Our Thoughts…

Are you a slave to your “Likes”?

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age of information

We like to think we live in the age of information – the shift that has moved our society from the industrial to the digital, knowledge-based world we face today.

And yet through this, an interesting phenomenon has broken through the shadows of this information glut.

Our ‘me’ focus (some would say this comes from the rise of individualism which started in the 1960s) mixed with the ever-present, intoxicating, addictive access to social media has made it possible to not only broadcast out on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis, but also to reach out for feedback, interaction and validation from others.

This form of communication may appear as chat, sharing photos and family moments, sourcing the best mechanic, camera or restaurant in Paris, but it can be much more insidious than that.

Our anxiety-riddled lives crave reassurance and validation.

That’s how we know that we’re okay.

That we fit in.

And so many of these interactions take place virtually these days. They take place in an arena that offers people anonymity and a false feeling of connectedness. It’s an arena where over sharing and trolling can wreak havoc.

And more than that, it’s an arena where interacting with likeminded people on a regular basis begins to bring swirling opinions closer; inward. Supporting, encouraging and agreeing. An arena where dissenting opinions are not that welcome and often denounced.

We’re becoming people that prefer the comfort of the known, avoiding the re-evaluating associated with new information, ideas and opinions.

We prefer homogeneity to the challenge brought by contrasting or contradicting perspectives.

Are we more interested in an affirmational pat-on-the-back then being challenged? Hard to believe, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are a few small shifts we could make to open ourselves up to a wider world of thinking:

1. Libraries Aren’t Just For Students

The New York City Library and many Universities offer use of an archive (run by Gale) called Opposing Opinions with over 5000 social topics in the form of primary source documents, statistics, website and multi-media materials [http://on.nypl.org/iNLIhP]. Go looking for information. Staying informed can one of the healthiest solutions.

But, “who has time” you say? Let’s take a look at another simple trick (that doesn’t involve studying).

2. Embracing our Differences:

Diversity in whom we follow, friend and generally interact with is a benefit. Even though it feels like we’re swimming upstream against a social media network that works double-time to try and connect us with similar minded people – it’s a receipt for conformity.

All “like”, “thumbs up” and “favorite” buttons have no opposites – but if you seek out differing thoughts they’re there.

3. Think It Through:

The need for debate grows stronger as group-think takes hold. It’s the practice of making decisions as a group, which results in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making. Be it on Facebook, within your local community or at the national political level, group-think never works.

Critical thinking, overcoming your fears and fighting goes a long way to alleviating the problem.

Taking a few small steps outside of your comfort zone, away from your “likes” can make a big difference.

We all have our biases and our opinions.

If this is truly the age of information then we need to be able to share our thoughts and opinions freely. To listen and learn. To discern wisely and to be mindful of other’s perspectives.

I’m just not sure we’re there yet.

Who’s Viewing What? The power-move for big data and online video advertising.

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If you’re in the online video advertising world then you know all the stats on growth, budget relocations and everyone’s take on ‘the future of…’ (so we won’t bore you with the details). A recent offering in the marketplace however, did catch our attention.

online video advertising

Backing up a bit, we all know that advertising’s been ramping up and marketers heavily rely on SAAS streaming solutions to provide detailed analytics around watch, skip, mute and retention rates (as well as the people that just plain ignoring content).

So, we’ve got to wonder why market “frenemies” like TubeMogul, BrightRoll, Innovid, SpotXchange and LiveRail would suddenly partner to create an open-sourced product like “Open Video Viewer” (Open VV)? A free open-source solution that essentially provides the same analytics as their products… For free you say?

Checking it out you’ll soon realize that it’s nothing new. It’s just now free. And while it’s touted to put control in publishers’, marketers’ and advertisers’ hands, we have to ask the big question; why? Why a free open source solution?

TubeMogul’s communications director, David Burch points out how important it is that “anyone can download and use the code. The real reason for that is pretty simple: advertisers should know what they are buying and be able to see [if] it works or we all lose — it’s a fundamental issue.” Is that the real reason for it? This sounds like a truly noble undertaking.

You have to question what’s in it for them?

Could it be the past years ramp up of big data is what’s at stake?

For decades, metrics have been collected, compared and used based on TV advertising, not only as historical perspective and benchmarks, but also as the big data behind the relationship between campaign exposure and in-store sales. As you can imagine, the ability to measure online advertising allows for scalable, repeatable methods of quantifying the effectiveness of digital material on sales (source). But now the tables have turned.

Several years ago, Amazon launched an app that allows shoppers to price-check any item by scanning, photographing, speaking or typing it into their (say) mobile device. This improves customer service, boosts competition and reduces prices, right? Let Amazon help you “find what you want”. But what of the data Amazon will gather? Locations. Shopping habits. Product preferences. Shifts of purchasing power. Big data is valuable when in the hands of an organization that can capitalize on it.

Consider the case of online travel agency Orbitz when it began to up-charge Apple users for their travel arrangements. Data-analysis showed Oribitz Apple users would be willing pay more for the same services and the company reacted in real time. I’m not a ‘big brother’ kind of guy but today’s smart business practices feel a bit intrusive don’t they?

Today, Orbitz’s practices are a small blip. We all know giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are in the business of data as much as they’re in the business sectors they dominate. When it’s estimated that a retailer using big data to the fullest could increase its operating margin by more than 60% or that personal-location data could allow consumers to capture $600 billion in economic surplus, those staggering numbers are enough to make us squeamish. It raises the spectre of privacy issues, security, data ownership, information ethics, intellectual property and even liability. And isn’t it all a matter of transparency? So far, there isn’t much of that.

So back to where we started with our five big corporation/partners offering a “free” tool to a market that already has lots of tools. We all know that corporations aren’t in the business of charity. So what are they really up to? Let’s admit that what’s going on behind the curtain makes us nervous. And sometimes a good dose of skepticism is healthy.

The Certainty of Uncertainty

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Just ask around and you’ll find a general consensus that’s its getting worse. That feeling of randomness and ambiguity? We’re told that both Rockefeller and Carnegie expanded their massive holdings during recessionary times during the 1870s and its documented that Warren Buffett converted a struggling textile operation called Berkshire Hathaway into a mega-success during the 1970s recession, but it’s almost as if uncertainty is more pervasive now. With indecisive governments, precarious global markets right down to individual industries and sectors, there’s a tendency to cling to contingencies like a life-raft. No?

Of course you want to avoid impulsive, uncoordinated and, therefore, ineffective responses in favour of flexibility, awareness and resilience. You want success. But it seems that social influences have tipped the scales towards more uncertainty. Long-range visionary planning could, in fact, be wiped out by 20 mommy-bloggers over a weekend. Impenetrable divisions along party-lines in the largest economy in the world can make debt-repayment almost impossible. Who knew?

Don Pepper, co-founder of Pepper & Rogers Group in the U.S. suggests that we prepare for multiple outcomes so as not to be caught off-guard. He also advises that businesses find and rely on the predictable elements in any given situation – like, you know it’s going to rain sometime. Not banking only on the outcome, good or bad, is also recommended because there is so much value to be had in the process; the planning and execution. Of course, he mentions being agile and responding quickly to any changes and challenges. You need to be aware, listen carefully and detect the minutest ripple in order to be the most flexible.

Forbes Magazine questions whether uncertainty is today’s new bogeyman. For example, in the Comcast versus Verizon battle over bandwidth, isn’t pointing to the uncertainty a bit of a scare tactic to force to FCC’s hand? Risk management and aversion is so often the small difference between a thriving and a dying business. Leadership style can sway the outcome.

In her article for the Poole College of Management, Masters student Rebecca Hampton cites three distinct types of leadership:

// Head-Only leadership refers to the analytical, “just the facts, Ma’am” style

// Heart-Only leadership is characterized by a leader who gathers opinions, engages in discussions and explore all avenues with others

// Guts-Only leadership is based mostly on instinct

Ms. Hampton stresses that leaders should try to cultivate all three skills to keep a better handle on uncertainty within their businesses.

So, here’s a cheat-sheet for dealing with uncertainty at the best of times (let alone the worst):

// Face Fear: when personally challenged, try to get to the bottom of negative thinking and limiting beliefs to better manage them

// Live the Moment: work yourself out of a reactionary mode, worrying about the future or feeling hijacked by part experiences.

// Reach Out: to mentors, advisors, coaches. A personal team can support you through anything.

// Stay Authentic: because being yourself builds trust in other (employees, customers and stakeholders). People Don Pepper points out will stand by you to weather the storm.

Most importantly, prepare. Prepare for failure. Prepare for success because it can be nearly as off-balancing as the alternatives. And prepare for all the possibilities in between. These are uncertain times we live in. Get used to it!

5 Reasons Canadian Thanksgiving Is Awesome

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Canadian Thankgiving

We all know that other countries observe Thanksgiving. And while theirs may commemorate some great, glorious moment in history; ours, in typical Canadian fashion, started because an English navigator was thankful for what he had. Simple.

For the benefit of those non-Canadian-Thanksgiving-celebrating-people of the world, we thought we’d point out the subtle, yet drastically important reasons why Canadian Thanksgiving rocks so much harder than the rest.

1. Time of Year

Second Monday in October is the PERFECT time of year to be thankful. First of all, it’s warm enough to spend time outside, enjoy all those maple leaves as they change colour, you don’t have to worry about shoveling the driveway yet and it marks a nice halfway point between the unofficial end of summer (Labour Day) and the monster holiday that is Christmas.

2. Not To Be Outdone

Speaking of Christmas, how are you supposed to celebrate everything you’re thankful for while dodging a stampede of crazed shoppers? At our Thanksgiving, there’s nothing overshadowing it. So while American’s can be found lining up for a sleepless night, preparing themselves for a potentially death-defying riot over a flat screen, we’re found having a casual get-together with family and friends.

3. Thanksgiving Poutine

“What’s that?” you ask. Take the most heavenly way to eat French fries and dump truckloads of goodness into it and you have Thanksgiving Poutine.

4. We Have So Much To Be Thankful For

You can pick what you want, but here’s a small list of pretty awesome reasons we’re thankful.

// Stable Governments
// A Stable Bank System
// Universal Healthcare
// Hockey
// Tim Hortons

In fact, we’re so thankful the Government officially proclaimed the observance of Thanksgiving and the “reasons therefore”.

5. It’s in Canada…

Need we say more?

Canadian Thankgiving

The Path to Success: Is it within you?

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How often do you have a stunning business idea, an exciting project or a new-fangled gizmo that will take the world by storm, if only…?

Well, consider this exploratory path, the steps if you will to success (based on one short comment made by Debbie Millman of Design Matters – “desire leads to courage leads to confidence”).

Here’s hoping this will help you take the leap. Any leap. Be that a bold marketing move. A crucial small business decision. Or implementing video as a new communications tool.

And to that end, remember there’s no sense spending time whining about what you can’t have. The critical initial decision is about the ‘what’ of it. It can get scary as you analyze fit because you’ll soon realize the most common stumbles are: lack of funding, poor people skills, reluctance to follow through, a mismatch in business or bad management.

So, it’s vital that you ask yourself, if you want it, do you want it badly enough to go the distance?

For a link to the full resolution PDF file click here.

It’s important to do a thorough post-mortem of your venture at its completion (or at any step along the way). Distill the what, why and how of it. Focus is a powerful tool that will allow you to realize strengths, challenges, business priorities and the steps necessary to move forward.

So, ask yourself, what’s next?

The 5 Must Follow Video Production Tips for Non-Profits & Charities

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Every charity and non-profit, no matter their size works within the world of tight timelines and budgets; and while all sectors are feeling the pinch, in a downward economy Non-Profits and Charities have a tough fight.

The fundraising landscape has changed. The increase in social marketing has opened new channels of communications to new people – increasing awareness and fundraising opportunities. But what hasn’t changed is the need for strategic and effective conversion tools (turning those opportunities into cash donors).

5 Video Production Tips for Non-Profits & Charities

Quickly, video marketing has become the go-to-tool for fundraising. And as diverse as our clients are, we see the same challenges come up time and again within this sector.

Here Are The 5 Must Follow Video Production Tips for
Non-Profits & Charities:

1. Be Authentic.

While it’s tempting to brush over the cracks within the organization, hide the dark side of the industry or shine the best possible light on those you help, the truth is always the best place to start. Being authentic, truly authentic will attract more people then it will push away.

2. Speak to Your Fans.

In most cases, the group of people who have never heard of your cause is greater then those who have heard of your cause. So we think we need to go out there and capture some of those cold people. And while it’s true that the numbers are greater on the cold side, the amount of work necessary to convert cold people to supporters far outweighs the return on investment.

Concentrate on the easy wins. Speak to your fans – those likeminded, friendly people who are warm to the idea of supporting you. Once you’ve captured all of those people, you can turn your attention to the rest.

3. Create the Video for Your Audience, Not For You.

It safer to create a video that makes your internal stakeholders happy but a safe production and rollout for you doesn’t equate to an effective campaign. Remember at each phase of the planning and production process to question whether you are making decisions because it’s what’s best for the audience, or what’s easiest for you.

4. Tie into Emotions.

This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s easy to forget that it’s all about people. No matter what your organization does, people are positively impacted by your work, people are the ones delivering your work, or people are the ones supporting your work. No matter what you do, people are at the core.

Don’t simply concentrate on the mechanics of communicating your message. Ensure that emotion and feelings drive the video – this will increase your ability to connect.

5. Don’t be Cliché.

Doing what everyone else does is easy. Doing what’s expected is less risky. This is also the fastest way to be ignored. If leaving a lasting impact is a key part of your fundraising process, then make sure you’re developing a video that leaves a lasting impression.

Creating a truly effective video marketing campaign isn’t rocket science. But setting yourself up for success does mean following all of the tips above. If you want to create something truly amazing – don’t fall into those traps.

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