Ripples from the Remote Past

Long before telecommuting was thrust upon reluctant and skeptical businesses by a global pandemic, the earliest version of this website proclaimed,

“Leveraging the advantages offered by the Internet to leave the costs of bricks-and-mortar behind, Ripple Effects provides digital marketing expertise at lower costs for us that become lower costs for our clients.”

Though it is true that, over the past three years, telecommuting has won over the hearts and minds of even the most skeptical micro-managers, it wasn’t always such an easy sell…

In 2006, with the global pandemic still a decade and a half in the future, a representative from our team was invited to propose platform planks to a local federal government policy task force on environmental action.

Return in your mind’s eye if you will to that simpler time when Daniel Powter’s Bad Day was #1 on the Billboard 100 chart and covering your face was only something you did if someone caught you listening to it at a red light. A digital marketing upstart walks into a boardroom of politicians and policy wonks and utters the following words (which in hindsight, may as well have been a sorcerous alien manuscript).

National Telecommuting Strategy.

What witchcraft is this? What does it have to do with the environment? The perplexed assemblage of policy-makers had been invited to entertain an idea of incredible audacity:

Canadian leadership should promote and incentivize implementation of online remote operations for businesses, agencies, and educational institutions. The reasoning? Cost savings; increased productivity; better employee-work-life balance; lower costs to the health care system; increased access to the labour market for persons with disabilities; decreased wear on infrastructure; enhanced international engagement opportunities in commerce; mitigation of lost-productivity due to inclement weather, natural disasters, or (ahem) pandemics — and perhaps most importantly, creating a remarkably powerful mechanism for limiting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

As all this cheekiness might suggest, the National Telecommuting Strategy was not a #1 chart-topper of Bad Dayproportions with said government task force. But over the last three years, the topic has come up often around here. How would things be different right now if Canadians had already been telecommuting for a decade when the pandemic hit?

Never one to shy from diving in after measuring the depth, Ripple Effects took the spirit of the National Telecommuting Strategy to heart — and, nearly a decade before functioning remotely became the difference between swimming and sinking, the little marketing agency with metrics as its mantra became a fundamentally Internet-based operation.

Part-and-parcel with being a telecommuting pioneer that also happened to be a marketing agency, came the notion that a society making the move to working digitally, would also move toward marketing digitally. Like a fish naturally takes to seafood, Ripple Effects took to digital marketing (and also, perhaps to a fault, to water-themed metaphors). 

If digital marketing had become important because people merely played and shopped online, how important was it now that people work there too? Exposure alone dictates that revisiting a shift to digital emphasis in your marketing-communication mix is likely — especially for business-to-business products and services.

If personal devices are now also business devices, how do you properly parse consumer and b2b audiences with consideration for how, when, and where they prefer to be engaged? The importance of formatting content for smartphones and tablets grew. Zoom? Meta? Say what?

Virtually overnight, everything became a moving target — and feedback by way of analytics got bumped from merely being a competitive advantage to being essential. A fundamental paradigm shift had been forced upon the global business community in a span of time measured in months; and just like that, businesses were fish out of water.

As a remote collaboration and service delivery pioneer, that is also an analytics driven digital marketing leader, Ripple Effects understands the fundamental considerations required to isolate, engage, convert, and retain audiences in a telecommuting world.

And in an ocean where people are suddenly workers as well as surfers, your best bet for catching a wave is to talk to the people who make them.

Credible Compassion and the Crisis Cliché

By now, you’ve acclimatized somewhat to the Covid-19 reality; and, unless your social isolation includes media-isolation, you’ve also heard, and I quote, “we’re all in this together.” Tweets, radio commercials, and politicians all say it – all the time. Indeed, you might even be feeling like it’s all they say!

On this blog, we talk a lot about the importance of empathy in good marketing. Now that our society as a whole is in the midst of a legitimate crisis, it is an even more valid and rational time than usual to practice it. This is just as true of a good business owner, as it is of a good neighbour. Empathy is human, and it is good, but business owner beware, with a new abundance of time to focus on marketing, you must take great care to ensure that the way you demonstrate your empathy doesn’t come off as… well… unempathetic. Or even worse: downright cold and opportunistic.

This blog entry was originally conceived to convey the idea that there is no such thing as down-time. It was going to remind you that a decline in customer interaction and inventory throughput doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. This article was going to talk about how now’s the time to put what’s usually on the back-burner (psst marketing) on the front burner. Of course this is true. It certainly is the time to both expand and deepen your connections with your audience. But something more important occurred to me in writing that blog entry. Namely, while it’s always important to seize opportunity (make lemonade et al) it’s even more important to avoid coming off as opportunistic when people are experiencing real difficulty, are legitimately afraid, and are really hurting.

So, how do you balance 1) expressing a good person’s impulse to be empathic in a situation that merits it, 2) making marketing in-roads with the newfound abundance of time afforded you by negative circumstances, and 3) avoiding the appearance of opportunism.

Striking this balance is easier than you might think. One-word-easy, in fact (especially if you are Ripple Effects Marketing and have no fear of appearing the broken-record on this front).


That’s the one word.

If it’s genuine, then it’s not opportunistic. If you want to err on the side of caution – go one farther and don’t even risk the appearance of being disingenuous. How does one do that? One of the oldest rules in advertising copywriting has got you covered.

Avoid clichés. What is a cliché? Technically speaking, “Avoid them like the plague” is a cliché. But in a broader, slightly less technical sense, “We’re all in this together.” Comes to mind.

You can double down on avoiding the off-putting impression of being disingenuous by following another simple rule.

A big rule in the kind of writing advertising copywriters (secretly) wish they could be doing (novels and screenplays etc.) is “show, don’t tell.”

If you air your typical 30-second radio spot – re-edited to tack on “stay safe!” or “be sure to wash your hands” or “we’re all in this together.” You’re telling – or even worse in a crisis – SELLING.

Show don’t tell. “We have re-deployed our team for increased online and telephone support.” or, “now with curbside pick-up”. Instruct and inform about useful, practical steps you have taken to benefit customers you care about. SHOW you care!

Empty, cookie-cutter statements are the enemy of the marketing inroads you can make. They not only come off as disingenuous, but lazy as well. Wash your hands of them, while conveying what you are actually doing to help. Your genuine empathy will blare like a trumpet through the media noise like the bright note of hope people are looking for right now – and will remember later.

Affection as Commodity: Staging with a Feel Estate Agent

In the Internet era, people’s attention – or more precisely, your audience’s attention – is the hottest commodity. This is why effective, sustained branding is so important. After all, what is branding if not the process of attracting and holding your audience’s attention?

When it comes to branding, winners are separated from losers by succeeding on two fronts: 1) determining where to best attract and hold an audience’s attention (namely, choosing the right medium), and 2) determining what messaging and imagery to use in order to connect emotionally with that audience. The word emotionally is both italicized and bolded for emphasis because it is the key to successful branding. We’ve gone here before on this blog, but the point is well worth repeating. Hitting your target in the feels is imperative. It is the prime mover in the sales funnel. Conveying the right information might get you a date, but eliciting the right feelings… that’ll get you a honeymoon!

So, keeping in mind that the most sought after commodity of our time is an audience’s attention – let’s refine that: an audience’s affection, Ripple Effects consistently emphasizes building the right brand to begin with; choosing the right vehicles (media) to get that brand in front of its audience; and finally, ensuring the words and images elicit the right feelings from that audience. Herein resides the art of marketing. The science of marketing sits squarely in quantifying and reporting the performance of your efforts. The performance itself is the art of making your people feel good about you and what you offer.

Artists like metaphors. Let’s use one.

If the commodity is affection, then let’s be feel estate agents.

Start with a bungalow. This is the foundation of your brand. It’s charming but also practical. It’s a statement that communicates why you are different and the promises you keep. Instantly it communicates why this bungalow is the one your audience can’t resist and would be fools to pass up.

But it’s only a start. As a feel estate agent, you want your bungalow to grow in its appeal. You want it to be both more enjoyable to the people who already live there, and you want the neighbourhood to love it too. So, when the day comes that someone says, “hey, how ‘bout a patio? This yard was built for parties!”, you can’t help but say, “great idea, let’s do it!”

But there is lots to think about.

If I build it, will they come? How much should I spend? What colour and style of patio stones do I use? What do I plant? How about a fountain? A hot tub? Outdoor video/audio?Of course, all these important considerations will vary based on items such as budget, objectives, audience demographics, etc.: all the things a successful feel estate agent like Ripple Effects will take into account. But above all else, the agent will remain focused on two things.

Retaining the audience you have while, ideally, deepening their love for the brand (so they will not only buy again, but also tell their friends about it); and bringing new friends into the fold.

To make a long story short (hypothetical residents of our bungalow being the same likeable sorts of people) the one with the patio makes it easier to have parties and make more friends than the one without a patio. To put this in other words, the bungalow with a patio has more equity than does the bungalow without. Maybe that goes without saying but there is a key point that remains to be made.

The patio needs to fit the house. And the house needs to be maintained in order for equity to grow.

If the house falls into disrepair (the roof starts leaking) to pay for the patio, then equity growth is undermined.

Likewise, bad design considerations – an outdoor stereo setup worthy of a KISS concert in a retirement neighbourhood, or say, a theme-park-level water slide setup on a quaint wooded street full of heritage century homes, well, those undermine equity too.

This is why you hear so often that consistency in a brand, as in a friend, or as in a bungalow is the key to good branding. Because consistency implies reliability it is the key to building equity.

And it really all boils down to this.

Anyone who truly values their precious downtime knows, especially when there is a party on every street, the sure-thing good-time is always a better way to go than the shot-in-the-dark.

Marketing Gold: Tessa, Scott, and True Patriot Love

A shiny teal 60s Mustang convertible on a sweltering day in early August is not what immediately comes to mind when a conversation turns to competitive ice dancing. But on this day, when it’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perched on the back of that Mustang, waving to adoring crowds adorned in red, it all makes perfect sense.

Passing mere feet from the house where Scott grew up, the Mustang turns into the parking lot of the Ilderton arena.

They have spent countless hours here, where they trained to become, perhaps the greatest ice dancers ever to lace on the steel. Right here in Ilderton, Ontario, Canada – population: 1,856.

They are here today to say thank you to their hometown. A classy move by the classy pair (don’t say couple, okay). You can tell their love for their home and their neighbours is genuine – and reciprocal. They radiate health, discipline and goodwill: everything true Olympians should embody.

Of course, as even people in places where they’ve never seen ice can tell you, they aren’t mere Olympians, they are Olympic gold medalists, which means – even if they weren’t as beautiful, down-to-earth and downright nice as they are – they would be marketing gold as well.

Ilderton loves these two, but the love doesn’t stop there. Take the 10 minute drive into a shopping centre in neighbouring London and you will be greeted by a five-story tall Tessa Virtue on a banner brandishing trend-setting eyewear. But you don’t even need to get in the car to see how far this love affair goes. Go no further than the phone in your pocket and Tessa’s Twitter feed and you can see her on the cover of Vogue magazine – the Japanese edition!

In the age of social media, borders mean little. And even ice dancers from small-town Ontario can become the most in-demand brand endorsers on the entire planet. Whether you are talking old school celebrity endorsement or it’s modern cousin, influencer marketing, Virtue and Moir are as much of a winning bet off the ice as on.

A perusal of Tessa’s Instagram and Twitter feeds tells the tale. The range and diversity of brands and causes featured there are as varied and vibrant as what you might find in an ice dancer’s costume closet. Costume being an apt metaphor – for, as it is in ice dance, the better the fit, the better the results.

Tessa’s endorsements in the worlds of fitness and fashion make complete sense and it doesn’t require a lot of imagination to get how her Twitter and Instagram followers might be inclined to take her impressive example to heart as they wander the mall.

According to Marketwatch, a celebrity endorsement can result in an immediate bump of 4% in sales.

The power of the endorsement comes from a word we use a lot around here – legitimacy. When the brand is a good fit with the endorser it is even more powerful.

When Tessa, an Olympic gold medalist, says she prefers these kind of workout clothes, or shoes, or fitness routines, that means something. Her success in that arena legitimizes the brand choices she has made in the mind of consumers. It’s basic human psychology, if I do what Tessa does, I will be more like Tessa. And who doesn’t want to be more like Tessa!

But, although a product-endorser fit is ideal, it doesn’t have to be perfect for an endorsement to work. Especially when there’s an outpouring of goodwill, national pride, and local heroism as is the case here. Hence we have Scott and Tessa on local radio bumping sales numbers for everything from cars to custom kitchens. Look back to our previous article here and we see a theme emerging. All other factors (price, location, quality etc.) being in the same ballpark, a purchasing decision will be cinched on feeling a positive emotion. And having patriotism, elite athleticism, victory, grace, beauty, class, lovability (not to mention that endearing dash of romance/not-romance mystique) is a lot of good vibes to cozy your brand up against.

Another way to think of this is that Scott and Tessa already have a brand of their own — and an audience, tying your brand to theirs buys you an in with their audience and transfers some of their brand virtues onto yours. In the dynamic world of social media though this can go from blessing to curse faster than you can say Kevin Spacey or Lindsay Lohan.

One slip-up by your endorser and you are right there in the hot water where they are. This is the dark side of influence marketing and the absence of any buffer between fiasco and everyone with a phone makes it a risky proposition no matter who your valued relationship is with.

Who can forget, the day after their gold medal skate in PyeongChang, the international scandal of Scott Moir, beer in hand, yelling at the refs at the Canadian women’s gold medal hockey game against the U.S.?

The fallout was – oh, who are we kidding? As Sports Illustrated put it with their headline


They can do no wrong. Everyone loves these two. A surer bet in influence marketing probably there never was.

The Importance of Transparency in Marketing

Being Open and Truthful Ran into Effective Branding on Valentine’s Day! You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Business is about relationships. It can’t be said plainer than that. No matter what we want to believe, humans – especially modern ones – are more emotional than they are rational creatures.

Especially in the business of marketing, it has been said a million times now with science to back it up: the decisions we make are based on how we feel – not on what we think.

This is not to say that facts are irrelevant, and that a potential partner, investor or customer won’t want to see the books or read the fine print. It is just to say that all things being equal between two options in business or the marketplace, a shopper will go with the choice that feels right. This is a subjective and subtle discernment that is more nuanced than can be covered just by saying they will go with the one they like. It is perhaps more accurate to say…

…“they will go with the one they like that is also the one they TRUST.

Considering this, it is perfectly reasonable to draw a parallel between how one might succeed in a customer relationship and how one might succeed in the hardest business of all – the business of love. (Besides, with Valentine’s Day coming, we just couldn’t help ourselves.)

Whether it’s good looks or good books. Whether it’s an appealing bottom line or an appealing, um… you know what we mean, what we look for in a partner in love goes beyond the surface stuff. For a relationship to take root, let alone succeed, both sides need to feel secure in the investment they are making (or have made), and security isn’t established by an examination of what’s on the surface – it’s what’s established by what’s beneath: that which belies what one can expect over the longer haul.

Think of it this way. If purchasing (or dating) decisions are driven by emotional rather than rational responses, then first contact needs to elicit a smile rather than a frown. And by first contact I don’t mean first impression, I mean first experience with the actual product or service.

For decades, paint and spray shellac have been used to make that hamburger look awesome in the commercial, or microscopic illegible print that unravels the giant FREE on a billboard, has been go-to pickup lines for would be consumer Casanova’s.

More recently, in the online realm – headlines like, “An amorous hippopotamus saw this grey Volkswagen beetle. You won’t believe what happened next!” has become the new Leisure-Suit Larry gold standard for getting clicks that get ads in front of eyes. But is this the first impression marketers really want for their brands?

For the answer to that question, just ask any shopper, or single seeking a soul mate, where disappointment on the first date ranks on their list of turn-ons?

Though the false promise, the flash-over-substance approach has found new life online as a way to fool advertisers into thinking that if something gets clicked on, the work is done, it only ever results in a let-down for the prospect. This is not the way to start a relationship.

Honesty is the best policy. Tricks, gimmicks, plot twists, baits-and-switches, are old-school for good reason. They may get you a date, but that’s not what you’re looking for. You aren’t spending valuable marketing dollars for a date, or a one-night stand. The smart money and the good investment goes for the big prize. You want the honeymoon.

To put it bluntly (sorry to sound like a 1950s TV dad): no honesty – no honeymoon.

Which brings us to the function of transparency in marketing. Transparency is really just honesty worn on your sleeve. It is a way of demonstrating not only that you are honest, but also that you value honesty and likely always will. It is the difference between the T-shirt that says “one-night stand’ and the T-shirt that says “Take me home to meet mom.”

If there’s anything more attractive than someone who doesn’t lie, and who establishes early on that they don’t disappoint, it’s someone who demonstrates they do not now – or will likely never – have something to hide!

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,“ so the old saying goes. But times have changed; and whether it’s dating or business there are not only a lot more fish in the sea, technology makes getting to just the right fish with just the right message a lot easier than it use to be. So perhaps that old saying needs a reboot. Perhaps now, it goes more like:

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twi – oh, look over there! I’M OUTA HERE!”

So on the auspicious day we set aside to celebrate love and lovers, let us ponder, as marketers, the lofty philosophical notion that perhaps love and truth are intertwined concepts: that they are perhaps, even one and the same.

It’s a pleasing notion to take to heart, because in our cynical times, for once it seems – in life, in love and in business – doing the truly right thing is in fact the right thing to be doing.



A Welcoming Wave from the Wavemakers at Ripple Effects

Illustration of red target area reaching people

When I started Ripple Effects Marketing, phones didn’t pay for your groceries at the checkout, you had to sit through commercials during TV programs and people didn’t have to sell big ideas in 140 characters.

It all feels like a lifetime ago now. But in tech – and so too in online marketing – a lifetime of advancement (and extinction) seems to fly by in the time it takes to say “Myspace.”

Evolution; survival of the fittest; adaptation; whatever you want to call it – at a rate that challenges anything we understood before – quickly became a definitive trait of the online marketing arena. And while the flux and impermanence of this new media marketplace, and the unprecedented rate at which it changes, struck fear into the hearts of many traditional marketers, this was not as true for those with expertise in direct mail marketing. No. For them, the Internet held the promise of a veritable paradise!

I think my background in direct marketing, which strategically exploited ongoing measurement to tweak performance, positioned me to comprehend early-on the opportunity Internet marketing presented by way of the easy-targeting / easy-analysis / easy-tweaking feedback loop that’s an inherent trait of the digital realm.

Ripple Effects Marketing was born of the idea that remaining fluid in order to adapt – while capitalizing on readily available and ongoing analysis to inform that adaptation – is the key to achieving maximum digital marketing results relative to resource inputs.

Constantly assessing perpetual flux to allocate resources in a way that makes waves from ripples became the way to do things. And surprisingly to many, the direct mail marketing know-how so many thought was on its way out would be the key to making the most of new media.

Borrowing liberally from the proven legacy of direct marketing’s, performance-metric- ROI- driven toolkit was an approach perfectly suited to the perpetual data-collection, change-on-the-fly machinery of digital communications and social media marketing.

For people like me, the challenges other marketers were confronted with looked a lot more like opportunities.

For someone who also has a sports marketing background, and enjoys competition and statistics, the dynamic, strategic, linear, nature of winning market share on the web meant the Internet was the place I wanted to work: the place where I felt home-field advantage.

And so, that ripple back then became the wave it is today. It is my hope that you will consider allowing us to show you, not only how to successfully navigate, but how to exploit the dynamic, exciting ebb and flow of the web.

Make a ripple. Ride the wave.