I often write an early September blog about going Back to School.
It is an easy metaphor to make. It’s easy to speak inspirationally about lifelong learning. The COVID lockdown has reignited that in people around the world. For example, I started to play the piano with the help of apps and YouTube.
So what if I can now peck out a few keys from my favourite Adele, John Lennon, or Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper songs? Is that minor accomplishment going to change my life or impact the world’s direction? Nope. At best it will keep my brain a little sharper as I creep into old age. At worst it allows me to fantasize about possessing the musical skills, and personal discipline, that I envy in talented and focused people
However, there is a glaringly important lesson for us to learn during these days when our children are trickling back into some form of structured education. Glaring, but simple.
History repeats itself.
Let’s consider the following: I. When the Spanish flu crippled the world between 1908 and 1920, those regions that took preventive measures such as wearing masks suffered the least amount of infections and casualties.
II. When any national ruler rises to power on the foundation of nationalism, protection of past ways of life, and masked racism, that ruler lulls the country to sleep and when they wake their democracy has become a dictatorship.
III. When a natural, medical, or militant disaster hits any country or region, those with the least suffer the most, and those with the most suffer the least.
History has proven these truths, year after year, generation after generation. But what does it mean for us?
It means that if we are smart we will take the lessons of the past and apply them to today. We will practice social distancing and wear masks. We will hold politicians accountable for their misdeeds. We will seek solutions that overcompensate for those who need it.
The next three months will be the most important in history since World War II.
If we don’t stop this pandemic, millions more will die and millions of dollars will be lost. If countries around the world don’t stop their dictators who poison and lie as easily as they breathe, civil liberties will be lost forever. If we don’t help those who need it, an entire generation of potential will be wasted.
This morning I passed by a school of dozens of eager, masked faces, safely lined up to get inside their classes. They were treated by welcoming, masked teachers and staff, and sent off by nervous parents. I paused. I watched. I smiled.
These kids are resilient. They are battling through. Us adults need to step up. We have the advantage of knowledge. We know what happened in the past.
I am sure all of my fellow Canadians would agree wholeheartedly with me. In the midst of this no end in sight global criss, we have so much to be grateful for. But before I espouse too much, I do need to pause and reflect. Let’s take a moment to think of those who have lost their lives, health, loved ones, economic or personal stability due to this pandemic.The toll has been immense.
It could have been worse. It could get worse.
But thankfully we live in a country where people respect and value their neighbours, their public servants, and their institutions. If we did not our toll would be much much worse. We need to not look very far south to witness the terrifying impact of a country of people who prioritize the individual over the whole.
It many ways it feels like the fiery inferno of hell has surfaced to Earth and is raging right next to us.
There is much more to do. We didn’t act quickly enough in the beginning, making it vital that our governments accelerate measures such as enforcing indoor masks wearing, clarifying standards across the country, and increase contract tracing. We still have too many young people who think they are immune to the virus, which even if it was true, which it is not, does not give them the right to infect someone less immortal. Our businesses need to find a way to accelerate reopening in an environment where consumer behaviour is permanently skewed by safety considerations.
Oh and our Prime Minister needs to find his way to the ethics store and buy himself a basket full, as he continues to believe the rules of conflict do not apply to him.
July 1st is more than our country’s birthday this year. It is the unofficial restart tp 2020. Let’s look forward to what we can make of 2020. It is time for a reboot. It’s time to reclaim our lives.
I have a few quick thoughts on how we treat July 1st as our Happy New Year.
Let’s start with each other. Say Hello to a Canadian next time you see one. Hello. Good Morning. Good Afternoon. Hi. Have a Great Day. Bonjour. A wave A smile. A nod. It will make the day of your fellow Canadian and add a shine to your 24 hours.
From being great patriot lets add some patronage. Get out and visit your local business, store, restaurant, coffee shop, barber, fruit stand, golf course. Spend what you can. Help that small business person succeed. Support your local charity, music venue, festival, sports team. Help them live to see another day of fueling passion in our lives.
The third thought from the Mh3 school of three’s is for YOU. Take today and give yourself a new start. Treat today like January 1. Make those resolutions. reset those goals. Have some champagne if you want. We have six months. Six months is a long time. Six months is a lifetime. Six months can be a year. A very good year. If you want it to be.
This pandemic is rewriting the rules of business and stewardship faster than any technological revolution ever did. “What is faster than 5G?” Unfortunately, I think we are finding out the hard way.
It’s frightening to imagine that just two weeks ago, all seemed normal-ish in North America. Then the sword fell on SXSW, the NBA, and so on and so on. Now, tragic deaths, many of which could have been avoided, financial hardship, and untold mental anxiety are the headlines of our every feed, post, and update.
So, what should a brand be doing? Well, I have a feeling it is going to be changing daily, so my thoughts today may be stale by tomorrow. But here is what I am doing with my brand, advising our clients on what to do with their brands, and sharing with my followers for feedback and ideas.
Let’s plan a simple road map for today, tomorrow, and ‘till next time:
TODAY Your brand needs to focus on three messages:
911 – Be clear to the public that what we have is not a slow growing issue – it is an emergency, and people need to respond now. The sirens are blaring. Take notice, pull over, and change your behaviour.
Heart – Now is the time to relate to your consumer who is panic stricken, information overloaded, and feeling out of control.
Lead – A leader goes into battle at the front. Get your leader out on the front lines daily with real action. Cut the red tape. Forget about your old policies. Make it happen.
TOMORROW There will come a day when we are finally out of this trauma. In my mind, that will be sometime this fall. And it could be due to the global effort of scientists, or because of warm weather as soon as this summer. Hopefully part of the celebration of CV-Day (yes, a play on V-Day from World War II) will be an ecumenic opportunity to reboot. A chance for those who suffered to eliminate debt and baggage. A chance for charities, festivals, culture and community to reengage. It is not too early to start planning for this now.
’TILL NEXT TME We need to rebuild our business models to withstand the shocking blows of a global shutdown. Build up reserves of cash, resources, and assets. Do not allow greedy shareholders to strip our cupboards bare. Governments must be held accountable to invest appropriately in our response mechanisms, health care infrastructure, and frontline workers.
I am as worried as you about the future. But we can all make a choice to either hide in our caves or try new things every day. Who knows – maybe you will end up inventing fire!
Now before you accuse me of being self-serving, let me clarify. If an industry colleague asks me where should they go to:
See what’s next
Meet great people
Plus they get budget to only attend one conference a year – I would definitively recommend CES.
If you have any social media tied to your profession, you probably have CES-envy. I don’t know how to describe it, but EVERYBODY is at CES. Business, government, religions, charities, media, musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs, and money managers. Plus, plus, plus. The event is as good as it looks on your social feeds, if not better. The event is as large as it seems, if not larger. The event is as important it looks, if not more.
My CES experience this year was a bit more harried as I squeezed in a half dozen planning meetings for our upcoming SponsorshipX Vegas,but I did want to share some key learnings.
I am not qualified to list the top tech elevations, or smart enough to highlight the most important consumer insights. But I will share with you five things I am going to start doing that were directly a result of my attending this year’s events. I won’t call them New Year’s Resolutions, but they are my CES Commitments. After all, no conference is worth attending if it doesn’t impact your future behaviour.
Here I go:
1. Feel free to eye-roll, but I am going to start playing esports. I can’t say I thought esports had slowed or peaked, but I have come to realize it has only just begun. So while learning the business side is one thing, I want to understand the passion side. 5G is going to democratize esports in a unique way, allowing generations to play and participate together like we have never seen. I want in.
2. I am going to find a young entrepreneur or two and invest my time in them. I met with one young investor who had exited a blog platform business and was now mentoring/supporting even younger entrepreneurs. The word “new” is one of the most inspiring terms in our vocabulary, and I want to help someone get something new off the ground.
3. I am going to embrace the rogue. I don’t know how to articulate this to you or pinpoint when it hit me. But last night I was reading my notes from my second day at CES (I like to summarize my days) and I scribed Embrace the Rogue to myself. Not once, but twice. Actually I do know where it came from and who said it, but in fear of paying them a royalty I am keeping them anonymous. But it hit home. The rogue is truly why CES is what it is.
4. I am going to learn about data.I know nothing about data as it exists today, but I do know that Data Scientist and all its variants will be the hot profession of the 2020’s.
5. I am going back to CES in 2021. I am going to invite you to come with me, and we can form a contingent to learn, network, and explore. I am going to also ensure I get a speaking role at CES. Not because I think I am better than the speakers there (okay, I am better than many of them), but I want to share some stories from Canada because, candidly, I think we are way f’n under-represented on stage there and we have a lot to talk about.
ERA2020 is upon us. CES was a great way to kick off my decade. What’s next?
I am not sure that the founders of Airbnb would have imagined that in the span of a decade they would have gone from renting out three air mattresses in their San Fransisco apartment to becoming a TOP Olympic sponsor. But here they are with a long-term deal with one of the largest sports properties in the world, kicking off with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
This partnership makes sense on so many levels.
We stayed at an Airbnb in Notting Hill for the London 2012 Olympics and it was a critical part of our amazing experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a booklet from Airbnb which shared multiple recommendations and tips on how best to enjoy the neighbourhood. Restaurants, pubs, shopping, subway stops, attractions. All helpful, but what really caught my eye was the communication of pop-up events curated by Airbnb during the Games. These events were effectively socials for people staying at Airbnb rentals during the Olympics.
It struck me as quite profound that Airbnb understood the power of creating community even though their business was effectively the opposite. Think about it. The entire concept is to disperse tourists across a city, whereas hotels are about collecting people. Yet, hotels rarely strive to create community. When was the last time when you checked-in to a hotel and you were invited to a happy hour to meet your temporary neighbours?
A unique part of the new Airbnb IOC relationship is the opportunity for former Olympians to sell experiences during the Olympic Games. This an amazing extension to their Experiences Platform where hosts provide local attractions from dining to bingo lessons. I love it. Imagine booking an apartment for the Tokyo Olympics and it comes complete with a sailing lesson or a jog with a former Olympic Marathoner?
Earlier this week I presented the Opening Keynote at XLIVE where I talked about Experiences Driven Business. I shared a list of outcomes that consumers undergo from experiences.
For example, a great experience impacts you by:
Forging Your Identity
Elevating Your Status
Solving Your Pain
Granting You Equity
Enhancing Your Mood
Let’s look at how these outcomes will be present with the new Airbnb and IOC deal:
You will forever have the badge of having attended the Olympics.
Your inner-Olympian will be satisfied by whatever athlete experience you choose.
As I can tell you in planning SponsorshipX Tokyo, accommodations are a major issue, and Airbnb serves as an excellent solution.
We talk a lot about access over ownership, but consumers don’t want just access. They want a little share, a little sense of ownership which can be felt withtemporarily owning your Airbnb.
Studies have shown that when consumers are taken out of their normal environments the opportunity to increase their happiness is greatly enhanced. There’s no question the Tokyo Olympics will do that.
Most importantly about this deal is that you can now book your trip to the Tokyo Olympics without worrying about winding up sleeping on an air mattress. Unlessyou want to be!
As the National Football League winds its way to the end of the first quarter of the season, it becomes more apparent to me game by game, injury by injury, that Colin Kaepernick may never again get the opportunity to quarterback a team.
In the annals of social justice, that is clearly a shame.
This season has seen a seemingly unprecedented rash of starting quarterback injuries across the league. Age, playing style, bad luck, and ineptitude has caught up with many a pivot. In week three, we saw week one actual and projected starters such as Brees, Foles, Fitzpatrick, Newton, Roethlisberger, Darnold, Manning, and Luck, all on the sidelines. Some for the season, one potentially forever.
In their place, we have seen some stunning success stories such as Minshew for the Jags, Jones for the Giants, Brissett for the Colts, and Bridgewater for the Saints. Yet we have also seen players we have never heard of flounder, and others we know fall flat.
I don’t want to pick on those guys. They are all better athletes than I could ever dream of being. But when you have a former Super Bowl quarterback in his prime being held captive on the sidelines, you can’t tell me that the decision to not sign Kaepernick is skill-based.
This situation is unjust. In twenty or thirty years, there will be a universal consensus that this is the case. But that will be too late for Kaepernick. Every day he gets older, his body less able, his muscle memory more forgetful.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you need a historical reminder, look no further than Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Sound familiar? Can we really still be in the same place we were a half-century ago?
The situation leaves me feeling personally and professionally conflicted. I love football. I love the NFL. I had a chat this week with someone who has been boycotting the league since the Kaepernick situation started. And while I am not advocating everyone do this, I am advocating you ask. Your team. Your media outlet. Your leaders.
Doesn’t Kaepernick deserve justice in 2019? Or is he going to have to wait until 2070….
At some point in my business education I became a firm believer in the succinct definition of a corporation’s purpose coined by Peter Drucker. The purpose of a business is to create a customer.
Variations on this theme have existed for decades, and have powerfully impacted the strategic thinking behind organizational strategy, business planning, and corporate behaviour. If you took the sum of all these various, intersecting, connected parts you would come to a simple conclusion: that corporations need customers in order to provide the highest returns to its shareholders.
That, ladies and gentlemen,IS business. Sell shit, get rich. Sell more shit, get even richer. Sell as much shit as possible, to be filthy-ass rich.
Well, not anymore.
I have been on a bit of bandwagon for a good while now with the opinion that brands and businesses need to play a larger role in society than just make money.
This is not a message I created or can claim any ounce of ownership. The authors of Good is the New Cool, for example, are rightfully entitled to this mantle. But they are not alone. A chorus of business commentators have increasingly grown louder about the need for the corporate community to step up and lead.
In my mind it works like this:
Everyday, in every corner of society, we are let down by our leaders. Even those of us blessed enough to live in free societies are subject to the bloated egos of the ethically void people who represent us as heads of state. It seems that every election provides the public with more dispiriting choices and unimaginable outcomes. Take a critical eye to the world and wallow in despair. This is who is in charge?
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. The world works in a simple manner. She who has the most assets can have the most impact. Meaning that corporations who generate by far the most economic impact in our society can actually become leaders of our society.
Can is the wrong term. Should is the correct one.
If companies stand up and take a stand, the world will be a better place. The customers and employees and voters of the future – also known as Gen Z – are demanding it. Thankfully, companies are paying attention.
Just this past month, the Business Roundtable, a collection of two hundred of the most important CEO’s in America, signed off on a new statement of purpose for a corporation. This is a watershed moment that should not be missed. It is the first time that these leaders have formally recognized, as a collective, that the world needs them.
Boy do we ever.
Now, there are of course loads of sideline commentary that a statement by the Business Roundtableisn’t enough. That they need to provide more actions than words. Blah, blah. I say hold on. The first step to solving any addiction is admittance that you have a problem. These leaders have done that. Other steps will follow.
Let’s help these big companies keep moving. Let’s look inward at our own organizations, whether you own a business, work in a business, or anorganization. You can and should become part of the solution. Your organization has reach, reputation, and resources. Your organization can help tackle so many of the world’s issues that our governments are ignoring because they are too busy grandstanding.
The collective might of your organizations can be stronger than you can imagine. The Business Roundtable has given you an opening to enter a whole new arena.
As the business leaders stated, the “dream” of our parents is at peril. Conscious Capitalism, or whatever you wish to call it, can help restore it.
I know it’s only August, but I wanted to share my sponsorshipXvision of 2020 with you.
Why so early? Frankly, I wasn’t very organized with our 2019 events, throwing new dates and locations at you in a random fashion. We wound up with great engagement at all of our events, but I know it was frustrating for our attendees to deal with.
The other reason? Well, to quote an email I received today from a senior marketer: “your 2020 themes and dates are epic!”
In a nutshell, I want to give you enough time to plan ahead to be a part of that epic-ness. I know it takes time to secure budgets and internal approvals, book travel, etc., etc. As well, I want to give you enough time to deal with another dilemma you will surely face. Choosing which sponsorshipX events to attend.
Today I am going to give you the ultimate insider’s perspective on each of our three events from the ultimate sponsorshipX insider – me.
Let’s go on a little tour of what we have in store for you, if you will allow me this disclaimer: our dates, locations and partnerships are set. Our venues, final experiences, content, are all being developed. In other words, this is an unofficial insiders tour designed to produce the type of FOMO only the FOMO-prone will fully appreciate.
Vegas – What Will Really Happen
We hit the strip for the NFL Draft from April 21st– 23rd. This will be our second conference in the United States, and we were thrilled with the reception thatwe received from our first. Though it took time for our new cohort of American delegates to get used to us.
What do I mean? Well, first things first, our event is very intimate.One hundred and twenty delegates results in more meaningful networking. You can actually get to know people. Secondly, we kicked things off with a rooftop, poolside reception. Isn’t it better to get to know people at night, before you head to the classroom in the daytime?
Our Vegas conference will be no different. We are going to have a flag football tournament, get up and close and personal with amazing performers, see how dragons are made on a movie set, and watch the top NCAA players get drafted into the NFL. Our content will be uniquely unique because it will be tailored to our key themes. We haven’t developed them all yet, but you can be sure you will have a chance to participate in its delivery and not just be a silent audience figure.
Bring your runners. You will be on the go. From the NFL Draft FanExperience to oursponsorshipX flag football tournament to a behind-the-scenes tour of an amazing Las Vegas show.
Montreal – Joie de vivre
There is no place in Canada like Montreal in the summer. The streets are filled with cafes, performers, and the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Fresh off the heels of their most important holiday – St. Jean Baptiste – Montreal will host sponsorshipX June 25th-28th.
This is your opportunity to Be Olympic. We have partnered with the Canadian Olympic Committee to bring this event to you. You will compete in a corporate decathlon. Youwill see the Athletics qualifiers up close as our Olympic teams get selected, visit the Canadian Olympic Experience, and maybe eventake in some jazz from one of the biggest music festivals on the continent. As fun as that sounds, you are alsogoing to have work to do.
Our sponsorshipX classroom will be offering tutorials and practicums daily; we have a ton of first release research for you to absorb; and you’re going to be called upon to do some presenting yourself in our skills training classes.
Tokyo – The First 5G Games
Do you sometimes get overwhelmed by technology? Well, it’s time to reboot, as 5G is now upon us and the marvellous Tokyo Olympics will beitscoming out party.
Amazingly,sponsorshipX will be smack dab in the middle of the action at Canada Olympic House from July 30th-August 2nd. This is the conference you’ll want to attend if you seek to be fully immersed in the Games. We are going to Olympic events, visiting the brand live sites, and partying like rock stars at country houses. Our speakers will include top Olympic sponsors and marketers from around the world, including future Olympic Games.
I would think of this as more of a networking, living laboratory, and learning retreat than a conference. We will also leave lots of time for the infusion of local culture, markets, sites, sushi, and sumo!
So, now for the final question. Have I made your planning easier or more difficult? I feel so blessed that I will be there to welcome you at all three sponsorshipX events next year.
The events in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio a week ago left people around the word shocked and rattled. For Americans I can only imagine how unsettling these mass shootings are.
For Americans of a certain heritage, I can’t even imagine how horrifying it is to think they were targeted because their head of state has created an environment where hatred is the new normal.
Last week I was ready with a snappy blog post in response to the news. It was going to be an open letter to the multiple candidates for the Democratic nomination. Being a marketer, I was going to offer them a powerful marketing campaign to ensure they get elected in 2020.
My campaign idea was purposely patterned after the winning 2016 campaign. Clearly, it only takes four words to win an election because that’s all it took last time. You remember those words.
Make America Great Again.
Simple. Powerful. Smart.
So smart that their real meaning was hidden to many, but have ultimately resulted in the death, deportation, and defiling of those who were the intended target.
My rebuttal campaign idea was simple.
Make America Safe Again.
Makes sense doesn’t it? A country that clings to its constitution that allows a person to buy an AK-47 and hours later kill a six-year-old boy with it (refresher, that was the mass shooting in California oneweek BEFORE Dayton and El Paso), needs to realize that it’s so-called rights have created a country of domestic terrorism.
All the people who argue that the right to bear arms has stopped any country from invading America for hundreds of years has forgotten about 9/11 and Pearl Harbour. Your guns don’t scare anybody.
Anyone who says that the right to bear arms is the best defence in the face of these brazen attacks hasn’t looked at the fact that not ONE perpetrator of a mass shooting this year has been stymied by an armed civilian.
Those who argue that many other weapons are used to kill people in more cases than guns is probably the same person who has a preferred form of deadly disease they wish to endorse.
I mentioned at the beginning of this entry that I was ready to roll with this blog posta week ago. A post that consisted of a pitch to politicians who seek office in America.
But then something happened. My own city was rocked by bloodshed. My home town of Toronto was a scene of senseless and brazen shootings. No matter where you turned, there was more calamity to be witnessed.
So I hit pause. America needs to be safe again. But so does all of North America. We all need to question our laws, our leniency towards criminals, our under-funding of social services, our ignoring of our youth, our lack of support forthose living in less fortunate circumstances.
There is no quick fix. There is no political fix. But a fix is required.
We live in a society where a slaughter of innocents a week ago evaporated in a few news cycles as the next story rose to the top. The longer we participate in this pattern of shock/awe/forgetfulness, the more threats to our own existence will live on.