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Living the dream

As those who know me well can attest to, I’ve always dreamed of living and working in the mountains.  The challenge has been finding an opportunity that balances both my professional and personal ambitions – until now.

After an incredibly rewarding two years at BlackBerry, I’ve resigned from RIM and moved west to Park City, Utah where I’ve accepted a new role as Senior Vice President of E-commerce and Mobile for a specialty online retailer owned by WellPoint that has two primary sites today in 1800CONTACTS.com and glasses.com.

In my new role I’ll be responsible for PC, mobile (App and Web) and social customer experiences, SEM & SEO, building an E-commerce strategy, implementation of a new corporate E-commerce engine and all related operations.  It’s an exciting role that will also integrate closely with the CMO and CIO office while reporting directly to the President.

The last two years at BlackBerry have been a great experience and it has been a privilege and pleasure to work with so many passionate, dedicated and talented people.

I’m most proud of the fact that we:

  • Built an industry and category leading experience for the tablet web
  • Re-launched blackberry.com for mobile and being recognized for it as being best in class internationally
  • Evolved the way BlackBerry measured the digital business by creating new (and industry leading) funnels across all digital channels while building a global dashboard to aggregate and present all of it in a way that can be both digested and actioned against
  • Built relationships across the organization to positively influence and align digital user experiences to best practices.  We also improved blackbberry.com to be a best in class experience again with several enhancements that were made using analytics and research
  • Successfully led, managed and facilitated the ongoing migration of 300 websites across desktop, mobile and tablet from 3 different CMS platforms to one.   This project is not only the largest ever for Adobe CQ5, but the most complex and guess what – we are on time, on budget and still on strategy.  This is unheard of for a technical project of this scale

BlackBerry has a great comeback story that is building with each day and I’m looking forward to being among the first to buy the first BB10 device next year.

Leaving BlackBerry also means I can start blogging again with some regularity as my thoughts and opinions will no longer be perceived to be biased or somehow representing BlackBerry.  Of course a lot has changed in the last two years and I’m looking forward to being an active participant in today’s digital ecosystem.


October 23, 2012   6 Comments

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Ongoing thoughts in 140 character or less from 2012-07-27

August 3, 2012   No Comments

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Make your interwebs responsive

The bane of every IA and web designer’s existence has always been creating an experience for the lowest common denominator – which usually means creating a locked or fixed web template that will render at all screen resolutions.  The problem with this is that at the lowest screen resolutions the user always gets a compromised experience and at the highest screen resolution the user always feels like the awesomeness of their screen is not being taken advantage of.  What’s the point of having a massive 24 inch monitor in 16 x 9 ratio if the website you are loading only uses a small portion of it?

To make matters even more complicated, creating experiences for the mobile web and tablet web have only increased the resolution possibilities – especially when you consider that mobile devices can be viewed in portrait or landscape.

Stating that what is “below” or “above” the fold is no longer as relevant may give you an excuse to virtually ignore vertical boundaries in your digital experience, but it does little to address the horizontal boundaries we have to consider or else live with the dreaded horizonal navigation scroll bar. Ack!

In mobile there have been two main camps on how to address this traditionally – either create a unique experience for each screen which can be time consuming and costly to both create and maintain, or completely sacrifice the intent of the original experience by “transcoding”  your desktop experience using an automated tool that will guarantee your content is at least readable – although this experience generally sucks for any site that isn’t primarily content / news driven.

With the smartphone and tablet space adding new sizes and resolutions all the time, marketers should take note of “responsive” designs that are taking off on the interwebs.  “Responsive” designs are sites that detect medium (desktop, mobile, tablet etc..) and then render the browser in such a way to provide the best experience possible in terms of navigability, readability and overall user experience.   Looking for a WordPress template recently I noticed that many of the premium templates are advertised as being responsive. Amazing!

Although I’m still an advocate for creating a web experience that is specific to the context of the medium, creating a responsive design allows you to still create context while making changes to page structure to best suit the resolution of whatever screen you are working with – including desktop sites!

One great example of responsive design on the desktop web is the starbucks site. Open to full screen then resize your browser smaller and smaller and watch how the experience changes  & responds accordingly.

if you want to geek out and see how this is done with code, check out this article with code and live examples from smashing magazine. I also found this great resource from webdesignshock.com.

A successful responsive design requires close collaboration between your experience designers and developers – but the payoff is a site that will serve the best experience possible no matter what screen your audience is on.   A better experience will always lead to better engagement and helping you reach your digital ROI goals.


February 25, 2012   3 Comments

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My Nine 2012 Mobile Predictions

It’s no longer about the year of mobile.  The decade of mobile has begun and holds more promise than the interweb did in the early 2000s.

Here are 9 predictions I have for the mobile space in 2012:

  1. As I’ve been saying for years, the mobile web (thanks to HTML5) will overtake any specific App platform. It just makes too much sense to develop once and publish across all platforms – especially since you don’t lose any of the experience you would get in an App environment. Consumers are catching on that many times you actually don’t need an app for that.
  2. The mobile web will surpass traffic of the desktop web for the first time
  3. Just as QR or 2d bar codes have replaced the need to have an SMS marketing campaign for most marketers, NFC enabled phones will start replacing the need for QR codes.  First you’ll see the two of them together (like we used to see an SMS shortcode and QR code) then very quickly everything you see will be NFC enabled
  4. Brands and marketers will realize that the tablet web experience is a different context than their desktop website or mobile website and will start building out HTML5 driven experiences to take advantage of this channel
  5. All screens become mobile. It’s no longer just about the size of your smartphone or tablet, very quickly it will become about which screens (taxi cab, your car, TV etc…) you can connect to
  6. With the connection of everything to everything all the time, security and privacy will become differentiators for those who can both  make it simple to use and understand
  7. Just as the touch experience has revolutionized the way we interact with our electronics,  gesture based interfaces will start to appear and will soon replace touch.  Could this mean the return of the clapper? :)
  8. I first realized the potential of a bendable & scrollable mobile screen when I blogged about it from the Mobile World Congress in 2008.   2012 will be the year when we will first be introduced to mobile devices that either have bendable / flexible screens and / or are scrollable
  9. Social media becomes more mobile and more local

Fee free to add your own predictions or rebuff mine with your comments below. Happy New Year!



December 30, 2011   12 Comments

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Three reasons why a career in print is not a dead end

Last week I had the honour of presenting at the Digital Imaging Association’s AGM and holiday luncheon at the boulevard club in Toronto.

With a room full of print and publishing types of all backgrounds my challenge was to present 10 reasons why a career in print was not necessarily a dead end. I couldn’t think of 10, but I thought of three really good ones.
Below is the presentation I gave. Unfortunately colour and ad-hoc commentary is not part of this deck, but links to the videos are. Enjoy!
View more presentations from Phil Barrett.

December 10, 2011   2 Comments

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An inside look at bluetooth and location based marketing

Petros Kondos was way ahead of his time.  Well before smartphones, mobile apps and even the mobile web Petros recognized the potential of mobile phones for not just marketing, but customer relationship management programs. He was effectively one  of the pioneers of location based marketing (LBM).

Using the power of bluetooth for good (permission based) and not evil (what we used to call bluespam) he was an example for the rest of the world to follow.  I first learned about his company in 2007 while in Barcelona for the World Mobile Congress and followed with great interest as he got 50 of the biggest malls in South Africa as well as several banks, automotive dealerships and other retail centers on to his bluetooth marketing system.

We exchanged emails over the years and I had the opportunity to meet him two years ago when he was in Toronto scouting out a possible relocation and partnership with a Canadian bluetooth marketing company.  Since then he has shut down his business and wrote a book about his experience from start to finish. You can find it on Amazon.

I really enjoyed his book and took away a few things: 

1) His marketing instincts led him to create an amazing CRM  product based on Bluetooth – but instead of staying true to his marketing roots he eventually became a Bluetooth company that did marketing and not the other way around. This ultimately held him back from evolving & expanding beyond Bluetooth early enough as he was too heavily invested to abandon it or to invest in other emerging mobile engagement mechanisms.

2) Over the last few years his marketing instincts led him to the development of a revolutionary product that leverages the signals from all Bluetooth devices to more accurately map and track foot traffic in retail – by the minute.  When I learned about this two years ago I was working for a promotional marketing company that specialized in shopper marketing who would have salivated for this type of tool in their tool box.  Before I could more seriously validate and explore an implementation in Toronto I was recruited away to RIM.

3) Mobile marketers today who are only now figuring out location based marketing as part of their marketing mix using mobile Apps that leverage GPS or by leveraging mobile triggers such as QR codes could learn a lot from Petros on how to make it relevant in retail and how it fits into the broader promotional or marketing mix

Although when I think of location based marketing today I mostly think about the gamification of loyalty programs through the likes of foursquare, the future of LBM is exciting. With NFC becoming standard on mobile devices, mass adoption of 2d code readers and even the evolution of the bluetooth standard to leverage and incorporate wifi all point to a future of mobile marketing that goes beyond a banner Ad.


November 24, 2011   2 Comments

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Ongoing thoughts in 140 character or less from 2011-09-16

September 23, 2011   1 Comment

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Ongoing thoughts in 140 character or less from 2011-05-27

  • 1 in 5 smartphone users now "check in". I guess location based marketing isn't dead after all ->
  • best swag bag ever at all things digital conference #d9 ->
  • @erikfrye hp veer phone, sony hd snap camera, pogoplug video with instant streaming / file sharing solution and a creepy glass skull #d9 in reply to erikfrye ->
  • Thks for sucking up right away – after eric scmidts opening line – classic #d9 ->
  • Interview of andrew mason ceo of groupon was highlight of #d9 so far. Great humour and perspective ->
  • See Andrew Mason’s Amazing Death Stare! http://t.co/CqPHJxh ->
  • new windows OS for touch looks just like the QNX platform on RIM's Playbook. Lots of similar gestures and behaviours #d9 ->
  • windows 8 trying to be both computer and tablet OS… not sure it works. like being stuck betwene a sh*t and a fart. #d9 ->
  • HTML5 and "magical" seem to be most common buzz words used in many presentations & demos today. #D9 ->
  • Win mobile 7 is helping nokia achieve product goals in 1/3 of time vs symbian #D9 ->
  • Nokia not concerned about RIM – only trying to differentiate from ios and android #D9 ->
  • Nokia says its no longer war of devices, but war of ecosystem… ->
  • Nokia wants to be most friendly ecosystem to carriers vs ios and droid. No rim reference #D9 ->
  • Not just solomo… But sologo – social, local and global – robert iger #d9 ->
  • 3d needs to be used on the right film and the right creative way to be successful #d9 ->
  • Ironically intro to shantanu narayen ceo adobe was best of conference… Like old flash intros on web #d9 ->
  • Flash not a tech issue but biz model issue according to shantanu #d9 ->
  • Html5 is the magical hope for everything – walt mossberg #d9 ->
  • Adobe welcomes and is actively developing for html5 standard #d9 ->
  • Omniture working with comscore and neilson to standardize how / what we measure online #d9 ->
  • Allthingsd.com ironically is desktop-centric. No mobile or tablet optimized exp. #fail #d9 ->
  • Adobe excited about future of android tablets. Also thinks rim and hp will succeed in enterprise #d9 ->
  • Adobe making significant investment into cloud based tools and services #d9 ->
  • Adobe working with all browsers to ensure flash cookies work and play nice with other cookies #d9 ->

June 3, 2011   3 Comments

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Mobilize all your marketing activities

At the recent CMA Mobile Marketing conference I asked to see a show of hands for all those who worked for brands or agencies that had created “mobile marketing” capabilities within their organization. I was impressed that the majority now claimed to have mobile as part of their marketing mix.  This is a significant change from even a year ago. When I followed up that question with how many have mobilized all their marketing activities, I got mostly blank stares.

It’s one thing to hire a mobile “expert” to create messaging campaigns, help you build and app or figure out your mobile web experience, but to harness the true potential of mobile, marketers need to think about mobilizing the entire marketing mix. 

Incorporate mobile to enhance and create engagement with existing print, broadcast, outdoor, PR, social, retail, training and event marketing activities. 

Remember how hard it was to convince Creative to add a URL to that print add or TV commercial a few years ago? Dust off those cognitive dissonance management skills and march back into black turtle neck row armed with your shiny new QR codes, SMS Short codes, mobile friendly URLs, app store and bluetooth logos and your quick reference sheet on mobile adoption in North America and get ready for round two.

May 13, 2011   5 Comments

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5 reasons why marketers and brands need a tablet web strategy today

Just as marketers and brands are finally figuring out their mobile web strategy, it’s time to add the tablet web to the mix.  The tablet web is not just a new screen, it’s an entirely new channel.

Here are five good reasons why:

  1. Your desktop site may not work on tablets. Most consumers who have already bought a tablet are doing so with a device that does not support flash. This means that many brand and marketing sites simply will not load or work when viewed on a tablet browser (Playbook and Xoom once flashed is supported will be the exception).  Showing the mobile web version which is how some sites handle tablets is not optimal either. Just as flash is the common denominator for the desktop web, HTML 5 is the common denominator on the tablet web – so build an HTML 5 presentation layer to your online brand.
  2. Make your paid media campaigns work. Your media agency may not be spending much in the tablet channel yet, but Ads bought for the desktop web are still be viewed and clicked on the tablet web.  Having a tablet optimized experience means you can increase your conversion funnel by serving up an experience that is in the context of the tablet user.
  3. Tablet web is the best of all browser worlds. Tablets have the best of the mobile web and desktop web. You’ve got a great viewing experience on a large (or large enough) canvas while you can leverage location, device, and browser detection to customize your experience and messaging on the tablet web.  You can’t do that on your desktop site unless a consumer signs-in & fill out a truthful profile
  4. Tablets are primarily touch-gesture driven vs. a typical desktop mouse-click driven experiences. Having an interface that leverages intuitive gesture-based navigation means the experience is going to be more positive and the likelihood that the user completes a desired action (viewing product details, requesting quote, signing up for future communications)
  5. You don’t need an App for that. Although consumers are looking for great apps to augment their tablet experience, they aren’t necessarily looking for an App from every brand unless you are providing great utility and a service that goes beyond a one-time need in a typical product purchase life cycle.  Having a great tablet web experience that will work on all tablets with one build is more cost effective and practical for longer term communication plans.

Want to see a great example of a tablet web optimized experience? Check out http://blackberry.com on your tablet browser today. Feel free to share links to other outstanding tablet specific pages in response to this post.

April 17, 2011   1 Comment