Tofu & Ginger vermicelli soup

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I don’t know about you but I tend to get sick if someone with a cold is within a yard’s distance from me which makes the art of good conversation difficult since my friends don’t want to come near me for the better part of the winter months. So, instead of hibernating with a cold this season and feeling sorry for myself, I am taking preventative measures with this nutrient packed Tofu & Ginger vermicelli soup! It is rich in vitamins and the ginger is flavourful but most importantly gives the immune system a good kick because ginger root has a long history of helping with digestion, reducing nausea and fighting a common cold.  This will be my go-to superfood soup this season as it takes little prep time and is simple to make.

Prep 5 MIN | TOTAL 25 MIN | Serves 4

Ingredients:

1l vegetable broth

4 cups water

4 tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 leeks, chopped

2 cinnamon sticks

125 g vermicelli noodles

350 g extra firm tofu, diced

2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 cups spinach

2 cups pea shoots

1/4 chopped basil

Lime wedges, optional

 

Instructions:

  1. Boil vegetable broth, water, leeks, cinnamon and ginger in a large pot for approximately 12 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Add the noodles, soy sauce and tofu for approximately 10 minutes. During the last two minutes, stir in the spinach and pea shoots.
  2. When serving garnish with chopped basil and lime wedges.

 

 

 

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For the love of food

Fall is my favourite season and I particularly love the food this time of year.  I find the food is so colourful, flavourful and makes you feel all warm and cozy. Brussels sprouts has never been one of my favourites, in fact they’ve always tasted very bitter to me and I’ve had to force myself to eat them. However, I recently came across a fabulous Brussels sprouts recipe and I became a recent convert! It’s made with dates, garlic and oyster sauce. The sweetness of the dates is a nice contrast to the sprouts…it is a must try and an excellent side for any occasion.

Brussels Sprouts with Dates

Source: Food & Drink Autumn issue

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Photo: Lisa Hynek

Ingredients:

2 lbs (1 kg) Brussels sprouts, trimmed

2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil

4 tsp (20 ml) chopped garlic

1 cup (250 ml) dried dates, pitted, cut in half lengthwise

1/4 cup (60 ml) oyster sauce

2 tbsp (30 ml) water

2 tbsp (30 ml) butter (Note: This was included in the recipe but I found it unnecessary)

Steps:

  1. Cut Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Bring a pot of water to boil and add sprouts. Bring back to boil and boil for 1 minute. Drain and refresh with cold water until fully cool. Drain again and pat dry.
  2. Heat oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add half the sprouts, cut-side down, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Spoon into a bowl and reserve. Repeat with remaining sprouts, adding more oil if needed. Return all Brussels sprouts to pan and add garlic. Toss well and cook for 1 minute. Stir in dates, oyster sauce and water. Bring to boil, remove from heat and add butter, stirring until sauce coats vegetables.

Luxury brands and their famous collaborators.

Luxury brands have collaborated with celebrities for decades – partnering with a celebrity can be smart marketing because it can both complement the brand and widen its fan base.  In the last few weeks a few collaborations have been trending.   Italian fashion house Gucci has designed a new smartwatch created in collaboration with rapper Will.i.am.  Smartwatches have been hot for a while and collaborating with an influential celebrity can complement a brand and partnering with Will.i.am gives Gucci a bit more edge.

Another luxury brand that has given itself an edgier appeal is Dior as it recently partnered with music icon Rihanna.  Dior is featuring Rihanna in the fourth chapter of its popular Secret Garden campaign that was shot in Versailles.

Balmain also featured Rihanna in their 2015 Spring campaign and posted it on Instagram.  This is a clever collaboration because through social platforms like Instagram, brands can reach a large audience by leveraging their celebrity’s fan base and increase their reach.  In the case of Rihanna’s reach, she has 16 million followers on Instagram and 42 million fans on Twitter so through social properties, brands can offset some of their media spend and target a larger audience.

Of course some more controversial celebrities like Justin Bieber and his recent collaboration with Calvin Klein received mixed reviews .  However, whether you like him or not the campaign has since gone viral in a comedy skit on SNL.  I personally don’t know if this would influence my decision to buy Calvin Klein’s products.  However, the campaign did leave an impression and generated a lot of buzz – featuring controversial celebrities can sometimes be a clever tactic because it will give your audience something to talk about.

The Art of Luxury.

Luxury is an interesting category for me as I have worked on both near-luxury and luxury brands and the key thing a Marketer needs to be mindful of when defining a targeting and communication strategy is simple – be aspirational.

After all, Luxury is a booming business and consumers like to feel luxurious so honing in on aspiration is an effective strategy.  Luxury as a category has significantly grown in the last decade and in the US alone it is a $400 billion business and is projected to grow to a $1 trillion business by 2010.   The rich are simply getting richer in the US and many consumers that don’t fall in the top 5% of high income households aspire to live that lifestyle and as a result they purchase more attainable luxury accessory items, like designer handbags or sunglasses.

Many consumers feel that luxury is not just about the product but it is also about the experience which can differentiate a brand.  As a result, brands that have relied on their image and on mass communications to create a brand image are learning that they need to create more of an experience that’s a true one-to-one communication that’s customized.  Brands are now addressing this audience by creating an Owner’s experience whether it be through a loyalty program that rewards customers for their purchases or an experience at the retail level that provides a special in-store experience or a combination of the two – every touch point whether it’s through Marketing communications or at retail needs to create a unique and inspiring experience that is synergistic.

One brand that has done an excellent job at creating a unique and digitalized brand experience is Burberry.  When you are at Burberry’s digital store, you feel like you have front-row access to Fashion week where interactive mirrors transform into personalized screens and global events are streamed in real-time.

Deliver a unique experience to your audience that leaves an unforgettable impression and in my opinion that is the Art of Luxury.

You are your brand’s voice so think before you speak.

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We live in a democratic society so we are fortunate to have freedom of speech and to be able to express our opinions.  However, when you represent a brand you need to be mindful that when you provide your point of view the freedom to voice your opinion in your personal life can affect your business if your comments are received with criticism.

A topic that received a lot of buzz this week was the widely debated dispute between fashion power house Dolce & Gabbana and Elton John.  D&G made comments that came across as sounding offensive to same-sex couples who have gone through the IVF process to have children because they said IVF children are “synthetic”.  This caused Elton John along with other celebrities to boycott the D&G brand with the hash tag #BoycottDolceGabbana which has gone viral.

Other celebrities and angry consumers have since boycotted the brand which resulted in D&G releasing a statement that said they never intended to judge other people’s choices but firmly believe in democracy and having freedom of speech.

It’s important to remember that while having freedom of speech is a right, what you say can also affect the brand you represent whether this association is fair or not.  The art of the conversation with your audience is to be authentic and honest but to “think before you speak”.

Know where to reach your audience.

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One of my pet peeves in life is receiving content from a brand to only have it not render on my smart phone properly.  Even in 2015 many brands don’t consider the ‘Mobile experience’ as they build their campaigns or sales tactics — the execution and actual delivery of these communications is what may ultimately close the sale.  As consumers continue to adopt Mobile as their preferred communication channel (in some categories Mobile/ Tablets have been adopted by over 60% of users as their go-to device), Marketers need to design emails and applications with a Mobile-first mentality.  Marketers need to look at Mobile as the consumers’ go-to channel and consider that as they build their strategy and content and test their content on different mobile devices.

Google has stated “32% of shopping begins on a mobile device” and it is predicted that in 2015 mobile will surpass desktop.  This shift in consumer behavior will allow Marketers to be smarter in their communications – personalization and geolocation will allow Marketers to deliver communications to consumers at the right time and the right place.

Through beacon technology retailers can communicate with consumers directly and can push real-time notifications with product offers that is enabled through Bluetooth connectivity.  I predict that as retailers begin to adopt beacon technology, we will as a result start seeing a shift of traditional mass media spend because sales offers can be communicated to the consumer directly and a much lower cost.  However, brands will need to be mindful of not inundating the consumer with too many messages – relevance is the key to success.

Be authentic…or at least pretend to be.

Many advertisers have jumped on the Facebook bandwagon as a marketing platform only to find that in many cases it wasn’t the most effective targeting strategy.  Facebook users were simply getting annoyed that brand ads, some of which were truly irrelevant to their interests would clutter their news feed which they considered their personal space.  As advertisers tried to get smarter in their targeting strategy and overall brand effectiveness, the ‘cool kids’ have started to migrate off Facebook to other social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Tumblr.  In 2015 there will be 179.7 social network users in the US under the age of 18.  As a result, it’s a smart business practice for brands to target multiple social platforms to reach the younger audience, like on Instagram.

To help reach this audience, Instagram will let brands feature more images on their platform as a revenue generator.  Recently their Carousel of ads are now clickable and brands can upload up to 4 images.

The possibilities are endless, as Instagram explains:

“One way to look at it is carousel ads bring the potential of multi-page print campaigns to mobile phones – with the added benefit of taking people to a website to learn more. For instance, a fashion company could use the carousel to deconstruct the individual products in a ‘look.’ A car company might share an array of different features of a vehicle and provide a link to learn more about the new model. Or, an advertiser could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a delicious meal.”

This new feature can be used really effectively when a brand is trying to promote a product.  However, since Instagram is about photo-sharing and less about content sharing, brands need to create ads that blend in well with the photos on their target audiences newsfeeds so they look “authentic” and not stand out as a typical brand ad.  A brands ad needs to look creative and artistic…and part of a moment that’s captured.  I have included some of my favourites…Michael Kors, Converse and Starbucks have mastered the art of integrating their brand into great lifestyle imagery and other brands should follow this approach.

Michael Kors Instagram imageConverse Instagram imageStarbucks on Instagram