I’m pleased to announce that I will be one of the featured presenters at MARCOM 2008, June 11-12 at the Hampton Inn Ottawa and Conference Centre.

Here are the details of the session I will be presenting:

Title: Integrated Marketing Communications: the new norm in public sector marketing communications

Date / Time: June 12 2008 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.

Description: Public sector marketers have begun to recognize the value of strategically integrating communications functions rather than having them operate in silos. This move to IMC reflects an adaptation by marketers to a changing environment, particularly with respect to demographics, psychographics, lifestyles, and the influx of new media opportunities.  Organizations can no longer be tied to a specific promotional communications tool but must use whichever communications vehicles offer the best message delivery to their target audiences which serves to recognize the interdependence of marketing tactics. This strategic approach takes into consideration today’s public sector priorities: value for money and accountability. IMC expert, Jim Mintz, will provide clear examples and a step-by-step process for developing a strategic integrated marketing communications plan and strategy.

MARCOM is Canada’s premiere marketing conference that tackles key issues and challenges facing the public and not-for-profit sectors. The two-day conference provides a once-a-year opportunity to learn, share best practices and network with like-minded colleagues from across Canada who understand the importance of marketing in achieving organizational objectives. MARCOM’s 10th Anniversary conference and trade show features an impressive line-up of experts who will bring you up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in the areas of strategic marketing planning, branding, marketing communications, revenue generation, social marketing and social media /Web 2.0 and much more. Click here to view the full MARCOM Conference Program.

Visit for full details and registration information.

PS. I will also be giving a 1 day workshop on June 10th , the day before MARCOM

Here is the information

Develop a Social Marketing Plan in “ONE DAY”

This workshop takes participants  through a proven planning process to develop a customized, structured social marketing plan for a public sector or nonprofit organization. Participants receive a comprehensive workbook that allows them to design their own strategy so that they can take home an Action Plan that is ready for implementation. Participants also receive a complementary 30-minute telephone consultation to discuss strategies related to their social marketing initiative.

Get more details

Although my blogs normally deal with public sector marketing this article from Maclean’s just blew me away.

The following is an excerpt.

Diamonds are a brand’s best friend

How a 26-year-old advertising intern saved Shreddies

ANNE KINGSTON | May 7, 2008 |

When Hunter Somerville created the world’s first “diamond Shreddie” in September 2006 by pivoting a piece of the waffled whole wheat cereal onto a 45 degree angle, he didn’t have a clue it would inspire a landmark ad campaign destined to spark debate at checkout counters and win fawning accolades within the very industry it parodies — all while selling a truckload of cereal and revitalizing a sleepy brand. At the time, though, the virtuosity of his cereal play didn’t summon a “Eureka!” moment. “I thought it was the stupidest, worst idea ever,” he says. The 26-year-old intern at the Toronto ad agency Ogilvy & Mather was grappling with the sort of joe job interns are saddled with — in this case thinking up a fun concept for the back of the Shreddies box. Meanwhile, the agency’s senior creative brains were working on client Post Cereals’ request for a big idea that would get customers thinking about the 67-year-old cereal again. Shreddies, sold only in Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand, comprises a big part of Post’s cereal portfolio, says Jennifer Hutchinson, Post’s director of marketing. Yet the brand had not had a major marketing push since the cartoon Shreddies, “Freddie” and “Eddie,” served as mascots some 15 years ago, in the days when the cereal was known by the insipid jingle “Good, good, whole wheat Shreddies.” “It’s one of the well-loved, but boring brands,” says Nancy Vonk, Ogilvy’s chief creative officer, one of the masterminds behind Dove’s heralded “campaign for real beauty.”

Somerville, a native of London, Ont., had been working at Ogilvy for three months; it was his second ad agency job after a failed stint on the improv circuit. “I got into advertising because I thought I could write funnier than what was out there,” he explains. That was the extent of his ambition for the back of the box, he says: “I figured if I can’t write the big idea, I might as well make them laugh.” When Somerville’s “old” square Shreddie/”new” diamond-shaped Shreddie idea was unveiled to the senior Ogilvy team, he wasn’t even present. People laughed out loud, Vonk recalls. The concept was seized upon as the basis of a larger campaign that would encompass billboard, television, print and the Internet, as well as a new “Diamond Shreddies” box.

Thus was born the world’s first advertising campaign to actually create the product being sold. By tilting an old product on its side, literally, it succeeded in tilting it afresh in consumers’ imaginations as well. And in the process, it also skewered the hollow emperor’s-new-clothes essence of “new and improved” product boasts and misplaced attempts to update classic brands. In such a landscape, the most radical change is, wait for it: no change at all. Such a meta-ironic sensibility, of course, has become a cultural staple, familiar to viewers of Borat or The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. There should be little surprise Somerville has a picture of Colbert posted on the wall of his office. “He’s a genius,” he says. “It’s his tone, which is like the tone of this campaign. Whenever I get stuck on something I think, ‘How would Stephen Colbert do this?’ ”

Just as The Colbert Report is a faux news show mimicking the conventions of an actual news show, the creative path of the “new” Diamond Shreddies campaign traced the footsteps of an actual “new” cereal launch. Comedian Kerry Griffin conducted focus groups, interviewing 15 people before video cameras. The Ogilvy team expected humour to spring from people taking offence at being treated like fools and lashing back at Griffin. That didn’t happen. Rather, the spots serve as case studies in bovine consumer acceptance. Participants politely answered absurd questions such as “Does the diamond Shreddie taste better than the square one?” (“It had more punch,” avowed one man, nodding), and “Rank Diamond Shreddies as an animal, from an amoeba up to an elephant” (“A kangaroo,” said one woman). One man who said he thought the two shapes looked the same was cowed when Griffin made the analogy with the numbers six and nine. “When you turn a six over it’s a nine,” Griffin told him patiently. “But a six is very different from a nine.” The proceedings also highlighted the dubious efficacy of focus groups, one of the altars the advertising industry worships at. Vonk concedes they possess a fatal flaw: “I don’t think people always say what they really think,” she says. When told they’d been pranked, all but one participant agreed to allow the footage to be aired.

Such faux media vérité is a modern conceit, tailored to consumers both savvy and cynical about marketing machinations, says Toronto-based advertising consultant John Burghardt. “It wouldn’t have worked 20 years ago,” he says. “But in this incredibly media-savvy world everybody gets the joke. You don’t have to spell everything out.”

It was a risk in an industry where clients are risk-adverse, notes Frank Palmer, chief executive of advertising agency DDB Canada. “It’s rare to have a brave client ready to do something new — in this case relaunching an old cereal and turning it on its side. It’s brilliant,” he says. “The hard thing when managing a brand that’s been around forever is not blending into the wallpaper,” observes John Bradley, who runs the online marketing consultancy Yknot Strategic Solutions Inc., after working as a creative director with Cadbury for decades. Bradley admires the stealthiness of the Diamond Shreddie approach. “What I love is that it brings you back to the core product. It didn’t take the easy route of launching a line extension. It has all of the benefits of noise and attention and pseudo “new” news but it’s old Shreddies and I’d forgotten how much I liked them. It definitely stands out.” The fact that it is so singular is an indictment of the current state of marketing in which product is overwhelmed by high-concept pyrotechnics, he says: “It’s really sad that a campaign stands out because it’s focusing on the brand it’s supposed to be advertising.”

Still, there was nervousness within Kraft’s upper ranks that consumers might not get the joke. A trial campaign that spanned print, television, billboards and the Internet was floated in Alberta in the summer of 2007. A TV spot explained that a dire accident at the Shreddies factory had led to the extinction of the square Shreddie. A website offered prizes, a vote-in for “square” or “diamond,” and recipes with the caveat: “If Diamond Shreddies cereal is not available, you can substitute with square Shreddies cereal.” Not everyone got the joke. One perplexed man wrote the Edmonton Journal: “I am not usually the suspicious type, but don’t the new Diamond Shreddies look like the original Shreddies just flipped on their side?” But enough did get it to lead to sales increases that far exceeded expectations.

The national rollout in January 2008 featured the new Diamond Shreddies box boasting a “win one of 10 diamonds” contest. The “Is it a joke? Is it not a joke?” debate quickly went viral. Focus group videos were posted on YouTube, alongside a slew of rants directed at the cereal. In “Diamond Shreddies!? wtf” a teenage girl shouts: “They could have at least made it a triangle.” “The way we see it is, people not getting it is good,” says Vonk, who shows off emails from people gushing about the campaign’s brilliance. Engagement is such that more than 10,000 people have voted online for their favourite shape (the diamond is currently ahead by a thin margin). “It’s rare to see that kind of national chord struck,” Vonk says.

The ad industry too has been captivated. The popular site ranked the Diamond Shreddies campaign “best in the world” for a few weeks. Its ingenuity is thrashed out on advertising blogs. “This is an example as to how gullible the public really is” reads one post on “It’s the same cereal that I remember as a child, boring and tasteless . . . if you’re excited for Diamond Shreddies, it’s evident that you are a slave to marketing and advertising.” Another poster disagrees: “Possibly my favourite campaign of all time — perfectly simple and almost endlessly effective. Comments along the lines of: ‘This is the exact same cereal, just turned 45 degrees’ or ‘They haven’t changed anything, they just want to sell more Shreddies’ are almost as entertaining as the campaign itself.”

The industry is doubly impressed because it knows how difficult selling cereal can be. “People love their cereal,” says Mary Maddever, executive editor of Strategy, a trade magazine for the marketing industry. “And people love their cereal the way it is. Starting a new one is problematic for brands in terms of shelf space and supporting eight million varieties. So from a product perspective, the notion of refreshing a brand, and making it new and getting some attention without changing it is really a brilliant coup. That’s why people in the marketing community loved it. People on the agency side loved it because it was a simple, pure idea. It was just ‘wow.’ ”

Goes to show you that simplicity works.

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