Posts in Brands

U2 AR Experience

VR v.s. AR IRL

June 8th, 2018 Posted by Brands, Thoughts 0 comments on “VR v.s. AR IRL”

The ideas and tech behind Virtual Reality (VR) are extremely exciting. The potential to create fully immersive virtual environments where every detail can be designed or manipulated in ways beyond what is possible in reality sets my imagination on fire.

However, can brands produce VR content that transcends the novelty of the tech and remains relevant to their story? Technology should be a tool to tell the story, not the story itself. Before brands look into the world of VR, they need to ask themselves if there is a reason this medium will tell their story best.

I encountered a VR demo on the recent auto-show circuit. The experience involved virtual environments: a snowy mountain, a lakeside shoreline, a desert oasis, etc. There were certain elements you could interact with: you could throw a snowball, pick up a stone, and wave to a mountain lion. In each scene, the manufacturer’s vehicle was present in the background. However, once the experience was over, I struggled to make a connection to the brand. They are a car maker, not a VR company, and the content of the VR demo didn’t tell me more about their cars or their brand story.

Furthermore, the setup was cumbersome and bulky; as a result, so was the experience. I had to suit-up with a VR helmet, headphones, a hardware backpack, and a special pair of gloves so that my hands could be visible in each virtual environment. I also had to be chaperoned through the experience by a staff member because once the helmet was on I was blind to the actual world while interacting with the virtual one. This is far from the seamless integration experience consumers have come to expect from high technology.

The infrastructure needed to facilitate VR’s limitless possibilities ultimately become its hindrance. In order to create compelling user experiences, companies need to invest heavily in software, animation, and design when that may not be related to their primary business or their brand story. The other option is to make modifications to generic computer-generated environments, then try to shoehorn the elements into a relationship with the brand.

The very nature of VR is to fully immerse a person in a virtual environment while shutting them off from the actual one. This makes the experience inherently insular, which is great for relaxing at home or commuting to work but not when occupying a shared, communal space, which is what you encounter at mass-attended events.

I see VR as the playground of game developers who are well-versed in creating virtual worlds and telling stories within them; and I see brands inserting themselves into those stories. Product placement and brand messaging strategically inserted into a communal, game-based virtual universe is the effective way for brands to capitalize on this emerging technology while managing costs and avoiding the pitfalls of shifting into a space they don’t naturally occupy.

On the other hand, Augmented Reality (AR) is the related technology I am very excited about. AR is the integration of virtual images with real-life objects and environments. Pokémon Go was an international phenomenon and Google Maps recently made their API available to developers allowing any city or location on Earth to become the interactive setting for a brand’s story. Developing proprietary experiences that capitalize on these technologies is relatively simple compared to designing full VR environments and is several times more cost effective.

World renowned stage and set designer, Es Devlin worked with Treatment Studio to create a game-changing AR concert experience for U2 fans on their current world tour. Using the app packaged with the new album, fans can use their smartphones to view virtual images that are made to appear from the giant LED screen set in the center of the arena. The ingenuity is astounding. They’ve created a way to enhance and elevate the concert experience when people use their phones instead of distracting from it. In the process they have managed to bring the spectacle directly to the farthest seats in the house in some of the largest venues in the world.

Every festival, conference, proprietary event and venue should be building this functionality into their apps; in turn, the sponsoring brands should be capitalizing on it by building AR-enhanced design elements into their physical footprints. QR codes printed into the signage, video content, vehicle wraps, and even staff uniforms should trigger an entire additional dimension of user experience. Instead of begging consumers to share a photo with a hashtag, we should design experiences where their smartphone use becomes an integral way of unlocking the complete experience.

The development of virtual tools offers a proliferation of possibilities for brands to communicate with their audience. The first key is to recognize that what you are communicating is just as important has how you communicate it: the mediums of VR and AR wont elevate an uninspired idea just because it’s presented with a lot of computing power. The second key is to know that if you’re not enhancing the experience, you’re distracting from it: the tech is not the story.

The next time you’re at the auto show, you should be able to point your smartphone’s camera at  a vehicle display and manipulate the colour of the car or see how it would look with custom rims; or maybe a virtual ambassador will appear and outline key features. The next time you’re at the movies, sporting event, music festival, or industry conference you should be able to point your phone’s camera at any screen, piece of signage or branded display and be able to interact with augmented reality elements that surprise and delight, and enhance your experience. No helmet required.

Tech Experience

Going Tech – RW’S Top 5 Articles of the Month

May 31st, 2018 Posted by Brands, Thoughts 0 comments on “Going Tech – RW’S Top 5 Articles of the Month”

I love to read. And I love to share those articles that resonate with me, not only for others to see, but to use as my ‘rolodex of thought starters’ for inspiration when working on that new brief or to open the conversation with clients.

In hopes of inspiring your next great idea, every month I share my top 5 articles on everything from great experiential campaigns to game-changing tech.

This month, aside from one example that took me down memory lane and one clever take on a ‘touchy subject,’ my favourite articles have revolved around technology with some brands making the most of the latest tech innovations.

Here are the articles that made the roster:

1. This really resonated with me because years ago we launched a surfer/beach/lifestyle beer brand in Canada and this would have been the perfect vehicle to provide our target audience a unique experience while enjoying a cold one (or two). Read more about the Truck Surf Hotel

Truck Surf Hotel

2. Custom whiskey bottle creation aside, the thought that using algorithms to match particular taste pallets to one of six new blends is what makes this personalization campaign by Johnnie Walker especially unique, engaging, and memorable. Read on about Johnnie Walker My Edition launch here.

Johnnie Walker My Edition

3. Coming from a self-proclaimed Sneaker Head (in my dreams), I love seeing shoe campaigns leverage the latest technology and creative platforms to launch limited edition kicks! Check it out.

Nike Kendrick Lamar
4. As someone who recognizes the importance of music playing a key strategic role in how  brands engage with their target market, this technology really got me thinking about the next great music festival experience. See the video here.

Yamaha AI System

5. Not only is this a great way to turn an often uncomfortable issue into one that encourages proactive conversation, it also increases awareness of the statistics surrounding prostate cancer and the importance of early detection. Thumbs up! (pun intended) Check out the microsite here.

The Famous Finger Collection - Abraham Lincoln


Stay tuned for more.

The Mom Movement

May 22nd, 2018 Posted by Brands, Thoughts 0 comments on “The Mom Movement”

I’m just a regular working mom, blogging about Mom bloggers. I have two daughters, my eldest is four and my youngest will be two in July. My mom life didn’t just start when my daughters were born, I was a mom “in-training” for over four years before giving birth to my first child.

My journey into motherhood was difficult – it was very personal, and it was my problem. I felt very alone and I didn’t want to be a hindrance to anyone including those closest to me. So, for comfort, knowledge, and advice, I turned to the only source of impersonal open forum communication I could think of: mom-centric online social networks including bloggers and influencers.

With over 15 years of marketing experience, I simply became amazed at how seemingly ordinary women could take the notion of “raising their children” and turning it into a successful home business. The mom groups, bloggers, and influencers who I followed grew their social followers into the thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) all by providing advice, tips, and tricks on what they were doing every single day: being themselves and raising their children. They created businesses that anyone could have started and they did it right. Sometimes with help through paid sponsorships from Canadian companies across the country, and sometimes with just a little help from their very own social networks. All in all, the ‘mom movement’ has managed to cultivate a niche group of highly-engaged, deeply connected mothers that listen and trust one another – a true marketing goldmine.

The following three social networks are not only profiles that I follow as a mom but also as a marketer. As you will see, each has their own way of bringing moms together and provides a truly unique marketing opportunity.


Pink & Blue
The moment I announced my pregnancy to the world, one of my closest friends added me to the “members only” Facebook group called Pink & Blue (P&B). P&B was founded by Nicole Bloomberg in July 2011 and is an online hub for all things family and life. They pride themselves on being an amazing resource for the modern parent for trusted advice, information, and inspiration. I’ve never checked out the “hub”, yet I follow their Facebook newsfeed on a daily basis.

Over 29,000 members post questions, successes, tragic stories, rants, raves, events, and product reviews – all in all, it’s simply a great resource to learn from unsolicited, unscripted women who are primarily Canadian and living within the GTA.

The P&B open forum frowns upon obvious paid marketing and promotion of products. What became compelling to me and, what P&B does really well, is focusing on one of the oldest yet most trusted forums of marketing – word of mouth (WOM) communication. For this reason alone, P&B is worth the follow. Tapping into these niche markets is a delicate art. Rather than targeting these kinds of groups directly with ads or promotions, brands should turn their strategy to the influential moms that are known and trusted in these communities. Moms both love to share brands that they love and also rely on others’ experience and opinions when searching for a new product or service. So, in a way, if you win over one mom with your product, you’ll win over dozens of others in the process via these highly-engaged social communities.

Facebook: 29,961 members
Twitter: 1,377 followers
Instagram: 10,100 followers
YouTube: 32 subscribers


The Rebel Mama
I was first drawn to them by their name – the Rebel Mama. When I saw it pop up in one of my feeds, it instantly caught my attention. Anyone who knows me, knows I loathe anything fake – fake people, fake things, and fake situations. What I hated more was being put in awkward social settings with a group of unknown women who are vying for attention while having to dance or sing ridiculous songs (with props) … all when your baby is just 12 weeks old.

I hated mom groups but I did it to be “social”. I went to them all the time but they weren’t my thing and I wasn’t the only one. The Rebel Mama was founded by Nikita Stanley and Aleks Jassem who are the unofficial voice of mommy-group dropouts. They keep it raw and real. They tell it like it is and make an effort not to hide the bad stuff (miscarriages, pregnancy, birth, post-partum depression, etc.…). Not all pregnancies are easy – this includes my own – and, as a result, I could relate to The Rebel Mama. They posted the raw, traumatic, and chilling stories that nobody talks about but everyone wants to hear.

As a marketer, I think Rebel Mama brings up an interesting point: not all moms are the same. We often use the term “Shopper Moms” to describe what is one of the most highly-coveted market segments out there. But there are so many facets to the ‘mom movement’ making it a much more complex marketing segment than you would think. Figuring who your target audience really is crucial to the success of any marketing campaign and speaking to specific pain points that may not necessarily be ‘mainstream’ topics, such as mental health, for example, could help brands deeply resonate with their audiences

Facebook: 3,977 members
Twitter: 3,219 followers
Instagram: 11,700 followers
YouTube: 44 subscribers


Cat & Nat
Cat & Nat (AKA the Social Common) was founded by Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer and is a one of a kind digital platform that offers advice, tips, support, and SO MUCH MORE for moms. Simply put, Cat & Nat are freakin’ hilarious and so, so, so fun to follow! These two native Torontonians who are the best of friends have created a mom empire. They started out grassroots, hosting social events for moms on mat leave, and now they tour cities across North America with The Cat & Nat Fun Show. What’s best about what they do, is that it looks like they are having an awesome time doing it. They are marketing machines and the product is them!

What I love about Cat & Nat is that they are so relatable – they tell it like it is and they aren’t shy about it. All those little things that people are too shy to ask or talk about, they literally put it out there to hundreds of thousands of people but in a way that feels really relatable and authentic.

It’s obvious that they have big hitter sponsors but they’re open about it and they don’t try to hide it. They clearly mark certain content as sponsored and all of their sponsors actually do makes sense – seemingly to fit well into their daily lives and lifestyles. They never push a product but rather show how it’s interwoven into their daily lives. There’s nothing worse than someone who is being paid to talk about something that feels forced and unauthentic.

The way they develop their content in a humorous way and their use of social platforms – like Instagram stories – drive you to keep following them. My husband always asks why I’m watching their stories and that’s because he simply doesn’t get it. He’s not a mom and he’s not the target. They are true marketing geniuses who have become influencers within the mom network being great role models trying to make difference in women’s lives. I applaud them for the amazing accomplishments and communities they have created.

Facebook: 953,617 members
Twitter: 4,878 followers
Instagram: 225,000 followers
YouTube: 48,269 subscribers


The ‘Mom Movement’ has helped me and countless other women find the support and advice that we needed, when they needed it the most. It’s amazing to see what passionate and determined women can do. These communities have and will continue to grow and diversify, offering both mom and marketers unique opportunities to share solutions that make motherhood that much more sweet.


Additional Channels to Follow

Canadian sisters Josie & Laura sharing the in’s & outs of their MOM life & BIZ life.

Facebook: 7,316 followers
Instagram: 20.1k followers
YouTube: 1,439 subscribers
Twitter: 11.3k followers

The millennial mom movement. They are fun loving, life living ladies. Reinventing motherhood.

Facebook: 1,252 followers
Twitter: 1,071 followers
Instagram: 4,137 followers

Amanda Blakeley
Constant Tourist. Excursionist. Fashionable Family-Friendly Travel. Editor @thisisCrumb.

Twitter: 3,339 followers
Instagram: 11.9k followers

Angie Campanelli
Canadian lifestyle & family blogger. Content creator & producer. Huffington Post CA blogger.

Instagram: 46.1k followers


TIFF: A close-up on brands that matter

September 16th, 2016 Posted by Brands, Thoughts 0 comments on “TIFF: A close-up on brands that matter”

Festival Street at the Toronto International Film Festival has been a hot spot for brand activations for several years. People love free stuff. Samples. Giveaways. Prizes. Surprise & delights. Yes. Yep. Sure. Mhmm & of course. They all work to associate positive feelings with brands. But do the brands even matter after people get what they want?