Archives For Projects

Posts about my various work, side, and wishlist projects.

Starting at Strut

February 7, 2015 — Leave a comment

Strut Creative - Steve Hardy

I’m pleased to announce that earlier this week I joined the team at Strut Creative in Calgary as an Account Planner.

It was Strut that developed RallyEngine, the innovative mobile internal/crisis communications app that I’ve been marketing for the past couple of years and will continue to help grow. It’s been a joy to work with such smart and talented people, and I’m looking forward to now being in the same physical space with them and building out an exciting new role with the mothership.

As Account Planner, my focus will be to help connect-the-dots on creative strategy, represent the user/market’s perspective on campaign and product development, and flesh out a range of exciting special projects. Perfect for a creative generalist. And Strut is really good at big thinking, highly integrated, blue-sky special projects.

Anyways, for my initiation I was subjected to the Strut Highly-Scientific Shockingly-Revealing Questionnaire. Here it is.

Road Stories: Montreal

January 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

Here’s an old clip I recently dug up. It’s of my appearance on CBC’s The National with Peter Mansbridge on December 15, 2004. I’d submitted a story idea for their popular Road Stories series and – surprise! – they jumped on it. Despite my obvious nervousness in the setup with Mansbridge, I really like how the piece presented Montreal at that time and how it positioned Maisonneuve as a champion of that cultural shift in the city from old political doldrums to young creative vibrancy.

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This is post was originally published in Fall 2011 on the now-defunct Warms blog. Tis the season, and it fits the theme since popularized in viral holiday videos by WestJet, UPS, and others.


In 2004 Ikea amused and impressed Swedish train commuters by handing out free pillows during the morning rush hour. Each pillow said “Better Sleep for everyone” and of course indirectly linked Ikea to beds and good sleep.

In 2007, as part of the largest US campaign ever for Maxwell House, Kraft Foods included a clever gift element along with its sampling program. They took over tollbooths nationwide from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and in addition to handing out millions of coffee samples they also picked up the toll tab for motorists.

In 2010 popchips launched its brand of healthier snack chips using a combination of influencer seeding and gifting to friends via social shareability. Over 2000 personalized popchips gifts were sent out and the brand has risen in profile ever since. (↬Flowtown)

In 2011, Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex brand sent over one million tissues mini-boxes as part of its “Softness Worth Sharing” campaign introducing a new softer version of the tissue. The program let people send samples to friends and family via It lifted market share at least 1.7 points (↬Flowtown).

And recently, Canadian retailer Shoppers Drug Mart has been randomly handing out to customers free surprise gift cards worth $10, $25, $50 or even $100 off a subsequent purchase. This approach employs a technique called a lagniappe – a small gift added by the merchant, in the same way a baker might throw in a 13th donut with the dozen.

Gift marketing is a concerted way for brands to make a positive impression by unexpectedly delivering something of substance or value to either a key prospect or a valued longtime customer.

Gift marketing is a combination of branding, advertising, promotion, PR, social engagement, product sampling, and customer service. It’s old in the sense that companies have long sent preferred clients calendars, holiday baskets, and perhaps some bonus reward points, but it’s new in that these activities are becoming more planned, more creative, more finely targeted and better measured (ROI), and larger in scale.

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Teasing The Herd of Cats

November 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Time to let the cat out of the bag. I’m writing a book. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve tentatively titled it The Herd of Cats: How Entrepreneurs, Improvisers, and Disaster Managers Approach an Uncertain World and it’s inspired by the three very different worlds I’ve been exposed to over the past year or so with RallyEngine.

Herd of Cats book cover

Here’s the draft jacket copy…

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This is post was originally published October 26, 2011 on the now-defunct Warms blog. I thought it was worth re-sharing for this time of year.


Warms [was] a platform that bridges the surprise and substance delivered by physical gift products with the emotion and versatility offered by digital videos and e-gifts. In doing so we [paid] very close attention to the reveal because it is through a layered unveiling that we can deliver a richer and more memorable gift experience. It’s perhaps not as obvious or easy as it sounds.

Greeting card companies, florists, e-card senders, and even chocolatiers all fall short. They may make nice/funny/tasty/beautiful products but they deliver shallow, one-dimensional experiences. A remarkable gift encompasses way more than just the object – and of course remarkability is always judged by the receiver.

Here are the six essential ingredients of a great gift…

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How Warms Went Cold

October 25, 2014 — 2 Comments


It was around two years ago that I shut down Warm Ventures, the startup I co-founded to pursue what I thought then might be a ripe opportunity in the gift marketing space. It failed, unfortunately, and this post aims to share some of my post-mortem thoughts on the experience – including some aspects that aren’t typical in more prominent startup stories.

Our main product originally was Warms, a platform that bridged the surprise and substance delivered by physical gift products with the emotion and versatility offered by digital videos and e-gifts. It consisted of a 4″x4″x4″ gift box with an elaborate unboxing experience revealing an audible heart-holding plush character and a unique code with instructions to view a video message (and, optionally, an e-gift) from the sender. “Cheaper than flowers and more substantial than e-cards, Warms have a sense of humor and are way more fun to give.” Here was the explainer video we made for them…

The physical item consisted of several custom pieces: a hinge-top wooden box with an interior elastic lever, a button-cell sound module (think audio greeting card), different versions of a small plush doll, a transparent under-lid label with a message and code (alphanumeric and QR), two brass tacks and a hemp string lid clasp with a “Be kind, please rewind” tag on the end, a card stock wrap to seal the box closed and tease to what’s inside, and all of this was mailed in a cubic cardboard box with a wax seal like sticker on top.

This is what one looked like…

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Building Bridges

October 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

This post was originally published at the now-defunct NextMontreal blog on July 21, 2011, to indirectly promote my also now-defunct Warms venture: “Warms Bridges Offline and Online with a New Twist on Gifts”.


Since 2002 I’ve maintained a blog called Creative Generalist which, among other things, espouses some long held beliefs that broad thinking leads to big ideas. A common thread throughout many of the posts and many of the articles that are linked to is the notion that some of the most fertile and relatively undeveloped ground for new ideas is located between disciplines, cultures, technologies, generations, perspectives, and so on. Obviously there’s innovation in specializing but there’s loads of potential too by spanning silos.

I think bridging is highly underrated.

In 2004 strategy+business then contributing editor Nicholas G. Carr put forward a fascinating case for conservative innovation over disruption, arguing that bridging the breakthrough gap is a better third way — the other two are being the first mover or being the copycat — to profit from an innovation. By finding the space between where the big idea will be and where the market already is one can both profit immediately from the innovation while also moving into a better position for the future. Carr uses a couple great examples: Netflix beating webcasters that had out-innovated a market not yet serviced with broadband connections, and Toyota showing patience on the hyrdrogen fuel cell front by first producing a car (the Prius) that still uses existing technology even while moving away from it.

There’s an important lesson in this story: When a disruptive new technology arrives, the greatest business opportunities often lie not in creating the disruption but in mending it — in figuring out…a way to use an older, established technology as a bridge to carry customers to the benefits of the emerging technology.

When we talk about business innovation today, we tend to use terms like breakthrough and pioneering and revolutionary. But some of the greatest and most lucrative innovations are essentially conservative. They are brought to market by companies that are as adept at looking backward as looking forward, and that have the skill and patience to achieve the most commercially attractive balance between the old and the new. “Conservative innovation” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an idea that deserves to be a part of every company’s thinking…

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