Environics Data – Saved by the Bell? Or For Whom…?

I was lucky to be a client of awesome Jan Kestle & her team >25years ago, benefiting from a terrific (then underappreciated) ability to help a Marketer tailor messaging & media on a neighbourhood level. What an awesomely powerful toolset! imo that was the beginning of applied psychographics as we now know it; her team was Compusearch (Micromarketing).

20 years ago when Equifax bought Compusearch, then flipped it to R L Polk, I was baffled; my understanding is all Polk wanted was auto sector data expertise for themselves, thus leaving applications in other sectors unfulfilled. [I was reminded of that acquisition 2 years ago, by a similar move; Amazon wanted to use Kiva’s robotics logistic capabilities (which had applications in many diverse areas/sectors) so they bought… the entire company].

Thankfully, much of the Compusearch team later ended up being recreated, still in Toronto, under the Environics umbrella, as ‘Environics Data’ – to this day, they were still run autonomously, from what I could see.

Recent news that Environics Data was bought by Bell leaves me perplexed- again. I see potential for Bell to offer a Full Service Suite of media & messaging applications, differentiating them from Rogers, Shaw, etc. And letting the Environics Data guru’s work with Bell’s extensive mobile phone data could yield GOLD for modeling & ad targeting. But what happens to Environics for Retail location services? (an area where their data can – and has – been very productively leveraged) or its USA market applications?

Having Bell as a parent imo brings little to those markets & may prove an impediment (what if a parent firm fails to appreciate those opportunities.?). Hmmm…


any tips for new grads?

Hey, ‘Pay-It-Forward’ types! Might you be willing to offer ideas or tips for the next generation of post-secondary Marketing grads?

C’mon- share some pearls of wisdom! Another group is soon to graduate; they’d benefit from your golden guidance, pithy perspectives, astute admonishing &/or rigorous reality checks as shared via Comments.

If you wish to remain anonymous- duly respected. If you want to be cited, happy to do that, too.

It takes a village to raise a business professional…

Here’s what my latest tips are- bet you can help improve and update this

Yoda you are not

I’ve been lucky to see many different writing styles, after working in Canada & abroad, and after an education in Arts, Science & Business. There’s no one way to write, but I hope these 7 pages help you with ideas how to write for business here in North America. Feel free to agree or disagree with the list, but (for what it’s worth) I’ve learned these Do’s & Dont’s at some cost.

Content comes in many forms

7 years ago I was asked to redesign a course in Digital Marketing for Seneca College’s School of Fashion; then-Chair Gitte Hansen and colleague Michel Côté, now Chair, let me shift the course from ‘building websites’, to focus on:

  • understanding the power of (then fairly new) social media
  • deciding which SoMe venues were ‘high-fit’
  • learning how often posts were expected, by platform
  • strengths & weaknesses of the platforms wrt handling complex messages, visual/audio capability, ‘share-ability’, etc
  • calendaring SoMe activity
  • acquiring conflict-free site domains & building basic landing sites
  • ‘creating’ high-fit content for a fashion brand’s digital presence.

It’s topical again as students & colleagues build a digital presence amidst covid; sometimes one hears signs of despair as they struggle to create enough new ‘content’, I checked my notes and found my old list of different types of ‘content’

  1. New original content: eg trivia, how-to images/videos, info-graphics, tips, Top 10 lists, original articles we write, product or service news, published results, images, product shots, etc (This type of content is slowest to come up with, but most control & copyright friendly)
  2. Reshare category news without interpretation, just a link (I rarely do or propose this; other than for a news service, it seems ‘off mission’)
  3. Reshare category/industry news WITH interpretation (competitors, retailers, suppliers, consumer trends, PESTLE updates such as new regulations, etc)
  4. Events: let followers know what fashion show is coming up, the ‘game time’, trade shows, symposiums, group news eg reminders about CMA or AMA events, etc
  5. Solicit User input: this depends heavily on the brand, but it might consist of eg ratings, survey invites, goofy polls, Top Ten, Vote for Best, etc (ESPN/TSN are superb at this!).
  6. ‘Invite An Image’: cajoling pics/videos of users/supporters wearing your brand, using your brand, holding a sign, reciting a tagline, doing a trending dance step, etc (this also can lead to more of #5 ie ‘Vote for The Most Inspired…’)
  7. Anniversaries, celebrations, remembrances, etc
  8. Corporate Social Responsibility: use your digital presence to help a cause ie help raise funds, find volunteers, raise awareness of a cause, fill seats at events, participate in a charity auction, etc
  9. Promotions, Specials, Discounts, Offers, etc on your product line.

Has any of this gone ‘out of fashion’? Perhaps. The point is: let’s all remember that ‘content’ does NOT imply one needs to create all material from scratch.

P.S. See a problem here? Whoever heard of a ‘Top 9′ list? Help me out! Send ideas to strategysteven@gmail.com so we make this a Top10 list! Please!

a rare silver lining

Very few sectors of the economy are winning amidst covid closures & restrictions; theatre, dining out, tourism, accommodation & airlines are all being brutalized. Yet motor-homing is hot– good new for RV dealers, parks, etc.

Talk about the rise of an underdog! RVing is an industry that saw decades of decline & looked doomed to keep losing tourism occasions to (ever-more affordable) air travel, unless it could change attitudes. That seemed to be the impetus for a major new marketing campaign a couple years ago (which I blogged about) inviting GenY to “Bring Back Wildhood” ie to connect with nature (and your own innate spontaneity/freedom).

Fast forward a couple years and- voila!- opportunity knocks! https://www.iheartradio.ca/610cktb/news/rv-and-boat-sales-booming-during-covid-19-pandemic-business-owners-say-1.12923281

Inside every cloud……

Yes RV’s are big. Not too easy to drive. Consume lots of gas; ergo, not the best ‘eco-story’. However… they provide a casual, easy social intimacy for couples/families; they take you right into nature (ie not to an airport) and they let you enjoy the benefits of travel adventures, without taking current travel-affiliated covid risks. Win, win, win.

Congratulations to the RV industry- you deserved a break- and you got one!

the Ropes

The best bits of career counsel aren’t always the bits we pay enough attention to. Today I’ll tell you the publication that had the highest ‘potential’ to help my career after the Queens MBA program- although I didn’t believe so at that time. The book has been updated with new editions repeatedly over the decades. And it is called (drum roll pls)…:

The Ropes To Skip and the Ropes to Know: Studies in Organizational Behavior‘- 2nd Edition by R. Richard Ritti and G. Ray Funkhouser

imo it doesn’t much matter which edition – just read it ESPECIALLY if you have no previous experience in a large firms or didn’t grown up in home where a parent would candidly discuss what happens in a Big Office.

If from a small town with small biz experience, you may very poorly prepared to work in a ‘Big City Big Office’ workplace. I had worked small biz for a over a decade before taking an MBA, then a shot at “The Bigs”. I read ‘The Ropes…’ in my studies, yet failed to grok its lessons, failed to recognize how relevant its teachings would be. My small biz years were of virtually no value to prepare me with survival skills needed for a Big Corporate office. I would have been better off watching the ‘The Office’ &/or reading Scott Adams’ ‘Dilbert’ strip. Those 2 sources ARE a realistic reflection of Big Office culture, lessons, games.

Over the next months, on a new page called ‘Ropes’ (see top banner; named in honour of those inspirational authors), I’ll provide my (pale by comparison) nod to the original, iconic ‘..Ropes…’ with some confessions …errrr… lessons learned– at companies big & small, client-side & consultant-side, public & private sector. Each ‘case’ will be in a SetUp-Action-Results-Lesson format. Hope you enjoy it & hope you benefit from the page; but first – GO GET A COPY of the original (and still the best) tome on the topic, by Ritti et al.

Theatrical Developments

MarketWatch et al report Amazon’s interest in (presently covid-distressed) asset AMC Theatres.

imo what’s particularly intriguing? The many ways in which Amazon might leverage that asset:

Wise commentators say that Amazon already creates ‘original entertainment content’ for the small screen; buying AMC will let them amortize the ‘cost of creation’ by pre-releasing it in theatres.

Beyond that, they can generate enhanced view of the ‘value’ of that content.

They may create co-promotions

‘Attend a Theatre event, get 3 months free Amazon Prime membership’; or

‘Buy >$200 of goods this month on Prime, get a Free Movie Ticket’.

But wait… there’s more!

Amazon-AMC could signal a creative new era for amazing gaming / e-sports revenue generating events, partnerships, etc. It could mean a rotating lineup of latest greatest gotta-have-it Amazon-goods in AMC lobbies for the ‘It-group’ Influencers. It could allow gathering place for various Amazon ‘communities’ – small businesses, seller groups, designers & manufacturers, etc.

Amazon isn’t a big retail real estate owner yet, but AMC sites have lobbies, concession/food areas, party rooms (which can become ‘breakout rooms’) plenty of zone-approved parking, and (here’s the bonus) that realty asset is largely unused during work hours on weekdays .

Interesting development- as I write this, a takeover hasn’t yet occurred, but if it does happen, we might all be wise to watch the way the behemoth wields its newfound ‘physical property’ assets.

Powerful Equity

Quick! what’s the world’s most ‘powerful’ brand?

Not sure? Here’s one assessment (link below):

Bet that what you DID know, is that any poweful brand will be subject to relentless attacks by imitators, counterfeits. That’s the case here!

Kroger gets urban

Kroger has an urban store! Been awaiting how they’d handle the challenge- USA, like Canada, is increasingly urban, and downtown density doesn’t just put ROI pressure on a traditonal ‘generous’ suburban footprint (land cost, taxes, parking spaces, staff space,…); it also means different habits wrt how shoppers get to a grocery store, what they can carry, types of food & formats desired -smaller sizes, more ready-to-eat, less-oven but more-stovetop/microwave, more eco-conscious packaging preferences, more culturally diverse food desires. This sounds intriguing. Hope to visit and have a look for myself before long!

find the low hanging fruit!

a cool challenge: where can your business find low-hanging fruit?

If you’re a traffic-based retailer, what ELSE might you sell, to generate high margin per unit sale? eg Dryer sheets? Done that. Greeting Cards? Got it. Fresh Cut Flowers? Taking care of it. Bakery? Got it. There’s always Giftware; but Loblaws has repeatedly tried different Centre-Of-Store housewares/ home decor/ giftware mixes, with ‘mixed’ results. Even Indigo has had some challenges getting Giftware just right.

But Grocery chains ARE starting to rock the RTE world.

The what?

Grocery Stores are agggressively pursuing ReadyToEat (RTE) revenue; these are high margin impulse-driven ticket items, and, to win, Loblaws et al need to battle Fast Food restaurants who generate far less traffic & often have higher ingredient-buying costs. Where’s this battle playing out? Not just in Liberty Village, Toronto (although that is a Lead Market!) but nationally. And who can Loblaws learn from abroad? imo from Wegmans (Rochester) who aced the in-store dining area and takeout RTE meals DECADES AGO.

So watch this trend closely — and enjoy the outcome.

But also take note of what ‘incremental high-fit high-margin’ ticket items exist that your business might expand into. Just as P&G did, when it moved Crest out of the (comparatively low margin) dental paste category, into tooth whitening kits, for which the ‘competition’ was (VERY high margin, low traffic) dental office cleaning appointments.