Boarding the WestJet Bandwagon

You know what I love best about the WestJet Christmas promo video that was soaring to 4 million YouTube views when I started writing this tonight?

Not the fact that the airline’s project lead for this campaign is a former employee of mine.

Not the fact that I was secretly (?) tipped off by a WestJetter the week before it came out. No, not by my ex-Trojanite!

Not the fact that I probably wasn’t being tipped off, but in fact being used as an influencer to hopefully spread the word.

Not the fact that I cry much too regularly at Christmastime, a condition I blame on Jimmy Stewart and his performance in my fave flick of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life.

No. The thing I love best is that this video was done by a company, WestJet, that treats its customers like it’s Christmas 365 days a year.
This has long been their differentiator and it’s entirely genuine. Hence, when you see this video (and if you haven’t, stop reading my drivel, grab a box of tissue, find a quiet place, dial up Google, and get ready to smile), you believe it to be genuine. Even though, in reality, it’s a stunt. A marketing activity. A promotion. Scripted. Contrived. Amplified. What could be more horrific?! Marketing!

Doesn’t matter. It’s a beautiful piece of marketing by a company that walks their talk.

So kudos to WestJet. Not just for the video, but for a little lesson for all of us in marketing.

Imagine if we all treated our clients like everyday was a holiday?

Fan-tastic

Over the past couple of years, the industry volunteers who drive the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada have been working their fannies off to build an organization that is more relevant, valuable, and attractive to the marketing community. This morning proved they have achieved their lofty ambitions.

Every couple of months the SMCC holds breakfast forums in Toronto. In past years they have been hit and miss. Some have had great content, with poor attendance. Others have been attended en masse, only to showcase disappointing content. Finally the light went on and made enough people at the SMCC executive table realize that poorly orchestrated events were more than bad events. They were actually reflecting poorly on the entire sponsorship marketing industry. How can you sell the C-suite on the ROI of sponsorship marketing when our own industry events have zero ROI?

Flash forward to 2013 and you now have all-star panels such as this morning’s featuring my pal Don Mayo of IMI, Jacquie Ryan of Scotia, Nathalie Cook from TSN, Iain Chalmers of Diageo, Alan Dark of CBC and Kyle McMann from the NHL. Today’s 8:00 AM seminar was held in Real Sports, which was great except I had never seen the place sober before. (Bummed that none of the usual waitresses were working either, but I did recognize a couple of their moms serving coffee.)

The topic of conversation was “The Elusive Fan,” with the NHL and its partner programs utilized to illustrate the theory that Fan Value is the key for sponsorship ROI for all parties: sponsor, property, and media rights holder. It’s a sound theory that extends beyond the NHL case study, although hockey is a perfect lesson for us all.

More important than the topic is the effort of the SMCC execs and the commitment of the speakers to ensure that the sponsorship marketing industry in Canada grows, flourishes, and is duly recognized for its impact on business success. That’s ROI for all of us!

Hey SMCC, you have won over this elusive fan.

Leading from the Front

How do I summarize a week where it seemed every waking moment was filled with inspiration kicking me in the butt?

Some of the motivation was formally delivered. I witnessed a riveting speech delivered by General Rick Hillier at the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance Sport Events Congress. His central message about inspiring others and inspiring yourself revealed that his approach to motivating troops abroad was grounded in ensuring they stayed connected to being Canadian – a sip of Tim Horton’s coffee, a Christmas dinner made by a CO, a visit from the Stanley Cup.

Some of it arrived unexpectedly but in formal settings. In a meeting at Rideau Hall, I was enraptured to hear Bernard Shinder talk about how the event we now call Canada Day was created in the 1970’s by a group of well-connected Ottawa business leaders. Canada Day in Ottawa is a must do event for every Canadian, but in its early days was held away from the shadow of Parliament Hill, as the government feared it may flop!

Some out of the blue. An impromptu offer for a ride from the above Rideau Hall confab, found me being chauffeured by none other than General Walter Natynczyk and hearing about his three children, all proudly serving in our armed forces around the world. How energizing the words of a proud father were, discussing the love his offspring have for serving their country.

Some grew organically. Specifically from Charmaine Crooks, Debbi Wilkes, and Loreen Barnett participating in a Women of Influence panel, moderated by the non-influential male known as MH3, also at the CSTA event. Their voices combined to form a chorus of motivation and insights for women pursuing a career in sports marketing. To quote Debbi Wilkes, “Don’t let anybody else write the script for YOUR life!”

Some were ensnared in the jaws of defeat. Unfortunately at the hands of the US Women’s hockey team who upended Team Canada, in the gold medal world championship game, with their superior skills and sizzling skating. But defeat can be a powerful motivator and all of us should emotionally team up with our women for revenge in Sochi.

I misled you. This wasn’t even an entire week. It was actually only three days. And it wasn’t a butt kicking. No – it was more of a motivational stampede to catch up to those leading from the front!

 

 

Summer School

Seems to me that the weather must be getting nicer, based on the flurry of summer job inquiries I received this week.

Friends, clients, ex-clients, suppliers, neighbours, net-workers are all sending me the same email. This email details the ambitions, talents, and virtues of their son/daughter/niece/nephew/neighbour who are looking for that perfect summer opportunity. This email tells me they NEVER hit people up to arrange summer jobs. This email forgot they said the same thing last spring!

Bring ’em on I say. It’s candidly the best channel for recruitment.

But I would like to offer some unsolicited advice to the young nominees who are approaching us for work, to help ensure they get the best shot at the best opportunities this summer.

1. My name isn’t “Mike”. Yep, happened today in fact. A second year student emailed “Dear Mr. Mike Harrison” for a summer job. Guess they teach name recognition in third year. (I politely, for me, emailed them back and said Mike wasn’t hiring, but Mark might be if they wish to try again.)

2. Our company name is TrojanOne. No space. Capital O. Not T1.

3. Enough of the petty stuff… here is an important one. Brevity! Don’t send me your cover letter, resume, and three references all expertly compressed and PDF compatible. Sorry I don’t have time! I am going to flip your email to one of my hiring gurus along with a quick comment: “Mandatory Hire”, “Please Interview”, “Up to You”, and “This kid puked on my lawn last summer…”. So don’t bother filling up my in-box young stars, send me something short, and…

4. Sweet! Hey if you want to work for us, don’t just send me a form email. Customize. Personalize. Humanize. Here is a real life quote from an applicant yesterday:

Dear Mr. Harrison,
Thank you so much for considering me for a potential summer position.

I saw my mother’s email to you … maybe she should be the one going into marketing and promotion. To be described as tall by her is unreliable, at best, and “busty”… maybe relative to my twelve year old brother.

I look forward to hearing from your “hiring dude”.

Hilarious! I hope we have hired her already.

5. This is the most important tip. Figure out what you want to do, how you want to learn, and whom you want to meet. Then be disciplined and diligent at getting it. Summer jobs can be great experiences. They can be great fun. They can be hard work. They can be a great party. They can be a great foundation. There is no right answer. However you need to figure out how you want these four months to impact your future, because whether you realize it or not… you’re not headed to a job, you’re headed to Summer School.

Oh Canada, We Love Our BeaverTails

Sorry Classified, but the lyrics to your song made the perfect foundation for my title this week.

Our mascot may be a “damn Beaver”, but the BeaverTail delicacy is taking a strong run at overtaking the animal. I know this from two days of highly scientific research conducted earlier this month…at my ski club.

On Saturday of Family Day weekend, in rolled the BeaverTail wagon and you would have thought Santa Claus had arrived. Dozens of cries of “BeaverTails!” echoed throughout the hills. Kids began a delicate, yet complex, negotiation with their parents to a. receive the necessary permission to upgrade the octane level of their midday snack by several thousand kilocalories; and b. to secure the necessary second-mortgage type financing they would need to complete the transaction.

I hadn’t really understood the fascination and fanaticism the BeaverTail brand elicits. I had heard of the Obama Tail served to President Barry during his first visit to Ottawa in his premier term a few years ago. I had seen the huts when we went to Quebec. A friend had shared a far-fetched tale that Bryan Adams once declared that his skill in differentiating a Beaver Tail from a Timbit was supernatural, or All-Canadian, or something. (I am taking liberties here with the actual telling of Adams’ story!)

But how could something so enthralling be created in wee wee wee little Killaloe, Ontario? I have friends who live there and they have never mentioned the furless deep-fried fountain of taste bud ecstasy. Perhaps like me, they hadn’t experienced the love I witnessed this past weekend.

The obsession with the Tail defied all experiential marketing logic. The truck was noisy. The line was long – at one point kids were waiting 40-60 minutes! The price? Good on them for charging mega bucks for fried dough. There was no pre-promotion, no Facebook app, no post event press release.

But if the BeaverTail two day sale where I ski is any indication – they know their consumer, their consumer loves them, and I am one very impressed, and disciplined observer. Disciplined?

Yes, I was practically a Biggest Loser Hall of Fame level participant in my resisting the urge to succumb to the Eve-like temptation of a Skor flavoured BT. You are probably underestimating the level of self control this took. Summon your inner Willy Wonka and visualize a fantasia of chocolate covered faces surrounding you. Soon to be decaying teeth blazing in choreographed smiles. Majestically chocolate ‘stached upper lips on pre-pubescent faces. Chins dripping in sprinkles, sugar, and M&M bits not quite captured by their alligator jaws.

Admit it. I’ve done it. I’ve overwhelmed your senses. You want some damn BeaverTail!

Give Your Everything

On Monday I was privileged to play a very small part in the Toronto launch of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s new brand campaign.

Sown from the creative blood, sweat and tears of the COC’s Derek Kent, Rob Pashko and their AOR Proximity, the new campaign delivers on its promise to be athlete-centric and genuine to the movement. Many an Olympic campaign holds out the same promise – to be athlete-centric – but all too often drop the relay baton between idea and execution.

But aided by the creative brilliance of director Henry Lu (of Nike “Just Do It” fame), this is not your “father’s Canadian Olympic campaign” to bastardize another old, actually ancient, advertising tagline. The campaign is not only about the athletes, but it’s also about their intensity, passion and relentlessness to represent their country. Continue reading “Give Your Everything”

Best Behaviour


Marcello Pizzeria
was the place.

April 20th was the date.

Noon was the time.

My guest? Anonymous.

In hindsight, I did not arrange this luncheon to be secretive, clandestine or remotely mysterious. It was simply an opportunity for me to enjoy a first meeting with a highly regarded marketing maven. In some circles they call it networking. Critics may call it schmoozing. Detractors may call it glad-handing. Blah…blah…blah. Continue reading “Best Behaviour”

Practice What I Preach

Lately Reverend Harrison has been monopolizing the pulpit.

With religious fervor, I have been sharing lengthy sermons to whatever congregational victim is within earshot. In some cases the congregation has been made up of my staff, my kids, their friends, my neighbours, my clients, my suppliers, my peers, my twitterverse, my conference audiences and my volunteer charity council colleagues.

Oh, and you.

These collective discourses have covered a wide variety of topics. I like to jump on the bandwagon of various management, marketing and leadership trends. Want to preview my next leap? Clean out my recycling bin and see what magazine I just read. Scroll through my Firefox history and track the sites and discussion groups I have visited. Hijack my iPhone and see the tweets consumed.

Or you can just sit back and listen to the rabble babble that comes out of my mouth. I consider myself a great parrot. I read everything. Distill it into a few
short sounds. Then squawk like mad in a convincing enough manner that perhaps some people feel I’m an expert.

If you followed my flight pattern over the course of this week, you would have heard me encouraging my team to release their entrepreneurial talents on every project they tackle. Then you would have heard me urging a charity I volunteer for to push its brand revitalization project to the utmost limit to be able to play in today’s highly competitive world of cause marketing. You would have witnessed me telling another charity CEO who I support that social media can drive business results. In between, I was providing feedback to a team member about the value of keeping and reviewing a daily and weekly task list. Especially the magic of evaluating yourself and actually grading your own performance. Later with a blue chip client, my pontificating reached a high point as I talked about the need for us to make all program decisions based on the OGSM (email me if you don’t know what that stands for) priorities and strategies. Tomorrow, I will be sharing best practices in developing sponsorship proposals for sport tourism and sports event rights holders.

This is a pretty typical week for me. I’m a talking head.

But lately the shadow of doubt has crept into my head. In my mind, I’ve been tearing apart how our business works and – more importantly – how I work. Faced with a little adversity, I think this is a natural tendency for humans to follow.
I’m not too worried about our business. But I am not sure that I personally always earn a passing grade. For example, I used to be crazy anal about my daily priorities and following a TO DO list.

Then for about three months, I just spent all day reacting to email and phone calls. Candidly, I got nothing done! Nothing of real value anyway.

I’m constantly telling my clients to keep their digital assets up to date. Then I checked out my website. Hello 2009!

If I want you to keep score, I need to keep score.

If I want you to work more effectively, I need to eliminate the goop that gets in the way.

If I am preaching to you that the power of your brand is your highest equity, I better invest in my own brand.

The guilt is slipping away. Quietly replaced by the thrill of a challenge. This shoemaker’s kids are not going to wear worn shoes. I am going to turn my lens inward. Fix me and my brand. Then my work habits. Then my interpersonal habits.

Then, keep striving to improve our company. Our process. Our product. Our performance.

Then I can come see you.

The Agony of Defeat

I don’t know if you read Success magazine. I admit, I do. And I listen to the monthly CDs featuring the publisher Darren Hardy. And I read some of their “self-help” publications.

Some of you may find this sort of publication cheesy. In a way I agree. But I also find a lot of value in them. It’s always good to spend a few quiet moments reflecting on my professional and personal life.

The most recent issue really resonated with me. Unfortunately. Continue reading “The Agony of Defeat”

NHL All-Star Weekend Rocks

My apologies to Allstar Weekend for borrowing their URL to entitle my blog! But it was the first title that popped into my mind, and I am too pooped to come up with something else, so I don’t give a poop if they don’t like it. Besides, I have no idea who this band is…

Just kidding!

Nevertheless, NHL All-Star Weekend does rock in countless ways. You may not understand unless you’ve had a chance to be part of more than just the game. The NHL has taken this weekend and elevated it to a major, major, major league marketing extravaganza.

Whether it be the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fair, or the Energizer Lithium Lounge at Saturday night’s party hosted at the Molson Canadian Hockey House, there is something for young and old. Continue reading “NHL All-Star Weekend Rocks”