re-telling themselves that, "Yes, the world can become a better place".

Those who are naturally cynical default to a position that sounds like, "We'll just see how long this will last".

The pragmatist analyzes the impact of this injection of hope, wondering, "How will this affect people's moods and business results"?

According to Martin Seligman, "Optimism may be more useful than the truth".

But, if that's true, can optimism be learned?

Whether or not that is possible would depend on a number of factors but Seligman might make you think again on this subject. Martin is the former president of the American Psychology Association and director of clinical training at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who found a way to rank individuals on an optimism-pessimism scale. In a longitudinal study of school children, those scoring highest for pessimism were most likely later to suffer depression. High scores for optimism predicted excellence in everything from sports to life-insurance sales (a finding that saved Metropolitan Life millions of dollars in personnel selection).

Optimism wins votes as well. You don't have to look too far back over recent elections and ask, which candidate was most optimistic? Bush vs. Kerry. Clinton vs. Dole. Bush vs. Dukakis, Reagan vs. Mondale, Carter vs. Ford. In every single pairing, the president who seemed the most optimistic won. Analysing campaign speeches for the prevalence of optimistic words and ideas, Martin Seligman predicted the winners of the 1988 presidential and Senate elections more accurately than veteran political forecasters.

"I used to be an agent of both truth and happiness,but research is increasingly challenging that view. Optimists have a set of self-serving illusions that enable them to maintain good cheer and health in a universe essentially indifferent to their welfare". Seligman adds that, "Optimists are more resistant to infectious illness and are better at fending off chronic diseases of middle age. In one study, we looked at 96 men who had their first heart attack in 1980. Within eight years, 15 of the 16 most pessimistic men died of a second heart attack, but only five of the 16most optimistic men died".

Seligman believes depressed people may need to adopt the same self-serving illusions that most normal people hold. He reasons that since we can choose how we think, styles of thinking can become habits as we learn to control our thoughts as we would our muscles.

So, Marty, what does one do when they're in a funk?

"My recommendation is to do something pleasurable that will distract you from your troubles; fun distractions because studies show, if you think about problems in a negative frame of mind, you come up with fewer solutions. And you're likely to spiral into deeper depression. By boosting mood and self-esteem, people with pessimistic tendencies can break that cycle and free themselves to think more creatively.It takes most people a few weeks to get the knack, but once the technique is learned, the less likely they are to relapse"

Someone who has been successfully applying and sharing the Seligman approach is a Massachusetts gal who has been delighting readers, live audiences, and TV viewers for more than 20 years with wacky and wise insights about life, love, and the insanity of the modern world. Caught her performance at the Tony Robbins event in Halifax back in February and here she is now ... ready to shine a little more light on optimism - the one and only, Loretta LaRoche!

Loretta has been nominated for local and prime time Emmy Awards, has appeared on CNN, ABC and NBC affiliates and has authored 6 books including Relax: You May Only Have a Few Minutes Left, Life is Not a Stress Rehearsal, Life Is Short- Wear Your Party Pants, and her latest book Kick Up Heels Before You're Too Short to Wear Them. You can learn more at

What Loretta and people like her do is give us a respite from the same bad news we can get any day from the news media. Why do some of us crave that daily doze of gloom and doom that makes you feel your entire mind and body is under assault? Has anyone ever attended one of those group BMW sessions (Bitching, Moaning and Whining) only to leave refreshed and ready to make the world a better place?

Typically, the human brain will process about 50,000 - 60,000 thoughts per day, of which about 80% will be either negative or self critical. In other words, it takes a concentrated effort to block out crap that brings us down and focus on good stuff that ultimately makes a difference in what we do, how we do it and who we do it with.

Half-full or half-empty?

Much has already been philosophized on this subject and it does provide great conversational fodder. One could argue that both perspectives offer value since the optimist may invent the airplane but the pessimist thinks about the parachute.

Perhaps, the question of learned optimism needs to focus less on what we already know but more so on what we are willing to learn.

Or maybe, there are "those" days when we just need to give ourselves a good swift kick in the glass.

What do you do on "those" days?

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties" HARRY S. TRUMAN

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From a Wrench to a Wiki

One day (maybe, you’ve had one of those days) Pierre decided enough was enough.

50-plus hours a week with his head stuck underneath someone else’s hood was getting to be more than he could stomach. The work itself wasn’t the problem. Brake jobs, ball joints, rack & pinion, carburetors, transmissions were a breeze. But life as a 25-year old mechanic was starting to mean very little if it meant working his guts out to build someone else’s dream and not his own.

Six months after Pierre started swinging a wrench at Ralph’s Auto Repair, he let the boss know that someday he would like to own a piece of the business. Maybe take it over one day. And Ralph, thoroughly impressed with the energy and enthusiasm of his best employee – responded by saying “You keep sticking this out, and within five years, maybe eight, the whole thing could be yours”.

Five years later, Pierre decided to follow up with his boss on that promise.

“Well to tell you the truth, Pierre, I can’t see that happening for another five years or so, maybe eight”.

To himself, Pierre muttered “It’ll be more like a dozen. Likely never”.

Deep down, he knew the only answer that made sense.

It was time to trade in his wrench. But for what?

At that moment, Pierre decided to follow what his “gut” was saying when it comes to owning a business. The same instincts that served him well when, as a youngster, he purchased a box of unwanted Olympic souvenir pins for 20 bucks and sold them for a profit of about $500 at a local flea market. A return on investment of about 2500% generated by an 8-year old who still liked to watch the occasional episode of Sesame Street.

Growing up, Pierre had been intrigued by the world of real estate. He admired his Dad, who owned several rental properties, always generating positive cash flow while paying down mortgages. In fact, Pierre followed in Victor’s footsteps, buying his first rental property at the age of 19.

He started wondering and dreaming.

“Maybe I could turn this hobby into a full time business and become a contractor specializing in new home construction. But find a way to do it differently. Not like all the others”.

So, Martell Home Builders was about to be launched as a full-time venture with little more than high hopes and a gut feeling. But first there was some unfinished business that needed taking care of.

When Pierre walked through the service bay to turn in his overalls and letter of resignation, Ralph was floored. And once the deer in the headlight look faded, the boss looked his favorite employee square in the eye and with great sincerity told him, “You are truly, truly, truly making a big mistake. The biggest mistake of your life. You don’t know what you’re getting into, owning a business. It’s a lot harder than it looks”.

Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, who escaped the Nazis and taught at Harvard, defined an entrepreneur as a person who is willing and able to drive "creative destruction" across markets and industries. Simply, it means the process by which old ways of doing things are replaced by new ways. One of Schumpeter’s students, management guru and fellow Austrian, Peter Drucker states you can boil entrepreneurship down to one word - risk. The amount of willingness one has to put his or her career and financial security on the line for the sake of an idea. In Pierre’s first couple of months in business, he teetered on the edge of destruction, discovering first-hand what no dictionary definition or PhD could teach him about risk.

With two foundations in the ground, three people on payroll and suppliers bills piling up, I am literally robbing Pierre to pay Paul. Maxed out four credit cards, re-mortgaged my house. I’m stressed to the max, losing sleep, flirting with bankruptcy and starting to think maybe Ralph was right. I honestly thought these homes would just somehow sell on their own, and since they didn’t, I am learning some tough lessons and learning them fast”.
With the sheriff less than a week away, Pierre managed to keep the company alive by convincing younger brother, Moe to buy one of his first units. He made a decision to sacrifice all of the potential profit in the deal, securing enough cash to keep the wolves at bay and buy a little more time.

Pierre has used the time well.

Hit the fast-forward button.

Less than 12 months later, Martell Home Builders emerges as one of Canada’s most innovative home-building companies.

In terms of the home-building industry, there is nothing quite like MHB. (

Pierre’s brainchild features a web-enabled platform that drives a seamless, start-to-finish project management system, complete with timeline and fully interactive client log-in software. New home construction is guaranteed in four months or less with the “99-Day Construction Countdown”. Employing creative guerrilla marketing tactics and using FaceBook and other social media applications, Martell Home Builders has generated more than 80% of its sales privately, adding to its bottom-line by avoiding MLS commissions. They also turned heads at their first-ever trade show where Pierre’s booth was the only one recording live TV-type interviews with local celebrities and other exhibitors. Not only did more people stop by for a look but all of the interviews were posted on YouTube with the viral effect pushing the Martell Home Builders website on the front page of the Google rankings within ten days.

Clearly, Pierre is doing everything he can to turn an otherwise traditional industry on its ear and kick it in the ass. Some of the cool stuff that has been woven in to the “Martell Experience” includes:

The Client Log-in - A simple, web-based application that allows the customer, vendors and the MHB team to stay in the loop in terms of decisions, options, timelines, status. An on-line hub detailing the entire project - everything from building permits to architectural drawings and “Don’t Forget” lists.

Wireless Video - Since Pierre can’t drive around to all job sites and see if subs have showed up, he simply logs on and accesses a live camera that monitors each job site. He can look in real time and see what’s really going.

Wiki Operations Manual – What got you here won’t keep you here. Pierre understands business processes will always change so they need to be fluid. The day of printed off materials have disappeared like the dinosaur and this allows team members to design and implement systems that need to be in place, allowing MHB to keep their brand promise. For example, one of the project managers, upon hearing customer feedback on going a week without a phone after moving, was able to develop a “Top Ten List of Things to Think About Before You Move” and post it in the Wiki so everyone would automatically provide it as part of the New Customer Orientation process.

iPhones - Every MHB employee has one, pre-loaded with a 3-minute Martell Home Builder video posted on You Tube that shares the company’s “story”. The iPhone is also connected to all web applications, so when a client asks, “How is my house coming along”? any employee can access the latest on-line photos that monitor progress on a weekly-basis.

Google Docs - No more waiting to “get back to the office” before sending someone information from your desktop. This gives Pierre the ability to access documents in a secure manner from anywhere in the world and send that information to whoever needs it. Like having an on-line server in the clouds.

You Tube Videos - In an effort to better connect with key stakeholders, suppliers, partners etc, Pierre will deliver a message on video, post it on You Tube, and e-mail links to those he wants to reach.

Geo-Tagged Photos - Photos that monitor construction progress are geo-tagged with an MHB watermark. Newer cameras equipped with built-in GPS technology have the ability to drive search engine hits. Anyone searching for photos in the Moncton area automatically discovers branded, Martell Homebuilder photos.

There are also Twitter Updates, Delicisious Book-marks, a Blog and other technologies to keep a growing legion of construction fans seamlessly linked to everything Pierre is doing and thinking about. And the last time we checked, the MHB video has generated more than 1500 hits on YouTube.

And the entire business model is now ready for duplication in markets across the country. The real-time operations manual that utilizes wiki technology to stay ahead of the curve epitomizes Pierre’s strategy to deal with a rapidly changing world and industry. Essentially, Martell Home Builders is a company that embraces the new Theory of Wikinomics and its principles of Openness, Peering, Sharing and Acting Globally. It’s a model that allows both customers and business partners to plug into the brand – while the rest of the world watches with growing admiration.

Pierre’s story has gone viral to the point where influential bloggers such as Jason Falls of Louisville, KY raved about what he has created with a compelling endorsement in the fall of 2008 at In Jason’s words, “I’ve never had a house built but have heard horror stories of project being tens of thousands of dollars over budget, months and months behind schedule and problem after problem with the contractor, permits and more. What defines Martell’s unique selling proposition is transparency. You’re going to know where he is at all times. You’re going to know what’s going on with your house at all times. Advertising, customer relations, vendor relations, public relations, website execution, social media and more are all by-products of the umbrella strategic approach to give the customer a home building and buying experience like no other. Whether intentional or not, Martell went through the strategic process of defining their audience, establishing their objectives, developing strategies to accomplish those objectives with the audience and then - after all that was established - decide the tools (on- and off-line) or mechanisms to execute the strategy”. Accolades such as these are what prompted the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce to sit up and take notice in October of 2008, as MHB captured top marketing honours at the annual GMCC business excellence awards.

Some people ask “How does he do it”?

How does an otherwise normal guy connect the desire for innovation to the motivation required to persist until the job gets done?

According to Pierre, any formula for entrepreneurial success can be boiled down to a single phrase; “Be willing to do whatever most people aren’t. There is a reason why only 5% of any population base controls about 95% of the money and that’s because those are the kind of people who will do all of the little pain-in-the-ass things that most people can’t be bothered doing”.

With the help of a web savvy, entrepreneurial older brother and other business mentors, Pierre also learned quickly to “stop trading time for money”. As he explains, “The key to business growth is leverage, leverage, leverage and you only learn that by surrounding yourself with other people who think that way and can teach you. My brother knew nothing about contracting per se, but he knew a ton of stuff about leverage, so each time something would come up about our business model, he would challenge existing assumptions and call bullshit. That’s one of the great things about learning from my brother and all of the books, seminars and people he and others in my circle have introduced me to. Once you learn not to accept status quo on anything and figure out how to stop trading time for money, the sky is the limit”.
Perhaps, Pierre’s “can do” characteristics are best captured in this fashion; brought you today by the “Number 4” and the letter “I”:

Imagination – The ability to sense early stages of opportunity.
Inspiration – Believing in and selling yourself that you can do it.
Initiative – Taking action; doing what others aren’t willing to do.
Implementation – Organizing systems designed to create and keep customers.

It’s tempting to want to trade your “wrench for a wiki” and make the shift from employee to entrepreneur. However, any decision to do so requires a mindset to be willing to do what most people would never dream of doing. Many who claim they want to own a business are really saying they want to own an already successful business. How many people do you know that possess the intestinal fortitude to roll the dice in the first place, are willing to do the thousands of hours of lonely, heavy lifting and endure the sweaty palms and sleepless nights at “gut check” time?.

One day, you may decide enough is enough and start giving considerable thought to building your own dream. Trade your wrench for a wiki. Or, perhaps you decide to get serious about finding ways to lift your existing business to entirely new levels.
But here are some questions that need mulling over.

Do you have the inner strength to trust your instincts and emotions, even in the absence of explicit knowledge and information?

Are you internally motivated to the point where you would be ready to sacrifice it all for the sake of an idea?

How willing are you to work, sweat, screw-up, learn and find creative solutions that exist in new technologies to be remarkable and knock competitors on their keesters?

Not too long ago, Pierre brought his truck back to Ralph’s shop for a tune-up. This time the former boss took him aside, looked him in the eye and again with great sincerity, said, “Pierre, I’m really proud of you”.

Someday, when Pierre is enjoying his well-deserved millions and relaxing on a yacht somewhere in the Caribbean, people will say “Boy did he get lucky with that contracting business. Guess that kid was just in the right place at the right time”.

In the end, Ralph was right.

Going from a wrench to a wiki – and doing it in less than a year - is a helluva lot harder than it looks.

“Capitalism demands the best of every man and rewards him accordingly. It leaves every man free to go as far as his ability and ambition will carry him”