Keep Your Knees Bent!

June 12, 2013 by  Top Drawer Creative

Top Drawer Creative started in the dining room of the house our CEO Howard Chang rented on Woodbine Avenue over 15 years ago. He, Exec VP Brian Gahan and Creative Director Rachael Muir, have moved from that dining room table to a boardroom table and an office full of ad-people. But the entrepreneurial spirit still lingers. And that’s a good thing.

Our Director of Engagement, Kerry Lawrence, says that entrepreneurship is “at the heart of business.” Earlier this month, Kerry went to the The Art of Marketing, a one-day conference that features talented presenters who lead thought-provoking conversations about the evolution of marketing and what it looks like right now.

Kerry blogged about her exciting and inspiring day.

As the new Director of Engagement here at Top Drawer Creative, I jumped at the chance to attend The Art of Marketing conference on June 5. It was a fabulous opportunity to see what’s trending in the industry today with a focus on innovation & marketing.

I squeezed into a seat surrounded by fellow marketers who were either:
a) emailing madly
b) head down taking notes
c) hand-waving madly in the air wanting to ask a question.

All stopped when David Usher suddenly charged onto stage singing a song with his lead guitarist whilst we all stared and wondered whether we were in the right conference. What the??

Mr. Usher quickly composed himself and floored us all by bringing an unsuspecting soul to the stage to have them hold a heartbeat monitor hooked up to a microphone. He started to jam to it.

The point? Be curious. Stop thinking about the process. Start thinking from a different perspective.

As a musician, it makes sense to start with writing a song, and then producing it, followed by singing to a stadium full of fans. (Easy process for David Usher!) He asked himself, how could he turn it around and make it about the audience? Even better–ONE fan?


Next up? Seth Godin. Known for his quirkiness, odd socks, numerous books on marketing, the ways ideas spread, changing everything (my personal fave), leadership, and well, the list goes on.

His focus? Be vulnerable. Be a starter. Be a leader.

“How was your day? If your answer was fine, then I don’t think you were leading.” – Seth Godin

He shared a story that I cannot stop thinking about.  There’s a small neighbourhood coffee shop in London, England (owned by Gwilym Davies). In an attempt to promote East London’s emerging coffee shop scene, if you went and had a coffee at eight interesting, quality-focused cafes, then Gwilym Davies himself would make you a free cup of coffee.

Now, this guy knew his coffee-loving tribe. He got vulnerable and decided that he knew, by encouraging them to try all the other coffee in the area, that they would be back. And, they did come back.


During break, I took a walk in the sun. Walking past a rubbish can, I tossed my gum in and out flew a bird in a mad rage. Apparently I had tossed my gum onto its head and scared it. I ran (waving hands in air) whilst the angry bird dive-bombed my head.  (Did you see The Birds? Yeah, birds can be scary!) Taking cover, I couldn’t stop laughing thinking of Seth and his tribe talk. Here we are as marketers trying to force the masses into seeing our advertisements. We are in a different time. Mass marketing doesn’t work anymore. We must see this change and adapt–find the tribe. (This bird was certainly not of the gum-chewing tribe.)

The afternoon was equally engaging with a big executive panel discussion. Cheri Chevalier, the CMO of Microsoft Canada was on it and she blew my socks off.

All I need to share are the following questions she consistently asks her team:

  • What are we not doing?
  • What do you need to let go of to move forward?
  • Is the data relevant? What action can come from what you collect?
  • Are we being flexible? Like a skier, always keep your knees bent.

Excellent questions!

There was so much more, including a great speaker, Charles Duhigg, talking about consumer habits and predictive analytics. I had always thought a habit was getting into a routine. Not so!

He talks about the habit loop, and how, as marketers, we need to be thinking of this loop to effectively market our products/services.

Read more about that here.

Jonah Berger got the audience going with his talk on word-of-mouth marketing.

Did you know that this is 30 times MORE effective than traditional advertising?  So how do we get people talking about our products/services?  It’s all about psychology folks–and learning how to craft contagious content.

He and his team did lots of research and developed STEPPS:

  • Social Currency
  • Triggers
  • Emotion
  • Public
  • Practical Value
  • Stories

If you have all of these, your chance of increasing word-of-mouth multiplies. Watch a cool little video with him talking about it –>

By the end of the day, my brain was full to the brim. I couldn’t wait to get back to the office to inspire the team.

Final take-away? It’s so easy to get caught up in selling to whoever is buying and saying yes to everything. Focus is key! Get to the heart of what customers care about. Put this through the lens of your brand.

Since the agency’s days at that dining room table, our team has become inspired by and driven to work with clients who align with our focus–and that mindset helps us stay on point. We have become experts in the AHAA consumer and the brands that target them. We use this knowledge to help integrate and align brands and their communications strategy with this valuable consumer. Our goal is not to appeal to the masses, but to take each project and figure out how to make it a success within its “tribe”.

Where has this focus taken us? We’re now an internationally award-winning agency that has helped many clients get where they needed to go, through consistency, authentic messaging, and engaging their tribes with good story-telling.

What story are you telling?
How can we help?








10 Best: Places for Lunch in The Beach!

June 11, 2013 by  Top Drawer Creative

While some of us may not follow the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we do try and make time to eat. Ad work makes you huuuungry! A big part of a healthy lifestyle is having a healthy diet; and part of having a healthy diet is making time and taking time to eat. Our studio does have a great kitchen, patio and lounge (… it’s a wonder we ever leave), which we make more than full use of. But when we do venture out for some fare, we have some favourite places.

These are the 10 Best Places for Lunch in The Beach, as chosen by us, TDC’ers.


“The lady that works there is such a kind and gentle person. Her kindness and great sushi makes everything better,” says Sherene, our Market Research Analyst.

This place is relatively new to the Beach, located at the northwest corner of Queen and Beech, and about 10 steps from our front door. It’s popular choice here. David, our Digital Artist, says, “Good variety, fair price—what more can you ask for around here?”

Kathy, our Director of Client Services, says, “Outrigger on Fridays for Thai Chicken Salad.”

Tori’s Bake Shop
On Friday’s Kathy follows her salad with some delectable treats from Tori’s, “Gluten-free Oatmeal cookie and iced decaf coffee with soy creamer.” Tori’s also makes a “BLT” sandwich that’s vegan-friendly. Seriously. They make coconut taste like bacon and it’s magical.

“The Goof”
The real name of this restaurant is “The Garden Gate – Good Food” and it’s a well-known gem in the Beach. The sign’s lights are lit [or out] in such a way that it reads GooF, a loveable, local moniker. Says Kerry, our Director of Engagement, “Cheap. Fast. Good. Normally you have to pick two. In this case, you get all three.”

Copywriter Patty says, “Good greasy comfort food for treat Fridays, also often hangover Fridays.”  Treat Fridays are a thing here at TDC.

Green Basil
Thursday is Thai Food day. Associate Media Director Aaron Vardon says, “I love Thai food and think you get a nice, big, good-tasting lunch for a good price.”

The Wholesome Market
Yes, you can get a hot, fresh lunch here every day. Our Chief Creative Officer and Executive VP Brian Gahan loves it: “They have a great, organic food bar that offers up variety and healthy options that make eating well easy. I love to fill a container with a few options and just eat it all mixed up.”

Burger’s Priest
This option is a little further away, but it’s worth the trip. Have you tried the veggie burger with bacon?

Mamma’s Pizza
Sometimes you just want a slice of pizza. Or a whole pizza-vegan, vegetarian or meatball, they have it all. Our office has a web login to order online.

The Remarkable Bean
Based on the name of this place, you know you can get a good cup of java, but did you know they make sandwiches? “It’s a fresh baguette with butter, chicken breast, avocado, red pepper. It’s perfect,” says Trellawny Graham, Creative & QC Executive.

Of course, truth be told, many of us eat at our desks more often than not. And many of us like to cook and prepare our own meals (in the fancy kitchen). Lucky for us, if we forget to grocery shop and bring ingredients to work, we can go to a great grocery store just down the street:

Who’s not familiar with this one? Along with fresh produce and groceries, in case we don’t have time to prep a meal, we can buy a ready-to-eat lunch. Our Web Developer Steven Nguyen says, “It’s close. I usually get chicken and potato wedges and sometimes salad.