Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Highlights from Directions Business Conference 2010

Communications consultant and former CNN reporter Jackie Shymanski (left) and a roundtable of famous RRC students.

Another year, another fine RRC Directions Business Conference.

I always enjoy the conference for the networking: gossiping, griping, teasing, joking around, wine consumption, and spontaneous bursts of hugging - uh, maybe that's all just me - but this year I also had the good fortune to happen upon a pretty fine slate of guest speakers.

Among the highlights:

1. Jason Wortzman, Granny's Poultry

Jason walked us through his brilliant career as a chef in France, India, Israel, London, and Winnipeg, and in marketing some of Manitoba's classic brands, like Bothwell Cheese and Granny's Poultry.

I get hungry listening to people talk about food, which explains why I found myself craving Italian black summer truffles for the rest of the day.

Highlights from his speech:
  • "When you get the experience, go back to your hometown, and embrace all of the local ingredients. Eating local and regional cuisine is a philosophy, not a food."
  • "The most important, affordable way to get your message out in the food industry is through your packaging and logo; they have to tell a story."
  • "PR, special events, community relations, interactive Web design, online ordering, and contests are all important elements in a marketing plan."
  • "Get a PR agency to make everything you do a big story." He used the word "spin," but I won't.
  • "No amount of marketing will save a bad product."
Coming soon to Granny's:
  • A new logo and re-branding of Granny's. Or is that a re-granning of Brandy's? Says Wortzman: "It's a revolution rather than an evolution of the brand."
  • Granny's Wing Stix in Dijon rosemary and honey mustard flavors.
  • Heritage turkey flocks: more expensive, premium turkeys with darker meat, more protein, and a pronounced flavor.

2. Kyle Romaniuk and Chuck Phillips, Cocoon Branding

Kyle and Chuck are brand advocates - brandvocates, I tell you! - who talked about all things branding in their presentation: research, strategy, profit, value, growth, innovation, culture, and the creative environment.

I didn't take many notes, because I prefer to have my mind become one with the brandscape (insert Avatar reference here), which it did, especially when the guys talked about their new Oi sofa.

The sofa, try to follow me here, started out as "a concept of a brand." What if, they asked not too long ago, "products could adapt to people's lives, needs, and ever-changing sense of style?"

The answer was Oi: a sofa in a box that you can build into the sofa of your dreams. All you do is attach the interlocking blocks into the arrangement of your choice, place them on the base, and rearrange them when you get sick of the old configuration.

Yeah, you can really buy it - for $2,849 USD - but if you don't have Kenton Larsen money, you can also follow Oi on Twitter.

Sofa King good: Kyle Romaniuk talks creative environment.

3. Rachel Shane, Red Wagon Entertainment

As it said in the title of her presentation, Rachel Shane made it from Portage and Main to Hollywood and Vine, starting her career by fetching coffees and makin' copies on the Mask of Zorro to having a film in development with Leo DiCaprio.

Highlights from her speech:
  • Rachel's down-to-Earth presentation was befitting of her hometown: "Being from Winnipeg - you're friendly," she said.
  • Will all movies in the future be in 3D, like Avatar? "Yes," she deadpanned. But she followed that up by saying that all "action" movies would likely be 3D with romantic comedies continuing to be 2D, the way romantic comedy fans like them.
  • Rachel quit law school at UBC after one year in order to work in film. "I didn't want to be another asshole lawyer driving a BMW," she said. "So I moved to L.A. where everyone is another asshole lawyer driving a BMW."
  • Most embarrassing movie with which (or witch) she's ever been associated:

4. Apple surprise x 2!

One for me, one for my imaginary manservant, Ruprecht.


  1. Cocoon Branding, and Rachel Shane were both really good. I was very intrigued by the "Oi sofa"--if I had that kind of money lying around, I'd buy one, and make assembling it a game when people come over.

  2. "Eating local and regional cuisine is a philosophy, not a food."

    A part of Grannys lesser known philosophy is mishandling the birds and their many poultry violations. It is absolutely a disgrace and nobody should support this type of cruelty even if they think that they are benefiting Manitoba by "eating locally".

  3. Sure, but that's another conference...

  4. I'm sorry you feel that way. I met a lot of great people there, as I do every year - students and instructors in other programs, speakers, etc.

    Sure, some speakers were better than others, but that's just par for the course. I look at the conference like it's Folklorama. Don't like a the pavilion? Then move on to another...

    It's your right to dismiss everything as one, big downer, but the reality is seldom as black or white as we want it to be.

  5. I thought Izzy meant the "Animal Mistreatment Conference" would be a downer...
    I tend to agree.
    I'd much rather attend a "Mistreatment of Mimes Conference". (I loathe mimes.)

  6. Oh, yeah, probably!

    Mimes: now there's something worth mistreating.

  7. That is indeed what I meant Jeremy Williams, sorry Kenton I would definitely not put down an entire conference based on one dude! So much for my being in Communications.

    Unless all the speakers were Mimes. That is indeed a conference worth putting down.


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