Everyone has #UnexpectedExpenses - Financial Literacy Month

Everyone Has #UnexpectedExpenses

Few things are as stressful and as damaging as the cycle of debt. Nearly 60% of Albertans are within $200 of not being able to cover their expenses each month and a shocking number of people don't have rainy day savings funds. So what happens when your car breaks down or when you lose your job? What about if a pet gets sick, or a loved one needs your full-time care? Any of these unexpected expenses can come out of the blue and would leave many Albertans in debt.

November is Financial Literacy Month in Alberta. In November 2016, with the help and support of a group of concerned citizens and community groups, we launched the Unexpected Expenses campaign. The project received support from the Alberta Government, City of Calgary, City of Edmonton, ATB Financial, First Calgary Financial, Fiasco Gelato, United Way, Enough for All, Money Mentors, SAIT, Bow Valley College, and more.

One of the most amazing parts of the project is that is was generously funded by community members set on improving Albertan’s relationship with money and to help them prepare for future obstacles. In fact, most of the funds came from a sole philanthropist who had a strong passion to eliminate or reduce the usage of payday lending. The project wasn't affiliated or funded by any banks.

Our team engaged with Albertans for a month-long awareness campaign. We asked people to share their #unexpectedexpenses story on social media for a chance to win a daily prize of $500. These funds were added to a savings account in order to help individuals build their rainy day fund. That's 30 Albertan's with $500 in emergency savings in their bank, and thousands more that were reminded of all of the obstacles life can throw your way.

A panel comprised of several of our team members would discuss the submitted cases and select an individual to receive the $500 rainy day fund. This project was heart-wrenching. We received stories covering everything from health issues, car accidents, struggling single parents, spouses building massive secret debt, veterinarian bills, bankruptcy, natural disasters, funeral costs, unexpected travel, and people who had gotten themselves in trouble with payday lenders. It was no easy task to select one story every day, given the vast quantity and scope of the submissions, with an average of 25-50 unique stories daily.

Unexpected Expenses Campaign Goal

The primary goal of the project was to educate individuals of the importance of setting aside money for these rainy day funds, as well as to help get them started. Our focus was on helping educate Albertan's about all of the amazing financial resources and programs available across Alberta. We built a website that housed a list of many of these resources covering topics ranging from budgeting help, RESP childhood education planning, free financial coaching and workshops, government programs, student resources, rebuilding bad credit history, alternative loans, saving for emergencies, and credit counseling services.

Our team worked hard to build a community around the campaign on social media, through our website and blog stories, as well as through print and digital advertising. We also worked alongside public relations experts to increase news coverage, engage with local influences, and to host a press conference in Edmonton.

Impact Over 1 Month

* 30 Emergency funds were given away across Alberta ($500 each)

* 1,245,000 impressions, 1787 link clicks and 476 posts on social media

* 7100 website page views (educational content)

* 4117 engagements on social media (likes, reactions, comments, shares)

* 833 contest entries

* 7 News outlets covered stories

Campaign Resources & Credible Financial Literacy

- The website unexpectedexpenses.ca

- Social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

- Postcards and advertisements. (see below)

- News & Media (Global News, Calgary Herald, CBC Calgary, Calgary Chamber, Edmonton Journal, 660 News, Edmonton Sun, etc.)


Become a Public Speaking Ninja

Join Charisma Pro's Beta and Become a Public Speaking Ninja

Who said Calgary isn’t an innovative city? We’ve got 1000’s of startups, dozens of co-working spaces, investors, mentors and most importantly a thriving community of people rallying around innovation in Alberta.

One of these exciting innovations is a highly-unique public speaking mobile app called Charisma Pro. We are working with Avnish Mehta, CEO of Stand & Command and public speaking coach who’s mentored TED Talk presenters, he’s keen to help entrepreneurs and business professionals get a standing ovation.

Charisma Pro is a personal public speaking coach that trains you to be a more effective communicator by measuring the pitch, frequency, and power of your voice and comparing you to well-known speakers. Essentially, giving you a score of the charisma and engagement in your voice. The app is ideal for business professionals and entrepreneurs looking to hone in on their presenting, pitching, and sales skills.

Avnish’s co-founder Michael Brougham is a Vocal Acoustician (Sound Scientist) who’s built the app’s back-end algorithm to assure analysis accuracy. He’s been studying the vocal track and how voice pitch influences our impression of people for many years. His sound science training commenced under a master of the Bel Canto method of singing at the University of Alberta.


We Want to Hear What You Have to Say (Pun Intended)!

Interested in tinkering with new products and technology? We are currently looking for beta users to help guide user needs and market intelligence to build the best possible customer-centric experience for people like you. Your insight and behavior around public speaking are invaluable to our process, to assure we build  what people actually need. We are hoping you may want to join in on the beta fun at charismatrainer.com.

Early Adopter Beta Benefits:

You’ll start unleashing more of yourself and be able to speak more confidently in presentations, business meetings, networking events, interviews, and any other event where you need to make a lasting impression.

– Full Access to Charisma Pro’s Voice Coach App

– Train Yourself to Be a More Charismatic Speaker (Woo Your Audience)

– Better Understand the Science Behind Engaging People

– Be a Part of an Innovative Local Communications Initiative


Here’s what they can expect from our phased beta approach:

Phase 1: Public Speaking Discovery (6 min Survey)

Phase 2: Playing With the App (User Experience Feedback)

Phase 3: Help Guide New Features (Quick Polls)

*Plus thought leadership around how you can become a better public speaker.


Now is the time to make that business idea a reality. Many of the most successful companies like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, General Electric, FedEx, Disney, and IBM came from times of economic hardship (recessions, downturns, and financial crisis).  Let’s talk! Our team can help you from perfecting your idea, pitching materials, launching a company and the day-to-day digital marketing.

Tell us what you think below. Share your two cents and get involved.

Content Marketing Strategy

5 Audience Considerations for Crafting Your Content Marketing Strategy

Everyone’s talking about their content marketing strategy and why you need one in 2016 to be successful. Here are five steps to building a plan that will resonate with your target audience (the customers you want to attract), plus build SEO for your website. The Content Marketing Institute says,

“86% of B2C marketers use content marketing, and 55% of B2C marketers plan to increase content marketing spend in 2016.” 

1. How well do you actually know your customer?

Have you taken time out of your day to understand what makes your customers tick (interests), what keeps them up at night, what obstacles they have to overcome at work and what their day-to-day looks like? Conducting in-person interviews for deeper insight is key. However, you should also utilize marketing analytics to gain a broader view of your audience.

Use tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and additional marketing automation tools if you have them. Dissect your traffic to better understand who’s visiting your website – things like gender, age, location, interests, primary language and what devices they are using.

Build Your Personas (If you haven’t already)

This might seem obvious, but you must have buyer personas to help guide your entire marketing strategy, not just for your content marketing efforts. Your buyer personas will soon become a critical reference tool for every piece of content you build – each piece you develop should speak to their unique needs. Consider their vocabulary, content preferences, and all the data you found in your analytics platforms.

What do they need help with?

Think about the topics, business areas, consumer needs, interests they have. These equal the keywords you can reverse engineer into your content. But first, you need to conduct keyword research in a tool like Google Keyword Planner to better understand search volume, the likelihood of ranking high, and competition. Tools like BuzzSumo will also give you more insight into what’s topical, current, and shareable across the web.

2. Where does your audience hang out online?

What social media channels are locked to their front screen? Yes, the ones they check dozens of times a day. You need to be there as a brand, building community, contributing to worthwhile conversations, and sprinkling your content from time to time – it’s the Jab Jab Right Hook thing Gary Vaynerchuk taught us. But remember it’s not all about you, it never should be. Be thoughtful and provide value.

These will become the distribution channels for your content promotion plan, where you will deploy a paid and organic strategy to get the eyes and ears of your customers.

3. Have you aligned your content to the buyer journey?

Do you know what your buyer’s journey looks like? Typical stages include awareness, consideration and decision. Are we talking about a typical long sales cycle that we see in B2B, for making a larger purchase where people need to really weigh out their options and do extensive research online or are we talking about a more impulsive or more immediate B2C consumer purchase? What do your consumers care about: features, style, usability, service, efficiency, cost, etc.

Next, we must map content to the buyer journey (and what is common for your industry). Various content assets will be more relevant to buyers at different stages of the buyer cycle. Let’s take a look at what this might look like:

Awareness Stage:

  • Blogs and eBooks
  • Illustrations and Photos
  • News or Press Releases
  • Reports
  • White Papers
  • Infographics
  • Games

Consideration Stage:

  • Social
  • Video
  • Website Content
  • Microsites
  • Expert Guides
  • Vendor comparison
  • Trial or Freemium Account
  • Podcasts
  • Webcast or Webinar
  • Demos (online/in-person)

Decision Stage:

  • Presentations
  • Case Studies
  • Reviews and Forums
  • In-Person Meetings and Events

Advocacy Stage (customers):

  • Social
  • Blog
  • Newsletter
  • Promotions

4. Is your content digestible?

Don’t be concerned about whether you are writing long-form or short form content, writing engaging high-quality copy is what matters most. The vocabulary you use should be relatively simple, people have limited attention spans, and often lower than expected comprehension. A recent Contently study found that on average best-selling authors wrote below a grade 9 level. Believe it or not, Ernest Hemingway wrote at a grade 4 level. So, if the language is too complex and feels like you need a dictionary to understand it, you’ll get a high bounce rate.

From a shareable perspective, three things are really at play: novelty, identity, and fluency. So if it’s written like an academic paper, good luck getting engagement and social proof (people spreading your stories).

5. What content performed well in the past?

Take time to review your analytics. What are your top performing stories? Why is that? Which can you replicate, recycle or pivot from? Which articles can be built out into a 3-8 part series?

Also don’t always play it safe, sometimes seemingly unrelated things make for the best stories, or not always leading with a positive tone. Remember you are writing for humans. Consider what catches your attention.

It’s Time to Document Your Content Marketing Strategy

Now that you have taken the time to discuss your content marketing strategy it’s time to package it up into a concise plan to assure everyone is marching to the same drum. Your marketing team needs to be familiar with organizational goals, the buyer journey, buyer personas, basic SEO goals, and the content marketing plan in order to reap the rewards of content.

Remember, the best forward-thinking companies that truly get the potential of content marketing have integrated their efforts across the business. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of a marketing member or team. Instead, it’s woven into various departments and job functions across the business. For example, you will want to tap into your subject matter experts (SME’s), customer service (to better understand customer pain points), sales (common client rejections, revenue targets, and areas of focus), leadership and ideally your CEO (the company’s vision, direction, insight). At the end of the day, a well-rounded content marketing strategy requires effort and attention from various levels of the business. Their knowledge is needed; whether it be for writing, quotes, interviews, topics, insight or trends.


Happy writing. Of course, if you need help evolving or crafting a content marketing strategy don’t be shy, shoot us a line. We can even help build content with your team or manage your end-to-end online marketing.

Uppercut loves cats

Why Everything is Better with Cats

I LOVE CATS. If you're a cat-person, you'll understand the many reasons why cats are so lovable (for their adorable personalities and endless hours of entertainment they provide). YouTube should be called CatTube and don't even get me started on how many awesome cat memes are out there! #crazycatlady

Cat memes

The opportunity

When Meow Foundation, a Calgary cat-focused charity and humane society with a no-kill mandate, called us for creative and marketing help, you could imagine how excited we were [insert heart bursting emoji]. Art director, Shauna Hartsook, described the opportunity as a "dream job" [insert hands clapping emoji].

Since 2000, MEOW Foundation has been rescuing and facilitating the adoption of stray and abandoned cats into new, loving, permanent homes. In addition to their Rescue and Adoption program, MEOW Foundation offers a subsidized Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP)Cat Food Assistance Program and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Program for cats living in the Calgary community.

By taking a humorous and lighthearted approach, we created a campaign for 2016 around the idea that everything is better with cats. To help generate support from the public, we created a betterwithcats microsite, advertising on public transit (your commute home made better with cats), and large life-size cat stickers for shop windows – all promote the hashtag #betterwithcats.

Uppercut donated additional hours to help extend their small budget for this "good for your soul" project.


betterwithcats window sticker

Advertising on public transit.

More about the project


What Silicon Valley Has Taught Us About Startups

Glory Days

It seems the days of capital fueled ‘unicorns’ unapologetically dancing around Silicon Valley are starting to come to an end. 2015 and the beginning of the new year have provided the tech industry with its fair share of surprises. The effects of mass overvaluation of companies are starting to show in some of the most prominent players in the Valley.

Q1 of 2015 LinkedIn’s and Twitter shares dropped by 20% citing a weak future outlook. Fast forward to February of 2016 and LinkedIn shares again tumbled 43% shedding $11 Billion in value on the companies worst day ever. Even the mighty Silicon Valley is not exempt from the looming tech correction.

Every other day there is a new company valued at over $1 billion. Seemingly they give their products away for free, or their subscription models are obnoxiously structured or atrociously overpriced. Even VC giant Fidelity silently wrote down the value of Snapchat and Dropbox at the end of last year. Contrary to popular belief, as we transition into 2016, it would seem there is a realization that HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ Russ Hanneman No Revenue theory may not be as effective as previously thought!

A Different Taste

We really do live in a world where there is nearly an app for everything.  The startup and enterprise worlds have been dominated by software-only based applications and infrastructures for years. Kickstarter and Indiegogo were full of aspiring developers trying to make it big with the next version of Mine Craft or Twitter. Although, a developer and investor focus has been shifting towards integrating hardware with new and pre-existing applications and infrastructure.

As micro-controllers and the price of manufacturing come down in price, the Android/iOS app stores have become more saturated with the same apps packaged in ten different ways. Interest is starting to shift focus to the next new era or unsaturated market of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are full with hobbyist and enthusiast grade projects in which people are buying Raspberry Pi’s and automating anything and everything to simplify their life and potentially parlay their inventions into a viable business.

Smart ovens, smart fridges, smart toilets, and the list goes on and on. If it’s in your house and you can somehow control it with your phone or laptop, you can be guaranteed there is someone out there trying to make it smart with machine learning! It is just a matter of time until we have smart homes that integrate seamlessly with our smartphones.

Looking at tech trends moving forward from 2016 and beyond, it seems that almost all the major players are making some form of wearable or usable device. Products like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Google Glass, Oculus Rift, brain wave technologies like Muse, the smartwatch and Fitbit movement, 3D printers, smart cars, drones, the list is endless of all the amazing technologies in the consumer market.

The writing is on the wall. There won’t be another Facebook, Google+ showed us that. The fact of the matter is, for many applications, market penetration is challenging and comparable to bringing a knife to a gun fight. It is this saturation which is potentially fostering and worsening the looming tech bubble. As room for investors to make large returns on applications or services dwindles, the fight for a sliver of the pie becomes worthless, leaving investors to look for a new and exciting sliver of the pie to taste.

Now more than ever it will be important to not only be sure that your prospective app ideas are validated but that those ideas will be differentiated to compete and have legs in an already dominated market. Asking yourself some of the following questions may be a good way to measure your idea’s validity.

  • Who is your user base or target audience?
  • How have others attempted to solve this problem before, and why did their solutions fail or succeed?
  • Who are your potential competitors? Are there specific benefits for your product over the competition?
  • Does your idea already exist in the same way you were going to execute it?
  • SWOT Analysis?
  • Why will investors invest? What’s their ROI?

Bringing an app to fruition can be an overwhelming experience, especially if access to labour and resources are limited. Our talented team at Uppercut can ease you and your company in the process of researching and understanding your markets, assist in identifying target demographics and ultimately evaluate if your ideas fit into the competitive world of tech startups. If they do fit! Be sure to check out The Importance of Good Design in Apps and how our team can bring your ideas to reality. 

We’ve got the digital chops to get you there. Uppercut has helped plenty of clients with market intelligence, defining target audiences (personas), launching apps and getting momentum with user acquisition through well tuned digital marketing (SEO, Advertising, Social, Content).