Author Archives: jasmine

Mental Health in a Digital Age

More than half of the world is online. And when it comes to Canadians, that stat increases to more than 91%.  The internet (social media, email, streaming, and so on) is now an integral part of daily Canadian life and living through a global pandemic has made that even more true. Human interaction has drastically decreased, while connecting to one another digitally has piqued. And due in part to this behaviour, the pandemic hasn’t just made an impact on our physical health, but our mental health too. A recent survey by Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), found that 21.5% of Canadians surveyed reported moderate to severe anxiety levels during the daily life of the pandemic. At the same time, we are quickly adopting this way of life as “the new normal”. But what does that mean when so many of us have rising mental health complications as a result of this new normal?

Like many people, I have had my fair share of highs and lows with my own mental health. And for me, many of my coping methods involve close contact with other people. So the question of what happens to mental health when we find ourselves living through a global pandemic that restricts our interaction with people, hits close to home. But before I continue, I want to be clear, I am not a mental health expert. But, in my role as the Digital & Content Director at Mint, I have discovered useful tips that have helped me maintain some calm of mind through this uniquely challenging time; all while safely distancing in a digital space.

Using the Social Space to Explore and Discover New Things

Social media is a great space to discover new creators from around the world or even your backyard. This not only provides entertainment and education, but can also help to inspire you to try positive new things that can break mundane routines. For example, tuning into poet, illustrator and author Rupi Kaur’s live writing workshops can lead to creative expression not yet explored. Or, finding a much loved recipe online from a favourite missed restaurant and then recreating it at home can lead to warm nostalgia. 

I personally love illustration and design, so I use the platform to discover new artists and outputs to encourage me to learn new skills. And the possibilities are endless once you realize that there are over one billion users on Instagram alone. Which means if you come to realise that a specific account is actually hindering your mental wellbeing, then very simply, unfollow it. And instead, use the platform to find new voices that will help to lift you. There are also some amazing mental health advocates in the social sphere who are dedicated to breaking mental health stigmas and providing support when needed. Here are two of my favourites: Matt Haig, & How Mental.

Wellness Apps

While wellness apps are certainly no replacement for face-to-face therapy, they are a great way to find a moment of calm during a period of internal unrest. The beauty of these apps is that they can live on your phone or tablet so you can take them on the go with you. Many of these apps have daily reminders that can help to create a routine of mindfulness and meditation. Having that 10-15 minutes a day to check in on yourself can help centre your thoughts and leave you feeling lighter. Here are just some you can look at: Headspace, Calm, Aura

Podcasts

Podcasts offer a great way to switch off your screen, put on your headphones and dive into the wonderful voices of narrators. There are many great podcasts out there that focus on mental health, but for me, I find it quite calming to escape into the storytelling of something different, delving into nature shows, true-crime (of course) and anything else that offers me the chance to learn something new. Some of my favourites include Overheard at National Geographic, Happy Place by Fearne Cotton and Song Exploder by Hrishikesh Hirway, all of which you can find on your favourite podcast apps.

Online Support 

Many mental health organizations have adapted to be able to provide support in a digital space. Not only are there great resources available, but there are also online support groups. Organizations like CAMH even have tools in place that can email you tips and tools to help you manage your mental health during COVID-19. As well as specific mental health organizations, many public libraries have also adapted to our new digital lifestyle. You can now apply online for a Public Library card in many municipalities, which allows access to heaps of useful mental health resources and authors. 

It’s Okay to Take a Break

Imagine going for a run and ignoring the signs that you’re hitting exhaustion. You’d pass out right? Well, think of digital outlets in the same way. We’re living in unprecedented times with news outlets informing us of the latest pandemic updates pretty much 24/7. And while it’s important to stay informed, it’s also more important to understand what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then remember to take a break before you proverbially pass out. 

Find your Balance 

Over the past few months, we have been witnessing one of the most important civil rights movements in history. During which, I have discovered some incredible spoken word artists, illustrators, activists, speakers, writers, thinkers and many more, who have given me an infinite amount of resources to help me to learn more and educate myself better. And I have taken it on deeply. But also during this same time I have noticed an increase in the number of ‘self care’ posts on my Instagram feed. There’s something oddly comforting about this, that is, in the midst of the hurt and anger, there are humans reminding other humans that we are, well, human, and it’s crucial to take time for self care. And although that phrase has been thrown around, its meaning is still important: we need to take care of our own well-being – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Like many things, this is about finding balance. Finding the time to stay online to learn and grow, but then finding the time to disconnect and grow in a different way too.

As humans, we are incredibly adaptable. This might not be the routine that any of us are used to but we can adapt and there are an abundance of digital tools in place to help us do so. Everyone moves at different speeds and for some people, adapting to these digital outlets might take a little more time than others – and that’s okay. Just remember to check in with yourself, check in with others and find a routine that works for you.

*https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/canadians-report-sustained-rates-of-loneliness-and-depression 

**https://blog.zoom.us/a-message-to-our-users/ 

Summer Cassette Mix: Music to Create to

I’m from an underground scene, and it’s new for me to make playlists like this. It’s reminding me of when I used to make compilation mixed cassette tapes when I was younger; before I got my second turntable. I’m a mixed set type of DJ and my genre of play has been locked into Soulful and Afro House. Even though I am locked into a genre, I do keep an eat out for different music throughout my life. My approach in song selection when it comes to Mint mixes comes really from my memories of the people at Mint when we worked together in-person. I have a lot of happy memories with the people of Mint mish mashed in my brain and I guess these playlists are simply the product of that.

Is Experiential Dead?

With the new measures of social distancing in place, the marketing industry as a whole is being challenged. We are seeing large organizations pause, and assess the impact the entire world coming to a halt has had on their business. Some brands are taking time and proceeding cautiously, analysing their numbers, while others are adapting quickly to this new era we are embarking on with a fight or flight mentality. 

With a multitude of economic and social pressures it is hard to know how to move forward. However, although unique, a moment of shift is not unprecidented. Historically, it has been during uncertain times, where we see resilience, as individuals, as a society, and as an industry.

Afterall, it was only after the great depression of the 1930’s that the advertising industry took off with the first television ad appearing on screens in the 1940’s. Advertising now, has never been bigger, and continues to play a key role in shifting progress, culture and societal norms.  

After the 2008 recession, we saw the emergence of Shopify, and e-commerce on the rise challenging the costly model of retail and the need of brick and mortar. Whatsapp, UBER, Pinterest, Slack, Square and Instagram – were all products of an entrepreneurial boom in the wake of ‘08.

And when it came to our industry, we saw innovation too – from the campaigns we made to the platforms we used. But we also adapted our ways of working and expectations of budgets as CMOS dealt with leaner wallets following the 2008 recession. And from that the world of experiential took flight. Today, it’s an essential part of the marketing mix due to the power a 1:1 brand connection has on brand loyalty and driving conversion in a cost effective way. Experiential now is used as a tool to drive PR, content and even TV or other media. Beyond industry shifts, the boom of experiential was attributed to a new generation, the first that valued experiences over commodities. 

But everything changed for experiences when COVID hit the world, and several months in, we still don’t see when life will reflect what we once knew it to be. 

This begs the question: where does this explosive experience based industry go now?

Many industries in jeopardy, and experiential is just another one. A question mark lingers as we see live global and local events cancelled, along with festivals, retail, sports, and entertainment. Brands are struggling to find an effective way to connect with their consumers in the ways they once knew how. This moment is forcing marketers to shift their strategies to find new avenues for brands to connect, engage, and entertain their audiences.

And so experiential evolves. Experiences and creativity continue to be high currency with the Gen Z and Millennial audiences who crave solutions to connect, potentially now more than ever before. 

Virtual experiential marketing (VXM) is now taking shape to deliver the equity building 1:1 connection of XM with the added value of content marketing and social amplification. 

We are seeing properties like the Bumble Hive; designed to be an IRL manifestation of the app, evolve to live on digital platforms driving connection, conversation, community and thought leadership. We are beginning to see brand forward virtual pop-ups appear as brands are looking for ways to make access to their goods easier for their consumers. Grassroots initiatives like ‘Club Quarantine’ are starting to take flight as not surprisingly to most, a twenty-something year old, is still a twenty-something year old who upholds the same need for entertainment –  even if that means going to a virtual bar to dance, let loose, and connect with other people just like them. 

As we are seeing the evolution of experiential take form in a virtual world, we as marketers have a responsibility to guide our clients and their brands in the right direction. Staying closely in tune with consumer sentiments is essential during this turbulent time.

We are seeing a shift in the consumer mindset, and values sway almost as rapidly as the world is changing. Tonality is going to play a pivotal role in the receptiveness of brand audiences. 

The marketers ‘gut check’ is important to have. Empathy led marketers will continue to succeed during these times and in fact will be table stakes. 

Marketers should be asking: what societal need am I solving? This could be a purpose driven initiative, support in driving connectivity during isolation, or could be pure entertainment for your audience. The answer can be broad in range, but the question enables marketers to get their finger on the pulse of their audience. 

A lot of people have asked me for my professional opinion, what is next for experiential and is it over? The answer I have is simply, no. It will change, it will evolve, and likely be more all-encompassing. There is no crystal ball to predict the future, but what we do know is experience based marketing is far too much embedded into our culture for it to be ignored, particularly during a time when people are needing experiential solutions to help break the monotony of their day-to-day lives at home. 

As the world changes, marketers need to as well. It is not time for us to be quiet as an industry but instead we have great power to make positive change and counsel our clients through this tough and uncertain time. Afterall, if we know anything from our past, it is through the darkness where creativity thrives, and innovation paves the way for the future. 

Creative Ops:
Finding Creativity in Operations for Creatives

Creative agencies are notorious for late nights, long weekends and reworks. In fact, amongst bar carts, open kitchens and casual dress, it’s core to agency culture. But to break that status quo, creative teams require the space, methods and tools to thrive. Frankly put, it takes getting creative about creative operations.

There seems to be a stereotype that all creative people are quirky free-spirited individuals who float through their days (and moods). And when considered in a professional setting, they are sometimes typecast as procrastinators with a lack of time management and communication skills. Even amongst creative people themselves, there are memes describing the ‘typical workflow’ of a creative. They go something like this — gets brief, procrastinates, lots of self-doubt, stress, has a eureka moment, and spends all night (the last one) to craft. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that happens, because it does, to everyone, but it doesn’t have to be the norm.

Being creative myself, I can empathize with this idea and how incomplete a picture it paints. Having grown up drawing and painting, later becoming a photographer, and graphic designer, I’ve been through every part of the creative process. However, I’m also analytical and systematic. Which is why, unexpectedly, I transitioned from a purely creative career to one of operations building the tools and systems that help creatives be creative.

As the Creative Services Manager at Mint, I help our creatives get to deep work by creating the space to do the audacious thinking required of them. Having experienced the ins-and-outs that create problematic workflows resulting in things like all-nighters, I can attest that there are not many creative professionals that actually find great and sustained success with this. In fact, in our always-on world, this can take a great toll on the creative mind. We believe by setting up a system designed to challenge the typical ways of working for creatives produces an environment more conducive for creative work. And this may not look like how one might expect.

We have discovered that there is a growing number of studies on procrastination and creativity. One study found that for those that take longer to start working on the task (or as they were described in the study, ‘the procrastinators’) were 28% more creative. Participants were asked to generate new business ideas. One group was asked to start working right away. The other group was asked to delay the task by playing solitaire or minesweeper for five minutes. The results were judged for how original the ideas were by independent evaluators.

“When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity,” Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School wrote in his New York Times op-ed column. “It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.”

With this insight, we thought that providing more distance between brief and deadline would allow for novel concepts to emerge —opening up nonlinear thinking. This is also important to consider for precrastinators, the group that begins immediately on a task, that allows a little time to ‘let things percolate’ can amount to more novel ideas.

In our world and industry, the luxury of time is notoriously not on the side of creatives. So, how can you approach the balancing act of finding more time for ideas to generate and meet the demands of our culture? Enter design thinking.

Design thinking is a process for design and for innovation. It was made popular in the 1990s by the design consultancy, IDEO. The challenges we’re being asked to solve are getting trickier and more complex — from progressive thinking for our clients, to effectively supporting our teams while changing systems. Design thinking is the planned steps in which creatives take to solve problems.

At the core of design thinking is empathy. To truly understand the needs of who you’re solving for is to put yourself in their shoes. The best way to do that is to ask them and listen. We’ve conducted several listening tours to understand the many factors that impact our creative team’s time. We asked questions from our creatives, but also our colleagues and those in the industry or adjacent industries. We conducted surveys to hone in on the qualitative and quantitative metrics impacting the work. This left us with more questions, but it pointed us in the right direction and how to solve for the needs of a system.

Leveraging an integrated approach, we worked cross-functionally to find the best methods to define and redefine our processes. We discovered that when we took this approach we found better ways of working. When thinking in systems and trying to optimize for a few outcomes, we found that paying particular attention to the ways in which processes work together is the best way to design an intuitive and easy to adopt practice.
In any design thinking system, the need to test your hypothesis is important. Especially in a way that can affect how people work (and live), you’ll want to test your ideas to see if it is effective. This also provides good insight and feedback for iterative improvements. We had teams pilot our new process to try it on for size. Taking that step gave us good insights into what was naturally being adopted, what was showing signs of success, and elements that were more challenging to adopt. We found ways to evolve the process and identified the tools and resources our teams need to excel in this new way of working.

Like anything, the work is never complete. As we add more complexity to our worlds, as new things in culture arise we must adapt. Our systems are no different. Going into any operational process design with this mindset is part of design thinking as well. Knowing that to learn from previous experience creates growth and opportunities. Through attention to ways of working and the steps needed to foster a creative environment, you can turn the tables from the status quo to a place where you can gain just enough distance to arrive at a unique thought.