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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4 Content Marketing Trends for Business Owners

As we approach 2017, it’s interesting to think about where we’re headed in the coming year when it comes to marketing our business.

All business owners want to stay on top of their game by being prepared for what’s ahead but in today’s fast-changing world, what does that look like?

Below are some content marketing trends you’ll want to prepare for when marketing your business in the coming year:

1) Incorporate More Social Media Graphics, Infographics, Visuals and Videos. Since your followers are 80 percent more likely to read your content if you use coloured visuals, this area needs to be built up more across your social media channels.

The popularity of visual content will only increase, so you must be prepared. Using Facebook live is still a hot commodity so be sure to dive into that opportunity too!

2) Build a Team. 60 percent of marketers in one survey said content creation was their biggest challenge last year.

To overcome this obstacle, get a team of people to help make content development and publishing easy. This includes having a good writer and social media specialist.
3) Tap Into Influencers. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations where only 33% trust ads.

Consumers have begun to tune out traditional ads and increasingly connect to their social networks to guide their buying decisions. That’s why connecting with influencers is so important.

What is an influencer? “Influencers are people with significant networks (followers, readers, etc.) who can speak to a broad range of products and services with the ability to sway opinions in their favor.” – Jess Estrada.

Identify influencers to reach out to in your industry. Follow them on social media and see where you can strike up a conversation.

4) Drive Content Marketing Leads into a Funnel. High value content is one thing, but if you don’t build in a strategy that continues building rapport with prospects in the right way, you are leaving money on the table.

Content Marketing is a highly effective way to segment your audience and send them targeted follow-ups and offers, instead of adding them to your main email list.

Creating an Effective Content Marketing Plan for 2017

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen businesses make is they jump into content marketing without a strategy. While trying to appeal to their target market, they slap together a couple of eBooks and free offerings and hope it will be enough to drive sales.

The first step to making content marketing really work for you is to have a solid, smart content marketing plan in place.

Make sure you outline the following essentials in your content marketing plan:

Understand Who You Are Marketing to. Before starting any kind of marketing strategy, it’s vital you understand who your ideal target market is. There’s no point in investing your time and money into marketing when you don’t have a clear understanding of who you want to buy from you.

A Comprehensive Review of Past Efforts. Review your past content marketing efforts and results from 2016. This helps you to see what was most effective, what wasn’t, and develop a plan to improve for next year.

Set Goals and Benchmarks to Determine Future Campaign Success. Having a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish and what that will look like is important.

Develop Content Ideas that Align with Sales Goals. Here’s some example sales goals:

o Boost sales of Mega Fit Bootcamp by 25%.

o Get 50 new leads a month into our sales funnel.

o Create an eBook on Sales Tips for People Who Hate to Sell to drive leads to the funnel.

Plan a Content Marketing Calendar with Dates and Deadlines. Create an editorial calendar that clearly lays out your dates and deadlines so you can easily prioritize your efforts. This eliminates the “what do I write” problem.

It also makes it much easier to work ahead on content and delegate to team members.

I hope you’d enjoyed these highlights, stats, and facts to help you prepare for content marketing in the coming year.

I’m curious: What changes do you plan to make to your social media strategy in 2017?

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A Colour Forecast For Spring 2017

Forget the monochrome look, forget restraint. One of the strong trends that we can look forward to in spring 2017 is vibrant colour. Think wacky, age of Aquarius style psychedelia. Many of the looks that will come to the fore in spring of next year are going to be a riot of colour. This is great for those of us who love vibrant shades and are not afraid to stand out from the crowd, though perhaps not so good for shrinking violets or those with a more muted aesthetic.

Tie dye is back and there is something of a resurgence of the hippie fashion aesthetic. For Resort, designers showed a range of tie-dye clothing. Both inner and outerwear items were shown and there was plenty of colour on display, much of it in bold, rich tones that are all about the character and the playful wackiness. Spring summer 2017 could be the time to revisit the Summer of Love. But this psychedelia has a sort of contemporary edge, with bold shapes, geometric designs and a strong line in global multiculturalism that reflects our more connected modern age. The way to wear this multi-coloured extravaganza is definitely to give it some gusto, but also a bit of an edge. Think whimsy but with a slightly harder urban slant.

The key to looking up to date and not like you have been lost and wandering on the hippie trail since the 60s is to choose pieces with a more modern shape when going for rainbow coloured clothes. Mismatched patterns and quirky combos will edge this look into another spring summer 2017 look – the chic geek. The idea is that pretty much anything goes and you should let your freak flag fly, showing your own unusual and unique personality through the way you dress.

This colour extravaganza borrows not only from the pschedelia of the 1960s but also from the colourful aesthetic of Tibet, its woven fabrics, strong patterns and bright colours, all with a slightly spiritual bent. There is also a large dose of inspiration taken from Cuba, a nation opening to the US for the first time in over fifty years and one with a strong culture and tropical aesthetic. Colour inspiration is also taken from the northern Californian coast, rich mid-tone blues and beachy hues mingle in with brighter tropical colours. No matter where you look, the spring summer 2017 trends are all about colour. Developing a really good colour sense and knowing which colours will suit you is the key to looking good and finding your own perfect look for the coming seasons.

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4 Steps to Choosing the Best Promotional Products for Your Business

When investing your marketing dollars in custom branded promotional products, you want to ensure that you are getting your best return on investment. You want to look for products that serve more than one purpose and provide continued brand exposure.

1. Choose products that provide your company with good visibility.

The more your products are seen, the more promotional benefit your company receives. The best promotional products are prominently placed on everyday items, such as screen cleaners attached to mobile devices.

2. Give away products that will be used every day.

How many times have you received a piece of schwag that you threw in a drawer or even the trash? For your promotional products to be effective, you need to choose items that people will use over and over again. Products that are used often and in public places will gain your brand the most exposure for your investment. A great example would be screen cleaner stickers for phones and tablets, that are custom branded with your logo but people can use to clean their electronic devices. Another example are portable USB chargers, that have your logo on them but people can use in an emergency to charge their devices. These are useful products that people will carry with them, hence, increasing the amount of times your logo gets flashed around.

3. Reflect your business’s reputation with high quality products.

We’ve all received a branded pen or notepad that fell apart in our bag before we even left the exhibit hall. Handing out cheap promotional products gives the impression that your company is just as cheap. Make sure that the freebies you give away are representative of the high quality of the products and services you provide in your business.

The best way to test a product before you decide to pull the trigger and make an order for your event would be to get samples. Reputable promo product companies will provide free samples and stand behind their production. It should be crystal clear once you compare samples whether the promo product will be a hit or a miss.

4. Think versatility.

Choose promotional products that are versatile enough to fit every occasion you need. Whether you need giveaways for a trade show, gifts for your employees, or tokens of appreciation for customers who visit your office, having an appropriate product available for all occasions is key to getting the best results for your marketing dollars.

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The Artistic Way of Programming

12 years back, when I started my formal classes in computer science, the first thing I learnt was “data” means “information”. A few days after that, we started conventional programming, where code and data were treated separately. For example, only data can be passed as the functional arguments. It was difficult for me to digest that “code, which is also information, is not treated as data”. I strongly felt that this will increase complexity of softwares in the long run.

A system does three things – read, transform (processing data), write. In other words – the mathematics (the transform part), and the effect of that in real life (the read/write part). The data transformation is indeed a mathematical concept, and with the help of read and write we make the mathematics (the transform part) useful to the real world. Bringing the “transform” part fully inside mathematical domain has its own benefit of using mathematics without fear (possible errors) for the analysis of the system, making the system more tractable mathematically. The catch is to treat both the elements of transformations, data and functions, equally.

Initially, code used to be bigger than the data, so sending data over the wire was feasible. But with time, data becoming huge, sending code to systems over the wire becomes the need, resting the data on the systems intact. With big data, the need of the hour is to treat the code as data, so that the code can be taken as argument to another meta function on a system having huge data which expects an algorithm for transformations.

Roughly speaking, codes are algorithms, algorithms are mathematical functions, functions are in turn actually look-up tables, i.e. data. Hence with this principle, all codes or functions are data.This is exactly the cornerstone of the functional paradigm. The functional programming is programming with functions, they treat functions and data likewise. Another principle I love, to control complexity, rules should not be complex itself.

Thumb rules rewritten for the functional paradigm:

Read-write and transformations(algorithms) should be separate.
Use immutable variables. Discourage use of reassignment statements.
Discourage side-effects (input/output or changing any variable in-place), every function should ONLY return its expected result.
Use referentially transparent functions (sometimes it is called pure functions) with no side effects, i.e. if x = y, f(x) and f(y) should be same forever.
Unit testing is a must for each function.
One of the main design patterns should be followed is to use expressions instead of instructions, i.e. it should be declarative in nature. Discourage use of loops like for/while – use recursive statements as shown above to calculate sum. Tell computers what needs to be done, not how to do it – it reduces error, especially edge cases.
With the need to control the complexity of the system and the advance design, the design pattern for the functional composition can be made to follow some basic algebraic structures, which in turn becomes more robust.

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