Archive for June, 2010

we will be fooled again
June 22, 2010

Dateline. Salmon Arm, BC. June 22, 2010

They’re back. And this time, they mean it. And by they, I mean smart centres. And by mean it, I think they mean they need to put this whole debacle behind them. Will they actually build or just salvage what they have left to make it a saleable property. That is my suspicion. ‘Cause let’s face it. At this point in time, without the rezoning on the table,  they have nothing to sell. And the fooling is this: they are leveraging what support they have to get this new zoning approved. No word of the new anchor tenant – cause I’m pretty sure Walmart never builds alone, and the new footprint only allows for one anchor tenant. Will smart centres have gone through this entire headache only to replace an existing retailer such as RONA or Canadian Tire. Maybe, but that’s not exactly the promise they made to the community.

Imagine this. Hey, we bought this property, we think we can use, to build a walmart and a bunch of other stores so you fine folks don’t have to drive to Vernon or Kamloops. We’re almost sure the city will approve it. I mean they called us first. But then you had a 5 day public hearing that resulted in a tie, or so we heard, because we bolted out of there before the final vote was held. But wait. Turns out, for some reason or other, like some environmental hiccup, we can’t use it all. So we’re going to take your RONA or your Canadian Tire and build, well, another RONA or Canadian Tire, to replace it. So you’ll get  a couple local contracting jobs to build it, then we’ll employ the same folks we had before to run the place. Great huh? And you’ll just have to overlook those other empty stores on the Trans Canada Highway on your way to the new Home Hardware or Save On Foods. We’ll get our rent money, our owner will pay his mortgage and it’s all good. Isn’t that worth supporting? Or even better, we’ll sell it to a competitor and let them suffer the collateral damage. But we supported your minor baseball league along the way – so just re-use those shirts and hats next year when we’re long gone, ok?

In so many ways, this outcome is so much worse, not for the opponents, but for the supporters. Dedicated supporters – now they get nothing and in return, their support is requested so that smart centres can beat the fast track out of here – and leave that oh so promising property for some other ship of fools.

We’re being fooled (the opponents). They’re being fooled (the supporters). At least in round one, there was a clear winner. Now, I’m  not so sure. The eventuality of a giant value village or a brand new Rona or Canadian Tire that leaves its ugly empty shell of a building on the TransCanada  is a rip off. Or am I being too subtle?

sunday bloody sunday
June 16, 2010

Am I skeptical? Yes. Am I cynical? Sadly, often times. Am I sentimental? Indeed. So sentimental in fact that when I heard British PMs David Cameron’s unequivocal apology for Bloody Sunday while driving home yesterday, I nearly had to pull over to take in the sheer magnitude of the moment.

January 30, 1972. What was I doing? Who knows. I was in grade school. Younger than my oldest child and older than my youngest child is now. Just because I don’t remember the day, doesn’t mean I don’t remember the moment. Because I do. Whether it was U2’s immortalization of the tragedy or Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of a hapless victim in In the Name of the Father, I remember. Years later, a trip to Ireland reminded me yet again. Just the mention of “The Troubles” brings a crowd of hyper excited tourists on a pub crawl or a literary tour to deafening silence.

That particular trip was fascinating. A society of well informed, well educated youth who carried the suffering of their family and heritage with thoughtfulness and respect. “You’ll hear many things” they told us on the tour at Trinity College in Dublin, “but we’ll tell you the real truth”. How brutal it was. And so began my theory that the Irish are to Europe what the Quebecers are to North America. Neither of us are born with a natural love for the British. Plains of Abraham, 1759. Ring a bell? And 250 years later, it’s still a constant cultural echo for Quebecers like myself: exploitation and assimilation. Not that I agree. But that’s the truth I learned as a child in a Catholic French School Board. You don’t learn too much more past 1759 in history. At least I didn’t. English history courses in University were, well, both treason and revelation. But I digress.

I was born during the quiet revolution. And it’s no coincidence to me that I married a man who was not born near, or close to but on the exact day of the October Crisis where the FLQ threw a bomb of crisis into the mix whose shrapnel still damages today. Our bloody Sunday. But the roles are reversed. The FLQ committed the crime. We all suffered for it. And every time I cross the Pont Pierre Laporte in Quebec City, I’m sad for those days of total anarchy. Nobody should have to live that way. No matter where you live. No matter what you believe. No matter what you want. To quote the British PM, “what happened should never ever have happened”.

So that apology spoke to me. It reminded me that sometimes, as rare as it is, the losers do get to write history. And 38 years later, Amen for that.

fake lake gate
June 8, 2010

Funny what captures our anger. For weeks, we’ve been bombarded with the cost of the G8 and G20 summits. Bombarded. But it’s our turn, says finance minister. But it’s part of our strategy says industry minister. But it’s our opportuniy says Prime Minister, or something along those lines. But it’s our bill, says taxpayer.

I guess the canoes, and the muskoka chairs and the fake lake really just did us in. I mean, hello, how many lakes do you have to have before you need to build a fake one, asks my insightful neighbour. One? Two? Try over 30,ooo – too many to count, actually, that’s how many lakes we have in Canada. I mean, not that it doesn’t look cool, but still, looking cool and being cool is two entirely different things.

Photo credit: An artist’s rendering of the so-called fake lake that will be part of a display promoting Muskoka in the media centre of the G8 and G20 summits. (Lord Cultural Resources/Summits Management Office, Government of Canada)

Note: Government of Canada, that’s you and me by the way, so I’m taking the liberty of displaying this photo.

In my work, I always say to my clients “it’s not how much money you spend, it’s how you spend the money”. Which, if you’re following me so far, begs the question, how else could we have spent that money? Let’s see. Shall we?

Here goes.

The cost (or price really) because cost and price are also two entirely different things. And the difference if profit. The price of the fake lake and the tourism pavillion is (drum roll please) 1.9 million dollars. 60 cents each (if there are 30,000,000 of us). On the surface, no big deal. It sure would buy alot of milk for kids who go to bed hungry (say $5.00 per four litre) 380,000 or so four litres jugs (but not in Ontario or Quebec – they don’t sell 4 litre jugs and it’s WAY more expensive in Quebec). Let’s be less socially minded for a minute. 1.9 million dollars would buy the very best holiday for the top 100 news editors in the world. You could impress me with a $19,000 vacation. And I’d probably blog about it and tell a friend or two.

Let’s see what else it would buy. More or less 19 full page ads in the New York times. Two Superbowl commercials or so. Does that have the same value as the world’s eye during the summit? Hard to say. Even harder to measure, especially given the whole price tag of 1 billion for the summits themselves.

But next time I fill out yet another tax form for GST or payroll or corporation tax or personal tax, I will think about those brightly coloured canoes vs. the time and effort I spend trying to pay my fair share. Because fair and share doesn’t seem to fit very well of late. Sad but true. So welcome world. Enjoy your stay. And least someone is… I have to get my work done so I can pay my tax bill.

consciously loosing our unconscious
June 3, 2010

Conscious or unconscious? We are both. And neither works well without the other.

It’s ironic that I’m using the web to make a plea for more personal contact but, here it is.

After a ten day whirlwind tour with family back east. I left my mommy gear at home and headed out for a super grown-up event, a national marketing conference in Victoria.

As I sat in the stunning ballroom surrounded by familiar faces – the gang from the Kootenays, the gals from Summerland, the Saskatchewan team (they are Rider fans, afterall) and the Atlantic brigade – I thought it funny that here we were, in person, diligently listening to speakers telling us how to improve our use and measure of the myriad of internet tools and social marketing now available. I guess if we really knew what we were doing, we’d have done the conference online with webinars and skype conference calls. But that makes it a bit hard to grab a bite, have a beer or share some laughs in the off hours. And that’s often the best part of these gatherings, is it not?

So, day two arrives. We are all a bit tired from the gala ceremony the night before. By mid morning, the giddyness of a national award  from the night before is giving in to fatigue. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if I can still pull off the old high school trick where, head in hand, I pretend to write notes whilst snoozing. And then, it happens. I’m awakened.

A speaker from Attune, an innovation and market research company, takes the podium. She begins her presentation by speaking to the psychology of marketing. The neuroscience of information transmission. The conscious mind processes information 10,000,000 (yes, 10 plus 6 zeros) times more slowly then the unconsicous mind. Which is why, by the way, you remember the name of that actor who played in that movie you saw that time, at 3 in the morning. Your conscious mind may have given up but your unconscious one just keeps on ticking. Our unconscious mind picks up signals from contacts with other people – their facial expressions, body language, memories, beliefs. All without words. It’s not the kind of thing you can pick up from e-mails, text messages or facebook posts. So she continues to speak of the importance of imagery, metaphors and nostalgia in transferring messages (aka marketing campaigns) from one person to another. Suddenly, I understand.

I spend most of my work day preaching the importance of relationships. Starting them, maintaining them, enhancing them and, in some cases, ending them. I speak of emotional connection and consistent brand personality. Of giving people a reason to feel good. Of giving clients a recognizable and reliable experience. And I swear, there are days they think I’ve jumped off the deep end with my touchy-feely approach to the sales of widgets and thing-ma-bobbers.  But then, I spend a ton of effort working out budgets and schedules to successfully justify the time and expense (which, by the way, isn’t nearly as much fun).

Fortunately, I’ve developed a loyal clientele who, I hope, have come to trust my judgement. But now I understand – it’s not about the hours and the numbers, that’s just the consciousness’ fine print. It’s about the unconscious sending signals back and forth. It’s about tapping into each other as fellow human beings. Shared experience. Shared beliefs. Shared memories. This is what keeps us human. I fear our addiction to this technology could seriously transform the neurological ability of younger generations to fine tune their unconscious where the real work happens.

So, I vow to turn off  the digital world more often in exchange for the real world. We need face time lest we forget how to recognize each other’s needs and wants. Our understanding of the world we live in depends upon it.

So next time you post on facebook, tell a friend to put the coffee on or the beer on ice, because you’ll be there in person, for a real change.