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What we learned from #Elxn42

October 23rd, 2015 by ,    photos by

340,000 tweets. 50 female MPs. 20-year record in voter turnout. How the 42nd Canadian Federal Election flipped politics on its head


While the entire nation adjusts to an unprecedented and historic shift in political leadership, some initial insights can be extracted from the new Election Business Model, if you will. Here's what we learned during #Elxn42:

  1. Politics hath no fury like a generation scorned. The highest voter turnout in 20 years was a direct result of younger generations feeling unheard and undervalued. While Harper himself is popular on Twitter, the Tories appeared to struggle with authentic, relevant relations and meaningful dialogue with anyone under 40, which could have helped galvanize the vote. This heavily evidenced with #ByeFelicia mentions to Harper across all social mediums. 
  2. Influencer Marketing: it works, and the Liberals knew that. By leveraging highly visible, relevant key stakeholders ("Influencers") with evangelical followings, they captured the loyalty and trust of civilians who otherwise sat on political sidelines. The secret isn't youthfulness, it's creating accessible, transparent leaders who reflect the average Canadian and engage with them in meaningful ways. See Robert-Falcon Oullette
  3. Social Sway is a reality. As Western Canadians, we have witnessed the power of social media during elections not once, but twice in a year's timeframe. First with Bowman's Mayoral sweep (closely reflecting pages written by Mayor Nenshi), and now with Trudeau's election week surge. We must accept that swing votes now look to social media for education and guidance on major political issues, progressions, and ultimately, votes. Expect to see more in 2016 from our friends south of the border. 
  4. Gender Equality: It's a time of reckoning for women in politics. Of 184 newly elected Liberal MPs, a record 50 (or 27.1%) are women. Trudeau promised an even cabinet, which would again make history. Nellie would be proud.
  5. Reliance on legacy is a dicey game. While the Conservatives and NDP had strong brands to leverage, sheer power was not enough. Succession planning through political leadership demands innovation in approach to keep relevant with all voters - not just boomers - and a conscious effort toward the innovation economy itself. Upcoming generations expect brands, businesses, and leaders to work for their loyalty across relevant means (technology). It's not a fickle notion - it's the reality of today's consumer-brand relationships. 

A new generation of politics

The 42nd Federal Election may have turned Canadian politics on its head, but it serves an important lesson to the nation. "One size fits all" campaigns are no longer, and major demographic shifts in consuming political media, communications, and branding have literally mobilized a new generation of voices. 



The Business of #NYFW

September 20th, 2015 by

Making and breaking brands since 1943


You might think #NYFW is a collection of egocentric fashionistas, but New York Fashion Week represents an extremely powerful connection between brands and consumers. This semiannual spectacle, 72 years in the making, is more than just runways and red carpets. It's collective culture incubator of tech, fashion, innovation, food, and media; and harnesses the power to make or break the biggest brands. Here's how:

It's a media launchpad

Move over Instagram, Periscope is the "it" app this week. Beyond fashion, #NYFW has been established the make or break forum for upcoming trends, media included. Designers and brands gravitate to the latest mediums to clinch first mover advantage and render competition as laggards. Pay attention to Periscope, it's going to dominate social in 2016.  

It's a tech hub

Collaboration between tech (Uber) and fashion (Givenchy) continues to eliminate the divide between style and software. Lifestyle brands are a powerful movement positioned to dominate consumer markets, and increasing accessibility to #NYFW shows for "civilians" is a result of innovation through tech.  

It's a genius PR catalyst

Love them or hate them, but consumer obsession with mega-influencers like the Kardashians can't be ignored. Key influencers are vital to catalyzing awareness, demand, and brand persona ("lifestyle") to new products - more so than traditional media.  Linking personalities to brands (and runway shows) generates overnight success, and drives engagement to levels marketing pros have never seen. It's the new PR strategy, and it works. (Hint: The Kardashians launched a family of apps this week) 

It's a design & content curator

Curation (sorting material and presenting in a meaningful way) is a dominant tool in marketing strategy this year, and demands a source of inspiration. For the next year, clothing, houseware, tech, automotive, and countless other products will integrate designs, materials, and trends  inspired by #NYFW. Influential bloggers, product developers, and brand strategists all want to leverage the newest trend, so expect to see this week's style rippled throughout consumer brands, media, and goods as soon as next month.


One thing CEOs will compromise

July 26th, 2015 by

Why emotional intelligence is the new MBA


In building a leadership team, most C-suite execs demand a premium blend of experience and education, with position profiles reciting an oft-anticipated recruitment laundry list:

  • "X" years of experience in [preferred skill set],
  • progressive management roles,
  • proven metrics, and
  • [Masters education] preferred

It's a safe and generally proven approach, however, over the past decade a new dialogue has catalyzed on an emerging, highly sought skill: emotional intelligence ("EQ").

The term, coined via research in 1990 and first used by Daniel Goleman in 1995, encompasses self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social aptitude - all strong indicators of effective leadership.

Sounds fluffy. Is it real? 

Absolutely. The year the term was coined, fMRI was invented and for the first time, scientists could visually capture brain activity in action - helping prove the mechanisms of charisma and also when emotional reasoning trumps IQ. It lends performance over and above traditional aspects of leadership (think intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision) which render insufficient in absence of emotional intelligence. This is how emotional intelligence became a key leadership skill, naturally begging the question: is EQ more important than IQ? 

Seems so. On top of scientifically proven superiority in leadership, emotional intelligence is just plain likeable (think Buffett, Burns, Schultz, and Nooyi). While a perfect candidate excels across all "3 Es"(experience, education, emotional intelligence) these types are hardly a dime a dozen.

Then... what do you do?

The combination of brilliance, experience, and invaluable intelligence to read, understand, and motivate people is rare; and recruiters, startups, and C-suites are all seeking what's become the unicorn of executive leadership. It's an age-old ring match of book smart versus street smart, but at some point a call must be made. Enter: the compromise.

With EQ hype at its peak, a trend has emerged when an offer hits the table: all other qualities considered equal, CEOs are leaning toward candidates with stronger emotional intelligence - effectively compromising a few IQ points. The widespread belief is that the right personality, work ethic, and willingness to learn are more fruitful (long term) than taking a shoe-horn approach to shiny GPAs with less social savvy.

It's hard to argue this approach when emotionally intelligent leaders have just been proven to boost financial performance. Add to that cultural norming and acceptance of startups and widespread entrepreneurship (AKA comfort with risk, growth potential, and innovation) and the perception of compromise is mitigated. 

This is not to say education is not valuable: it absolutely is. But it's not an automatic or sole indicator of success.

Some say you can't teach leadership. But when it comes to EQ, some things truly can't be taught. What's your leadership made of? 

Read more:

Learn how to determine emotional intelligence


Dear entrepreneur, you might actually want to fail

March 31st, 2015 by

Why Richard Branson is celebrating the culture of failure


Why is there such thing as failure, and what does it really mean?”

How would you respond to this question?

The new 'F-word'

As leaders, we’ve seen the notion of failure slingshot from backroom whispers to the forefront of performance reviews. Thanks to omni-changing environments in tech and startups, retail and e-comm, internet entrepreneurs, mergers and more, the topic of failure has become ubiquitous in business. What was once a largely event-based phenomenon has gained momentum to shape a culture within itself.

In fact, over the past decade, the “F” word kicked into overdrive from muted, taboo roots to prevalent, second-nature dialogue.

A culture of failure

As a culture, we’ve come to recognize failure as a valuable skill. How one navigates and uses it to hone perspective has become synonymous with resilience, introspection, and more authentic leadership. This perhaps is a compelling perspective behind Collins’ original notion of balancing personal humility with professional will.

Further, fail champions like Richard Branson assert failure and rejection are inevitable in business, and the development of coping mechanisms ultimately defines one's success. With increased dialogue, the stigma and judgment surrounding failure has changed.

Some argue leadership is inherent and not learned. Could the same be said for cagey, charismatic leaders who walk through the fail fire?

What it really means 

The concept is simple: risk versus reward. For those refusing to shrink from challenge, payback (regardless of form) can far surpass initial investment – but failure is a likely outcome of any risk.

In the March 2015 issue of Entrepreneur, writer Tasha Eurich suggests bouncing back from failure hinges on the ability to learn. Given the prevalence of startups, increasing venture capitalism, and [growing] anticipation of new venture realities, a new culture of failure has come to fruition.

While HBR attempted to redefine failure in 2010, we’ve still yet to reach consensus on what it means in business. Is there a time limit? Can it be positive, and should we gain from its concept?

Fail fast, they say.

Would you?


When love is in the air, people go shopping

February 14th, 2015 by

Our $17.3 billion in emotional Valentine's Day spending is giving retail brands the warm fuzzies


Love is in the air – and it’s a lucrative business. With a market valuation of $17.3 billion, Valentines Day is the apex of emotional consumer spending.

The National Retail Federation reports consumers will spend an average of $133 on Valentines Day this year, and while purchase decisions aren’t as manic as Black Friday, they are highly emotional transactions.

Tiffany’s has a legacy of capturing this warm and fuzzy sentiment – coincidence it’s one of the biggest brands in the world?

No Rocket Science Here

It’s no surprise consumers are engaged by the notion of love. Its warm, euphoric, and commercially positive elements give people hope for greater happiness, fulfillment, admiration and solidarity toward the future (for example: life, work, and relationships). And so, they flock to “things” able to harness and project these values – whether experiences, products, or services.

Over recent decades, economic consumption has shifted from needs to wants, objective to subjective, and functional to emotional. We now make purchase decisions based on how we feel, using emotion to make the purchase and logic to rationalize it. It’s an incredibly powerful influence.

This is why brands able to connect on emotional levels are the most successful. Consumers love love – but more so – they love to feel moved, captured, inspired, hopeful and enlightened.

On the contrary, emotional connection can backfire, apropos to Nationwide’s Superbowl commercial whose grim message enraged viewers coast to coast. That said a passionately angry customer is better than no customer: if they are mad, you’ve likely retained a sliver of loyalty, in which case, right those wrongs and beg forgiveness. Sound familiar?

The consumer-brand relationship is just that – a relationship – where consumers experience the brand physically, intellectually, or emotionally. In turn, this relationship develops emotional connections, such as love, hate, frustration, faith [loyalty], and envy. The deeper the emotional connection, the stronger the consumer-brand relationship. This is what’s referred to as brand loyalty, and this is how it works:

Brand Loyalty leads to Brand Ambassadors leads to Brand Awareness leads to Brand Equity leads to Engagement + Demand, which equals Sales.

May seem audacious, but the claim that emotional branding drives results is true. Consumers “in love” with your brand are aligned with its values and lifestyle – and they want to talk about it. In turn these ambassadors cause twofold increase both in awareness and equity. Thus, when your brand becomes the talk of the town, consumers want it, and it sells. Emotional brand relationships translate directly to the bottom line – which begs the question – why doesn’t everyone do it? 

For most, the biggest challenge is reallocation of spend to “lesser proven” mediums, analytically speaking. It’s hard to draw tangible cause-effect between brand and sales, but just as it takes vulnerability in human relationships to succeed, brands need a little courage to invest in “soft skills” to build a solid foundation of trust with consumers.

What About Status Quo?

As Interbrand (the world’s leading brand consultancy) explained, top-ranked and high-performing brands are those able to persuade, influence, and inspire. Brands able to face the future with bold ambition, courage, and vision are those who grasp their purpose, drive relevance to customers, and possess the confidence to stand out.

This year we’ll see continued evolution in branding. As the bold continue investing in brand, authenticity, experience and engagement (read: shifting from status quo), so too will they reap the rewards. Already we’ve seen new entrants like Kit and Ace storm the market, generating extraordinary growth and take rates since inception. They’ve got attitude. They refuse to conform. They live and breath brand personality…and it shows.

Regardless of your value proposition, there’s always room to add emotion in strengthening brand-consumer relationships. They want to be surprised, delighted, and made to feel special and unique. Roses may not be the best way to your consumer’s heart – but if you know them well enough, you’ll know what fits best.