Friday, August 8, 2014

10 Things to Consider If It’s Time To Refresh Your Website.

Websites do have an expiry date and if yours is getting close to its 'best before date' here are a few helpful ideas that may challenge you and your team to look beyond a basic refresh to the site visuals and look for opportunities to refresh the user experience too!

      1. From the moment a visitor hits your landing page you may only have 10-20 seconds to make an impression so make sure it is a good one by starting with your navigation. It should be intuitive and immediately apparent to your visitors - don’t leave them ‘mousing’ around trying to figure out how to find things.  It helps when you keep the most useful or relevant pages prominent at the top of the site and include a detailed sitemap in the footer for everything else you offer.

2. Tell the user exactly what you do... as quickly as you can you can! Perhaps through a tagline a slogan or even a short paragraph describing who you are, sometimes even a simple image might do the trick but remember you need to establish your identity clearly and quickly.

3. Consistent and apparent branding – your brand is your identity and your website should reflect that; keep you colours, logo and brand voice consistent throughout the site.

4. These days a blog is one of the easiest and simplest ways to talk to your customers and potential customers. A blog provides a great opportunity for social media sharing and when you keep it up to date it also keeps your web audience returning regularly for valuable info and trends on your business and sector/industry you are in. Your blog can also become another valuable feedback loop to learn more about what your audience is thinking.

5. Your company blog, can also be a showcase for your talented team so consider giving credit to the author, or adding a photo, brief bio, social media links for the author with each new post.

6. Your website should make it easy for your audience to connect with you, don’t hide your company contact information, include a customer service number at the top of your home page - nothing is more frustrating to a customer then not finding the answer they need on your site, but it is made even worse if they can’t find a way to reach you for more information.

7. Include all your social media channels – not only will adding social media links enhance to the credibility of your organization it customers more opportunities to connect with you through the social channels they prefer. Give your web users share options too they are after all your best advocates on line so make their job easy.

8. What do you want your web visitors to do? Should they call you, talk about you, buy your product, come work for you, volunteer or fundraise for you? All your amazing graphics, design work, updated information and SEO efforts will be for nothing if you don’t tell people what you want them to do. Please don’t forget or miss the opportunity to tell people what you want them to do!

9. Don’t be afraid to brag… at least a little. Use your website to showcase what you do, tell your audience why you are good at it and then back it up by referencing awards, press releases, testimonials, product reviews and work samples if possible.

10. Another tip to keep your web visitor engaged with your site is by helping them find information that interests them so look for opportunities to provide links to similar content on other pages within your site, for example at the end of a blog post include a link to a similar-themed blog posts on the subject or a link into your website where that content is discussed further.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Is your website still working hard for you?

Recently I was channel surfing and stumbled upon an infomercial for a rotisserie style chicken cooker just in time to hear the audience cheerfully shouting out the catchy tag line – “Just set it and forget it."

It reminded me that while that approach might work for chickens, not so much for websites!

I am often surprised by how many small businesses shortchange their marketing efforts by taking a “set it and forget it” attitude when it comes to their very own “innovative, time saving” marketing device--their very own website.

These days a corporate website is a fairly standard item in your marketing toolbox and for many it is at the core of their company’s online  presence.

With that in mind why would anyone be surprised to learn that, unlike rotisserie ovens, you can’t simply build it and ‘forget it’.

Building a company website is a costly process, it usually takes a lot of time and manpower. This means your corporate website is much more than just a great marketing tool, it is also a significant financial investment and needs to be treated as such!

Regular maintenance, upgrades and content reviews are critical to ensure that your website continues to work hard for your company.

Here are a few suggestions to help you check in on your company website and ensure it is still working at peak capacity for your business.

  • Is your website more than 2-3 years old? If it is it is then it probably contains some outdated html or other outdated code. That needs to be updated or revised.
  • Is it Flash Based? Sure it looks cool but if your current site uses flash - .fla or .swf file that means that no Apple devices can read your site and given the crazy popularity of the iPhone and iPad, your site may be ignoring a significant chunk of your audience. 
  • Is your site trying to hard? Websites are no longer expected to provide every piece of information about your company, your business, your product and your people. Today your site should be focused on key business goals, and provide information accordingly. Ask yourself, why does our company have a website? What is the single most important thing it should do? Now take a look at your site and see if it does that, if not it is time to rethink things!
  • Does your site have spelling mistakes and broken links? Your website is an extension of you and your company and credibility is crucial even the best-designed site in the world won’t sell if your customers don’t believe in your professionalism and expertise. How can you turn visitors into customers if your site is full of errors and links to nowhere?
  • Does your website still match your corporate brand? Your website is one of the most public examples of your brand and brand consistency is extremely important in the online environment. You are building your company’s brand so don’t confuse your consumers with inconsistent font styles, colors or old logos. Your website should reflect your most recent style guide and branding and logo development. 
  • Does anybody hear you? Has anyone engaged with your site in the last month? In the last 6-months? Has anyone left a comment or filled out a form? Is there a simple way for website viewers to connect with you? If the answer is no it is time to revisit your website. Interaction is critical online, your site should be user friendly allowing easy sharing of your web content through some of the most popular Social Media Platforms? Have you built in quick, simple to find links to your own SM sites and are you using SM to drive traffic back to your website?
  • Is your site mobile friendly? How does your website look and operate on an smart phone, on a tablet? Mobile use is on the rise and if your site is not optimized to be responsive to mobile devices it is only doing half the job, half of the timeDoes your website use GPS coordinates to allow mobile users access to directions and maps to locate your business? 

Give your website new life with a redesign by Francomedia. We create functional inviting websites that support your business and engage your customers. If you would like to review your current site or talk to us about a the development of a new site - you can reach us online at or connect via email

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Are You Ready To Tell Your Brand Story?

One of the most integral steps in the marketing plan process is developing a brand strategy. It’s often the thing that causes most businesses the biggest challenge but it is the most vital step in creating your company identity. Your brand story will be repeatedly communicated, in multiple ways with frequency and consistency through the life of you business. Starting off with a well thought out brand strategy will allow your business to move in a focused meaningful direction with all of your marketing in the years to come.

A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies in today’s competitive marketplace. It’s important to spend time investing in research, defining and building your brand; after all your brand, is the source of your commitment and promise to your customer. It is the foundational element that later defines all of your market and advertising communications.

If you fail to establish your brand, you run the risk of sending mixed and inconsistent messages to your potential customers, which can cost you existing as well as future clientele. The main goal of a solid brand strategy is to connect your product or service with your target clientele. In order to do that, both need to be properly and succinctly defined.

The first step is to define who you are. What does your business do? What are your values as an organization? Where are you currently positioned in your market and where do you want to be positioned? These and dozens of other questions need to be properly answered and fully understood.

Start with the stakeholders of your company. Ask questions an get their take on the important positioning questions.

Identify your goals for the company or organization. Knowing where do you want to be in the marketplace is crucial as the identity you portray to the public and both must be in harmony with the ethics, goals and viewpoints of the principals and management team of your business.

Define the brand audience. The next step in this process is to clearly define your audience and identify the objectives that the brand needs to achieve and build a plan that will help you succeed in meeting those objectives.

Establish your position in the marketplace. What is your value proposition, how are you better than your competition. What is it you do/can offer that others don't?

Good Branding, creating great brand stories, is not about getting your target audience to pick you over the competition, but rather, it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only possible solution to their problem. The story your brand tells should make crystal clear every time it is told.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hook a Ship-Shape Brand in 2014!

Hook a Ship-Shape Brand in 2014!

Yes it’s a brand new year, and while thousands of people are working on personal resolutions to get in shape, why not seize this opportunity and make 2014 the year you get your brand in shape.

Lets start with your current brand and understanding how important it is to your business success.  The reality is, good, bad or indifferent, your brand defines your business! The essence of your brand is the first thing that comes to mind when someone sees your logo or thinks of your company.  It takes a time, work and consistent effort to create a positive brand, however it takes surprisingly less effort to damage or weaken a brand.

Maintenance is always easier than rebuilding!

Why not invest a little time and effort right now to maintain your brand, rather than wait for the costly alternative of rebuilding a brand that has been neglected or ignored and has grown weak and out of shape.

The first step to get your brand in shape is to revisit  exactly what it is you provide to your customers. Keep in mind, this is more than just a product, it should be the idea at the heart of your business; the thing that makes you stand out from your competition, this 'big idea' is your brand vision.

Once you have a clearly defined what you offer, spend some time examining how you deliver it. The answer to ‘how’ also has an important role to play in the overall brand experience and creates expectations for both new and existing customers.

Don’t be Afraid to ask Questions

Don’t let being afraid of the answer prevent you from asking the right questions when it comes to your brand. Remember your brand must reflect what your customers and employees really think about your business in order to be credible, so take some time and ask questions. 

Ask customers and staff to tell you what they like and dislike about your business, you need to understand what people honestly think of your brand and what they are saying about it when you aren’t in the room, after all you can’t fix or improve things if you don’t know what isn't working well.

When you compare what people think with your brand vision, any gaps or discrepancies that appear, shine a spotlight on the areas you should start to work on first.

Once the gaps are identified you can put a plan in place to address each point one by one. When your plans are ready to roll out, put your marketing team to work communicating your brand vision and values to your customers, suppliers and staff. 

Engage Staff

A new logo or clever tagline is only one small piece of your brand. The truth is your brand also has a voice, a personality, a reputation and much more. Successful branding will require you to embed all of these elements of your brand into every aspect of your business, not just your marketing and advertising efforts.

As you work to get your brand in shape your success depends on  being able to demonstrate the brand across all your areas of your business, from product design to advertising, events, partnerships, customer service and even your internal culture. 

If this seems like too much to tackle on your own, you're right it is! Successful branding depends on your whole team. Invest time to bring your employees on board with your brand, they need to understand the brand and the role they play in achieving and maintaining the brand vision. Your employees can be your most passionate brand ambassadors when you arm them with brand knowledge and empower them to act on it! 

Use it or Lose it!

Now that your brand is in shape you need to commit to keeping it in tip-top form! Develop processes that will monitor your customer's response to the brand and review how your brand values are being communicated. Keep staff engaging by regularly discussing brand values and vision and work to keep them aware of how this impacts their work. Ensure they remain committed to delivering on the brand promise at every opportunity to every customer, supplier or stakeholder.

The ongoing maintenance of your brand may require external ‘resources’ too. You may need to rework your company's website, revise or create new promotional and sales materials, signage and packaging or enhance your advertising and public relations efforts. 

If you do not have the resources internally to support all of this work you may want to create a budget now for external support in 2014.

The Final Word 

Remember when it comes to your brand always aim to over deliver! If you fail to deliver just once on your brand promise it could cause costly damage to your brand.

If you would like to talk more about how to get your brand in shape in 2014 you can email our team or call us directly at 403-249-2623.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Like the Sans of Time: The Importance of Font Selection

To most people, fonts are just another useless choice in their Word document, 'gimme a default typeface and let me type'. To designers however, fonts are an integral element in communicating ideas and emotions.

There are thousands of fonts, thousands of beautifully created fonts, each designed with a feeling or purpose in mind - some are very versatile and some are very pointed as to their use. When a typeface is used in design, an association is made by the consumer on the look of the product or brand and how it makes them feel about it. Consumers when presented with a consistent looking visual that is associated with a brand will come to remember it and the feelings they have of that brand will be rekindled, in some small way.

 The image above contains 9 words all with different word marks. Most of these word marks have been derived from actual fonts and then modified by a graphic designer to better suit the brand and what it represents. What's cool about this, is that without even saying the brand (or band) names on this document, most people could tell you the names of all 9 brands represented here.

If this does not demonstrate the importance of proper font selection and graphic design as part of brand building, I don't know what does. A good graphic designer should take great care and spend a good amount of time in learning about your brand and what it represents in order to craft a word mark or logo.

One of the first things that a designer will do is select the fonts to be used on the project (for use in logo, stationery, packaging etc.) this can take several hours to select the right fonts for each of these.  The result of this meticulous time in font selection, is an effective part of your communications strategy - putting across information is important, but good design and proper font selection can associate emotions to that information.

Graphic designers are trained to communicate ideas and information in a visual way, utilizing fonts is part of this process.

So, please remember this the next time a designer presents you with a design or word mark for review; ask them to explain why they chose the one they did - you may be surprised what went into their descision. As a client, you should challenge the rationale behind the design to ensure the designer really understands what he/she is communicating - with a professional creative team and good creative direction, a design is rarely wrong unless the rationale and understanding of what needs to be communicated behind it is wrong.

Bottomline: A well crafted brand comes from understanding the customer then taking the time to ensure all visual elements align with what needs to be communicated.

Please note that I found the image above online and it appears to be credited to, however, I left the file name intact so that whoever put it together can find it on my blog and request proper credit.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

There's No Eye Without Team

Communicating your company image effectively and professionally is not only important, it is crucial to the success of your brand and your company. We all know this. So, why do so many companies try to cut corners when approaching design and creative for their marketing campaigns?

I believe this can be broken down to one key element, they don't understand the value a creative team brings to the table.

Value comes in many ways, and most creative firms have trouble explaining this value to their clients. Clients assume that a designer can 'whip up' something quick and it will be effective. Good design takes time, it takes research and it takes an understanding of what the goals of any project are. Couple this with how the interaction between the 'target' and the 'message' is formulated and you could have a well thought out campaign.

Creative teams work together to look at all angles of a campaign - each member of the team bringing expertise and years of experience. This 'collective eye' on a campaign is what ensures it is resilient and effective. This is how you get results. You'll find that most creative teams are composed of a number of disciplines; creative director, copywriter, illustrator, designer and a project coordinator... each working closely with the client.

What confuses some clients is design creative, they believe that the design is what they are paying for, when it's only a portion of what they get when hiring a creative team.

Generating design creative the last part of the equation and is quite often the easy part of coming up with a proper campaign. Of course, that is if the discovery, ideation, brainstorming, research and analysis is done properly. When a creative team is involved in this process, a creative brief can be generated and given to any designer to complete the design process. This provides clarity and focus on the deliverable. This is how you create a campaign that generates results.

Creative teams need to be better at communicating their 'collective eye' - they can't assume that clients understand the difference between hiring a creative team and hiring a designer. Design is important and designers have a role in the creative process, but don't mistake the plate for the food - design is the by-product of a creative process, not the process itself.

The real value for your marketing dollar is in the creative process, the thought, the ideas, the expertise, the execution... that is what you are buying when you hire a creative team.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Who Has the Keys to Your Domain?

Way too often businesses have no clue who is the rightful owner of their domain name. When I say domain name I’m talking about a website address or URL, such as “”. We have seen too many times that business owners are not the owners of their domain. Sometimes it’s an ex-employee, long lost partner, or that computer whiz down the street. And when it comes time for a renewal or DNS change, you find out the hard way how difficult it can be for a business to obtain ownership of the domain they use for their website.

So who is the owner of a domain name anyways? Well it’s the person who registers and pays for the domain. When you purchase a domain you have to fill out your name, address, phone number, etc. to register ownership. So if you’re running a business and ask someone to register a domain for you it’s probably best to have them at least use your contact and billing information or go through a reputable service provider.

Let’s say you didn’t know this before hand and an ex-employee has your domain registered in their name. If you’re lucky, a business can get through this conundrum after a quick call to the now-gone employee. But things don’t always go the easy way. We have seen clients spend weeks trying to contact the owners of their domain, meanwhile their site is either down or nothing is getting done on it. Calls to the registrar (eg. Go Daddy) won’t do you any good, because they’re only interested in speaking with the registered owner of the domain.

So, what can you do about your domains right now? The only thing you can do is to make sure you know who owns the domain before it becomes a problem. If the owner of the business owns the domain, it’s probably in good hands. Or you can leave it to be managed by a trust-worthy company. Some businesses leave all that stuff with their IT service providers, or host providers. That’s usually a good idea since they handle the other aspects of your website needs. If you need to check who owns your domain you can use a free WHOIS lookup tool such as


Monday, May 9, 2011

Locked In and Locked Down

When you finally make the decision to start a web site, there is so much to consider, choices to make, paths to take. Usually people rely on experts and companies that specialize in web development hoping to limit their frustrations, gain better insights and save time. Options exist for making a site yourself and for some that's a task they're willing to take on and tackle, but most business owners are busy. Not only busy, but skilled in something other than programming, even marketing, and probably something other than graphic design. That's where the experts come in.

Now I'm a big fan of working with experts, gaining insight, utilizing skill sets of others that I may not have, but I have a big problem with companies, and people that claim to be experts and are not.

So many people know and understand the value of a website, however they have no idea how to build one.

My car just had to be serviced, which is fine, but something struck me. I made the decision to buy this car understanding a few basic facts: it is not North American, it has a good reputation for reliability, many dealerships can service it, it's economical on gas, and it was in good shape when I bought it.

So based on my knowledge, I can make a few assumptions:
  • Fuel - won't cost me as much as a big tank to run since I commute
  • Service - most repair shops will be able to service my vehicle, so I can shop around if needed
  • Parts - although not North American, it's not a terribly unique brand or model, so parts may be a little more, but no extreme difference
In other words it's not a DeLorean...

A website is not much different. You need to know how you are going to use it, who can service it, and what any parts and repairs might cost.

I can't count on my fingers and toes how many business owners and companies have to come to me in a bad situation. They unknowingly bought a DeLorean. A customized full-featured high end expensive website, that only certain people (those who built it) can work on.

So a few tips, as you embark on a new website:
  • If you decide not continue the relationship with your current developer, can someone come in and work on the site?
  • Is it a platform you've heard about?
  • Can you call your hosting company and speak to a person, or get a response within an hour?
  • Is your hosting costing more than a few starbucks coffees a month?
  • Are you able to update and add content to your site (without purchasing a new computer)?
Have a good look at the solutions being presented to you and ensure that you ask around, not just to friends who only surf on Facebook, but other business owners who may have been in the same situation. Go to sites you think are great, see who did them (usually in the bottom lines) and contact them directly - chances are if they can do it really well for someone, they should be able to do it well for you too.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Enchantment, the Book

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Guy Kawasaki to review his latest book, Enchantment. Now, I'm not a book reviewer, I'll get that out of the way right now as to lower your expectations on the posting you are about to (are) read(ing), so I was a bit confused about why my opinion on his book would be important or even necessary. Keep in mind, that Guy is not a friend, colleague nor family member, so to ask me to review the book was really a bit of a surprise. I'm a nobody.

As it turns out, this blog you're reading was listed on Alltop, Mr. Kawasaki's web site that lists top blogs in various fields - Tales from the Expedition is a marketing blog and fit the bill to review a book on marketing.

But, to simply call Enchantment a marketing book would be foolish and unedu-macated. Enchantment is a book about being better, about being enchanting, about so much more than just marketing... having said that, it can all be applied to marketing. The fact that it's not just about marketing is why I believe this book will do very well - it's a book about business, relationships, marketing, leadership, sales and about being someone people will like and trust. It's about being enchanting.

I learned while reading Enchantment that approaching nobodies like myself (a lot of us actually), that the message of this book can be spread. Well, we'll see about that... I'm sure if Guy had access to our Google Analytics, he wouldn't have approached us to begin with (LOL). Also, after learning of Guy's passion for hockey, I had an obligation to review this - it's the dressing room code. With his passion in mind, I took my review copy to the site of the NHL's Heritage Classic, where my team was fortunate enough to play one afternoon following the big NHL game, for a quick photo (above) - hockey is also a passion of mine.

OK, so, here it goes, my first book review:

At first I was afraid I was petrified...

While reading the book I was overcome with the thought that the secret is out - thanks Guy for telling everyone, thanks for ruining what we had. Not to say I am enchanting myself, but Guy goes on to tell people, in point form and with some very good examples on how to be enchanting - some of these techniques I use myself (although, admittedly, I didn't know they were techniques until after I read the book). I was mortified that this information could get into the wrong hands and only calmed down after convincing myself that not all horses drink when lead to water. Even when the water is so easily presented, with the fences removed.

Also, when you consider that everyone has access to the secret eleven herbs and spices used by the colonel (thanks to the interweb) and nobody is making it, that tells me that the secret is still mostly safe. Mostly. You must consider that the internet doesn't give you point form, step by step instructions on how to perfect the recipe, not like this book does.

The tag line on the book says, "The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions" and holds true to this throughout. There are lessons learned, great examples, stories and illustrated points - explaining how to be enchanting. The onus is on the reader however, to implement the content from this book and become an enchanting person. Now, really, it can't be hard, it's practically an instruction manual - and I don't mean that in a negative way, I just mean that you can't mistake or misconstrue the information in this book - it's clear and well written. It just requires action on the readers part after reading it. Quite simple, really.

Advice like, 'apologizing is a sign of weakness', you know, the kind of advice that a father may bestow on his son while driving him to the monster truck rally, is not what you'll find in this book. The advice is real, it's genuine and Guy does an amazing job of tying it all together with some real world examples and sound rationale. You begin to see exactly why enchanting people are enchanting.

Now, I have read many business books, many stinkers, ...too many. In fact, I've read so many bad ones that I've pretty much narrowed down the field of who I listen to and take seriously to include just a handful of people who's opinions I respect and believe. I'm happy to say that Guy Kawasaki was on my shortlist, even before he approached me to review this book. I've read his other books - they're good, really good. This one is great. Enchantment is packed full of what seems to be Guy's secrets to success, it's like listening to your mentor impart their wisdom upon you. I actually felt better for reading it, like I had learned something useful. I had.

Unlike a Christopher Hitchen's book where it takes 200 pages to make a single point (no offense to Hitchen fans, but business books need to be succinct IMHO), Enchantment makes several points and explains an entire way of conducting oneself while coming in at just under 200 pages. It's light and easy-going in nature, but don't let that fool you - it packs a serious punch if you let it. I know that this is one book that will be read repeatedly by myself and recommended to trusted colleagues.

However, the icing on the cake was the last chapter, "How to Resist Enchantment" - this for me, was the clincher,... reading chapter after chapter on how to be enchanting, one begins to wonder what would happen if this information got into the wrong hands. Well, luckily, Mr. Kawasaki takes care of this with useful advice on how to be aware of and resist enchantment, or pseudo enchantment. This made me feel so much better. Thanks Guy.

OK, I guess this is the part where I sum it up and tell you to go buy the book. If you deal with people in any way shape or form, this is a must read book - buy it now. It's available nearly everywhere.

Although I reviewed the hardcover of this book, I highly recommend the digital version. Why? Read the book you'll understand, and besides, you want to be enchanting, don't you?

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Social Network" - My Thoughts

Mispronouncing the almighty Facebook by adding a 'The' at the beginning when I announced I was going to see 'The Social Network' garnered a few chuckles around the office - little did I know that it actually started off being called 'The Facebook' and thanks to a contribution by Sean Parker, Napster Creator, decided to drop the 'The'. I had a few reasons for going to this movie, and being in the line of work I'm in (Social Media/Online Marketing) I did feel especially compelled to see this one as soon as I could. It really holds more of a business interest and curiosity, than a need to see an entertaining movie, but that always helps.

Overall, I must say it was a solid movie from an entertaining standpoint. Even though it was obviously about Facebook, it could have been about another company and it's inception just as easily. Meaning that you weren't overwhelmed with the content just being about Facebook, and could appreciate the struggles of a start-up as well as the adversities of the legal battles that ensued, while being entertained by a talented cast and director.

The real interest for me was to see how the creation, the idea, the inception, of how the company itself formed and came to be the power house it is today.

Facebook is a world changing platform.

It's a bold statement, but I say it with certainty. I've seen the progression through the early days to where it is now and watched peoples discussions, interactions, issues change in the process.

Before Facebook, a majority of people and businesses I spoke with could not understand the industry I was in, why I was in it, and what, if any value it actually I had. I was an 'Internet Marketer', or at least I supported those that had the foresight to actually call themselves one and worked to market online. People would ask "So you do what online?" with a smirk on their face, while awkwardly winking - thinking I was more aligned with the seedy industries, instead of actually working legitimet companies and business owners.

Facebook changed that.

What people didn't understand was that there were ways you could get your message out, market directly to people, and sell your products through the internet. When the social network came along that masses started using, there was a glimpse of understanding on how this new thing we call 'the internet' might actually be an effective marketing platform and way to communicate with an audience, even, and more importantly, your specific targeted audience.

So many things have changed.

In the progression and development of Facebook and other social networks, you saw a huge increase in the number of CMS platforms (Wordpress, Joomla) developed to a point where they too were accessible and able to be updated online. Meaning that you could update pages on your website or online without a vast amount of programming language, if any, really I accredit My Space and Facebook to paving the way to make that thought plausible and mainstream, and leading the way for other developers.

People 'talk' different.

One thing I noticed in the movie, which really carries forward into my life, and probably yours is the words people used and way people talked to each other. "Facebook Me" - a common term you still might hear to this day. Why? Well it's like a phone number, or address - it's a platform that allows us to connect and communicate with each other in a large scale, with no associated costs involved (who needs a long distance plan when you can just chat).

Here's the excerpt directly from the Facebook site, describing the platform:
Founded in February 2004, Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. The company develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of people's real-world social connections. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment.

The way that people interact and connect has changed. The fact that one of the first things I did before I watched the movie was to update my status, and then after to check it out for any comments, is a tribute to how this phenomenon has impacted and changed the way I communicate with those around me.

It's a connection point.

The platform may change, in 5 years Facebook may not exist, Google may not exist, Twitter may not exist, there may be a new game player - but the fact remains that they way we are connecting with each other has now changed.

Look at it from an internet marketing perspective. Before 'the social stream' you relied primarily on email marketing, and a brochure website, there was no interactive element to it, videos weren't even really in the picture yet.

Email marketing was the primary way to communicate to people, now that email is so riddled with spam, we look to the stream. Now the stream is where people (marketers) want to be.

The problem is that there is just so much information to leverage, the question now becomes how do we leverage that.

The tools we use now are different. The way we connect has changed. Facebook is a primary player in how and why this huge change has taken effect.

And it all started in a dorm room.

Initially targeted for students in select school, quickly expanding to other schools, by the end of the first year, Facebook already had 1 million users signed up. Here is a time-line from their website:

  • February - Mark Zuckerberg and co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin launch Facebook from their Harvard dorm room
  • March - Facebook expands from Harvard to Stanford, Columbia and Yale
  • June - Facebook moves its base of operations to Palo Alto, Calif.
  • September - Groups application is added; the Wall is added as a Profile feature
  • December - Facebook reaches nearly 1 million active users
How it spread, really is one of the most fascinating things for me, as we're all trying to achieve this very viral effect in our marketing efforts.

Theirs was relatively simple. They started off with a product that their audience was ready for, and enhanced something they were already doing, combined some nifty technology, give people a reason to come back and limit who can access it. The idea of exclusivity was very interesting, as it makes those that are not a part of this, want in "the cool crowd". The elitists of Harvard, expanding into the majority of Ivy League schools, then opening up overseas, and eventually mainstream, gave them a chance to build an audience at each new frontier, so when they did expand more people were eagerly awaiting to be included.

The business, it all goes back to business.

My last comment is about the business itself and how that took shape. It certainly made me appreciate the fact that these guys, as young as they were, understood the roles and functions needed to get this start-up up and running. Designating titles, assigning tasks and shares - is that something the average person is taught in school or has an appreciation of? I noticed a gap in my own education and understanding, only recently filled in by years of running my own company and now working with other large and small corporations - this was not something I would have had the slightest inclination of after leaving high school - is there an opportunity there for more education given the movement of young people to pursue entrepreneurship? Absolutely!

Whatever it is, it's certainly impressive.

Whatever your thoughts are on the platform, you have to admit that their accomplishments are pretty darn impressive. From the first round of funding in 2004 of $500,000 from Peter Thiel, to breaking the 5 million user mark the following December (2005), to know where we sit at 500 million active users, the company employees over 1700 staff, and everything, including it's value, continues to grow.

Whether you use the platform of not, it's certainly impacted your life in one way or another, understanding what changed and why in my mind is vitally important. Thanks to this movie, 'The Social Network', I think more people will have the chance to understand the roots and if not anything else, inspire them to pursue their next big idea - who knows it could be the next game changer.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Creating the Ultimate in Immersive Experiences

It's been a while since we posted some marketing nuggets on these here pages. For a marketing company, there's no excuse for not telling the masses what you've been up to... heck, we preach that very thing.

So, why haven't we?

I'm glad you asked. You see, we've been neck deep in creating an immersive experience that we couldn't talk much about before last week... and since last week, haven't had the time to talk about it. The project we've been working on is probably the coolest project we've ever worked on.

Really? Cooler than VoodooPC's Out Of Box Experience (OOBE) packaging project? Cooler than Hewlett-Packard's Blackbird (OOBE) packaging project? Cooler than the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) we created for the Node Gaming Centre? Cooler than any of the work you've done for professional sports teams?

Yes. It is indeed the coolest thing that Francomedia has ever done, without question. It's groundbreaking, it's bleeding edge, it's never been done before and we're leading the charge.

OK, so what is it?

Again, we're glad you asked. The project is tied to a new publishing company called Enthrill. Enthrill Entertainment Inc. publishes thrillers, but through new methods and means. Their goal is to Enlighten, Engage and Entertain through immersive experiences... who better than to do this work that than the crew that wrote the book (almost complete) on immersive experiences, Francomedia.

Enthrill's first thriller is called One Child, by best-selling author Jeff Buick. We were charged with putting together a marketing plan together that would fit the goals of the organization as well as create hype for this new novel. What we ended up doing was much more; building the actual product, the customer experience and the marketing plan (which is very, very unique).

The marketing plan included creating 8 web sites, 28 social media profiles, an online ordering system and a radio station with daily audio updates.

Essentially, we have created an alternate reality online for readers of the book, as they read the digital version, they can visit the Facebook profile of a character and interact with them. Readers can visit the characters' company web site, read their tweets, link in with them on Linkedin, and more. Through this interaction, readers can get to know the characters more intimately giving the characters and the story more depth.

Readers that registered with full contact information, received post cards from characters in New York, readers can e-mail some characters, phone some of the corporations and enter contests on our faux radio station.

It's no longer a book, it's an experience.

Taking things to a whole new level, we have taken this 30 day story, starting July 27th and ending August 25th and released is in real time; realeasing it day by day as the story unfolds. This has never been done in the publishing industry and we are making waves.

Adding audio and video content to the story also enhances the reading experience, as you read the book, you can click to hear the soundtrack to the book. There are also 4 video sequences of the story that were filmed.

The four video sequences, included a cast and crew of about 30 people - this was no small production - and will absolutely thrill the readers when they arrive at these chapters later in the book.

We were fortunate to have the experienced help of the whole Francomedia team, as well as enlist the services of some of the top names in producing this experience for readers:

Video - writer/producer/director Grant Nolin (The Downholers, Half Mile of Hell & Gemini Award Nominee), and the whole crew at Zoom Web Video.

Audio - guitar legend Rick Plester (Scorpions, MSG, Black Symphony), voice talent Al Murdoch (EA Sports, CityTV, Midway Games), Voice actor Murray Vair (CKRY, 1000+ Commericals) and Roberto Dorazio (Corus Radio, Little Steven's Underground Garage).

Social Media - our own Christina Greenway (Social Spawner) and Kristin Reilly (Professional Gamer, Social Community Builder, CBS Interactive).
We have created an alternate reality, bringing characters from the book to life, bringing faux corporations to life and providing a reading experience that incorporates audio and video, like never before. The feedback we have gotten so far has been incredible - people are genuinely blown away by the concept and by taking part in the experience.

You can check it out, by registering for the free 9 day trial, here.

I'm certain that this will be done by many others to come, they will likely have bigger budgets, they may do a better job and may even take it to whole new levels. You can count on it.

That's just how it is when you've done something first - it's always easier to copy and improve than it is to innovate. Our team at Francomedia is a team of creative professionals, bent on innovation and immersive experiences.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Checkity Check Yourself - Make Sure You Protect Yourself

10 Tips to Keeping your Password Safe

So many of the things we have today (internet, wi-fi, hot spots) to help us be more connected are actually helping us to break free of being connected in the traditional sense of cables and limited to buildings and structures.

No longer do we need programs installed on our local hard drives, or home to access the internet - anything from updating your Facebook page, to sending out your newsletter, updating your website, even doing your banking (although we wouldn't recommend it) can be done from the comfort of a Starbucks chair while drinking your favorite beverage.

This new freedom and accessibility, can leave us vulnerable in ways that the average person might not be able to comprehend. The bad news is that if someone wants access to your files, they can and will find a way. Even the Department of Defense understands this and although they may have a lot more firewalls than you or I have - they also have a team ready to be sent to the house of the attacker to be arrested. Most people probably don't have that luxury, so I wanted to find out a few ways that people, businesses, and staff can better protect themselves from being victim to a hacker or digital thief.

I interviewed Mike Hogan, Security Specialist at MSI Systems Integration Ltd. ("The ITeam") to get some good tips on how to protect yourself from being susceptible.

"One of the biggest issues is that people don't change their passwords frequently enough" says Mike, "they also use the same simple password, that's not very complex for all of their accounts making it easy for someone to gain access to a lot of their information even if they only had one password."

I asked Mike to share some guidelines for personal and professional passwords, here is a list of 10 things that you can do to protect your passwords:

1) Use the same email account for all of your passwords
This way if you forget your password it's easily accessed by clicking on 'forget password' and you just have to remember one email account. Instead of having the same password for everything, rest assured that if you happen to forget the account information, you can always have the password reset using your email.

2) Never use a 'dictionary' word
If it can be found in a dictionary - don't use it! Instead pick a phrase that means something to you, here's an example:
-say you like the movie "The Good the Bad and the Ugly" then maybe your password would be tGtb&tU!

3) Always use 8 characters or longer (where possible).
The longer the password the harder to guess or crack.
Ensure you use a combination of upper and lower case, numeric and special characters (when possible)

4) Capitalize in an odd spot
Try not to use the capital letter at the beginning, instead use it within the password, example: tGtb&tU!

5) Replace vowels and other characters
Replacing these with special characters or numbers will help you remember
Some common replacements are:
a = @
e = 3
i = 1
l = 1
o = 0

6) Don't use region specific phrases
For example, if you're living in Calgary and are a fan of the Calgary Flames, then you probably don't want to have 'Flames1' as your password, instead you might consider 'fl@me$RU13!!' to make it a little harder for someone in your area to crack. Same goes for other fans in other regions.

7) Ensure your banking and social networks passwords are DIFFERENT
Don't use the same password for everything - if someone can figure out that one password, then it opens other sensitive information up to all of your networks, including banking and other personal data.

8) NEVER click on the 'Remember my Password'
It seems convenient, but I can tell you from personal experience, it's not the way to go. Bots and spiders can creep through your internet browser to find and crack these files. Even though it's tempting, NEVER let anyone else remember your password for you, especially your internet browser.

9) Do NOT store all of your passwords in a 'passwords.txt' or 'secret.xls' file
If you do malware on your computer, they are programmed to look for files that might be named 'secret' or 'passwords', find them and then report them. These files usually have everything an attacker would need to know, including user, login, password, URL to login to....If you're going to keep a list, just keep a list of where you currently are signing up and not the passwords associated.

10) Change Frequently
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to change your passwords frequently. Once a month quarter is a good start but for more sensitive data like banking once a month is better. You may want to have several (more than 3) one phrases a month that you cycle through or something to help you remember, whatever that is, changing it frequently is key.

If you're worried about forgetting your password, then Mike does suggest you look into an Encryption program that can safely store all of your passwords. You will want to research programs that suit your needs and your system, however it's a worthwhile investment, when you consider the alternative of being open to an attack.

The bottom line is using these tips and some common sense you can protect yourself and your files from being vulnerable. This is something I personally need to be more diligent in monitoring and maintaining. And in this digital age we live in it's something we all need to be more mindful of.

To find out more about The ITeam and their services visit their website

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Rangerland Redeveloped

Our clients come to us in a variety of ways and with varying requests. Rangerland came to us with an older site looking for something fresh to portray the company more effectively - essentially a new fresh look.

The end result was a very simple and clean layout with seasonal imagery used for a backdrop - it's really quite nice.

Working with clients we try to get a sense of their own style preferences, a feel for the company, their clients, their services - it's a lot to take in, but that's where our team shines.

Through round table discussions and creative planning, we're able to deliver sites to clients that are beautiful and functional. We've been using the Joomla! framework, which means that clients have the ability and option to update their own sites once we've put the finishing touches on them. This is great news for clients, as we've seen the pains (in fact a lot of new customers come to us with those pains) of not being able to update your own site.

Customers usually want to make relatively minor changes - it's hard to justify paying someone for simple text edits and waiting for a web company that doesn't see your business as their priority can end up taking days, sometimes weeks to get done.

Don't get me wrong, we're happy to help clients update their sites and generally can provide a quick turn-around for minor changes, but we do all get busy and having the ability to access and update yourself is golden. Especially when Joomla! makes it so easy.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Award Winning Blog

Is what you're reading right now. That's right, folks. Tales from the Expedition, the Francomedia blog has won a Gold Hermes Creative Award!

The unique design of the blog surely swayed the judges as it really is a compelling design (thanks Francomedia design team!) - it was not an easy design to work with, but we have the technology (thanks Francomedia development team!).

Through weekly(ish) updates, we try to keep our customers and the viewing public aware of what's new in advertising, marketing, design and of course, Francomedia.

Updating a blog does take significant effort and many of our staff contribute to Tales from the Expedition. So, thank you for reading our blog and don't be shy, hopefully there are posts you feel worthy of sharing, go ahead - we're down with that.

Over the last couple of years Francomedia has been on the receiving end of many awards for their creativity, design and marketing - this is thanks to a great team of creative thinkers and doers - and I thank you for that, Francomedia team.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Keeping Busy in Cowtown

How fortunate are we to be working on some of the coolest projects in Calgary?

Some may say, that we are really making a name for ourselves as a go-to-shop for creative goods... and this is resulting in us being very, very busy. Winning a gaggle of awards over the past 12 months may have been a contributing factor, but I like to think it was more about our reputation than anything else. Busy nonetheless.

But, busy is good - and being busy on creative projects is really good, so, life is really, really good at Francomedia.

So far this year, we have done some great branding projects, some cool web projects and some great print projects. To new clients we are super heroes, to existing clients we are consistent and always ready to take on whatever they throw us. Our challenge these days is all about scheduling - getting new work into the mix is harder than ever, but we manage and manage well.

We are breaking new ground with a very cool project that will be released sometime before summer - we believe it will set the future standard for marketing in the publishing industry, all while showcasing the true power of Apple's new iPad.

Another project that we are passionate about is TEDxCalgary - which is happening on April 29th and we are playing a part in helping them market the event online and on-site. You can watch it live from 9:00am - 6:00pm (MST) at

We've worked on some really high profile web sites over the past year, Cabinets by Hayley, Ronmor Developers, United Nations, Calgary Council for Advanced Technology... just to name a few - there are a few others that we can't name yet, at least not publicly or prior to launch.

Since December we've branded a custom fly rod maker, an engineering firm, a home builder, a realtor, an oil service company and a publishing corporation.

Most of our blog posts are helpful and offer advice in marketing... this will continue, believe me - we like to share. I guess, we just needed a forum to say that we're happy to be working with some great customers on some great projects. Thanks for reading.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Developing a New Kind of Customer Continuity

The face of the customer continuity game has changed. No longer do you need to be associated with large loyalty programs to get a great result, like a lift in sales or attract new customers. For most small business owners, they are operating on a tight budget, they are often the ones running the show, there's usually not a lot left at the end of the day to even think about the additional time and expense of a continuity program. The good news for these business owners is that there are now viable alternatives to create your own version of a customer continuity program, even on a tight budget.

Think of the millions, if not billions, that has gone into creating the loyalty programs we all belong to. What if I told you, that you can have this too, but at a fraction of the cost? Sound like a 'too good to be true' sales pitch? Don't get me wrong, there are costs involved, especially if you want to 'do it right', but these are minimal compared to the big bucks you could be spending.

When I worked for a retailer, one of our focuses, if not our main one, was to retain existing customers and increase their sales and visits. Time and again, studies prove that gaining a new customer, although can prove valuable in the long run, does not compare to what you can accomplish by increasing order sizes and frequency of your loyal customer base, creating the golden customer continuity. Loyal customers tend to be just that, loyal. They keep coming back. They keep buying your products. They keep telling their friends. They keep you in business.

Don't get me wrong, businesses can change, their customer base can change, but ultimately isn't it about increasing sales? And what better way to do that than to create a loyal community, offer that community value, and then keep them coming back. Social media makes this possible, and tools like Google, Facebook, and Ning make it easy (and affordable).

The power that now exists for marketers and business owners through social media avenues, like Twitter and Facebook is immense. Now, more than ever before little businesses have the same tools available that the big brands have. Yes, the big guys might be able to create their own fancy network, take Air MilesTM for example:, but with powerful networks like Ning, or even utilizing features in Facebook, you can create a very similar community building experience, at a much lower price tag.

Keeping your customers coming back is key - loyalty programs aren't going to be a magic fix if your business has other issues, but if you're looking to build on your success, then consider adding an online community to the mix and see how fast your reputation spreads.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Speaking at the IMC

On Tuesday next week, I will be speaking at the Internet Marketing Conference in Calgary.

You can find out more about it here.

My presentation is on Alternate Reality Games (ARG) and Immersive Marketing... I've got 30 minutes to provide some e
xamples and explain how to make a successful ARG... if you're at all familiar with ARG's, you'll know that we will be moving fast to cover it all. There will be time for questions after the other two speakers, as we form a discussion panel.

This international conference is in it's 10th year of production and is the largest in dealing with internet marketing... this is the first time it's come through Calgary.

It seems more and more companies are beginning to jump on the social marketing bandwagon and everyone and their dog are calling themselves internet marketers. I wrote a blog a while back that e
xplains that social media is simply a tool, and like any tool it needs to be in the right hands. We recently had Christina Greenway join our team, as our social marketing manager - she has a background in marketing and knows the tools - this is a great mix.

It never ceases to amaze me how even today, large companies put ine
xperienced people in charge of the very thing that will drive their business, their marketing on the web. Having a teenager run your social media or a technical person run your web site is a recipe for failure online. Nothing against teens, there's no question they understand the tools, probably better than most people out there - but they are not brand or marketing experts. And, nothing against technical people, but just because you are the only person in the office that knows what a browser is, does not qualify you to drive the marketing speak of your company on the internet.

So, as a business owner, you should take time out to check out this conference, you need to understand the tools that will drive your marketing over the next few years. But, please bring along your marketing person(s) - for they are the ones who can make these tools work for you in presenting your brand online.

It's important to learn how these tools work, but ensure that the right person is using them - this conference is a great place to start taking your online marketing to the next level.

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