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Posts from the ‘Digital’ Category

Helpling: a helpful online cleaning service… or not?

cleaningThis weekend, I decided to try out Helpling, one of the latest web-based cleaning booking services that has cropped up lately.

This was my first time using Helpling. I’ve been needing to find a replacement for our current beloved cleaners as they haven’t been able to service spaces over a certain square footage anymore. I was hoping Helpling could be our new go-to service.

So in the end… how was it? This was my experience and how I think they can make it better.

1) The website

When I got to their site, I was impressed by how clean and user friendly it was. Unfortunately, as soon as I started filling out my information, I found that the site had some bugs, the first of which forced me to enter information into the “optional” second line of the address fields. “Optional” should not mean mandatory. This must have been an oversight, and therefore should be an easy fix. That said, until it’s fixed, it’s really not the ideal as many people don’t have addresses that can extend into two lines. As for me, I usually have to fill out my address with my suite number in a very specific way to get past strict credit card verifications against my on-file billing address. Splitting up my billing address often means credit card validation is declined. The fact that it went through is convenient on the one hand, but really not so good, as it raises security concerns.

A second observation was that the site form didn’t have any space for customers to fill out additional information. Information like key pick-up, perhaps where the cleaning supplies are, or any special instructions in the event a customer can’t meet the cleaner face to face.

The verdict: It doesn’t matter how beautiful a site is if the basic functionality doesn’t work. Helpling would benefit from going through another round of site QA and fixing these sorts of bugs – both form submissions and the security flaw. Adding a comments or additional information section to the form would eliminate the need for customers to have to call Helpling to give that information over the phone – which ties into #3 below.

2) The big bug – location for in-person services is really important

The next bug was a doozy, and I only discovered it a day later when I happened to review the confirmation email I was sent in more detail… because I’m anal like that. What I found was that the address listed as the cleaning location was incorrect. The system had actually overwritten my cleaning location address with the billing address. Not good. Especially because my timelines were crazy tight that day between coordinating a double move and a hand-over of my place to new tenants. I didn’t have the wiggle room to have a cleaner show up at the wrong address where I wouldn’t be at. It goes without saying that had I not noticed, it would be have been a significant problem. Luckily, I was able to correct the issue with a call through to Helpling. As an aside, I also found that the addresses in my profile and other address on file showed the two postal codes as being reversed for some reason – another bug, but really inconsequential to me at that point.

The verdict: This one really has to get solved or people won’t bother using the service at all. It really eliminates all the benefit to a fast, convenient online booking service. Read more


Apple is going social! Or are they?


Can it be? Is it true? Is Apple dipping their big toe into social media?

The story that the tech giant may be finally taking steps into social media with the launch of their isee5c page is certainly starting to ripple across the interwebs. No major momentum yet, but the discussions are certainly starting to take place. And if this is the case, it seems that Apple has chosen Tumblr as the social media platform of choice to launch the famously silent brand’s social presence onto. Bravo to Tumblr. Any why not? Tumblr boasts a young user base that closely matches the demographic Apple is targeting with their iPhone 5C, not to mention a highly visual and flexible platform that can be fully customized and skinned exactly as a user wants (which Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Pinterest aren’t able to boast).

If you go to the page – you’ll find a fun grid of blocks that you can explore. Each block is a 15 second video that pays homage to different lifestyle moments that you can then reblog or like. And that is the extent of the page (for now – can’t discount that “Coming soon” call out!).

So are they going social?

I’m not so sure. They’ve launched a social marketing campaign in social. Tumblr is being used as a channel to push their content: their series of fun, colourful video vignettes that cleverly tie back to the brand. They’re enabling sharing and likes to take advantage of the viral nature social media enables. Whether the content will actually get shared will be seen in time. And what about Apple’s “voice”? I mean the two-way conversation that is a keystone of the origins of social media. The part that fans have come to expect and the reason why brands originally joined the social foray. This brings us back to what Apple is famous for: their silence. And if that’s the case – how much has really changed? Can this be considered a major step change into social for them?

As an aside, it’s be worth noting that as some sources point out, Apple has not actually formally confirmed that the Tumblr page is theirs – although fans are seeing a lot of promoted posts, which suggests media dollars backing the campaign. All in all, if it IS theirs – it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

Happy holidays from Hailo and Molson: Operation #ExitStrategy


For the month of December, Hailo and Molson have teamed up to offer $10 free taxi credit to their users during this season of holiday parties and celebrations. The campaign gives users going to select establishments (map below) a $10 credit that they can access through entering a unique promo code into their app before they hail a cab.

If you’re not familiar with Hailo, the service allows users to hail a cab and also to pay automatically for their cab fare with a few taps of their finger through a phone app. Users can see who the driver is going to be, call them, and follow their driver’s progress to their location on a map. The service launched in Toronto a little over a year ago and was met with huge fanfare and open arms. I was certainly one of those fans. And why not? A more convenient, reliable, faster, and safer way of hailing and traveling in cabs? Fantastic.

But back to the campaign – it’s a brilliant example of a triple win campaign. Molson gets customers going to Molson establishments that serve their beer. They also have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their “celebrate responsibly” messaging in a very direct and active way. Hailo gets users using their app – potentially new users who have never tried their app before. And finally, all users who participate in the campaign get $10 off their cab fare after their night out.


For marketers, campaigns of this nature are not always easy to create as it’s important to find the right alignment of strategy, opportunity, and channel. However, a strong focus on the end user and what adds value to them is a great place to start. This joint campaign is a great example of providing value to customers in a relevant and integrated way that makes great use of the social and mobile channels.

Happy holidays, everyone!

The Bear and The Hare: John Lewis’ holiday campaign done right

Every year, UK retailer John Lewis launches a holiday campaign that tends to melt the hardest of hearts. This year, they did not disappoint. In true John Lewis style, they launched The Bear and The Hare, carrying the message: “Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget”.

At the campaign’s core is their television spot: a beautifully hand-drawn partial stop-motion animation about two dear friends, the bear and the hare. It’s simple, captivating, and moving. (I’ll let you watch it to see for yourself.)

The TV spot is fantastic on its own and is only strengthened by the layer upon layer of digital and offline extensions John Lewis has wrapped around it: each encouraging further exploration, engagement, and reminders of their lovely tale. And with reminders of their tale are also reminders of John Lewis as a retailer for families out shopping. (I have to confess, I wish there were one in Canada.)

As a story, The Bear and The Hare is very accessible to families and children and lends itself exceptionally well to family oriented extensions like: Read more

LEGO turns 80: Brand storytelling at its best

LEGO turns 80 this month and in tribute of the occasion, they have created a 17-minute animated short film sharing the history behind their iconic bricks. At 17 minutes, the film is rather long for the typical brand-inspired film, particularly considering the ever-shrinking attention span of the average person. And yet, the video has been watched by well over 2 million people. I don’t know about them, but I watched the entire video. All 17 minutes worth.

The film is a great example of brand storytelling done exceptional. A few of my thoughts on why:

  1. The founder’s story: tying any brand story back to the company’s origins (which are usually humble and involving personal hardship) tends to be interesting, especially when they are tied to a person who endured and persevered through hardships as those overcome by Ole Kirk Christiansen, the founder of LEGO. A strong founder’s story is inspiring, relatable, and even heart-wrenching. At its best, bringing a founder’s story to life is a powerful tool in strengthening emotional attachment of fans, and establishing a tie with those who are not yet fans. LEGO’s founder is someone that fans can relate to, cheer on and hope does well… even when we know he eventually must, as we know what LEGO is today.
  2. Emotive story themes: Personal difficulty, perseverance, hard work, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to quality – the hallmarks of a brand that every customer can get behind, and ones that not every brand can attest to. LEGO has wrapped layer after layer of their brand story in these elements, making the extra effort to tie their commitment to quality to the craftsman story of the original wooden toys LEGO created. Smart, because carpentry is something a customer can easily relate craftsmanship to. More so than the plastic block.
  3. Personal narration: The film is narrated by Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the grandson of Ole Kirk Christiansen. Initially, the narrator is unnoticed as just a voice, but eventually, it’s subtly and then not too subtly revealed that he’s a member of the family. Strong, because with the close familial ties to not only the founder but also LEGO, the narration, founder, and company suddenly become even more relatable and relevant. We’re listening to a man tell the story of his grandfather’s start and slow establishment of his company. Even though Kjeld is no longer the President and CEO of LEGO, it doesn’t matter. It’s still his family’s company, and as fans, we are more closely tied to his story because it is told through his eyes.
  4. Sincerity and authenticity: the story is told in a matter-of-fact sort of way that is approachable, simple, and authentic without any bells and whistles. Not to say that every story should be told in this way, but stories rooted in authenticity further resonate with fans. They are also more believable.
  5. Alignment to brand values: Alongside the story themes, which are compelling, and also selected in close alignment to LEGO’s brand values, the way LEGO’s story is told – methodically without too much excitement or embellishment – is also closely aligned to LEGO’s brand values. A brand story should always be consistent with the brand values and positioning. It seems obvious, but surprising how often it’s not well executed.
  6. Informative: Even for the biggest LEGO fan, the film offers you something new about the company you may not have known before. Did you know that LEGO comes from the Danish words “leg godt” for “play well”? LEGO also means “I put together” in Latin – a lucky, unplanned aspect of the name.

Apart from these aspects, the film is, of course very well executed in a Pixar-style animation. That level of quality in a video always helps.

In any case, happy 80th birthday, LEGO. I hope there are many more years of playing well to come.

Your Network Visualized

LinkedIn Labs has just recently created a nifty tool that visualizes your network. Each dot represents a person, with the size of the dot varying depending on that person’s influence as a connector in your network. Lines represent relationships between people. Groups of people who know each other are clustered together and colour coded – different colours for different groups. Mine came out looking like a jellyfish.

What’s yours look like?

Thank you to our resident genius, Christopher Berry, for telling me about it.

3D printed “magic arms” makes arm movement possible for 2-year old, Emma

Little Emma Lavelle was born with a genetic disorder, arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), which causes stiff joints and very underdeveloped muscles – meaning Emma would never be strong enough to lift or use her arms.

Enter the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), created by Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. The device was a combination of hinged metal bars and resistance bands that together could prop up the underdeveloped arms of children like Emma. The benefit? The WREX would allow children to finally be able to hold up and move their arms independently. Playtime and feeding were now possible. As luck would have it, Emma’s mom was present at a conference where members of the research and design team were giving a presentation, demonstrating its uses. In the demonstration, a boy with underdeveloped arms was able to use his arms with the support of the WREX.

Could this be the solution they were looking for?

However, after discussing and meeting Emma and her parents, the Nemours team found that their WREX device was far too big and heavy for the small, two year old girl. It was also designed for use with a wheelchair, and Emma could walk on her own.

The solution: their Stratasys 3D printer. They normally used the printer to make prototypes of their designs, this time, the printer would be used to make the real thing. And what a success! Not only could the parts be customized for Emma’s size, but the new WREX was now light enough for Emma to walk around with and to use. Playtime and feeding became possible, and most of all, she could now hug her mom.

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