Meme watch: 10 Reasons Mitt Romney likes 1916 so much

Mitt Romney’s weapons of mass anachronism

In one brilliant moment in last night’s US Presidential debate, see Barack Obama was able to take a Mitt Romney soundbyte – that the US Navy is smaller today than it was in 1916 – and turn it into a meme-beating-meme of his own. Which led to a lot of spin-off memes. But in thinking about it, visit this I realized: Mitt Romney has a lot of reasons to look back fondly at 1916.


Background for non-political junkies

Here’s Barack Obama’s one-liner lampooning Mitt’s fixation with 1916 – as Tweeted by the @Obama2012 team:

Click the image above to visit my post.

Which of course, went viral on social media almost instantly. So last night, hoping to add to the viral feeding frenzy, I posted an infographic (at right) about Mitt Romney and his binders full of modern ideas.

But 1916 was a really interesting choice for Romney to make in many, many other ways. I’ll give you 10 – with my tongue firmly in cheek of course.

10 Reasons for Mitt Romney to like 1916 so much.

  • American “manifest destiny” dreams were at their peak. American troops occupied Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, the Philippines, and a bunch of others. Sure it was expensive. But it was cool.
  • The US Navy had WAY more boats in 1916 than today. Okay, they looked like this (below), but there were LOTS of them!
  • The US invaded the Dominican Republic. They installed a puppet dictatorship, then spent years fighting grumpy insurgents. Mitt should try that somewhere. It could work!
  • Republicans were pushing the US to go to war with Mexico! That would have been awesome!
  • Massive military buildups between the world’s superpowers over the previous decade meant that in Europe they were having a Great War!
  • It only cost $17 million to build 375 new “aeroplanes” in 1916. In the F35 fighter program that would buy you a floor mat and two barf bags.
  • The rich were doing just fine.The Rockefellers and Carnegies were at their height and the richest 1% held more wealth than ever before in history!

    Check out the similarity between 1917 – what gazillionaires refer to as the “good old days” – and the modern era. Oh, but cheat the 2012 line up to 24%.
  • Blacks were allowed to vote, but sneaky tricks were used to keep them away from the polls! Forget photo ID laws. Those 1916 voter suppression ideas were even more radical!
  • American women couldn’t vote yet. That would totally help Mitt’s chances!
  • A popular Democrat named Woodrow Wilson won a second term running against a completely forgettable Republican opponent. That guy was named… um…

Oh wait. Ignore that last one Mitt! 1916 is totally the year you should focus on!

Brand Canada: so what is a “Canadian”? 10 quirky facts.

Some odd insights from Ipsos Reid’s Darrell Bricker

I’m excited about an event coming to Ottawa ‘s Chateau Laurier next month: the IABC 2012 Canada Business Communicators Summit. But even better: Beg to Differ has one free pass to give away (more about that below). But since I think, thumb speak, sildenafil and write a lot about Brand Canada, it’s the opening keynote by Dr. Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs and author of Canuckology that has me thinking.

Grab from promotional video by HarperCollins Canada (see full video below).

Disclosure: the author isn’t paid to promote this conference, but is helping out a friend, and is gratefully accepting a free pass himself in return.

A conference strong – and free (*if you win the pass)

So here’s how the IABC Summit’s agenda for day one describes Bricker’s Opening Keynote:

The Big Shift” – Understanding Communications in the New Canada.

The presentation will explore the profound changes that are happening in Canada today. What do Canadians look like? What do they value? Who do they trust? Understanding these factors is essential to being a successful communicator in the New Canada.

Indeed. We communicators need to know our audience. But as Canadians communicating to Canadians, that actually means we need to know and understand ourselves – our own brand and how it relates to Brand Canada. And that is bloody hard – whether you are a backpacker in Europe, a business, or the Dalai Lama. We all have our blinkers on.

So what is a Canadian?

We’ll get to the Bricker’s mind-bending insights in a moment, but I want to hear from you:

  • What is this thing we call a “Canadian”?
  • What does being Canadian mean – and can we measure Canadian-ness?
  • How does that effect how we communicate with Canadians?

And in return for sharing, you could get a free pass to that conference.

Special offer from Beg to Differ
(Generously provided by organizers of the IABC Summit)
What you get:
Free One-day conference pass valued at $675 for either November 2nd or 3rd (your choice).
How to enter:
Two ways: 1) Answer the questions above in the comments; OR 2) Share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #CdnIABC12. I’ll draw a winner at random on Monday morning.

Ten surprising facts about Canadians

So without further ado: some shocking stats about Canadians taken from Bricker’s book and this  interview – originally from the Globe and Mail.

  1. The average Canadian spends 7.7 minutes in the shower.
  2. 750,000 Canadians believe the country borders the “Antarctic Ocean”
  3. Only 27% of Canadians know what happened in 1867. (Hint: you’re soaking in it)
  4. The majority of Canadians believe in angels, but in Saskatchewan and Manitoba it’s 77 per cent.
  5. Canadians would rather have the superhero power to heal themselves than travel in time.
  6. Almost one in three Canadians admits they let “laundry pile up until they run out of underwear”.
  7. 58 per cent of Canadian women feel most romantic with the sound of waves nearby.
  8. When asked to compare their partner to an animal, Canadian women were less likely to choose gorilla, tiger, or stallion (Oh my!). The most popular answer? “Cuddly bear.”
  9. The most popular answer from Canadian men to the same question: “don’t know.”
  10. Only 40% of Canadians trust polls…
Many of these facts in video form:

Books by Darrell Bricker

Disclosure: by buying through these Amazon Affiliate links, you’ll be supporting Beg to Differ.


Airport branding: Heathrow kills the TLA BAA. Hooray!

London’s airport manager “BAA” to become… wait for it… “Heathrow”!

Beg to Differ celebrates the departure of a bad brand, the arrival of an old friend, and after the gates, wishes the grand old dame of British airports a successful baggage retrieval. (Oh, but don’t bother hailing a cab. Take the tube instead.)

London’s  airport manager “BAA” rebrands to… wait for it… “Heathrow”!

Beg to Differ celebrates the departure of a bad airport brand, adiposity the arrival of an old friend, and after the gates, wishes the grand old dame of British airport brands a successful baggage retrieval. (Oh, but mate: don’t bother hailing a cab. Take the tube instead.)

BAA humbug

If you’ve ever flown through London’s Heathrow Airport, or Glasgow, or Stansted you’d be forgiven for not knowing that you were actually in the hands of an entity called BAA – which once stood for British Airports Authority, but more recently became “BAA”, which stands for, well, not much at all. Because it was just another TLA (see previous rant here).

And now, in a stroke of brilliance (and possibly desperation), they decided to drop the three letter moniker. Here’s the story in brief:

It is the end of an era for BAA with the company announcing that the name is to be dropped in favour of stand-alone brands for its airports. Its airports – Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Southampton and Stansted – will cease to be called BAA gateways from today.

So the company running Heathrow Airport will now call itself “Heathrow”? And didn’t spend a billion dollars doing it?  Wow. Unlike a lot of nonsense in the branding world, that actually makes sense!

I completely agree with the “Thumbs Up” verdict from Mark Ritson in the UK version of Marketing Week:

The simple rebranding of BAA as Heathrow might look pretty bleeding obvious to the untrained eye, but it’s a job very well done. Brand managers around the world should note how the strategy has been executed.

Indeed. And hopefully they also think twice before choosing a meaningless abbreviation, acronym, or impossible to spell “domain grabber” name as well.

I wish “umbrella brands” like “The Ottawa Hospital” (better known as the Civic Hospital, Riverside Hospital, and General Hospital) would take note of the other lesson here: Branding is the art of making sense. And stretching the idea of a Hospital – or an airport – to cover whatever you want it to? That just doesn’t make sense.

More reading:


Museum branding: the end of Civilization as we know it (and I feel fine)!

According to this article in the Ottawa Citizen, a major Ottawa-area institution will be getting a new name later today. The Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau will become… well, we don’t know yet exactly. So before we find out, here are my three thoughts: 1) the old name, message, and mandate did need to change! 2) The new name *might* be an improvement, but 3) I have some suggestions for a few MUCH better names. Read on.

The name “Canadian Museum of Civilization” is about to become History. And it’s about time.

According to this article in the Ottawa Citizen, search   a major Ottawa-area  institution will be getting a new name later today. The Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau will become… well, adiposity we don’t know yet exactly. So before we find out, here are my three thoughts: 1) the old name, message, and mandate did need to change! 2) The new name *might* be an improvement, but 3) I have some suggestions for a few MUCH better names. Read on.

But before we get there, let me just say two things: First, museum branding is hard.  Second, I’m not a hater: I love  this museum. The building by Douglas Cardinal needs to be counted  among the most magnificent museums in the world. And the place is chock full of amazing artifacts from Canadian history and particularly native art and artifacts from PRE-Canadian history. And I don’t doubt when the  it the museum’s Web site claims that it is “the most popular and most-visited museum in Canada.”

So what’s so hard about museum branding?

1) The old “Civilization” name, message, and mandate

It starts right here: “Canada’s national museum of human history“. Really? Human history? That’s a big claim.

But it gets bigger, if you read the museum’s mandate from the Museums Act:

“To increase, throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge and critical understanding of and appreciation and respect for human cultural achievements and human behaviour by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of objects of historical or cultural interest, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating those achievements and behaviour, the knowledge derived from them and the understanding they represent.”

All very noble and fine – and all deeply worthy subjects for study. But on visiting such a place, you’d probably expect to find something like the ground floor of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Egyptian mummies, Chinese pagodas – maybe East Indian or South American stone carvings.

But the actual museum experience isn’t anything like that. Here’s what you actually get:

  1. Magnificent Native art and exhibits: these are actually the elements that leap to mind FIRST when people think of the museum – and were the things my Dutch relatives most wanted to see when they came to town.  From the gorgeous curvelinear building to the magnificent native artworks and cultural artifacts from across Canada, this museum is defined by the tribute it pays to our First Nations.
  2. The permanent exhibits:  the main exhibits upstairs walk you through Canadian history. Period.  N0t human history. Canadian history.
  3. The Children’s Museum: a fun interactive space that kids LOVE. But it’s an odd Dora the Explorer mishmash of stuff from around the world that seems to be more about geography learning than about the “human history” of Civilization.
  4. The Imax movie theatre: that shows, well, anything and everything available on IMAX. Look at today’s roster from the Web site (right). Nature and geographic adventure films mostly. Oh, and one Maya thing that ties in to a special exhibit, which brings us to…
  5. Special exhibits: this is the only place where the “human history” mandate is actually apparent – with recent exhibits dealing with Maya, Ancient Egypt, and world-wide mythology. And of course, as the Citizen article points out, this is also where the museum gets most of its annual visitors, media coverage, and profit.

It’s hard to get a read on how curators make decisions about what fits into the “Civilization” mandate.

And that’s precisely the point of a good brand name / mandate. It needs to be narrow and focused enough to provide guidance to both visitors, employees, museum peers, and political decision makers.

2) The new museum branding is an opportunity to DIFFER!

But what should  they call it?

I humbly suggest the following:

  1. That the terms “history” and “Canada / Canadian” should anchor the name and description, BUT
  2. The specific combination “Canadian History” is too narrow. “Canadian Museum of History” or “Museum of Canadian Culture and History” would be better, BUT
  3. A purely descriptive name isn’t what I’d recommend. Every other major museum in town has a dry, descriptive name. As the big dog in town, this one has an opportunity to do some thing really different, particularly since every other major museum in the Capital uses really boring descriptive names. Only the small ones do anything interesting. “Diefenbunker”? Brilliant!

My suggestions:

Name it after a great native leader from Canadian History / Culture!

Try these  on for size:

The Tecumseh Museum
   of Canadian Culture and History  

The Chief Dan George Museum
   of Canadian Culture and History

The Douglas Cardinal Museum
   of Canadian Culture and History

The Chief William Commanda Museum
  of Canadian Culture and History

My favourite is the last one. Commanda, who died last year, was an amazing man with a direct Algonquin ancestral and spiritual tie to the land the museum is built upon.

Will the Conservative government do anything so classy and bold?

Probably not. But we can always hope. I’ll be back to update with comments this afternoon.

In the meantime, what do you think?

MUSEUM BRANDING UPDATE: They went with the “”Canadian Museum of History”. Sigh. Ah well.

Exposing the naughty bits: 10 new Facebook features nobody was asking for

So yesterday, more about I accidentally exposed my naughty bits on Facebook. It was okay though, buy more about because it was a Private Group. You know. Members only. But to my shock and dismay, viagra 40mg a new Facebook notice appeared out of nowhere that told me 55 people had seen my naughty bits. But only four had Liked them. You might think I’d want to know that. I Beg to Differ.

Exposing the naughty bits

Like me, Facebook has been exposing its naughty bits lately. And yes Facebook, they were Seen By many. And not all of us Liked them.

You see, Facebook has this odd way of suddenly adding “features” to its site and mobile apps with little or no warning or explanation. They just appear. And some just make you scratch your head. Now, let it be said: I’m not the type to just complain about change, because some Facebook updates are brilliant, and actually useful things – like Tagging, which appeared in late 2009 to much joy and thumb-upping. Or user friendly names for users and pages. Or Pages themselves. Or Groups. All good.

And some are structural revisions like Timeline – which was disorienting and caused some ripples when it appeared. But largely this kind of change make sense as a step in the evolution of the platform, so the furor died down. And I for one, became a fan. Because Timeline was helpful.

But then there are the others, the “features” that appear suddenly and randomly, but don’t seem to serve any real purpose, and actually hurt Facebook’s usability and simplicity. Or even worse, increase the sense that Facebook is being sneaky or Big Brotherish. So without further ado:

Ten Facebook features we didn’t need

1) “Seen by” in groups

This is the one I mentioned above. Where Facebook tells you how many people have supposedly “seen” your post in a group. And then, if you hover over the “Seen By” message, it tells you who saw it, and what time / date.  I say supposedly, because it’s unclear either a) how Facebook defines “seeing” – i.e. is scrolling past something “seeing” it? or b) why that is even important or relevant information – i.e. to anyone but the most anally retentive admin?

Weird. Creepy. And makes users feel like they are losing a little bit more control over how they interact within a group. Just a bad, anti-social idea.

2) Find Friends Nearby

If you hadn’t heard of this one, it was a mobile feature Facebook tried to introduce quietly that was designed to instantly find friends in the vicinity based on mobile GPS location data. But then, when it rapidly caused a privacy stink, Facebook killed it the same day because it was too obviously creepy-stalkerish, even for Facebook.

3) Your picture in other people’s ads (a.ka. “Sponsored Stories”)

Thanks to Maddie Grant from Social Fish for this one.

This one has been making the news lately because of a just-settled, then un-settled, lawsuit.  Here’s what Facebook officially says about this “feature”. Basically, because you “Liked” something – say OB Tampons – your photo can appear in an OB Tampon ad in my stream. Again. Creepy. And in this case, feels unethical too because Facebook is using people’s faces without permission to endorse products and make money.

4) Facebook e-mail switch


Do you remember back when Facebook wanted to revolutionise the way we message one another by giving us all email addresses? Yeah it was pretty “meh” and no one really cared. Well now in an attempt to make our Facebook inboxes more relevant Zuck and the gang have got rid of your regular email addresses and replaced them with a Facebook one.

Again, silly, creepy, and bad strategy.

5) Editing comments

The problem here is not that you can edit your typos and screw-ups. You could do that (kind of) for a while – but it was time limited, so you could make small changes if you were quick, but after a while, they became permanent. Which worked.  My problems are 1) the bizarre “edit” history thread  that tracks your edits forever, and 2) that they didn’t aply this behaviour consistently – as  Techdrink points out.

But here’s what you can’t do. You can’t edit your comments on the Comments Box plug in used by many websites like TechCrunch (and even TechDrink at one stage). You can’t edit your comments on mobile where it would arguably have been infinitely more useful (isn’t that right, auto correct!). And you still can’t edit original posts!

Also, there is the potential for abuse. Say I post a comment that says “I like kittens!” and 520 people “Like” it. I could then go back and write “Kill all the kittens”, and it would look like all 520 people were secret kitten murderers as well.

The “Ticker”: oooh look! Another place to see Farmville requests!

6) Sidebar “Tickers” – all those bloody right hand sidebars.

Back when I first saw them last August, I thought the new sidebars were kind of cool and an interesting addition to Facebook. That is, until they actually appeared on my Facebook screen, constantly moving as they scroll by, and created an exponential increase in the clutter and “Wall of Noise” effect you get from Facebook.

Gah!!! Again, it made me feel less in control of Facebook. Not good for Facebook!

7) Facebook messages popping up like chat requests

(Thanks to Dave Harrison for this one.)

Yeah. That. We didn’t ask for that one either. It sucks because we could ALWAYS tell when we had a message through that little red icon at the top. But you could ignore it until you actually had time to look. Now it’s in your face and you feel rude if you don’t answer immediately.

8) An iPhone mobile app (and other mobile apps) that really suck

(Thanks to Jon Aston for this one)

Okay, this wasn’t a feature they chose (I hope), but it’s one of my biggest sources of Facebook frustration. I’d love it if they pulled every engineer from the useless projects above and assigned them to fixing their wonky, slow mobile apps. And maybe letting us tag people and do other basic stuff? Huh? Please?!?!

9) People who complain about every new feature on Facebook.

(Thanks to Shelly Kramer for this one)

I agree, in that this annoys me too. But I’d also argue this is actually a “feature” of how Facebook rolls stuff out. By changing so frequently, radically, and in many cases with a tin ear for how the changes may be received, they are constantly shaking the platform. Which makes people feel unsteady.

1o) <Add your own Facebook feature here.>

What do you think? Are we being fair to Facebook? Do they deserve the constant criticism? Please share your pet peeves, your faves, your tirades or praises in the comments.