I spent the last 2 days at SES Toronto 2009, a global conference on Search Engine Marketing. Aside from catching up with friends and old colleagues, I enjoyed meeting Emanuel Rosen, the author of The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited and his was by far the best session. I liked it so much I bought his book and I swore I would not buy any more books until I had read the 5 beside my bed. Sound bite: 73% of buzz (viral sharing about brands) is in person, 17% by phone and 10% online. The top category people talk about is …… Food! Three meals a day… I guess it makes sense.

Most of the booths (other than Microsoft, Google and Yahoo) were small tech startups providing incredibly niche services that most of my CEO clients would be hard pressed to understand.  And there is so much hype in this space. If you are not careful you can start to feel like you are a total loser because you didn’t name your kids based on the available domain names and google keyword bid estimates. Everywhere you turn someone is taking a photo with their iPhone and posting to Twitpic and Facebook. I had to send someone into the bathroom ahead of me to make sure the coast was clear.

Microsoft has a nice big booth promoting their new search engine bing.ca. Bing looks interesting and I’ll give it a try. I like competition – it keeps everyone on their game.

I came away with several good ideas on how to develop more successful social media campaigns for CPG clients – which is one of the biggest challenges out there. Here are some other random things I learned:

My big learnings from the SES Toronto 2009 conference:

  1. You must stimulate your happy customers to talk in order to overcome the 30% of brand buzz that is negative and comes from people who have never used your brand.
  2. We imitate some people and we distance ourselves from others. Fairly key ☺
  3. If you want buzz you must give people something to talk about. There must be a good story.  Check out “Will it blend iPhone” on YouTube below this list or Tom’s Shoes.
  4. Dispersion matters. People are clustered into social silos and you must get buzz from across a diverse group of people, including across different social clusters, to predict success.
  5. You have to prepared to do 10 social media initiatives to get 2 winners. Paraphrased from Jim McDowell of BMW.
  6. Mobclix is a great tool for iPhone app developers. Great stats on best apps by category.

How NOT to respond in an agency creative presentation:

I often see a new person on a marketing team get invited to a creative presentation from an agency that’s presenting work started before they joined the team. The most common thing on their mind as they walk in is, “how will I comment on this when the agency, or my boss, asks me what I think?” Generally they just respond with some comments about whether the ads look nice or not – which is really just a waste of air in most cases.

So what should they do? Well, the most important piece of feedback the client needs to give the agency is whether or not the creative is on strategy or not, followed by whether or not it is well executed (and therefore elicits the desired emotion and response from the viewer).  In order to comment on the strategy, you need to have it written down somewhere. So the first thing you should ask if you are the new person who gets asked to sit in on the creative presentation is, “where is the creative brief?” You can only assess if the creative is on or off strategy if you have something to compare it to.

Here’s how to respond to a creative presentation:

  1. If you have a strong gut reaction, give it, but perhaps not as your first comment.
  2. Even if you have lots of negative comments, try to start with something positive. Creative people need encouragement.
  3. MOST IMPORTANT – Compare what you see to the Creative Brief and especially to the Advertising Strategy (Benefit, Brand Character, Design Theme). You have to have an Advertising Strategy to do this and it should have been in the Creative Brief. Your most important assessment and feedback is: is this ON STRATEGY or OFF STRATEGY.
  4. Either send a follow-up email after the meeting summarizing your comments and requested changes or ask the agency to send you a follow-up email containing that.

For more perspective on why and how to write a good creative brief, check out this post.

You can purchase a detailed Creative Brief template with notes and explanations at www.bestcreativebrief.com, one of my sites.

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The Situation:

My client is a new safety training firm and they required ground-up brand development and marketing to be able to present themselves professionally and generate awareness of their services.


  1. Develop a compelling brand identity for a small safety training company.
  2. Acquire new clients for Insight Safety Services by making prospective clients aware of them and their services.


  1. Start with developing a compelling brand identity integrating the concept of “people” as the object of the training and a contemporary design that communicates up-to-date expertise.
  2. Build Insight Safety Services a professionally designed, custom website through which visitors from the ad campaigns can explore the company and its services and be encouraged to call or email for more information.
  3. Add to the website an easy to use WordPress blog with a CSS template that matches the existing site. Teach the principal of Insight Safety Systems to use the blog to post articles and expert advice on safety training. Use our favorite WordPress Plugins to 1) automatically optimize posts for SEO and publish new blog posts to google and Yahoo, and 2) send the blog post content via RSS to Feedburner and other blog sites to drive additional exposure on the web.
  4. Use locally targeted google adwords and facebook ad campaigns to drive targeted traffic based on keyword searches and content placement to the new ISS website. Also register the company with Google for visibility on Google Maps.


Logo & Brand Identity:

Insight Safety Services logo

Business Cards:

Insight Safety Services business card front

Insight Safety Services business card back

Brand Guidelines:

We created an 8 page set of Brand Guidelines to ensure continuity of the brand over time and different executions. Some example pages are shown here.
ISS Brand Guidelines example


The website is live at www.insightsafety.com

Insight Safety Systems website homepage

Google AdWords Campaign:



Facebook Ad Campaign:

ISS Facebook ad

Other Print Collateral:

We also developed:

  • Printed letterhead and envelope artwork
  • Printed desk cards for training sessions
  • An HTML email template
  • A Word document letterhead template
  • A Powerpoint template for presentations

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When you hire an agency to make a marketing piece for you, do you take the time upfront to write out a detailed Creative Brief? Most people don’t, but great marketers do. As an Assistant Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble my Brand Manager always insisted that I write one. I often resented the time it took, just like I resented much of the process P&G forced me to follow as a new hire there. I was a young punk right out of business school and I knew everything. I just wanted to call the agency and tell them over the phone that I needed a direct mail piece made. But then I eventually became a Brand Manager and I too insisted that my staff take the time to write a creative brief before every project that involved contracting an outside agency. So what happened to me?

Well other than becoming Proctorized, I became convinced that the upfront time invested in a Creative Brief pays out in spades versus the “just call the agency and then add new requests every few days for the next month” method.

The purpose of writing a creative brief is to clarify our thinking upfront and to force us to make decisions at the beginning of the project so that the agency can start working on it with a complete picture of what we want. This process allows the design and production process to happen efficiently and therefore less expensively. People who don’t take the time to write a creative brief frequently end up making many changes to the requirements of the project during the project and this causes rework and ultimately leads to missed deadlines, higher costs and frustrated designers and agencies. A good creative brief should be so complete that if we handed it over to the agency and disappeared for the duration of the project, the end result should be pretty close to what we wanted.

Objection: If I spell all this out then why I am I paying my agency so much? Isn’t this their job.

No it’s not. The client owns the “strategy” (the content of the Creative Brief) and the agency owns bringing that strategy to life creatively. They are very different skills. Strategy is primarily about research, numbers, analytics, decision making models, and ultimately making clear choices. (In a small organization it is often just knowledge we have about our organization and stakeholders that we can’t expect the agency to know combined with some careful thought around the options and a sense of where we want to go in the future.) The creative process is about taking dry, sterile words and miraculously turning them into ideas and eventually executions that resonate, and produce emotion and action from the target audience.

Good agencies need the information in a Creative Brief in order to produce creative material that is “on strategy” for your brand. If we don’t give them a Communication Strategy then we are expecting them to create one for us out of thin air and that’s not their job. Their job is to take our Communication Strategy and bring it to life creatively in the elements we have asked for.

When we see their creative concepts or executions we should compare them back to the Creative Brief and ask, does their creative version communicate the message we asked for, even if in different words? If yes, then their creative is said to be “on strategy”, which it needs to be. If no, then their creative is “off strategy” and needs to be revised.

You can purchase a detailed 20 page Creative Brief template with notes and explanations at www.bestcreativebrief.com, one of my sites.

Thank you for visiting www.strategycube.com

The Situation:

My client is a 7 person physiotherapy clinic in Aurora, ON and until October 2008 they had a holding page for a website and were running no online advertising.


Acquire new clients for LifeSpring Physiotherapy by making prospective clients aware of the physiotherapy clinic and its services.


  1. Use locally targeted google adwords and facebook ad campaigns to drive targeted traffic based on keyword searches and content placement to a new LifeSpring website.
  2. Build LifeSpring a beautifully designed but cost effective website through which visitors from the ad campaigns can explore the clinic and its services and make a decision to call or visit.


The website is live at www.lifespringclinics.ca

LifeSpring Physiotherapy homepage

LifeSpring Physiotherapy Team Page

Ron O Hare physio, AJAX popup example

Google AdWords Campaign:

Google AdWords Maps ads for LifeSpring Physiotherapy

Facebook Ad Campaign:

LifeSpring Physio Facebook ad example

4″X9″ Rack Card brochure:

LifeSpring 4

LifeSpring 4

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