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.

Demographic Shift – does this favour you?

Here are some stats supporting a trend you may think is obvious.

However, have you paused & prepared, then done enough (as a job seeker, business manager, workplace/product designer, researcher, etc) to fully leverage this shift?

Ponder it: More & More Single Females 25 to 44 yrs old in the workplace- implications?

Can’t Touch This? Maybe, just maybe, you can!

I was privileged to learn about Linguistics from a fine Queen’s University Prof, and learn Trademark treatment from Legal/Paralegal guru’s advising some of the world’s most valuable brands in USA & Canada. These 2 worlds have never before collided; but this article

made me consider rethinking classic ‘guidelines/rules’ for Brands facing what is, in my mind, the ‘intersection’ of two previously unrelated topics.

Formal training advises to prosecute and not acknowledge a brand name mistreatment. But that guideline predated Brands & Business going fully, irreversibly global. If a nation’s people (in this case, China) have spent a lifetime using a fully functional language that doesn’t ackowledge English consonants, vowels &/or pronunciation, and if (prospective customers) have difficulty pronouncing some Western words (and BRANDS!), should we –aghast!– consider the unthinkable?

Should we not just acknowledge the mistreatment, but leverage it? register their ‘alternate’ brand-equivalent phrase? use it in our communications? in our advertising?

If I were BMW’s agency (the article claims tht the BMW brand, in China, has been adapted to ‘Don’t Touch This‘), I’d meet MCHammer for music rights in China, to test a ‘working with it, not against it’ alternate brand campaign. Is it time to customize to the local market? Show some empathy?

imo the key is subtlety/tone- no ‘talking down’ or being obvious or patronizing. If you can master that, such a campaign, if done correctly, wouldn’t** destroy brand protection (it’s China! Bootlegs & Patent ripoffs are a much bigger worry than trademark protection!) but it might convey you ‘get’ the customer ie “Yeah thanks for recognizing our brand & btw we love what you’ve done with it”.

As always, this is just creative food for thought- **do NOT proceed with this idea until you clear it with your Trademark/ Legal gurus! They’ve saved my butt many times; their counsel is worth heeding with care & reverence.