In recent years, Web of Change has been the most important event I attend each year. It’s a gathering of really senior people in the social change space in a wilderness location. Most years, it’s an exceptionally well-run event with a real focus on building a trust network among attendees. I’ve made new friends and colleagues there, and gotten plenty of work through those connections.
For the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to convene a similar event for marketers. It wouldn’t be exactly Web of Change, because marketers wouldn’t share the same sense of common cause, but this new event would share a lot of the same goals.
Mid-level and senior marketers would attend.
The conversations would be about strategy, not WordPress plug-ins
We’d build a trust network amongst peers
Most importantly, it would be non-douchey
So, this summer, we’re launching Fireworks Factory. It’s an intimate, invite-only conference for smart web marketers. We’re holding it on Galiano Island, a ferry ride away from Vancouver. It’s going to be very small in this first year–there won’t be more than 50 people in attendance. We made this video to talk about what the conference will offer:
We lived in Malta for a year in 2007, on the small island of Gozo. Each town on Gozo has a week-long religious festival–Malta is the most Catholic nation outside of the Vatican–punctuated by fireworks and pyrotechnics. These explosives were all homegrown, crafted in a community-owned fireworks factory on the edge of town. Men from the village would spend time there building and testing fireworks, in the hopes of outdoing their rival towns. Occasionally, something horrible would happen.
Still, they were communal spaces where something risky and breathtaking gets imagined and created. That seemed like a good metaphor for the kind of conference we want to run.
Why is it invite-only?
I’ve always been conflicted about invitation-only events. Web of Change vets all of its attendees, as does TEDx Vancouver. We’re applying the same logic as Web of Change: because we want to ensure the right level of people are attending. We’re planning quite a conversational, two-way event, and as such we want attendees who have confronted complex, strategic issues. There are, after all, tons of events for a more general marketing audience. Even that makes me a bit leery, but it’s the simple reality of a small, targeted event. I can’t imagine what filter TEDx Vancouver uses.
I’ve found that when I live abroad, I have more free time on my hands. I’ve never quite figured out where this free time comes from, but I assume it’s because I have fewer social demands, and I do very little getting and spending.
For the first time in a couple of years, I’ve found time for some side projects and hobbies. Two of those–both collaborations–recently came to fruition, and I wanted to share them.
Weight Watchers for Friendship
Last summer at Web of Change, my friends Tim and Alia pitched me on their idea for a new project. It was a simple, yet strangely radical idea: as adults, we are pretty bad at being friends, and we need to get better. Their idea was to launch a kind of Weight Watchers for friendship, and they called it Lifeboat. Here’s the spiel:
The average American adult reports having only one real friend.Paradoxically, in an age of Facebook and always-on connections, a growing body of science proves what we already feel deep in our gut: we’re actually lonelier and more isolated than ever before. The way many of us use the internet is only making the crisis worse.
The solution isn’t to retreat from the web. It’s to aim higher—to re-think what friendship means in adulthood. Indeed, it’s time to explore uncharted relationship territory—academic research, philosophy, expert advice and our own heads and hearts—for a better path forward.
Lifeboat is a movement of people rediscovering deep friendships. We’re not offering grand solutions or complex schemes, but instead, simple things that work. Here you’ll find our unique content on the art and science of friendship—full of inspiration, learning and practice. It’s designed to help move us beyond fast-food-friendships and become self-assured friendship pioneers!
I think their timing is perfect, and it’s got potential to be pretty huge. And I’m not just saying that because we helped them with their marketing strategy and some content pieces. I genuinely think many people feel profoundly lonely, and are hungry for better, richer friendships.
Regular readers will know that I’m leery of anything that’s remotely woo-woo or overly self-helpy. I wouldn’t have gotten behind Lifeboat if I didn’t know Tim and Alia well, and that their work would be built on a foundation of solid research.
Become a Noble Arsonist
This winter, I co-wrote a free e-book with Julie and Theo Lamb. It’s called The Noble Arsonist, and here’s its spiel:
Download our free e-book full of tips, tricks and hard-earned wisdom on web marketing for NGOs and companies that care. The book includes case studies of campaigns by Greenpeace, LeadNow, Mountain Equipment Co-op and others!
It’s got a lot of the wisdom and best practices we’ve learned and developed after working with NGOs over the past few years. We’re hosting it on a single-serving site (I’m a little obsessed with those these days) that also serves little tips for communicators.
According to Bell Canada, today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. The company launched an initiative that donates to Canadian mental health programs each time you make a long distance call or send a text (if you’re a Bell customer), and each time you tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.
This program is part of, according to the company, an “unprecedented multi-year charitable program dedicated to the promotion and support of mental health across Canada” amounting to $50 million. It’s a worthy, topical cause. And, of course, companies aren’t obligated to engage in this kind of corporate philanthropy.*
Bell has been very successful in promoting the project. As I write this, they’ve counted about 4.5 million texts, tweets and long distance calls. Promotion is easier, of course, when you own “one of Canada’s largest privately held media companies which owns the Canadian television networks, CTV and CTV Two, along with 30 speciality television channels, Bell Media Radio which operates 35 radio stations across Canada and sympatico.ca”. In any case, if you live in Canada and consume any media today, it’s going to be hard to avoid Bell’s message.
It’s important to be a thoughtful consumer, and to consider what Bell’s motives are for the Bell Let’s Talk program. Consider the following:
Today, Bell offers its customers extra incentives to use services like texting and long-distance calls, from which Bell generates revenue.
Bell is paying $0.05 a tweet for brand exposure, thanks to its cynical use of the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. This amounts extraordinarily cheap advertising.
That advertising is made cheaper by the fact that Bell can write off all of its corporate donations.
Bell’s charity partners aren’t exactly front-and-centre on their program site. They’re buried at the bottom of a couple of pages, and haven’t been featured on the program’s Twitter account at all.
Make no mistake–Bell Let’s Talk is first about promoting Bell, and secondarily about raising money for or awareness about mental illness. If my experience with similar projects is an indicator, Bell has a fixed amount of money to give, and they’re going to donate that money whether or not they generate an adequate number of tweets, texts and calls.
I’ve worked on projects similar to this, and am familiar with the tensions between corporate interests and charitable activities. Compromises are made, and strings are attached. But, if this is the way forward for corporate philanthropy, then we must play by the rules that the corporations set.
I do wish that Bell had, at the very least, done the following:
Instead of declaring their very own branded day, they could have run their campaign around the universally-recognized WHO’s World Mental Health Day, on October 13.
Instead of shoehorning their brand into the hashtag, they could have then used #worldmentalhealthday, like everybody else.
They could have chosen not to tie funding to services they want consumers to use, like texting and long distance calls.
They could have made their partner charities the heroes of the campaign, and prominently featured them on their site.
I applaud the other donations and support from Bell for the issue of mental health. They seem worthwhile and wise. Bell Let’s Talk Day is neither.
Nitobi, the Vancouver-based development shop, is one of our oldest clients. It’s been exciting to watch them grow from their origins as (gulp) eBusiness Applications, and see them take off with the world-class work that is PhoneGap. PhoneGap is an open-source development platform that’s been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, and has a robust community around it.
It’s finally time for Nitobi to get some day-to-day marketing help in-house. We’re helping them hire for this position–a Marketing and PR Specialist.
I thought it’d be fun to set a slightly-higher-than-usual bar to submit your resume for this role. We really want to find the right person for Nitobi, after all. We’d also prefer not to wade through hundreds of unqualified resumes.
In order to apply for this job, applicants need to solve a skill-testing question. In fact, there are four questions they need to answer, but they need to get the first one right before they can access the rest of the application form.
It isn’t rocket science, but it will hopefully filter out some marketers who have never confronted, uh, math. Hopefully it’s also modestly unusual, so the posting might get spread around a bit.
Smart readers: please don’t post the answer in comments.
I was going through some storage boxes, and discovered it.
In 1991, my two classmates and I produced a yearbook video for our graduating class (at Sentinel Secondary School, hence the name). We sold it for $20 a tape, and probably netted $100 each at the end of the year. It did give socially-awkward 17-year-old me something to do at parties and sports events, instead of actually talking to people.
Yeah, I was a bit of a nerd in high school. This should come as a surprise to no one.
I remember my mother pointing out that we probably shouldn’t be wasting our money on business cards. After all, who did we have to give them to? She was right, but we got them printed up anyway. Totally worth it.
Today I was having a drink at the Wicklow on False Creek. I visited the men’s room, and discovered this posted above the urinal (click to enlarge):
In case you can’t read the text:
Ninjas not your thing? Maybe it’s time to get a Big Brother for your son!
Big Brothers are:
Spend 2-4 hours a week hanging out and doing guy stuff with their Little Brothers.
Little Brothers are:
Are aged 7 – 14
Don’t have a positive male role model in their lives.
Just need a little guy time.
I tried to imagine a father thoughtfully musing to himself while micturating: “Hang on. I’m definitely not a positive male role model in my son’s life. After all, I’m down the pub instead of home playing with him. I need to call these people!” It seemed like the most misguided, laughably strange advertisement I’d seen in years. On top of its peculiar messaging, the pub was almost devoid of men, and full of middle-aged women.
It took me about an hour to realize that the poster had, in fact, been hung up in the wrong restroom.
Or possibly it was just somebody having a little fun.
I recently received an invitation to attend The Art of Marketing, a marketing conference being held at The Centre on June 9. It looks like an exciting event if only for the speaker line-up, which is a who’s-who of web-savvy marketing gurus. The list includes:
I’m particularly interested in seeing Avinash, as it’s his books I usually recommend when talking about web analytics.
There’s a disappointing lack of two-X speakers on that list, especially considering that the audience (not to mention the industry) is liable to be at least 60% female. Why not Vanessa Fox or Laura Ries?
In any case, it’s an event to look forward to–Vancouver rarely sees five speakers of that calibre on the same day.
MARKETER: So, just “Ice” along the top, then?
STORE OWNER: Yep.
MARKETER: Are you sure? There’s a lot of space up there.
STORE OWNER: “Ice” will be fine, thanks.
MARKETER: I don’t know…it’s really an opportunity to make a brand impression about your ice.
STORE OWNER: A…what?
MARKETER: You know, really differentiate your ice from the competition’s. Say something bold! Tell a story about your frozen water.
STORE OWNER: Whatever. Just make it look good, okay?