Monthly Archives: November 2013


How Much Is Too Much?

You may have seen the recent headline that hockey broadcasting is soon to change now that Rogers Media has purchased the national rights to NHL games for the next 12 years, and is promising more hockey content. To most Canadians, I would imagine that this is a big deal as the hockey content had mainly been provided by TSN (Bell Media) and CBC, and the promise of even more hockey I am sure is exciting for many. Maybe I am an anomaly in this country, but I am already tired of getting NHL hockey rammed down my throat anytime I try to watch sports, and Rogers Media’s promise of more hockey content makes me shudder. TSN seemed to have this stereotypical vision (perhaps correctly?) that hockey is like heroin to Canadians who need a constant fix.  Already an inordinate amount of their sports programming is focused solely on hockey, and Rogers Media seems to have the same idea. I don’t have access to their analytics, so perhaps they are correct in thinking that Canadians have an addiction to all things hockey and only hockey.  But it got me thinking about brands in general, and whether there is a point when a brand is being overexposed, for example with media companies and their hockey product in Canada. As a brand manager, how does one get the right amount of exposure without hurting the brand? By striking the right balance of advertising frequency and medium, while considering your target audience.

Flying Too Far Under the Radar

The key to your brand’s success is the ability to be the first brand that comes to mind whenever customers have a problem that your product/service can fix, because then your brand will be the first one customers will try.  To be first in customers’ minds, your brand needs your potential clients to know what your brand is, what your brand represents, and what problems your brand can solve. Without a plan to communicate with your customers, they simply will not know who you are, thereby making the awesomeness of your product a total waste. At the same time, too much advertising will dilute your brand and customers will deem you annoying. They know what your brand is, but will be reluctant to try it out as they don’t want to be associated with your annoying brand.  Personally, although I am a fan of NHL hockey (Go Flames!), the amount of coverage, analysis, and mindless discussion about hockey has turned me off from watching it altogether.

Advertising and promotion are critical components to any business strategy, and a large part of developing this strategy is understanding the right frequency of communication necessary to attract the customers you want. Getting the frequency of your communication right has a lot to do with who your customers are and how they would like their relationships with their brands to be.

Ways to Communicate With the Consumer

Social Media has really added another level of complexity towards showcasing your brand to your audience. Traditional media such as TV, radio, billboards, magazines, etc. involve a one-way dialogue where customers do not have an opportunity to continue the conversation with the brand, and getting your brand’s message across involves simply stating, over your core customer’s desired medium, what it is your brand has to offer. The advent of social media has created a two-way dialogue between customers and the brand, thereby adding another layer of complexity to communicating with your brand’s customers – namely that they can now reply to your brand’s statement, thereby allowing for more insights to be had from the two-way conversation.  Excitement over the possibilities that exist with social media for marketers has resulted in a flooding of the market, so to speak, of brands trying to get their message across over social media, in an effort to increase the touchpoints with the customer, gain insights on what they like, and grow their business.

Luxury brands, which have been notorious in the past for their desire to not be known by the masses, have been sucked into this social media excitement, and are also reaching out to wider audiences to maximise their exposure. I find instead that brands are bombarding customers with information in an effort to attract customers, without really taking a hard look at what the customers want.

An example of this can be seen with Jennifer Lopez, about 7-8 years ago when she was everywhere with her singing, acting, product lines, and was even all over tabloids with the men she was dating. At first, everyone was fascinated because she was new, exciting, and very attractive. Eventually it became too much: she was viewed as annoying, her movies were terrible, her songs weren’t much better, and her relationships became boring (while still being physically attractive). The point is, the content was lacking, she was promoting herself to everyone and people had had enough.

If a brand needs to showcase itself to its audience in order to win the battle of customers’ minds, but flooding the market with your brand only dilutes your brand equity, how does one deliver the right amount of exposure without going too far?

What Does Your Target Audience Want

When a product or service is important to someone, they generally want to hear more about it, so the key is finding out from where your core audience likes to get their information, and promote your product there. Promoting your product designed for 70 year olds through youtube commercials will not only be a waste of advertising dollars, but will annoy everyone else.

Secondly, different audiences require different amounts of penetration in order to get your message across. Some audiences like to have their favorite brands speak to them regularly, while other customers prefer a more hands off approach. Understanding what your customer’s penetration preferences are important for avoiding having a great match between brand and customer go sour (kind of like when the girl who seemed really amazing but then started calling too much and didn’t seem so amazing anymore).

The advantage of social media to marketers is that it allows brands to communicate with an audience that does not like to be spoken to, but rather spoken with. It allows for the ability to develop brand recognition and loyalty among customer segments that shun traditional media. Therefore, hammering your message through annoying promotional ads on Facebook will only serve to further alienate the very customers you are trying to reach. Like a shy deer, leave some crumbs and let them come to you.


Advertising your brand is critical towards developing awareness for your product or service and attracting the right customers, however overexposing yourself will result in your brand becoming commoditised, diluted, and annoying. While great attention has traditionally been paid to the means of communication and the message itself, attention to the frequency of interaction is also key to making everyone happy. With the ability that both Rogers and Bell have to integrate their many online and offline media platforms, I hope that by more hockey content they mean in terms of the form of media I choose to watch hockey when I want, as opposed to a bombardment of hockey on a sports (not hockey) network. Either way, it is exciting times for hockey fans in Canada.


Editors Note: It seems as though the arrival of à la carte cable pricing will allow for a customization of their cable packages giving people who want hockey all day everyday exactly what they want


The Van Damme Effect

Unless you have been hiding in a cave somewhere, you may have noticed that Jean-Claude Van Damme recently made a triumphant return to the world with this epic gem, bringing the Volvo brand along with him:



I have often wondered what ever happened to him since the 90’s when he was kicking the crap out of people in new and innovative ways.  Apparently, at least some of that time has been spent trying to recreate the ice-cold refreshment of a Coors light, or doing the splits to motivate small businesses to work harder:




Looking at all of Van Damme’s recent advertising spots, we see that a) Jean-Claude cannot keeps his legs closed, and b) the new Volvo ad’s view count on youtube reached 33 million in 6 days (probably is higher now), while the other Van Damme ads have failed to reach 100 thousand in much longer timeframes. The examination of these ads poses two questions: 1) why bother using celebrity endorsements if one cannot guarantee at least a 50% shot at success (only 1/3 of JCVD endorsed commercials succeeded), and 2) What did Volvo do differently to make their video go viral?

Why Use Celebrity Endorsements?

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there are two main reasons to use celebrities to endorse your brand.  The first and most obvious reason is brand exposure. Brands will often use popular celebrities because they easily get noticed, and therefore by linking up with the celebrity, the brand can tag along for the popularity ride, thereby increasing both brand awareness and exposure.

What is interesting in Volvo’s case is that JCVD has seemingly been hiding for well over 10 years and hasn’t been talked about until now. So why would they choose someone like JCVD? It all has to do with the second and perhaps more important reason to use celebrity endorsements: the ability to link your brand’s attributes to those of the celebrity.

For as long as I can remember, the Volvo brand has represented all things boring, bland, and safe. One would never mention Volvo in the same breath with Mercedes, Ferrari or Bugatti. The ‘wow’ factor that Volvo has never been associated with was also reflected in their sales, which had been sluggish for a long time. JCVD has also had his share of bumpy roads, and he states that very clearly right at the beginning of the ad. Undeniably, however, is that JCVD has always been in incredible shape (which he also points out in the ad), and Volvo wants you to know that their cars have always been in incredible shape too. You see, in this ad, Volvo is JCVD and JCVD is Volvo, and the amazement of him doing the splits in between two trucks that are reversing is equally matched by the smoothness with which those trucks are reversing and moving! This ad displays a symbiotic relationship between the celebrity and the brand, and by highlighting the attributes that JCVD represents, they are strengthening their association with those exact same attributes.  By joining forces and creating this video together, I think it is safe to say that JCVD will be brought back to relevance (even if temporarily) and supply the ‘wow’ that Volvo has always been missing.

By contrast, looking at the Coors light ad and the GoDaddy ad, their use of JCVD was completely wasted. Coors light wanted to promote how refreshing their beer is – an attribute that has nothing to do with JCVD.  Coors has JCVD look like he’s been trying to recreate this refreshing feeling since the 90’s, in an effort to explain his absence from pop culture – an ad that could have been recreated by any celebrity that has fallen from stardom – and as a result, does not serve to capitalize on JCVD’s endorsement. Meanwhile GoDaddy had JCVD doing the splits in an effort to motivate small business owners to work harder.  I do not understand how JCVD doing the splits serves to accentuate the message of working harder, nor do I understand what this has to do with GoDaddy as a brand!

How to Make a Video Go Viral?

In all three ads, JCVD is the celebrity endorser however only one of the three went viral. Where did Coors and GoDaddy go wrong?

In another earlier blog post, I examined how to make videos funny, and I believe that some of the same rules apply in terms of creating a viral video and that is in displaying a benign violation in order to peak someone’s curiosity. A benign violation needs to be a violation of what is deemed normal while at the same time not being harmful to the viewer.


At the same time, each person has their own tolerance level of what is benign and what is a violation and therefore striking the right balance can be tricky. In my opinion, the Coors ad was too benign to be entertaining, while the GoDaddy commercial was in fact too weird along with being too benign. Meanwhile, the Volvo ad hit the sweet spot of being entertaining, as there was a perceived risk that JCVD might fall, while at the same time being something that one has probably never seen before, and having a song (Enya – Only Time) that serves to enhance emotive connectivity. According to the “Arousal Hierarchy” developed by social psychology professor Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, a video that creates the feeling of awe or humour has a higher likelihood of being forwarded. The Volvo ad managed to provide a sense of awe, and while the Coors and GoDaddy ads tried to be funny, they failed. .

Not to be forgotten are the critical roles execution and promotion play in helping a video go viral. I discovered the Volvo video from a marketing blog about a week ago, and then rediscovered it about 6 times that day on various marketing blogs where they all discussed the quality of the ad. It would appear as though Volvo tapped into marketing influencers to help spread the word, and due to the quality of the video it continued to be shared until I saw it on mainstream news outlets a few days later. I would imagine the Coors and GoDaddy videos also went to influential bloggers to help spread the word.  But because of inferior ad quality, those videos failed to gain momentum.  Tapping into influencers can be key to making a video go viral, if the content is there to back up the hype.


Content is king.  The informative nature of the Volvo ad, coupled with superior emotive connectivity, makes it one of the best ads I have ever seen.  In my opinion, the choice of celebrity was perfect for Volvo, and the message they hoped to deliver.  The content informed me about their dynamic steering capabilities while at the same time certainly had that ‘wow’ factor.  As soon as this ad was put up on youtube, it was suddenly found everywhere I looked. While Jean-Claude Van Damme’s split was certainly epic, the promotion and execution of the advertisement as a whole was undeniably epic in itself.  This Volvo ad has provided a great example of how to use celebrity endorsements to deliver your message through a viral video. Why do you think this Volvo ad went viral while the others failed to launch? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.



Good Ol’ Fashion Story-Telling

As children growing up, there was nothing like a good ol’ fashion story to entertain us, influence our moods, and teach us new and exciting things. One of my favorites, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” taught me a great deal about the value of having honest friends, the power of collective ignorance, and the pitfalls of being vain. These lessons, along with making sure my pants zipper is always up, have stuck with me throughout my life and have played a part in shaping who I am today.

As adults, we also like great stories, and companies capitalize on this in order to foster that emotive connectivity to their brand, and strengthen the positive associations that the company is trying to convey. Premium and luxury brands in particular are often excellent story tellers, as they are not merely selling products, but lifestyles, and they use the uniqueness and sophistication of this story as part of their justification of a higher price point.

So how do companies tell a great story and use it to strengthen their brand?

Developing Your Story

The story itself is obviously critical as it is the fundamental message you want to tell your audience.  Crafting this story, however, is not as easy as it appears. The story needs to provide information that will identify what we have in common with the brand, in order to develop a shared identity. More specifically, the story needs to have the following features:

Explanation: An explanation of what life is presently like without the product/brand of interest, a setting in which a conflict exists. These could be societal issues, common personal issues, physical issues, etc.

Meaning: Helping your audience gain an understanding of who they are or aspire to be, that will resolve the conflict. For example, who would you like to be? How would you like your problem resolved? What do you want to do?

Message: A narrative that underlines the lessons being learned. How will your issues and concerns be resolved? (Hint, using the brand)

Ritual: A means to address the lessons being learned in the audience’s lives.  For instance, by being a user of this brand, you become part of an association of enlightened customers, and by telling others the story you can help enlighten other like-minded souls as to how their problems can be resolved.

Growing up in Canada, and having an affinity for fashion, I find it natural to feel a sense of pride in Canada Goose’s growth trajectory over the last few years, much of it owing to the story that they tell with their advertisements. Over the last year or so, their message has been “Ask Anyone Who Knows”, and it has been an incredibly successful campaign which has helped attract aspiring luxury outdoorsmen and women, and more, all across the globe.



The story behind this campaign is as follows:

Explanation: It gets really cold out sometimes

Meaning: You are an important person, and your life should not have to slow down because it is cold out.

Message: People have been going about their lives for many years living life and getting things done. They do this by wearing Canada Goose jackets.

Ritual: If you wear a Canada Goose jacket, you too will be able to live life and get things done. People will look to you for inspiration in solving this cold weather problem, as you have to the people before you.

Identify Who The Hero Is

Many stories have a victim who is saved by the hero, and in the past, consumers were always the ones with the problem and the brand being presented to them were the heroes. Those stories utilized their functional benefits in order to satisfy our needs. In reality however, increasing brand loyalty requires companies to tap into our emotional and self-expressive needs, and a common human desire is to be the hero. Nowadays, companies are becoming more and more aware of this and are repositioning their audience as the hero, with their product as the mighty sword enabling the consumer’s success.

Canada Goose is a prime example of a brand that has succeed in doing this. By wearing a Canada Goose jacket, now you are an expert in dealing with cold weather and you can inspire others to do the same (thereby further increasing their sales). This has the double benefit for Canada Goose of having the customer also be the advertisement, maximizing the return on investment of their ads and increasing overall profit margins; something which is common among all luxury brands, and good for any company.

Back Up Your Story

Telling a powerful story will only translate into success if your brand actually lives up to the message you are trying to convey. As a result, your employees need to buy into the culture of the company and believe in the solutions the company hopes to provide to its customers.  One considerable advantage of developing a story to go along with your brand promise is that the story can motivate your employees to work towards the company vision, thereby satisfying the customer need that your brand’s story aspires to resolve.

For 60 years, Canada Goose has targeted its message towards research teams in the Antarctic,  oil riggers, police officers, and other people who are required to spend considerable amounts of time in the cold. By securing the endorsements of the “cold experts”, the brand can now lay claim to the fact that if you ask anyone who knows, they will indeed recommend a Canada Goose jacket.

Furthermore, Canada Goose has not succumbed to the pressure of keeping costs low and manufacturing in Asia, since doing so would result in a loss of legitimacy as a brand, and render useless the goodwill that their name provides. By staying in Canada, Canada Goose is able to position itself as a truly Canadian company, leveraging the idea that most people have of Canadians living in igloos.


Telling an effective story enhances your brand recognition and loyalty, allowing your audience to connect with your brand on a deeper and more sustainable level. Canada Goose has been effective at this, and has seen incredible growth over the last few years as a result. I hope you have enjoyed my story about stories – I am now going to put on my Canada Goose jacket and head home to my igloo.


[i] Sachs, Jonas. “4 Steps to Build Brand Awareness Through Storytelling”. The Huffington Post. September 26, 2013.


[ii] Margolis, Michael. “Brand Storytelling 101”. Get Storied.


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