jason oke

If you’re not in awe, you’re not paying attention.

Tankards away

leaves of grass

Keen observers will note that I haven’t posted to this damn blog in something like 6 months. This was due to a combination of factors: social media fatigue, a lack of time & energy (having a second baby 7 months ago may have had something to do with it), and the sneaking suspicion that I’d run out of things to say.

I said to myself a while ago that it would really take something of monumental and singular significance to get me to dust off the blog again. And then one day recently that something arrived in my life, in the form of the immortal tankard of Paul Colman.

Paul’s one of the keen planning minds at W+K London, and writes a blog that somehow combines insightful social observation, sport, and socks. Three years ago, Paul was given a german beer tankard as a gift.  He wondered how far around the world it could go using only the tangled connections of the global plannersphere. And thus was born the tankard challenge.

Paul and I met once in London, although by the evidence we studiously avoided actually talking to each other (and yes, I’m carrying a baby in the picture – my daughter was 2 months old).

Now what’s incredibly odd is that Paul seems to have come up with the idea for the tankard challenge on the exact same day that I met him. How’s that for a meaningful coincidence?

Since that day, the tankard has spent the last 3 years wending its way around the globe, no doubt trying to find me, and arrived here a couple of weeks ago via Shanghai, Sydney, and New York. I received it from none other than the lovely and irrepressible Faris Yakob.

It couldn’t have picked a nicer time to visit, as the Canadian fall colours were out in full force. We went for long walks to take it all in.

true colours
Not only that, but it was Thanksgiving weekend (which we Canadians celebrate in mid-October, a month and a half earlier than in the US, which always made more sense to me than having a major holiday 4 weeks before Christmas) and the tankard had a place of honour at the family gathering.
thanksgiving
A few days later I went to San Francisco for the excellent and already legendary Planningness conference, giving the tankard a chance to catch up on the latest in brand communication theory and meet some of its leading practitioners.
It listened to Grant McCracken explain his upcoming book, Chief Culture Officer…
grantankard
It was eyed suspiciously by Rob & Adrian from Zeus Jones
zeustankard
It brokered an uneasy truce between Ed and Dino
Ed and dino
Before finally being enthusiastically embraced by the mad genius behind the whole conference, Mark Lewis:
Mark
And finishing the evening with the hard-to-win approval of Gareth Kay.
gareth
It almost ended up being used as a prop in one agency’s final round Volkswagen pitch, but in the end cooler heads prevailed and Y&R’s Eva Hasson volunteered to take it with her back to Israel. And the journey continues…

Filed under: Uncategorized

A day for openness and transparency

A while back, one of the planners I work with – Sean – had a great idea (he does that a lot – a nice quality). image via matsiltala

We’d been talking about the growing demand for transparency in marketing and business, and that while many marketers today see the need for it, at the same time many companies struggle with knowing just what to do about it.

Sean thought it would be cool if a few companies picked a day, and invited their customers in to see some part of their business behind the scenes – the factory floor, the R&D lab, the headquarters. He called it “Take Your Customer To
Work Day.” Last summer he wrote a blog post about it, which proceeded to get a lot of positive response, including a nod from no less than Seth Godin.

Since then there have been a few high-profile initiatives that have done just this. The most notable was last summer’s P&G‘s Mommy Blogger event, where the Pampers brand team invited 15 bloggers to tour their Cincinatti headquarters, hear about new products, talk about their needs, and weigh in on the current state of marketing. It was an exercise in transparency that had some risk to it, but by all accounts was fun for all involved, and got P&G both some great learning and some great press.

Given the positive feedback and the successful examples, we’ve decided to go ahead try to do it.

Thursday May 28 2009 will be the inaugural “Take Your Customer To Work Day.”

Full details are here.

Several brands have already jumped on board, including Zappos (of course…), SteamWhistle Beer, and Beck Tench. We’re issuing an open call for other companies to come along for the ride and bring their customers in house for the day. And we’re asking any company who participates to document it, and we’ll collect all the stories, photos, and videos and create some interesting content with it.

Huge kudos to Sean for coming up with the idea, and taking the initiative to actually get this thing going.

So talk to your clients and partners, and help spread the word. Let’s get some momentum behind this thing.

Who’s in?

Filed under: brands, Ideas, transparency

Planning For Good needs your help…

Naked11-300x216

This is an urgent request to planning & strategy folk (responses needed by Monday March 23):

WE NEED SOME CAUSE-RELATED BRIEFS

Can you help us help the Ideas Foundation?

It’s a fantastic UK charity that is committed to championing creativity in young people. It’s a mentoring program for 16-17 year olds which gives them the tools of communication (and some guidance from industry leaders) and enlists them to solve the problems facing their generation: e.g. get teenagers who are worried about crime the chance to change their peers’ behaviour through creativity.

In the Idea Foundation’s own words:

“We broker projects between industry and education.
We spot & develop young people’s creativity.
We pilot creative education projects and champion transferable skills within the creative industries and beyond.
We provide effective work experience, internship and apprenticeship opportunities. We signpost further & higher education routes to creative employment and enterprise.
And having done all that, we encourage our creativity scholars to stay in touch and get involved”

So here’s the shout out to Planning for Good types – do you have a social policy brief that you’ve written that these kids can do work from?

Maybe the client didn’t buy it? Maybe the suits or the CD didn’t like it? Or your boss? Or you?

So what are we after?

A brief to target a youth audience on a social policy area

It could be in areas such as smoking cessation, sexual health, knife or gun crime, drug or alchohol abuse, bullying, internet safety etc.

We’d really just like your old briefs.

Or, if you have a great social-cause strategy hiding somewhere in your brain, and really want to write a new brief, please feel free to do so but just make sure you include the usual information (the problem defined, the audience, etc) and try to ground it in reality and evidence…

Thanks very much in advance on behalf of the Ideas Foundation – we promise to keep you in touch with what folk send in and what they do with them.

Please send your briefs to Mark Earls at markearls [at] hotmail [dot] com by Monday night.

Or feel free to contact me/leave a comment if you have any questions.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Toronto planning event

The gorgeous new AGO

The gorgeous new AGO - image via wvs

I’m very excited to share some details about an upcoming event for Toronto’s strategic planning community.

First, some background. The idea for this came out of discussions I and a few other planners and strategy types have been having over the last 6 months. We realized a few things:

  1. There are thriving planning communities in other markets, such as the APG in the UK, and lots of sharing and discussion in the blogosphere, but in Canada and specifically Toronto there’s no sense of local community at all.
  2. Because of this, while other marketing communities (creative, clients) have events targeted to their interests and needs, the strategic planning community doesn’t have anything of its own.
  3. Most importantly, the strategy community has increasingly become a fractured field, with lots of different disciplines (account planning, communications planning, engagement planning, user experience planning, etc) across different types of companies (traditional/media/digital/design agencies, clients, market researchers, etc) – but there’s not much interaction or cross-pollination between these groups. But we’re all doing similar things, and increasingly the client challenges we all face require learning about each others’ skills and toolsets.
  4. And despite our lack of community, there’s still some amazing, world-class strategic thinkers and thinking going on here, and it’s time to celebrate that fact more.

So this is an attempt to foster more of a community around marketing strategy in Toronto (and Canada). We’re starting with an event, and if it’s a success, we hope to make it a regular thing.

Details:

Thursday April 9, 2009 – 2-6pm

The Art Gallery of Ontario – Jackman Hall

The event has a pretty amazing list of speakers, including the lovely and talented Mark Earls, all the way over from London; and some of Canada’s leading lights including Sean Howard, Matt Milan, Michael Anton Dila, and Laurence Bernstein. And, to bring down the average, I’ll be chairing the afternoon’s proceedings.

In addition to the speakers, the event will include some food & drink and lots of opportunities to socialize and meet new people.

Details for the event and ticket registration information can be found by clicking the big orange button above, or here.

Hope to see you there.

Filed under: Canada, planning

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These are my views. Do I even need to explain that? They're not those of anyone generous enough to pay me money. They're just mine. Unless maybe they're yours too. That would be nice.