From the Trenches: Ashley Smithers

Ashley Smithers is a branding and design specialist based on Toronto, Ontario.

Her daily routine includes meetings with Norah the office dog, daily motivational speeches from Dwight K. Schrute, and solving complex problems for a wide range of clients.

Her mum brought home a Macintosh Plus (and laser printer) for her when she was eight years old, immediately starting a life-long romance. She won her first design competition when she was 14 (“It was a hundred dollars, but the logo is still used!”). This eventually led her to studying Industrial Design, where her professors eventually took her aside and told her that she had a gift when it came to branding products. “My models were horrendously assembled – but the reasoning behind the branding around them sold every time.” She decided to begin her freelance business while in school, and eventually moved to the UK to gain international work experience.

While working with The Equicom Group, Ashley fell in love with presentation design. Referring back to her favourite TV show, Ashley jokes about PowerPoint as “the peacocks of the business world – all show, no meat.”.

“I love that quote, because it shows how presentations have gained a reputation as the place where flames and bullets are necessary – real presentation design is the execution of using light and environments to convey complex information. The 30 foot screens behind Elon Musk when he rolls out a new Tesla model – that’s presentation design. It’s the combination of the physical space, digital signage, and accompanying a human being while they tell their story.”

A recent project has been with a Swiss consultancy firm, who approached Ashley with the question: how do we take over 200 years of combined experience, and market it to both the international and the American healthcare markets? The project involved a deep dive into their core values as a European company, and finding ways to resonate with American businesses. From this, she rolled out a full brand, including a new website and offering to create a more inclusive, interactive, and focused message.

“The entire brand hinged on one organizing idea – nobody wants to be a patient, and we are there to help make the process less painful. We worked to bring the human aspect back to an industry that is filled with bureaucracy and paper trails. If you want to call someone and have a realistic talk about your oncology medication, or have just been diagnosed with a chronic illness and don’t know where to turn for support – this company helps bridge that gap.”

Although Ashley admits that this project has probably been a great and challenging piece, she’s had some pretty interesting experiences – and she never backs away from a challenge. A Tier-1 Canadian grocer recently approached her to redevelop their digital signage program, and asked if she had any animation experience specific to large food clients.

Ashley said her answer was automatic and simple: “no, but give me two hours and I’ll have a sample.”

“I am a passionate, constant learner – and with all of my clients, I encourage a partnership over a vendor mentality. So, with this, rather than just show previous work, I wanted to show them something that would present my skill in a way that they would resonate with. And I live for food – my retirement dream centres around cheesemaking. It was fun to do, and helped me gain the client!”

Her biggest advice to anyone in the freelance and consulting world is simple: To succeed (and be at the top of your game) you need to learn how to constantly move and adapt with everything.

As someone who is extremely passionate about the work she does, Ashley admits that sometimes it’s hard to take a moment and show herself off. Joining The Well for her meant gaining some cheerleaders, and gives her the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals, rather than just her office dog. For us, it means being able to take all of her work and accomplishments and giving her a platform to push and show off her amazing talents.

If you’d like to learn more about Ashley and her work, visit her profile at www.gotothewell.ca/ashleysmithers1

  

Twitter Interview: Well Assembled

In the beginning of the month, we officially released “Well Assembled” to the masses. The new facet of The Well comes with ready-made teams of professionals who are experts in executing specific projects, with everything from employee satisfaction to multi-media campaigns.

Last week, we thought we may as well show off some of the masterminds behind these teams. On September 19th, we hosted a Twitter Interview to talk to the members of three Well Assembled teams. Don’t worry if you missed it – we’ve typed up the transcript for your reading pleasure.

Paul Dike answered on behalf of himself and his teammate, Colin Winn. Paul and Colin have worked together for years, and have won multiple awards over their time together. They tackle full advertising campaigns, and have worked on popular commercials. You can learn more about Paul and Colin’s work here.

Ashton Rodenhiser spoke for her and her employee satisfaction teammate Bernice Theriault. Ashton and Bernice work together using engaging dialogue and incorporating visual representation to gather information from an organization’s employees. They provide feedback that can’t be gathered through traditional means, and outline quick, actionable steps to grow and improve. You can learn more about Ashton and Bernice’s work here.

Jenn Rodgers champed the interview for her and her counterpart, Robyn McIsaac. Jenn and Robyn combine their expertise in customer experience to create corporate communications strategies that achieve the goals they are set out to do. Their four step process has proven time and time again how effectively they work together. You can learn more about Jenn and Robyn’s work here.

Wishing you could have heard from these folks? You’ll have an opportunity soon to hear from more of our experts coming soon – keep an eye out on our social media! If you’d like to read over the interview from September 19th, it’s right here for you.

From the Trenches: Elizabeth MacMichael

Elizabeth MacMichael is a self-taught Dartmouth illustrator, who started working in retail candy stores and has moved her way up to drawing for national magazines.

Elizabeth says she doesn’t remember a time where she wasn’t drawing. She always knew it was her passion – and her dream – but never really saw it as a career option. When she returned to Halifax three and a half years ago due to an injury after a brief stint in Toronto, she found herself stuck in bed all day with nothing to do but draw and develop her skills in Photoshop and Illustrator. When she returned to work as a retail manager, it just “kind of clicked” that all she wanted to do was draw. And once she had enough experience and clients under her belt, that’s exactly what she did.

It obviously was the right decision. Last year, Elizabeth was contacted to do an illustration for Canadian Geographic of William Shatner. Yes, that William Shatner. Elizabeth illustrated a portrait of the one and only Captain Kirk for a mini-feature the magazine was doing on the actor. For which her only comment was: “he saw that!”

In April 2016, Elizabeth was also the only Canadian selected for an art competition called Ink Wars put on by Creative South. Artists were given a 4x8 canvas, two Sharpies, a pencil, one hour, and one word given seconds before the timer starts to base their whole work from. Elizabeth competed fiercely in front of over 1,000 people and came in fourth place overall.

Don’t worry, though. She hasn’t let her success go to her head. When asked about her work, Elizabeth says she “just gets excited about creating.”

“I love any project where I get the reigns. It’s all about creating. I find excitement dies once a leash gets involved, so really I just enjoy any project that allows me to do my thing, my way, and deliver the best possible product I can.”

Her work includes a variety of projects and talents. Besides her illustration work, including interior book illustrations, Elizabeth has completed film posters, label designs, logo re-designs, and re-branding for various clients. Recently, she’s also discovered her love for stationary and has shared her talent creating wedding invitations, specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, combining her passion for activism and support in the community with her skills and work.

Elizabeth also carries her own product line, or as she likes to call it – “a line of stuff people can’t say no to.” Her products are available wholesale to local suppliers and are retailed via her online store, with products ranging from print to stationary, cards, recipe cards and more. The whole line is manufactured in house. That is, manufactured in Elizabeth’s house.

To learn more about Elizabeth and her work, visit her profile at www.gotothewell.ca/elizabethmacmichael1

Twitter Interview: Design & Illustration

Oops, we did it again.

On June 29th, we hosted another Twitter Interview – this time, with design and illustration specialists. We discussed necessary skills in the field, the difference between designers and illustrators, and how to determine success in projects, along with much more. You can read the full transcript of the “Interview” here.

We spoke with three specialists, all with a variety of skills, talents and experience.

Christel LeBlanc (@TheForestFriend) is an interdisciplinary designer, who has been working out of her own studio – Forest Friend Creative Projects – since 2011. Starting off with a degree in Early Modern Italian History (and following it up with a Master of Design, of course), Christel meshes fine arts & crafts with new media & technology. She also recently completed a project within The Well, where the clients were the parents of another Well talent – the two completed the project together. What a small world. You can read more about Christel and her work here

Elizabeth MacMichael (@lizmacdraws) is a self-taught digital illustrating queen. Her style is best described as the place where retro sci-fi and alternative pop culture come to party. One of her recent projects involved drawing William Shatner for a feature article. You can read more about Elizabeth and her work here.

Genevieve Kelly (@genevievetkelly) started her career in web design, graphic design, and illustration but has grown her talents to include things such as UI Design, UX Design and Art Direction. Her goals revolve around creative problem solving, and using visual design as a solution. You can read more about Genevieve and her work here

Geordan Moore (@whostolemybike) is the owner/operator/illustrator of The Quarrelsome Yeti Screenprint & Apparel (he’s the creator of the popular “Halifax is Okay!” and “Dartmouth is Pretty Nice!” products). His background is fine art with roots in printmaking techniques, with a style that certainly stands out in a crowd. You can read more about Geordan and his work here

Wishing you hadn’t missed out on chatting and hearing from these cool cats? Or want to see it all again? You’re in luck – we’ve typed up the whole thing just for you.

Introducing Allison Tweedie!

The Well has just brought in a new member to the team, although she’s a little different from our usual recruiting finds. Allison Tweedie is our new Senior Talent Manager, and will be working with our existing specialists and bringing in new talent as a full-time employee of The Well (aka you can’t have her.)

Allison is Canadian born and raised, save for a brief stint in the UK as a high school student. She received her Public Relations degree from Mount Saint Vincent University, where she jokes that the program did wonders for skills and professionalism, but not so much for her love life (“The Mount” is notorious for having a very low number of male enrolments, especially in their PR program).

Upon graduating, Allison worked in communications for the federal government before deciding that she wanted something a little more fast paced, and made the move to the agency world (for which she says her first thought was “why did I agree to this?!”) She worked with clients such as Bell Aliant and Nova Scotia Tourism, along with a variety of clients in Toronto. Although she loved the work she was doing – and the clients she was doing them with – she thought that there was something out there that just might be a better fit.

Her biggest passion lies in what she calls “career karma”, something that she feels she got a lot of in her early days. During her transition from government to agency, Allison did some soul-searching and research into how to sell herself and her skills, best resume practices, career coaching, etc. She quickly learned the power and value of networking and having people on your team who can guide and teach you. Because she had so many people help her, she wants to help others.

Cue her position at The Well.

Allison’s role as Senior Talent Manager allows her to work closely with our talented consultants on all sides – Project Specialists, Well Placed, and Well Assembled – to find their niche within The Well, as well as working with clients to find the best person for their project. She will also be on the lookout for new talents and specialists to bring into our folds.

This is not the first time Allison has considered jumping on board The Well, but it’s certainly the first time we’ve had a position so perfectly tailor-made for her. We like to think it’s fate.

If you’d like to get to know Allison a little better, shoot her a quick “hello”. She doesn’t bite (much). Or, you can take a listen to the podcast she creates with her boyfriend, called Upon Closer Inspection where they discuss movies from their childhood.

From the Trenches: Ursula Green

What do you get when you take a long-time agency girl and put her in the consulting world? A specialist who knows the ins and outs of her industry. In other words, digital UX strategy and marketing specialist Ursula Green.

Ursula began consulting as a side gig to her fulltime work in agencies - where she started in graphic design and worked her way up to VP of digital strategy - to help out some of her co-workers in the industry. In September of 2016, she decided to take the leap into full-time consulting and hasn’t looked back.

She says that being a consultant means that she can get more intimate with her clients, and can service them better than she had been able to in other traditional settings. In her past life working fulltime, she found that she was often caught between the needs of her clients, and the needs of the agencies she was working for. Being a specialist freelancer allows Ursula to dedicate her attention to what is most important about the work – the client.  

Ursula is currently working on her first project with The Well. It started out small but has now blown up into something she could never have imagined. Being mindful of her clients wishes – something Ursula has always put as a priority – she is keeping the name of her client confidential, but says that it has been a dream to work with them. The people she has been working with have been so open and wiling to accept the end vision that she feels less like a hired gun, and more like a part of the team.

“A difficult project done with good people makes all the difference. This is an awesome project done with amazing people, so there’s a lot to be excited about.”

The project involves taking numerous existing online properties and sites and putting them into one consolidated property, with more user-friendly, journey-driven designs. It means merging multiple sites that have mismatched structures, are off-brand and unaesthetically pleasing into one, easy place. The challenge that Ursula is most eager about is learning how to create something that is not a one-size-fits-all, but a place that has something for everybody depending on where they are and how they are accessing it.

She says the best feedback that she has ever received has come from the main client on this project: “thank you for making me look so good!” Ursula says that it makes her proud to know that she is meeting her client’s goals in a way that makes them feel supported and cared for by her. The ultimate goal at the end of her day is to make her clients happy.

Her days have certainly taken her to some pretty crazy places. She says some of her career highlights have included learning more about backyard equipment than she ever thought to know, meeting a retro-funky artist in NYC who gave her one of his famous posters. The biggest one that came to mind when asked is the day she was allowed to test drive several high end competitive vehicles for BMW around a race-track to test their limits. “How many people can say they’ve done that?!” she laughs.

After spending only a few minutes chatting with Ursula, it’s easy to see why her clients fall in love with her so quickly. She’s always up for a challenge, and willing to do what needs to be done.

To find out more about Ursula and her work, check out her profile at www.gotothewell.ca/ursulagreen1

Twitter Interview: Strategy

June 13th, we hosted our second Twitter Interview at The Well! Just like the first, the interview generated lots of attention in the Twitterverse, and we received lots of care via favourites and retweets, as well as a good number of cool new followers (if you’re one of those new people reading this, welcome! Stick around and poke around our site a little bit. Heck, even if you’re one of the old guys, we encourage you to poke).

For this latest Twitter Interview, we asked questions to three ladies who are specialist consultants in strategy.

Elizabeth Horodnyk (@ehorodnyk) comes from Kitchener, Ontario and will sink her teeth into any project – big or small. Part of her focus lies in digital media strategy, including SEO and SEM. She knows her way around brand management and social media as well, and brings a unique and creative flair to everything she touches. Read more about Elizabeth and her work here.

Sherie Hodds (@plumcoach) is a certified professional Co-Active Coach from Bedford, Nova Scotia. Her work lies in working closely with clients to create change and move forward, with compelling stories at the heart of it. In case you hadn’t noticed from the Interview, Sherie’s very big on storytelling. Read more about Sherie and her work here.

Ursula Green (@ursulagreen) is a Toronto specialist in digital strategy, including UX, marketing, and CRM. She was a little late to the conversation due to unforeseen circumstances, but that really didn’t stop her from banging out some insightful answers and helpful advice. Ursula is an expert in understanding relationships within the “digital eco system”. Read more about Ursula here.

It was great to chat with these fine people, and enjoyed hearing some of the things they had to say. Great minds truly do think alike, as many responses – although not exactly the same – held some similarities and common themes. We loved being able to talk and show off our peeps, and is only one of the many Twitter Interviews we’ll be hosting. It’s not something you want to miss! Our next Interview is scheduled for late June, and you can follow us on Twitter @TheWELL_ca and Instagram @gotothewell to stay up to date. Keep an eye out for #WellSpecialistChat as well. 

Disappointed you missed out on this Twitter chat with these cool cats? Don’t worry. We typed up the whole thing for you all nice and pretty and tied it with a shiny, red bow.

Okay, no bow. But still nice and pretty.

From the Trenches: Kristy O'Leary

Kristy O’Leary believes that it’s business that can save the world. Yes, you read that right.

Kristy is a Well consultant that has come and gone, and we’re always happy to have her back in our mix. She specializes in communications and impact design, and her passion lies in using business to solve the world’s most challenging problems. Or, in her words, “helping companies measure and communicate everything that doesn’t fit on a balance sheet.”

“I think people get a little scared when they think about being completely transparent. But it’s not painful – it’s exhilarating! Most companies are already doing good things, they just need to measure those activities and outcomes, then get really loud about them. A lot of the time, they don’t even realize the impact they have. It’s amazing. They’re amazing!”

When an organization hires Kristy, her job is to go in depth with what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, why they’re doing it and what it’s doing to the world around them – in a positive way. If she comes across a problem, then she comes up with solutions to help them be a little better every day. And then when she’s done, she helps the organization show their stakeholders all the wonderful things that they are.  From start to finish, her role is to help companies find new ways to create impact, make it seen and heard, and get them to make money while doing it.

Win, win, win.

Through her work and research, Kristy sees that the very nature of work is changing – perhaps in a good way. In the age of information, there’s no more room for sitting on the fence. Companies have started to realize that being honest and open is the future of marketing. “Brands are getting political and that’s a good thing. We have a lot of problems to solve, and there is a cost to sitting on the sidelines. Customers are ready to put their money where their mouth is, and buy based on their values and the change they want to see.”

“The current political atmosphere is tense. Brands are stepping up and reaping the rewards because people get to buy more often than they vote. The Trump announcement about the Paris Accord is a perfect example. Some of the biggest brands around the world are committing to surpass even The Accord’s emission reduction targets. Brands have had personhood for decades – now they’re getting civic.”

Kristy works with for-profit companies because she loves using the business and marketing world – an environment that people don’t typically think of as being champions for the environment or social causes – to activate people to create change. Her perspective is unique one, but may not be uncommon for long.

“We are proving that companies can get rich by doing the right thing – and soon it will be commonplace. Heroic Capitalism – this is the future of business in the age of things like Trump and climate change. The more that companies are doing good in the world, and the more that they show it, the more those companies can grow. And it’s just about being honest and authentic.”

Her most recent project involves Mayan farmers, transparency reporting, cacao and a supply chain company. Kristy is working on a revolutionary transparency report; revolutionary in that it is the first time a cacao company and commodity product has shared pricing transparency with the market. She recently returned from a trip to the jungles of Guatemala where she met with Mayan cacao farmers.

“There are so many ways to optimize, things to learn, stories to tell. My job takes me to exciting places. Sometimes around the world, sometimes just down the street. There is no lack of great companies.”

Kristy hasn’t always done this kind of work. She started out in advertising and owning an ad agency. That’s where she grew and developed her skills in figuring out ways to prove that companies are actually doing what they say they’re doing. And, figuring out the things they’re doing that they may not even know.

 “To steal a quote from Madeleine Shaw, of Lunapads, ‘I’m a pirate on the high seas of capitalism.’ Impact Design is the future of marketing, and I’m so lucky to be in this game.”

Although she loved the business world, Kristy still holds a fondness for consulting. She says that consulting allows her to do the work she loves while being the captain of her own life – she gets to decide what she’s doing, how she’s doing it, and when it gets done.

And she gets a lot done.

To learn more about Kristy, visit her profile here

 

 

From the Trenches: Nicole Bedeau

Nicole is working on her first project with the Well – one she admits is pretty great.

The project is managing social media for Centura Brands, where Nicole works with a graphic design partner to create imagery and written work for daily posts on Instagram and Facebook for two organizations under the Centura corporate umbrella. Her focus is on keeping a consistent look and voice with the brand identities and keeping audiences engaged through contests, blogger collaborations and engaging content.

When asked to describe herself, Nicole says that everything she has ever done revolves around finding a way to express herself and her ideas effectively. She loves the opportunity to be creative, and to use the talents and skills that she has both cultivated and received naturally. It’s a lot of work. But that’s just what consulting and freelancing is.

For her, being a consultant is ideal because it allows her to work on a wide range of interesting projects – something you don’t normally get at a typical 9-to-5 job. As she puts it, there’s “never a dull moment”. Working as a freelancer lets Nicole practice her expertise, while also growing and deepening it constantly.

Working with the Well hasn’t dulled the excitement of the work. It’s simply put her work on a larger scale, with exposure to a bigger audience and a much larger volume of work.

The hardest part of the project she’s working on? Or (as she puts it) the most interesting?

“Finding new ways to talk about different hair care products, hair styles and solutions to hair challenges. Every day.”

You can follow along with Nicole’s work at @ddGirlsWithCurls and @Lacoupehaircare.

Read more about Nicole and her work here

“This curly verse is yours to love for National Haiku Poetry Day.” (@ddGirlsWithCurls)

This curly verse is yours to love for National Haiku Poetry Day.” (@ddGirlsWithCurls)

“Keep your professional polish all day. Morning: coffee Afternoon: meeting Evening: date” (@Lacoupehaircare)

“Keep your professional polish all day.
Morning: coffee
Afternoon: meeting
Evening: date”

(@Lacoupehaircare)

The Well's First Twitter Interview

On May 23rd, we hosted our first ever Twitter Interview at The Well!  The Interview received a lot of attention on the Twitterverse, gaining us lots of favourites and retweets, as well as a good number of new followers. We asked questions to four leading consultants across Canada, all with a variety of specializations from event management, to brand messaging, to impact measurement. 

Menna Riley (@MennaRiley) from Halifax, NS is a specialist in Event Management. Menna hosts Leading Ladies Networking in Halifax – a business networking event for women in the area held at Lot Six Bar. The next Leading Ladies is June 22nd, and Menna is taking a much-deserved break throughout the summer before bringing the event back into town in September. Read more about Menna and her work.

Trevor Heisler (@TrevorHeisler) is centered in Ontario. He specializes in a wide range of areas, including brand messaging, social media management, crisis communications and copywriting. He recently returned from a top-secret mission in Baltimore, working on a top-secret project. Read more about Trevor and his work.

Nicole Bedeau (@BLPRdigital) also hails from Ontario, and runs in some of the same circles as Trevor although she puts her own mark. With a focus on digital strategy, Nicole works with organizations on social media, branding, and measurement/monitoring. One of her most recent project with The Well involves creating social media content for hair products – keep an eye out for an upcoming feature on this interesting project. Read more about Nicole and her work.

Krisy O’Leary (@AgentGiraffe) is a returning consultant to The Well, and tuned in from Vancouver. Her specializations include impact measurement and transparency, where she helps companies realize “how badass they are.” We recently chatted with Kristy (and left Twitter out of it) about her recent work involving Guatemala and cacao, and will be releasing a feature on it soon. Read more about Kristy and her work.

We were super excited to talk with these people, and had a lot of fun hearing what they had to say. We think they had a little fun themselves.

This is only the first of many awesome opportunities to hear from Well specialists. Our next Interview is scheduled for early June, and will involve a whole new group of interesting and dynamic consultants. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @TheWELL_ca and Instagram @gotothewell to stay up to date with news on upcoming Twitter Interviews!

Disappointed you missed out on the Twitter chat with these fine folks? Don’t worry. We typed up the whole interview for you all nice and pretty, with a shiny red bow (okay, no bow. But still nice and pretty).

Read the full transcript here

Busting Millennial Myths Around Social Media and Technology

As a digital anthropologist, I research, mostly for marketing departments and agencies, how people behave within social media and with technology as a whole. Millennials are a hot topic. Many a brand spends inordinate amounts of time and money to target the Millennial. They think they’ve got them profiled, sorted and thoroughly understood and that they’re some kind of magical money mine. They aren’t. They’re also not really a demographic and can’t truly be marketed too as one.

How Millennials Are Using Social Media
In the past year I’ve completed over 15 different analysis of Millennials behaviours and activities in social media in the U.S., Canada and UK for CPG and financial services companies. So what did we learn? 

  • They aren’t a “lump demographic”, they’re within an age bracket, but there are no specifics, just generalizations.
  • Over 87% of Millennials prefer social media apps that are less public; they dislike the marketing messages in more open apps like Facebook.
  • 59% of Millennials in our research indicate they mistrust over 90% of the news they get in their social media feeds.
  • When it comes to personal information, contrary to general assumptions, over 62% don’t like to share personal details outside a closed group.
  • Those aged 18-24 are more likely to be skeptical of unknown people attempting to be friends in apps like Snap or WhatsApp. But see Facebook and Instagram as more “open” platforms while sharing less information publicly.
  • Over 76% of those aged 18-35 say a primary part of choosing a new app is that it has the ability to have private messaging.
  • Over 56% of those aged 18-35 dislike the term “Millennial” and find it a derogatory term.

This is based on an overall sample size of n=75,000 individuals conversing about how they use social media in their channels in the US, UK and Canada between January and November 2016.

Millennials and Technology
While the media images of “Millennials" have them almost always face-in-smartphone, the relationship those in their 20’s and early 30’s have with technology is quite different from what one might expect.

  • Home automation tools like Amazon Echo or Nest aren’t really that interesting to them; largely because they don’t own houses and are highly urbanized and very much into “buying local” and a more social approach to shopping that is physical. Those aged 18-35 rarely have a house and don’t have as much disposable income either.
  • They’re 60% more likely to buy small commodity items on a mobile than via a laptop/dekstop or some home automation device.
  • Only about 12% of Millennials have an interest in wearables and tracking their fitness.
  • Just over 43% of those aged 18-35 say they don’t look for apps outside those pre-installed on the device they buy (i.e. the Mail app on iPhone or Outlook on Windows.)
  • 48% say they are looking to reduce the amount of technology in their daily lives.

We have a lot more data and insights than what we’re delivering here. But we think these are some pretty big insights. Millennials don’t like being called that and really, marketing to a specific demographic is a bit like trying to do a  direct mail campaign to unicorns.

What marketing departments tend to miss is that those aged 18-35 don’t have a lot of disposable income and in fact, have less disposable income today than their parents did at the same age.

Across many global consumer brands, we see this odd desire to leap on the bandwagon to market to “Millennials”, which is fine if you have a lower price point product. But price elasticity in the 18-35 group is much tighter. There are also significant economic disparities between those aged 18-25 (who have minimal disposable income and are in an entirely different life phase) and those 25-35, even those 30+ are very different in life stage.

Stay tuned for some further insights into how those aged 18-35 choose products and view brand loyalties.

Don't Mess With The Stuffing

The Holiday season is rapidly approaching in Canada and people are planning their Christmas dinners. Turkey is always a feature. So, as we were doing some research into Canadian food habits for a client, we of course came across some interesting data (unrelated to our client project, of course) and that has to do with stuffing.

No Bones About It
Our research showed some interesting things about Canadians when it comes to the stuffing they use in their turkeys and make no bones about it, stuffing is a sacred food!

We analysed conversations in social media about Christmas dinners by both men and women across the country. The age demographic was 25-45, 60% female and 40% male. Sample size was n=20,000 (this is Big Data for Big Dinners.)

So what did we find?

  • 31% maintain they use a “family recipe” from a matriarch, passed down by two generations on average.
  • 24% say apples should never be used in a stuffing
  • 11% believe you shouldn’t put cranberries in a stuffing
  • 12% maintain no garlic and go light on the onions
  • 43% said stale white bread cut into chunks is the best
  • 53% said stuffing is the most important part of the turkey and that they never try new stuffing recipes...

So, what do you make of that? If you celebrate Christmas, do you use an old tried and true family recipe? Do you like to shake it up a bit?

Why Competitors Rush to be the Same

It’s a rather odd thing. Company B comes along and wants to eat Company A’s lunch as a competitor. Then comes along Company C and so on. But the odd thing is that they all try to look like one another despite the business logic that says that you need to differentiate yourself from your competitor. Similar tag lines, similar marketing messages and maybe a line here or there that fails miserably at why Company B is different from Company A. 

So we used some Big Data analysis and applied some behavioural economic theories to see why this might be happening.

Confirmation Bias in Differentiator Denial
As humans, we like to seek information that confirms our view, rather than contradicts it. A great example is social media and the recent US election; people used memes and messages that met with their political views.

When we looked at 400 brands in the financial sector and 100 in the real estate sector we found that 78% shared similar use of logo designs, website design, social media messaging and marketing slogans. What we might say about this is that brands tend to look towards their competitors for marketing and branding styles versus their markets needs. Could it be that marketers or perhaps CEO’s seek comfort in similarity rather than the risk of looking too different even though that may improve sales?

Backfire Bias
This where we tend to reject evidence that contradicts our own views. When we looked at the personal financial planning market for instance, we found this to be true in branding messages. It was similar in the insurance sector. Over 90% of the 900 brands we looked at in each sector used the same messaging as their competitors if with slightly different words. Even though in business schools differentiation is a core part of marketing teaching, these brands didn’t offer any significant differentiation points in their brand. Are brands subconsciously applying a bias to their brand design and messaging considerations?

Brand Category Relativity Bias
As consumers, we tend to judge things relative to something else rather than make difficult comparative choices. So I’ve some up with a term I call “Brand Relativity Bias” as bias plays a role in our decision making.  Combining the above two data points, one could consider that brands end up making a subconscious play to seem similar to others to fit in a category? A marketer or brand strategist may think this helps the consumer, but in many cases it may not.

Certain brand elements are necessary in a category or industry but looking too much like a competitor makes it harder for consumers to make a choice. So that choice relies more heavily on the personal relationship, especially in the financial sector.

Methodology
We collected data on 10,000 brands across Canada and the United States (in English) and then using Big Data analytics broke them into industries based on those with tag lines and definable words in the brand name (i.e. insurance, wealth, financial, computer) and tagged brand names into categories where they were known. Then applied some regression analysis and sentiment analysis. This is the quick explanation of the model and approach.

So what do you think? Are brands seeking a “comfort zone” amongst each other rather than differentiating for the customer?

The Canteen Exceeds Fundraising Goal by Over $35,000

Last month, The Well supported a major announcement for Dartmouth’s famous local eatery, The Canteen. As a bustling neighbourhood hotspot in downtown Dartmouth, The Canteen has grown significantly since its launch two and a half years ago, quickly establishing a reputation as the go-to spot for chef-inspired sandwiches, salads and take-home meals.

Looking for support to announce a relocation and re-launch, enabling The Canteen to continue its growth, owner and head chef Renée Lavallée, along with her partner, Doug Townsend, came to The Well. Despite having years of marketing experience under his belt and having much of the relocation campaign covered, Townsend was faced with limited time and resources and required additional support in areas outside of his circle of expertise. This is where we came in.

“Time is a premium, and with the Well, I knew I could find experienced professionals that were already vetted,” Townsend explains. “The cost was also very reasonable, without hidden fees and overheads…I knew exactly what I was paying for.”

With The Well’s support, The Canteen announced it’s upcoming relocation and launched its associated crowd funding campaign on October 13, with huge success. Hitting all the marks in terms of media coverage, The Canteen’s crowd funding target of $30,000 was reached within just four days. In the end, the campaign netted out at $65,664 – more than double its initial target.

“Now I know that I can go to The Well, find the right person for the job, and turn a project around within a few days,” says Townsend, who also notes that working with The Well was an accessible and efficient option for a small business like The Canteen.

We look forward to visiting The Canteen’s new location in Downtown Dartmouth this coming winter.

 

Top 5 Reasons we Hate Stories With Lists (HINT: #3 will shock you!)

LinkedIn. It’s a place ripe with interesting content, unique perspectives, fun tips, simple how-to’s and much more. But is it just me? Or is “List-bait” now reaching epidemic proportions? You know what I’m talking about. Lists that suck you in with a tantalizing headline. Like “Top 5 Reasons to Quit Your Job” or “Four Ways to Make your Work Life better”. Or my personal favorite, headlines that prey on our nosy nature like “Six steps to Success… and You Won’t Believe what Number One Is!”

I admit it. I’ve read them all. But now I’m putting a stake in the ground. I’m “listed” out. I’ve got room in my life for many things, but not more lists. So before I close this chapter forever, here’s one final list for the books.

Top Five Reasons we Hate Stories with Lists

1. We’re all Suffering from List-fatigue. Lists are everywhere. My newsfeed is jammed with them. They’re like a biblical plague. Somewhere between swarming locusts and frogs falling from the sky. And after a while, they all sound the same.  Quite frankly, I want to put my fist in your list. Is that rude?! If so, I’m okay with that. I’m here to make a stand. Not new friends.

2. Lists are Lazy. Hmmm. Can’t think of five bullet points that prove your perspective or demonstrate your expertise? That’s okay! Just come up with as many (or few) as you can and absolutely nobody cares. There are no points deducted if you can only muster up four. That’s the beauty of a world marred in free content. You always get what you paid for.

3. Lists are Too Simplistic. Here’s a thought. Let’s take a really complex problem… like why you live with too many cats, for example, and create a simple list that can solve that problem both for you and the world. Oh, and in four bullets or less. Trust me. Your life can’t be changed in so few characters. I’ve seen that hoarders show on A&E with the cat-loving crazies. If you’re one of them, you probably don’t need a list. You need an intervention.

4. Lists are Predictable. That’s right. I said it. Predictable. Why have a nice meal when you can have four or five bite-sized appetizers? That’s what lists are. They’re the crackers and cheese of the writing world. Completely predictable and a great way to take the edge off while you’re waiting for something meatier.

5. Lists don’t always make sense. Remember when I said that lists were predictable? Well they aren’t always. If you recall, I also said lists are lazy. So since I can’t think of five points, I’m sticking with four. So my fifth point is really not a point at all. It’s just a silent protest against all other lists.

 So there you have it. My “boeuf du jour” about lists. So tell me, what do you think about lists? Love it? Or list it?

 Article Author - Mike Maloney

When to Use Seasonal Keywords in Social Media Content

Seasons change. Much as we Canadians love our summer frivolities, we seem to also enjoy talking about the next change of seasons. As we looked through some of the data we collected from social media for our market research, we noted an increase in certain keywords on a seasonal basis. So we used text analytics to correlate keywords that reflected seasonal change with the times of the year when we start to see seasonal change. Why? Because this can help your content planning for site optimization and contextual relevance. This data also applies to northern US states.

The Shoulder Months
There are seasonal shoulder months that are ripe for certain keywords. August signals in Canadians that fall is approaching. November triggers winter and April triggers spring. Yes, marketers know the seasonal change and ramp ad campaigns accordingly. But it’s also important for your content strategy in social media channels. The key is when.

When To Leverage Seasonal Keywords
Timing, as they say, is everything. So it is with seasonal keywords. Too early and consumers just aren’t ready for it and you may reduce click opportunities. When we looked at our data, this is the story it told us;

Spring: Start the last week in march and early April. While it’s tempting to start in early March, unlike other shoulder months, March is still winter in most of Canada (except B.C. for the most part) and people are oddly cranky. Spring words see an increase in social media of 12% in late March and 87% in early April.

Summer: Late may into first two weeks of June. This is the height of time when consumers start planning summer activities. The weather has warmed enough and we’re in the mindset for cool drinks and summer foods. Summer words see an increase of 19% in late May and 67% in early June.

Autumn: The end of August, the last week, is when we see the spike in interest of all things autumnal. Words like pumpkin or cinnamon become popular. Don’t start mid-August though, stay on the summer theme. In August we see a 22% increase in the word pumpkin and 43% in early September in social media.

Winter: In Canada and the northern U.S. this is an odd one. Early winter social media trigger words are deeply tied to Christmas. In the U.S. Thanksgiving is a trigger to winter preparations. We see winter/Christmas related words start to increase by 19% in early November and by 77% in early December.

So there it is, some insights to help you plan your content strategy. When we analyse social media, it’s the digital version of “people watching” and we look at behaviours and trends. We hope this helped you a little today.

We post on Facebook as well here and you can follow Well Researched on Twitter

Any thoughts you’d like to share?

Social Media Monitoring Apps: The Good and the Bad.

There are over 1,000 different social media monitoring tools in the market today. From the low end of around $100 a month all the way up to $5000+. Most, if not all, major brands use them. They have nice graphs. Some are reasonably good with sentiment analysis. But having built a social media monitoring tool (for the global risk analysis market) and worked with many of them since 2009, there are some limitations and upsides.

The Downsides

Surface Capture Only
All social media monitoring tools are really designed for surface skimming of social media, not deep, complex dives and analysis. For this, most are quite good. But a lot can be missed.

Data and Channel Limitations
As the saying goes “you get what you pay for” and in the case of social media monitoring tools, you’re paying for data. All social media monitoring tools buy data from one of two sources; DataSift or Gnip. Some buy piecemeal from other providers. You’re buying based on keywords, hashtags and in some cases phrases. Some apps offer more social media channels than others. Again, it all depends on what you want to pay.

Analytics Limitations
Since the first social media monitoring tools popped onto the scene in 2008, surprisingly little has been done in evolving the analytics. Each tool has varying degrees of good visuals and UX design. Sentiment analysis has improved, but not by much. The analytics are good for basic insights and keeping up with the flow of the conversation around your brand, but that’s about it.

Large Enterprises Use Multiple Monitoring Tools
We’ve worked with several companies to help them select the ideal social media monitoring tool for their organisation. We’ve found over the years that larger companies with the budget, will use between 2-4 social media monitoring tools to achieve their desired level of analysis. That’s hard for smaller organisations.

There’s No Deep Dive Capabilities
Despite some claiming this, we’ve yet to find a social media monitoring tool that actually does deep dives. Few can go back historically than a few months and trend analysis is always poor. Each is limited in the channels they can delve into, meaning important things might be missed. The analytics tools they use are also based on using their compute capabilities at source; meaning your sharing processing power. They’re also restricted to social media channels, but there’s a lot more content out there to be leveraged for analysis.

The Upsides

Keeping Up With The Flow
Social media monitoring tools are just that “monitoring tools” and they are very good at being in the “now” and “recent now” of the constant flow of social media content. You can keep up with the daily pulse.

Competitor Insights
Most of these social media monitoring tools enable you to keep an eye on competitors. This is good for spotting their weaknesses or leveraging a crisis to your advantage.

Metrics
Most apps today offer decent metrics to help as part of your overall performance measurement on marketing budgets.

Emerging Trends
These tools can quickly spot emerging trends such as memes and enable your creative and content teams to move quickly to leverage them.

In Summary
Social media monitoring tools are a key part of the marketing automation suite. But they shouldn’t be used to make strategic and planning decisions. They are very much in the now and near-now world of active marketing and help with customer service and brand engagement. They are not digital research tools and when used as such can lead to misinterpretations that can cost your budget big time. We’ve seen this happen a few times.

If you’re in the market for some deep digital research, we can help. If you’re looking to find a new social media monitoring tool, we can help as well. We’re unbiased, so we’re working on your side.

 

What Retailers Can Learn From Restaurants

Using Big Data analytics to analyse social media conversations often shows some interesting insights. This happened when we compared retailer marketing messages with restaurant marketing messages and how consumers talk online about both. The critical difference? One word: experience. This is important as retailers find in-store sales slumping while restaurants, bars and the like are finding an increase in sales. In the UK in 2015, restaurant visits were up 11% over retail store visits. Similar results are being seen in Canada and America.

The Experience Is The Product
Pictures of delicious, colourful food along with some choice words evoke some powerful emotions in people. Restaurants market an experience. That experience entails not just the ambiance of the location, but the taste of the food, presentation, service and being there with people we want to spend time with (hopefully.) The product is the experience. In retail stores, the experience has largely gone away. The product is what hangs on the rack.

The Retail Marketing Message
Many retailers do aim to market an “experience”, most notably with fashion. Yet our research found that 43% of Canadian women find retail shopping to be boring when by themselves and 37% to be boring when with a friend or two. The highlight of their shopping experience, they say in social media, is having a snack or beverage break. Retailers focus heavily on pricing and the physical product they want to sell.

The Restaurant Message
When it comes to leveraging social media, restaurants are very good at communicating an experience. Images of food, connected with an eating establishment indicate social interaction. Retailers it would seem, don’t convey this message.

The Retail Store Un-Experience
The data also showed that only 18% of Canadian women and 14% of Canadian men, enjoy a retail store experience. The primary reason was customer service, followed by uninspired interior design. 64% of shoppers find aisles too crowded and stores messy. 19% of women find the music too loud. We have more insights coming in our October edition of the Big Data Consumer Omnibus.

Retailers Should Visit Restaurants
If retailers are looking for inspirations to boost sales, perhaps a visit to a few trendy restaurants would be in order? Retailers should look at how restaurants are creating their messages in social media. Cross promotions could also be an option. Canadian consumers are looking for an “experience” when they’re out buying. Right now it seems, they aren’t finding that experience. 

What do you think? Are you a retailer?

Are Canadians Growing Bored of Social Media?

We’re an intensely curious bunch at Well Researched and we’re constantly collecting and analyzing what consumers are discussing online for digital market research. Looking back at some data we’ve collected over the past year and a bit as we were working on another project, we noted a shift with Canadians and their social media habits. So we asked the data…are Canadians bored with social media?

As with any question like this, the answer is yes and no. Maybe even “bored” isn’t the right word. In our recently released Consumer Big Data Omnibus we showed how consumers are changing what they share. Turns out, how they’re engaging is changing as well.

What’s Happening With Canadians and Social Media?
Based on our findings, it appears that Canadians are in part fatigued and in part changing the nature of many of their conversation styles. The chart below shows the five main issues we uncovered about Canadians views on social media. Perhaps not entirely surprising.

 

 

Global News
About 29% of Canadians find global news to be either stressful or depressing. It’s not stopping them from discussing what’s going on, but many indicate they either adjust their filters to dampen it down or avoid social media feeds where they see a lot of the news they don’t like.

US Election - Stressed and Tired
Canadians are largely fascinated and highly opinionated on the U.S. elections underway. It’s also a major reason people are dampening their social feeds for the elections. Most cite fatigue with the constant barrage and some say the thought of Trump as president scares them. 

Advertising Formats
Around 19% claim they’re frustrated with how advertising is being presented to them in major social media channels such as Facebook and news channels and that they often find the ads either irrelevant or increasingly intrusive in their objective to getting to the content. This is especially so with mobile usage. Secondly they cite a lack of creativity in the advertising, especially with regard to YouTube videos. Creatives and advertisers should be aware, it’s driving Canadian consumers to more private channels such as Messenger and SnapChat.

Trolls & Negativity
16% of Canadians say they’re tired of the trolls and so much negativity in social media. Overall, this frustration with ongoing negativity has increased 54% over 2015 and we’re just half-way through 2016. Of the sample size analysed 73% felt that the trolls were winning online. We anticipate this issue to increase, it will be covered in the second edition of our Canadian Consumer Big Data Omnibus in October of this year. If this issue continues to grow, the only worthwhile advertising may be for weapons and things that make angry people happy.

Lack of Interesting Content
This 12% plays somewhat into the advertising formats issue. Canadian consumers find a lot of repetition in content and finding a lot of content to be poorly written and the same across many channels and sites. Lack of creative in YouTube adverts and videos pushed across news and social media channels was also cited. Content marketers…time to step up the game. Creative directors, can you get your clients to stop being boring?

So are Canadians bored with social media? Overall, we’d say no, but they are in what we would call a “Transition Phase” in terms of how they use social media overall. Issues of trolls and negative content beg the question of how responsible should companies like Twitter, Facebook or SnapChat be for people’s behaviour? They certainly can’t change the state of global affairs.

What are your thoughts?