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LEGO shows the way to true customer centricity

4 Mar

Smart companies know that they have to pay attention to their customers if they want them to hang around.

That can take many forms, from social media interaction, to research, to transactional data analysis.

The deeper your understanding of your customers’ attitudes, habits and needs, the deeper the engagement you can create with them. And the easier it becomes to get new customers.

Listening is critical. Asking your customers their opinions is even better.

Danish toy manufacturer LEGO has taken this a step further. They asked their customers to do their design work. The subsequent ideas and public vote on their website has led to the launch of a 369-piece replica of the Hayabusa asteroid explorer, the Japanese-designed space probe that collects samples from asteroids for study back here.

LEGO launches Hayabusa asteroid explorer

LEGO launches 369-piece Hayabusa asteroid explorer

It was probably not an idea that LEGO would have hit on, but their customers sure did. Imagine the kind of loyalty that will flow from LEGO’s openness to customer input.

One of the coolest features of this model is Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission supervisor Junichiro Kawaguchi recreated in miniature with two expressions: one for “everything’s great” and another for “%$&#*@!”

JAXA project manager Kawaguchi as a LEGO guy

JAXA project manager Kawaguchi as unhappy LEGO guy


The sound of music

16 Feb


Fingernails on chalkboardThe fact that music elicits emotion is old news. Massive investments in research time and dollars have explored both the therapeutic and consumer behavior applications of music.

If you work for a large company you might have little or no control over the music that pumps through your commercial spaces. In some cases, it may be so bland that you’re only aware of it around Christmas (the day after Halloween) when it becomes insufferable. Small businesses have all the music choices in the world. Some people shouldn’t have that kind of power.

Last week, I experienced three hours of pure auditory hell. The owner of the shop I was in had their personal iPod on shuffle. By “shuffle” I mean it was in the throws of an identity crisis and was committed to taking everyone down with it. No one in the room, including the long-suffering staff, knew how they were supposed to feel – other than incredibly anxious. The owner didn’t see that there was a problem and refused to change it or turn it off.

Consumer’s emotions are affected by their environment, and they evaluate their environment with their emotions. It makes sense strategically to understand what creates and sustains pleasant emotional reactions.

Pre-made playlists are out there. Grooveshark is a good place to start. Users can build their own play lists or combine pre-made playlists to make larger ones quickly. YouTube is another great resource.

The auditory experience of the customer often feels like an after-thought, but it deserves some more attention. How often have you left a space because of their awful aural environment?

Or how it smelled?

(Next Up: What’s your first impression of a retail environment?)

(Photo courtesy of

New mugs for the new year

29 Dec

We’re going to bust out of the gate in 2012 with some new faces, all of whom we feel very fortunate to have engaged. Here’s a brief introduction to the new additions to the lineup.

Jill Stefanyk at Copeland







Jill Stefanyk, known to many in Victoria as the exemplary event manager of the Vancouver Island Pet Expo, has joined us on a contract basis as Account Manager. She is currently helping steer a variety of projects through the shop in her cool, competent style. A great find for us.

Bryan Dwyer at Copeland







Former Zombie Intern Contest finalist Bryan Dwyer is bringing his amazing faculty for research and consumer insights to the team, while continuing to complete his BBA degree in Marketing and Communications from Camosun College. Bryan impressed us from Day 1 of his internship during the summer.

Christie Burns at Copeland







Speaking of the Marketing and Communications program at Camosun, we are also lucky to have Christie Burns (technically in her 4th year) interning with us through the dark months of winter.

Actually, it rarely gets dark in Victoria. Did you know that Victoria has 40% more winter sunshine than Vancouver? An excellent reason to hire a Victoria ad agency.

We’re a lot less gloomy. Just look at these mugs.

2 critical features you need to succeed in advertising

10 Dec





TV rabbit ears

Nobody ever got famous in advertising by sticking their head in the sand.

On the contrary, the most successful practitioners are those who have their antennae constantly up, picking up interesting conversations, tuning in to enlightening behaviour, gleaning tidbits of consumer data and making note of cultural buzz.

Insight is what makes you good at this game. Insight translates to ideas that resonate with people in places where they are most responsive.

Insight comes from paying attention.

I have been asked many times how I continue to find topics for blog posts and my answer is simply that I have my antennae up. So I pick up signals.

Keith Richards once famously claimed that he deserved no credit for creating some of the greatest riffs of modern rock. He said he merely had his antennae up and therefore picked up the riffs that were already floating out there.

Of course he was higher than a kite when he said it, but there is something to it.

Similarly, when I was on a tiger safari in India some years ago I asked my guide how to spot a tiger. He said: “You look for them. That is the key.”

How to survive the end of the world in 2012

5 Dec

Monk watching tidal wave in 2012

I read this very enlightening post on B2C entitled The Future of Marketing: 46 Experts Share Their Predictions For 2012.

I suggest you take a look.

One thing that everyone can agree on is that no one agrees on anything.

The future of marketing next year is either mobile, social media, consumer data, results, apps, targeting advertising, KPI, brand control or one of several dozen other must-haves.

There is a sense of intense singularity around what you need to do next year to survive. So where does that leave you? Do everything and cover off all the bases?

The future is a snake in your sleeping bag. The instinct is to thrash around and try to kick the living crap out of the thing. But maybe it’s better to just lie still and assess.

Here at least are 4 essentials components of success in marketing in 2012. And surprise, they’re no different than 2011.

1. Ensure your website is killer. By that I mean engaging, simple to navigate and constantly updated. It is your most important selling tool, likely your first impression and the hub of all your marketing efforts.

2. Have an SEO strategy in place. Google “Marketing and advertising Victoria BC” and see what comes up first. Optimum search placement is the result of a smart SEO strategy. No point having a killer website without this one.

3. Offer a mobile-friendly website. No point having a killer website and a smart SEO strategy without one of these. Don’t have one? Drop me a note and we’ll get you one toot sweet.

4. Invest in knowing your customer better. Spend some time and some money on this because content might be king, but knowledge is power. And kings get assassinated by their snaggle-toothed lieutenants all the time.

If you’re doing all four, you can focus on growth and stop thinking about just surviving.

Good luck to your business in 2012!

Some marketing advice for the Occupy movement

15 Nov

I walk through Centennial Square in Victoria everyday and consider the plight of the Occupy Victoria movement, now in its third month.

Initial curiosity on the part of the public converted some to supporters, others to respectful empathizers and others still to contemptuous pessimists and critics.

Gozilla plans to attack Tokyo

As the movement loses its momentum and heads towards an inexorable conclusion with the law (Occupy Wall Street was cleared out in the early hours today), I wonder how much has been lost through the lack of a good strategic plan going in.

Think about the current Occupy movement as a nascent brand attempting to get its message – or selling proposition – across to its audience:


They are targeting their message at big business, at the banks, at multinationals, at governments. But the real audience is us, the general public. What is most valuable to any new product is public advocacy. Fans and followers.

Their current tactic of entrenchment at all costs is starting to turn off their new followers and create even stronger antipathy from their critics.

Rather than do some quick market research to determine where their brand is losing traction and why, Occupy has decided to press on, audience be damned. This drags down the positive sentiment they have created over the course of their campaign.

The danger for the brand is that the audience will be less likely to embrace a return to the market when Occupy attempts to consolidate and build positive brand awareness next time.

They are burning through their consumer currency faster than they can raise it.


Occupy, we have been told, is not a protest but a process. That’s key. In other words, it is the opening act in a long-term campaign. But what do the long-term goals look like and what short-term metrics will measure the success of the tactics they’re using?

There are certainly short-term metrics they could pay attention to: Positive and negative press coverage, audience advocacy, social mentions, increase in occupiers, support of key influencers.

If they were paying attention, they would probably have noted that the campaign has peaked. The audience is starting to lose interest. Audience burnout or backlash is the very last thing this new brand needs.


Here is a critical process issue, because by not articulating specific goals, they haven’t been able to implement effective tactics.

“Occupy” is the tactic, not the goal.

But the occupation tactic seems to have its own goal: stay until they are dragged kicking and screaming out of the public areas they have taken over. In other words, carry on regardless of what the audience thinks; continue to press the message until they have lost the advocacy they worked so hard to build.

There is not much in their current plan that supports a 2012 campaign.

As a marketing guy, I believe the Occupy movement can be effective by knowing their audience, articulating clear goals, using inspired tactics to achieve them, checking metrics along the way and sticking to a timeline.

Otherwise, the movement’s up a tree.

Occupy Victoria protester in tree

(Photograph by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

You hired a social media saboteur

24 Aug

social media saboteurSocial media strategies. All too often they appear to be ill-informed and poorly implemented. I suspect the working of social media saboteurs. This is how they work…

Client, in this case a Co-op: “We sell some great local products in our stores. We want to increase consumer awareness and appreciation of our supplier’s food products. We’re thinking of some sort of people’s choice award.”

Social Media Saboteur: “Building awareness eh? Well social media is huge right now so let’s run a contest using Facebook. We’ll ask people on Facebook to vote in a contest.”

Co-op: “Great, we already have a Facebook page, so I guess they vote with some kind of status updates maybe?”

SM Saboteur: “Well we could do that, but we’re going to use the Like button, that way we can trick people into receiving product updates.”

Co-op: “I see, well we do love the people who already Like our supplier’s products.”

SM Saboteur: “The real fans? We don’t want them to vote.”

Co-op: “er… what?”

SM Saboteur: “Nope, don’t need ’em.”

Co-op: “Well er… oh I get it, you’re suggesting we should focus on new audiences in other channels.”

SM Saboteur: [chuckles] “Of course not, why waste effort on an unknown entity? Everyone is on Facebook.”

Co-op: “So let me see if I’ve got this straight? We’ll run a contest for mildly engaged customers on Facebook. When they vote we’ll subscribe them to product updates. They’ll start loving the product and buy more?”

SM Saboteur: “Bingo!” [fires two imaginary pistols in the air and blows smoke from the barrels]

Sounds far fetched doesn’t it? Well this is exactly the perception I get when I looked at the Co-op’s Eat Atlantic Food product of the year award, One of a number of Co-op campaign initiatives currently running on the Canadian east coast.

The award component is being run as a public vote. And as is so often the case these days, the strategist appears to have defaulted to Facebook as the platform to run the competition. I’m not saying Facebook isn’t suitable for social marketing. If the product(s) and the goals align with the platform then it can be a match made in heaven, and in this case the products are actually better suited to Facebook than most, but in this case the goals and implementation fall far short of their potential.

I’ll explain and, acknowledging that just picking holes in something doesn’t really advance anyone’s knowledge, I’ll provide some ways the campaign elements might have been improved.

The saboteur’s aims:

To limit the reach:
In a news article in the Times and Transcript, Romeo Cormier, manager of public affairs at the Co-Op explains the Award are part of a campaign to:

“…raise consumer awareness and appreciation for the world-class food products made here in Atlantic Canada.”

A competitive vote is a perfectly acceptable way to motivate fans to spread the word, but the nominated products were solicited from existing Facebook fans and Facebook is used as the voting mechanism. In effect this is severely limiting the reach by only targeting existing fans on one platform.

Alternate strategy: Expand the reach of the contest. Provide each nominated supplier with a suite of tools and simple solutions to encourage them to get votes from their customers. Tweet badges for websites, suggested email copy for mailing lists, incentivise voters with a decent prize for a random voter for the winning product. Send sample packs of nominated products to influential East coast food bloggers. There’s a whole world beyond Facebook.

To exclude most of the voters:
To vote, you have to Like the product on Facebook. This seems like a great way to increase engagement by subscribing people to future updates, but there’s a huge failing here. Fans can’t vote if they’ve previously Liked the product. This is a huge mistake! It excludes brand ambassadors from voting. The very people who are going to wave the flag for you are the ones you want to activate and encourage.

An alternate strategy: If you’re targeting Facebook then the status update mechanism will allow anyone on Facebook to vote, existing fan or otherwise. More importantly, allow people to vote with the tools they’re comfortable with. A lot of people are on Facebook sure, but your biggest fans might not be. Make it easy for them and allow votes to be submitted from different platforms. There may be duplicate votes, but this can only expand reach which ultimately is the goal.

To give the favourites a head start.
The contest rules suggest that the winner will be decided by the most likes. The current contest leader had approx 700 Likes at the start of the contest. They can quite comfortably ignore the competition, go on holiday and still win by a landslide. Even more troubling is that the landing page always displays the nominees in the same order. Guess who is in the favored top spot on the page? Yup, the runaway favorite.

Alternate strategy: Level the playing field. You’re not going to build a competitive spirit by giving Michael Phelps a 90m head-start in the 100m freestyle. Set all the competitors at zero votes and introduce a way to track votes within the timeline of the competition, e.g. subject lines in email votes, SMS shortcodes, hashtags in tweets etc. This gives the smaller suppliers a chance in one arena that they can compete with the big boys; community engagement, and energising ambassadors with one-to-one communication.
When displaying the nominees, randomise the list for each site visitor, ensuring everyone get’s a chance to appear at the top.

To ignore the original goal
The voting page displays each nominee, a logo and the infamous Like button… and that’s it. Looking back at the original goal, the execution falls way short on the aims.

Alternate strategy:
Address the goal of promoting “appreciation for the world-class food products” right on the vote landing page. Alongside each product display customer testimonials, celebrate the local ingredients, get some product insight from the farmer/manufacturer. This is going to expose voters to a broader range of products and help fulfill the aim of raising consumer awareness.

Ultimately every aspect of the competition should be checked against the goals.