Ship Something.

It has been six weeks since I last wrote this way. It almost feels new again. 

Before you go any further, I want you to know something about this post. This post doesn't really have anything to do with digital marketing at all. It has everything to do with shipping. 

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

I am writing this because I want to ship something; ironically, I am writing this because I want to tell you what it feels like to not ship something.

Many weeks ago, I started something new. This newness has: taken up much of my mental space, brought me joy and has also given me a justification to not ship something on this blog. The conversation in my head says, "Well you are now shipping a lot of new things elsewhere, so that's great! Focus on those. The blog can wait." 

The most dangerous thing about not shipping something is that over time, that feeling of uneasiness that you have in the beginning starts to fade away. The urge dies. You become comfortable with this new norm.

We should never let time get the better of us. Time should never rob you of the chance to show the world something it hadn't seen before. The feeling of uneasiness that comes when you haven't done something in a while (In my case shipping something on this blog, in your case ... whatever you can equate), take it as a sign from within your gut saying ...  

Do something.

There are plenty of things that could hold you back, most of which are probably rooted in fear but understand that certain things are hard ... only if you make them so. In my case, writing this post has been difficult simply because I have forgotten a little bit about what it feels like to write. Seth Godin equates writing to speaking. Imagine not saying a word for six weeks.  

Despite how hard it has been to write this, the main idea driving this post is the same one that has driven and will continue to drive every post on this blog (please apply this to your own situation): 

By shipping something, you are sharing something that did not exist before. In doing so, you are creating new possibilites and opportunities for the world around you. 

Let this knowledge be the fuel for you to overcome the uneasiness, satisfy the urge, not get comfortable with your new norm ... and just ...

ship something.

What's Your Quesarito?

Timeless Cafe - A secret cafe in Waterloo.

Timeless Cafe - A secret cafe in Waterloo.

I recently came across a brilliant article in Fast Company about a secret 1,500 calorie super burrito by Chipotle called, "the quesarito." The article details the author's quest for this secret menu item in a fairy tale like fashion. 

Every year for the past few years, Gary Vaynerchuck has hosted a secret wine party at South by Southwest. He tweets out a location late at night and then that location suddenly turns into a raging party. It's magical. It's the power of community building. 

These kinds of things got me thinking about secrets. If used in the proper way, secrets can be extremely valuable to brands. Secrets almost always have a story behind them and stories are easy to share. 

Here are three characteristics of secrets and how to use them:

  1. They make someone feel special -- Start with your most loyal customer, or a loyal group of influencers. Tell them something, show them something. They already love what you do so why not give them a reason to love you more? Whatever you show them has to be exclusive and has to be legitimate. It has to be something so good that they will actually be bursting at the seams wanting to share it. 
  2. They can be remarkable -- A 1,500 calorie burrito. A free-flowing wine party. Do something outrageous. Don't do it often. In fact, the less often the better. Allow the secrecy to build. When it comes to light though, make sure that it is worthy of being remarked about half-way across the world. That's the kind of outrageous I'm talking about. 
  3. They can be designed to spread -- If you could make your secret one thing, make it an experience. If it's a restaurant menu item, use a different language to order it. If it's a party, use some kind of code sign to get in. Make your secret revealing experience like a scene out of a thrilling spy movie. The experience is what will make the story. The story is what will spread. 

Humans can keep good secrets. Brands can keep them too.

What's your Quesarito?

How Can You be More Creative?

Pay attention.

As my hero Sherlock Holmes would say ... observe.

Do you recognize this font?

This was the original name given to what we now know as Helvetica. This font is actually all around us now and has been for many years. I recently learned about all of this after watching one of Gary Hustwit's documentaries suitably named, 'Helvetica.'

The documentary not only taught me a lot about the history of the famous font, but it also taught me about the 'curse' of being a designer. You can probably imagine what this curse is, it's basically that designers see design everywhere. Actually, I should say ... designers observe design everywhere. Everyone sees design everywhere.

Is this a 'curse' really? No. It's a gift. In fact, I would argue that in some way we all have this gift. Each of us is good at something. We are all artists. The simplest example could be what you do for a living; however, it could be something you've done in the past, a hobby, a sport ... something. If we can recognize that we are good at this thing, we can also recognize when others are good at it too.

More importantly though, we can recognize when others are bad at it.

This is when we can choose to do something good. This is when we can learn to be creative. When you recognize your art being done badly, think of how you would do it differently. Do this often. Every time you come across your art in some way, observe it, think about how you might change it, think about the process that went into it.

Next time you do your art, bring to memory all the recent art that you have observed and the ways in which you would do your art differently ... now is your chance.

Be creative

Foursquare FTW

I am a pretty big fan of Foursquare. I have personally tried to be an advocate of the platform in my city for a long time now. A lot of people have been skeptical, some simply haven't heard about it and some are not sure how to fully utilize it.

Foursquare just gave everyone two more reasons to fall in love with the service ...

Visa and MasterCard.

They are kicking things off with a U.S-wide BK partnership.

They are kicking things off with a U.S-wide BK partnership.

According to Foursquare's latest blog post:

To make saving money even easier, we’re working with First Data and CardSpring to expand our seamless credit card specials to Visa, Mastercard, and debit cards.

Here are three reasons why this is HUGE for Foursquare and its existing - and future - userbase: 

  1. Even more valuable specials - Some venues may already be offering some form of monetary discount as a special; however, now they have the opportunity to team up with credit card companies to offer even more. This also means they can be creative and potentially use other types of specials for non-monetary rewards. They could use the specials to build-in some fun for the brand e.g. A fast-food restaurant could use a loyalty special to giveaway a free t-shirt! 
  2. Spending metrics - Venues will now have the ability to see how specials tie into purchases. This can give them some serious insight into which products are popular among certain users - simply by combining the Foursquare venue demographics with purchases to tell a story. This kind of understanding could help in future product development and marketing e.g. If venue managers realize that males aged 18-24 are most likely to purchase X product, then that product could be further improved for that specific demographic. The company may also choose to begin a marketing campaign around that product targeted specifically to that demographic. 
  3. Removing friction - The really interesting feature of credit card based specials are that they can be redeemed without the additional required interaction with an employee at the venue. On previous occasions, this interaction may have caused friction due to an employee not knowing about the special. Although this does remove a barrier for the consumer, I strongly believe that venue owners should make all of their staff aware of these specials even though they do not have to be involved in the redemption process. I believe this is important because it gives employees a tid-bit of knowledge that they can then share with consumers to allow consumers to have an even more valuable experience. 

I simply cannot wait to see more credit card based Foursquare specials come up. I am very, very excited for the future of this platform. Foursquare ... for the win.

The Black Box Transformation

Starbucks is trying something new.

Image via Mashable courtesy of StarbucksMelody.com

Image via Mashable courtesy of StarbucksMelody.com

They have installed a video feed in some drive-thru locations so that patrons can see the employees taking their order and vice versa.

Why was this necessary and what does it signify? 

This was necessary because as consumers, we are starting to relate to brands far more visually than we used to. 

If you look at the amount of visual branded content on the web now and the stats around just how much we interact with visual content (search any recent YouTube staggering number) ... it only seems logical to add a layer of video over what was previously a black box (of audio). 

Starbucks just personified the drive-thru black box by literally adding a person to it. 

Starbucks just became even more human. 

What can your brand learn from this transformation? Where can you add in elements of personification? Where is your black box? 

p.s. In all my references to black boxes, I realize aircrafts also have black boxes; however, my references have nothing to do with that. Also, an aircraft's black box is actually orange.

Lessons

Today is a very significant day in my life. Today marks the last day of my first job after being a university student. I've been with Christie for almost three years and soon I will begin a new chapter in the start-up realm at a company called Axonify.

"Watch a sunrise, at least once a day." - Phil Dunphy

"Watch a sunrise, at least once a day." - Phil Dunphy

This will be one of my philosophical posts again because I wanted to write down some reflections on what I've really learned from my first job. I wanted to keep it simple, so in no particular order, here are my first lessons:

If you want to quickly understand a very large business, do the grunt work. The work that others may shy away from.

Evolutions are easier to deal with than revolutions, but revolutions are sometimes needed.

Empathy is everything. Ask your colleagues not just what they do but how they do it. This way you will truly understand what they mean when they say they are 'busy.'

When you walk the halls, do it with a smile. Someone may need to see one.

Ask your colleagues what they like to do for fun, you may just discover intraprenuers within your company.

Do everything you can to make the day enjoyable for the people who have to deal with you for 8 hours every day, 5 days a week. This is as easy as laughing once in a while.

Don't be afraid to draw your own map.

Understand where you add value and more importantly, where you don't.

"Strive for progress, not perfection..."

If someone new joins, go out of your way to make them feel welcome. You were that person once.

Do your own job in such a way that others around you are able to be better at their jobs.

Be real, be transparent and be honest at the end of the day, people will appreciate that.

Look forward to at least one thing every day.

The Genius of Simplicity

Square is easily one of the coolest solutions out there for small business owners.

From a marketer's perspective, Square has some of the most elegant, yet simple branding and messaging that I have ever seen. In 2012, Square was named one of the most innovative companies in the world by Fast Company.

Recently, Square launched a new hardware solution to go along with its Square Register app called: Business in a box.

Business in a box.

Business in a box.

Here are some strategies that marketers can adopt from Square:

  1. Sell the solution, not the product - When people have a problem, they seek solutions. Think like a user. Identify all the possible areas of their pain points and figure out how you can solve them. In the process you may realize that there is an opportunity for your product to be supplemented with other products in order to provide an overall solution. That's what Square has done with 'Business in a box.' They have continued to focus on their own product offering but also brought in other specialized products to sell an overall solution. 
  2. Build an ecosystem - Square started with a dongle and an app. They have now evolved to become a bigger solution for small businesses. By expanding into hardware offerings and allowing the different pieces of hardware to communicate, Square is slowly building an ecosystem. This makes it harder for people to switch to a different service when they've bought into Square.
  3. Be simple at every turn - Everything I see from Square is simple. If you look at their product page, even the explanations of what is normally a slightly complex topic (credit card transactions) ... Square makes simple. Find as many ways as you can to simplify what you do. Perhaps you can have a hackathon on simplicity.  

Be simple. 

Be smart.

Be Square. (I heard it's hip to do so).