Every Thoughtful Step

 

 

Boots choose to be less useful in the cold.

Has the ground always been this interesting? I wondered.

It passes underfoot and tire at rapid pace through Summer months.

The cold brings change. Rain becomes snow, time slows down, and the ground that gets us around, takes centre stage.

Our attention held for half the year.

Every thoughtful step.

 

 

Living with the UnDead (technology)

livingdead_appliances

Every thing dies eventually.

That is not a sad fact. Just a reality. We all, at some point, have pictured our optimal demise. From saving a kitten in a burning building to being shot in the back by a jealous lover. We have an idea of how we would prefer to “go”.

I wonder if the makers of things in this world picture how they want their creations to “go”? Unless you are making serious bank, or have a spending problem, you probably also have technology in your care that is past the point of still totally doing the thing it was set out to do.

When I was 17 I bought my grandmother’s 1985 Aries K (grey Coupe model for the enthusiasts). It had 70k on it from 11 years of driving from Chatham to Grimsby. For $200 I got a set of wheels and I couldn’t have been happier. The thing to bear in mind is that it was 11 years old, and a Dodge, so it wasn’t the same reliant automobile that came off the lot to replace my grandmother’s Dodge Duster back in 85′, but it was what I could afford.

You learn to live with the undead because you still need them.

The interior dashboard light died immediately and I never got around to fixing it. Instead I got used to driving in a completely dark vehicle at night heading up to North Bay when I was in college. It could only really go 108 on the highway anyway so I was never worried about speeding. The car I ended up replacing it with also had it’s own death rattle when it stopped having a reverse gear. Two weeks of circling for parking spots before making the call to let the dear thing get towed away for $25.

Over the years all of the appliances and technology that I have encountered eventually stops working as intended and then the relationship changes. It becomes humanistic.

When your refrigerator works perfectly, you don’t tend to think much of it other than “look at my nice working technology”. And then over time, like all things, it stops doing all of the things it was made to do. It starts doing new things, making new noises, new smells, adding exciting new features like leaking all of the condensation water out if you close the door too hard. Or humming until you smack the side of it. Who decided to make these new features? I can’t imagine it was the team over at Kenmore, and it certainly wasn’t me.

This leads me to the only logical conclusion. My fridge is now sentient. In death it became alive.

In my personal life I don’t get hung up on needing the newest gadgets or versions of tech. I only replace things when the actually stop working.

This means that most of my worldly belongings are part of the growing undead.  What this leaves me with is an interesting relationship with made things. I have grown to like the fact that my phone will stop working and freeze up if I switch between applications too quickly. It has made me slow down. My kitchen faucet becomes loose now every couple months. I feel that it is telling me to clean under the sink every so often while I am down there tightening the thing. I have a 13 year old desk fan that will start making this nauseating squeak and sway weirdly if it needs a bit of attention. I think it learned that from the sink.

It’s the sad breakdown of technology that is the humanistic part which is interesting. Those are the qualities we tend to remember about the made things we own or interact with in our lives.

I wonder if there is a place for more humanity in properly functioning technology, and not just in the fans and fridges are that trying to quietly shove off.

Mixed Media Illustration by Chris Gostling

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

 

 

Ello, Facebook, and peeing in the pool of Social Media

I lost interest in Facebook a year ago when it no longer held a compelling conversation.

If LinkedIn was a real thing, it would be akin to being at a dinner party held in the same room as a networking event, and a trade show.  I am ready to grab my coat and find a pub most of the time, if you are still following the analogy.

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I have signed up for Ello just to understand how people are using it. I am as curious as everyone else is.

I feel Ello was probably made by a bunch of people who said, “let’s throw a NEW dinner party, and NOT do that thing we did last time”. Right now it looks like Tumblr and Myspace might have bumped uglies a while back and have been hiding the kid from us.

We are going to probably keep doing that thing though. We left friendster, and myspace, and foursquare. We are leaving Facebook. We have a communications history littered with lost civilizations. Profiles left unattended for years. Passwords have been forgotten from our “something funny” number sign @ hotmail or AOL accounts.

We like to talk about our migration and it being because the various platforms were antiquated, people were frustrated, and young, seasoned developers created new things for us.

So we left, in droves, and abandoned half finished experiments along the way, in search of social media nirvana. I don’t know what people are actually wanting more; digital connection with society, or a zoo to witness and interact with on a whim.

Leaving is only part of the phenomenon though.

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It’s the garbage that we create and live with until we no longer enjoy it that I am most amazed by. In every case we have lowered the bar for quality, well before people actual started looking for something “better”. We do and allow things in our “social media” spaces that we would never do or allow in real life. We see other people doing it, and we do it some more. I found that we no longer set a bar for quality, and I didn’t matter what was being posted.

I believe in freedom of speech. I also believe in quality of speech. These are our communities and we are fine with posting crap and being subjected to it with no push back, we just bail instead.

I don’t feel bad for Facebook or miss myspace, and while I am excited for Ello, it’s a slightly morbid curiosity driving that.

Community Curation and Support

You may read this and think I am a naysayer for social media. This is simply not true. Video didn’t kill the radio star, her fans did though. In contrast, I witness people on Instagram doing something unique. People are putting up interesting content, and taking better photos, which drive others to also take better photos and share interesting content. The quality of the images that are on Instagram are pretty impressive and it’s primarily non-professionals. It could be due to the simple nature of the application. It appears to be of limited function. Take a picture or video, throw a filter on it, add a comment, a few hashtags that allow others to find your post, and you’re done!

I am not convinced we will ever use hashtags properly. I witnessed someone on LinkedIn using one in a post which was strange as that is not a feature (currently). What makes the community using Instagram special is that people are genuinely putting more effort and originality in their posts. The content is better which translates to an actual conversation, and a good one some of the time. For now, and for the most part, we are treating this space thoughtfully and making compelling content.

socialmedia_blog3

I am interested to see how Ello will be treated by us.

 

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

 

My Life With Apple. 20 years in 8 Machines

On the launch week of Apple’s newest creations, I couldn’t help but reminisce on my personal relationship with Apple over the years. In writing this I realized that breaking things down by year makes little sense. I used whatever computer I could afford or was given to use. They are what my memories are tied to.  Here we go.

highschoolmac

Mythical Beast

I have no idea what my high school had but the Geography and Science teacher had one apparently. I remember a few chosen kids that had access to “it”. They sounded like hippies or bleeding edge Jazz music fans. This was my first exposure to MacIntosh as a thing.

I was too focused on my family PC at that point. My parent’s had the foresight to get me into computers when I was six and ten years had gone by at that point. Lots had changed in a decade.

 

powerpc9500

PowerMac 9500

This was my college experience. Learning how to both live on my own and how to use the bezier pen tool at the same time.  I wanted to be a professional Graphic Designer and it seemed that this was what the pros used. We had a computer lab full of them at Canadore College in North Bay, ON. It was great and I drank the Kool-Aid. Apple could do no wrong. Quark Express came with a hardware dongle and Adobe Illustrator 6 was fantastic, predictable and still relatively easy to use. Mac became Jazz to me in 1997.

 

g3

G3 Tower

A couple of years into working for a small graphic design company we got a few G3 towers. They had those huge plastic handles on all four corners and had a CD burner built-in. Up to that point we were still backing up our work archive to DAT tapes and 44mb Syquest discs to courier to prepress shops.

These Macs were pretty and powerful. OS9 was highly unstable though. We ran too many programs at once, our files were always too large for it and things like a bad font could corrupt the whole system and bring it down. It would shut off when it wanted to for some reason as well. If you were a professional designer in the early 2000’s, working on a Mac, you had a certain amount of shell shock at all times. You would save your work every two minutes and not doing that meant you would pay the price eventually.

blueberry

Blueberry

I could finally afford to buy my own Mac, so I could do my freelance at home, and no longer on my work computer after hours.  It cost me $4700 at the time, which was so much money. The screen was so very small but it was portable (sort of). Although you never wanted to carry it by the built-in handle for fear of it ripping off.  It felt like they had made alot of them and quickly.

 

g5

G5 Aluminum Tower

I had the opportunity in 2005 to start an art department for my second and final employer. I got to order what I wanted for the studio which was amazing. Tell them my wish list and it would be there when I started. It felt like I was a rockstar writing a rider for a gig at Madison Square Gardens.

It showed up and it was perfect. Packaged like nothing I had ever experienced. As far as I was concerned, Apple spent all of their time making that one computer just for me. It was beautiful and like all of the Macs I have worked on, it inspired me to create. Like some sort of sacrificial offering to it. Not to Steve though. He wasn’t so top of mind for me in 2005 for some reason.

macbookpro

MacBook Pro

It was huge. 17″ and always either freezing cold or untouchably hot. It was a slab of lifeless beauty until you pressed that power button and then you were back to the game of trying to impress it.

I left my last “job” in 07′ to start a marketing firm with a partner. This was the last time anyone handed me a pay check. Evenings spent sitting on my living room floor, Skyping with my business partner about a concept, on this polished and nearly always pristine device. I felt like I could rule the world with it.

 

iMac27

 

27″ iMac

I bought two of these last year for my agency. They are monolithic and comically large. When you sit in front of a 27″ iMac the horizon gets compromised. There becomes nothing but the computer in your perspective. I still occasionally will lose my mouse cursor on the screen, which is probably a sign of just getting old. And unlike the huge heavy CRT’s of the early 2000’s this computer is so thin that it might as well be magic.

ipadAir

iPad Air

I still own a first gen iPad that I keep beside my record player in my living room. It is full of all of the music I originally had on CD. That format was my jam for a long time and I recently donated 570 of these plastic gems to the Salvation Army. This was due to two factors; I no longer owned a working CD player, and the only shop in town that still took CD’s, didn’t want them. That iPad reminds me that change is inevitable and occasionally sad.

But the Air was my response to finding peace in the face of change. I employ great people who all happen to be in their mid 20s and they have a different relationship with the tangibility of things that have mattered alot to me. They don’t like to write by hand. And they don’t use file folders – paper ones I mean.

My company runs very smoothly using the latest cloud based project and file management tools. I like file folders. Going to Grand & Toy made me happy. I could touch file folders, and reorganize them, and still Post-It notes on them. I could spend an evening when I thought work was slow and lay all the active project folders out on my living room floor and find some solace.

I realized one day that I was the only person in the company that used these folders. I had built a paperless work culture for my staff and never joined it. I like my iPad. It doesn’t work perfectly, but I have never set my expectations that high with any technology. It lets me run my business and live my life, and still inspires me to create.

This was written on paper with a pen.

 

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

 

The Pressure To Get In The Game. You Have Too Many Options And No Honest Goals.

I have been golfing the same way since I was 16. If I tried to drive the hell out of the ball, I would get myself in the worst situations, and become frustrated.

I have learned over the years that when I use exactly the right effort I hit the best shots. I am not going to be qualifying for the PGA long drive competition any time soon, but I can shoot 90 with a 20 year old set of Canadian Tire irons. And that is all I am looking for as a golfer. I see some guys buy these huge expensive drivers with adjustable weights and iPhone applications so they can track their shots and get that extra 10 yards closer to what Daly could hit. And apart from the truly gifted golfer, these folks rage on with a frustration filled game and a hefty credit card bill.

For my personal golf game I know what I need to do, to do what I want to do.

I work with clients in a wide range of industries, and while they shouldn’t occupy certain media forums with their communication presence, they are affected by EVERY SINGLE OPTION, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

The problem is that because of this pressure, businesses and brands spend all their time focused on what is POSSIBLE TO DO, not on what they NEED TO DO based on their goals as a company. I get that we have hundreds of media vehicles available to use. Everything from branded giveaways to 50 shades of social media sites and tools. But they probably don’t need to be everywhere at all times. Most businesses certainly don’t have the resources to properly support that anyway.

But these clients rarely want to work backwards from their honest goal for their company and look at, regardless that the competitor has snapchat, what they actually need to use to reach their goals.

I say this because a huge amount of effort is put in by marketing firms, ad agencies, and client side marketing teams to “get in the game” and exist in every possible place at once.

The challenge is that most business owners don’t share their actual goals with the people they are entrusting their communication needs with. Not many company representatives at the highest level share their “I just want a nice straight shot and a double digit score” moment with their communications team.

I would like to think that happens because at a business ownership level there is also a huge push to “get in the game” and go for world domination out of the gate. If we took the time to work backwards from honest goals, include our agencies and marketing teams in these goal discussions, and then actually put our efforts where they NEED to be and not just could be, we might find that marketing be an effective means of getting a brand’s story out there.

That is all I have at the moment.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

Simplify Your Message, Or Else We Won’t Listen

If you have spent any time online in the last couple years, you are aware of the limited space people have for new content and communication.

As professional communicators, this ultimately leads to needing to pair down what we tell an audience.

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In the world of content creation, and specifically story telling, there is an unofficial “Rule of Three”. It applied to blind mice, bears with houses, and strategic communication. How do you get all of your first contact information across to an audience in just three pieces of information.

To note: you will have more time with them later if you are lucky and the content is interesting to your audience. But for now this is all about what you need to tell your audience now.

When we think of sending a message in a bottle on the tiny scroll of paper, you can imagine how important getting the right information across would be. The reality is we are very limited as to what we can say.


In terms of your brand or service, let’s say you are speaking to an audience that has never heard of you. They understand the product category that you are representing and have a general comprehension around how your service or product works.

Can you tell your story to them in five statements? How about three? In the PR world this three to five statement brief about a brand is called a boilerplate. In the start-up world it is often called the “elevator pitch”.

Ambitiously Verbose
I have rarely met a client that doesn’t start with too much to say.

The ultimate goal of this boilerplate or elevator pitch is to get enough information to this audience that they can make the next move.

Breaking down content into three statements from an audience’s point of view:

  • What do I really need to know about your business right now?
  • What do you make that I can buy, use, interact with, or ultimately make mine?
  • How will this thing and your business add value for me?

All of this needs to be stated using words that resonate with your audience, based on what they know, and how they prefer to be communicated with.

If you are having a challenge getting what you think is your required message down to three things, try taking a much larger list of say ten things and then logically group similar concepts together:

  • Operational statements (what we do)
  • Product or service statements (what we sell)
  • Value statements (why we are rad)

Then test, observe, adjust, and retest.

Actuality vs. Opinion

We can sometimes get caught up in drinking our own Kool-Aid. We lose the perspective of the person who has no experience with our company, brand, or approach to fulfilling a specific need.

Sadly sticking with just the actuality of a statement can sound very clinical and potentially boring.

Going heavy on sharing your opinion in your statements can sound disingenuous or “used car salesman-like”.

All of your statements need to add up to creating an opportunity for this audience to trust you.

The next post will be about the order of importance and putting your refined statements into a logical hierarchy for delivery.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

If the Mission Statement Fits, Wear It. But What Happens When It Doesn’t Fit?

If you are having a hard time explaining what your business is to anyone from potential customer to potential investors or money lent, you are not alone.

Many large companies and high potential start ups pay huge money to marketing firms to develop cutting edge communication tools, utilizing the most relevant social media infrastructure. This is fine, and we all really like the work we get to do.

The problem lies in the fact that all of these cool tools, slick campaigns, and clever slogans start from an explanation given by the owners of the business to the staff, communication partners, and customers. And if this story doesn’t make sense or is no longer relevant, developing the next best use for snapchat as a marketing tool will not help your business at its potential.

When my agency, Momentum Visual needed to supply a corporate mission statement for an RFP we were responding to, I dusted off the one I wrote at the start of 2012, which was for all intents and purposes, the same thing we said in 2008.

And it didn’t fit at all. It spoke to some of our services, but not to our evolution as providers of strategic thinking around someone else’s business and goals.

 

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I found that trying to market ourselves based on this out-dated mission statement was highly challenging. Nothing fit right. Any efforts were falling short of telling enough of our story.

The efforts, regardless of how clever,  were not accurately representing the business we were operating, let alone the one we were aspiring to be.

So we approached it based on what we were doing, and what we wanted to be doing for the foreseeable future.

By updating our mission we not only changed how we handle our marketing efforts and business development, but how our operational and collaborative company dynamic worked.

Expressing our company’s mission clearly and accurately raised the bar for our own quality and thoughtfulness as a team, because everyone understood what we stood for.

My agency provides this for many of our clients we have the pleasure of working with. But it required a lot of open communication and egos flexible enough to take the backseat at times.

The value in keeping your story current, accurate, and aspirational is highly important and hugely overlooked.

Does your mission still fit?

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

 

What We Are Really Saying When Negotiating A Budget

My goal with this post is to add an additional perspective to your day. How do you value your organization’s time and work effort?

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Like George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air”, I have a number in mind.

This number represents the least amount my company needs to get paid by the hour, per employee, in order to sustain my business.

In large organizations this number can vary dramatically depending on the person and skill set utilized.

In small organizations like a boutique marketing agency, they sometimes use a blanket rate or range. This can be the minimum hour per person divided by the cost to run the business. Business owners who crunch numbers for fun will have complex formulas to find this number.

The next number I have in mind is the market valuation for my services. That number is significantly higher (hopefully) than aforementioned number. Organizations like the RGD and Marketing Magazine love publishing lists of going rates for talent or services.

The number to consider after that is the value of my company’s to a specific client. When you spend years getting to know them, you understand the processes, you build things the way they want them built. That has a value, which is not unlike “shadow equity”, meaning it exists while you are there only. Some clients believe that the longer they work with you, the less things should cost. Which is strange. Imagine if the brands we purchased priced their goods based on long term undivided loyalty. (ie. the longer you buy Tide, the cheaper it gets)

As a marketer, I spend a lot of time negotiating for the value of my time. I have some clients who they feel that work should cost less depending on what they paid in the past for seemingly similar work. Or their interpretations of what our skilled work efforts should cost. We have other clients who are happy to pay whatever we charge because they know they get the value for work done. They are unicorn clients and we service the hell out of them.

Now when a negotiation happens between a customer and a supplier a few things are said:

The supplier says: this is how much we want you to pay us to get the work done properly.

Hopefully that supplier has their pricing at a level where they are billing for the value of the work keeping sustainability and growth a priority.

The client then can come back and say: well this is how much we want to pay to get the work done properly.

They will layer their negotiations with things like well there’s no budget for it, or this is a very quick project, not many people will see it, it’s just quick update of something you’ve done before... they will find an excuse to get the price down.

As a business owner I have to decide how much I want this business, and deal with the compromising value in order to keep the business long-term with this client. Just charging your clients what it cost you to operate your business doesn’t leave you room for when things are quiet. It’s also hard to grow your business without money in the bank.

Let’s state the obvious for fun. Your client’s business is also a business just like yours. They have the same interesting value scale with their customers. So technically, they speak a similar language in regards to cost/value of services.

What a client is actually saying when they cut the price down is this is how valuableI feel your work is and I am willing to pay this much for it. This is fine and that’s their prerogative. They can say “it’s not personal and we just can’t afford that” but in reality if something incredibly pressing was needed to be purchased, they would pay whatever the seller told them it would cost.

As a supplier we’re saying when we acquiesce to a negotiated price reduction, this is the minimum I value my work effort. Receiving any less than this will be considered undervalued and not acceptable. I know this sounds a little harsh but it is a reality. If that number is the first number or lower you will run into challenges keeping your business afloat, let alone in a position for growth.

The frustrating thing for new businesses, and small businesses, is we often undervalue our time. We will do things cheap and do things for free. We have no problem making these compromises in the short term. In reality if we were to look at a decision made, scaled out based on a five-year impact, and see that it actually would put the business out of business would we still make the decision to let our work be undervalued?

I have spent the last 15 years professionally valuing my time and having to put a price on every minute of it. I’m at a point now where the value of my time includes the growth that I need, and undervaluing my time will not make my business succeed. I’m not willing to make that compromise so my shop ends up being more expensive than a lot of competitive shops.

The challenge is walking away from business. That is hard to do and I am not saying there aren’t times we take work at a discounted rate. It doesn’t feel great and it is really hard to get excited about the work. What ultimately gets compromised is our time. We are also teaching people how to treat us when we do this.

Here is an example in action:

Your client needs a brochure. It will be 16 pages, require photography, a pleasing layout, and absolute accuracy around getting all of the content correctly utilized. Based on the collaborative style of the client, the layers of approvals, the billable resources needed, the non-billable resources needed; the project will require a specific amount of time to complete. That will not change. It will take as long as it takes to make. The sliding scale in this case is the value of this time to the company procuring it vs the company producing it. When these two values matchup, the work can begin.

But when a client doesn’t want to pay what your time is worth, why does the negotiation need to scale back only in their favour? If the project should cost $2,000 and they can afford only $1,500, how can they provide the difference to your company to make sure the value is met? If they don’t actually believe the work is worth $2,000, that is one thing and they may have to go elsewhere to get their price. But assuming they do agree the work has a $2,000 value but don’t have the capital to cover the cost, are their other options for compensation. Product? Equity in their business? Barter?

Budgets seem tighter than ever before, and when we negotiate around them we set a tone for the relationship with our clients. I believe that there are a huge amount of opportunities to set a new precedent for compensation in lieu of flush budgets. As suppliers of ideas we need to lead this charge.

 

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

Playing Games With My Team, And What I Learned Along The Way

It is bloody hot out and our workload like many agencies is light in the summer. This gives us time to do a few things. As a business owner this means I can organize files, accounts, the office, and our working processes. As a leader building a culture, I took the time today to play a few games with my team.

Let me first say that I am nowhere in this post discounting the time it takes to get good at anything. That is assumed.

Here is what I learned from this afternoon:

  • Competition can be born more than one way
  • Positive play breeds competition
  • Positive competition is formed from a game first being perfectly communicated to all participants. This levels the playing field.
  • While positive competition is great, after a while if nothing changes, it can become stale. Remember being a kid and playing keep away with a younger sibling or smaller friend when they thought it was going to be a game of catch. It stays interesting longer. This is not a positive form of play. The information was not communicated to each participant so they had an equal opportunity for action.
  • So we get to positive competition, and it’s something like playing catch. Both parties agree on a format of catch (throw to them, or through somewhere else agreed to, etc) If the game stays in that format for a while, it can really become repetitive, predictable, and uninteresting. What solves this is changing the game, making things more challenging and allowing all participants to understand the new rules before having to act.
  • We do this by teaching first, so we catch the ball a different way, behind your back, your other hand, etc. Everyone sees this and can choose to adopt that new option in the game.
  • This breeds a culture of positive competition. Learning and improving and challenging ourselves in collaboration.
  • To counter this we take the other form of competition. This is negative competition. It is about giving the other participants little to no time to learn the new facets of the game. The game changes but it creates an environment that supports a negative form of growth and in a large amount of cases it just stunts it completely. Corporate cultures where people are afraid to lead a culture of growth. We have to teach to make this happen in a positive format. And teaching is really hard.
  • So we choose to change the rules unbeknownst to our fellow participants. This is negative competition. This is where the term cutthroat was originally developed.

But in a business, and in our case an environment where creativity IS our product in everything we do, I don’t choose to let “cutthroat” negative competition thrive, or worse, no competitive spirit at all. I choose to build an environment where positive competition is what will actually keep us surviving. Sit with that for a moment. Positive competition as a survival strategy.

Let’s go back to the games.

We sat and first played a very structured game of RISK. The rules are very simple, we all understood them, and even though the learning curve can be steep and it take years to get great at the game, it is very predictable to a point and can get boring very quickly.

Once emails were checked and clients satiated, we moved outside to the park across from the office. Throw a football, catch a football. Easy peasy. This is where things became very cool to witness. As we played and things became consistent, we each would try to catch or throw the ball differently after a while, with everyone else watching and acknowledging these new opportunities to build upon.

There is the same opportunity to build this culture of positive competition within a work environment. But you have to set the tone:

  1. Everyone (EVERYONE) understands the rules, dynamics, goal, limitations, and opportunities
  2. Everyone engaged pays attention to everyone else that is engaged
  3. New rules, technique, challenges, and goals are introduced in the form of teaching. The instigator shows the rest of the group what they are trying, and everyone has the opportunity to build upon this.

Where this gets challenging is when a person who has created something is seeking a disproportionate amount of credit or praise for a contribution. It would be like naming a style of catch and then not wanting anyone else to modify it. This is how companies end up with powerpoint presentations from 2008 still in use.

Take what you want from this. There are very cool things that can come out of fostering a culture of positive competition and putting in measures to avoid the pitfalls from negative competition. I believe this happens when we put the time into effective communication to everyone engaged.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

The Cup Runneth Over And We Are Screwed

Consumer Engagement Threshold

Yes this sounds jargony, much like all of the terms we are trying to avoid through non-selfish communication. The reason why I like this term, and ultimately take the time to explain to people what this means, is that it is a relevant way of looking at our communication.

Information takes up space. “Out of Memory” is a common thing I am seeing these days on people’s smartphones as we document EVERY BLOODY THING WE DO.

As marketers we are guilty of the same thing. We all push so much content at consumers, 24 hours a day, in every channel we can find, make, or troll.

Add the social content being pushed at this audience (friends, family, coworkers, and people we don’t know well)

Then add instructions, directions, warnings, way finding systems, news, and blog posts like this one.

Now take into consideration how much this consumer understands about what you are presenting them, their interest level, and the other things that are distracting them.

Things are looking bleak now to get a word in edge wise with these people.

Let’s get back to the term Consumer Engagement Threshold and break it down into parts:

  1. Consumer – The reason why I want you to consider the people we are speaking to, as consumers, is to understand their mindset. The definition of consumers is “a person who purchases goods and services for personal use. So never lose sight that they are ultimately out to get something. Or else they are not consumers. So this need is a two way street for both you and your audience.
  2. Engagement – This is the active word in this term. We are actively engaging with this consumer, whether it is speaking to them in person, presenting information in a 30 second youtube ad spot, through social media, or on physical packaging. This is important to acknowledge because our format of engagement plays a critical role in getting our messages across. Does this communication channel allow for the consumer to absorb the information at their own pace? Will they be able to read or see it more than once? Will they be engaged at the relevant time for the intended action? I think of the surveys attempted in Union Station at 9am or 5pm. Yes these are the highest traffic times, but they are also the least likely time to find an open and engageable audience.
  3. Threshold – This is all about limits. How much we can cram into people’s heads. This is probably the most ignored part of communication today. We make assumptions about the audience we are speaking with, from comprehension to interest level, and we try to jam as much info into them as we can. Think of the legal disclaimers at the end of a 15 second beer ad, they have a motormouthed voice actor spew lines of legal disclaimers in the last 3 seconds of an ad to make it compliant. It may technically be compliant, but do the listeners actually retain any of it? Or do you want them to remember that you beer is always ice cold, or available in 3 sizes, or that it comes with a free towel while supplies last, or that this towel promotion is only available from June 1st until September 31st, and, and, and…

And now we are back to the image of the overfilling cup.

Your audience has a limit to what they can take in, from all sources of communication, even yours. So be mindful of this before starting any out reach campaign.

Check out the previous parts to this series:

We Are Selfish Communicators

Understanding What Our Audience Knows

Taking Distractions Into Account

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth.