Plain Thoughts Blog

on marketing, media and communication

Book Review: Crush It!

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By Christy - April 14th, 2010

This is a very inspiring book, suitable for anyone who has ever dreamed. ‘Crush It!’ is written by Gary Vaynerchuk a self-made podcasting, social media guru. He started out as an entrepreneur at a very young age (10 yrs old) buying and selling baseball cards. Inspired by his parents entrepreneurial spirit and his own talent and drive for success Vaynerchuk, once an adult, took his parents’ discount wine store and turned it into a very successful wine boutique he renamed The Wine Library. He was a pioneer in the field of podcasting and “be yourself” online TV. He began posting shows about wine without all the pompous snobbery usually associated with that industry. He made an online show for everyone, and didn’t hide his true personality. In fact, he laid his true spirit out there, he is loud, he is energized and he really lets his audience see his passion for wine. The online show has become a hit, with a cult-like following.

Not one to remain standing still, Vaynerchuk has opened a media company called VaynerMedia with his younger brother. They are currently representing the NHL and Forbes amongst others.

‘Crust It!’ is written in the same style as Vaynerchuk’s podcast, it is confident and to the point. Vaynerchuk inspires readers to build a personal brand and build a fan club around whatever it is you love the most no matter if you are an entrepreneur or an employee. In this book he talks about his life and development as an entrepreneur and he also tells stories of those people he’s influenced who are, in his words “crushing it”. Vaynerchuk does give some good tips about how to build a personal brand with specific steps, but I still think the biggest value of his book is that it lifts the reader out of a negative mindset and leaves them with the notion that anything is possible if you want it bad enough.

Gentlemen… Start your sponsorship proposals!

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By peterurban - August 6th, 2009

Sponsorship strategy? Check.
Customer relationship management? Check.
Social networking initiative? Check.
Fireproof racing suit? Check.

racecarAs the dust settles on another successful Rexall Edmonton Indy, its attendees are left to nurse hangovers and sunburns while its promoters are left to reflect on the successes and fallbacks of the event. While the race draws annual crowds of well over 150,000 people, the Edmonton portion of the Indy circuit continually reports losses. Why is this? The event is nearly sold out every year, corporate support is strong, thousands flock to the city to attend, yet the race is predicted to lose anywhere between 1-3 million dollars. With low sponsorship numbers and even lower television ratings, what can promoters do to ensure the race continues in Alberta’s capital city? I don’t know the answer (if I did I would have a drastically different job title) but I think a place they could start is by learning from their drivers.

Over the Indy weekend I had the pleasure to spend some time with Canadian driver Alex Tagliani behind the scenes while he prepared for the race and I was absolutely blown away by how hard these athletes work off the track to make sure they still have a ride on it. The economic downturn has hit auto racing, a sponsorship dependent activity, perhaps the hardest of any North American sport and with less money to go around, drivers that become complacent have found themselves without a team to race for. Tagliani, who drives for a small race team, has had to rethink the way he goes about securing sponsorship and think of new, more cost effective ways of drumming up publicity and funding. So much so, that in a July 20 Edmonton Journal article Tagliani “estimates he’s spending about 90 per cent of his time raising money, and just 10 per cent driving.”Be it utilizing social media to boost attention, tireless work with clients and sponsors, or spending weeks ahead attending local festivals and contests, Tagliani not only increased his chances of finding a full time racing team next season but also created new racing fans, which benefits the entire sport.

racecar-detailLike any business, the Indy’s success depends on the performance of the entire crew. With shrinking sponsorship streams the entire industry must enter the pits, get retuned, and strategize for the laps ahead. On that note, I’ll wave the checkered flag on this string of puns and leave the forum open for discussion. What else can the Indy, or any business for that matter, learn from the way drivers secure their own sponsorship and deal with partners, clients, and supporters?

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It’s About Time: Thoughts on Teaser Marketing

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By peterurban - August 5th, 2009


Finally after weeks, perhaps even months, I can eat and sleep comfortably once more. Finally I can go throughout my day and not break down into a blubbering mess due to critical levels of mental anguish. Finally I can drive from point A to B without having to pull over on the side of the road and contemplate the meaning of my life. Finally… I know what the “August 5″ campaign in Edmonton signifies.

Metaphysical life-altering experiences aside, Edmonton’s Southgate mall recently finished an interesting marketing campaign to generate some buzz about their grand re-opening after substantial renovations. Featuring new stores, new physical outlay and a “new feel,” Southgate created a marketing plan to gain new shoppers and align itself as a legitimate competitor to the monolith that is West Edmonton Mall. How you ask? By simply posting signs around the city that said no more then “August 5″.


Southgate's re-opening campaign had Edmontonian's wondering: "What the heck is happening on August 5th?"

Teaser marketing campaigns (definitely not something new or indigenous to Edmontonians) play off of and manipulate the innate human characteristic of needing to understand what is going on. By strategically providing only small pieces of information regarding the actual event/product, advertisers hope to stir up the most powerful marketing tool: word of mouth. In this case, mission accomplished. After only weeks of seeing the signs around the city, I heard numerous mentions of the campaign from all kinds of sources, ranging from newspaper and radio to simple banter between friends. People were agitated by knowing absolutely nothing about something they drove past every day and as a result they spread the campaign around the city for Southgate (at no extra cost).

Probably the most documented case of teaser marketing in recent memory was the 2007-2008 campaign for the movie Cloverfield. Movie advertisements featuring only a shaky camera and a single passing glance of a gigantic monster attacking a city caught people’s attention, but by not mentioning a movie title, release date, or any sort of information that would help the viewers figure out what they just saw, the advertisements caused everyone in the theatre look at each other and wonder out loud “what was that?” They added to this fantastic viral campaign with a website that gave out almost less information then the movie previews but featured videos and puzzles alluding to a post-apocalyptic world, creating more hype towards whatever the hell it was that advertisers were planning on releasing.

The catch to teaser marketing is that with added hype comes higher expectations. After toying with their emotions (as my fragile psyche would suggest) the consumer expects to find a light at the end of the tunnel that really blows them away. Anything less than that and the promoter can face anything ranging from apathy to resentment, severely damaging any hype they had created. Cloverfield did amazing out of the gates, but kind of tapered off by leaving some people expecting more explanation from the promoters as the storyline didn’t finish on a solid note. Southgate attempted to add to their re-opening by hiring performers but, from what I’ve gathered, the event left a few people saying “that’s it?” The teaser campaign can be an incredibly effective tool at drumming up publicity, but due to the hightened expecations a promoter needs to sit down and determine if their product is worthy of the hype.

Tease me all you want, but you’d better have something that’s worth my

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Book Review – ‘The Dream’ by Gurbaksh Chahal

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By Christy - July 15th, 2009

During a rare day off work due to getting the flu, I picked up a book I had purchased a couple of months ago that I hadn’t gotten around to reading. The book is called ‘The Dream: How I learned the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship and made millions’ it is basically an autobiography of Indian American entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal. The book is a very easy and pleasant read with a lot of great business tips and inspirational successes. I was surprised by how engaging it was, I actually couldn’t put it down. Gurbaksh or G as he is known to friends, immigrated to the US from India along with his parents, grandmother, two sisters and older brother. He always felt like a misfit and dropped out of school, only to found a multimillion dollar company at the age of 16. The story continues, and he shares business lessons he learned the hard way and highlights how to trust your instincts. His current project is which is a website that aggregates online coupons and good deals. I had a look at it and will definitely check it out when I am going to make my next online purchase, some of the deals are quite amazing.

With all of this said, I googled Chahal and it seems he has a kind of playboy, ego, consumption-addict image which was a bit of a disappointment…who knows what he is really like…and honestly, I could care less really.

Some other reviewer comments:

“While success like his is often attributed to luck, Chahal’s story, like that of many immigrants, is more one of sacrifice … it was years of hard work, persistence and faith, along with the support of his family, that brought his financial rewards–not chance.”–San Francisco Chronicle

“Chahal is a prodigy, a successful entrepreneur, and a writer. His story is remarkable and we think it is a prime example of what can be accomplished with a little motivation and ingenuity. Young Hollywood wants to know what this young man can’t do!”–Young Hollywood

Book image courtesy of Amazon

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Keywords: Finding a balance

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By peterurban - June 15th, 2009

I recently came across an incredible set of articles about keyword maximization on There is no way I can top Brian Clark’s summarization of why keywords are important, how you can discover what keywords can impact your blog, and what effects they have on your traffic, so I will refer you to his handiwork:

Click here for the tutorial on keyword research.

I think every blogger can learn a lot from Brian’s suggestions.

But one point that he doesn’t cover in his articles is the fine balance between too many and too few keywords. I’m also interested in keyword usage on webpages, where I think the frequency of keywords can just as easily break as make your browsing popularity.

You can request a free keyword ranking report from (search engine

You can request a free keyword ranking report from to see where you stand against search engine heavyweights.

For example, while the average web surfer will likely come across your homepage more easily with the help of keywords, if an excessive amount of marketing jargon awaits them they might be less inclined to stay and click around.

I doubt there are hard and fast rules for how much keywording you can get away with without your homepage sounding identical to the top ranked search result for your niche market.

Do you have a keyword strategy? Is there a magic formula for focusing on keywords while still maintaining your own unique marketing brand?

As someone who spends a lot of time trying to maximize the quality, clarity and relevance of my marketing copy, I’d like (read: I need) your input.

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Daydreaming finally pays off

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By peterurban - June 8th, 2009

One of my favorite marketing blogs, Neuromarketing, recently ran a post about the positive side of daydreaming.

As blogger Roger Dooley notes, when business teams need to brainstorm a new idea, the knee-jerk action is to get people sitting down together to spend a segmented amount of time concentrating on thinking and talking about one topic until something sticks.

Don't think so hard. According to some, daydreaming can be productive.

Don't think so hard. According to psychologist sources, daydreaming can be productive.

However according to Karina Christoff, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, this tried and true method is not always the best approach.

It’s not that concentrated thought is a bad idea. But daydreaming, Professor Christoff suggests, isn’t as unproductive as it is said to be. In fact, daydreaming improves your creativity.

Christoff explains: After all that mind-wandering, eventually you start seeing connections that you wouldn’t have seen before, because you would never have logically allowed your mind to make those connections. Now it’s going to make them for you.”

I’m sure that most marketing experts have their own unique take on the creative brainstorming process. Few people can come up with something truly innovative by staying within the lines.

So what’s your approach?

Image source:Â

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Christy’s product pick – Audacity

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By Christy - March 30th, 2009


Audacity is a free open-source audio recorder and editor, available for both Mac and PC users. It is a handy and useful application and so far it has worked seamlessly.

You can record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital recordings/CDs, edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files, cut, copy, splice or mix sound files, change the speed or pitch of a recording etc.

Screenshots can be found at this link –

Cost: Free
Requires: You can use a Mac, PC or GNU/Linux system, they have different versions available for different operating system versions.

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Facebook: lessons for small businesses?

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By peterurban - March 26th, 2009

Everyone is complaining about the new Facebook interface. Whether its weakness is aesthetic or functional, the resounding consensus among annoyed Facebookers is that it sucks.

In light of the uproar (which, might I mention, isn’t actually stopping anyone from using FB), I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect upon the strengths of everyone’s favourite platform. Considering its undeniable successes and insurmountable membership, I am made to wonder: other than offering a tidy space for online networking and communication, FB must be doing something else right. Can small businesses learn from their example? I think so.

FB has always mastered a powerful and vital balance between local and global networks. By indicating to the system where you are from, and unless you play with your privacy settings, you open your profile to be surfed by individuals in your area, encouraging connections among people who share geographic commonality. At the same time, the diversity of the FB community and its thousands of interest-related groups allows users to reach out to potential friends and peers outside their local area. This collapse between communicating with friends about what you had for dinner last night at the same time that you discuss the global trade economy on a group forum, makes for a pretty great one-stop interface. Small businesses can provide a similar benefit to their customers or clients: as a relatively small group of professionals, smaller businesses offer an increasingly intimate and localized experience or product, while simultaneously offering a connection to the larger business community.

While we may hate to admit it, FB has mastered a unique loss-leader: by offering a free social networking service, FB entices thousands of individuals to sign up daily, which in turn makes FB easy and quick money through advertising. A lot of sites use this model, but I think FB demonstrates new initiative: by sharing their analytic data, ads can be tailored to the user and integrated seamlessly into their FB homepage. Many people complain about how manipulative this is. But do businesses really operate differently? By tailoring marketing and advertising campaigns to a target clientele, businesses are able to maximize the returns of their marketing dollars. Who has time to sell to an uninterested audience? Certainly not small businesses, that is for certain. And what consumer has the time to be sold stuff that has nothing to do with their interests? Not me!

What else do you think businesses might learn from Facebook? Aside from, that is, the timeless maxim: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I really wish they hadn’t changed their interface….

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Animated origami tells a corporate story

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By peterurban - March 9th, 2009

This video employs animated origami to tell the corporate story of asics , the sports shoe manufacturer, from its founders viewpoint. It seems like the founder himself is narrating it and the simple, almost black and white animation gives it a back to the basics kind of feel that underlines the message of focusing on what matters, providing athletes with the finest footwear possible. The piece was commissioned by Geraman ad agency Nordpol+Hamburg which seems to be winning tons of awards for their commercials. Interestingly the agency also has one of the most annoying agency websites I’ve ever encountered (the kind with micro font navigation that escapes when you try to click on it). Great work on the video, some work to do on the website. Enjoy the video.

Origami In the Pursuit of Perfection from MABONA ORIGAMI on Vimeo.

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Christy’s product pick: iShowU HD Pro

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By Christy - February 18th, 2009

iShowU HD Pro

iShowU is a very cool capturing application (realtime screencasting), that captures online/offline media that can be imported directly into Pro Apps such as Final Cut (you can even choose pro level settings). The image quality of the captures is quite amazing. Ironically, the demos on their website are not that impressive which is a pity, but the software can produce very high quality captures. The price is also very reasonable compared to other, less feature-filled apps, at just under $60 US. You can use this product to enhance video projects, you can use it for software demos, you can create support videos to E-mail to customers addressing their technical problems..etc. When I first installed it, it didn’t work properly but once I closed it, restarted it and put in my registration number a second time, it worked perfectly.

Some other features include:
- Recording from iSight and DV cameras
- Upload to YouTube/Blip.TV
- Realtime scaling for captures
- Key recording and Mouse actions
- Real time preview
- Watermark editing
- Low CPU usage

Cost: $59.95USD
Requires: Leopard 10.5

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