The Context of My Experience: The End of the World

(Read previous entries about Days 1 and 2: Day 1, Day 2 )

The final day of Necker Cup was an explosion. After the tennis matches were complete and the Necker Cup was awarded, the tennis players and business leaders shared an unforgettable evening of charity and celebration.
During the live auction at dinner, the bids escalated for the chance to hit with the world’s top tennis players. The energy was electric as the final tally hit the screen. In just 3 hours, over dinner, Virgin Unite and The National Tennis Foundation raised more than $500,000. Amidst the cheers, you could see tears rolling down the cheeks of many guests.
What followed only added to these unbelievable experiences that I still don’t believe… and I was there. We met on the beaches at Necker Island for the ‘End of The World Party,’ aptly named. As the drinks started flowing, the band took the stage: Bob Bryan on the keyboard, Mike Bryan on the guitar, Jim Bogios (Counting Crows) on the drums, and former American Idol finalist Michael Johns providing the vocals. The music and dancing took us well into the early hours of the morning. It was electric.

Click the image above for the full set of Sir Richard Branson’s photos (Facebook)

It was nearly 4am as the iSpeed docked for the last time on Virgin Gorda. My mind was full of new ideas and exciting possibilities for my business in 2013 and my iPhone was full of new contacts (friends) made over the span of three days. I felt, as strangely as it may sound, like I survived the ‘end of the world’ with a new world before me looking forward. I can’t be sure if it was the salt water paradise or the company – I’m inclined to say both – that has given me an inexplicable energy. It is reminiscent of the energy I felt when I launched my business 4 years ago.
The context of this experience can’t aptly be detailed in 3 blogs posts and a few photos – despite my best attempt. I have a great amount of gratitude for the amazing group of people who created this world-class Pro-Am tennis experience for social change. The impact of this experience is profound not just for participants but for those touched by Virgin Unite and The National Tennis Foundation.
Even as I write this blog post, it’s hard to ignore the flashbacks. I will let the business and life lessons from Necker Cup 2012 fuel me in 2013. Thank you to my readers for sharing in the journey. It is my hope that in 2013 you, too, can build momentum, create a paradise, nurture it, and watch it grow…

Happy Holidays from Junction

There may not be any snow falling outside the windows where you are, but Christmas Day is upon us. It is again the time year to cozy up by a fire, cue up some festive music, drink copious amounts of eggnog, and exchange gifts and laughter with family and friends. We love being busy, but we also love slowing down and enjoying quality time spent with those who matter most to us. The holidays are an important time to pause, reflect on the year that was, and gear up to make next year even better than this one.

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish very Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year to our clients, partners, and friends. We are privileged to work with fantastic people every day. Thank you for a terrific year, and enjoy whichever holiday you are celebrating this season!

The Context of My Experience: Big Ideas to Inspire Change

(Read about Day 1’s events here.)

As we waited for the iSpeed to arrive on day 2, a group of us recapped the previous day’s events, commenting on the how incredible we found the island, the people, and the experience.  Ahead of us was an exciting day of match play followed by a Virgin Unite Leadership Retreat led by Sir Richard Branson, Jean OelwangJose Maria Figueres, and Dr. Sylvia A. Earle.

The Hardware: The Necker Cup

Tennis players and business leaders made their way to the Temple to gather for a discussion around philanthropy and social change and the impact it has on the community and the world.  The 2-hour retreat brought to the forefront the efforts of Virgin Unite, Ocean Elders, and the Carbon War Room, culminating in a lively discussion. From the conversation came a poignant question:  How can the average individual become a change agent?  The answer: awareness.
Most individuals can’t afford to adopt an endangered lemur species for $100K per year but awareness, even in its smallest form, can start a conversation. To be aware of what is happening around us, regardless of scale, we must make smart decisions with a shared goal of making change – positive change. The rule applies for businesses as well.
The efforts of Virgin Unite, Ocean Elders, and Carbon War Room are examples of how ideas can impact social change. As a participant, I left with the notion that consciousness endures.
Momentum was building as we left the Temple that evening. To be a participant in the discussion was an opportunity. And while I don’t have any immediate plans to adopt a lemur species, I will do my part to start the conversation.
For more information regarding the efforts of these organizations, visit the following websites:

The Context of My Experience: Necker Island & Meeting Sir Richard Branson

As a CEO and entrepreneur, I look to great leaders for inspiration and guidance as I mitigate challenges or validate my own business strategies. Sir Richard Branson has long since been one of those leaders known for his incredible business prowess, his contributions to entrepreneurs across the globe, and his commitment to conversation and charity. I have read his books – almost all of them. I peruse the internet for articles penned by him or about him. All of this has been at a distance, until recently.

On Monday, December 10, I set sail from Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands for the inaugural Necker Cup on Necker Island. Aside from the promise of watching the world’s top tennis players play in a Pro Am, I anticipated catching a glimpse of Sir Richard Branson.

The scene upon arrival at Necker Island

As the boat neared the dock at Necker Island, the anticipation was building. Within 20 yards, I could see Branson on a speed boat with a few others with photographers in tow. He beamed a smile in our direction and waved us in. His smile was electric.

Stepping onto the dock, I looked up only to see a jungle – or at least what resembled a jungle – lush with color. We walked down the sandy path complete with tortoises, flamingos, and lemurs. With the blink of an eye, Branson appeared, smiled, shook my hand, and welcomed me to the island. It was completely disarming, and it set the tone for what remains to be one of the most memorable experiences in my professional and personal life.

I scanned the crowd of no more than 60 people that included tennis stars like world singles #1 Novak Djokovic, world #1 doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan, Tommy Haas, and John McEnroe, mixed among other notable business leaders spanning technology, finance, commercial real estate, etc. With no pretense, there was undeniable camaraderie all around.

Gathered around the dinner table

It became even clearer to me that I was witnessing authenticity in its purest form. This environment, created and nurtured by Branson, is a place – rather a paradise – designed to strip away the labels. To see how one person’s sentiment can infect an entire group is a lesson to all of us.

On our ride back to Virgin Gorda that evening, I couldn’t image a better experience and opportunity, and yet, it was only Day 1.

Who Are the Experts?

Although the dawn of all things digital began back in the late 1990s, it has truly just in the last handful of years that we have entered a definitively new era of marketing brought on by internet technologies. From our perspective in the present, it is evident that there has been a transition from what we traditionally might classify as various forms of ‘advertising’ to an entirely new way of doing business, and it has occurred extremely quickly.

Now that the game has changed, and building brand ‘experiences’ is the modus operandi, many professionals, even those with a lifelong education in speaking to customers, are finding themselves unsure of exactly what it is they are doing. The people who used to be the experts are now just along for the ride, trying hard to hold on and survive the turbulence.

We have often discussed the new wave of platforms and outlets that are now the major drivers, many of them focused on what is social, local, and mobile. Immediately, a huge number of marketers who have been around for a generation or more have been left in the dust, having failed to listen to the dialogue of the rapidly evolving market and adapt accordingly. Many marketers are also ambivalent to the plethora of data at their disposal thanks to humongous advances in metrics reporting over the last 5 or so years. Some aren’t even aware of who their customers really are. Trying to build brand equity and garner loyalty with audiences you do not understand is like buying a gift for someone who you have never met.

The result of this shift is an increased emphasis on the importance of constant learning. As marketers and businesspeople, we must maintain our curiosity and be enthusiastic about tackling the learning curve that comes requisite with such drastic change. If we take that first step and honestly concede that we are no longer the experts, we can really listen to our customers and begin to make these new channels work for us.

The Name is Bond, James Bond

These days, lasting for more than 2 years constitutes an impressive lifespan for a pop culture phenomenon. November of 2012 marked the 50th Anniversary of cinema’s most enduring franchise and what has now become touchstone for multiple generations. Coinciding with this anniversary, Skyfall, the 23rd film in the series following British Secret Service agent James Bond (or 24th, counting Never Say Never Again, which exists outside of the official canon, having not been produced by Eon Productions) was released to the public, a huge box office hit.

In an era where prolonged success is so fleeting, how has the Bond franchise managed to sustain itself through changing trends and an evolving audience?

As much as the world has changed since Dr. No, the first installment of the series, debuted in 1962, the films themselves have stayed true to their roots. As we discussed in Junction’s 2012 Annual Report, the makers of the iconic films have never deviated from a pure understanding of what has worked in the past and why. Even as the principal actors portraying the suave and bulletproof Bond himself have passed on the reins, the character himself has become seemingly more everlasting. Each entry in the series has similar qualities, marked by memorable villains, witty one-liners and double entendres, and fast paced, standard-setting action sequences. Yes, the film industry has advanced dramatically over the course of the past half-century, but as visually gripping and pulse-pounding as the Bond films become, these core pieces are parts of an equation that has resonated with audiences for decades now, and shows no signs of slowing.

Bond films are the perfect blend of nostalgia, tried and true, with what is cutting edge and new. This marriage of innovation and tradition is a perfect example of an approach which works in many contexts, whether in business or in Hollywood. In 50 more years, James Bond will likely still be as smooth as an expertly made martini – shaken, not stirred, of course.

Get Your Game Face On

The rise of Generation X as a dominating consumer group has brought some changing attitudes towards the role of many new and innovative niches of the marketing ecosystem. Throughout 2012, social enterprise generated buzz as the latest new development in the explosive growth of social media. Facebook’s billion dollar buyout of Instagram in April symbolized how enthusiastic we were about these startups, but towards the end of the year, the excitement has certainly subsided, with current trends suggesting a changing wind.

Another genre beginning to come to the forefront of many marketers’ minds is the concept of ‘gaming.’ Startups are springing up offering services aimed at providing game-like experiences in contexts outside of the traditional realm of board games, video games, etc. The idea fueling these newcomers is that games help make technology more engaging, which is appealing far beyond just the entertainment industry. As we continue to better understand consumer behavior patterns, we may be entering a new era of “gamification.”

Humans are competitive by nature. Several years ago, the education industry discovered that games could be used to focus children’s attention and improve learning retention through this type of medium. A slew of new companies entering the current marketplace are asking a fair question – why not apply the same principles to consumer education?

InfoArmy recently launched a completely crowdsourced business research platform using several gamification techniques. Members receive badges, rankings and compete to top leaderboards for conducting online research. Not only does the service leverage our competitive nature to get users engaged, it provides an eloquent solution to logging and organizing data. Within the thrill of the ‘game,’ there is real potential for positive impact on data quality, learning, and ultimately ROI.

Other new startups are focusing on gaming for the purposes of reputation management and social mechanics, including ideas like social performance platforms for employees and HR. It is easy to think of multiple possible applications where gamification could provide a significant boost – any situation encouraging desired behaviors in order to solve problems.

It’s already part of our nature. The way we are captivated by professional sports or inclined to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is indicative that this may be a trend whose lifespan is much longer than the average tech sensation.

Junction’s 2012 Annual Report: Sustainability in a Fragmented Marketing Economy

Atlanta-based strategy firm Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) announces the release its Annual Report for 2012. Titled Sustainability in a Fragmented Marketing Economy, the report charts the origins of a myriad of specializations or niches in modern marketing in order to illuminate the importance of centralized strategy to unify these solutions and drive results in 2013 and beyond.

“Junction certainly does not fit the typical agency mold, and we decided that instead of creating an annual report touting our own achievements in 2012, we would take a different approach,” commented Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction. “We chose to present an idea that we predict will be on the tip of every marketer’s tongue next year.”

Founded in 2008, Junction has consistently leveraged the notion that sound strategy is key to designing solutions that create impact and maximize return on investment for its clients, who range from start up companies to the Fortune 500. As the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded, Junction has remained steadfast in its belief that multiple solutions linked by a core strategy are more effective in cutting through the noise.

“2012 has been a particularly influential year; Facebook’s IPO opened the world’s eyes to a new understanding of social media, mobile technology continued to grow and capture more of our attention and dollars, and we witnessed a Presidential election that set new standards for advertising spending while highlighting the state of business and the economy in America,” said Gareleck. “Although the game has changed considerably as the marketing ecosystem becomes more ‘fragmented,’ we believe marketers and agencies alike will find that looking to our past reveals that successful marketing and the power of a brand are fueled by consistency across communications, and the best way to achieve that consistency is to unify the core strategy.”

To view or download Sustainability in a Fragmented Marketing Economy, visit Junction’s website.