Modern Marketing RACI

As part of our recent Modern Marketing Briefs workshop, we discussed the importance of having clear roles & responsibilities among teams (before the briefing). This can be a bit of a challenge as more marketing departments are using specialists, shifting work in-house, collaborating with IT, and adopting agile principles. Building (or updating) a RACI chart that reflects these changes can be a useful exercise.

Here is a Google Sheet you can download, customize, and use to get started.

A Lesson Learned is a Lesson Earned

I recently completed a consulting assignment with a retailer that was focused on modernizing their marketing operations. During our first workshop, the COO vociferously shared that one of his goals for the initiative was to “stop making the same mistakes and doing the same things all of the [bleeping] time.” Half of his team nodded their heads, the other half stared at their shoes. Like most good feedback, it was tough to hear but useful to receive. So, a big focus of the assignment became how to enable teams to better learn from past marketing activities. While I cannot share the specifics of this assignment, I can share a few general tips and tools that you might find helpful if you are facing a similar challenge.

1. Have processes and tools in place to capture actionable learnings

Sprint retrospective meetings are well ingrained within Agile teams, but this practice is not widely embraced by marketing departments today. It can be challenging for marketing teams to take the time to effectively reflect and capture lessons from historical campaigns. Debrief meetings can turn into venting sessions, and lessons – if captured at all – are often listed sparsely as bullets in post-mortem documents. Marketers can better focus their retrospective meetings and capture learnings in a more structured way by using a standardized agenda and input document. Here is an example that you can use to anchor your post-project meetings and codify your lessons learned. You can download a version to modify and use here.

2. Consolidate and share lessons learned effectively across your team

Lessons are only valuable if you are actually aware of them. Within marketing departments, lessons too often stay locked in PowerPoints or in the heads of individual team members. Marketing departments need a process and tool to consolidate and organize lessons so that they can be easily accessed and used by all team members since some lessons broadly apply to a variety of projects. There are a number of paid online retrospective tools available. If you are just starting out, you can create a shared Google Sheet. Here is an example that you can download, customize, and use.

3. Ensure briefs and briefings include relevant lessons and tests

Writing a brief is an exercise in looking forward. However, it is important at the start of any new project to learn from the past. Marketing leaders need to enforce retrospection by including relevant lessons learned as a mandatory input for briefing documents (ideally populated by entries from their shared ‘Lessons Learned Library’). For more tactical briefs, marketers should also include any tests that they plan to run in a way that is properly structured (i.e. the hypothesis, test, and implications are clear). The Test & Learn Cards from the awesome book Value Proposition Design can help. You can download PDF versions shared by Strategyzer here and here.


Building Better Brief(ings)

I designed the Building Better Briefs training workshop out of frustration. After 20 years in marketing, I simply had spent too much time in excruciating briefing meetings. Even when the briefs were well written (rare enough), briefing meetings often felt like lifeless formalities. The equivalent of someone reading out their tax returns, albeit with a free lunch. So, I designed a workshop to try and fix this. To do so, I conducted research and spoke with dozens of marketers to figure out what exactly makes a briefing effective. After months of digging and debating, the following themes emerged:

Include the ‘Business Owner’. Often briefs are presented by those responsible for managing the project rather than those responsible for the results. Including the ‘owner’ of the results in the meeting ensures that everyone has a shared understanding of ‘why’ the program is required in addition to ‘what’ needs to be completed. Participants also have the opportunity to have business-related questions answered directly on the spot, without lengthy follow-ups.

Hold Integrated Briefings. Different tactical elements of a marketing program will often be briefed separately to different teams. Briefing ‘core’ and ‘extended’ team members at the same time (from the same brief) ensures that everyone has a shared understanding of the full project scope, strategic context, and key stakeholders involved. Everyone also benefits from hearing the questions and perspectives from others in this larger meeting.

Communicate Roles & Responsibilities. The number of people, disciplines, and teams involved in marketing briefings continues to grow. The result is that it can be difficult for everyone to know exactly what they are responsible for. Turf battles and politics amplifies this. Make sure to establish project governance prior to any briefing meeting and circulate tools like RACI charts for team members to review. Address any questions or issues openly during the briefing meeting.

Establish Common Language. Different people often use different terms to describe the same thing – why would briefings be any different? Walk through the steps and deliverables with the integrated team to make sure that everyone has a shared understanding of terminology (e.g. Concept, Strategy), deliverables (e.g. Plan, Journey), and how they all fit together. This is particularly important when you are in the Forming stage with a new team.

Pose Challenging Questions. With larger groups attending integrated briefings, people often find it intimidating or inappropriate to ask questions or raise concerns. This leads to post-briefing hallway conversations, group emails, and ‘alignment meetings.’ Surface these topics within briefing meetings by openly posing questions directly to the group. Make it more uncomfortable for people not to raise their concerns and ‘give the quiet ones a voice’.

Start Thinking Together. Once everyone is clear on the problem to be solved, require people to share their initial thinking. This is unconventional and will make some people uncomfortable. That is ok. Make it clear that the goal is not to solve or decide anything in the room, rather it is to have everyone benefit from the fresh thoughts and reactions of others. This makes participants lean into the briefing material earlier and transforms one-way briefing monologues into more active discussions.

Outline Delivery Approach. As more organizations move towards agile ways of working, it is important to clarify how the work being briefed fits in with the larger delivery approach. Do recommendations need to be documented as user stories for a backlog? Do hypotheses need to be documented for testing? Do budgets need to be withheld for iterations? Do meetings need to be booked for Sprint Planning? Flush this out in the briefing meeting so next steps are clear.

So, what does a better briefing actually look like? Below is a draft agenda that I shared with participants that reflects these tips in a 90-minute meeting. While your projects, teams, and plans will no doubt vary, I hope these pointers will make your briefings better and less frustrating.

Kickframe @ 5 Years

This post is a bit of a departure.  I normally write about digital strategy topics and share things that I hope marketers will find useful.  However, I recently passed the 5 year anniversary of starting Kickframe and have become agonizingly self-reflective.  To get out of my own head, I thought that I would share a few lessons that I have learned from my experience as a ‘solopreneur’ (a.k.a. things I really, really wish I knew 5 years ago).  For those who may be considering a similar path, I hope you find these, well, useful.


Know what success looks like for you

After working for years at larger companies, I decided to go out on my own because I wanted control over my work and my time.  I did not have a great epiphany about a business idea or dreams of building a large company with my name on it.  I wanted to work on my terms - that’s it.  Over the last 5 years, I have had a number of people offer suggestions that I should hire staff, take on large digital production projects, or join a larger consultancy.  While these comments are no doubt well-intended, they used to make me feel defensive and self-conscious – am I not doing well enough?  I learned that it is easy to become distracted by the expectations of others and the conventions of ‘what I should do’.  I wish I was better at reminding myself in these moments of the reasons for why I started Kickframe, and that I was (and am) achieving these goals.


Fit how you work into how you want to live your life

Your home-life will always be impacted by the nature of your work.  Commuting, seasonality, business travel, project milestones and other factors all eat away at available non-working time.  When I started Kickframe, our 3 kids were 4 (twins) and 6 years of age.  I expected a demanding work schedule with long hours that would leave me with less time and energy.  I was right.  It took me a stressful first year to finally take steps to force my work into the life I wanted to lead with my family.  This meant committing to being home for dinner / bedtime and prioritizing remote work that allowed for greater flexibility.  It meant booking vacations without a clear view of my work schedule.  It also meant renting an office 5-minutes from my home to easily work early mornings and late evenings when required.  I wish I realized earlier that I can take more control over how I work, so that it better fits in with my life and what is most important to me.


Take a long-term view (in a short-term world)     

As a consultant and trainer, I typically work on projects (vs. long-term contracts or retainers).  The pace is quick, and I need to be planning my next project while completing my current one.  This reality makes it challenging to look too far ahead.  When I was starting out, I was so focused on maximizing my day-to-day, hour-to-hour billings that I would sub-consciously calculate the opportunity cost for meeting someone across town for coffee or lunch.  This myopic heads-down approach led to unnecessary stress and missed opportunities.  It took me a few years to gain the experience and confidence to take a longer-term view of my financial targets (i.e. quarters vs. months), but when I did it gave me the space to breathe and the time to find the right, next thing to work on.  Ironically - though in hindsight not surprisingly - focusing less on maximizing my days led me to more rewarding work.  I wish I was more comfortable placing my financial milestones out further, earlier on in my journey.


Find your own flywheel

One of the things I love most about being a consultant / trainer is the variety of projects I work on and the variety of people I work with.  However, all of this variety can feel disorienting at times.  How am I getting better?  Where is this leading?  What am I building towards?  After a few years, I stumbled upon what felt a bit like my own professional flywheel:


By focusing on this flywheel, I found that I was able to keep up-to-date, challenge myself, sharpen my thinking, and find new business / collaborators.  It also provided me with an overarching connectedness and rhythm to my work.  I wish I was able to place my individual assignments into this larger framework earlier so I didn’t feel like I was constantly losing the plot.


If you are reading this, there is a good chance that we have crossed paths at some point over these past 5 years.  I want to sincerely thank you for your support during the most fun and rewarding chapter of my career.  Here’s to (at least) 5 more.


More digital stuff next week ;-)

 - Tim

IFTTT Data & Marketing Worksheet

A challenge that I have noticed in marketing departments of late is the widening gulf between data analytics teams and marketing planning teams. While there is a healthy respect between these disciplines, there seems to be a disconnect in terms of how to effectively they work together. Data Analysts are not entirely comfortable exploring how data can be used creatively to fuel new marketing activities. Marketing Planners are not yet used to spending time considering how their initiatives can generate new actionable data. This schism is a significant issue for organizations that are shifting more marketing dollars to digital tactics enabled by data-driven tools and techniques.

To help bridge this gap, I created an IFTT (‘if this then that’) worksheet that illustrates the relationship between audience data and marketing initiatives. I recently used this in a training session with a marketing department where participants explored how data can unlock new marketing initiatives, and how marketing initiatives can in turn unlock new audience data.

In the training session, participants spent time working in groups to drill-down 5-levels deep (similar to the 5-Whys). It was an interesting way to get people in different roles within a marketing department to explore the relationship between data and marketing. Below is a completed worksheet from the session. Hopefully it can help you literally and figuratively get data and marketing on the same page.

IFTTT Data & Marketing Worksheet_Filled

So, where do we start?

There have been many times throughout my career when I have struggled to find that right, next question to ask a client when they are briefing me on a new assignment. These awkward pauses typically happen when I am trying to balance the need to understand the upstream ‘problem to be solved’ with the need to be clear on downstream executional details. It can feel like I am piloting a plane that is flying haphazardly between higher and lower altitudes.

One way that I have learned to take control and smooth out these early discussions is to visualize the information that I need to do my work. Below is a framework that I often have running in my mind during these meetings where I am intaking a new assignment. It helps me to better organize the conversation and visualize the information that I need to take away. Hopefully it provides you with a place to start and way to avoid a crash landing.

The Problem with Dropping the "D-word"

This article was originally published by Strategy Magazine

Marketing pundits have been calling for the industry to drop the word “digital” since consultancies announced that businesses were entering the “post-digital” era a decade ago. The argument has picked up steam lately with the help of wonderfully profane columns from Mark Riston and new WPP boss Mark Read banning the use of the word.

There are a number of reasons I agree with this, in theory. Using the word creates siloes that work against integration, and focusing on digital in isolation means focusing on tactics and channels before strategy. Plus, classifying what is digital is now virtually impossible, as “traditional” content is now delivered digitally.

But in practice, I see a number of challenges with organizations simply dropping the word. To be useful, a word needs to be distinct, meaningful, and commonly understood. In 2019, “digital” is none of these things. It covers a wide variety of topics that are relevant for businesses today. When we avoid using it, we risk not focusing on some of the important underlying topics that have become so intertwined with it.

“We need a head of digital”

Removing “digital” from job titles has been in vogue for some time. After years of growing internal teams capable of building and managing websites, apps, social media, and email marketing programs, the trend is to now move these people within broader and more integrated marketing departments. The risk is that when we dissolve digital leadership within marketing departments, everyone and no one is responsible for understanding how new technologies can better serve business goals. Marketing technology is more sophisticated, technology investment is increasing and its strategic use is widely regarded as a competitive advantage. Who is on point to make these calls? If you drop the D-word from your org chart, make sure that you remain clear on who is responsible for leading marketing technology decisions.

“We need a digital strategy”

Digital strategy initiatives are typically business initiatives that involve some combination of data, technology, online commerce and user experience. The umbrella term “digital” is often used to package these elements together in some way to create a project brief, and indicate that a certain type of “digital thinking” is required to solve it. Solving these types of initiatives requires a mix of skills and approaches that are typically rooted in service-design, data science, and product development. While removing the D-word from describing strategic initiatives can help marketers focus more clearly on core business issues, it can also lead them to staff these projects without the appropriate mix of upstream thinkers. Who is exploring the strategic use of different sources of data, payment models, or online communities before “digital” tactical decisions are made? If you drop the D-word from strategy initiatives, make sure that your teams are capable of fully exploring the business opportunities that technology and the networked economy enable.

“We need to do more digital”

Removing the word “digital” from planning can help teams focus on creating campaigns that achieve a goal versus a particular media mix. This can theoretically help marketers avoid the issue of over-investing in shiny new digital tools at the expense of more established media. In practice, I have seen many marketers and creative agencies struggle in this area. While all businesses intend to move forward by dropping a distracting focus on digital, many regress. Marketers and creative teams biased towards traditional approaches of crafting messages are freer to use technology and digital media strictly as a communication medium. Explorations of how they can be used beyond a canvas are no longer top of mind. Some teams have moved past this, and naturally consider how technology can help inform a marketing concept, in addition to its execution. If you drop the D-word from marketing planning, make sure your team is one of them.

In the end, my issue with dropping the D-word is less about language than it is about the assumptions that we are making as an industry in dropping it. It assumes that our teams are all uniformly fluent in the capabilities of marketing technology. It also assumes that by explicitly not focusing on digital, the underlying elements connected with the word – user experience, data science, online services, networked communities – will blossom without this distinction. In 2019, these assumptions are critical. Are you ready to drop the D-word?

Modern Marketing Briefs Recap

I am pleased to report that after I conquered my normal pre-class combination of impostor syndrome, fear of laptop failure, and over-caffeination that the Modern Marketing Brief training session was a success. We had a smart and engaged group of marketers in the session that focused on how briefs (and briefings) need to evolve to become more impactful. There was plenty of rich discussion and super-useful perspectives shared among the class. I think I scribbled down the most notes of anyone in the room.

Pre-Session PIcture for Bootcamp.jpg

Over the course of the morning, we covered the role of the brief and the qualities of a strong briefing (which have not changed). We then explored the nature of modern marketing programs and marketing processes (which have changed). The bulk of our time focused on 10 key changes that marketers can adopt to make their briefs (and briefings) more relevant and valuable for 2019 and beyond – with plenty of examples and applied group learning.

When I started to design the course, I had a great conversation about briefs with my friend and fellow strategy consultant Hilton Barbour. As usual, Hilton shared a point that really resonated with me – that we have become so fixated on the briefing document that we miss the larger picture of what that document is meant to enable. This rings true with my experience, and I structured the course accordingly. During the session we zoomed out to consider the work and changes that need to happen before and after the creation of a brief. Additionally, we explored the context of the brief, as marketing programs exist in a dynamic business environment connected to other briefs - not in an isolated vacuum. Orienting the session to focus on ‘how to start a marketing program effectively’ vs. ‘how to complete a template correctly’ helped immensely (thanks Hilton!)

Modern Marketing Briefs

After I pack-up at the end of every training session, I take a deep breath and review the participant evaluations. I was really pleased to see that participants found this brand-new training session valuable - 100% would recommend to a friend - and I received some great tips on how to tweak the curriculum (all of my participant evaluations are posted online and unfiltered here). I look forward to running the Modern Marketing Briefs course again in 2019, hopefully this time with a few less pre-class jitters.

Modern Marketing Briefing: Survey Results

To prepare for my new Modern Marketing Briefing course, I sent out an informal survey to my network asking for marketer’s perspectives on their current briefs (and briefings). The purpose of the survey was to help me refine and validate some of my course material – and see if I had any blind spots. Overall, 32 people provide responded from agency-side and client-side marketing organizations. While not statistically significant, I found the results and comments quite insightful. I thought they might be of interest to others, so I have posted the key findings and takeaways below. If you would like a copy of the full results you can download it here. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the survey, and I hope to see a few of you at the Modern Marketing Briefing course next month!

Highlights from Survey Responses:

Participants were asked 13 questions, and some interesting similarities and differences between the responses from agencies vs. brands emerged:

  • Completing Briefs: The sections of the brief that respondents feel are completed least effectively are a measurable goal(s) followed by a single-minded proposition.

  • Briefing Attendance: Many respondents indicated that technology representatives and ‘final approvers’ are not consistently present at briefing meetings.

  • Lessons Learned: Respondents from agencies and brands indicated that lessons from prior marketing campaigns are not regularly shared in briefs and during briefings.

  • Digital Projects: Technology representatives appear more involved for client-side projects, and both groups reported that they often brief digital projects differently.

  • Briefing Information: Many agency-side respondents indicated that they are not receiving enough information from clients in the brief and during the briefing process.

  • Integrated Briefs: Respondents from agencies and brands indicated that some projects continue to be briefed separately, where others are briefed in an integrated manner.

  • Overall Effectiveness: On average, respondents were fairly neutral on the effectiveness of their briefs and slightly more negative on the effectiveness of their briefings.

Highlights from Participant Quotes:

Participants were also asked a few questions about the main challenges that they currently experience relating to briefs and briefing meetings and some common themes bubbled up:

  • Not enough time spent upfront to define and align to measurable business goals.

  • Teams often do not invest enough time in preparing a clear and effective brief.

  • Briefings can feel disorganized, and people often do not show up and/or tune-out.

  • Budgets often are not realistic given expectations, and are not clearly allocated.

  • Digital and social is often included in as simply a ‘box to tick’ within marketing briefs.

  • Lack of insight around the customer, particularly relating to the customer journey.

  • Briefings often have way too many people involved, and politics can be disruptive.

Modernizing Your Marketing Department

What should a marketing department look like in 2018? This is a question that I have in some shape or form been helping clients answer over the last few years. It is a question that arises due to a number of overlapping internal and external factors facing marketers today:

  • Digital Marketing: the need work more effectively with technical tools and teams that enable marketing activities

  • Omni-Channel Strategy: the need to orchestrate a number of offline and (increasingly) online channels together

  • Agile Processes: the need to find ways of working that are more responsive, efficient, and ‘always-on’

  • In-House Models: the need to re-examine the mix of responsibilities to be taken in-house vs. outsourced

  • Data Science: the need to build greater competency in data science, for insight and accountability

  • Corporate Strategy: the need to better align marketing to support larger organization-wide strategic initiatives

Many organizations are tackling these needs through large change management initiatives under the banner of Digital Transformation. Marketing plays a large role within these programs, with a focus on how the marketing department itself needs to modernize. My role within these programs typically involves a blend of digital strategy training and organizational consulting. I love this type of work as it allows me to get into the weeds with a marketing team and see first-hand the positive, tangible impact that marketing modernization programs can produce. I recently completed such an assignment with a company (and team) that I admire greatly – Lee Valley. This is a retailer that has a long history of modernization through new products, categories, markets, services, and channels. While I cannot divulge any of the specifics from my work with Lee Valley, I can share 10 general lessons from my experience working with organizations that have successfully modernized their marketing departments:

1. Demonstrate a burning business platform (not just a marketing one)

Make sure that your marketing team understands the underlying business drivers for change and why the status quo is not viable. These drivers should relate to changes in customer behaviour, competitive actions, or other significant business realities – not marketing trends. Communicate these in a clear, specific, and relatable way. For example, illustrate how your customers have traditionally engaged with your business / brand and how they do so now – dramatizing the gap to be closed.

2. Clearly state the outcomes that you need to achieve

Invest the time upfront to identify and quantify the outcomes that any changes to your marketing department need to produce to be successful. These outcomes should be used to drive all of your decisions around changes to people, processes, and tools. Communicate these outcomes openly throughout the organization, with performance targets to hold the program accountable. For example, one of my clients stated an innovation goal of “15% of our marketing budget will be used on tactics we have never tried before”. Be specific—stating the goal of “Becoming More Digital” is not good enough.

3. Ensure executives show their support and alignment with the big picture

Marketing leaders who are modernizing their departments need the support of their executive teams, and members of the marketing department need to see evidence of this support. For example, I have found that having an Executive Sponsor introduce and conclude an in-house training program to be a simple and effective way to demonstrate this. It provides the program with greater credibility, and it allows the marketing department to understand how changes in marketing are required to support what the larger organization is driving towards.

4. Make sure that everyone understands what ‘good’ looks like

If your marketing department is modernizing, what does modern marketing actually look like for your business or brand? While you may have goals for your overall modernization program and performance targets for your campaigns, it is helpful to have a shared understanding of how your marketing programs should generally look going forward (and how that is different from today). More content? More direct? More testing? One exercise that I have found helpful in workshops is a Show & Tell—encourage marketers to share out-of-category examples that inspire them. Make time to discuss what can be applied to your future marketing programs, and keep the conversation going.

5. Get real, and show how everyone will play their own part

If you are asking members of your marketing department to change what they do and how they do it, make sure you do your homework. Everyone will be processing these changes through their own personal prism of ‘what does this mean for me?’ You owe everyone clear and specific answers to how these changes will affect and benefit them (including becoming more marketable outside of your organization). Invest the time in working through revised job descriptions, process flows, RASCI charts, and other necessary documentation. Make it personal.

6. Put skin in the game, and invest in training and support

The surest way for a marketing modernization program to fail is to not invest in external training and support for the people actually changing what they do and how they work. It is like telling a plant to grow without providing water or sunlight. Bring in the right mix of subject matter experts to partner with. Demonstrate your commitment by openly sharing the investment that your organization is spending (time and money) to ensure that the change is successful. Work with HR to make successful completion of training mandatory.

7. Attack silos and counterproductive patterns of behaviour that exist today

Marketing departments are modernizing in part by embracing agile principles like prioritizing frequent face-to-face communication across multiple disciplines. This runs counter to traditional waterfall processes that connect separate departments. Training can help address this challenge by focusing on those moments in your new process where things will most likely break down. Design group exercises and create job transfer tools that demonstrate these new patterns of behaviour. Symbols also work. For example, a client that leads Digital within a large agency recently gave up his office and works in different physical places throughout the building every day to demonstrate the importance of fluid collaboration.

8. Spark productive conversations and enlist multiple voices

A pillar of any change management program is communication. People not only need to understand why and how things are changing, but also need to be heard. This can be done formally through workshops, message boards, and other feedback loops. In digital training, my clients often like to sit in to see who appears particularly engaged and where support lies (and does not). This can give some insight into where barriers for adoption may exist, and who might be enlisted as ‘informal leaders’ in driving change across the department once training is complete.

9. Admit that you will not ‘nail it’ right out of the gate

Humility goes a long way when modernizing a marketing department. You may (and should!) start with clear goals and a detailed plan but some things will not work and other things will be missed. Let people know that this your expectation upfront, and that they are expected to play an important role in identifying where and how adjustments can be made. From a marketing standpoint, this is where Beta Projects can play a valuable role – to test-drive your hypotheses and socialize learnings. When done well, these Beta Projects can be woven into training programs as group exercises and – even better – demonstrate quick wins for team.

10. Make sure that people understand that modernization is never ‘done’

While marketing modernizations programs may take place over a fixed period of time, it is important that they are viewed in the context of how an organization continues to evolve. Ensure that steps are in place to regularly measure and learn from the impact of the program. Look ahead and schedule training tune-ups and feedback loops to check-in. Lee Valley has been so successful because it does not look at modernization as a project, but a journey that everyone is on together.

New Course! Modern Marketing Briefs

Since I started Kickframe almost (gulp) 5 years ago, I have worked with a number of organizations (agency and client-side) interested in becoming stronger in digital strategy. My work with these clients typically considers how processes, tools, and people must evolve to bring more impactful ‘digital thinking’ upstream.

One area that I always focus on in these assignments is ‘the brief’ – how marketing initiatives are framed and shared by teams before execution begins. Despite all of the changes in the marketing landscape, briefing is an area that has not changed for many marketers. It should.

As I have written about before, there is a great opportunity for marketers to modernize their briefs to be more relevant and useful in the age of data, technology, and social media. Marketers can also evolve how they manage briefs to be more agile, integrated, and accountable. I have seen the positive impact from modernizing marketing briefs first-hand through my consulting work and strategic planning experience. So (drumroll please), I have decided to introduce a new course that trains marketers on a new set of planning tools they can use to modernize how they create and activate marketing briefs.

Unlike other courses that do a great job of training planners how to properly write creative briefs, this course focuses on how the brief and the briefing process needs to evolve to lead to more effective outcomes in 2019 and beyond. We will cover topics relating to different types of briefs (conceptual vs. tactical) and changes to marketing planning workflow. The course is ideal for marketers that have some experience creating or managing marketing briefs in marketing management, strategic planning, and account management roles.

The first Modern Marketing Brief course is scheduled for a half-day on November 27th in Toronto at The Spoke Club. If you are interested in more information, check out the course outline or contact me directly at and I can give you more scoop. Early bird tickets are available now. I am really excited for this new course – I hope to see some of you there :-)

Bootcamp Recap & Analogous Thinking

Last week, we hosted our sixth Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp in Toronto. It was another sold-out session (thank you!) attended by a fantastic group of marketers. For a sunny Friday afternoon, the participants brought an impressive amount of energy to the class and we had a lot of fun (post-session participant surveys are posted online and unfiltered here).

One of the most challenging parts of designing the Bootcamp is ensuring that it is relevant for all participants. We typically have folks attending from a variety of industries, company sizes, departments, and backgrounds. How can one class be relevant for everyone? I try to address this challenge by focusing on strategic principles and frameworks that do not change even when the digital landscape inevitably does. The principles and frameworks are applied through a set of group activities that are based on ‘analogous’ problems that all marketers face – even if that is not obvious at first.

Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp

Analogous thinking refers to using information from one domain to help solve a problem in another domain. I use this approach in my own strategic consulting work, and try to infuse it into the Bootcamp exercises as well. The exercises incorporate different brands, personas, and goals that are not seemingly connected to where any participants work – but are focused on problems that all participants face.

I have found that having students work on problems that are outside of their day-to-day professional settings can be surprisingly valuable. It allows them to step outside of the constraints imposed by their own knowledge of existing solutions to explore new ideas. During the Bootcamp, we had B2B marketers working on B2C brand briefs and Non-Profit marketers figuring out how to market a new mobile app. When participants shared their ideas with the class, we connecting the dots between the core problem that they were solving in the exercise with challenges that they were facing in their own organizations. Within a professional development setting, this approach can also reenergize creative thinking and – as one participant shared – “cleanse my marketing palate.”

The other benefit of having a group of smart marketers work on problems outside of their own fields is inviting a guest client to provide ‘real-world briefs’ to solve. This time, we were extremely fortunate to have the awesome Michael Oliver from BMW as our guest. Michael brought in a range of different briefs that, while relating to BMW, focused on core problems that all marketers must address. When groups shared their thinking with Michael, it was amazing to hear the novelty of ideas coming back. Participants drew on their own experiences outside of the automotive category to solve briefs for BMW in new ways. It was a great exercise – a true win-win.

Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp

Outside of the Bootcamp, I think all marketers can benefit from embracing more analogous thinking. Reframe some of the problems that you are facing by stripping out the domain-specific details. Write up a problem statement that can more easily relate to other industries or companies. Explore how others outside of your conventional field of view are approaching this problem. Collaborate with others outside of your industry for fresh thinking that you can bring back and apply. Take time to cleanse your marketing palate.

Thanks again to everyone who attended the Bootcamp and to Michael for his involvement. I feel reenergized after spending time with all of you!

Mapping Your Competitive Brand Position

One of the things that I am preparing for my upcoming Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp is a reference guide filled with handy strategy frameworks.  Some of the frameworks are very well-known (i.e. created by someone else), others much less so (i.e. created by me).  Either way, my hope is that this reference guide will be useful for participants in a way that a binder full of slides can not be.


A well-known framework that will be included in this reference guide is a competitive positioning map.  This type of tool is used to visualize differences among competing organizations and brands across various dimensions.  These maps are often used in brand strategy work and can be presented as spider graphs, comparison tables, and scatter charts.  The format used most often is a matrix that illustrates competitive differences against two axes.  An additional layer of performance data (e.g. revenue or market share) is often included in the matrix in the form of different ‘bubble’ sizes.


Creating an accurate and useful positioning matrix can be surprisingly challenging.  You need to first identify the market that you are analyzing to ensure that the right organizations or brands are included - without overlooking new and non-traditional competitors.  From there, you need to identify the most meaningful comparative dimensions to include as axes.  Often, axes are chosen to ‘lead the witness’ by dramatizing a particular white-space for positioning a brand.  To avoid this pitfall (or temptation), make sure that the comparative dimensions for your axes are:

  • Broad: Must be able to apply across all competitors
  • Salient: Must matter to how customers distinguish
  • Contrasting: Must be perceived as polar opposites
  • Measurable: Must be able to place on a single axis
  • Objective: Must not be inherently good or bad

A few years ago, I was working with some friends to help refine the positioning for an advertising agency (the irony being that the last thing an advertising agency wants to position itself as is an advertising agency).  To do so, we created a competitive positioning matrix and analyzed 100 different agencies.  This led us to identifying 20 different ‘positions’ in the market.  This competitive positioning map was helpful for us to understand how various agencies tended to focus on a few key areas.

One of the benefits of doing this work was that we were able to revisit the positioning map and plot the same 100 agencies after 3 years.  It was interesting to see how agency positioning (and the expression of that positioning) had changed:

  • Established agencies becoming more digital.  Digital agencies becoming more integrated.
  • Consultancies becoming more creative.  Creative agencies becoming more strategic.
  • Out with technology, CRM, advertising.  In with experiences, product, engagement.

I could go on, but will save that for another post.  My point is that by taking the time to structure a matrix based on meaningful dimensions and completing the analysis with a robust group of competitors can be a useful exercise for the present and the future.


P.S. If you are interested in agency positioning, I highly recommend following Tim Williams who literally wrote the book on the topic.  His writing was immensely helpful for this work.

Creating Effective Customer Scenarios

Over the years I have taken a number of different writing courses.  One that I particularly enjoyed was a screenwriting class at Ryerson.  We learned the basics of developing strong characters, creating dramatic scenes, and structuring entertaining story arcs.  It was fascinating to deconstruct famous movies into their component parts.  While my Hollywood career has yet to take off, the lessons I learned in that screenwriting class have served me surprisingly well in my marketing career – particularly when creating Customer Scenarios.


Customer Scenarios are used to describe how a new product, service, or feature will work through a fictional story about the person experiencing it.  The Scenario typically takes place in the future, and brings to life the benefits of a new functional idea in a compelling and concrete way.  Customer Scenarios are different than User Stories (documenting requirements) and Customer Journeys (visualizing moments & phases) in that they are most often used to sell a vision to a group.  That is why they are commonly included as part of concept presentations and new businesses pitches.


I have had a hand in creating countless Customer Scenarios – some good, some bad, and some ugly.  When good, scenarios humanize the benefits from complicated technology solutions.  When bad, the audience is confused, distracted, or bored (ugly is a combination of all 3).  While Scenarios can be produced through any combination of sketches, storyboards, mock-ups, and video, the best are all:

  • Believable: Feature people acting in a natural way within a relatable and real-world context
  • Focused: Include the most important features and benefits in the most concise way
  • Feasible: Incorporate features that have been vetted for business value and technical complexity
  • Magical: Dramatize a future state vision that is surprising and appealing for the audience


My role in creating Scenarios has largely been creating the scripts (a point strictly and lovingly enforced by the Creative Directors I have worked with).  Strategic ‘stick to the script’ Planners draft Scenarios that align product vision, supporting features, customer insight, and business value into compelling and realistic narratives.  Below is a framework that I have used to help with strategic alignment.  Hopefully it helps you in your own work.  After all, there is no phrase more powerful than ‘let me tell you a story’. 

Do We Need A More Digital Brief?

I have heard some version of this question asked many times over the last decade.  It usually happens when a senior client-side marketer feels that their campaigns are “too traditional” or when an agency president feels that their people “don’t get digital”.  The first moment typically leads to the second.  In an effort to address this crisis of digital confidence, the conversation then leads to changing the brief – the document that has changed the least over the last 50 years. 


“If we make the brief more digital then the work will follow.  Right?”  This is when a Planner transforms into a live boardroom version of Munch’s The Scream.  “The brief is about the idea, not the execution!  The brief needs to be media-agnostic!  The brief is about the problem, not the solution!  What is digital when everything is digital?  The brief needs to stay brief, adding a new field will MAKE IT TWO PAGES!”  And so, it goes. 


I get it.  There are many good reasons why the brief has more or less remained the same.  It is a critical document that bridges strategic thinking to creative execution.  The brief also needs to be fit for purpose, and that purpose is not always creating conceptual ideas only.  Many times, the purpose of a briefing document is to provide some executional direction for teams.  In these cases, I have found that there are a few tweaks that can be made to document (the brief) and how the document is used (the briefing) that can lead to stronger and more creative digital marketing solutions.


1. Involve digital specialists upstream as collaborative thinkers, not just technology doers

People in digital roles are typically involved after a brief has been written, to vet or cost a technical solution (and this usually happens far too late).  Digital SMEs can provide valuable strategic input prior to digital tactics being identified.  They are closest to customer data, technology trends, and Internet culture.  Collaborating with your digital folks early on can sharpen your customer and marketplace insights.  Including digital folks upstream can also help build internal relationships that help when projects get thorny in development.


2. Include what you want people to do, as well as the message that you need to say

The beating heart of most briefs is the key message – what needs to be communicated.  Briefs often include more direction on how we want to change customer perception than how we want to change customer behaviour (beyond driving sales).  It is critical to understand what exactly we want customers to do when identifying the right mix of digital tactics.  Do we want to drive social sharing, conversions on a website, search volume?  The more specific that briefs can be about behavioural goals—often proxies or contributors to financial goals—the more focused digital marketing can be.


3. Include insight into what is being discussed in social & search relating to your points of engagement

Understanding the social landscape is not only relevant for informing social media-focused campaigns but can also provide valuable insight into how people think and feel about a particular topic.  What are people talking about?  What do people find valuable?  What do the community norms tell us about how this group interacts with each other?  Search volume and competitive search bidding can also provide useful clues into the ebbs and flows of customer interest.  Including a few of these data points can help shape the description of the marketplace in your brief and can provide inspiration for downstream content ideas.


4. Provide insight on moments and contexts that represent new opportunities to influence and engage

Incorporating aspects of user experience design into briefs can lead to fresh digital creative work.  By highlighting what a customer is thinking, feeling, and doing at key moments helps teams to build empathy and explore more service-based ideas.  For example, if the brief includes common customer friction points, teams can identify new areas of content or online self-services to help resolve.  Highlighting the mindset of a customer can lead to new media ideas that align with context / emotional state.  As UX Designers are becoming more involved in strategic discussions, including this type of input in a brief can help them to orient themselves and contribute quickly.


5. Provide guidance on those digital tactics that are relevant and should not be overlooked

While Account Planning tells us that briefs should be about the idea and not about the execution, I have yet to work with a creative team that does not appreciate some direction on digital media and technology.  Getting Digital SMEs to provide an early perspective on what seems to fit helps - especially if the brand/ organization has deep technology capabilities and a number of owned digital properties.  Make sure to present this input as a starting point and not a prescription.


6. Create a big brief for the brand that can nest tactical briefs for specific digital initiatives

Allowing for smaller tactical briefs ensures campaign briefs do not need to be ‘catch-alls’. These smaller briefs can be focused on specific tactical projects (i.e. new website section, a new customer acquisition campaign, a new triggered email) and do so in a way that ladders up to the larger brand brief.  Having these smaller briefs can provide more specific insight and direction for what needs to be executed (more useful for the teams), and don’t need to include everything (more efficient to produce).    


7. Incorporate relevant learnings from past campaigns and testing goals for the current brief

What have we learned before that we should consider?  What do we want to learn this time?  These are two great questions to ask yourself when putting together a brief.  Too often, campaign lessons are (at best) captured in campaign post-mortems and not applied to future work.  Hardcode a field into your briefs to allow teams to understand what has been tried / learned before.  Also consider incorporating a field for ‘what you want to learn’, and include a hypothesis, test, and implications.  Utilize the brief and marketing technology to get smarter and more effective over time.

What Problems Can Voice Help Solve?

I have been fascinated by smart speakers and conversational interfaces ever since I spoke to my first Echo.  It reminds me of the first time I browsed the web or used a native iPhone app.  It feels like a completely new medium, with its own set of strengths, weaknesses, and possibilities.  And like any new technology, there is a lot of attention being paid and pixels being typed towards new ideas and bold predictions.  To help frame my own thinking and avoid the trap of ‘technology looking for a problem to solve’, I have created a set of use case parameters.  These are based on how voice is actually being used by people, rather than starting with technical product specs. 


So how are people using voice?

It is staggering how quickly voice is being adopted, as close to 10% of North American households now own a smart speaker.  Drivers for growth include a low-price point, ease of access and usage, strong word-of-mouth, and familiarity with voice search on smartphone—50% of all searches by 2020 will be voice (comScore, 2017).  The reasons people want a smart speaker include listening to music, asking questions without typing, listening to news and information, and making it easier to do things (Edison Research, 2017).  Most importantly, current owners are largely satisfied as 50% say they use it more now than they did during their first month of ownership, and 63% plan to purchase another (AnswerLab, 2017).  So smart speakers are being adopted, owners are pleased, and usage is expected to increase—what types of use cases make the most sense for voice?


1. When it is difficult to use your hands

Let’s start with the most obvious.  There are certain situations where it is not possible or practical to use your hands to access a smartphone, such as when you are cooking, driving, or multi-tasking.  Voice is a natural channel to help serve people in these environments and situations. 

Focus on contexts where smartphones are not accessible: 64% of smart speaker owners are interested in having the technology in their car (comScore, 2017).


2. When it is easier than using a mobile app

There are certain types of tasks that are typically completed through a mobile app which can be made more convenient through voice, such as converting measurement amounts or playing a specific song.  Voice commands can help simplify some complex interactions and take away multiple screens that a mobile app may require for the same function. 

Focus on specific moments of need: “brands need to find their own raw chicken on the hands moments where they make a task 10X easier via Alexa” (via Econsultancy).


3. When the need frequently and regularly arises

There are certain repetitive needs that people regularly encounter which often are part (or become part) of their regular routines, such as checking local news and traffic for commuting.  Popular voice applications today include Flash Briefings and real-time content– such as traffic, weather, and news – that people look for to start every day.

Focus on recurring daily or weekly needs: 72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say that their devices are often used as part of their daily routine (Google, 2017).


4. When the need is clear and easy to express

There are many situations where a query or task is very clear and simple to communicate through natural language, such as setting a reminder or adding something to a shopping list.  Voice users are frustrated when devices do not understand their queries, so topics that are more nuanced and discussed using various taxonomies do not work as well as conventional queries.

Focus on needs that people can easily communicate: 70% of requests to the Google Assistant are expressed in natural language, not typical keywords used for web search (Google, 2017).


5. When the required input is simple

There are certain types of questions and tasks that do not require much input from people, such as when you are setting a timer or asking for the local weather forecast.  Voice interactions do not work well when a user is required to provide more than one data input, such as completing multiple fields in a form. 

Focus on requiring the minimal amount of input necessary to complete a task: 59% of people who do not own a smart speaker feel that the devices are intrusive and seek too much personal information (Capgemini, 2017).


6. When the desired output is simple

There are certain types of questions or tasks where people are looking for a single answer or action rather than options or details, such as when you are looking for a movie time at a specific theatre.  Voice users typically do not expect to spend much time during a single interaction and are not taking down notes from a voice-delivered response.

Focus on needs where a ‘single best answer’ is acceptable: 45% of voice-speaker owners report that they do not make purchases through the device because they cannot see product details (comScore, 2017).


7. When it is socially acceptable and additive

There are certain situations where an activity or answer might add to a conversation or group setting, such as accessing a trivia game or finding an answer to a question that may resolve a friendly debate.  People are hesitant to share potentially embarrassing questions or information in a social setting and may not trust smart speakers with keeping information secure.

Focus on use cases that do not require personally-sensitive information: 89% of voice-speaker users agree that they are comfortable talking to a voice assistant when they are alone vs. 47% comfortable in a social setting (Capgemini, 2017).


8. When the need involves a specific location

There are certain queries or tasks that are specific to different rooms in a person’s house, such as scheduling a morning alarm in the bedroom and controlling the thermostat in a living room.  Voice applications may be designed to the specific needs associated with different rooms, as evidenced by the popularity of recipes being used via smart speakers placed in kitchens.

Focus on use cases that may arise in popular speaker locations: 21% of owners of smart speakers have the devices in their kitchen, and 19% have the devices in their master bedroom (Edison Research, 2017).


9. When it involves quick status updates

There are certain instances where a person may be interested in accessing a quick and current update, such as when a package will be delivered or when a person is expected to arrive home.  Voice is more natural channel to receive an update, rather than browsing for a product or completing a new transaction that involves product photos and credit card payment.

Focus on servicing over transactions: 49% of customers would like to interact with smart speakers to check delivery status vs. 35% making a purchase (Capgemini, 2017).


10. When a digital service already exists

There are a number of digital services that people frequently use through multiple access points including browser and mobile app that present new use cases, such as streaming audio, wearable fitness devices, and ride-sharing.  Voice applications have gained traction where people have a relationship with an existing digital service, particularly smart home devices and audio content subscriptions.

Focus on combining voice with screens and other access points: 65% of owners of smart speakers listen to more music, 28% listen to more news, and 20% listen to more podcasts (Edison Research, 2017).


Bootcamp Recap: Playing to Win

This past Wednesday, we wrapped up our latest Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp in Toronto.  As always, my favourite part of the event is the final exercise of the day: The Guest Client Brief.  For this activity, I bring in a senior marketer from a different organization to provide students with a ‘real-world’ problem to solve through digital marketing.  The students work in groups to apply the lessons from the day in order to address their particular brief and share their responses with the class.  The Guest Client (and I) provide feedback to the students and—painstakingly—select a winner.  The Guest Client Brief has proven to be a fantastic exercise to engage students after an intense day of training.  Why?  It turns out we all want to win.

Digital Strategy Bootcamp

For this past Bootcamp, I fanned the flames of our intrinsic human competitiveness by inviting Jordan Markowski of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) to join us.  Jordan is a Digital Strategy Lead for MLSE and has overseen many impressive programs for the Leafs spanning social media, CRM, augmented reality, and in-venue digital activations.  He shared with the group some of the unique challenges that MLSE faces and a number of valuable ‘digital’ lessons that he has learned along the way.  Having Jordan as our Guest Client also allowed us to create teams rather than groups, and the competition was fierce!

Jordan - Digital Strategy & MLSE

Participants were divided into different MLSE teams (e.g. Leafs, Argos, TFC), and assigned team-specific briefs.  In a short period of time, a number of smart ideas were generated that spanned the full playing field (pun intended) of digital services, content, social, advertising, and direct.  In addition to the competitive group dynamic, I find that it is also motivating for students to work on briefs that are aspirational and outside of their own day-to-day roles.  Seeing how your own experience readily applies to solving business problems outside of your own company or comfort zone can provide you with a renewed sense of confidence.

Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp

In the end, the scrappy Raptors Team was victorious—but we all won.  Thank you to Jordan for your participation in the Bootcamp, your involvement was instrumental to its success.  Thank you as well to everyone who attended and supported the event.  The Bootcamp was another sell-out and 100% of participants would recommend the event to a friend (all completed surveys are posted unfiltered here).  I am currently finalizing plans for another Bootcamp in Toronto before the summer, until then – game on!

How To Assess Your Needs For Digital Marketing Training

The first step that any organization needs to take when considering digital marketing training is to assess 'the gap' between the current and the desired state.  Where do you need to be, and how far are you away from getting there?  For marketing departments, this requires a clear understanding of the changes that need to happen (covered in a previous post).  It also requires an accurate assessment of the current ‘Digital IQ’ of the marketing team as it relates to these changes.  This is where assessment tools come in.


When designing in-house digital marketing training programs, I work with clients to probe the current state Digital IQ of their teams by considering different dimensions:

  • Knowledge: Ability of an employee to recall specific facts or general digital marketing concepts
  • Interest: The specific digital marketing topics that an employee is motivated to learn about
  • Confidence: Employee’s personal subjective evaluation of their own ability in digital marketing
  • Comprehension: Employee’s ability to demonstrate a level of understanding of digital marketing


There are a number of assessment tools and techniques that can be used to collect this valuable data that are relatively quick and painless way for employees.  Selecting and customizing an assessment tool requires an understanding of the learning goals, as well as input from a subject matter expert in digital marketing.  The following is an overview of a few different assessment tools that I have used, often in combination with each other, to assess current state Digital IQ (digital marketing questions and topics are included in the examples for illustrative purposes only).


Background Knowledge Probe (Assessing Knowledge)

The purpose of this tool is to assess how familiar employees are with important terms, tools, tactics, and concepts required to be proficient in digital marketing.  This probe is administered anonymously, employees self-report, and results can be tabulated and shared.  It is an effective (and non-threatening) way to gather a snapshot of current state employee knowledge.

Self Assessment11.jpg

Learning Goal Matching (Assessing Interests) 

The purpose of this tool is to assess the learning goals that employees have related to digital marketing and to ensure there is alignment with the training goals of the program.  The tool can be administered anonymously (or not), and the results can be used to shape curriculum.  It is an effective way to enable employees to input into training and for training leaders to flag areas of potential misalignment.

Learning Goal Matching

Self-Confidence Survey (Assessing Confidence)

The purpose of this tool is to assess an employee’s level of confidence in their own ability across different areas of digital marketing.  The survey is administered anonymously and the results can be used to identify topics to potentially focus on.  It is also an effective tool for employees to reflect on their own ‘current state’, and it frames the training as a way to build confidence through learning.

Self-Confidence Survey

Multiple Choice Test (Assessing Comprehension)

The purpose of this tool is to assess the level of understanding that employees have relating to different terms, tools, tactics, and concepts.  While these tests are often administered after training, they can be used as a way to baseline comprehension and identify gaps.  Such tests should be administered anonymously (with results shown individually), to ensure that employees understand that their test scores are not being used for their professional performance evaluations.

Multiple Choice Test

If you are interested in learning more about assessment, I highly recommend the classic book Classroom Assessment Techniques (Angelo & Cross).  My dog-eared copy was given to me by the best teacher I know - my Mom, who also happens to have a Masters degree in Adult Education :-)  And if you are interested in conducting a digital marketing training assessment for your organization, I would love to hear from you.

Digital Advertising Planning Canvas

“As soon as it’s printed, it’s out of date”


The most challenging part of designing digital marketing training is ensuring that the curriculum is up to date with relevant changes in the technology and media landscape.  When I was preparing content and exercises for my last Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp, the areas that required the most updating related to digital advertising.  The tools and tactics available for marketers to reach audiences with even greater precision are increasing exponentially.  New products and terminology are also being constantly introduced, which makes planning (or even talking about) digital advertising even more challenging.


To try and bring some clarity to the topic of digital advertising, I put together a digital advertising planning canvas for Bootcamp participants.  It organizes different aspects of digital advertising into core strategic questions that are familiar to marketers when planning a new program. 

Advertising Planning Map_FINAL.jpg

My goal with these frameworks is to help marketers focus on those areas that are foundational to designing marketing programs, without being first distracted by the latest digital buzzwords and advances in marketing technology.  I have shared a few other planning canvases in the past that I still refer to in my training and consulting work:


I find the process of organizing digital marketing tools/tactics into strategic planning frameworks helps move my thinking from ‘what it is’ to ‘what it can do’.  Hopefully these canvases can do something for you, too.

Bootcamp Recap: Start-ups & Strategy Training

Last week we held our ‘Rebooted' Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp event in Toronto at The Spoke Club.  It was a great day, as we had a sold-out group of 30 fantastic participants from both client-side and agency marketing roles.  The Bootcamp session covers a lot of ground, and the participants did an awesome job of staying engaged and contributing throughout the day.  I was pleased to see that the tweaks that we made to the Bootcamp translated to even better outcomes for participants, as seen in the post-event surveys (100% would recommend the session to a colleague :-)  


My favourite part of the Bootcamp is always when I bring in a surprise 'client’ at the end of our session, and participants break into groups to tackle individual briefs.  Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to have guest clients attend from established organizations like the TSO, McDonald’s Canada, TIFF, and WWF.  This time was different, as we had a pre-launch start-up join us—which made the activity even more interesting.


Sameer Hassan is the co-founder of the Shonin Streamcam Security Camera.  It is a fascinating new product in an emerging category.  The Shonin Streamcam has been covered widely in the technology press, partly due to a very successful Kickstarter campaign.  Sameer and team are currently manufacturing the product, with plans to launch in 2018. 


Developing strategy recommendations for a pre-launch start-up is a different experience than providing recommendations for an established brand—particularly when the start-up founder is in the room.  Unlike working on briefs for well-known brands, participants now must consider a product that is new with a marketing strategy that is less defined.  Which, it turns out, makes the whole thing a lot more fun.


Strategy Discussions in Real-Time.  The briefs that participants are tackling are based on the actual problems that the start-up is solving.  Sameer is super-smart (trust me, I have worked with him) and has his own marketing plans and hypotheses.  That said, he is at a point in time where it is valuable to hear new ideas and different perspectives.  During the Bootcamp, there was a really rich discussion around brand positioning that everyone benefited from.


Unencumbered Creative Thinking.  People can't have informed opinions about a product that does not yet exist.  For our Bootcamp exercise, this meant that there was more time required for participants to learn about the Shonin Streamcam, but less time spent trying to figure out how recommendations fit exactly with an existing marketing strategy.  This ‘openness’ allowed the teams to develop new ideas for Shonin that may have been constrained otherwise.


Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur.  It is inspiring to spend time with start-up founders like Sameer—their drive and imagination is infectious.  I loved seeing how engaged participants were during this activity, and how big and bold their ideas were.  Digital media and technology unlock many possibilities for new businesses, and it was fascinating to explore this with the group. 


I'm going to give some more thought to how I can incorporate start-ups into my training programs.  The exchange of ideas between seasoned marketers and start-up founders is really rich, and both benefit from each other.  Who knows, maybe my next guest client will be a past participant of my Bootcamp.  Hope so.