The Importance of Teamwork

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” — Babe Ruth

1927Yankees

Babe Ruth’s 1927 New York Yankees

This is important coming from Babe Ruth because he is best remembered for his individual accomplishments. In particular for his home run record, which stood for nearly 50 years after he retired. What is often forgotten is that Ruth was part of 7 World Series winning teams.

It is rare that any great team is successful solely because of one member. I’m sure even the greats such as Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan would agree with that, and they were often regarded as the leaders of their teams.

I bring up the importance of teamwork because in this past week my classmates and I have become a part of three different teams for school projects. Some teams we chose ourselves and some were assigned.

Our professors have reminded us time and time again that teamwork is going to be a major component of our lives in the workplace, and that most of the time we will not be able to chose who we work with. So, although some of my classmates were displeased with some of their groups, that is part of the learning process.

I found a great article about teamwork on the University of Waterloo website. The article lists four qualities of a successful team: openness, trust, support and respect. I think these hit the nail on the head. All the successful teams I’ve been on have had these four qualities and they seem pretty logical to me no matter how big or small the team is.

It is important to realize that although certain members of a team will be stronger in some areas than others, everyone will have something valuable to contribute.Team Of 8 Blue People Holding Up Connected Pieces To A Colorful Puzzle That Spells Out "Team," Symbolizing Excellent Teamwork, Success And Link Exchanging Clipart Illustration Graphic

It’s undeniable that Babe Ruth couldn’t have won those World Series by himself. Baseball requires offense, defense, pitching and hitting. Similarly, our group projects will require research, writing, editing, and presenting.

Who knows, maybe one person on my team will be the “Babe Ruth” of researching. Maybe another will be the “Wayne Gretzky” of presenting.

You tell me. What makes a good team?

Walmart: Inexpensive, But Not Cheap

I’d like to start this post with a disclaimer: I hate commercials. I don’t watch much Television, so I don’t see a lot of commercials. It’s nice. When I do watch TV, I press mute during commercials. That said, I understand the reasons for commercials and that there are lots of effective commercials. Here’s one:

The Spot
Outside of a Walmart the host introduces the theme, Walmarts “Low Price Guarantee,” and the star of the commercial, Lainie N. from Illinois. They move inside to start comparing Walmart’s prices with Lainie’s receipt from another store. First they check out breakfast sausage, and then orange juice.

The host explains that Walmart will match lower advertised prices from competitors at the register, and that they have “everyday low prices.” The pair is then shown with a full cart walking towards the checkout. Then comes the moment of truth as Lainie finds out just how much she saved with Walmart.

The host then invites viewers to bring in their last receipt to find out how much they could save. (This commercial can be found by searching “Low price guarantee Lainie” on YouTube).

The Problem
According to this article from Business Insider, in the mid 2000s Walmart had to rebrand itself in order to shed the “cheap” image that was associated with it. They needed to put a positive spin on their low prices to show that Walmart was inexpensive, but not cheap.

The Idea
The idea of this commercial is to highlight Walmart’s “Low Price Guarantee,” which is backed by it’s “Ad Match” policy, and how much money one can save by shopping at Walmart. The purpose of the commercial is to show a customer being shocked at Walmart’s low prices, while still being satisfied with the product.

The Execution
Walmart strives to rebrand itself through this commercial, which is one in a series of many highlighting the “Low Price Guarantee.” This commercial shows an actual Walmart shopper instead of an actor, though it does say in fine print that Lainie was compensated for her time. Still, using an actual customer makes it easier for viewers to identify with the commercial and accept the message.

Walmart's Low Price Guarantee Policy

Walmart’s Ad Match Policy

The commercial shows Lainie checking out different products and being very surprised with the prices. “That’s a great price!” She exclaims as the host points out the price of sausage. Another effective piece used in this commercial is the image of Lainie having her receipt from another store. This reinforces the idea that not only are Walmart’s prices great, but they’re better than competitors’ prices.

There is one thing that really stands out to me in the execution of this commercial; the host actually uses and shows brand name products in the commercial. The sausages are Jimmy Dean products, a recognized brand in the United States. The orange juice featured is Simply Orange Juice, a product recognizable even here in Canada.

What Works?
I think that this commercial works really well as a whole. Using the techniques detailed above, Walmart effectively communicates the fact that they have low prices, but this is not something they’re ashamed of, nor something customers should be afraid of.

By using specific, recognized brand names this commercial helps to further emphasize the inexpensive vs. cheap product comparison.

Receipt Comparison

Receipt Comparison

The whole commercial conveys the idea that Walmart has low prices. One way that they drive this home, which seemed really effective to me, is at the end of the commercial when the host invites viewers to “see for yourself, bring in your last receipt [and] see how much you could save.” This call to action should certainly generate interest and response among the target audience.

What Doesn’t Work?
To be honest, I couldn’t really find much that I thought didn’t work in this commercial. It is very fast paced at times, which might be a problem for some, but I like it. If anything, I might show the price of Lainie’s Walmart trip in comparison with her receipt from another store to drive home the point even more, but other than that I think the ad is good as is.

Final Grade:grade-a-minus
A-. If Walmart wants to rebrand themselves and establish the fact that they are inexpensive but not cheap, this commercial, and the others like it, work really well. I think this commercial is effective in making consumers really rethink Walmart, and consider the money they might be able to save by shopping there.

It actually makes me want to compare my receipts with Walmart’s prices, and I’m not even in the target demographic. I may just do so one day. Would you?

Ad Personalization: Coming to a Smartphone Near You

Do you remember what the world was like 20 years ago? 15 years? Heck, even 10 years ago?

There were no smartphones, no Facebook, no YouTube or Twitter. The Internet was barely an afterthought for advertisers.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you know just how much has changed since then. The rise of the Internet, smartphones and social media has changed the advertising landscape completely.

Using services such as Google Analytics we’ve already started to see ad personalization on the Internet. For example, because I have searched St. Lawrence College several times on Google, I now have ads on my Facebook page for Kingston businesses and services.

Here’s one company’s pitch for ad personalization:

Bell Media wants to take this concept a step further:

“Bell will soon start tracking how its customers use the web and their mobile devices, what they watch on TV, and when they make phone calls.

According to its recently updated privacy policy, Bell will begin collecting customer data on Nov. 16. The company says the data will be used for improving network performance, creating marketing reports and selling targeted ads on mobile devices.”

via Bell to track customers’ web history, TV viewing, phone calls, mobile usage | CityNews.

This announcement has caused concern among some:

“It’s a level of intrusiveness and monitoring that I think is truly unprecedented in Canada.” — Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law.

Bell Media wants to heavily track its users.

Bell Media wants to heavily track its users.

Bell is spinning this story differently:

“We want to ensure that Bell customers see the kind of advertising that actually matters to them. It won’t mean you’ll see more ads, but you’ll see better ones” said Wade Oosterman, President of Bell Mobility and Residential Services”

via Bell to deliver online advertising relevant to customers while protecting their data | CNS.

So which is it? An invasion of privacy? Or simply an attempt to deliver relevant advertisements to consumers? I’m having a hard time deciding.

Another 10 years from now will we be at the point where virtually every ad we see is specifically tailored to us? Please, let me know where you stand on this issue in the comments.

Seniors on the Internet?!

“The times they are a-changin'” — Bob Dylan

These words were certainly true when Dylan first sang them 49 years ago. Dylan is 72 now, but his words still ring true to this day.

The change that I’m talking about however, is seniors transitioning from consumers of typically only traditional mediums, such as television, radio or print, to being consumers and users of the internet and the new media that has come along with it.

A project for Tom Brennan’s Media Awareness class is what originally started me thinking about this subject. Through my research I learned some facts that genuinely surprised me.

According to one study, in 2009, 13% of American seniors reported using social networking sites such as Facebook. By April 2012, this number had risen to 34%. That is nearly a 150% increase in only three short years. The same study found that 18% of seniors reported using a social networking site on a daily basis. These numbers are only going to continue to grow.

Next, consider this article by Frank Kaiser for seniorlivingmag.com. It is an article, written by a senior, detailing how poor and underdeveloped advertising for seniors actually is.  Here are just a few advertisements I could find that either featured seniors or were aimed towards them:

By now the alarm bells are going off in any advertiser’s mind. The internet is a virtually untapped market for advertising to seniors. They are literally asking for advertising directed towards their age group.

Someday soon, if not already, we are going to start seeing many more advertisements featuring and aimed at the senior generation. Advertisers cannot and will not ignore this market any longer. Especially when you consider the fact that the seniors of tomorrow are already familiar with the internet.

So when you see your grandparents on Facebook in the near future, don’t laugh. Their generation will soon be just as important to online advertisers as ours is already. They are going to be the next big thing in the marketing world, and I applaud the companies that have taken the first steps towards capitalizing on this market.

As Bob Dylan sang in his famous song, “you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin.'”

Users as Producers

Telegraph. Telephone. Radio. Television. Movies. Records. VHS. CDs. Mobile phones. Internet. Instant messaging. Smartphones. YouTube. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Vine.

Media, communication, technology, and consumption habits have all drastically changed in a relatively short period of time. A project for Tom Brennan’s Media Awareness class that I was working on with Chantal Lauzon recently, really opened my eyes to how much the landscape has changed.

One thing that really caught my attention is that we are now in a state where we’re not solely consumers of media, as it was in the past, but now we’re also producers of media. The biggest factor in this transition has been the astonishing rise of social media.

Milestones in Social Media

Milestones in Social Media

Nowadays, anyone with internet access can upload a video to YouTube, write a post on Facebook or Twitter, share their music via Soundcloud, upload photos they took to Instagram, or a short, hilarious video to Vine. Applications such as Hootsuite make it easier to share through several of these platforms at once. People may have many different reasons for sharing content, but the important part is that they are.

This change from users to producers has had a major impact on the world. Take, for example, the case of Jenna Marbles. She started out as an unknown on YouTube and today she has one of the top 10 most subscribed to YouTube channels.

This would not have been possible even 15 years ago. YouTube allowed her to produce her own content and post it online. She didn’t have to go through TV networks or auditions.

Reasons for sharing on Social Media

Reasons for sharing on Social Media

Even this blog demonstrates the shift from users to producers. Anyone can start a WordPress blog for free and write until their fingers bleed. Who knows, maybe I’ll be the Jenna Marbles of the blog world. Maybe my future employer is reading this right now. Whether or not this is true doesn’t matter. What matters is that the shift from being media consumers to media producers has made this remotely possible.

So go forth, don’t be afraid to share what you’ve got. If you have anything in particular you’d like me to check out, just post it in the comment section and I’ll be sure to take a look.

Glossophobia and you!

Your palms are sweaty. Your mouth is dry, and your hands are shaking. You forget the words. What comes next?

No, I’m not talking about your karaoke performance at the bar last weekend. I’m talking about public speaking.

fearofpublicspeakingEarlier this week, our class had to give our first presentations in our presentations skills class, lead by professor Jackie St. Pierre. Although they were short, five minute presentations, they still posed a big problem for some.

According to a blog post by Merri Bame, glossophobia, (the fear of public speaking), is still the number one phobia, ahead of the fear of death or heights.

Although I am generally a quieter person, (at least until you get to know me), public speaking has never really given me trouble. This, however, is not the case for everyone. As such, I will highlight some tips that work for me and other advice.

The most important factor for me to succeed in public speaking is rehearsal. Even for our five minute presentation, I practiced at least fifteen times. This not only ensures that I know the material well, but also that I know my delivery method. It is important to know what you’re saying, but equally important is knowing how to say it.

The University of Wisconsin website has a great page about public speaking anxiety. It offers tips for the before, during, and after stages of a presentation. One piece of advice I find valuable is to videotape yourself. This will allow you to see, among other things, any habits which may detract from what you’re saying, such as tapping your foot.

Another great piece of advice they offer is to remember that most public speakers deal with some anxiety. You are not alone. One study found that at least 74% of people suffer from speech anxiety.

Everyone is going to have different strategies. The important part is to find what works for you and run with it. Maybe you need to do fifteen push ups to get pumped up, or maybe you listen to death metal to get into the zone. Whatever your strategy is, know that you can be a good public speaker. 

Welcome to my Blog!

The front page of my empty blog was taunting me, “ready to publish your first post?” No. “Get started here.” Do I have to?

Well, apparently so because lo and behold, here I am. Me, Brent Goff, a blogger? Never in a million years. No way, No how. Or at least, that’s what I would have said three weeks ago.

People may assume that having obtained a university degree in English Studies writing a blog for eight weeks would be easy. Nope. Essays? Sure, I’ll whip one up now if you’d like. Book reviews? No problem. But an opinion piece in a public forum? That’s just not my thing.

So what do I do? Of course, I do what any responsible, computer-literate person with a problem would do, I turn to Google. There I found Anthony  Miller’s “Internet Marketing Blog” and specifically his post about simplifying blog writing. Now his post is geared more towards blogs for a business rather than a personal blog, but I think there are useful points we can get out of it.

The first piece of advice Anthony offers is to write shorts posts. KISS, that’s what several teachers have told us about everything in our first few weeks at St. Lawrence.

Keep It Simple, Stupid (taken from Creative Commons)

Another piece of advice which stood out to me was to keep a list of ideas. I think this will be particularly useful for me because a lot of my nervousness stems from finding a topic which is interesting to both write and read. A list of ideas will allow me to come back to things which struck me days, weeks, and even months earlier.

Knowing that I’m not the only hesitant first time blogger out there is comforting. Maybe you’re wondering what my strategy for writing is. I write everything out by hand first, even this blog. It just feels natural to me.

I suppose I’ll just have to get used to writing in a public forum. I mean after all, isn’t life just one big public forum?

OK here I go, *click* Publish.

My hand written rough draft of this blog

My hand written rough draft of this blog