Tag Archives: marketing

On Mike Gillis and Marketing To His Audience

Of all the Canucks honours up for grabs this season, the most deserving is Mike Gillis for Executive of the Year.  Or perhaps Marketer of the Year.

While his acquisitions and re-signings (all of which have been analyzed ad nauseum over this playoff run) have been great,  as head of the entire Canucks organization, Gillis has done a phenomenal job of changing the culture and attractiveness of the NHL’s Pacific Rim outpost. 

And all of it, in my estimation, has essentially been an effective marketing and re-branding exercise to attract his most desired audience: good hockey players.

Build it, and they will come.

As a former agent, Gillis has the unique perspective of knowing what players want from an organization.  Just like any employee, players want to work for a solid organization that has a commitment to success and a commitment to its people. 

Remodeling the dressing room, hiring sleep and nutritional experts, creating season-end reviews with off-season improvement regimens — yes it all adds to the on-ice success, but more than anything, it’s a clear message to all players in the league that the organization is dedicated to winning and to improving its players’ experience. 

Birds of a feather flock together.

Integrity, intelligence, and accountability.  Gillis was very clear about the culture he wanted to cultivate; he wanted men of character on his team.  That’s what Gillis wanted and that’s what he went out and got.  With a vision of the Canucks organization in place, he sought out attracting the right personnel, from senior advisors right down to draft picks.  

Talent and skill would no longer be enough to make the Canucks’ roster.  There’s a reason Manny Malhotra arrived at training camp already running drills.  There’s a reason Gillis told Dan Hamhuis that they only wanted him if he was willing to give back to the community.

The impact this had on the Canucks’ reputation is immeasurable.  It’s brand building at its finest.  When you show the league and its players that you only want and will only accept the best, that’s who you’ll attract.  The whole process is brilliant in its simplicity.  It’s the easiest marketing any businesses can implement: do an exceptional job, and the audience you seek will start seeking you.

Word of mouth. (You know, the original social media.)

Players talk.  Casual off season conversations between friends happen all the time.  Who doesn’t want to know if the grass is greener on the other side?  “What’s it like to play for that coach?  What’s your travel like?  What kinds of amenities do you have?  How does the organization treat you and your family?”

As the saying goes: “Reputation is what people say about you when you’re not in the room;”  the way those questions are answered is precisely what builds a reputation.  There’s a reason Mike Gillis patterned his template for the Canucks organization after the renowned Red Wings franchise.  Detroit is the team everyone wants to play for.  They have a reputation for structure, stability, championship pedigree and league-wide respect.

So how do you get players talking positively about your hockey club?  

Gillis and Malhotra chat at practice

Well, basically what Mike Gillis has done to take this franchise to the next level.  Everybody in the league and their mother knows exactly how Manny Malhotra was treated over the course of his terrible eye injury.  And if you don’t believe the word of mouth, then just listen to the cracks in Malhotra’s voice  during his recent press conference when asked about his team and the organization.

Players know these things.  They hear the talk and they know where “the good places” are.  You better believe Gillis heard that talk while he was an agent and I believe he’s done an admirable job of getting the Canucks into that conversation.  He had a brand and a message, and he’s effectively gotten it through to his target audience.

The result speaks for itself.

Creating an organization that players want to join and work hard for is, aside from winning a championship, arguably one of the hardest tasks in professional sports.  It takes vision, attention to detail, creativity and an understanding of how to attract and retain the best players possible.

During these Stanley Cup playoffs, the Canucks’ “talent and depth” have been praised by virtually every major media outlet.  I’d say that’s a job well done.

It’s a testament to the success of Gillis’ moves that the Canucks are in their first Stanley Cup Final in 17 years, but it will be a testament to his strategy if we can see them there again sooner than that.


On Why WWDC is More Important Than the Delayed iPhone

There’s been a lot of kerfuffle about the potential iPhone push back to September.  Is it a good thing?  Is it bad?

In my opinion, it’s a great thing.  And that’s not just because I don’t want to have to afford a new iPhone this summer. 

Dan Frommer wrote an excellent article about the positives of the iPhone delay that appeared on Yahoo Finance recently.  Building on his comments…  

Apple is OS driven, it’s why they prefer a closed ecosystem.  For them, product design is the process of creating the best hardware to leverage the OS.  In my estimation, June’s OS announcement will be pretty big.  They don’t just tease stuff like this for fun, people — Apple takes their OS very seriously.

Is it a closer linking between iOS and Mac OS?  Maybe cloud-based sharing for all Apple devices?  Steve only knows.

Apple fanboys and casual consumers alike are probably disappointed, if antsy about the delay. 

And from a marketing perspective, Apple’s getting exactly what they want.  

If they can follow through on some new, potentially revolutionary features and functionality, it’ll almost guarantee demand for their product(s).  It’s tough to say if the hardware will necessarily be all that new, but we can be sure they’ll be able to fully realize the new OS features, which is what Apple’s all about.

A few other reasons:

  • Let the Verizon / CDMA user-ship increase before pushing an upgrade on them.
  • Let AT&T and others (I’m looking at you, Rogers) catch up and implement their LTE 4G network so that the new phone and likely iPad (could be the “September iPad / iPad 3” some have been rumour mongering about) can leverage multiple carriers. 
  • Give developers time to play with the new OS features to make the
    product(s) more robust at release.

There are lots of potential reasons for Apple to delay the product release, but none more important than ensuring the OS and features are at the centre of it all.  iOS, the apps, the user experience — it’s always been what drives the line of iProducts, not the hardware.

As for the iDevices?  They know we want them.  They know we’ll probably buy them anyway.  More importantly, they know that making us wait won’t change a thing. 

Except maybe build anticipation (read: frothing frenzy of fanboys) once we see what they can do.

On The NHL All-Star “Guardian Project”

It sucks.

A harsh two words for The Guardian Project, I know, but let me explain.

The concept of marrying hockey with comics is a dream come true for me, because I’m a fan of both.  Take each NHL team and create a superhero scenario around it?  Great!  A nice opportunity for the league to piggyback onto the prevailing “comics are cool” zeitgeist.

How could it fail?  Let me count the ways.

First of all, the NHL is late to the party on this one.  Both Major League Baseball and the NBA have gotten some comic book treatment in the past year or so.   The difference is the other leagues were featured by magazines (Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine respectively) with competent marketing deptartments who knew how to leverage the cross-marketing platform potential — something seemingly over the heads of the NHL’s powers that be.
A video on the making of the Marvel/ESPN NBA Preview
It’s a sad NHL trend to latch onto a successful idea, only to execute it poorly and laughably.  I love hockey and the NHL and want to see the league’s popularity grow, which is why it pains me to see an idea with so much potential fall short because of poor understanding of the medium they were getting themselves into.
Their second problem was going to Stan Lee.  Yes, he’s the founder of Marvel comics and an industry legend — but he’s also outdated.  The guy hasn’t had a good idea in over 30 years.  So what’s the idea he fed the NHL?  “Let’s take all the team names and turn them into superheroes with powers based on their namesakes and cities!”  Eeehhmm… <tug at collar>
I looked at all of them.   They all suck.  Even the ones that should have been cool.  Each one a parody of the concept instead of an homage to their team.
My personal insult?  Well, since I’m from Vancouver: The Canuck
Really, Stan Lee?  Really?  You took the lamest parts of Aquaman, awkwardly shoved them into a poor excuse for a Batman costume, then said “he likes rain”.  You gave him a whale cape.  [sigh]
That one image is pretty symptomatic of the entire project’s poorly-thought-out, effort-lacking, boat-missing, cash-grabbing, wasteland cast of costume-wearing misfit concepts.
It’s a shame really.  If the NHL had asked the right people, it could have been pretty good.  Instead they went with a recognizeable name that no longer produces acceptable product. 
Kind of like the All Star game, I guess. (Zing.)
[UPDATE]  A good article by The Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) explaining the background of the Guardians Project and why those of us who find it laughable are not the target audience.  Also of note, comics writing legend Chuck Dixon was tapped to write all the inital stories.
I’m sorry — I love Chuck, but The Canuck one still sucks. (That wasn’t supposed to rhyme so much, but it did anyway.)

On iPad 2 and iPhone Rumours (Piling On)

WARNING: What you are about to read is my totally non-insider, mostly unsubstantiated assumptions about what Apple may or may not decide to do with their iOS devices in 2011.

But really, how different is that from anyone else?

The iPhone 4G (AKA “The Verizon iPhone”)

Yes, I’m even making a call on the name.

I’m pretty sold on this one. There’s no way Apple’s going to move onto an iPhone 5 already. They need to extend the iPhone 4 brand’s lifecycle. Want proof? Exhibit A: iPhone 3. Exhibit B: iPhone 3G. Exhibit C: iPhone 3Gs.

Verizon is already starting to make waves with its “most advanced 4G network” claims for the New Year (or sooner) and AT&T won’t have their act together in time to compete. Quite frankly, I can’t see Apple missing out on having its astoundingly popular device available on a “lightning fast” network. I mean seriously, 4G? Isn’t that just too conveniently sequential to pass up?

Plus there’s also the distinct possibility that Apple’s so-far-underwhelming FaceTime functionality could get a facelift via 4G support. Imagine that: getting to use FaceTime when you actually need it!

And that leads into my presuppositions over the next (and probably more) highly anticipated Apple product:

The iPad 4G (AKA “The iPad 2”)

Okay, I’m less confident in this name.  But hey, Apple is nothing if not consistent.

For the most part, I suspect they want to start pushing the iPad as a communications device. The front and rear-facing cameras are all but given. Apple is smart and easily 2-3 years ahead of what they’re revealing; they wouldn’t roll out FaceTime without knowing iPad would eventually join the party. The question is: how is it going to work?

With the iPad not being tethered (pun intended) to a mobile carrier, its 3G functionality is free to play with any provider. And with a 4G network in the wings that might even have the bandwidth to support millions of users FaceTiming, doesn’t it just make sense to send iPad an engraved invitation?

Being Canadian, it all seems like a moot point since none of our networks are preparing for an imminent 4G upgrade, but I get the feeling that once the next iterations of iPhone and iPad come out, it’ll be the world’s mobile carriers who are trying to play catch up more than smart phone and touch tablet competitors.

2011 will probably be a good year for Apple, but it might be an even better year for Verizon.

On Hyundai, Pomplamoose, and Taking Viral Mainstream

Looks like Hyundai’s playing with a new friend in the social media sandbox.

How do you make a fun, fresh commercial and tap into an existing audience of millions? Why, ask one of YouTube’s hottest viral musical talents to make it for you, of course.

I — like millions of net denizens who’ve found them on YouTube — am a pretty big fan of Pomplamoose and their channel. Their growing catalogue of covered and orignal “video songs” (songs where you can see every instrument played) are smart, catchy and fun to watch.

Hyundai thinks so, too. That’s why they’ve partnered with Pomplamoose to create a series of holiday season commercials featuring Jack & Nataly’s musical and editing talents. Yes: editing. Hyundai gave Pomplamoose full creative control.

Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose cover “Deck The Halls” for Hyundai

I imagine acquiescing control was a low-risk proposition for Hyundai, considering most of the budget probably went into revamping the duo’s garage into a higher-end studio than the room they’d been using for the past few years.

The point being, though, that Hyndai was smart enough to not mess with a good thing. They hired people who were doing something that people obviously enjoyed, so why tell them what to do? “Just make us a holiday video song with our car and these messages.” Done.

The result? A fun, unpretentious and enjoyable holiday ad campaign. Produced on a relatively low budget. And that has the potential to reach millions of viewers online.

Below is Pomplamoose’s full cover of “Deck the Halls” followed by a vlog post that not only talks a bit about the Hyundai commercials, but also about how to use a generous donation to get their “MPfree” Christmas EP.

On Samsung Galaxy S Marketing in Japan

Engadget posted a link to the new Samsung Galay S campaign in Japan.

Brilliant I say.

While most “iPhone killers” are feature-heavy and, arguably, offer more than the iPhone, the fact of the matter is Apple’s marketing and branding has made it easier to identify with (and desire) their products. Sure I think the iPhone’s UI is best of breed — but try selling that to the person who has to ask “what’s a UI?”

You know what you can sell, though? Darth Vader.

Screen Cap Credit: Engadget

Samsung’s positioning positioning strategy is great. Apple is light and trendy? Fine, we’ll be dark and cool. At the end of the day, anthropomophizing their product by using a character already embedded in the cultural psyche with its own built-in set of connotations as a way to accelerate the brand-building process was slick and clever.

Now we just sit back and wait for the Justin Long / John Hodgman / Darth Vader spoofs to pop up.