Endless opportunities and so much more to learn

The internet is a combination of the best and worst things. It’s a place where you can share ideas and communicate with like-minded people across the world. But, at the same time, you are exposing yourself to a worldwide audience and are subject to their critiques and comments.

As year one wraps up in the Advertising and Marketing program here at St. Lawrence College we have been tasked with reflecting on our semester as official bloggers. It’s been quite the ride and I’ve loved getting to share my thoughts as well as read and enjoy the thoughts of my peers.

I think the most important lesson I learned about blogging (maybe specific to myself) is that you can’t over think what you’re going to say. The posts I’ve written and been most confident about have been the ones I’ve come up with in less than 20 minutes. (Don’t worry Frank, I make sure to edit and re-read many times). A blog is about sharing your thoughts and saying what’s on your mind, so don’t struggle to find the right words right away. Instead, let it all just flow out and then go from there.

The biggest surprise to me from this blogging adventure was the fact that I can write a blog (who knew?). I had never thought of myself as a good writer or someone who has thoughts and ideas worth sharing. Then people started commenting and interacting with my posts and asking for more. I even received a nomination for the Greg Awards for ‘Blog of the Year’. It feels good to be able to add my blog to a resume and to be proud of it. So, thank you to my writing professor Frank and my computer professor Jackie.

Moving forward, I would definitely like to continue to blog as I feel I have lots to say. There is also so much to be learned from keeping up with a blog. Since starting this blog, and receiving good feedback from my professors, I’ve also entertained the idea that ‘Maybe I could do this as a job?’. For now, I think I’ll just continue to share my thoughts on things I care about and am passionate about.

When thinking about the future it can be a bit daunting, the thought that there are endless opportunities is both the most exciting adventure to come but also the most terrifying unknown experience yet to happen. While I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me, I do know that I’m more prepared after now finishing my first year here at St. Lawrence College.

Here’s to us!

 

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Marketing doesn’t have to be unethical

Did you know that 81% of millennials are more likely to spend their money on brands that are practicing ethical marketing? Recently, I’ve noticed that brand authenticity is at the forefront of importance to consumers and if brands aren’t doing their part to contribute to this movement, then millennials will find another brand that is (and I love this).

It seems as though marketers have developed a bad reputation for contributing to unethical practices. In one of my classes here at St. Lawrence College, this conversation came up in a debate as a result of being tasked with listening to a podcast by Sam Harris on persuasion and control.

It was so refreshing to hear that most of my classmates believe that it doesn’t have to be this way, and we can be the ones to change that. Marketing doesn’t have to be unethical. There are brands out there that are not participating in this trend.

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Recently, I started working for Marshalls, a branch of the TJX Canada family. Soon after, I started following their social profiles and observing how they market themselves. To my delight, they are focusing on supporting their brand values through marketing efforts. Their values include diversity, mutual respect and caring, giving back, and customer satisfaction (among a few others).

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Now, I know many brands have similar values and soon after working for a company you might realize that they don’t actually support what they say they value. For Marshalls, this has not been the case. Every day I go to work I can see that they do their very best to uphold and showcase these values.

I guess my point here is that these brands do exist, and you don’t have to settle for working for a company who doesn’t have values that align with yours. And if you are, can you challenge that brand to re-evaluate? I could see a future with the TJX family and could be very happy being part of that team.

There are many other brands who are doing their best to participate in ethical marketing. I’ve noticed a shift in the last few years, and things are starting to look up! Young people are speaking out and demanding that big brands do more to support their values. I really do see a future where things can be different, we just have to remember that we can be the ones to make a difference.

I think it starts by researching your favorite brands, are they doing their part? Are they practicing ethical marketing? Can you encourage them to do so? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to find a new brand that is. After all, I really do think this is the future and we might as well get on board now!

 

Photos from:
http://www.freemarketingzone.com/search-engine-optimization/unethical-seo-techniques/

 

 

Who wouldn’t want more friends?

I’m only halfway through reading ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ and I would already say that I am friendlier and more influential. Okay, maybe it doesn’t happen that quickly, but it really is opening my eyes to simple practices we all do every day that with slight changes can really make a difference in everyday interactions.

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Dale Carnegie wrote many books in his lifetime. One that has always stuck out to me is ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’. Over the years I’ve seen this book around in libraries and second-hand shops and have always been intrigued by it. I mean, it has been around for over 75 years and has sold over 30 million copies, there has to be something good going on in there, right?

There is! Dale pulls from his own experiences and from stories he’s heard from friends and people he looks up to, to write this book. He comments on ways to make people like you and supports these with some interesting stories. From what I’ve read so far, there are 6 key ways to make people like you:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Smile
  • Greet people with their names (they love hearing it)
  • Be a good listener (encourage others to talk about themselves)
  • Talk about other people’s interests
  • Make the other person feel important – and be sincere

For me, these 6 things are pretty much basic common knowledge. But I feel as though many of us neglect some of these things, or just forget to practice them. The book has been a great reminder to be kind and sincerely care about people (as we should anyway).

Dale’s many works are actually being used in classes all over the world. There are courses you can take to really dive deep into his mind and learn about similar things like making a good first impression, or how to criticize people properly.

As I continue to read, I’m looking forward to putting into practice what I’ve already been learning about. I’m excited to read more into what has been deemed ‘The only book you need to lead you to success’. Here’s hoping that these practices will win me some more friends!

Inclusivity is the new norm (well, it should be)

Recently, I became aware of an advertising campaign that was created by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) to bring awareness to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding Down Syndrome. The overall message was simple, everyone wants to feel accepted for who they are, regardless of their genetic make-up.

The solution to this problem was to put a spotlight on people who have Down Syndrome and establish a more human connection. The CDSS decided to create the ‘Down Syndrome Answers’ campaign. The campaign focused on answering some tough questions people might have but are afraid to ask. The most important part of this campaign was the questions were to be answered by people who have Down Syndrome.

 

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40 videos answering commonly asked questions

 

For me, it’s simple: treat everyone how you would like to be treated. However, that is not always the case. I’ve noticed (and I’m guilty of this myself) that people tend to get anxious when interacting with someone who has a Down Syndrome. If you are someone who experiences that as well, to help I’ve put together a list of tips for interacting with someone who has Down Syndrome.

  1. Person First Language

It’s important first to remember that we are all people and should be talked to in that manner. A person is not defined by their diagnosis, they have so much more to offer. So, talk and interact with them in exactly the way you would want to be.

 2. Slow Down!

It can take longer for someone with Down Syndrome to process what you are saying to them. So be sure to slow down your speech and be clear in what you are saying. Don’t speak to them like they don’t understand. BUT do understand that it may take a bit longer to have a conversation, so be patient.

3. Be Inclusive

Just like you and I, people with Down syndrome want to be included. So, talk to them, include them, sit down with them at lunch. Honestly, there are a lot of qualities I’ve noticed that people with Down Syndrome posses that I admire. I think there is a lot I could learn from these individuals (and have) and you might be surprised as well.

4. Be Positive

A diagnosis doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as capable as you and I. Hold high expectations for people with down syndrome and give them lots of encouragement (again, this is how it always should be for everyone). Creating a positive atmosphere will help encourage success!

Overall the message is simple; treat others the way you would want to be treated. The ‘Down Syndrome Answers’ campaign was a hit! It went on win many awards and was used in many different markets around the world. It really did create awareness and leave us with the message that people with Down Syndrome really just want to be treated like everyone else.

I would say that things have got better in the last few years. However, we still have lots of work to do. It starts with each of us and the message is so simple. Be kind, be inclusive, and be positive. A small act really can make a huge impact. If anyone else has anything to add, comment and let me know!

Winter blues and wanderlust

I don’t know about you guys, but each year winter seems to get longer and far more unbearable. We’re pretty deep into February at this point and I can see the end of winter in the not too distant future (I’m ready for it to end immediately). I got a notification from Facebook today reminding me that three years ago I was exploring New Zealand. Missing the warmth and sunshine, it prompted me to write this post about some of the highlights and experiences from that year (I feel like it’s important to note that I’m sitting in the library at school right now).

I was 21 when two friends and myself decided to pack up and move across the world to New Zealand. Looking back, I realize how big of a move this was and how scary that could be, but at the time I was so excited.

Firstly, for all of you Lord of the Rings fans, I would have to credit one of my favorite

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Hobbiton Movie Set

memories to visiting the Shire. Growing up I was a pretty big fan of the movies and was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the landscapes in the films. Well, this is a real place, it exists, it is New Zealand. The Shire is the only remaining set from the movies and having the opportunity to explore it and immerse myself into that world was very nostalgic.

 

New Zealand is known to have some of the best beaches in the world (it’s an island so obviously there is a lot). Considering how many beautiful beaches there are you might think it would be hard for me to choose a

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Muriwai Beach

favorite one. A clear front runner for me is Muriwai Beach which is located on the west coast of New Zealand. This beach has the brightest blue waters, the longest sandy beaches (60km long), and rich greenery everywhere you look. There are many beautiful viewing spots to take the perfect photo too. Fun fact, notice the colony of Gannets that reside there and watch them in action diving for fish.

 

Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world known for its high adrenaline sports. Fitting

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Queenstown

because Kiwis were the first people to offer commercial bungee jumping. It sits on Lake Wakatipu surrounded by picturesque mountains. Check out the view at the top of the gondola, try a bungee jump or the Shotover Jet. There is also a very active nightlife with many bars for travelers to get the full experience. There is so much going on here but be careful because a lot of these activities can be quite pricey. Do your research and choose a few that excite you the most.

I also have to mention Milford Sound which is located just a few hours away from Queenstown. I did a

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Milford Sound

day bus trip there and it was the highlight of my whole trip. It’s so surreal to see such beauty and be made to feel so small. It was a very otherworldly experience, almost makes you feel like you’re in Jurassic Park. Don’t worry though, no signs of any dinosaurs but lots of big seals.

 

While I was writing this I was reflecting on all of my adventures over the past couple years. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore some of our beautiful world. I encourage you when you can, to go and explore the amazing world we live in.

Step out of your comfort zone and get lost in the culture, food, landscapes, and history that travel can offer you. I promise in return you will learn so much about the world. But more importantly you will learn about yourself, and returning home, that changes everything.

Where are some of the places you’ve loved traveling to? Or where would you love to visit? Let me know and be sure to check back for more travel stories.

Artists you (probably) don’t know, but should

Over the last two years, I’ve been addicted to my Apple Music subscription. I find myself spending hours exploring Apple Music listening to new artists. My music tastes are pretty eclectic, I like a lot of different styles and genres. I’ve discovered some incredibly talented artists in my time doing this and realized that a lot of people have no idea who these incredible artists are!

So, I’ve compiled a list of some of the artists I’ve come to respect and love and I thought I would share that with the blogging world. My thought is maybe, you too will love one of these underrated artists.

Firstly, I have to talk about Maggie Rogers. Since I heard her debut single Alaska, I’ve

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Maggie Rogers

been craving more. She has a soft, whimsical voice, it sounds like you’re listening to an angel. Her songs have a Lorde-ish style complexity to them and a similar sound to Carly Rae Jepsen’s most recent album E-mo-tion. Pharrell Williams heard her song Alaska and said, ‘I have no notes for that’ and it’s been upward for her since.

 

Listen if you like: Lorde, Billie Eilish, or Bishop Briggs

 

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The Glorious Sons

Kingston, ON natives The Glorious Sons, have been making music since 2011, but their most recent album Young Beauties and Fools won me over as a fan. A combination of rock and alternative, these guys write songs that are relatable and memorable. Personally, I see rock music making a big comeback in the next few years and these guys are definitely on the right path. Their debut single from Young Beauties and Fools, Everything is Alright has been streamed on Spotify 3 million times. If you haven’t heard it yet, stop what you’re doing and check it out.

 

Listen if you like: Arkells, The Sheepdogs, or Sam Roberts Band

Another Canadian making waves in the industry is Jessie Reyez. She is a singer-

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Jessie Reyez

songwriter from Toronto, ON who sings R&B/soul music. Her debut single Figures is an emotional rollercoaster that almost everyone can connect with. Her vulnerability and raw-ness makes her songwriting personal and therefore relatable. Add in the fact that vocally she is flawless and has a very unique sound, I’m predicting big things for her in 2018 and years to come.

Listen if you like: Sabrina Claudio, Julia Michaels, or Khalid

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Bazzi

Another up and coming artist, Andrew Bazzi (better known as Bazzi) is having huge successes partly in thanks to social media. In a similar story to Shawn Mendes, Bazzi began building a fan base by posting on Vine. His song Mine became a viral hit when people started sharing it in memes and on snapchat. Since then, the song has risen to number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100 after receiving 11.4 million streams. His newest single Why? is equally as strong and definitely worth a listen.

Listen if you like: Ansel Elgort, Jack & Jack, or Maty Noyes

 

So many artists to talk about, but I don’t want to make this post 20 pages long. Check these artists out! Let me know what you think, do you like them? Maybe I’ll do another ‘artists you should know’ post in the future.

Stay cool,

BRANDEN

 

Music’s biggest night – Best New Artist

Once again the biggest night for the music industry is upon us. The 2018 Grammy awards are tomorrow night and based on nominations there are some clear frontrunners for the big categories. I’m expecting Kendrick and Jay-Z to pick up quite a few awards. The challenging category, however, is Best New Artist in which there is no clear frontrunner.

This year’s Best New Artist category is anybody’s game to win. A category full of acclaimed stars and potential hitmakers. For those of you who don’t know (and maybe you don’t care) the lineup consists of Julia Micheals, Alessia Cara, Khalid, SZA, and Lil Uzi Vert.

This award can mean big things for the winner. Generally a promise of a long and successful career in the music industry. Adele won the award in 2008 and has since received two Album of the Year awards.  Meghan Trainor, Chance the Rapper and Sam Smith are some other recent recipients all of whom have had huge successes.

So let’s talk about this year. For me, I think the most deserving of the award would have to be Alessia. Many were shocked when she wasn’t nominated last year, given the critical success of her debut album Know It All. She had a killer 2017 which included three top 10 hits on the Billboard 100. She has a likable personality and is the only Canadian (Okay that last point isn’t that relevant but maybe I’m a little bias).

But, we can’t deny the critical success of SZA’s debut album ctrl which was raved about by almost all musical critics. Add in a couple of top 40 hits and her story of determination she could pull a lot of votes from the academy for the award. Side note, Love Galore is one of my favorite songs EVER.

Khalid also had an amazing year, his debut album American Teen charted in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 and created a handful of radio hits as well. He has the personality and charisma that the academy usually likes. As well as a few hit collabs with Logic, Alessia, and Marshmellow, he could also pull quite a few of the academy’s votes. If you don’t know every song on American Teen, you should.

Julia Micheals has been writing hit songs for artists for years. Her credits include songs for Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Ed Sheeran. So she already has a lot of hits under her belt. Add in the success of her song Issues and she may be a standout.

We can’t forget about Lil Uzi either, his debut solo album Luv is Rage 2 went straight to number one on the Billboard 200. He was also featured on Bad and Boujee which hit the top of the Hot 100 last year. His debut single from Luv is Rage 2: XO Tour Lif3 also reached the Top 10 on the Billboard 100 and peaked at number seven.

At this point, any one of these artists could take this award, and they all very well deserve to. I’m still betting on Alessia to win this one, with my second choice being SZA. What about you guys? Do you agree with me? Who do you think deserves to win Best New Artist this year?

 

 

A work in progress…

Long, long ago in a not so distant past, Jorn Barger coined the term ‘webblog’ in 1997 and since then blogging has become an integral part of digital society. A means of sharing opinions, informing people of social issues, or even just for entertainment, blogs are still a very relevant way of communicating with people all over the world.

Creating this blog is a requirement of the advertising and marketing program here at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, ON. With an estimated 440 million blogs worldwide creating a new blog can be a bit daunting. But that’s the joy of the internet, anyone can do it. This past week we learned some tips for creating a successful blog post, so if you’ve been thinking about it I’ll share some with you and hopefully help you out.

The title

So, let’s start with the basics. Probably the most important part of your blog: the title. I’m sure we all can think of a time when we were going to read an article, quickly saw the title, and immediately decided not to bother. Your title should grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read more. Here are a few things to consider when coming up with the title:

  • Make sure your title contains relevant keywords or a phrase
  • Make sure your title is clear and concise
  • Make sure it is interesting and relevant to your brand

Opening paragraph

The digital age has made us lazy readers, most people just quickly scan websites to see if pexels-photo-331990it looks like something they might be interested in. Your introduction paragraph should include a brief summary regarding the purpose of your blog post. The reader can then decide if they will continue reading knowing what to expect. Here are a few tips for writing your opening paragraph:

  • Be short and direct (think less is more)
  • Personality goes a long way don’t be afraid to use humour or quirkiness
  • Ask a thought and interest provoking question

Image

pexels-photo-815653A picture says a thousand words. A very old saying, but still very relevant in the digital world. A good image could be enough to win over a reader, even before they know the content of the blog. So, it’s safe to say that in the blogging world, image is everything. When choosing your image be sure to consider the following:

  • Is your image relevant to your post?
  • Is your image good quality?
  • Did you get your image from a free stock website?

Given the advancements of technology and the availability of the internet, almost anyone in the world can start their own blog. However, to ensure your blog is successful there are key elements to include in all your posts. I’ve just covered a few here but a quick google search of blogging 101 can help you out tremendously.

As I continue to learn about the blogosphere I will be posting new content every week. So I want to know what you guys think, what would you like to hear about? Music trends? Pop culture? Social issues? Marketing trends? Let me know!

Form follows Function… Or does it?

“Form follows function—that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” – Frank Llyod Wright

A debate, that has been happening since 1856 when the phrase Form follows Function was first coined. Many believe that this phrase can still be applied when talking about almost all aspects of design and function.

For me, it seems as though this debate is a bit dated, especially when you consider design anything that is online. Specifically when applying  Form follows Function to website design I believe that the Form (or design) is equally important as the function of the website. In some cases, I think it can be even more important. A well-designed space immediately says that care about details and want to contribute something meaningful to consumers. From my own experience, I can say that when I’m visiting a website for the first time the design is the first thing you see. When that design isn’t simple, easy to navigate, and clean I will most likely leave that website immediately. Without even understanding what the function of that website is. Most people are looking to find something that is visually pleasing and easy to navigate. Consistency is huge here – they want to be able to achieve the reason they visited that website in the first place (the function) in as little steps as possible.

Given today’s technological advancements, the phrase is once again dated. Thanks to these advancements, designers can have a device that has many functions. Cell phones, for example, can do many things, and their appearance is not relevant to what they can do. The New York Times talks about iPod Shuffles and how you could not guess what it was based on its design. It has the ability to play and store thousands of songs and even video, yet, it is about the size of a quarter.

I do believe that the phrase can be relevant when talking about certain things like architecture. However, given the digital advancements in recent years I do believe that Form follows Function is no longer relevant.  That function and form should work together to compliment each other. In some cases, you need to consider the form before the function.

A brief intro…

Muriwai Beach
Muriwai Beach, New Zealand

Hello, internet! My name is Branden Graf, I’m 24 years old and taking on post-secondary for the second time after returning from traveling the past two and a half years.

Originally I went to college in Toronto at George Brown where I studied performance arts. After a year there, I decided that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. That’s a pretty broad statement, however, I mean I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to follow.

So I decided I would spend a bit of time traveling. Originally only meant to be gone for 6 months, I ended up traveling quite a bit over a two year time period. I visited New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Spain, Cuba, and more.

On top of that, I’m really interested in the arts. I have a passion for music and theatre. I’ll be using this blog to share my thoughts on the music industry as well as lots of pop culture content.

This blog is also going to be about my experiences, adventures, and how I got to where I am right now. As Advertising and Marketing student at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, ON.

Adjusting back into student life has been a bit of a challenge, having not used any sort of school-related skills over the past couple years. Slowly, I’m getting back into a routine and things are getting a bit smoother. I am really missing my days of travel so this blog will have to help me cope with my travel blues until I can take off on my next adventure.

If you want to read about travel, music or advertising and marketing trends – check back regularly. I definitely want to create a conversation, so let me know if you like my posts or even if you don’t like my posts.