The Nashville Predators are going to the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s an incredible achievement in a nearly 20 year long journey for the franchise who wasn’t supposed to succeed. A franchise who would surely relocate after inevitably losing millions of dollars. A franchise who had no business digging their roots into a small, non-traditional hockey market. A franchise who couldn’t possible co-exist with Music City.

But here they are. Only 4 wins away from capturing Lord Stanley’s Cup. And they’re doing it with a city full of passionate, die-hard Predators fans behind them – not a passive group of bandwagon jumpers along for the ride.

So how did they get here? How did the Nashville Predators turn a sure-fire failed attempt at introducing hockey into Tennessee, the furthest thing from a hockey-crazed state, into Smashville, the mega-brand that has die-hard fans and high powered celebrities alike at their grips?

It wasn’t easy. And it took a long time.

Expansion Days

When the NHL continued their southern expansion in the late 1990’s to Nashville and Atlanta, few people thought either city would work. On one hand, the NHL had already failed in the Atlanta market years earlier. On the other, Nashville? Why Nashville? As a young, hockey enthused-kid at the time, I had never even heard of Nashville. In my defence, my knowledge of North American geography consisted of the cities that were home to major sports franchises, Nashville not yet being one of them.

So I logged onto my dial-up internet and did some research. A quick Alta Vista search revealed to me that Nashville was known as Music City. As in “country music”. As a kid who was equally obsessed with music as he was hockey, this deeply confused me. “People actually like country music?” I remember pondering. At that age, I was deeply influenced by the 90’s grunge and alternative scene, including the likes of Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, so the concept of country music was totally lost on me.

A Non-Hockey Market

“Expanding the game” has been a tenet of Gary Bettman’s tenure as NHL Commissioner since he took over the role in 1993. This expansion has consisted of a slew of expansion franchises, including the introduction of the Florida Panthers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Atlanta Thrashers, and the aforementioned Nashville Predators, as well as relocation of existing franchises to new markets, such as the Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars. The success of this “southern expansion” has been highly debated, mostly in Arizona with the never-ending saga of the Coyotes. But one thing is for sure. Hockey hasn’t just survived in Nashville, it has thrived.

As a hockey fan, I’m stunned. As a marketer, I’m flat out impressed. We can learn so much from what the Nashville Predators have achieved, against all odds.

Here’s how the Nashville Predators took an idea destined to fail and built it into Smashville, one of the boldest, most iconic brands in the game today, and perhaps the biggest underdog success story in professional sports.

So, my fellow marketers, take note. Here are the 4 key things that every marketer can learn from the Nashville Predators’ success.

1. Educate your audience

One of the biggest challenges facing the Nashville Predators franchise when they entered the league was that they were coming into a market that knew nothing about hockey. How do you sell something to an audience if they know nothing about you or your industry. Why should they care? Why should they spend their hard earned money on your product?

There’s an old saying in the sports world that says “you can sell fans one of two things; winning or hope“. If your team is winning, the product ultimately sells itself. But if you’re not winning, you need to sell the concept of hope. You need to show your fans that you are building towards something special (exactly what the Toronto Maple Leafs have been selling the last few years).

But when it comes to a small, non-traditional hockey market like Nashville, you need to start by selling the product itself: hockey. Most Tennesseans didn’t know the first thing about hockey. In fact, in the late 1990’s, there were only 600 people who were playing hockey in the city of Nashville. Rather than seeing this as a risk, original owner Craig Leipold saw this as an opportunity. A clean slate. So rather than trying to sell winning or hope, they sold hockey – the right way.

One of the first things the team did was creating Predators University, a program that offered a variety of free Hockey 101 clinics in local schools as well as at the arena before games to educate the locals on the ins and outs of this new sport. Even once the puck dropped at game time, the learning continued for those inside the building as well as those watching from home. Through broadcast television and in-game headsets with messages on the JumboTron, the Predators organization would explain each rule, whistle, and strategy of the game. They explained everything, from what constitutes a hooking call, to what “icing” was, and even as far as why the coach would pull the goalie in the last few finals of a game. Education lead to understanding, and understanding lead to love. Today, they have one of the most knowledgable and passionate fan-bases in the league.

The team has also helped build several hockey rinks across the state of Tennessee and has recently opened the states’ first outdoor rink, right outside of Bridgestone Arena. It’s no surprise that amateur hockey enrolment is at an all-time high. It’s safe to say that the Predators have done an incredible job in grooming the next generation of hockey fans and players alike in Nashville.

2. Know your customers and create an experience

Understanding what makes your customers tick is essential in any business. They true key to success is figuring out that perfect overlap of your product’s benefits with your customers’ wants and needs. This sounds basic, but so many brands fail to achieve this. They get stuck on what they want to communicate to their audience and what they think their audience wants to hear. Rather than forcing the traditional hockey message onto the city of Nashville, the Predators weaved the hockey experience directly into the Nashville culture.

“When I first came to Nashville, my most important objective was to make this Nashville’s team in every way.”
– Craig Leipold

They positioned hockey a physical and fast, drawing parallels to NASCAR. From the get-go, they leveraged the roots of Music City’s country music scene, bringing the fun-loving, upbeat entertainment element to the game. The team often offers concerts pre and post game, as well as between periods and during stoppages in play as fans can enjoy performances from some of country music’s biggest stars from a bandstand right inside the stadium. If hockey isn’t being played, you better bet live music is.

With the potential for few wins in those early years, the Predators understood that they had to provide their fans with some entertainment value while they team eventually improved and their fans ramped up on their hockey IQ.

But the fun isn’t confined within the four walls of the arena. With the Bridgestone Arena located at the intersection of 5th and Broadway, Nashville’s infamous honky tonk tourist district, you’re immersed in Nashville culture and excitement before and after the game.

Justin Bradford, host and lead writer at Penalty Box Radio, explains the Nashville Predators experience.

“The atmosphere and experience of a Nashville Predators game doesn’t begin when you enter the arena. It begins when you’re walking downtown—hearing the music from the honky tonks, seeing the neon lights, smelling food from the restaurants you pass and feeling the excitement as you approach the building. You just don’t get that same feeling when you approach a building that’s in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a parking lot on all sides.”

Sound familiar, Ottawa fans?

3. Leverage your influencers

Oh boy, do they have a lot of them. From the aforementioned country music stars who play before, during and after the game (including national anthem appearance from the likes of Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Kelly Clarkson) to fellow Nashville-based rockers Kings of Leon to the beloved Tennessee Titans football team, the Predators have hands down the most influential celebrity posse of any team in the NHL. It’s not even close.

Carrie Underwood sings National Anthem

Tennessee Titans support the Predators

Kings of Leon pump up crowd before game 4

Not only are these influencers fans of the team, but they show up at games and talk about them constantly on social media. The Predators acquiring now captain Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators was maybe one of the best things they ever did, not only from a hockey perspective, but from a PR perspective. Fisher, married to country superstar Carrie Underwood, gave fans an immediate link from the stage to the ice. It gave them a sweetheart couple to follow. It is truly the perfect intersection of pop culture and sports.

4. Continuously build a stronger product

When we talk about the Smashville brand, we often think about everything we mentioned above. The country music stars, the live music, the food, the entertainment. All of the things that surround the product itself. But I’d be remiss to not mention the on-ice product that long-time General Manager David Poile has created. After all, that is the product that everyone is there to see.

It hasn’t always been easy for Poile and the Preds. While most expansion franchises are blessed with highly talented, flashy and marketable #1 overall picks like Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash or Vincent Lecavalier to wow their fans, the Predators weren’t so lucky. In the franchise’s history, they’ve never picked 1st overall. The highest they ever picked was 2nd overall in 1998, when they drafted forward David Legwand after Lecavalier went 1st. While Legwand had a formidable career, he was by no means a superstar. He’s not the type of player that will bring you out of your seat. He doesn’t have the personality of an Ovechkin that you can build a brand around.

Focused on his product plan

Despite this, Poile remained patient and dedicated to his plan throughout the years. His goal was to build a team focused on defence first – a risky move for a new hockey market that would likely not appreciate this aspect of the game. But Poile didn’t care about building an entertaining team, he cared about building a strong, hard to play against team. Over the years, Nashville has always had strong, reliable goaltending, with the likes of Mike Dunham, Tomas Vokoun, and now, Pekka Rinne manning the crease. But it was his strength and depth on defence that truly set his teams apart from the rest in the league.

Knowing that Nashville wouldn’t be an overly appealing destination for free agency, Poile focused on building his team through the draft. By the mid 2000’s, the Predators owned arguable the best top defensive pairing in the league, with the punishing combination of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who were not only brutal to play against, but were also offensive threats in their own right.

After losing Suter to free agency in 2012, when he signed a massive 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild, something that the budget conscious Predators could never compete with, Poile remained unfazed, and laser focused on his plan. He continued to stockpile elite level defensive talent, and by 2013 he had an embarrassment of riches on the back-end, with the likes of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Matthias Ekholm and Seth Jones to backup his stud superstar Shea Weber on the back end.

The pivot in 2013

In my business, we often talk about pivoting. We know what our strengths are, but we also understand that we need to be flexible, and having the ability to pivot, while keeping momentum, is crucial. That’s exactly what Poile did in 2013, as he entered the next phase of his plan to build the best on-ice product possible. With strength in the net and a surplus of talent on defence, Poile knew that he still lacked the offensive firepower he needed to compete in the high powered Western Conference of the NHL. And with luring free agents to Nashville a near impossibility, Poile, a traditionally cautious general manager, turned to the trade market. He had assets that other teams needed, and what he would do over the next 4 years would be masterful.

April 2013 – Poile traded arguably one of the best offensive players at the time, Martin Erat, to the Washington Capitals, for the then relatively unknown prospect, Filip Forsberg. As we all know now, Forsberg has emerged into one of the most dynamic and dominant forwards in the game.

May 2014 – In an effort to shift more towards an offensive style of play, Poile replaced long time head coach Barry Trotz with Peter Laviolette, who not only has Stanley Cup pedigree, but also is known for his aggressive offensive approach to the game.

June 2014 – Poile then acquired 40 goal scorer and power forward James Neal from Pittsburgh for Patrick Hornqvist, who has also flourished since joining the Penguins

January 2016 – In his most surprising trade to date, Poile finally parted ways with one of his most promising defensive assets, trading the 4th overall pick from the 2013 draft, Seth Jones, to the Columbus Blue Jackets in order to acquire a much needed number 1 centre in Ryan Johansen, who has proved to be invaluable to the team since his arrival.

June 2016 – Less than 6 months after making a splash with the Jones for Johansen trade, Poile shocked the hockey world with one of the biggest, boldest trades of the last decade. He traded away the Predators most popular player, and captain, Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadians for none other than Habs fan-favourite P.K. Subban. The move, while risky, helped the Predators get away from under Weber’s monstrous long term contract. It also allowed them to get younger and more dynamic, as Subban brings both nastiness and flare to the Nashville blue line. Nashville seems like a perfect fit for Subban, who was scapegoated in Montreal. His big personality is welcomed in Nashville and his offensive prowess will surely be used to it’s full capacity under Laviolette.

The lesson here? Have a plan. Stick to it. But be willing to pivot and make changes when opportunities arise. Identify your strengths and your weaknesses, and never stop improving your product.

Nashville Predators: 2017 Stanley Cup Champions?

Those are words that the majority of the hockey world thought they would never hear. But here we are, heading into the Stanley Cup Finals, with the Predators are just 4 wins away from proving everyone wrong. They have a strong on ice product and a passionately dedicated fan-base. But most of all, they’ve created the NHL’s best brand that truly caters to their unique audience. It’s really hard not to cheer for Smashville, and if it weren’t for my hometown team the Ottawa Senators still being in the mix, I’d likely be on the Smashville bandwagon as well.

Branded Content Marketing to Millenials

Branded Content

“People hate advertising, but they love brands.”

This statement stirred a mixed reaction in the crowd. A 50/50 split of unconvinced head shakers, mixed in with bright eyed, agreeable note takers. I focused my attention back to the stage to see where Hassan Ali was going with this.

“I get it, we all need to sell, but the way we do so needs to adapt.”

I do nod my head in agreement to this statement.

Ali, Creative Marketing Director at The Onion was presenting “Get Real. Cut the BS” – his session about using branded content to market to millennials at Digital Summit Seattle.

Branded content was not a new concept to me. I was a big believer in it, especially as we were working towards cracking the elusive millennial market. In addition to that, we were working hard to increase our unaided first mention brand awareness with all Canadians. Talk about a broad target market. In doing so, we’d dabbled with branded content with a few national publishers, focusing primarily on video content.

The key to branded content is authenticity. Give people something real to consume. Give them a story that is meaningful – something that makes them feel something. Maybe it’s humour, or perhaps sadness. It could even be motivation. It’s just gotta be something. As soon as it feels like an ad or a sales pitch, you’ve lost the branded content game.

Branded content isn’t about generating leads or sales…directly. Yes, of course, the end goal of any marketing will be to sell more, but ultimately what you’re doing is making a real connection with your target audience. By layering your brand on top of a publisher’s brand, venn diagram style, you’re goal is to reach your target audience in that overlap sweet spot.

Branded Content Marketing Diagram

If you’re able to do that, and execute it well, you’ll be creating brand awareness, affinity and preference. You’re making them love you.

Why Branded Content Works

It forces creativity

A properly developed and executed branded content campaign forces the lazy marketer to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. Tell a story. Be bold. Get creative. Make it whatever you want. You’re not confined to a :15 or :30, and certainly not to the standard big box or leaderboard ad specs. No borders, no boundaries. Pure opportunity.


Branded content must pass the bull shit filter and force your brand to be truly authentic. It shouldn’t feel like a commercial. It should evoke emotion. It should be shareable. If it’s done right, your audience will let their guard down and allow themselves to consume the content. This makes a lot of brand owners uncomfortable, but your audience will appreciate it. And research shows that well executed branded content is more memorable, helps build positive brand association and drives purchase consideration, especially amongst the millennial crowd.

Leverage a publisher

One of the best ways to make branded content work for you is to partner with a trusted publisher – one that has build trust with your target audience. This is where you can find that sweet spot in the venn diagram overlap. Finding alignment between your brand and offering, and that of your publisher, you have a fantastic opportunity to reach the right audience at the right time in the right environment with the right messaging.

It’s complementary

I don’t believe that all we should be doing is branded content. I feel the same way about social, e-mail, and search. They are all simply pieces of the pie. You’re always going to have certain tactics and strategies that perform best, that drive the most sales, that deliver the highest ROI. Don’t be afraid to invest in those, but make sure that you’re keeping a balanced portfolio of marketing tactics. And try new things. Always try new things. Branded content is one of those pieces, and unlike some, I believe that it is a perfect complement to your display ads, social media programs, email marketing, search efforts, and more. I don’t believe in being a one-trick pony marketer.

As an aside, people don’t hate advertising. People hate shitty advertising. Remember that.

Branded Content in Action

Okay, so what does this actually look like? I knew you were going to ask that question. So I decided to give you two examples. While both of these are video examples, branded content can come in many forms – any form, really. The important thing to note with these two examples is how different they are – the style, the approach, the execution – but they they both ultimately do the same thing. Authentic content that evokes emotion to align a brand with a certain set of values or ideas within a target audience.

Player’s Own Voice

Brand: .CA Domains
Publisher: CBC Sports
Audience: Canadians, 18+
Marketing Goal: Raise unaided first mention brand awareness for .CA
Emotions evoked: Pride, trust, excitement

Campaign overview: Canadians love the Olympics and have a strong desire to get to know their athletes on a more intimate, personal level. At the same time, many Olympic athletes are relatively unknown outside of the games and have a need to build their personal brand. To facilitate this, .CA partnered with CBC Sports on Player’s Own Voice, an online platform for Canada’s Olympic athletes to tell their stories through video vignettes and long form written content. Below is one of the video vignettes we created for volleyball player Gavin Schmitt. We also created videos for Andre De Grasse, Miah Marie Langlois, Sekou Kaba, and Jasmine Mian.

These video vignettes lived on CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Vice platform and were aired on national CBC broadcast prior to and throughout the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, all of which was supported by digital advertising and social media promotion. This partnership not only gave us exclusive access into Olympic programming, but it also allowed us to align our brand with CBC Sports while reaching engaged Canadians on a national level.


Brand: Scott’s Turf Builder
Publisher: The Onion
Audience: Millennial homeowners
Marketing Goal: Create brand affinity to sell more Scott’s to this emerging target audience
Emotions evoked: humour, entertainment, amusement

Campaign overview: In an effort to reach the millennial home owner market, Scott’s Turf Builder partnered with the creative team at The Onion to create a funny, engaging, shareable piece of content that would not only strike a chord with their audience, but would make the brand more approachable and likeable. The result was this cheeky, well-executed video parody of Airbnb which they called Lawnbnb. Have a watch:

By partnering with the Onion, Scott’s was able to take a traditionally boring, un-sexy product and make a unique, meaningful and memorable impact with their target audience.

What are your thoughts on Branded Content?

This post reflects my own personal views.

The Problem with Booking.yeah

When decided to launch its first branded campaign 3 years ago, it wanted to differentiate itself from its counterparts in their increasingly competitive travel industry. With dozens of travel and accommodation comparison sites to choose from, consumers have no shortage of options. So how do you get a potential customer to choose your site over a competitor’s? Most of the leaders in this space spend millions of dollars every year on advertising, battling for your attention in an attempt to stay top of mind. In doing so, most of the major players have developed campaigns based around a memorable character – we have the Travelocity Roaming Gnome,’s Captain Obvious and the “Trivago Guy”.’s campaign

Rather than following the mould built by their competitors, created a memorable campaign of their own while avoiding the branded character approach. Their campaign, Booking.yeah, was developed to transform the word “booking” from a purely transactional action, to one of “sheer, unbridled joy and satisfaction when you open the door to your accommodation and know you’ve got it right”. As a concept, it works. Was it memorable? Absolutely. I’d be shocked if you’re reading this right now and the phrase “Booking.yeah” doesn’t ring a bell. How about the execution? Great. The video spots were high quality, clever, funny, and a little bit weird – the perfect combination for a memorable campaign.

My issue with the Booking.yeah campaign

The Booking.yeah campaign must be working well for They first developed this campaign all the way back in 2013 and they are still using it to this day. But I can’t stand it. It bothers me so much, and here’s why. To me, Booking.yeah is one of the worst marketing campaigns from a domain name strategy perspective. Let’s take a step back here. Around the same time this campaign launched, ICANN (the not-for-profit organization responsible for managing domain name extensions around the world) approved the release of over 1000 new domain name extensions into the market (known as gTLDs). You’ve likely noticed a few of these popping up – .guru, .xyz, .club, .news, .tech, etc. Before that, most websites lived on .com, .net, .ca, etc. But now, website owners had a whole new world of domain name extension to play with. These new gTLDs offer companies the opportunity to expand their domain name portfolio, protect their brand, and get creative with campaign based domains like Booking.yeah.

.yeah doesn’t exist

Yup, that’s right. The .yeah domain name extension isn’t even a thing. This is the part that baffles me. All of their ads in this campaign close with the tagline “ Booking.yeah”. That is their call to action. It’s not a stretch to think that people would try to type this into their browser thinking that it is their domain name. When I first tweeted about my issue with this campaign, a few of my followers agreed that they were confused by the campaign tagline.

booking-henry booking-ryan

Not only does .yeah not exist, but it doesn’t appear as if it is coming soon based on ICANN’s list of upcoming domain name extensions. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear as if event owns, or anything related to this campaign. They have, however, applied for the .booking domain name extension, presumably to run sites like,,, etc. While this is a great strategy, it’s completely in contrast to their booking.yeah campaign, which they have spent the last 3 years investing in. As a marketer, this all makes my head hurt.

The problem with new gTLDs

The recent wave of new gTLDs has turned the domain name market on its head. Registrars are scrambling to market and sell thousands of new products, legacy registries are fighting to hold on to market share, and consumers – well, I think that most consumers are either confused or completely in the dark. If you don’t work in the domain name, web, or tech industries, you might not have any idea that this is going on. A lot of non-techie people that I’ve spoken to think that .co is a typo on .com. That’s not good if you own

I was recently out with a friend buying some beer and I noticed that one of local breweries had secured their brand name on a .beer domain name extension, and had it proudly printed on the label. “Oh, that’s cool” I said, pointing it out. My friend stared at the can, read the domain name ending in .beer, and responded “What the hell is that?”. “That’s their website” I told him. He continued to stare, confused. “What do you mean?”. He didn’t get it – even after I told him that it was their website, he didn’t understand the concept of the new gTLDs. And I don’t blame him. He’s used to the .ca’s and .com’s of the world. To him, had absolutely no meaning.

Concluding my rant

While I’m sure that over time consumers will get used to some of these new gTLDs, creating and using a fake, non-existent TLD in your marketing campaigns is a terrible idea. It causes confusion and pokes holes in your funnel. Sure, if you Google “booking.yeah” you’re going to get a good amount of listings, both paid and organic, for the actual But don’t be fooled – in order to secure these organic rankings, I’m willing to bet that has had to invest heavily in SEO. And on the paid front, you better believe that their competitors are also bidding on this keyword, driving up the cost to own these AdWords positions (see So, in conclusion, if you’re thinking of doing something cheeky with domain names on your next marketing campaign, take booking.yeah as an example of what not to do.

The average Canadian spends 45 hours online per month, more than any other nation and almost double the global average. It’s clear that Canadians love the Internet. The most recent CIRA Internet Factbook explored the online purchasing behaviours of both Internet users and small businesses in Canada and found that e-commerce is on the rise in Canada. The findings in the Factbook indicated that we’re not only seeing an increase in the volume of purchases, but also in the breadth of good and services purchased online.

Not only do we love shopping online, but many Canadians also rely on the web to research and to compare products and prices before purchasing.

We’re a savvy, educated group of consumers. That’s for sure. But what about Canadian businesses? How do they stack up? It turns out, not as well as you’d think. Our research showed that over 40% of Canadian small businesses still did not have a website. This is a problem. This not only puts your brand and reputation at risk, but puts your business at a competitive disadvantage.

Why Do So Many Canadian Small Businesses Not Have A Website?

In a recent study, GoDaddy and Redshift surveyed over 4000 very small businesses (defined as 5 employees or less) to get a better understanding of how they are (or aren’t) utilizing the Internet for their business. An astonishing 59% of Canadian respondents reported that they don’t have a website, and only a third of those plan on building one. So this begs the question: Why? Why is it that in 2016, a year in which we all walk around with smartphones in our pockets, are constantly looking for a Wi-Fi network, and turn to Google with every question we have, does a business not have a website?

“My business is too small to warrant a website”

Among the expected responses of “I don’t have the time”, “it’s too expensive”, and “it’s beyond my technical expertise” (all of which are common misconceptions), 35% of respondents reported that the reason that they didn’t have a website was that they were simply too small. Furthermore, only 33% of them plan on getting a website in the next 2 years.

Why No Business Is Too Small to Have a Website

The Internet is an open place. Websites are not reserved for large, brand name businesses and enterprises with multi-million dollar budgets. Every business, big or small, old or new, global or local, should have a website. Whether you’re a five person retail shop, an independent consultant, or something in between, getting a website for your business is a no-brainer in 2016. Here’s why:

  1. You can protect and build your brand online

    Not having a website —let alone a domain name —puts your brand at risk. Given all of the hard work, time and money you’ve invested in your small business, protecting your brand should be in your best interest, especially online. The first step in protecting your brand online is registering your domain name. This gives you ownership of your brand and will allow you to protect it moving forward. Consider registering multiple variations of your brand name and common misspellings as well. This is a common domain name strategy as it is not only relatively inexpensive, but it gives you full control of your brand online.

    The next step is to create a website and build your brand online. Understandably, many small businesses don’t have a large marketing budget and websites can get expensive. But they don’t have to be. There are several free or low cost website services out there to choose from and many Registrars offer website templates and website builder tools at a very affordable cost. To find a Registrar that offers this service, simply apply the “Website Creation Templates” filter when you search for a domain name. There are also several other ways that you can use your domain nameother than for a website. For example, you can use it to host a professional email ( or you can use it to point to another web property, like your company’s Facebook Page. The bottom line is that your brand is valuable and you should be protecting it online.

  2. Your customers are online

    Like it or not, your customers are online. Sure, you may not sell products or services online, but this is where your customers are doing the majority of their research, discovery and price comparison. It’s also where they go to look up your phone number or store location. As it turns out, consumers care about your website —or lack thereof. 63% of consumers believe that having a website makes a business look more credible, and 26% don’t trust businesses without a website.

    What do you think happens when a potential customer looks up your product or service online and doesn’t find you? They find your competition. Game over. Go where the fish are and get your business online.

  3. It gives your business a competitive advantage

    If your business isn’t online, your competitors that are will always be found in a Google search ahead of you. Why are you making it so easy for them? Now, what if they aren’t online? By getting your domain name and website, you can begin to outrank them in a search and get found by customers. Now that’s a competitive advantage. The GoDaddy and RedShift study showed that 83% of the small businesses that already have a website feel that it gives them a competitive advantage over their competitors who don’t have a website.

  4. It doesn’t have to be expensive

    This is one of the most common misconceptions about domain names and websites. Our recent research shows that Canadian Internet users think that domain names cost $131 per year. On average, .CA domain names cost about $14 per year, and sometimes can be as low as $1.99 with certain Registrars. As for getting a website live, as we mentioned earlier there are plenty of free or low cost website builders like WordPress, WixWeebly and SquareSpace. Furthermore, as we mentioned earlier, many of our Registrars also offer easy to use website creation templates that can sometimes come free with the purchase of a domain name.

The bottom line is that no business is too small to have a website. Stop making excuses and start taking action. Get your perfect .CA domain today to begin building and owning your businesses brand online.

This post was originally published on .CA Voice.

Tourism in Canada

Travel and tourism is a tough industry. While there is an adundance of places for people to go, they are often faced with several constraints – nameley time and money. Convincing tourists to visit your desintation is extraordinaliry difficult. So how do you differentiate yourself?


As the Canadian dollar continues to struggle, tourism is one of the few industries that stands to flourish, with more Americans flocking across the border to explore our great country. Now, when you think of Canadian tourism, what comes to mind? Ottawa has the Rideau Canal. Montreal is widely known in the States as a weekend party destination. Calgary has the Stampede, with Banff only an hour and a half away by car. (In fact, Travel Alberta has done a phenomenal job showcasing their natural beauty through social media. Seriously, follow their Instagram account and tell me you don’t want to go right now.) And then we have Toronto, Canada’s version of New York City. They’ve got everything you could ask for in a major city – except for a good hockey team.

Beyond the popular destinations, Canada (like all countries) has its hidden gems. There are some extraordinary places in this country that don’t get nearly enough credit, or visitors for that matter. This list includes, but is not limited to Quebec’s Eastern Townships, the Yukon, and Newfoundland. However, in my opinion, the destination that unjustly gets overlooked the most is Québec City.

Québec City

Quebec City (3)

I had the opportunity to visit Québec City several times during the four years I spent at Bishop’s University in the Eastern Townships. We frequently made the two hour bus ride to Quebec’s capital city to support our beloved Gaiters as they took on Laval’s basketball or football teams. We also made the trip every February for Québec City’s Winter Carnival, which in all honesty is Winterlude times 100 (sorry, Ottawa).

Québec City is an amazing place. It’s beautiful. It’s historic. It’s enchanting. Now, I’ve never been to Europe, but when explaining Québec City to those who have never been, I always say “It’s like Europe”. Or at least what I imagine Europe must be like. The architecture, food, culture and Joie de Vivre is so vibrant and apparent, you can’t help but get swept off your feet. It’s truly a special place.

Brand Image vs. Brand Identity

Quebec has a stigma to it. You talk to people about it, and they say “It’s too far”. “I don’t speak French”. “Didn’t they used to have a hockey team?”. Most citites suffer from similar stereotypes. Toronto is arrogant. Ottawa is boring. Neither are entirely true. But that’s the brand image of those places. That’s what people perceive them to be. There’s a clear and unfortunate disconnect between the brand identity and the brand image of these cities. Now, this is an issue that several companies face – not just cities in the realm of tourism. Take Subway for example. Their brand identity is that they offer fresh and healthy meals. Their brand image (in my eyes at least) is shitty sandwiches with ingredients that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Brand teams work tirelessly to help align their customer’s peception of their brand with their defined brand identity. And that’s exactly what Québec City has done.

Rebranding Quebec City

One of the biggest mistakes I see in marketing is companies that are passive or reactive. They take the “we’ve always done it this way” approach. That’s just asking to fail. You need to adapt. You need to have foresight. You need to be proactive. You need to understand your users’ needs and concerns.

Québec City’s tourism is by no means suffering. Go to Carnival and you’ll see how busy it is, and how beloved the city is by Quebecers. But that’s just it. Ask 100 people in Québec City during Carnival where they are from, and 99.9 of them will tell you: Québec.

Québec City knows that they had a branding probem. Sure, things are seemingly good. Carnival is a major Québec festival and attraction. I’m sure that local shops flourish, restaurants are packed, and hotels are sold out. But outside of Québec, no one wants to go to Québec. That’s an opportunity.

“So Europe. So Close.”

Tourism Québec recenlty launched a new campaign targeted at English, non-Québec travelers. The campaign, called “So Europe. So Close.”, is flawless.

Quebec City (1)

The website beautifully and seamlessly allows visitors to explore everything Quebec has to offer – from skiing to microbreweries to museums, and everything in between – simply by scrolling to stroll the city; a virtual tour of sorts. The associated video series is one of the best I’ve seen to date – creative, intruiguing, infomative and, unlike most online video advertising, not annoying. I could watch these all day.

The campaign tagline is clear and gets right to the point. First, “So Europe”. The descriptor that I myself have used countless times to characterize this incredible city, is so accurate. Wihtout actually saying it, they’ve basically told you that they are Canada’s Paris – an enchanting, magical, charming, romantic, historic, cultured destination, with so much to offer. “So Close.” You don’t need to cross the ocean or get on a plane (although you can, and it is a short flight) to explore the heritiage and culture that Europe has to offer. There is 400 years of French tradition and history mere hours away.

I think my favourite part about this campaign is that they’ve stayed true to themselves. They aren’t pretending to be something else or changing who they are, they’re just changing how they are perceived. There is a level of cultural pride in these campaigns that I admire. And even though I’ve been almost a dozen times already, I want to go back. As a marketer, and a traveler, I am officially impressed.

Bravo, Québec City.

The NFL is big business.

Despite the negative press they have gotten this year, the NFL is still insanely profitable. Currently, the league sees about $10 billion in annual revenue, a figure they hope to grow to $25 billion by 2027.

Where does all of this money come from? Well, there are four main sources: media rights, tickets, merchandise, and sponsorships.

Currently, about $2 billion of the NFL’s revenue comes from sponsorships, including deals with major brands such as PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s, just to name a few.

However, in the wake of domestic and child abuse scandals surrounding the league and some of its players, sponsors have begun voicing their displeasure with the league, and some, such as Radisson Hotels, have pulled their sponsorship.

While the league may have a serious image problem, companies will continue to invest millions of dollars for brand exclusivity in the NFL.

Bose and NFL Sign Major Sponsorship Deal


The latest brand to do so was Bose, who signed an exclusive deal with the NFL to become the league’s official headset. With the sponsorship, all members of NFL team’s coaching staffs would be required to use the Bose headsets during games – pretty great exposure for the brand. To make things even more interesting, Bose somehow got the NFL to agree to a clause that prevented all players from adorning their competitor’s products during games, and well as during pre and post game interviews.

Not a bad move by Bose to gain the upper hand on one of their major competitors, right?

Well, one of their major competitors, Beats By Dre, took exception.

How Beats By Dre Outsmarted Bose

After leading the San Francisco 49ers to a 22-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, 49ers star quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who happens to be personally endorsed by Beats By Dre, showed up to his post-game news conference wearing a pair of pink Beats headphones, in support of breast cancer awareness month. The league swiftly handed him a $10,000 fine for actions, as per their agreement with Bose.


When asked if Beats By Dre paid his fine, Kaepernick said “We’ll let that be unanswered.” I’m guessing the real answer is “Yes”.

What’s $10,000 to Beats By Dre, who was acquired by none other than Apple earlier this year for a cool $3 billion? It’s nothing. It’s peanuts. For them, it’s a cheap way to make a big splash.

Not only did they still get one of the top players in the NFL to wear their headphones during a televised press conference, but they also made headlines worldwide for the stunt. Just to put this in perspective, a 30 second ad spot during the 2015 Superbowl will cost advertiser’s upwards of $4.5 million. I for one wouldn’t be surprised if Beats By Dre and Kap pulled this stunt again – especially if he brings his team to the big game. It would be a great investment.

Major brands, take note. That is how you make a $10,000 marketing budget go a long way.


A New Yogi

When I started training for the Ottawa Marathon in December of 2013, I decided to give yoga a shot in an effort to improve my balance, increase my core strength, and generally loosen up my stiff joints and muscles. As someone who was new to yoga, I was a bit hesitant. I knew that I would be taken outside of my comfort zone. I began searching for a studio that not only was close to my apartment, but had fair prices and classes that I would enjoy.

What I found was one of the best customer-brand relationships I have ever been a part of.

This is the story of how Elevate Yoga delights their customers by making a big impact with small, yet meaningful gestures.

Remove the Barriers to Entry

For me – a 26 year old male who had never done yoga before – yoga was a tad intimidating. There were a million reasons for me to chicken out and not go to yoga. The first thing that Elevate Yoga did to win me over was make me comfortable and remove the barriers to entry.

My search for a yoga studio began with a simple Tweet. I had noticed that Elevate had opened it’s doors a few months earlier just down the road from my apartment, so I went to Twitter to get the scoop. Amongst the positive reviews I got from my followers, was this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 2.38.35 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 2.22.53 PM

A free class? Perfect. This simple Tweet accomplished a few things. First, they showed me that they didn’t just want my money. They wanted to prove their worth to me. Second, they got me in their doors to experience what Elevate Yoga was all about – the studio, the people, the culture. Lastly, they included my girlfriend Katie, which brought my comfort level with the whole thing up a couple of notches. There was no longer any reason for me not to go. There was nothing stopping me. They had just turned me from someone who was apprehensively considering yoga, to someone who was in their studio experiencing their service first hand.

I loved it, and have been going weekly ever since.

Be Human

Yoga is hard. Really hard. I’m a fairly athletic guy. I run marathons. I bike to and from work each day. I play golf all summer, snowboard all winter, and volleyball all year round. I expected yoga to be intimidating, but I never expected it to be so physically demanding. To be honest, I really struggled with yoga those first few months. I couldn’t get into certain poses, let alone hold them. I got frustrated. Being bad at yoga sucked. I was so used to being good – or at least decent – at every physical activity I participated in. But not yoga. Nope. It really beat me down.

After one of my more frustrating classes, the instructor Kelly came up to me to ask how I was doing. She could obviously tell that I was having a tough time. I was very honest with her. I loved yoga. I loved the class. I loved the studio. But I hated being bad at it. She took the time to talk to me and give me advice.

The next day, the owner of Elevate, Lizl Fleury, sent me an email titled “Your Yoga Practice”.

She personally reached out to me to talk about my practice. What I was having trouble with. How she could help me continue my journey with yoga. She explained the complexities of yoga and the dedication needed to succeed. She offered me a complementary class to go over my needs and to help me find the practice that was right for me. Our conversation went on for several emails, and showed me that she really cared about my personal experience with yoga.

Give Back

Elevate gives back to not just the community, but to their customers too. Here are some examples:

Every Friday evening, Elevate hosts a class call “Elevate Your Charity”, and donates 100% of the proceeds to local charities throughout Ottawa.

On my birthday, I got a free class. Small gesture, but it was nice.

On their one year anniversary they celebrated by giving away free yoga, snacks and prizes.

Basically, they really love their customers, and it shows.

Small, local businesses can learn a lot from a company like Elevate. Provide an incredible service, make it easy for people to participate, treat them like people, not just another customer, and give back as much as you can. Too many business don’t care anymore and take their customers for granted. It’s a damn shame. Elevate gets it.

Their customer service and attention to detail is only a part of what makes them amazing. The rest of their marketing is incredible – their website, newsletter, branding, and social media are all superb. Their studio is beautiful and their people are awesome. Their community involvement is second to none. I can go on and on about them, but you should find out for yourself. Go check out the awesome folks at Elevate Yoga, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


Copy of  Fearless  (2) (1)

That’s the word that is supposed to be defining the 2013-2014 Ottawa Senators. If you follow any of the Sens’ social media accounts, you are familiar with this campaign. They’re really trying to make it work. Like most fans, I don’t buy it. They are not fearless as a team. I am not fearless as a fan. As the team travels to Columbus this week to face the 5-8-0 Blue Jackets, I have no idea what to expect. Sure, it was natural to fear the high flying Sharks and the reigning champion Blackhawks. But come on, I shouldn’t have feared the Islanders or the Stars. No offence to those organizations, but there is a reasonable expectation that we can, and should, be beating those teams. We should be fearless against those opponents, but we simply aren’t. I spent the past few games watching my team in fear. In fear that they would take a bad penalty, give the puck up, or blow a two goal lead. And sure enough, they did.



Remember those Pesky Sens of the shortened 2013 season? The scrappy, hard working team that played the 200 foot game for a full 60 minutes. The team that would grind for the puck, and score in the final minute to tie the game and deflate the opponent? The team that always gave you hope that despite injuries to most star players, or being down in a game, or being a #7 seed playing against a #2 seed, that you always had a chance of winning? I miss those Sens. The post Daniel Alfredsson world is certainly not a Pesky one – nor is it fearless. The fact of the matter is that the on ice product is not there this season – yet. I think it will come. But in the meantime, we are uncomfortably stuck with this “fearless” identity. Despite the valiant efforts from the Senators’ marketing team to make fearless a thing, it just isn’t happening. It’s not their fault. I see what they are trying to do, but you can’t force these things.

#PeskySens worked becuase it happened naturally. Rumour has it that it started down in Binghamton during the Senators’ 2010-2011 Calder Cup run to describe their scrappy, never-say-quit style of play that helped them win a championship. And so, last year when the big club shocked the hockey world and succeeded through adversity, the Pesky identity came to the surface again. Fans, players, media and even the team’s official social media accounts used the term relentlessly. Everyone loved it. It wasn’t forced. It was real. It was earned.

So this year the marketing team wants convey the perception that the Senators are a fearless team. Fair enough. But if they play in fear, and their fans watch in fear, then no one is going to buy the fact that they are apparently “fearless”. You can’t define the team, the team will define themselves. The same rings true with other brands. Apple doesn’t just say they are innovative – they practice what they preach. They lead by example.

According to the Senators, Fearless is a “season-long marketing initiative aimed to capture the spirit of the team’s never-quit attitude and courageous style of play and share it with the Sens Army.” Sounds to me like they are just trying to emulate pesky, which is impossible. Last year’s Sens were truly a pesky bunch. That is a fact. People not only believed it to be true, they knew it was true.

Let this team define who they are. It’s something that Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan and the group are still trying to figure out. It’ll take time, but it’ll come.



The Real World

Making the shift from university life to the “real world” is tough. You thought 10AM classes were early? Try being up at 6:30 in the morning, 5 days a week. You thought 6 hours of class a day was a lot? Try 8-10 hour days. You have more responsibility, accountability and expectations. While some thrive in this transition, others don’t fare so well.

I did alright. I started my “real life” career working remotely, meaning that I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, look presentable, and get myself to an office by 9AM. I did, however, have a ton of responsibility. As my career progressed, I shifted into the office environment, was client facing, responsible for large projects, and accountable for tight deadlines.

How did I survive?

I swear training for a marathon had a lot to do with it. I started training for my first half marathon about two years ago. It was exciting, sometimes overwhelming, exhausting and extremely rewarding. I not only learned a lot about the art and science of long distance running, but also about myself. Marathon training taught me numerous invaluable skills and lessons that have not only helped my personal life, but also my professional life.

1. Goal Setting

Training for a marathon teaches you about short and long term goal setting, and rewards you along the way as you reach those goals. At first, running a marathon was incredibly daunting. But as I reached my weekly long run goals in my training of 18km, 24km and 30km, as well as my pace goals, I gained confidence and saw how I was improving each week and realized that I would achieve my end goal of 42.2km. Setting short and long term goals, both personally and professionally can yield similar results. If you don’t set professional goals, one day you will get to work and wonder what you’v been working towards for the past 3 years.

2. Time management

We’re all busy. Between work, the dog, family, social life and personal hobbies, I sometimes feel like I don’t have a single night to just relax. It can be very overwhelming. Last night I was looking over my training schedule for the marathon this coming spring. For 18 weeks it has me running at least 8km a day – some days as much as 32km. And, there are a grand total of 7 off days during that time. My weekly kilometre totals range from 65km to 95km. At a 5:00 min/km pace, that’s about 5.5-8 hours of running per week. That doesn’t take into account getting ready for your run, stretching afterwards, refuelling, showering, etc. So how do you squeeze 6-8 hours of running into each week? You just do. You commit yourself, and you find a way to make it work. The same is true in the workplace. Being able to effectively and efficiently manage your time to reach your daily and weekly goals is crucial.

3. Daily Routine

When training for a full or half marathon, you’re running on average 5-7 days a week. Your run becomes a part of your daily routine. What was once a challenging aspect of my life is now as natural to me as walking my dog or brushing my teeth. Challenge yourself at work. Find something that you want to achieve, and work towards it. Engrain it into your daily work routine, and it will start to become second nature. Nothing happens overnight. But over time, you will work your way towards that goal.

4. Accountability

When you’re training for a marathon, it’s just you. Sure, you can train with friends and you have moral support from others. But at the end of the day it is up to you to train, day in and day out. If you miss a day, well – that’s on you. And trust me, missing a day sucks. Not only does it set you back in your training, but if you’re like me, you feel really guilty. Marathon training like nothing else I have ever experienced in my life teaches you about responsibility and accountability. Sure you have supporters, but you are accountable for your training, for your runs and for your result. This is maybe one of the most valuable lessons running has taught me that I have applied to my personal and professional life.

5. Strengths and Weaknesses

Early on in my training for my first half marathon I learned that I was fast. As an aspiring marathon runner this was my greatest strength. Shortly after, I learned about my weaknesses. Long distances. Endurance. Hills. Cold. While it is important to know your strengths, it is even more important to know your weaknesses. Marathon running isn’t all about speed. Yes, it is a race, and the person who runs the full distance the fastest wins. But it is just as much about your endurance. Being able to maintain a consistent pace for over 40km. Being able to handle wind, cold, and hills. I’ve since learned how to manage my speed into a realistic pace. How to run up hills, and down hills. How to deal with cold, wind, snow and ice. How to run in the scorching hot sun and humidity. I’ve been realistic and identified where I was weak and worked on those areas. Professionally, do the same. If you’re not great at teamwork, focus on that. Have trouble managing your time? Work on it. It will not only make you a better employee, but a better person.

6. Health Benefits

Training for a marathon will improve your health. There is no doubt about that. When you’re running, you’re probably also making better food decisions. You have more energy and live a more positive life. Being a morning person, I usually do my weekday runs in the morning before work. This would set the tone for the rest of my day. Up early, run 10km, healthy breakfast and then work. I’m bound to have extra energy, productivity and positivity. And it shows.

This is just the start. There are countless ways that marathon training has helped me improve my personal and professional lives. My advice: if you’re interested in competitive running, sign up for a race. Start small if you want. Define a training schedule that fits your needs and stick to it. The process and experience of training for a race will change the way you live your life.


Buffer got hacked this weekend.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. What’s even more unfortunate is that most companies passively react to these situations and deflect blame elsewhere.

Not Buffer.

I had an email in my inbox from Joel Gascoigne, Buffer’s Founder & CEO, within the hour of them being hacked. It was the first I had heard of it. Now, this is actually pretty normal. All emails I receive from Buffer are from Joel, and he does a great job of making them feel as personable as possible.

The email was honest and straight forward: Buffer has been hacked – here is what’s going on. No bullshit, just straight to the point. Right off the bat he apologized and took full blame for the situation. He empathized with me, letting me know that he understands how frustrating and awful this experience was, and that he “can only understand how angry and disappointed (I) must be right now.”

He then went on to explain what happened, who was affected, how to stay in the loop and what I should do next.  He assured me that no billing or payment information was affected or exposed, nor was my password. The blog was updated 7 times between Saturday at 1pm and Sunday at 3pm, keeping users up to date about the measures that had been taken to restore their security.

After apologizing and taking all of the blame once again, Joel invited me to send him a personal email, comment on his blog post or reach out via Facebook or Twitter if I had any questions or comments. He then followed up with another email at 3AM this morning, letting me know that Buffer was back up and running.

How about that? Accountability, transparency and honesty. Have a look at the user comments on the blog post and you’ll see that real people appreciate this kind of stuff.

Why can’t more companies be like Buffer? Thanks guys.