Friday, 25 March 2011


If you will remember, I love McDonalds.I get excited when I get the coupons in the mail. I think I even wrote a poem titled "Shiny beacon of hope: the infamous M." I even chose the bloody restaurant over my own family (and I would do it again) when I  locked my aunt out of the car when I was a kid at a busy intersection (still have no idea why she got out of the car, but she did) when she wouldn't take me there. She still holds a grudge after 20 years. Where was my intervention at 5!?

I didn't tell you about the toilet incident did I? One time I was so mad I took all her clothes from her suitcase and tried to flush them down the toilet, including her kitten. She caught me tho. Sigh.

Anyways, tangent. Clearly from my childhood photos you would tell I loved McDonalds. I would go to auditions with my mom and she would reward me with the succulent Quarter Pounder, super size fries and large coke. No joke, clearly I was a butterball. Isn't there a brand of turkeys called butterball? I should have been their spokesperson. Seriously. "Mmm, mmm, my mummy loves me cause after she buys me McDonalds for lunch, I get to have Butterball turkey for dinner! They are the most juicy, tasty, fat turkeys, just like me! Gobble, gobble!"

My first ever commercial at 5 years old was a McDonalds commercial!

Needless to say I was addicted. Speaking of addiction, I live in the Tinseltown area where there is a clear divide between wealthy and poor. You can blatantly see the area go from nice to grunge and the people switch from regular to crackheads. I live only two blocks off Hastings right next to the sports arena for those of you who know Vancouver. I ran out of time this morning and got myself an egg mcmuffin no butter ( I kicked the butter habit a while ago after butter rehab) and like usual I was surrounded by crackheads and prostitutes and some visible minorities. It's weird, late at night or early in the morning you can always count on your usual friend doing his jig. The whole McDonalds is like Step Up meets the Thriller video. It's scary. And then meanwhile it's sporatic and unexpected as it turns into Resident Evil and you are literally dodging stumbling, twitchy pock faced people as they complain about the bathroom being locked and how they are missing an unordered cheeseburger. One time I watched two missing tooth prostitutes duke it out by pulling each others hair when one said to the other that she looked like a trashy, poor female dog while the other responded "Do I LOOK cheap and poor?! I just bought $20 worth of food for my man. What do you got to work with? That ratty nest of hair!?" It was pretty ratty...

Anyways, my hood's McDonalds is always an unexpected display of insanity. In all of my world travels I have not come across such a McDonalds, not even in Cairo where it is a different kind of insanity. Literally in Cairo you would be part of the masses trying to weave in and out of people dodging beggers and then suddenly you enter McDonalds and the gates would open, the angels start singing and the bright light shines in your face and everything is civilized. But what about this idea of a beacon of hope? Seems like such an oxymoron to have a beacon of hope in such a neighbourhood when there is no hope.

Obviously McDonalds is one of the most recognizable and powerful brands in the world and I have come across numerous allegorical references to the Golden Arches. It's weird though to have such a display of insanity surounding what is supposed to be a symbol of comfort and hope. From experience and I'm sure the rest of you agree that if you are traveling or backpacking especially and you are lost or tired or at night, when you see those Golden Arches you suddenly feel relieved. What is it about a brand or logo that makes you relieved? Familiarity? Nostalgia? Likability? Trust? Or is it situational? I think it's because you are hooked, like me. They got us when we were young and created a dependency. There must be some emotional attachment whether it be associated with nostalgia, or because McDonalds was there for you in a time of need. Or maybe the same could apply for such symbols as Starbucks?

Whatever the cause, brands have us hooked and have imprinted the need for them on us. We trust in them so much that when they change, we literally throw up our arms and have temper tantrums. Take, for example, the New Coke product and how much sales went down and backlash there was. Or like I wrote about before with OPA! products and the brand trying to become a brand that it part of a new generation young families. Or, in recent times, the change in logo for Starbucks. How about Wal-Mart and their logo and colour change? Some brands are so powerful that they can change their logo, still be recognizable and still make billions of dollars in profits. Is it because of modernization and trying to keep up with the times? Or is there a deeper reasoning behind changing the logo?

It is interesting the idea that as a child, as soon as I saw the symbol or logo of McDonald's, I knew I was satisfying my addiction, as if it were positive reinforcement. Now, even if they changed the logo, I would still feel the same way. Is it really the logo that triggers these emotions, or is it something deeper and more meaningful as if it is a part of my life in some way?

Either way, I ain't never givin' up them nuggets...mmmm I'm lovin' it.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Folded at the Dragon's Mercy: An encounter with a dragon from Dragon's Den

Today was an interesting day. For the past few years, both the UK and Canadian Dragon's Den have been a couple of my favourite shows. I had the great opportunity to see a presentation by Robert Herjavec of the Herjavec Group and dragon on the Canadian version of Dragon's Den.

Part of being a great business person is to be able to market yourself well and create your own personal brand, which I feel Mr.Herjavec has done well. He has been smart in how he has not only done business, but also how he has extended himself and his brand out into the public spotlight.
Part of building my own personal brand, which up to this point I feel I have got a good start on through acting and networking, is about taking calculated risks and putting yourself out there. Now insert my epic fail.

I had the rare opportunity of walking into the undergraduate office and having Mr.Herjavec sitting in the waiting room by himself. After my double take and him looking at me up and down (probably wondering why someone was standing there about to pee his pants), I proceeded to go about my business at a loss for words, using the receptionist as my anchor for conversation. 
Afterwards, my fellow Sauderite and friend Jaime pretty much told me she would disown me if I didn't go back in there and introduce myself.

Seriously, where is Bill Murray when you need him. It was Groundhog's day. Deja vu, but not. I walk back in, say some stupid shakey line like "uhh hey! Haha, I guess I'm back again to ask another question!" I ask if there are advisors available knowing the answer already, and as I am about to introduce myself, some over-achieving Sauder student pipes in to ask me if she can answer the questions I have because of course all us Sauderites know the answer to every question. 
The next 15 minutes were the highlight of my life. You know when in a movie there is an awkward moment like in American Pie when his father walks in on Jason Biggs doing you know what, and then suddenly there are a million people walking in and it gets really awkward? Well, this was the moment. And get your minds out of the gutter!
Of course everyone, being so pertinent and wanting to be the one to get the right answer, started joining in to try and answer my question. Both receptionists, a couple Sauderite helpers, a degree check advisor, and the advisor who helped me the week before who made a point of asking me why I needed more help when she already answered my questions the week prior, butted it. Amongst all of this shuffle, I was trying to find an opportunity, hopefully not awkward, where I could introduce myself to Mr.Herjavec. Enter in the person he was waiting for, and Mr.Herjavec - (Me + 6 degree advisors) = no introduction. Sweet deal.
What is it about missed opportunities that make you so disappointed? I felt like a huge wrecking ball had smashed me through the window and sent me hurdling across campus. Needless to say, I was bummed.
But then my strategy side started cranking. Yes, it was a great opportunity, one that few people ever get; who gets five minutes alone to talk business with Mr.Herjavec? But, what would it have accomplished? How would it have affected my future? Probably nothing, and probably none. I would have just been one of many students he was to come across in his visit, one who would have said the same things about him being inspirational, and how impressed I was, and how I wanted to be just like him. My name would be lost in the Sauderite lion's den, one of many names thrown at him while at UBC.
Here comes the strategy. Now, with my amazing, embarrassing story of being so nervous and actually trying twice to introduce myself, and admittance of how I was only trying to meet him and actually already knew the answers to my question at the reception, I could really have a good conversation starter if I saw him again. Was this actually a missed opportunity? I am not one to be faint at heart, nor do I usually back out of such situations, but this one felt different. I have run events for hundreds of people, and worked on movie sets and in much more stressful, nerve racking situations. But this one was different. 
Maybe fate had a different plan for me in my quest of networking and personal branding? Mr.Herjavec commented in his presentation on his ability to never give up and those who are successful are the ones who have the courage to pick themselves back up and try again. He also commented on those who, rather than take business risks by jumping off a cliff, test the water and then make a decision.
In my mind, I just tested the waters, and my life is a testament to picking myself up and trying again. I think that these days, a genuine, interesting story goes a lot further than quick lips. 
At least I have a better conversation starter than "Do you remember me? We met at the undergraduate office at UBC before your presentation?" To which, he mostly would reply NO. 
Now doesn't this, "I chickened out the first time, and then the second time I got bombarded with help for a question I already knew the answer to, so I couldn't introduce myself, but I am going to now!" sound a lot better? 
I think so ;).

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


For one of my classes, I had to write a blog on inspiration and who inspires me in my life. I thought I would include it in my regular blog...

Inspiration is a complex word with a lot of different connotations to it. To inspire. To inspire someone? A group? A moment? To be an inspiration? Which is it?

 I have always associated inspiration with an idea. But it has always been the motivation to act on that inspiration that has been the tough part for me. I don’t know if it is the fear of rejection, or the fear of the unknown, but at times in the past I have had a hard time just going for it.

 I also associate inspiration with someone you look up to. But for me, I have never really looked up to anyone in particular. Not to sound pessimistic, but in my experience, the more faith you put into one person, the more you are setting yourself up for disappointment. That is why in my life, I have taken bits and pieces of inspiring characteristics from different people that have been influential in my life.

My father. My father and I have never seen eye to eye on most occasions and have had some trouble finding common ground ; however, his thirst for knowledge and his ability to never give up have always been traits I have always admired and taken on myself.

My mother. Her ability to always be kind, warm and giving has always attracted many friends. My friends in particular have always commented on how great she is and how much they love her, something they also do for my brother. My brother has had a better ability to absorb some of that likeability factor, but I have garnered more of the work ethic which we both have agreed on. Not to say I am not kind, warm and giving, but his goal is to please everyone and have everyone like him, which is something I am more realistic about.

My two best friends, both opposites, have provided me with the extensions of my character. On one hand, my one best friend for the past 11 years has provided me with laughter. She is always there for me and when I am with her, we lose ourselves in a crazy world of randomness. She is a true inspiration to me on a character level.

On the other hand, my other best friend has provided the most inspiration in recent memory. Having completed his degree in Europe three years ago, he has worked in sports marketing, as an event manager for a corporate team-building company, an accreditation coordinator for the Vancouver Olympics, an operations manager for the Vancouver Christmas Market and is now in London working at an accreditation manager for the London 2012 Olympics. His motivation, drive and determination are extraordinary. I strive to compete with him on every level because I view him as my equal. We are constantly in competition, but are best friends at the same time. He has almost four years on me in age at 28, but we push each other to achieve greatness in everything we do.

How do you measure inspiration, or even greatness? After hearing Robert Herjavec speak today and hear him talk about how being rounded in order to succeed is completely wrong, rather it is more important to be great at one thing, I wonder how much inspiration matters if you don’t act on that inspired feeling. If everyone around me constantly inspires me, does that mean I am just not proactive enough? Am I doing so little that people and actions are inspiring me because I am not doing or have not done the same?

Because I don’t find one single person completely inspiring, and often there are piece here and there that are inspiring to me, I would rather say that everyday I am constantly empowered by the people I surround myself with. In my mind, being inspired has been done to me, not being the one doing it; whereas, being empowered is both. I have been empowered by my father, my mother, and my two best friends through their inspiration. I am constantly empowered by them to do better, to be better, to always strive to succeed and to push for more. They empower me to never give up, to never surrender, always believe in my skills, and to always remain hopeful for the future.

Now doesn’t that sound a lot better?

Monday, 21 March 2011

My Heart Strings Are Attached to My Back Pocket

Emotions are a tricky thing. God knows I have had my moments where I have let my emotions get the best of me and regretted the lack of self control. In general, however, I am a pretty emotional person. Weird right!? Insert hysterical laughter from my lovely friends in Winnipeg, London and Frankfurt. You know who you are!

Never would have thunk it when first meeting me hey? The tough exterior with the chains hanging off me, Ed Hardy branded on every inch of my body, with my Ecko cap on backwards and the gold circle sticker still intact while I claim it was me who started that trend. For those who haven't met me, I kid, I kid.

Speaking of the gold sticker, what's with that anyways? Some sort of brand identity thing? I had this roommate once, and as you can probably tell by the description of my "tough exterior," I was referring to him. One time I had enough of the gold sticker mocking me every time he walked by me. So I tried to take it off saying "Dude, I'm not going out tonight with you if you don't take that sticker off!" He responded with "It's my thing yo!" Yes, he said yo, that's how ghetto of a white boy he was; to which I responded "If you think your 'thing' is on the top of your head, you got serious navigation issues." He wasn't the brightest bulb in the tanning bed to say the least.

Anyways, back to the point. Emotions run deep in our culture and even more so we as consumers are so used to brands tapping into our hedonistic side. Many are not even aware that our emotions are being manipulated and instinctively we buy into what makes us happy.

Take nostalgia for instance. I can honestly say that certain tastes, or sounds, colours or jingles trigger some sort of emotional response from my past. Chamomile tea with milk for instance tastes exactly like the candy cane short bread cookies my Auntie Juanita and I used to make in Saskatchewan when I was little. Then I think about how she used to call me Mr.Twister from the Take Part television series because of course, you guessed it, I was a bit crazy.

But how do companies utilize this useful subconscious response?

Last night I watched the series finale of Big Love which is about a polygamist family struggling to survive in Utah. Over five seasons we have watched the family overcome so many obstacles both within the family and from the community. This past season we watched Bill Paxton become governor and fight to legalize polygamy and ultimately survive an assassination by his arch nemesis. In the last five minutes of the show his neighbour, because of a grudge, ultimately ends Bill’s life. What’s the point you ask? In the last minute, one year after his death, you see how his three wives have evolved. In the scene, two of his wives see the third one off on a three month long journey to South America. As the wife is about to leave, she stops and runs back crying and embraces both wives. This is particularly significant since the three had a hard time co-existing and maintaining relationships.

I cried. Really hard. I told you I was emotional, but not that emotional. I rarely cry. Maybe it was because I have been really run down from so much work and lack of sleep, but I really let it all out at 1am. Throw in a few brands through product placement like Pepsi, McDonalds or Kleenex into that episode and those companies would have made a fortune off of me that moment. I would have gotten up, walked to McDonalds, grabbed a Pepsi from 7/11 and stole a bunch of Kleenex from my roommate.

But why did I cry? It wasn’t a particularly sad moment in comparison to everything else in the show. I didn’t even cry when Bill died. I think it is because of nostalgia. If I think back to when I first saw the show in 2005, my life was completely different. I have ridden on the coat-tails of this family for five seasons and shared in their triumphs and failures. I felt just as relieved as they felt to finally be at peace and have survived the journey over these past few years. I am still choking up at the thought of that moment as I write this!

Now, imagine had companies placed products within that episode, like it had other episodes, what the implications would be on me buying their products? I would have attached the way I felt in that episode to their products and when faced with a choice between products at the store, may be inclined to lean towards their products in my purchase due to an emotional recall. I, in particular, work from memory by the way a situation or person made me feel. This is a great tool for studying, and particularly helps with my acting which I do on the side.

One particular campaign that I have come across in recent times is the up and coming OPA! Athenos campaign targeting younger generation with a humorous nod to traditional Greek grandmas. Taken from the report, “The campaign is centered on ATHENOS products that are made simply, with respect for traditional ingredients, and yiayia’s approval of them. Creatively, it’s brought to life through scenes where blunt, yet relatable Greek yiayias with old-school mentalities share unsolicited opinions of modern situations.”

Here is a description of the commercials:

·         ATHENOS hummus spots include:

o    Party” - An announcer interrupts Michelle who is serving ATHENOS Hummus to her party guests. When he asks yiayia what she thinks about the party food choice, yiayia instead comments unfavorably on Michelle’s attire.

o    Family” - An announcer interrupts a man who is making an afternoon snack of ATHENOS Hummus for his kids. When he asks yiayia what she thinks about his snack food choice, yiayia instead expresses her disapproval of the fact that in this family the woman works and the man stays at home.

·         ATHENOS Greek yogurt spot includes:

o    Morning” - An announcer interrupts a young couple having a breakfast of ATHENOS Greek yogurt. When he asks yiayia what she thinks about their breakfast food choice, yiayia instead shares her opinion on the fact that this unmarried couple lives together.

I think this campaign, while funny, can touch anyone because every grandma is somewhat the same: proud, opinionated, always right never wrong, nosey, and always in the way. In one fashion or the other, every grandma displays at least one of these characteristics no matter how great you think your grandma is! The point is, Athenos is targeting its consumer in an interesting way; it is not only relying on the comedic and identification aspects, but also nostalgia. Each consumer has had their own experiences with their grandmother, and more than likely it has been in childhood. But the most appealing part of this nostalgia is in the comfort and familiarity. Athenos is targeting a younger generation in their 20’s early 30’s who are starting their own families after post-secondary. By establishing a relationship using nostalgic strategies, Athenos will gain the loyalty from their new customers based on making products the traditional, healthy way like a grandmother would make. Because in the end, you can always trust your grandmother!

Emotions, nostalgia, they both play a significant role in my consumer life and I can admit I am directly influenced by both. Are you?

My First Post!

Yes, I know every day people tell me I should be a model, agents hand their cards to me as I walk down the street, but what about when my looks fade? I'm trying to make an impression on the world here and end world hunger, and I think in my blog you will find the answer. Thought provoking ideas and a little comedy is my goal not just to entertain, but to enlighten and maybe spark a bit of interest. I am not saying I am any sort of expert, but I think putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, can be quite relaxing. I never believed anyone who said writing was “profoundly uplifting,” or “it just sort of works out all the kinks in your life.” But to be honest, I have been thinking about a lot of things for a long time now and never realized how great it can be if you do it right. Taking advantage of your thought process and constructing arguments, connecting thought to topic, topic to thought, thought to big conclusion, can not only bring about a sense of excitement, but also reveal to others that you aren't just a pretty/handsome face. What about prospective employers? A resume is just a piece of paper, but a blog adds that much needed personality to your rather serious and formal resume!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried the diary thing. When I was younger I had this big, yellow coat that enveloped me and I carried a notebook around with me at all times, and everyone thought I was weird.  My journal (like the typical one in all of those 80’s movies) had tons of means things about my friends Sport and Janie and classmates. When that female dog stole my black and white speckled PRIVATE journal and used it to turn my friends against me, I sort of discovered a personal diary wasn't the best thing. Wait, was that me? Was I a spy...named Harriet?

 In any event, enjoy my blog, laugh, cry, hate it, love it, whatever you want. At the least I hope it creates some sort of reaction and of course, I welcome any comments.