Hi Haters – why customer service is one of your greatest marketing assets

by Tieja MacLaughlin

Colleen Ballinger // Miranda Sings // © Gabriel Gastelum Photog

What do Miranda Sings and Jay Baer have in common?

That’s simple: a message for the haters.

Haters Back Off! burst onto the Netflix scene this past October starring a peculiar, and wildly entertaining, fictional Youtube sensation, Miranda Sings. Her unwavering desire for internet fame forces her to confront her online critics.

Her philosophy on how to handle the negativity shares more than one parallel to marketing and customer service speaker Jay Baer’s own Hug Your Haters theory.

Jay Baer will be speaking at The Art Of Sales conference on December 7th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Use promo code RB22 to receive a discounted ticket. 

Both parody, as in Miranda, and data-driven research, as in Jay, suggest the same approach: embrace your haters.

By doing so, you can actually increase customer advocacy. But studies show that by not responding to an unhappy customer, you’re actually making the situation worse.

Social media is a powerful tool that provides us with a platform to share our likes and dislikes with a public and global audience, in real-time. By effectively managing an unhappy customer you are, in effect, marketing to them directly.

Customer service is one of online marketing’s greatest assets.

Think about how you or your company could benefit from an increased customer service presence, and consider these key learnings from Jay Baer:

  • The customer isn’t always right, but the customer is hurt.
  • Answer every complaint. On every channel. Every time.
  • Customer service is 1:1 marketing.
  • Retaining existing customers makes sense financially, vs earning a new customer.
  • “Canary in a coal mine” – haters show you where you need to improve.
  • Recognize and empathize.
  • Speed matters. Customers expect a response within one hour.

“I Got A Rock”: the story of an eight-year old’s gift

by Tieja MacLaughlin


During university, I spent time volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Some of the most rewarding volunteer work I have ever done.

As part of the CMHA Friends Program, I was matched with a child between the ages of 4-15 years old, who was referred by their school as in need of support.

Once a week I met with my “buddy” to work on building self-esteem, social skills and confidence.

We would play sports and board games, read books or work on arts and crafts. Sometimes we would just sit and talk.

I thoroughly enjoyed, and looked forward to the time I’d get to spend with my pint-sized pal.

The most significant challenge we focused on was learning how to lose constructively. Something, I admit, still doesn’t come easy to me.

For a year, I worked with this grade-school’er to harness their competitive nature; their fire, and channel it into something productive.

The growth and development I witnessed was remarkable.

On my final visit I chauffeured my buddy back to class as usual, but was asked to wait a minute before leaving.

Racing to the cubbyhole area, they reached into their backpack, retrieved something and eagerly made their way back to me. With an ear-to-ear grin they presented me with the mystery item.

*drum roll*

It was a rock.

*dun dun chh*

A tiny, smooth little pebble that fit square in the palm of my hand.

For a moment, I was reminded of the classic scene in the Peanuts movie It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! – which, by the way, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – when Charlie Brown receives a rock in his Trick Or Treat bag.

What my buddy said to me next is something I’ll never forget.

“I’m going to miss you, Ms T. I spent all recess looking for the most perfect rock I could find. I wanted to give you something so you wouldn’t forget me. I hope we can still be friends.”

*heart melt*

To this day, that is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Certainly the most memorable.

I got a rock, and I’m forever grateful for it.

Happy Halloween!




Coffee with Ron

by Tieja MacLaughlin


This is a Coffee Shop.

The laissez-faire message on the front door of Louie reads.

The Liberty Village venue is conveniently located around the corner from Ron Tite’s content marketing agency, The Tite Group.

Founded three years ago, Ron was looking for answers to pain points in an industry he spent years in as a Creative Director.

An avid public speaker (70+ public appearances annually), published author (his second novel This Is That comes out next month) and CEO, Ron sat down with me for coffee one October morning.

Ron Tite will be speaking at The Art of Leadership conference on October 21, 2016 at the Metro Convention Centre. Use promo code TM34 to receive a discounted ticket.

Here are five things he taught me about marketing, and life:

1. Brands have to be media properties, and media properties have to be brands.

“It used to be Church and State,” Ron explained. “But it’s not anymore.”

The best example of this concept can be seen for Orange Is The New Black, where Netflix (brand) and the New York Times (media) came together collaboratively in advance of the season premiere.

“I want us, collectively, to redefine what content is in that space. It’s such a huge opportunity.”

2. Sports people, and the people who just figure it out.

Ron has a PhysEd degree from Queen’s. Not what you might expect from someone in his line of work.

Through charm, circumstance, and forward thinking, Ron landed his first post-secondary job in the Queen’s School of Business. The man responsible for hiring him explained the valuable skill set of a sports background.

“You’re competitive, you know how to operate within a team, you’re completely down to earth – the kind of people you want to have a beer with – you’re not too academic, but clearly you’re smart. That’s a great set of ingredients for a successful business person.”

3. Never apologize for trying to do things differently.

“I’ve been wrong before,” said Ron. “Really, really wrong.”

But this hasn’t stopped him from pushing the envelope.

“I knew that the whole advertising ecosystem was being disrupted. But because there was so much pressure to deliver year-over-year revenue, I couldn’t step back. So I quit.”

It paid off. Ron spent six months investigating and researching, and came out on the other end with The Tite Group – a successful Toronto based agency.

4. Good work is good work. Period.

“The one constant during my research, throughout the entire ecosystem, was people want good shit.”

Forget about long, drawn out agency processes. Keep a smaller team in place to make quick decisions, and keep moving forward. Quality trumps all.

5. You need to do side projects to continually innovate the assembly line.

There’s an Oshawa reference here.

Born and raised in the blue-collar south side of the city, Ron used car manufacturing to explain his own business model.

“The assembly line is where you make your money. It’s very efficient, people have very specific jobs and they don’t veer from those jobs. You’ve stripped all the waste along the way so you can become really efficient and really good.”

Innovation, however, happens outside of the assembly line.

“Car manufacturers also create a concept car. There’s no expectation of profit from the concept car. It’s never going to market. It’s just a side project. And we need to do the side projects to continually innovate the assembly line.”

Once the concept car has been refined, it is implemented within the assembly line. And voila, progress!

Channeling my inner spirit animal for Marshall Goldsmith’s latest

by Tieja MacLaughlin


Have you ever taken the time to consider what your spirit animal is?

The animal you resonate most with, that shares similar qualities with you – the creature you’d be if you were reincarnated.

If you’ve met me, chances are, we’ve probably had many intimate discussions surrounding this topic.

It’s fascinating to me.

You can understand my curiosity then, when I saw the cover of Marshall Goldsmith’s latest novel, Triggers.

Goldsmith is an executive coach and international best-selling author. He teaches Fortune 500 CEO’s about leadership and performance, and is one of the top ten Most Influential Management Thinkers in the world.

Marshall Goldsmith will be speaking at The Art of Leadership conference on October 21, 2016 at the Metro Convention Centre. Use promo code TM34 to receive a discounted ticket.

On the cover of Triggers is a large feline carnivore, in a transformative state. It reminds me of my own totem animal – the Panther (a symbol of the night – powerful and aggressive, fiercely loyal and protective, intuitive and feminine).

So why the symbolism in Goldsmith’s cover art?

Nurture vs Nature

When exploring Triggers and unpacking some of Goldsmith’s concepts and theories, the age-old adage “Nurture vs Nature” continued to present itself.

Goldsmith attempts to understand the gap between success and failure among leaders who otherwise share commonalities in terms of coaching and personality. Nurture.

The key variable, he argues, lies within their environment. Nature.

“This book is about the environment. Not just the relationships between people. Not just how I see myself,” said Goldsmith in a series of interviews for his 2015 publication. “How does the world influence me, and how do I influence the world?”

Goldsmith explains how our environment impacts our ability to make changes, and how it triggers certain behaviours.

“Triggers in the environment can change our behaviours, and often in way we do not want.”

Once you’re aware of your triggers you can either consciously remove yourself from the situation, or at least, learn how to better deal with environmental factors that impact behavioural change.

“How can we create this new person we want to be?”

Goldsmith’s work is rich in the theory of behavioural change – creating behaviour and making changes that last.

“This book is aimed at helping you become the person you want to become, not telling you who that person is.”

He helps people become who they want to become, without being prescriptive or judgmental. He consistently asks, how can we create this new person we want to be?

This novel calls on the learnings from two years worth of research, in 79 conducted studies, and five decades worth of experience in the field.

“I think self-discipline is greatly overrated,” said Goldsmith in an interview with Strategy + Business magazine. “We need somebody or something to help provide structure in our lives.”

Strategy 1: The Daily Questionnaire

One of his strategies is the daily questionnaire check-in.

You set a list of self-choosen questions, and every single day have someone contact you to ask you the same set of questions. You grade your answers, and repeat the next day. And the day after that. And so on.

“It’s hard to look in the mirror every day and evaluate yourself,” said Goldsmith. “It’s embarrassing. I screw up every day.”

This process of self-reflection and accountability is a critical component for making changes, or conversely, maintaining consistency with positive behaviour.

Strategy 2: The Wheel of Change

Another strategy he details is referred to as the Wheel of Change.

There are four dimensions to this concept: 1. Create 2. Keep 3. Eliminate 4. Accept.

Each cog on the wheel represents a positive or negative. What behaviour can we create, or keep; and what behaviour can we eliminate, or simply learn to accept?

So the next time you think about your own spirit animal, consider not only the animal you currently are, but also, the animal you want to become.

Al Capone: A Case Study in Public Relations

by Tieja MacLaughlin

When I think of Chicago, a few things come to mind – deep-dish pizza, world-class architecture, sultry jazz bars, and a rich history of sports franchises. I also think of the roaring 20’s, and a network of organized crime.

The Windy City has housed infamous gangsters such as John Dillinger, Bugs Moran and, perhaps the most notorious kingpin of all, Al Capone.

After spending a weekend in Chicago, it’s obvious that the public’s fascination with the mob culture of the Prohibition Era remains intact.

Decades later, most of these gangster names are still prominent, carrying a sense of celebrity with them.

Capone’s old hangout, the Green Mill, is a popular destination for both tourists and locals, and a slew of spin-offs bear the Capone name. There is even a gangster bus tour – the Untouchables Tour – showcasing old brothels, gambling dens, and mobster hangouts.

As head of the Chicago Outfit, Capone was responsible for copious amounts of illegal activity during his reign, and a countless number of hits. In fact, Chicago was dubbed the Windy City because of the numerous corrupt politicians and police officers who ‘blew smoke’ to the public – that were bought out and strong-armed by gangsters like Capone.

With a lengthy rap sheet, and an extensive history of violence, it seems obvious that Capone would be abominated because of his actions. And although that may be true for some, why do so many people still hold such a romanticized version of organized crime during the Prohibition Era?

Al Capone was ruthless, cunning and deadly – but the world recognized him as charming, powerful and bold. When it comes to public relations, Capone is a fascinating case study.

His rags to riches story was one people resonated with, and rooted for. Scarface, as he was often called, made hundreds of millions of dollars throughout his lifetime, and was regarded as a highly successful business man.

He was greeted with open arms on the streets of Chicago by his supporters, and adorned because of his generosity. He stood up for the underdog, for which he was named a hero, was fiercely loyal to his gang, and supplied a demand to the public at a time they desperately longed for it.

With his flamboyant Italian suits, fedora and $50,000 pinky ring, Capone craved notoriety. He relished in the limelight, attending baseball games, posh restaurants, and the opera. He wanted to be recognized as a gentleman, and he wanted the public to love him.

Chicago press had a love affair with him – he held press conferences and offered cheeky one-liners to reporters. This served him well for several years.

It was, however, the Valentine’s Day massacre that earned him a new nickname – Public Enemy Number One.

Capone’s reputation took a massive hit.

In an effort to resurrect his image, and appeal to the public, he played on society’s needs at the time, opening a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. Whether or not he was successful in repairing his image is debatable.

Capone’s story doesn’t end in glory – he was eventually incarcerated and suffered a syphilis-related death.

Regardless of your personal opinion on the man, one thing can’t be denied – we’re still talking about him today.

Many, many people idolized Capone, when they had every logical reason to hate him. Capone’s legend lives on, and his fame continues to lend itself to the pop culture of today’s world.

Guns N’ F*ckin’ Roses – thank your parents if they taught you hand-horns

by Tieja MacLaughlingnr

Ever since I can remember, my parents have been listening to rock  n’ roll.

Some of my earliest memories are of my Mum tuning up the old portable cassette player in our kitchen with the likes of Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Elton John, and hair band royalty, Guns N’ Roses.

I’ve been told my Dad’s famous rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine was the secret sedative for putting me to sleep as a baby. I’ve also been told his use of Vidal Sassoon in the late 80’s was unparalleled. Later in my childhood, and perhaps equally as sedative, was his karaoke version of November Rain on a family trip to Mexico (lets just say this 10-minute rift-heavy song was not an ideal sing-a-long).

While Dad could have passed for a less obnoxious version of Axl Rose, Mum was one of those Pam Anderson-esque blonde bombshells you’d find in a Whitesnake music video.

I guess it’s inherent that the rock gene was passed on to me.

I used to love raiding my parents’ music collection, and a good rock biography could always be found on Mum’s nightstand.

It was at a flea market, however, that I came across a book that would come to inspire a love affair with GNR – Appetite for Destruction : The Days of Guns N’ Roses by Danny Sugerman. A book that taught me about a generation consumed by excess, ecstasy, and leather everything. A generation that made a statement – and some pretty good f*ckin’ music too.

You can imagine my excitement then, when the formerly disbanded Guns N’ Roses reunited after two decades for the Not In This Lifetime tour – with a Canadian stop in Toronto, no less.

On Saturday July 16, GNR played a solid three hours of hits to a sold out crowd at the Rogers Centre.

And I think it’s safe to say, we were ROCKED.

From Welcome to the Jungle to Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Axl belted out the power ballads we all know and love, with larger-than-life stage presence and moves like a serpentine stroking his mic stand.

Slash – a mystery as always – was hidden under his curly black mane and top hat, making love to his guitar alongside bassist Duff McKagan, whose epic rock stance is still one I’m trying to recreate.

I was most impressed with rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus – maybe because he was a lesser known bandmate to me – but he certainly left a memorable impression playing eyes-closed with silk-shirt unbuttoned and sweat dripping – everything I have ever imagined a rock n’ roll guitarist to be.

Also on stage were keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Rees (an anime character brought to life), and drummer Frank Ferrer.

The show was a bucket-list item for myself and, I assume, for many others in the audience reliving the 80’s with bandanas, ripped jeans, and flannel shirts tied around their waist.

I thank my parents for a rock n’ roll soul, and if you’re like me – born in the late 80’s and raised on classic rock – you should thank your parents too.

Thank them for an introduction to instrumental prowess and on-stage vanity; timeless roadtrip classics, hand-horns, and general badass-ery.

Rock n’ roll parents, we salute you.

Mum and Dad, late 80’s

How Adam Garone won the room at The Art Of Marketing

by Tieja MacLaughlin


“It’s amazing what was started over a few beers with my mates,” said Adam Garone, as he introduced himself at The Art Of Marketing conference in Toronto.

The Australian-born CEO and Co-Founder of the Movemeber Foundation captured the audience’s attention, speaking with a fierce sense of passion about the movement he started in 2003.

Bookended by the stay-true-to-yourself motto of social media star Bethany Mota, and documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s theme of transparency, Adam shared his own message of authenticity.

What initially started as a campaign – growing moustaches during the month of November – has evolved into a comprehensive global initiative that has grown astronomically over the past decade from 30 registrants in 2003, to over 4.7 million in 2014.

Movember’s goal is simple: help men live happier, healthier and longer lives. The charity advocates for men’s health, raising funds and awareness for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health. 

Adam’s formula for success?

Brand Love = Honesty + Authenticity + Consistency.

Success has not come without its challenges though. As the organization continues to evolve, branding Movemeber as a foundation, and not just a campaign, has been a key focus.

Movember’s core brand marketing challenge, similar to many organizations, is how to effectively branch out while staying true to the original concept; how to add an extension without disturbing the core.

The Movember strategy?

“Reinvention is the key to longevity.”

Business advice aside, it was, perhaps, Adam’s response to an audience question that was his true defining moment. The question was about his all-time favourite moustache.

Holding back tears, Adam described the moustache of a taxi driver, who had grown his mo following the loss of a parent. He went on to describe the profound impact this had on him, and the inspiration it provided.

It takes courage to speak candidly to a room full of marketing professionals – how’s that for authenticity?

Movember’s CEO just earned himself some more brand love.