Fresh ideas for 2016

DATE: November 25th, 2015

A recent study by Hotwire PR has identified several upcoming trends for marketing & communications in 2016. Targeting based on interest rather than age, pursuing native advertising in the age of ad-blockers and exploring opportunities in virtual reality are just a few of these trends. Read the full report and try some fresh ideas in 2016!

Meet the New Girl-Sara Nadalin

DATE: November 19th, 2015

We are so excited to welcome the amazing and talented Sara Nadalin to our Barefoot team (yes, we do wear shoes to the office, no, it is not a requirement that they be removed upon working here.) Enough about us, I’ll let Sara introduce herself:


Born and raised on a hobby farm in Cambridge, Ontario, I first started messing around with HTML at the age of 12 when I was looking for a fun way to practice my typing skills. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was more interested in designing the website than programming it. Not having a clue where to start, I begged my parents for Jasc Paint Shop Pro—I clearly had not yet discovered the glory of the Adobe suite.

Fast forward 15 years: I am a graduate of Conestoga College’s Graphic Design program, a self-proclaimed “typography junkie”, and I couldn’t be more excited to start this new chapter of my design career at Barefoot Creative!

When I’m not designing or doodling I enjoy singing, going for hikes, exploring, and practicing yoga.

Non-profits as leaders in innovation…

DATE: November 18th, 2015


“Innovation” and “non-profit” in the same sentence?

First of all, let’s dispel the notion that Non-Profits are, well, not-for-profit. Unlike the For-Profit sector, Non-Profits’ role is to make as much profit as possible and then distribute that profit to their owners – society. As a societal shareholder, I want to see my Non-Profits contribute with professionalism and effectiveness. It’s a misnomer to believe that Non-Profits should work on shoestring budgets with low paid staff working on hand-me-down computers and sitting on mismatched slightly malfunctioning chairs.

Those working for social good should be industry leaders, using strategies of communication, marketing and testing that meet stated goals. The role of the Non-Profit is to generate greater good. To generate greater good there needs to be an underlying source of funding. Believing that is done by happenstance and benevolence is naïve.

We often dream about doing a truly innovative campaign – like the “Share a Coke Tour” (custom product kiosks), Dove “You are Beautiful Campaign (unlimited appeal), and the infamous Apple/PC ad. But Non-Profits have been leaders: Movember, Dumb ways to Die and UNICEF’s Tap project have all won awards for innovation alongside For-Profit campaigns.

Non-Profits too often lament the lack of budget, rather than focus on what really matters: communication that truly connects with the audience.

It’s more difficult than expected. Too many times Non-Profits chase “what works” for other organizations. Putting five greeting cards, a pen and stickers into a label package is not innovative or brand centric. While the response of that package may make sense in the short term, the donors are neither loyalty driven or sustainable for the long term. I wonder if the package is done again and again and again because it is cost-effective and driven by a direct response method unconcerned about brand or, for that matter, long term loyalty.

While many Non-Profits wish for a quick, cash-rich campaign like Movember or the Ice Bucket Challenge, truly innovative Non-Profits must put their imaginations to work to develop campaigns and products that build long-term loyalty among donors.

Simple Makes Sense

DATE: November 17th, 2015



Innovation is always a result of an expressed need. Often the innovation, upon reflection, seems simple – like the Dove’s beauty campaign. It just makes sense.

Donor’s Choose, a US web portal, invites teachers to request items they need from the general public. The site celebrates crowdfunding. Donors can choose to provide a classroom tickets to the local museum, an art program, books for the library – the requests are broad and often inventive. The site was launched in 2003. To date, it has raised almost $370  million dollars for over 640,000 projects.

The theory behind the site is simple – teachers (the direct beneficiary) tell the public (the donor) what they need and why. The transaction takes place online, taking advantage of a huge reach. Donors can give a few dollars or provide the funds for the whole project. This kind of crowdfunding is raising eyebrows from coast to coast.

The idea is inspired by KickStarter, a funding site for entrepreneurs. Amanda Palmer, a musician who uses crowdfunding in a big way, uses extremely creative social media, events and web tactics to increase her ability to fund through crowds. She does not simply post and rely on the public to find her.

Her insights for raising funds are inspiring. She says:

But with busking, as with crowdfunding: asking is the relationship. The trust and humility created by the artist with their hat out on the street, and the generosity of the person tossing in their coin, is all part of the art form.

One of her most insightful observations was that she noticed that there were thousands of people who were just waiting to become a part of something that was much bigger than they were. Joining her on her journey to produce art resonated with them.

Amanda Palmer stood out. She did things no other artist had ever considered. She dared to change the paradigm.

Mustaches Make Money: Non-Profits Inspiring Innovation

DATE: November 12th, 2015


Non-profits are rarely seen as leaders in marketing innovation. But the environment in which Non-Profits find themselves is ripe for innovation: tight budgets, great talent and inspiring need.

Truly innovative marketing has little to do with budget. A tight budget may, in fact, develop a stronger and more compelling campaign. Innovative marketing starts with a problem and uses imagination within the confines of the resources available to develop a solution. Seth Godin, in Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable urges companies to resist boring mass marketing that is repetitive and begin to separate from the herd and be “Remarkable”.

Shouldn’t a non-profit be remarkable? After all, they are doing heroic, courageous things within our world. And they have the power to invite ordinary people to come alongside and join them.

There are innovative campaigns that are working.

Movember is one of them. Last year Movember raised $24 million for prostate cancer in Canada alone. Over the past 11 years the campaign has raised almost $700 million dollars world-wide.

What can we learn?

There is immense power in a movement that captures the imagination of men and women around the world. It started with a good cause; a cause that was a little uncomfortable to talk about. A simple fundraising model was added to the good cause. The idea was simple, attractive and caught the attention of people world-wide. But it didn’t start at millions of dollars. It started small and grew strategically, taking advantage of web, social media and playfulness.

Aldous Huxley wrote: “The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar… Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted and always derided as fools and madmen.”

So let’s cause a little trouble… what do you think defines innovation?

Resources: Investing in growth

DATE: November 3rd, 2015

What an opportunity! We love being able to experience our clients’ work first-hand as we gather photo and story resources to use in their fundraising and communication pieces. Last month two of our staff traveled to India to spend time with children, women and men affected by leprosy and Lymphatic Filariasis.

RS24494_EH India 2015  1739-lpr
While the trip was busy with interviews and program visits, our team was honoured to be included and happy to have gathered some great resources for the coming yearToboggans gonflables!

Happy Birthday CASL

DATE: July 23rd, 2015

If you don’t know what CASL is, you haven’t been listening. Canada’s Anti-Spam Law celebrated its first birthday on July 1. And it’s been a busy year for the legislative bodies: the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Competition Bureau. More than $31.2 million in fines have been handed to those who refused to listen.

Our take-away?

They’re serious! Canadians are interested as well and over 326,000 people have taken time out of their busy days to complain.

From a recent publication of the Canadian Marketing Association (July 2, 2015), here are the three requirements that must be met:

1. Consent must exist (either implied or express) to send the CEM.
2. The CEM in question must contain prescribed identification information.
3. The CEM must contain a functioning unsubscribe link.

Here’s a quick look at some things you may not know:

1. Implied and express consent continues to be a slippery slope. Implied consent means that your customer engages in a transaction with you every two years. Express consent is when a customer signs a form that gives you permission to contact them through email. You decide what you need to do.

2. The jury’s still out on when to sneak the little paper under the digital signature of your customer. Some say – just do it and get it over with. Others argue that you may miss your initial sale, so hold off a bit. Your marketing and communications team needs to make sure they are on top of customer performance.

3. Know that in any case you can email someone you have done business with for two years UNLESS (and this is significant) your customer has told you they do not want to hear from you. Which, of course, means that you have to give them an easy way to unsubscribe.

4. You can email someone for two years from the time of the most recent transaction. If they did not buy from you, you can email them for six months from the time they asked you about their business.

5. The actual word “relationship” is undefined – so it’s pretty open.

There are many websites, including the CRTC, that give more information. The bottom line? Take care to protect the privacy of business partners and customers. It matters.

Marketing 2020

DATE: May 28th, 2015

Hard to develop a 5-year plan when Google and Apple are changing our lives in increments of seconds… but Fast Company gathered several astute marketers and asked them what they thought. As I read the article, I thought about the many ways we need to be cognizant of change as we begin to market – but it’s a slippery slope.

Take web design.

Five years ago left side navigation, resistance to scrolling, glow in the dark click buttons were not only pervasive, but requested. Today navigation is subtle, embedded into the design. Navigating a site becomes an experience. Scrolling is everything because mobile devices are everywhere – the smart phone is anchored in our little fists. Click buttons are a part of the design and designed as a function that carries the brand and campaign.

How do we keep up?

Two core things:
1. Understand your goals. When you know where you’re going it’s much easier to choose the route, the equipment needed, supplies and clothing.
2. Understand the trends. Today is Google’s day. All day long tweet masters are shooting out innovations proposed by Google. Know what’s happening and use what makes sense.

When you understand where you’re going and the trends, you can focus, choosing the marketing strategies right for your company or non-profit (I prefer social-profit… so you’ll see that crop up). And you can stop chasing shiny objects that catch your eye in the distance.

I believe there are three core components to the future of marketing and communications:

1. Technology
2. Data
3. Brand

Technology is tough. I still find it hard to believe that people read books with paper pages. But I have been reading on a screen for years. You can laugh, but I read Stephen King’s Under the Dome on my Blackberry Torch (OK, now I’m laughing too). I should have known I could have just binge-watched it on TV. I won a Kobo e-Reader before it was wireless (2010 – but it seems longer!)

As you’re reading this you’re saying, “Hey, I still read paper books…. And print magazines too.” Yeah – and so do millions of people.

Trends in technology have to be adopted in sync with your audience. I was chatting with a print magazine this week. My mind was crazy popping with ideas of what they could do if they tossed print. The bi-monthly publication could publish every day. News could be news when it’s news. Videos could replace written interviews (a little edgy to record the interview instead of writing it up, but hey…). Social media and sharing could transform its reach.

But here’s the clincher… they don’t know if their reading audience reads on a screen, is interested in reading on a screen or even has a screen. Yeah, the board and many staff members are – but they really need to understand the audience.

You may find this hard to believe, but there are real people out there who own a smart phone and use it only to talk on the phone and text their children who don’t understand the theory of live conversation. Many of them have never used a QR code (phew…. ).

I would argue a web site is a critical tool for all companies in today’s economy. But our attitudes are changing about technology. Bells and whistles (fire shooting from the corner of our nav bar?) are a thing of the past – today our audiences want the web site to work without hesitation, be intuitive (read: think like I think) and contain the content I’m looking for.

Content is king.

Data is AMAZING. I still can’t figure out why Shopper’s Drug Mart sends me the identical eblast EVERY day (twice today). They know what I buy. The hay day of personalization is just beginning, but right now most companies are not really smart enough to use it well. It’s just so big.

Google and Facebook are data geniuses. But data is still a problem. First of all, the laws and perceptions about privacy are poorly articulated and misunderstood. We still don’t fully understand the play between “metadata” and personal data. Metadata identifies trends and allows us to identify shifting trends and collective behaviour.

Metadata also ushers in the age of the masses. There is an ironic interplay between metadata and true personalization. We are nowhere near understanding what that means. We do know that finite personalization in some cases backfires, as it scares the consumer. In other cases, companies shooting you coupons as you walk by the store is awesome!

Data also means a data base. Our experience is that data base expertise is essential in a data base that performs. You’ve all heard “garbage in garbage out” too many times for it to even be meaningful at this point. But you need to understand a few basic pieces.

A data base is not intuitive. Each cell needs to represent one piece of data. When you have set it up properly, understanding what information you are tracking and what comparisons you are doing – the data becomes a powerful tool in developing your annual marketing strategies. But if it’s inaccurate, undocumented and tries to do too much in one little cell – you’ll just give up. The data base does not analyze – the professional uses the data to draw out trends.

We are swimming in oceans of polluted data. That needs to change for data to truly be useful.

Brand is more than a name, an icon or a colour. Brand is an experience. Today’s savvy marketers understand that the core brand doesn’t change at the whim of the campaign strategist, writer or designer. BUT the core brand is positioned for audiences.

And understanding audience today is tricky. We are just catching the cusp of a really revolutionary thought: generation groups do not all have the same characteristics. We have fallen into a bit of a habit of putting Builders, Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials (and, and, and) into neat little boxes. We’re seeing 20 year olds with extremely traditional values and 80 years tapping away on their tablet looking for innovative ideas.

I honestly don’t really think that’s new but segmentation has made us lazy. We have shoved age groups into cultural groups, defining them by age not by performance, issue or interest. Brands need to shrug out of the idea that they are a “young” brand or an “old” brand.

Brand managers and marketers need to be savvy in applying the brand values to specific audiences – not to an age group. I think we will all be surprised at how diverse the interest groups actually are. You are going to need your data to understand your unique audience.

The biggest challenge I see is the growth of complexity as multiple channels, more sophisticated technology and multiple audiences emerge. We have been talking integration for decades. We still find it challenging to do. There are so many opportunities, but today’s marketers need to pick and choose. They need to identify their marketing goal before they even write their brief. They need to establish consistent outcomes to evaluate performance.

Inspired by Jeff Beer, Fast Company

Are you encouraging a Deletist Culture?

DATE: April 24th, 2015

Marketing professionals have stupendous skills in creating jargon. In this case we may want to pay some attention. The “Deletist Consumer”, a term coined by Aimia, refers to our penchant for mindlessly swiping irrelevant emails from brands. A new study from the Aimia Institute (the research arm of Aimia) reports that 72% of Canadians say they receive useless junk email every day. Frankly, that seems a little low to me. Perhaps Canadians are generous to brands that over mail and under engage.
What’s more 53% opt out of the “the majority” of email communications they receive from brands. 71% have unfollowed/unliked brands on social channels and 73% have closed accounts and subscriptions because they don’t like the communications they received.
Increased use of smart phones makes it a quick swipe to lose the message. Don’t get the research wrong. Canadians love e-mail or updates from brands they love AND send relevant information. In fact, 74% are generally happy receive marketing offers and 55% share personal details to receive relevant offers. So here’s my beef… I already did a whole blog on Shoppers… but here’s a company that has copious amounts of data – from how often I purchased Reactin to my favourite brand of mascara. Now, as my eyes drip and my nose runs in the spring mold and I really need that waterproof mascara, I get the exact same offer as everyone – more loyalty points. The teaser line “A personal offer for Gayle” is a train wreck. The only part of “personal” that comes from their excellent data is “Gayle”. Even the least savvy data can do that.
OK – rant done.
So here’s some advice:
1. If you’re messages are not personal – don’t say they are. Authentic brands don’t sell snake oil.
2. Find the perfect match between frequency and relevancy. This is an art, not a science. Good friends chat daily. Long distant relatives – not so much.
3. Understand the psycho-social trends of your audience. I know – it’s old school marketing – but understanding your audience is still relevant.
4. Whisper. There is a lot more power in a whisper than a shout. If you have a secret – share it to your best customers, it’s human nature to love to be the first to hear.
5. Use social as a conversation not a soap box – conversation means a dialogue between two or more people. Make sure you respond to people who are talking to you. The more personal the better.
Enough advice for a Friday… marketing is an amazing opportunity to share good news with the people who care about your brand. Have fun with it!

Barefoot News

DATE: April 17th, 2015

I have ignored the blog for weeks, the discipline of writing slipping out of my hands as I balance clients, strategic growth and moving. This fall Kevin and I were day dreaming about the next phase of Barefoot. We had seen tremendous growth in the first ten years of the business. It was exciting, invigorating and, well, just a little daunting. As the economy slipped into recession, we re-evaluated our business model. We decided to down-size to reduce management and administrative tasks, building a team that was much more agile and responsive to client needs and, most of all, free to create not manage.

As we changed things internally, we realized our current office space really didn’t work for us.

Partitions, boring walls (even though we painted them bright blue and green), file cabinets (paperless???). Then the train rushed through our office rattling windows, startling Dan’s Gnomes into a tremulous dance and fluttering papers across the desk. I no longer even heard the train — after more than 10 years I had become numb to its movement — but most of our team had not. Underneath the new plaster and carpet the building was over a hundred years old and the train was about 14 feet from our back windows. The whole building trembled when the train would pass. Clients would stop mid-sentence, wondering if they should run for cover.

Then when the UPS man was held hostage to the failing mechanics of our only elevator for an hour or so, we thought….”Hmmmm, maybe it’s time to move.”

So we started the search.

We looked at strip malls…. nope, that wasn’t really going to work for us. Wrong feel totally.

We looked at high rise office buildings…. yeah, yeah — same old, same old.

The, by happenstance, we noticed a little stone cottage in the village of Breslau. Kevin and I had looked at the building more than 5 years ago. It was just a little quirky, but we both were intrigued by the possibilities.

We looked at it again…

We brought our team to look at it….

We met the landlords…

We shook hands…

And then we filled all sorts of green boxes with stuff and moved into this lovely cottage..

office front

The myth we heard about this lovely 19th century cottage is that is housed the first corporate head office of Zellers Canada. While that would be a lovely story to tell… I did a little digging and I don’t think it is anything but a myth. But it may be (and I haven’t been able to unearth any actual facts), that this was the farm house that Walter Phillip Zellers ( who started Zellers in 1931) grew up in, one mile from Breslau (That pretty much works out).

What we did discover was that it is PERFECT for Barefoot.

The cottage’s stone walls are two feet thick and the window ledges are crying for beautiful plants (our challenge is to keep them alive, not proven to be a strong point in the past). There are windows (that open — which is always a bonus) throughout the offices, even the new addition built on to the back is chalked full of windows. And it is quirky — perfect for a creative agency. The addition was trimmed in Knotty Pine — which may have been a fashion statement, but I can’t think when. So we painted over it. Thank you Laird — now the offices are bright and efficient while retaining the history of the cottage.

We are so excited.

Located right in the hub of Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph and Cambridge, the office is so close to all of our local clients. Toronto, Canadian and international clients can skip the KW traffic jams and come through the corn fields … it’s a beautiful drive and so easy to do. We are right by the International Airport — so Ken you can just walk to our office when you fly in!

We have more space than we had on Victoria Street and the space is awesome. Our board room, the full 2nd floor, is a great space to dream, plan and build creative strategies to help companies, organizations and non-profits reach their goals.

Our formal Open House is on June 19, 2015 from 12 pm to 6 pm…. but you can drop in any time.

Join us in celebrating a new season for Barefoot — a season of increased creativity, imagination and focus on doing good for our local community, our province, our nation and our world. Great communication impacts change.