Think Outside the Marketing Box: 10 Quick, New Ideas for 2017

The holidays are upon us again. It’s the time of year for good cheer and some creative marketing ideas to end your year right.

If you’ve been in a marketing slump through the fall, try a few new and interesting ways to get a little more business for your small business:

  1. Create a personalized calendar to gift your clients. You can include inspirational quotes or advice for each month. Staying in front of them will solidify your brand in their minds for years and years to come.
  2. Give your customers a small gift of appreciation, like a customized sticky screen cleaner or promo handout. If you happen to give something that is useful and is well made, your customers won’t just thank you, they will be more interested in giving you referrals to other potential clients. Offer gift cards to give customers more flexibility for gifts. Be sure to place them near your checkout to encourage impulse buys. Starbucks or Amazon gift cards tend to be consistently well received.
  3. Take clients to a more personal lunch or brunch instead of throwing a larger, impersonal holiday party. Focus on having a good time and building rapport through not talking about business. They will take the gesture and thank you by becoming your biggest cheerleader.
  4. Host a day with Santa at your business where you provide free photos with the jolly old man. If your target market has kids, this will be a huge hit.
  5. Give holiday shoppers a free shoulder massage by hiring a masseuse for a few hours.
  6. Partner with other local businesses to give a package of coupons in each shopping bag. This is also a way to encourage sharing business ideas with your neighbors or setting up referral incentives with them.
  7. Sponsor a local event. This time of year many run clubs and other organizations hold holiday runs or New Year’s Day resolution runs or other events. Pick one you enjoy and sponsor it to get your name out. Pair with a local charity. Schedule an event where you and your staff volunteer with the organization. Offer discounts to your customers who volunteer their time with the same organization.
  8. Hold a customer appreciation sale during hours when you are normally closed to show your customers how much you appreciate their loyalty. Create a special invitation and think about giving them door prizes and small gifts for patronizing your business.
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Whither the World’s Fair?

The moniker “Expo 2017” is currently being bandied about in North America. In the US, various optimists, often plain vanilla citizens like you and me, have launched web sites and forums promoting a return of the world’s fair–or Expo 2017 in this case–to America. In Canada, at least four cites and/or organizations have recently promoted the idea of an “expo”, with one of the first efforts publicly unveiled in Montreal in 2007.

In America, the idea of a world’s fair–an officially sanctioned one, that is, will conceivably remain a distant dream until Washington comes to its diplomatic senses and rejoins the Bureau of International Expositions, or BIE–the governing body in Paris which awards world’s fairs in much the same fashion as the IOC decides who gets to hold the next Olympic Games. Just like the Olympics, an aspiring world’s fair applicant is required to invest a considerable amount of energy and expense putting together a bid, and, of course, impressing the appropriate officials. Unless, perhaps, you’re the city of New York which, after a clash with French dignitaries, decided to hold its 1964/1965 World’s Fair without BIE approval. At the time, superpower America had enough clout that many of the nations who were subsequently prohibited by the BIE from participating decided to show up anyway, posing as trade and tourist organizations.

Right after New York, and only a skip across the border, the city of Montreal staged what is often considered to be the most successful (and BIE approved) world’s fair of all time. Set on a sprawling venue of two man-made islands and a peninsula in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, Expo 67 introduced a number of technological and cultural “firsts”–including the now ubiquitous moniker “expo” itself.

There are “expos” for everything now, from computers to kitty litter, while the mighty world’s fair that spawned these cheap imitations hasn’t been seen in North America for decades. Even if a city here managed to secure an official bid for “Expo 2017” it would be for a much smaller affair, a “recognized” expo limited by the BIE to 25 hectares exhibition area. That’s because there have always been two types of world’s fairs, a very large one (a “universal expo”) and, in-between, a smaller one (a “special expo”)–both of which are now, respectively, called “registered” and “recognized” fairs. In 2017, unfortunately, only the smaller recognized expo is allowed.

Nevertheless, I would argue that the world’s fair not only needs a major boost in North America, but that North America desperately needs another world’s fair. No other event has the collective potential to attract a huge audience to the latest cultural and scientific endeavours humankind has to offer. With our planet in the precarious state we have put it in, and North America no longer as influential and respected as it used to be, a world’s fair, properly staged and presented with the latest social and environmental initiatives, could be the political and technological beacon of hope this continent is yearning for. Of course, that might mean that Expo 2017 would need to encompass a great deal more than 25 hectares exhibition area and would need to address a lot more than the narrowly restricted theme (the fair’s purpose) officially allowed by the BIE for a smaller “recognized” expo. This could be done, with a little creative thinking (and without resorting to New York’s 1964 strategy), but that’s for another article to address.

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The Future of Android Games, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

Mobile gaming has come a very long way since the introduction of crude & simple games like Snake and Pong which were available on early Nokia phones. Mobile processors and graphics are now as powerful as desktop computers were just a few years ago. Older generations still remember lugging around a Game Boy or Game gear and begging their parents for another game. New generations literally have access to 100’s of thousands of games on their mobile device.

In short, mobile gaming has exploded in just a few years time. In the month of July 2016 there were 63.1 million arcade games downloaded & games in the “strategy” category generated $195M revenue. In a recent study over 37% of mobile app users with 30 minutes of free time choose to play games over any other activity. We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it ourselves, whether its waiting for an appointment or sitting at the airport, we pull out our mobile device and jump into a quick game to kill the time.

So what does all of this mean for the future of android gaming? For starters, the massive amounts of revenue and user interest in android gaming has bolstered continuous innovation and fierce competition in the global marketplace. For example, just 12 months ago, top executives were saying they didn’t see any major benefit to augmented reality. With the release of Pokemon Go and estimates citing as much as $500 million in revenue in just 60 days, I think we can all agree augmented reality is here to stay. Virtual reality is another area that has been picking up steam in recent months. You can now buy virtual reality headsets at local gas stations for a mere $30. Or if you’re on a budget you can purchase Google Cardboard for as little as $7.00. There are still only a limited number of VR enabled games but that number is increasing daily. Not only that, as more and more people experience VR we are sure to see a blockbuster release sooner or later.

Let’s take a look at some real life examples of recent game releases. Dawn of Titans which was recently released on Google Play was in development for over 2 years. This is akin to the development cycle of a mid-level PC game release on Steam. The game features mass controlled troops, world building elements and impressive graphics. A few years ago this would be considered a major release for the Android platform. These days this is just another drop in the massive pond. With over 2.4 million apps and games currently listed on Google Play it’s become harder and harder to stand out. This is actually good news for gamers as developers are working harder and faster to create new innovative titles to attract users.

I firmly believe that both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) titles are going to gain more traction in 2017. Major developers who can pump out triple A content can’t be left in the dust while indie developers pump out AR and VR enabled games. They will be forced to port existing titles and come up exciting new ways to interact with the mobile devices.

There are many gimmicky games available that utilize the phones microphone, gyroscope, camera and accelerometer. However, these sensors combined with AR and VR could bring a whole new experience to gamers. Imagine walking through a recreated 3D world that represents your neighbourhood, immersed in full virtual reality, and using your phone as a targeting device to defend against waves of zombies. This is already possible with the technology that is available, it just needs to be packaged in a user friendly way that people can enjoy. Combining meticulous graphics with well thought out virtual reality experiences would be impressive indeed. If you’re familiar with PC based virtual reality demo’s you already know how immersive the experience can be. It’s only a matter of time before these same experiences make their way to our mobile devices en masse. And to think, only 30 years ago we were playing Mario on our beloved Nintendo consoles. Let’s not even mention the Virtual Boy that burned your eyes after 2 minutes of playing tennis. Android games and mobile games in general have come a long ways since then and they will continue to push barriers even further in the near future.

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Resort Wear Trends

A style of clothing for affluent women who jet set to warm-weather climates post-Christmas, resort wear is in itself a fashion season. Spectacular destinations of the wealthy host champagne sipping water-side activities that requires donning the best of the best. Because if you’re someone, you’re wearing someone.

So what kind of apparel and swimwear is in store for 2017 resort wear?

The Lingerie Look
Sexy black lace swimwear, cover ups and resort apparel are said to rule the resort wear runway for 2017 collections. Think honeymoon meets yacht party, bring the bedroom to the beach. Opposite of the daringly sexy black lace look, you may see some white crochet swimsuits and cover ups as well. The trend is sexy peek-a-boo of skin for a demure feminine and more playful look. Festival Inspired
Festival wear, whether you love it or not, is not going anywhere. With Coachella, Stage Coach and new music festivals popping up all over the world, fashion is looking to cloth the celebrities who love festival music. The resort festival look is elevated with decorative fringe, Grecian goddess inspired straps, pretty palm tree prints, amethyst-colored tie dye that would make you reminiscence of that staple Farrah Fawcett hair, and rich feather prints for a Native American princess look. Festival swimwear pieces will look gorgeous at the pool, and even more so at the next music festival. Never grunge though. Only festival glam is acceptable.

Embellishments
Eye-catching, attention grabbing, glitz and glam. Resort wear and swimwear trends for 2017 are all about the embellishments. Think large jewel details and golden hardware that sparkle in the sun. Solid print bikinis need unique and stunning embellishments such as these to set them apart. The affluent never lead boring lives and their clothing reflect just that point. These luxury swimwear and apparel pieces are evocative of the finer things in life and meant to be pedigree proof. Getting Cheeky
Ladies and gentlemen, the cheeky bottom has arrived. The new swimsuit bottom trend will be a hybrid of the traditional bikini bottom and a thong-like look. Potentially scandalous in previous decades, this new bathing suit bottom is a new standard of bikini wear in an era of equal pay and titles. Fashion takes its cues from worldly headlines and happenings, and this trend is no different. The cheeky bikini bottom provides just enough coverage while simultaneously adding that alluring sex appeal to bring out the highest degree of confidence from every woman.

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The Last Chance for Gold

Growing up in my corner of Florida, there used to be an old gas station on the edge of the Everglades. The proprietor did a lot of business with his oversized, hand-painted warning sign:

Last Chance for Gas.

Beyond the fuel pumps were a thin two-lane ribbon of asphalt and 90 miles of swampy wilderness. No smartphones. No “emergency call boxes.” And, in most places along the highway, no guardrails either.

You were on your own – much like the economic wilderness we’re all forced to navigate today.

Which is why the sharp decline in gold prices and mining stocks is much like that warning sign… and a monetary gift…

In short, if you were waiting on the sidelines after this year’s monster rally, this is your second chance – and, in my view, your last chance – to buy gold at these prices. And it comes at just the right time. Typical Moves for Gold

Gold’s done a full round trip in buyer sentiment during the past 12 months: from being the world’s “most hated commodity” at its lows near $1,050 an ounce 12 months ago to “gotta buy it” status at $1,350 an ounce this summer.

With gold now fallen from those lofty heights, an investor is more likely to ask: “Gold, what have you done for me lately?”

In all, gold’s given back about 60% of its 2017 rally. Yet such sharp declines followed by a resumption of a broader trend higher is a typical early bull market move for this volatile metal. Most famous of these pullbacks was gold’s run to all-time highs in the 1970s.

Starting out at $35 an ounce in the early ’70s, as gold became legal for Americans to own once again, bullion prices soared to almost $190 an ounce in 1975. That’s quite a run all on its own. During the next 18 months, gold prices dropped back nearly 60%, falling to $100 before running to a then-record $800 an ounce in the next three and a half years.

The Song Remains the Same

Most important, when it comes to the companies that dig this stuff out of the ground… nothing has changed.

As I have pointed out in past months, gold mining firms have done a great job getting their costs down and making money to boot.

We noted as early as February that the elite companies in this group were making an average of $215 for every ounce of gold they were digging out of the ground and said, in no uncertain terms, to anyone who’d listen: “Stop panic selling gold mining stocks. Likewise, after cutting dividends in 2014 and 2015 as gold prices plummeted, many of the same companies have not only reinstituted payouts, they’ve started raising them again. In the meantime, mining firms have cleared away much of their old cost structures. That’s why Newmont Mining, as one example, has been able to drop its “AISC” – all-in sustaining costs – from $1,170 in 2012 to $910 so far in 2016.

The point is that there are many reasons to own gold: for speculative profits, as discussed above; for insurance; and for wealth preservation. But you can’t benefit from any of those strategies without taking advantage of the gift that is low gold prices and low expectations put on our table by Wall Street’s hair-trigger traders.

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