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I help organizations learn and market their products and services better. I am not biased to any particular marketing technique, channel, tactic or niche. I focus on the best solution to solve an issue or capture an opportunity, even if that means someone else coming in to do the work.

With over 17 years of experience and an ongoing fascination for all things marketing, I have a breadth of marketing expertise across a deep roster of clients whom I work with directly or via partnerships such as the BDC or independent communications agencies.

For me, the best way of working is hands on, roll up my sleeves and open source  collaboration with people and teams. Of critical importance is that the team learns and grows throughout my work so that they are engaged, vested and could do it themselves the next time round.

I’m also an ambassador for Hyper Island dubbed the “digital Harvard” and helped bring their master class  to Vancouver in 2013 for the first time. I speak at and moderate panels at industry association events and I write for local, national and international trade press. 

Prior to founding Eustress Marketing Coaching, I worked at a large multinational agency in various roles in many cities including Vancouver, Dublin, Budapest, Munich and London. I ran local, national, regional and global accounts and even led local office in Vancouver. 


Sports Brands - Who owns Who?

richard sandor

After almost 20 years in the brand business, I’m still surprised when I learn that a brand is but a cog in a bigger brand wheel.

A while back I saw an infographic depicting the brands that rolled up into “big food”. Impressed on one hand, I was taken aback by the scale, number of skus and amount of store shelf space owned (bought) by so few companies. Do consumers have real choice or just the illusion of choice? Is this a function of what’s needed to negotiate with big retail players. Do customers even care?

I do a lot of work in the natural, health and wellness food space and I recently came upon this infographic showing the acquisitions in the organic industry. It's controversial. Some see this as selling out, even a betrayal of values. Others take the view that this is needed for the organic movement to scale its’ impact and movement.

I was curious about sporting brands and decided to pull together something similar for them. Yikes. No sooner as soon as I started, I realized  it wasn’t going to be as simple because... 

1. It isn’t easy to define a sports brand. Is Coleman a sports brand?  What about hunting brands like Bushnell - makers of rifle telescopes & binoculars?

2. Some holding companies don’t own only sporting brands. Take Compass Diversified Holdings, who recently sold CamelBak.  They own a very diverse group of companies.

3. Althleisure.  The merging of fashion and sportswear. Many fashion companies have stakes in or own outright “sports” brands. For instance PVH, which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, owns Speedo. Ambercrombie & Fitch created and owns Hollister surf.

Despite these challenges, I forged forward and created the following:

As of December 2015

What stood out for me was:

  • Wow. Again. Brands I thought were independent weren’t.

  • Many holding companies had a large number of brands in their stable.

  • Appreciation for the big independents. The ones that held the course and didn't sell out. Brands like Patagonia, Lululemon and Under Armour.  Their rise and size seem remarkable given the world of big eating small.

How does it make you feel when you that learn that a brand is just one of many in a parent company’s  portfolio? Is it a sell out? Marketing trickery? Or don’t care?

My theory is the more passionate/involved you are with your sport the more you care and likelihood you'll choose an independent & niche company (provided the quality is there).

I’m a big believer in niche. There is opportunity in the narrow. Sport brands like G3 (Genuine Guide Gear - skiing), Rapha (cycling) and Tracksmith (running) to name a few. They all have fantastic knowledge of their sport; have a strong connection to their fans; understand and contribute to the culture; and are crafting extraordinary products. To use some cliche words - they are "real, true & authentic". 

Products from such niche brands are typically high quality and super premium priced. And their consumers, many of which are fans, appreciate the quality, craft, stories and connection with their sporting tribe. All in all, they likely feel they're getting great value.

After all, these are the small company characteristics (along with revenue and profit) that bigger companies are keen to buy and add to their stable of brands.  



Waste = Opportunity

richard sandor

Waste. Consumers can smell it a mile away. They hate it. They know they are paying for it somehow. Waste is inefficiency and successful businesses of today and tomorrow find ways to strip it out. These organizations are labeled “disruptors” and they will continue to upend established businesses and models. At the core they are really:

1.     Recognizing, indentifying and stripping out waste creating a tighter value proposition.

2.     Leveraging the internet for distribution

3.     Leveraging the computing power of internet connected devices

4.     Often, using some sort of network effect (i.e. social media, crowd sourcing)

Some rather obvious examples:

People listen to songs and prefer not to buy whole albums. Most albums apart from a song or two are just filler – waste.  itunes and spotify are the obvious poster kids here providing direct access to songs without the waste.

People read articles and don’t necessarily read or buy entire magazines and newspapers. Much of magazine / newspaper content is filler, including the advertising… and not to mentioned the physical product is at some point waste and recycled. Huffington Post, Google news and other aggregators.. or publishers like Vox, Quartz, the Verge and Medium are all pioneers.

People watch TV shows, not channels or cable subscriptions. They certainly don’t want to pay for a bunch of channels in their cable bundle that they never watch. Netflix, Aereo and now HBO GO are great examples of organizations striving to get shows to viewers without bulky subscriptions and even advertising.


Wrapped around the waste in any category, is a clump of middle people, regulation, licensing, taxation and monetization awaiting to be dislodged.

It is very interesting that HBO has made the move augment the cable TV subscription model to go direct to consumers (in US only). What will really disrupt the TV subscription model will be when ESPN does something similar. However, with so much TV related revenue being paid to sporting leagues I struggle to see this anytime soon.  Which is a shame because being a chord cutter myself – I know first hand that the only part of “TV” I miss is live sports. Sports right now is the glue in the subscription cable model…but there is lots of waste in the model and lots of opportunity.

Why are my jeans in my freezer?

richard sandor

Wales based Hiut Denim

Wales based Hiut Denim

Over year ago, I came across a raw denim company based in Wales called Hiut Denim. At the time I was looking for outstanding examples of responsive websites and they were called out a couple of times. What struck me, beyond their site, was their positioning, purpose and products. I also learned that the founder, David Hieatt founded one of my all time favorite brands - Howies (which I knew about from my time working in London and has since sold to Timberland).  David comes from an advertising background, is an author and does heaps more than jeans.

Shortly thereafter learning about them, at the Hyper Island master class in Vancouver, one of the inspirational content presenters mentioned Hiut Denim… turns out he was a fan and was even wearing a pair of their raw denim jeans.

I soon after, took the plunge and bought a pair online.

There are so many wonderful elements to the Hiut Denim brand, product and experience – let me share some.

Powerful Purpose.  

“To bring back jean related jobs and industry to our town, Cardigan.”  Cardigan, Wales, used to be a hot bed for designing and making jeans - 35,000 of them a week. Unfortunately, all of this stopped in 2001when jean production went offshore – wasting 4 decades of local jean knowledge and experience.

Positioning & Product

“Do one thing and do it well“

Anchored in this focus is quality and they have numerous proof points. Their material & design story – and the very authentic way that these are told through copy and images. The jeans aren’t designer jeans but designed jeans. For instance the little pocket on the front right pocket was originally (hundred years ago) created to hold time piece in. What’s the time piece today? A phone. So Hiut Denim’s little pocket fits an iphone 5 (not sure about the 6+) 

The jean maker (artist) signs each part of jeans they make (on the inside) – signifying that they stand behind and are proud of their work.  Hiut Denim celebrates companies and personalities who are focused  in other quality products from shoes to screwdrivers in their Scrapbook Chronicles (newsletter).

Future Tagging

Each pair of jeans has a unique number that you can register and associate with your twitter account. You then tag events that you and your jeans do. The bigger idea being that your jeans have a journey…a story.  Because they are made with so much quality, whomever is going to be given or inherit them can see the history of the jeans – be it concerts, travels, sports events, life events etc. Not only is this a very innovative idea as it enables customers to story tell about their jeans and Hiut Denim, it supports Hiut Denims jean quality positioning.  

So to the freezer.

The freezer is part of the no wash club. You don’t wash your raw denim jeans for first 6 months so that they turn more beautiful and unique to you – think folds, creases etc. This I have learned is pretty common for custom/boutique jean makers. (Great article in Guardian here).  Putting my jeans in the freezer from time to time kills any bacteria. There is another reason, Hiut denim calculated the environmental impact - wearing and washing a pair of Hiut’s would reduce water use by: 952 LITRES and Carbon Impact by: 6.1 KG CO2E (over the life of one pair). That being said I'm far away from any of the 6 signs I need to wash my raw denim jeans

Customer Experience

Hiut Denim isn't perfect. I had sent some emails to customer service and they didn’t respond – I had asked about taxes/shipping to Canada. (I ended up ordering and there wasn't any duty/tax implications.)

Recently, I ordered another pair – a beta technical jean and there were some issues with their machines which meant the jeans were quite significantly delayed. I got a pretty darn good email explaining the situation and the solution – not to mention the option to get my money back if I so desired. Have a look.


There is so much more – I’d encourage you to connect with Hiut Denim and explore more for yourself and love to hear what you think. 

Isn’t Everything Click Bait?

richard sandor

There has been lots of chatter about the rise of click bait and how the likes of Upworthy suck people into clicking on a story. They do this by testing various headline versions for their human interest stories. Upworthy's top headlines read something like:

9 out of 10 Americans are Completely Wrong About this Mind-Blowing Fact. 

Dustin Hoffman Breaks Down Crying Explaining Something that Every Woman Sadly Already Experienced. 

This Kid Just Died. What He left Behind is Wondtacular.

(And those are click bait without the images that go alongside.)

It reminds me of a fantastic cartoon I recently read by


Let’s back up a step or two.

Advances in technology have brought more devices, increased processing speed, increases data coverage (mobile & WiFi ) and more social media platforms. As a result we are exposed to more.

More news.

More gossip.

More status updates.

More ads.

More work related topics/sources we need to be on top of.

More stories of interest.

More updates/images from friends and family.

Basically, more content in a variety of forms.

All of this content fights for our attention and our clicks.

Click to read the full story.

Click to watch the video.

Click to share.

Click to like or favourite the photo.

Click to comment on the blog.

When you look at your email, FB, twitter feed, news and whatever else – it all is click bait. That tweet, post, news headline or subject line - they are all vying for your attention and some behavioral click.

As more brands and publishers (old and new) dive into content and to tell stories – the amount of content in cyberspace will only increase.

The problem isn’t click bait. Click bait is the symptom.The problem is that it is increasingly difficult to get noticed in a world where the consumer has growing and infinite content options and only a finite amount of time and attention.  

The True Story of Not so True Stories & Facebook

richard sandor

I find it ironic that the recent headlines about Facebook saying it was “dead and buried with teens” spread like wildfire in social and mainstream media. The fact is that the report was not comprehensive – it was based on a niche ethnographic study of 16-18 year olds in and around London, UK.

The “dead and buried” sound bite like all good sound bites carried the day. Mark Twain said “ never let the truth get in the way of a good story” and sadly even the sounder publications seem to be picking up stories without a morsel of journalistic rigour.

It is ironic because almost everyday there is a story widely shared on Facebook and then wait… dig a little deeper and oh…it is not so true. Today it was "the smog so bad that the sunrise in China is now displayed via a massive screen" story. I saw this post no fewer than 5 times and then came across an article in Quartz debunking the story. 

Back to Facebook, I am sure that teens are using it less and less and other social platforms more.  Just think back to when you were a teen. How’d you feel with your mom and dad as friends. Check out this little video from South Park (props to Hyper Island where I first saw this).


I am far from a teen and my Facebook use has waned too. Why? 

1. False stories – I don’t know what to believe or what to share.
2. Lots of repetition of stories - I have liked sources of the better stories that my friends have shared.  Now I get the same story from say and from my friends.
3. Various friends seem to share the same stories which wastes precious news feed real estate - especially on mobile.
4. Most of the stuff on Facebook really isn't that important or interesting. How many meal pics and cat photos can one see anyway?
5. I am playing with Instagram and Google + which are newer. 

Also for me it is about sheer numbers. As I have liked more brands and friends, at some point there is less value from my Facebook feed – there is too much and relevance of the content becomes questionable. My time is limited – I can only take in so much. And as I posted recently there is a “head up” and “enjoy the moment” movement afoot.. which I am trying to ascribe to. 

If Facebook wanted to add more value and be more relevant, it would flag BS stories or point me in the direction of alternative sources. It would remove duplication and maybe help me establish an optimal number of brands and people to follow given the time I am prepared to spend on the site. 

As far as teens go well Facebook will have to figure that one out on their own… but as any marketer can tell you… you can’t be everything to everyone.

The Power and Pain of Smartphones

richard sandor

Ever since 2001, when I did my first mobile marketing promotion in Europe I have been fascinated with mobile possibilities. The past few years I have been working with a mobile agency, which amongst other things has been a great excuse to download and experience many amazing apps and technologies. What is possible via smartphones today is truly staggering.  And truth be told... I am probably addicted to my smartphone.

One day late last year, I had a day where I wasn’t so glued to my iphone. And probably because I wasn’t on my phone, I noticed everywhere I looked, people were lost in their phones. Some were by themselves, others with friends, colleagues or worse parents with kids. Heads were down. Eyes squinting. Thumbs and fingers tapping away. People were almost oblivious to life, space and those surrounding them. 

Soon after I came across this video that summed up exactly what I noticed. I felt a little sad for everyone. People seemed to prefer interacting with their phone when some one real and important was right beside them.

I came across more blogs and videos on the topic even a posture condition called “text neck” which results from necks curving down to ease heads close to phones. (see below).

Some predict a counter-trend to so much time hunched over our mobile devices. This funny video (sponsored by Buick of all companies) is quite ironic if watched on your phone.

As powerful and amazing as smartphones are, for 2014, keep your head up for a coffee, for a meal, glass of wine and a conversation. Live life in the moment, not in your phone. 

Vancouver lands Hyper Island

richard sandor

You might have seen the news and press this week in such pubs as BC Business, Techvibes, and Strategy online that the world renown digital uber school, Hyper Island, is coming to Vancouver later this year to offer their highly regarded executive master class program.

I am super excited to partner with local agency good guy Jordan Espheter and of course Hyper Island to make this happen. I have read, heard and followed Hyper Island for a number of years now and Jordan is HI alumni. We got talking about Hyper Island at an industry event and well now it isn't talk... it is happening.

For me it's about brining a world class opportunity to the marketing community here in Vancouver to help further knowledge and talent right here. The more talent we can grow here the healthier the marketing community here.

Below is the full press release as issued earlier this week.

Hyper Island selects Vancouver for Master Class


April 29, 2013 –– Global digital education institute Hyper Island has selected Vancouver, BC, to host its highly regarded Master Class from December 4–6, 2013. This will be the first time Hyper Island—Swedish by origin—has ventured to Canada’s West Coast.

As featured in Fast Company, Forbes and Ad Age, Hyper Island’s Master Class is designed for senior executives, marketers, communicators, account managers, creatives and strategists to discover the possibilities of digital media through experiential learning. During the three-day Master Class, participants engage in a fast-paced series of presentations and collaborative workshops led by world-leading talent including members of the Hyper Island brain trust.

“Vancouver’s unparalleled natural beauty, state of the art facilities and culture of innovation makes it a natural fit for marque global events––just look at TED Conference and TEDActive. We have first-rate leaders in technology, marketing, communications and entertainment who deserve world-class opportunities to continue their digital education,” says Jordan Eshpeter from Vancouver-based web agency Domain7. “I attended a Hyper Island Master Class in New York City and it shaped my thinking about the future of technology.” Eshpeter is partnering with Richard Sandor from Eustress Marketing Coaching to bring Hyper Island to Vancouver.

Jaclyn Ciamillo, Global Partnership Director at Hyper Island, is leading the initiative from their office in New York City. “Bringing Hyper Island to Vancouver has been on our radar for some time. Vancouver’s forward-thinking leaders implemented a digital strategy that shows a profound understanding of transformative technology and its effect on business, science, lifestyle and more. Vancouver is a great example for other cities to learn from. The Hyper Island Master Class will prepare attendees to adapt to the constantly changing digital landscape. This will only fuel the excitement and possibility that already exists in the community,” says Ciamillo. Prospective attendees may contact her directly for more information about the course.

The Hyper Island Master Class is intended to raise awareness and inspire participants to create functional change in their organizations and deftly navigate the future over the course of several stages. Due to the highly interactive and immersive nature of the presentations and workshops, only a limited number of spaces are available.

About Hyper Island
Hyper Island designs lifelong learning experiences for individuals and organisations all over the world. Hyper Island is a school of higher education within the fields of digital communications, entrepreneurship and leadership, and a strategic partner to companies that want to transform their business or organisational culture. The company was founded in 1996 in a naval prison in Karlskrona, Sweden. Since its inception, Hyper Island has had more than 2500 graduates from around 40 countries. Today, Hyper Island has around 60 employees situated in New York, Singapore, Manchester, Stockholm and Karlskrona.

Jaclyn Camillo, Hyper Island
+1 631 942 8031

Jordan Eshpeter, Domain7

Richard Sandor, Eustress Marketing Coaching

What's hot -What's not - What's next?

richard sandor

Here is my recent BIV article... enjoy!

I've recently been involved in some unique research that explored the state of marketing in B.C. The joint BCAIM Ipsos Reid initiative looked at marketing opportunities and challenges as defined by marketers in B.C.
As part of this, I examined the state of marketing in Canada and other parts of the world to see if we are really all that different in B.C.
I then hosted a panel discussion at a recent BCAIM luncheon with a few senior B.C. marketers. I wanted to share the key findings, the discussion and provided some commentary from this work.

Digital media including social and mobile is red hot
Like marketers the world over, we in B.C. are enthralled with digital media (including social media and mobile) and the possibilities digital can bring. Upping their digital game is a key mandate for most organizations and, as a result, marketing departments are adding digital talent and new skills to their ranks. Despite marketers' frustrations in measuring the impact and ROI of social media, they are not shying away from it.
Social media and mobile marketing are the hot focus areas for marketers in the coming year, with company budgets for such initiatives being carved out from more traditional media.
We also found social media was extremely influential within the industry itself. The top source for marketing information, news and trends was Linkedin.

Areas of concern for marketers in B.C.
The big ones here were:
  • fragmentation of media and media channels;
  • the increased overall advertising message exposure to consumers; and
  • the decreased ability of companies to distinguish or differentiate their products or services.
To overcome these challenges, I would suggest really defining and understanding your target group and truly knowing what solution your product/service is providing. When you do this, fragmentation of media and message clutter is a blessing and an opportunity because you can focus your targeted message to your well-defined target group and your message of your differentiate product will stand out.

Homegrown brands that B.C. marketers admire
The top brands mentioned were Lululemon, Telus and Coast Capital Savings. These weren't a surprise to me as I know that Telus is held up as a textbook case study for brand consistency. And Lululemon – what's not to love? It is a local brand that has gone grass roots to global with little to no paid media (at least in Canada).
Coast Capital Savings is seen as unique, memorable and fun not only in its marketing but just as importantly, in the customer experience.
Consistency. Grass roots/community connection. Being unique – and carrying this through to customer experience. Do these well and you too will be admired by marketers and, more importantly, your customers.

Brand experience is critical
Customer experience and new products or services were the top strategy focus areas for marketers in B.C. This mirrors what I have seen in other market reports.
Marketing in more progressive organizations has influence beyond the traditional marketing department boundaries. For instance, marketing will have say in messages relating to customer care, sales, HR, NPD, pricing and more. With all the consumer insight that marketing already owns, this expanded influence makes sense. Good marketers know that marketing is not confined to the marketing department. And while marketing would love to have complete control of the brand, they don't. Often it is someone far removed from marketing who makes an impression (good or bad), which in turn is posted up by a customer on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or Google and has the opportunity to potentially influence others.

B.C. not so hot on analytics
What stood out for me comparing the state of marketing in B.C. with elsewhere in the world was that analytics here took a back seat. With the growing digital channels, including social and mobile, fragmentation of media overall and the expanding role of marketing beyond traditional marketing responsibilities, there is more data than ever out there. This data stream needs to be understood so that it can inform and optimize marketing efforts. Elsewhere in the world, big data is seen as key. It's a huge challenge and opportunity for marketers. From the B.C. survey and what I have experienced, marketers and their organizations, both small and large, could benefit from more focus here.

Can B.C. talent overcome small budgets?
It is no secret that the budgets for marketers in B.C. are typically smaller than those enjoyed in HQ central, Toronto and the U.S., where there is greater scalability to marketing investments. That being said, as B.C. is such a desirable place to live, there is an abundance of marketing talent here. As someone once said to me, there are two types of marketing currency – ideas and money. As marketing budgets in B.C. are tight, those in this province are just going to have to draw more upon talent and ideas to connect with customers.

All in all, it's a great time to be a marketer in B.C.

Update: here is a link to the survey information

Mental Marketing Stimulation from HBR

richard sandor

Wow. I have just read through a raft of articles from HBR on marketing and advertising. Their March edition is titled "Advertising -  that works" and provides much for marketers to sink their brains into including analytics, mobile apps, human experiences and creative that cracks it.

On top of all that is a HBR Future of Advertising Insight Center which has a even more fantastic content.

You can access it all here .

It is HBR and so is quite theoretical, and some of the supporting examples are to be expected (Nike +, Tesco) but nonetheless provides lots to think about. One thing is for sure - it is exciting times to be in marketing.

Scotiabank I am not your BFF...

richard sandor

and I certainly don't want to be part of your "Facebook Community". Enticing as the "*win*" was in your email subject line and yes, even with a chance at $1,000.  (Considering the $1.5 billion in profit last quarter, I would have expected the winnings to be at least $1,500)

Don't get me wrong, Scotia Bank is important to me. I have much business and money tied up with them and the people I deal with are fantastic. Truth be told I'd rather be FB friends with the staff there than Scotia Bank.  

What happened is it 2013 or 2008?
Communities for me are my marketing peeps, clients and colleagues. Communities are the mountain bike companies and groups I follow and interact with complete with banter, photos and inspiration.  Communities are parent groups and my kids' soccer club. Communities in short are about passion areas. I thought brands and businesses were getting this and Marketing Directors were moving away from the "No matter what business we are in, we need to have a community" mentality. See the related Brand Camp below.

Consider this.  The average number of friends on Facebook today per user is around 250. Add in the number of companies and brands people like (I have searched high and low for the average number but not located yet) AND well all of a sudden there are lots of Facebook updates...perhaps too much. FB advertising is going to be increased as FB needs to monetize more. Friends and brand preferences change and so hiding updates and culling are actions that I think we are going see more of.   The net net -  there is going to be a growing battle for people's attention in FB. Both people and brands need to add value and be more interesting on FB. And sorry Scotia Bank you aren't making it.

Starbucks, I thought we had something special

richard sandor

I used to frequent Starbucks lots..and lots and lots. I won't go into specifics but it was between 1-4 times on average a day. You want specifics talk to Starbucks. They have each and every transaction of mine recorded somewhere because I paid with my Starbucks gold card or the Starbucks app on my phone.

Back in November I went on a new diet, cut out coffee and I have not had a cup of coffee since. My herbal and green tea consumption has skyrocketed. BUT...I don't need to go to Starbucks for tea, like I had to go there for a good cup of coffee.  I can go pretty much anywhere for a decent tea bag and hot water. So as a result I have been to Starbucks 5 times total in the last 3 months versus the 15 odd times per week I used to go there. 

I would have thought that some data robot or sophisticated computer at Starbucks HQ would have noticed the change in my behavior on my account and flagged something. Perhaps they'd sent me a smart note asking where have I been? We miss you - why haven't we seen you?  Please update your preferences so we can continue to be there for you. Or  here is a coupon for a complimentary beverage or something.

Instead,  I continue to get and delete the same spamy emails pushing the weekly deal of Blonde roast or some other coffee I have absolutely no interest in.

What is the lesson? Stay in touch with your customers - yes.  Better yet, take the time to reconnect and learn from your lapsed customers - especially your VIP ones. You know the ones who carry your "Gold Card". Why they are not coming in anymore? It is you - is it them - is it over?

Ironically, at the exact same time as I switched my diet up, Starbucks bought the teahouse Teavana.

What you can learn from a good base layer

richard sandor

With the fluctuating winter weather - very cold to very wet and mid, active Vancouverites know the importance of a good base layer. I bucked up earlier this year for a top end Icebreaker merino wool base layer. It was for a September mountain bike trip in the Chilcotins. You can get rain, sun, cold and snow all within an hour. 

My Icebreaker was amazing and since that weekend, Icebreaker seems to the gift of choice come birthday or Christmas to various family members. So not only do I recommend it, I force it on others - the best kind of brand loyalist on the loyalty ladder - even more so as I am writing about it! 

The product itself is wonderful but there is more to the story. The branding is very strong with some very progressive packaging. See below.

If I was really picky, which I am, the branding is a bit busy with a mix of frozen caveman, sleek fit people in tight clothing, and cartoon-esque fonts.  The opening the packaging was an experience in itself - not quite the apple packaging experience but not far off it. 

What was really powerful though was how on the packaging there is a code which you can type into and it shows you which farm in New Zealand the wool came from. And if that wasn't enough then you can click through further and meet the kiwi sheep farmer from that specific sheep farm. Throughout this journey down under you learn about sustainability and animal welfare - which are strong icebreaker brand values.

All in all I thought it was an impressive way to connect the product, packaging and internet as a way to tell the brand story. But then again, I am pretty biased on the matter.

My call to Monster Energy

richard sandor

Yesterday, I like many others were saddened by the news of the death of Sarah Burke and then shocked by the news of the $500,000 medical bill for which there was no insurance coverage.

I was following the story via various social media feeds and was angered by the reports regarding Monster Energy. Monster Energy was the sponsor of the event that Sarah was at and training for but also Sarah was one of their profiled and sponsored athletes. Apparently, Monster Energy was editing negative comments on their FB page, had not commented or acknowledged Sarah’s death or updated their website where Sarah’s photos, bio and videos were featured. I checked out their site and sure enough…nothing!

The were calls in the Social Media space for Monster Energy to “man up” and cover the uninsured medial bills. One FB post featured Monster Energy’s phone number, an extension number and encouraged people to call.

For whatever reason I called them up. I was amazed that the phone was answered.  When I said I wanted to talk about Sarah Burke – I got no comment. I told them that I worked in marketing/PR and that they were getting slammed big time in the social media space. I wanted to provide some free advice. Doing the right thing would be smart but at least do something! For starters, acknowledge her death, put something up on FB or better yet their website.  I was asked my name and was then given a cold thank you.

Not that it was my doing but Monster Energy finally later that afternoon put up the below “Ski in Peace” post with photo on their webpage and plugged it via facebook and twitter. This was a full 24 hours after Sarah passed on. 

Should Monster Energy pay those uninsured medical bills? That is an entirely different conversation. Should they have done something…anything sooner? Absolutely. Consider this. In the time that it took them to make the above post to their website . Fundraising websites like at below were set up and about $200,000 was raised…. With an average of $67 per donation, that means that about 3,000 people went and donated on line.  It really is amazing how quickly and slowly movement can happen! (this might correlate to the number of lawyers involved)

Monster Energy responded at glacial pace and came across as not respectful or remotely human. In my opinion they also missed out on an opportunity to step up and harness all the emotion and grief and do something special for Sarah, her family, friends and fans and in the process show everyone what the Monster Energy brand could be about.

The moment passed them. 

It is here - M-Commerce at Starbucks

richard sandor

It was a big day for mobile commerce at Starbucks Canada. Today was day two that customers were able to pay via mobile phone. Being a Starbucks fan, cardholder and mobile enthusiast I was keen to see what the experience would be like.

When I asked to pay by phone for my tall coffee the staff at my local Starbucks were giddy with excitement. This was their first time doing this…all three of them huddled around me. Wow.... they wanted to see the cash register, my phone, print and check the receipt. The whole transaction from every angle. These Starbucks people were into it and obviously had been well briefed.

The way it works is that you sync Starbucks card/account info onto the updated Starbucks app. When you go to pay you present the card view of the Starbucks app, they scan it and instantly you see the updated balance on your phone. It is pretty cool.

   time to reload the SBUX card! 


That all being said. How much more convenient is this really? If I am on my phone emailing or surfing the web while I am waiting in line to order or pay – am I going to want to switch over to my Starbucks app, pay and then switch back to finishing what I was doing… it might be easier to pay by my Starbucks card or old school cash.

One benefit, besides not needing your wallet or card, is tracking your Starbucks rewards. I personally believe that Starbucks has missed about 100 of my visits as I only have 11 stars… I should be double gold level!!!

Starbucks is another example of a company moving mobile commerce forward. When I talk to clients and potential clients who think that mobile commerce is a ways a way… I remind them it depends on what type of mobile commerce - lots of people pay for parking by phone and now this… all baby steps towards Google wallet, Paypal, Smart type card readers that insert in iphones and NFC based mobile commerce which all are gaining steam fast. It might not be right for all brands and businesses but mobile commerce will be for many.

Nothing like controversy in marketing

richard sandor

The below video "We are the Future (Marketing)" was recently shown at a marketing conference I attended. I found it quite thought provoking and exciting for what the future of marketing could be. I searched for it on your tube and learned it was produced in the UK earlier this year by media agency phD and used at a conference also.

The video on youtube seems to have gotten a different reaction than at the conference. Most of the comments on youtube were quite negative. There was 370 likes and about 1800 dislikes

Probably the negative comment writers were not marketers.

They probably were not provided any context either.

What do you think?

Ranting about Optimization

richard sandor

The proliferation of mobile and smart phones is driving unprecedented internet usage via mobile. In the UK, the BBC recently reported that 45% of all UK internet use is from mobile. I know we are “behind” here in the US and Canada, but not by much and the IDC predicts by 2015 majority of internet use will be by mobile. Another interesting data point to note, around 350 of Facebook’s 800 Million users access FB via mobile.

All marketers know that mobile is hot and “gosh I better do something…” Unfortunately too many are too quick to jump on the iphone “app” tactic train.

                                                             Another Fisburne classic

While marketers are out kicking app tires, their brands mobile website sits neglected and is merely a mini version of their website. It is not optimized for mobile and so consumers on smart phones have to zoom in and around, tap or click and squint to use the site. Think about it, consumers have to suffer through design and IA that was intended for a 15 or 20inch screen all scrunched up on your mobile phone screen. A simple example, many restaurants and cafes offering free WIFI - their “connect and agree to terms” page is not mobile web optimized.

                                                     Always Optimized - Starbucks

From Google Think Mobile this year in London, apparently 79% of Google’s largest advertisers don’t have a mobile optimized website (April 2011). Shocking when you think that mobile internet use consists for the most part of search, local, social, and augmenting shopping experiences.

So Optimize it. You want more motivation to optimize. I’ll bet your Google analytics report will provide some strong view counts coming from mobile - enough to justify doing some simple optimizing. It might not be as sexy as an iphone app but it is the right early mobile step to ensure a positive mobile brand touch point and experience for your customers.

Hackgate Strikes...sort of

richard sandor

I am just back from a few summer days away with the family and while away I learned that my twitter account was hacked into. I am pretty sure that I clicked on something I should have known better not to click on with my iphone. Being on by mobile I couldn't see the full landing URL I was on.

The worst part, I was without my computer and a decent 3GS signal so I could not do anything about it or see the extent of the hackage. My imagination ran password and settings surely had been changed and there were inappropriate tweets, photos, and material being blasted around the tweetasphere every minute from my account. It would be a complete nightmare to manage and right.

When I return home and plugged back in, I was rather disappointed to see the extent of the hackage.

Rolex. Diets. Earning money online. Wow! A few benign tweets - I had gotten off easy and learned a lesson.

The short form of Facebook and twitter which often contains a link (for twitter about 1 in 4 tweets contain a link) it can be easy to get duped. Combine this with proliferation of social media use on mobile and it is even easier to get lulled into clicking on something that kicks off spam or compromises security.

I thought that this infographic was interesting - especially the stats at the bottom which show complexity of password and time to hack it.

So as Captain Frank Furillo said on Hill Street Blues (all those years ago)... "hey - let's be careful out there."

We are open - yes really we are?

richard sandor

I have been doing marketing and business development for a DVD rental kiosk company. Yes there is still plenty of shelf life left in the DVD/Blu-ray market. It has been fascinating learning about the size of category in the US versus Canada. In the US there are over 45,000 DVD rental kiosks with key player Redbox dominating with about 30,000. Each of these kiosks are reported to do about $40,000 a year in revenue. Do the math. It's big business. Just have a look at this info graph from Fastcompany on Redbox.

In Canada there are probably less than a 1,000 kiosks with no real key player...just a bunch of smaller ones. The kiosks, locations, placements and movie selections are all pretty poor in Canada.

My related new favourite spectator sport is watching and hearing about Blockbuster and Rogers Video stores shutting down. It is amazing how fast this is happening - I am losing track of the score. For the stores that are actually still open they need to let their customers know...or else...well they will be shutting down too. I don't know how that makes potential customers feel. A topic for another day.

So how do you let people know you are still open for business?

Below: Sign at Blockbuster on Main Street, Vancouver:

And a slightly grander version at Blockbuster on Lonsdale, North Vancouver:


I will let you know more about the video kiosk rental machines when they are up and running in Vancouver. In the meantime, if you see any Blockbuster or Rogers - yes we are open signs - take a pic - post them up or email to me.

What happened to Apple - the David?

richard sandor

I wasn’t the first one in the Apple cart. I messed about on an old Apple Computer back in the late 80s and then in 2000 through work I got an apple ibook. This was the around when Apple innovated with those colour desktop computers (purple, blue etc)

Remember - think different?

I quickly became an Apple fan and really enjoyed the ease of the OS. I bought my first ipod in early 2002 – it was a 2nd generation big white one with the carousel wheel.

Fast forward to 2011 and my household Apple inventory reads as follows:
1 Macbook
1 MiniMac
1 MacDesktop
2 iphone 3GS phones
1 iphone 4
2 airports
1 ipod touch
1 ipod shuffle
2 ipod nano ( I thought I lost one…bought one and then found one)
1 ipod big white one (not the one from 2002 but another 2005 when my 2002 one bit it)
1 apple TV
1 ipad
5 millions plugs, adaptors, other cables and Apple related bits.
I don’t want to add up the itunes and app store downloads.

The total dollar value of my contribution to Steve Jobs’ empire? I should have bought some stock. With all I have I could probably open a mini-apple store.

It is not just me that has a decent collection of Apple products. It seems everyone has lots of Apple goodies or is starting a collection. Yes Apple products are designed brilliantly and are a joy (for the most past) to use. Apple is everywhere. It is like when your favourite tune is heard everywhere – it takes some of the shine off.

Apple, that little David brand, the challenger brand, the fighter brand…is now the most valuable brand in the world according to Interbrand. Apple has officially morphed into Goliath.

There have been a number of less than flattering Apple stories in recent months that I have been keeping tabs on. (Google anyone of the below for more info)

1. Steve Jobs donates nothing to Charity and Apple has no philanthropic arm or charity group.
2. Apple phones are keeping location based information
3. Suicides in the factories making Apple –
4. E-waste issues
5. The iphone, according to apple instructions, should not be held within ¾ inch to your body.

For me, I have so much data vested in the Apple platform – I don’t think I can migrate away even if there was something more appealing. I suspect I am not alone. So I am held platform and data hostage. Photos, apps, music, games, videos etc all anchor me to Apple. This is probably just as big of a success factor as their design and ease of use.

UPDATE: With Steve Jobs iQuiting, I thought that this info-graphic/ Apple time-line from the Globe and Mail was appropriate to add here.

Who should be social in social media?

richard sandor

"Should my company be managing social media or should I get my agency to manage or should I get a social media agency to do my social media?" Oh the options available to the modern marketer. I have been asked this question for a couple of years now and the answer has remained the same (even when I was agency side with a strong social media team). A good agency by all means can help you get started and provide tools, best practices and a strategic roadmap to get you going. Day to day though the brand needs to manage and own social media.

Why? Well Tom Fishburne the brilliant marketing cartoonist who does brand camp sums it up pretty well below.

As social media blurs so many areas of business - such as PR, customer care, HR, and customer service to name but a few, it is essential that brand owners take the lead and not outsource this. How to manage it is the topic for another post on another day. I get the sense that more brands are stepping up and taking ownership ( at least the more progressive ones). As brands to take their brand closer to their customers in SM, when done well they are going to listen to and gain tremendous customer insight from being so close. Insight has typically rested in the agency wheelhouse and a key currency at and so an insight shift could potentially hurt agencies.

Oh one last thought.. if you are a brand and you are doing social media. Please do it and avoid the below!

see my worth checking out list to the right side for a link to more of Tom's amazing work.