For the Love of Lifelong Learning

For the Love of Lifelong Learning

Guest writer, and guest lecturer for the Learning Without Scars “Lectures for Learners” series, Bonnie Feigenbaum writes today about something that matters to all of us. We invite you to read Bonnie’s blog post, “For the Love of Lifelong Learning.”

In Québec there is a saying, Je vais me coucher moins niaiseux à soir. »  which loosely translates to I’m going to bed wiser tonight.  That is my goal every day when I awake to learn something new so I can lay my head down with more information in it, with a deeper understanding of some aspect of the world we live in. I believe there are three types of lifelong learning you can incorporate into your life, have-to, need-to and want- to.

  1. Have-to – Continuing education to maintain your professional status

When I finished my formal education in the 90’s, recertification requirements to maintain your professional designations (statuses) were few and far between and opportunities for learning for self-improvement were also limited.  Now many professional orders and industries demand constant learning in order to be up to date on all the new technologies, practices and requirements.   For example, in Quebec, Real Estate Agents are required to complete 24 continuing education credits every two years in a variety of topics related to their field in order to maintain their membership in the association.  

In addition, in the last 30 years, education requirements to a decent job have boomed with most career driven employment requiring undergraduate degrees instead of just high school diploma, like in the securities industry, entry level positions where you need to have a bachelor’s degree to even be considered 

Due to technological advances, remote learning has made education more accessible to the masses both in terms of finance and convenience, respecting time constraints and learning styles.

Technology also affects the types of jobs out there.   Bank tellers are becoming obsolete, investment advisors and personal bankers replace them as their rote jobs are being downloaded to the consumer and these employees need to be trained to take on new roles.  People are changing jobs more frequently now, so acquiring new skills to enhance your employability will also be a benefit.  And you can look at these job changes in a different light as they are actually beneficial for lifelong learning. When you stay in the same organization, you gradually lose touch with the larger world outside your company’s silo. One of the biggest dangers of staying a at a job too long is that you fall behind what is happening in your industry and the wide world beyond it.

As many of my colleagues have written in these pages, I would encourage you to take advantage of any opportunities that your company affords you to further your education, develop the skills you need to maintain your status in advance to the next level. 

  1. Learning because you need-to

The advances in technology also dictates lifelong learning here as we transitioned from landlines to cell phones to smartphones, we had to learn how to use these new communication tools.  The same can be said of the transition to the online work environment and the current undeniable necessity of computer skills.

In addition, the rise of social media has led to a new participatory culture which means everyone can create and critique content in a real-time, unfiltered and direct way.  This social media landscape is rather new and versatile and requires the accumulation of new media literacy skills in particular, the ability to evaluate reliability and credibility of the information and sources.  you need to be able to ask the right questions to be able to determine what is “fake news”.  

Lastly, Consumer Behaviour theories have shown us that consumers’ prior product knowledge predicts their information search, illustrated by an inverted-U relationship between knowledge and external search effort. In other words, people with minimal expertise may not feel sufficiently competent to search extensively. Novice consumers tend to process information in terms of the big picture instead of detailed information. They are overwhelmed by the knowledge they need to acquire and don’t know where to start. On the other hand, experts feel they have a better sense of what information is relevant, sometimes falsely; thus, they engage in a minimal to selective search.  So, who searches the most? Moderately knowledgeable consumers. This means you need to develop a balanced base of knowledge in any subject so you can research and ask the right questions.

In today’s data-driven business landscape, staying up to date of the news and current events is an admirable way to learn about the new advances and challenges in our society, but how are they being presented, how can we navigate them, how can we succeed in this everchanging business landscape – committing to lifelong learning.

  1. Want-to Edu-taintment or Fun-ducation

Continuing education to maintain your professional status and to be able to function in to say society is required learning.  But what about wanting to learn?  Remember the joy and excitement you felt the first day of school?  Do you still feel that spark?  Well, that brings me to the next form of lifelong learning, you can have those experiences again with Edu-taintment or Fun-ducation mindset.  These refer to embracing the topics that you want to explore and are motivated to master.

Studies with young adults have shown that learning processes are typically associated with an enhanced and broadened brain activity. Neuroscientists from Bochum University observed, learning processes in old people result in a further enhancement of brain activity too and that older people improve even more than younger people.  This does not mean that training and learning can lead to a “rejuvenation” of the brain, nor does it reverse age-related brain changes, but rather remodels them.  This study demonstrated that training and learning pay off at every age, in order to remain fit.

How would you get started? What do you care about?  What did you want to be when you were a child??  There are classes available in a plethora of topics from ballet to baking, a multitude of language learning apps, how to videos for creative arts, electronics, web design and even construction.

Teachers can open the door to knowledge; but as I always tell my university students in this environment, you need to adult.  You enter and decide to stay in the room by yourself.  I believe that you can learn anything you want on your own time, I encourage to go to bed wiser every night.

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The Basics of Marketing, how to avoid the “What were they thinking” Moments

The Basics of Marketing, How to Avoid the “What were they thinking” Moments

Guest writer Bonnie Feigenbaum introduces her lecture series with this debut blog post: The Basics of Marketing, how to avoid the “What were they thinking” Moments.

Marketing is all about creating a connection between your company and your customer, a permanent place in their lives for your product and a permanent place in their heart for your brand.  In 1971, as a very young child I remember belting “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a coke and keep them company… “learning the iconic Coca-Cola Hillside singers’ ad by heart.  The ad was so popular that Coca Cola had Hilltop Reunion in 1990 and brought back the singers to recreate the commercial. 

There are many times I watch marketing campaigns roll out and wondered who was the marketing genius who came up with that! For example, McDonald’s does so many customer connection points right and really raised the bar on creativity in my mind when they launched their pizza line in 1989. The traditional golden arches were angled to make the Zs in pizza to communicate with one picture and one word that this is McDonald’s Pizza, a logo within a logo.

In 2018, I was intrigued by Nike’s decision to use Colin Kaepernick as their brand ambassador. I read the article by the Montreal Gazette columnist Scott Stinson, “Nike stands with a bet that outcry from Trump and his allies won’t cost them business.”   Kaepernick choose to “take a knee” using the moment of the U.S. national anthem to protest racial injustice and lost his football career in the process. The US was sharply divided on whether Kaepernick protesting during the anthem was disrespecting the flag. Nike, it would seem, was placing a large bet on the support their target market has for the issue and on Kaepernick’s sacrifice connecting with them.   Would the tagline, “Believe in something.  Even if it means sacrificing everything” resonate?

Nike’s choice did create a social media fervor as some more ardent opponents of their choice of influencer created a boycott hashtag and posted videos of them burning their own Nike shoes, socks and carving the Nike swoosh out of their garments. I would like you to remember one thing these people already paid for the products. Nike already had their money. The only person who was losing was them, as they had to spend money to replace the martyred items. Ironically, putting in practice the Nike/Kaepernick tagline. Nike did their research right, sales increased in the wake of the controversial advertising campaign, with online sales growing by 31% in the holiday weekend after the ad launched, according to researcher Edison Trends.

However, there are other times where I wonder to myself, what were they thinking and how did nobody throughout the whole creative and control process clue into the customer disconnect.

Let us go through some of my favorite fails

Urbn Outfitter was founded in Philadelphia in 1970 and is an international clothing corporation that has retail stores located in Montreal.  My fashion marketing students were trying to determine why there was a significant decrease in sales over the past year.  The Urbn Outfitter store brand sales were declining while the parent corporation’s other brands Anthropologie and Free People’s net sales had increased by 2% and 5% respectively at the same time. Through research the students were able to prove that in general the retail sales for the target demographic had been enjoying a continuous increase in revenue. So, what was the problem?

They investigated further and discovered that the year earlier Urbn Outfitter had launched controversial clothing lines featuring edgy and questionable mental health and body shaming crop tops with messaging like “depressed” and “eat less” while their direct competitor, Forever 21 T-shirts proclaimed positivity with “eat more” and “love yourself” on their tops.


We also discovered that some of their product line choices left a lot to be desired.  There was a Kent State University sweatshirt with blood spatters on it, a black and white horizontal striped T shirt with a 6-point yellow star on it reminiscent of the Holocaust and T-shirts in a colour Urban Outfitter identified as “Obama black”.  For the life of me I cannot understand how these items got through the approval process.


Another example of product fails because the company did not even think to take the customer reaction into account is Simons, a Quebec retailer. In September 2018, Simons launched a line of bralettes, a type of women’s lingerie. The story goes that when the Simons team was looking for a vision for their new lingerie line, they looked at inspiring Canadian women that were respected and admired. The line was meant to honour women who made historic contributions to Canada. The bralettes were called the Elsie, the Clara, the Nellie and the Beverley. So, while the last names were never used, the ad copy made it clear that the designs were inspired by aeronautical engineer Elsie MacGill, trailblazing lawyer Clara Brett Martin, suffragette and politician Nellie McClung and jurist Beverley McLachlin, the first woman to be appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Now Simon’s never sought permission from the estates of the first three women to use their names or even to ask if they wanted to be bralette brand ambassadors. Nor did they ask the sole living “honoree,” the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin who had just retired in December after spending 28 years at the Supreme Court including almost eighteen as Chief Justice.

After receiving a call from McLachlin, the president Peter Simons, immediately gave in to her demands for her a public apology and a request to get involved with fund raising campaign for the Cornerstone Housing for women emergency shelter organization in Ottawa.


In his apology, he stated that he sincerely regretted the naming mishap citing the lack of judgment on his part and that they decided to discontinue and destroy all materials related to the line following the call. During the media storm, I wondered where were the women in the room?  I noticed a line in one article, “Simons apologizes for bra named after former chief justice Beverley McLachlin,” by Tara Deschamps of the Canadian Press where Simons acknowledges that there is a deficiency in their corporate culture, a lack a comfort of the staff to stand up and express concerns.

That is what my basics of marketing series is all about.  I will give every employee the tools to spot the potential problems and recognize the opportunities to improve the customer experience.  But it is up to the management in the company to embed that into the corporate culture, empowering their employees to put customer connections above corporate politics.

We will start by reviewing the marketing process which is a good opportunity to show a relationship between several concepts we will be discussing, during the lecture series. During the first half of the series, I will focus on introducing marketing, the marketing environment and then market research. I will explain how we use the secondary data to develop marketing information systems. We will then delve into Consumer Buying Behaviour, comparing it with Business and Institutional Buyers’ Behaviour. We will then discuss the segmentation and positioning process that work in conjunction with the company’s marketing strategy. We will also cover the marketing mix, where we implement our strategy using our 4 Ps-Product, Price, Place & Promotion. In our final lecture, we will put it all together and discuss how to prepare the full marketing plan.

I look forward to helping you discover the full potential and powers of a full formed marketing process for your company.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me by e-mail at

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Marketing 101

Marketing 101

Today’s blog post, Marketing 101, is written for us by our new Guest Writer, Bonnie Feigenbaum. Bonnie has a wealth of experience as a professor of Marketing in Quebec, and shares with readers a detailed overview of the subject. 

Bonnie Feigenbaum is a Senior PR Consultant with TNKR Media, former Town Councillor and Chief of
Staff to a Federal MP. She has almost 30 years of teaching experience, creating, and delivering courses
at five post-secondary institutions, including McGill’s Desautels School of Management. She is a
bilingual, marketing and communications professional with 15 years of participation in local politics and
almost 40 years of community involvement.

Through Bonnidée Services, her own boutique communications company, she has been responsible for
all aspects of the strategic plan for a wide range of clients, specializing in government relations and
stakeholder management.

Her teaching philosophy, EDU-TAINMENT, is rooted in flexibility and adaptability using a three-pronged
approach of presentation, practicality, and participation to integrate real-life experiences in marketing,
communications, politics, and business to create a dynamic environment within a theoretical base.

Marketing is a process where the company attempts to understand their consumer to satisfy their needs and thus reap the rewards of profits and loyalty.

Research is the key to gaining the knowledge to develop those customer insights. A company needs to continually stay abreast of the ever-changing macroenvironment. Demographic, Cultural, Environmental, Economic, Technological and Political are the six macro environmental factors that can positively or negatively impact any industry. For example, since March 2020, an uncontrollable natural environmental factor, the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the business community. Some issues that had to be managed on the fly were new highly sanitized customer reception requirements, shortages due to lack of raw materials and supply chains jams and absence of human resources.

An overview of your industry and your company’s strengths and weakness can illuminate where you can leverage upcoming opportunities and mitigate potential threats. This constant surveillance, use of marketing intelligence can keep your company in a pro-active position at the forefront of your field.

The business needs to learn all they can about your customers’ needs, wants and demands so you can create a marketing offering, product, service or idea that will have value for consumers.  Theses insights will allow a business to answer the first TWO questions of customer outreach;

WHO will your company serve and HOW will your offering be different?

WHO to be served can be derived by separating your market, by demographic and lifestyle variables and then deciding which segment will be the best match for you?  Your primary target of interest will usually be the group or groups that is easiest to capture (“low hanging fruit”) and will bring you the most reward, in the form of sales in a product or service industry or in the form of buy-in to the idea in a social marketing context.

HOW is related to the appeal your product brings to the customer.  How will your product be special, have added value or create that special customer connection?  In marketing terms, we call that USP-Unique Selling Proposition, what makes you stand out and what value proposition are you presenting to your target.

Now that we know our goals, we can start on the pathway to success and use our marketing tools to create a marketing strategy that delivers the right product, at the right place, at the price to the right people and promote that messaging.  The use of the marketing mix (4P’s) is how we implement our strategy.  For example, companies that deal in tangible offerings would first want to use their research to fully develop the THREE levels of the product. A CORE (1st level) need links to the real consumer problem, like thirst can be satisfied by water. However, the choice of how to satisfy your thirst is the ACTUAL PRODUCT (2nd level). You can choose coffee, wines or even energy drinks to satisfy the problem of being thirsty. The 3rd level, AUGMENTED PRODUCT is about the promises you make, your warranties and guarantees that should provide added value to your target. Remember, promise made must be kept. In fact, Red Bull agreed to pay more than $13 million to settle a false advertising lawsuit about the drink’s ability to boost energy.  Sketchers USA faced a class action lawsuit when their Shape-Ups toning shoes did not provide the advertised health benefits and actually could cause injury.

This serves to illustrate the importance of a truthful, clear messaging strategy that clicks correctly and clearly with your customers.  This is accomplished by leveraging the five components of the company’s integrated marketing communication plan (IMC- Advertising, Sales, Sales Promotion, Direct Marketing which includes many new (social) media components, and the often forgotten and thus underused, Public Relations.) which is really an expanded version of the promotion “P”.

The decisions range from content to creativity, what will you message to your consumers be and how will you deliver it? You will also need to determine what media channels to use, how often you engage as well as if and who you would use as your messenger. This is the controllable part of the communications plan which involves of all the channels you pay for or own.

The uncontrollable aspect is called earned media and it involves of all the user generated content and conversations about your brand. If a client is willing to recommend your product, an indicator of brand loyalty, they become quasi-brand ambassadors, and promote your products for you organically. To generate this level of advocacy you need to exceed customer expectations and ensure customer satisfaction. This will also allow your company to maintain profitable long-term relationships.

Research again comes into play. You need to confirm you have created value for your targets.  We can accomplish this through surveying. We can ask our clients: –

  • Have we met or hopefully exceeded their expectations?
  • Will they continue to purchase from us, purchase more?
  • Will they recommend us to others?

This is an example of generating primary research. The macro and micro environmental research discussed earlier usually is done through secondary research and internal databases as that is much quicker and cheaper. Timely decision-making information provided by marketing research allows management to make the right choices. When you have created the right appeals for the target customers, in terms of product, price, place and promotion, you collect sales, profits and customer devotion.

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