The Importance of Work-Life Balance for Creative Minds

Burnout is an ugly topic. We don’t love thinking about it, and we especially don’t love experiencing it. However, as the world moves at a faster and faster pace, and outside factors like social media and technology keep us connected more than ever, the reality is burnout is becoming more prevalent in today’s world. Instead of waiting to address impending burnout until it happens to us, we should be looking for ways to improve the balance in our lives to prevent it from happening altogether. 

This is especially the case for creative minds. Our industry can be very fast-paced, which a lot of us prefer because it keeps our creative juices flowing. But if we go too hard, those juices run dry and we can hit a creative wall. Work-life balance directly affects how we conceptualize and imagine creative ideas.

We spoke with Michelle Sorensen, founder of the Resiliency Clinic in Ottawa, Ontario, and registered clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience, to get her advice on improving work-life balance and how it affects our creativity. 

Work-life balance and its connection to creativity

Anyone who’s worked in this industry before understands creative ideas and brainstorming can’t be forced. The moment you tell me to think of a good idea within the next hour, it’s like I’ve never had an original thought in my life. Flexibility and the opportunity to slow down is key. 

“We definitely live in a North American culture of hustle, and often there’s a belief that the more we work, the better,” Sorensen says. “I like to say too many of us are ‘human doings’ instead of human beings. We feel anxious about getting enough done, but we push through instead of slowing down and asking, ‘what can I let go of today?’ This doesn’t leave room for creative thought, or the energy for new ideas and projects. We really need to work smarter, rather than harder.”

Oh, and if you feel as though your ability to focus or balance things has gotten worse over the last few years, you’re probably right. Sorensen says since the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been “an increase in diagnosis of ADHD and other mental health issues.”

“I think it’s clear this busy lifestyle, notifications from apps, being tied to laptops and work from home, among other modern factors, are at least part of the problem or a ‘tipping point,’” she explains. 

The problem is that constantly being “on” or preoccupied doesn’t allow for the necessary downtime where new ideas formulate. 

“There’s little room for new perspectives and new ideas when we jump from task to task on our to-do list,” Sorensen shares. “Our nervous system is often so dysregulated we can’t even focus on the tasks at hand, let alone the big picture items like our goals and dreams. I like to say, ‘busy is a good drug.’ It can be as addictive as any substance or food or other source of pleasure. Sometimes this is because it helps us avoid things that make us uncomfortable, like social engagements or changing our health and well being.”

Happiness is found within a balanced life

Remember, work-life balance isn’t just intended to make us better employees who can produce more work. The concept also revolves around improving your overall happiness outside of the office. That’s the whole life part of work-life balance. Of course, this is easier said than done. 

“Ideally, we have a sense of community in our workplace, but of course people need a sense of community and connection outside of work too,” Sorensen tells us. “If people work on balance by making time for activities or pastimes that foster connection to others, it will often improve their attitude to work and career. It can also make you a more interesting and engaging colleague, when you have stories about a sport, or your volunteer work or newest hobby.” 

A change of environment and experiences is key. While Sorensen says there’s no shame in watching some TV or playing video games, she emphasizes “hours of Netflix is not really conducive to helping with energy the next day at work.”

“The antidote to the significant screentime most of us have is time outdoors and ideally in nature,” Sorensen explains. “We really need to boost our productivity by engaging in activities that give us energy, instead of sapping our energy. Many of my clients who experiment with even two workouts a week of some kind, will notice an increase in productivity and focus. When we feel healthier and have changes in routine, it’s not surprising we feel happier.”

If you’re a curious mind—like myself—and are interested in reading more about the connection between work-life balance and overall happiness, Sorensen recommends the Blue Zones research, which looks at the world’s happiest and longest-living populations to identify what they do differently and how other cultures can adopt some of their practices. 

“Interestingly, many of these places do have people who work hard, and for a long time, but they have positive connections and a sense of collaboration and community,” Sorensen explains. “Positive rituals, sharing food, along with healthy food and activity levels, are all part of the work-life balance and healthy living that create longevity.”

Ways to improve work-life balance in the office

Our team benefits from being back in the office full time, which means we have a much clearer separation of work and home. This, coupled, with some minor changes, can prove to be very beneficial when trying to be more mindful about work-life balance. 

“I would suggest [employees] starting small, and building on small successes,” Sorensen says. “You can’t change everything at once, and it’s best to set attainable goals. Packing lunch every day, so you take healthy food to work, would be a solid goal. It might lead to other positive changes, like getting up earlier to have time to pack lunch, and then sitting down with a coffee and having a mindful practice of enjoying your coffee before you leave for work. Slowly build good rituals and routines into your day. Over time, you may notice how much this helps create a sense of stability and contentment in your life.”

Here are some other ideas:

  • Schedule break times where you get up and walk around for a few minutes. This helps give your eyes a screen break, but also breaks up the day.
  • Take your lunch break—and not just at your desk. It sounds simple, but this change of pace and scenery can help refresh your mind by taking an hour to socialize (or even read).
  • Use your vacation days. Taking time off is rejuvenating for the mind, and it’s important to give yourself a mental break for longer than a weekend.
  • Communicate with your manager. Be clear about your goals, expectations, and workload so there’s no space for uncertainty or assumptions. 

It’s not just up to employees. Sorensen says there are ways for employers to model better work-life balance behaviours which can then trickle down into the overall culture of the company. 

“I think leaders really need to model mindful behaviours,” she explains. “A doctor, or director on a team, or owner of a business, can be deliberate about using a calm tone, not adding to the hustle and panic all the time. If they send emails in the evening, they can schedule them to send in the morning, so it doesn’t send the message that after hours work is needed. Even just taking a few breaths, standing in the elevator without looking at a phone, sets the tone. Every employee can be part of a change in culture, by making eye contact, making a joke, and bringing more lightness and balance to meetings.”

Plus, ensuring access to mental health resources are part of the company’s benefits plan is vital to overall company success.

“I may be biased, but I do think employers see a return on their money when their benefits include mental health help,” Sorensen stresses. “A big part of our job as mental health professionals is to help clients look at the big picture and explore the connection between the way they live and their work and personal achievements and performance.” 

Work-life balance isn’t going to happen overnight, and it’s never going to be perfect. But as long as you practice mindful habits and take the time to slow down every once in a while, you’re certainly on the right track. It’s not only going to give you more gas in the tank for creative inspiration, but it’s also going to help improve your overall quality of life—which may sound dramatic…but it’s also the truth. 


social media

Assessing New Social Media Platforms: Is It Always Worth the Leap?

Be there or be square. FOMO. The idea of missing out on something great can drive a lot of our decisions, from both personal and business perspectives. When new social media platforms pop up, it’s tempting to make an immediate leap so you don’t miss your chance to be there from the start.  

But remember what we’d say as kids—first the worst, second the best? It’s kind of applicable here. Yes, there’s value to being one of the first to do something in your space, but there’s also value in waiting until you can hit the bullseye before taking your shot. 

Let’s look at a couple of the platforms trying to claim the space X (previously Twitter) has left open, and how you can assess a new social media platform to determine if it’s a good fit for your organization. 

When one door closes, five new social media platforms open

X was arguably one of the heaviest hitters when it came to social media platforms, but as Elon Musk does…well, whatever it is he’s trying to do with it, the former juggernaut is experiencing a drop in engagement, traffic, and ad revenue — not to mention public perception. 

X once offered a unique experience for users: breaking news, live sporting or entertainment updates, a chronological timeline, and the possibility that anyone, at any time, could find your content if your account was unlocked; however, with new leadership and algorithms, and many features restricted to those who pay $8 a month for a blue checkmark, millions of people (yes, literally millions) have decided to abandon Musk’s X. 

So, it stands to reason they need somewhere else to go. Breaking a social media habit isn’t something many people are willing to do. 

Enter Threads. Enter Bluesky. Enter every other social media platform that will undoubtedly emerge to try and recreate the magic of what X once was. Whether they’ll be successful is another story. 

Let’s look at Instagram Threads as an example. Launched on July 5, 2023, Meta’s X competitor gained 100 million new users in its first five days; however, ten days later, it lost half its users. From a user perspective, there are a few major issues. First, up until very recently, who you followed didn’t matter; your homepage was a hodgepodge of content from people you don’t know, with no way to toggle to another view. Threads just recently added a “following” tab (though it’s still being rolled out) which works in the platform’s favour, but there’s still no hashtags, search functionality, or direct messaging capabilities.

Alternatively, Bluesky offers a more Twitter-like experience, perhaps because it was created by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey. The interface is almost identical to what users were used to on Twitter. But the platform faces its own issues. Currently, there are 650,000 users and over 1.9 million people on the waitlist. Yes, waitlist. Bluesky operates under an invite-only system, similar to how Facebook initially operated. The code system creates a sense of exclusivity, but it also means growth will be slower. We saw this tactic work for Facebook, but it was less successful for the audio-based app Clubhouse. Though waiting for an invite can create that FOMO we talked about earlier, it can also alienate a lot of people.

Can you really tell if a new social media platform will last?

The short answer? No. If you could, then the brainpower behind IGTV and Google Plus might have used that knowledge to their benefit. There’s no cut-and-dry way to predict if new social media endeavours will capture lightning in a bottle and hook an entire generation (or two) of users. Success requires a perfect blend of factors, from user experience and interface, to features, to ease of use, to type of content offered, and much more. Oh, and don’t forget the most important element of all: sheer dumb luck. Sometimes things just take off, and try as we might, we just can’t pinpoint why. 

When trying to assess the potential longevity of a new social media platform, there are four main components you should focus on.

  • Do your research: what are the experts saying? Analysts, marketing professionals, and tech experts love to dig deep on what new social media platforms offer. They’ll write reviews, pull stats, and measure performance to give you context and useful data.
  • Listen to word of mouth: what are the users saying? All the stats in the world mean nothing if users aren’t enjoying their experience or finding the platform useful. Listen to what they’re saying, then watch to see if the platform is making announcements about any of the issues users are complaining about. If they’re making the changes people want to see, it could mean it’ll be successful.
  • Have a healthy curiosity: it’s okay to experiment! Sign up for a new platform personally before switching your organization over. Keep visiting it, spend some time digging around, explore all the features, and get familiar with what the platform has to offer so you can fully examine and understand its organizational value.
  • Give it time: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Twitter was created in 2008, but it’s the last 10 years where the site has seen the bulk of its growth as brands, celebrities, and politicians leveraged all it had to offer. Expect there to be some bumps in usage along the way, and don’t jump ship—or over commit—too early.  

It may be good, but is it good for you?

We’ve all seen how TikTok has catapulted into a main source of information for younger generations. But does that mean you should make the leap? 

Once again, the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. There’s no harm in securing your username or handle in the event a platform does take off and it’s worth the investment, but giving these things a few months to find their footing before shifting your entire strategy can save you major headaches in the long run. 

You’ll need to assess the platform, what it has to offer, and what it means from an organizational perspective before coming to a conclusion. Things like…

Will it help you reach your audience?

You should already know who your target audience is as part of your brand development and strategy, so research the demographics for this new platform. If your target audience is aged 45 to 65, and the main demographic on this new platform is ages 18 to 35, then it may not be worth the investment for you. 

The exception here is if you’re trying to reach a new audience, whether to reposition your brand or build early awareness before they age into your desired demographic. Or, maybe your organization has been mainly brick-and-mortar until now, and you’re trying to increase your online presence. In these cases, it could be worth testing out these new platforms—provided you have the resources. 

Which brings us to…

Do you have the resources to commit to the extra content creation? 

Any social media manager will tell you not all social platforms are created equal, which means not all social content is created equal. Any time you try a platform for the first time, existing or new, you need to consider the additional resources it requires—strategy, copywriting, graphic design, video development, posting, and performance measuring. Consider your team’s current workload, your goals, and whether adding an additional platform will stretch your resources too thin. 

What does this platform give you that other platforms can’t? 

Your audience doesn’t want the same thing in a different font. Think about how this platform can help you further your goals in ways other platforms can’t. This doesn’t necessarily mean from a monetary standpoint. Engagement and brand awareness are legitimate goals, so if the platform you’re considering can help hit certain key performance indicators, then maybe it’s worth your time. 

Does the medium fit your message?

To misquote Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, your marketers were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. Let’s say you have the resources to take on another social media platform, and the audience demographics align, you still need to determine whether the content you’re producing and your overall brand messaging goals can be successfully executed and delivered. Dancing to viral TikTok sounds while explaining the different types of insurance may not be the best representation of your brand, although sometimes there’s value in taking risks

How are your competitors using the platform? 

Explore what your competitors are doing, how they’re doing it, and if you can learn from their approach. At Alphabet® we’re always doing competitive analyses for our clients to better understand what they’re up against and what gaps we can help them fill. 

Even with all these questions answered, there are intricacies to every industry, organization, and brand that make adopting a new social media platform a nuanced decision. Our team of content and branding experts can help uncover what a new platform means for your organization, including whether you should use it at all, and how it can be best used to bring you results. 

Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help. 


campaigns - industry

Creating a 360° Brand Your Audience Connects With

The idea of a brand is different today than it was even 18 months ago. Look even further back, say a decade, and the way we operate when it comes to brands is almost unrecognizable. Sure, some aspects have remained the same – logos, taglines, and strategic ad placement – but with countless new ways of reaching your audience, not to mention a more critical eye from said audience, brands are less of a two dimensional drawing now and more of an ever-evolving ecosystem looking to stand out. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, people found themselves re-evaluating what was important to them as a person, as well as a consumer. It’s no longer about the product or service itself; it’s about the brand behind it and what it stands for. According to Deloitte, “4 out of 5 people could not only cite an example of a brand responding in a positive way to the pandemic but also felt ‘strongly’ that it led to an increase in their loyalty to that brand.” Plus, Sol Marketing founder and CEO Deb Gabor believes “consumers are thinking even more about how brands are part of their identity.” 

Most people think of a brand as a logo or a name – something a company will slap on a product and use as an excuse to charge more; however, the change in how consumers are interacting with brands, combined with how media habits are evolving, means organizations need to be a more holistic entity that people can interact with in a myriad of ways. A 360o brand can build a lasting relationship with a consumer, increasing the likelihood of them returning in the future. 

Think about it. You’re more likely to return to something that was helpful, friendly, engaging, and valuable than you are to something that feels stiff and impersonal. Be open, be honest, be accessible – and be these things in more ways than one. 

What exactly is a 360o brand?

This concept isn’t new by any stretch, but its value and validity have increased in the last few years as access to brands has become easier from a consumer standpoint.

A 360o brand does two things well. First, it engages as many of a consumer’s senses as possible (although if your product or service doesn’t lend itself to a smell or taste, maybe go ahead and skip those ones). Second, it provides consumers with added value as they move through their buying or experiential journey. As your brand pops up at multiple touchpoints – in a way that delights, not pushes – consumers become more trusting and familiar with what you’re about.

This isn’t to say the traditional aspects of what people consider to be a brand are no longer important. A visual identity, for example, still plays into a 360o experience. But there are additional elements that should be considered. 

Tone of Voice 

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Well, okay, obviously it is what you say, but it’s also how you say it that matters. Your brand’s tone of voice reflects its overall personality, and since consumers are seeing brands as part of their own identity, they want to see themselves reflected in this tone. A disingenuous or forced tone can be a red flag to potential consumers, as they can feel pandered to – a means to an end rather than a valued voice. 


Working in tandem with your tone of voice is the actual sound of your brand. Whether it’s the human voice you choose to read out your ads, the music, or the sonic landscape that forms the backdrop, audio plays a critical role in brand recognition.

According to a Spotify for Brands report published in 2020, “audio ads are memorable and motivational – they drive 24% higher recall than display ads, and are twice as likely to lift purchase intent.” Consider how many people listen to podcasts as they commute, or have Spotify streaming in the background while they work. Audio is embedded in our daily lives more than we realize, so a snappy, unique sound can go a long way.

It’s also worth considering sonic logos – those sounds with just a few notes that can trigger someone’s memory, like NBC’s chime, Netflix’s “dum dum” before every episode, or even Taco Bell’s…well, bell. Though they’re not necessary for every brand, they can be a powerful recall tool for consumers. 


Motion – whether it’s video, animation, or another type of movement – is a major part of a fulsome brand. Just like people have body language, the way a brand moves says a lot about it. Does it flow, does it rely on staccato movements, is there a recognizable rhythm to the way the logo presents itself? These things can not only be eye-catching, but also invite interaction from the audience. Video plays a role here too, as it not only gives you another medium to work with (TikTok, anyone?) but it also brings your message to life. Video can educate, entertain, inspire, and yes, even sell. Most importantly, it makes your brand feel more real to a consumer, allowing them to make a more emotional connection. 


Social presence and behaviour play a large role in a 360o brand, especially when it comes to positive association with your brand. Social media is a major touch-point driving consumer behaviour, with people always watching to see how brands react to the goings-on of the world.

Bryna Corcoran, Director, Brand, Social Media and Influencer marketing with Lyft, suggests consumers “don’t want to waste time on vague commitments and lip service. They [operate] with a deeper sense of urgency than generations before them.” Pair this with Deloitte’s findings that a “whopping 56% of people had engaged in a digital brand participation activity in the past year,” and it’s easy to make the connection between your brand’s online behaviour and consumer decision-making. 


In addition to social media accounts, how are you letting consumers interact with your brand? Can they listen to your podcast? Use your app? Watch your videos? Read your blog? Attend your events? The more you can delight your user along their decision-making journey, the more likely it is you’ll find yourself at the receiving end of a positive interaction. Interaction, in this context, also means agility. Keeping an eye on how and where people interact with brands allows you to create engaging techniques and stories that adapt to consumer behaviour

When all of these things work together, your brand gives consumers something to connect with, something they can recognize when it comes time to make a decision. As the way consumers interact with brands shifts, it’s key for organizations to make sure all of their elements resonate, not just the ones they’re used to focusing on. 

Pinpoint your purpose

Ultimately, creating a 360o brand is how you present your why. While all of these elements are important to help deliver your brand’s message, the message itself is the most important element. Now that we know people are looking for brands that align with their personal beliefs, it’s up to you to clearly state your brand’s purpose. 

Successful brands uncover the why, then shout it from the metaphorical rooftop so consumers and audiences can better connect with what you’re trying to achieve. Purpose is not always about getting people to buy things, it’s about living your brand values and making a difference.

Take, for example, Parque das Aves. As one of the largest bird sanctuaries in Latin America, they have an incredible mission of studying, breeding, and, ultimately, protecting more than 75 species of birds from extinction within the Atlantic Rainforest. Impressive, right? The problem was Parque das Aves wasn’t leading with their purpose when marketing their sanctuary. We helped them re-envision their purpose, providing a solid starting point for new positioning and a messaging foundation. They saw an immediate increase in awareness and engagement when they led with their why.

Or, look at Perley Health. Internally, their message was clear: transforming care for everyone. But externally there was a disconnect between what they were trying to do and how they were presenting themselves. With a rebrand and repositioning, Perley Health is now positioned as a leader in long-term care, empowering Seniors and Veterans to live life to the fullest – something they were already doing, but weren’t effectively highlighting to the public. 

Helping brands reach consumers on every step of their decision-making journey is something we love doing, and it’s how we approach every project that comes our way.



To Podcast or Not to Podcast? Here’s What to Consider.

It seems like everyone has a podcast these days – and why not? Aren’t they a great way to share your opinions on niche topics and connect with people via shared interests? Sure, but while they might seem like the hottest trend right now, the truth is, podcasts don’t make sense for everyone – especially not every business.

So, how do you know if a podcast is right for your business or brand? Here are a few things to consider.

Review your content strategy

Step one? Have a solid, thought-out content strategy for your organization. This will give you a clear picture of your objectives and overarching business goals. Within this strategy you should identify core content pillars to act as a map for every piece of content you create. They may lead you to a podcast, or they may not – and that’s okay. Sometimes, the most valuable part of considering a podcast is knowing when it won’t work.

Consider who listens to podcasts

The popularity of audio content, whether it’s live audio like Clubhouse or pre-recorded audio like podcasts, has continued to grow as more people embrace the medium. Last year, more than 11 million adult Canadians listened to a podcast, with eight million listening once a month. Nearly half of those monthly listeners are in what’s considered the “hard to reach” category, ages 18 to 34. 

Another interesting note is urban centres tend to have higher listening rates than other spots across the country, with British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario having the most listeners. Knowing the main audience of podcasts is crucial when deciding if it’s the right avenue for you. If your target audience is over 50, it may not be an effective tool for what you’re trying to accomplish. Alternatively, if your typical consumer is 25 to 35 and spends at least an hour a day commuting, then you may have a golden opportunity to take advantage of that time. 

Ask yourself a lot of questions. (Like, a lot.)

When we’re considering launching a podcast for one of our clients – or any content stream for that matter – it’s our job to be strategic about the choices we make. And that means asking ourselves some key questions upfront:

  • How will this new format allow our client to grow their relationship with their audience? 
  • Is the content they offer suitable for an audio platform? 
  • Is there strategic value in reaching their audience this way, or is another format better suited? 
  • And, most importantly, is the content valuable enough to bring listeners back for more? 

To answer these questions, we first identify the basics, like whether the audience even listens to podcasts, and what our foremost goal is. In other words, it always comes back to strategy.

If you’re flying blind and hoping your podcast lands in the right hands (or on the right ears), then it’s probably not worth your time and resources. Look at your strategy and see what types of content you can produce to match your pillars and goals. Maybe that leads you to publishing a year’s worth of episodes, or maybe it’s something more limited. As mentioned, it all starts with aligning your content to a singular purpose determined by your strategy. 

Our success with CREA REAL TIME

We helped the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) launch its REAL TIME podcast in March 2020, after the success of its national speaking series of the same name. CREA’s members showed a clear desire for more insightful content relating to the real estate industry. Knowing we had an already-eager and willing audience, we saw immense value in taking the next logical step and turning the speaking series into a podcast. 

For REAL TIME, we provide strategic recommendations within a detailed content strategy – suggesting the flow of content and monthly episodes – to create a podcast REALTORS® can use not only for themselves as industry professionals, but to share with clients as a resource for home buying, designing, and selling. Since launching REAL TIME 14 months ago, there have been more than 12,800 total downloads and listens, with more than 27,000 website sessions for We also won a Summit International Emerging Media Award for REAL TIME, which celebrates campaigns that leverage new media types and technologies for a return on investment.

So, to podcast or not to podcast?

We see audio content as an extremely valuable tool, especially as the number of podcast listeners steadily increases. While it takes a lot of planning, recording audio for a podcast can be done relatively easily compared to video, photoshoots, or any other type of visual media. Plus, depending on the nature of your podcast, it can be evergreen content your business can use for a long time, which is always a valuable asset to have in your pocket. 

So, should your business start a podcast? That’s an answer we can’t give you (well, not without knowing your goals). Podcasts need to be about more than just recording a conversation and posting it to the internet. They need to serve your content strategy, make sense given your audience, and ultimately accomplish a business goal. If a podcast can help you achieve all of that, then great! If not, don’t worry. There are plenty of content streams available, and with a little research and testing, we’re confident you can find the right fit.

Thinking about planning a podcast? We’d be happy to lend a hand. Get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.


culture - industry

Leading an Effective Creative Brainstorm with Your Team

Running a creative brainstorm is no small task. It’s the starting point for your entire project. A strong brainstorm can lead to a strong result. A weak brainstorm can lead to…well, you get the idea.

At Alphabet®, we’ve learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to brainstorming, which help our team stay motivated and confident. Here are some guidelines you might find useful when leading your next brainstorm.

Have a moderator. 
A brainstorm should be casual, but that doesn’t mean unstructured. We use a moderator to keep everyone on task without stifling the back-and-forth that often spawns great ideas. A moderator can help push ideas further and get the most from everyone in the room. Oh, and they should be in charge of taking the notes, too – nothing’s worse than ending a brainstorm with everyone assuming someone else was keeping track!

Establish context and guidelines. 
What do we need? What’s not going to fly? Where will this be seen? Whoever is leading the brainstorm should send a brief or some general context and guidelines to everyone involved at least three days in advance. You want people to start thinking about ideas ahead of time so the juices flow when the meeting rolls around. Bring these guidelines to the meeting to ensure everyone’s staying on target. Having an open creative discussion is key when brainstorming, but we can all agree they have a tendency to veer off track. Establishing parameters focuses creativity in the right direction. 

Know that there are no bad ideas.
Okay, maybe there are some bad ideas. But a brainstorm isn’t about discerning the good from the bad; it’s just about getting every idea on a page, whiteboard, or Zoom chat. You want everyone in a brainstorm to feel like they have free reign to say whatever pops into their head. There’s no judgement, no strange looks. Oftentimes, our brains can cling to an idea without letting it go until we’ve vocalized it. Encouraging the free-flow of ideas can help your team clear their heads and make space for new thinking.

Tip: a fun, productive exercise can be to dedicate 5-10 minutes of a brainstorm to wild ideas. It’ll perk up the energy in the room, free up headspace, and potentially spark an idea elsewhere.

Think about the psychology of creativity. 
Alphabet® isn’t a psychology practice, but we do find value in looking at why and how people think. Everyone has creative biases, so we do what we can to pick those apart and approach every project with neutral minds. For yourself, try to find existing patterns of recognition and storytelling to give people something to latch onto. How can you make something familiar and turn it into something new, but still keep it familiar enough that people will connect with it?

Encourage and foster conversation. 
Group settings can be overwhelming for some. Introverts, people with different skill sets, or newer employees may find it hard to speak up in a room (physical or virtual). Encouraging conversation doesn’t mean forcing people to talk; it means keeping the energy high and creating the right environment for people to want to participate. Encouragement doesn’t have to be singling people out, either; it can mean talking about every idea that’s shared so that others know their voices will be heard. 

To help with participation, open a shared Google Doc and ask people to contribute before the meeting. Then, speak to those contributions during the official brainstorm. The less-inclined will have an opportunity to share their two cents without fear of judgement, which in turn will make them more open to participating.

A big part of leading a creative brainstorm is just knowing how your team works. As the leader, you need to be perceptive to your employees’ mood and know when to motivate, pivot, and assist as needed.

At Alphabet®, we love bringing unique minds together to create new ideas. If you want to see what we can do, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help with your creative, digital, and strategic needs.


digital marketing - industry

Clubhouse, Discord, Twitter, and Co: The Social Audio Wars are Heating Up

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard the name Clubhouse being tossed around in marketing circles. It seems to have evolved from a shiny new trend to a bonafide disruptor, triggering tech giants like Facebook and Twitter to ramp up their own social audio offerings.

So, what is audio social media? And why it is making noise (pun intended) in the marketing world?

Audio Killed the Video Star
Platforms like Clubhouse, Discord, and Twitter Spaces are revolutionizing the way brands and people can connect. They allow for a host to start a discourse on any topic and for listeners to chime in with their own voice and opinion. Moreover, they don’t have video components, which means you can participate while lounging in your sweatpants with your eyes closed. An enticing option for a generation saturated by video.

We’ve all been on one too many Zoom calls at this point. A researcher at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Jeremy Bailenson, identified four main reasons why “Zoom fatigue” might be fueling interest in social audio apps: constant eye contact; self-criticism from seeing yourself on camera; being stationary all day; and the general cognitive energy required for a video call. In short, video conferences are draining.

With that in mind, the appeal of audio social media makes sense. As Bailenson puts it, “Just because you can use video, doesn’t mean you have to.”

So who are the major players in audio social media?


Clubhouse is the widely known player, currently invite-only. Anyone with an account can start a “room” about any topic, then invite others to listen in. If you want to share your thoughts, you can use the “raise your hand” feature and the room’s moderator can invite you to the virtual stage. But make sure to take notes; Clubhouse rooms aren’t recorded. A brave dynamic in our modern on-demand world. It’s important to mark your calendar if there’s content you don’t want to miss from a creator you follow.

Interestingly, despite being the biggest player in audio social media right now, Clubhouse’s growth rate has started to decline, according to eMarketer. This leaves opportunity for other platforms to break through, platforms with the resources to scale rapidly. Platforms like Discord.


Originally created for gamers to build communities and share messages, Discord lets users create “servers” with chats, voice channels, and the ability to share videos, images, links, etc. Each server can have channels for different topics (like an informal version of Slack). Whereas Clubhouse is an app dedicated to audio, Discord is a communication app with audio features; however, Discord recently launched a feature that directly competes with Clubhouse, stage channels, which “allow you to share a focused conversation with select individuals to an audience of listeners.” To boot, participants can raise their hands to speak and a moderator can give them the floor. Sound familiar? 


Then there’s Twitter Spaces. Currently, few people have the ability to actually create a Space, but anyone can listen in. That said, only hosts can choose who speaks. Hosts can also name and describe their Spaces to help the public navigate content.

If Clubhouse is more for business, and Discord is more for socializing, it’s hard to say where Spaces will land—which means it might be the perfect time for someone to claim it.

Discord and Twitter are clearly trying to keep up with Clubhouse, evidenced by how Twitter looked into buying Clubhouse for $4 billion, and the fact that both Discord and Twitter have designed their audio social media features to mimic those of Clubhouse. Even Spotify is trying to get in the game, purchasing the app Locker Room—a social audio network for sports fans. Spotify says it’s planning to “expand Locker Room into an enhanced live audio experience,” which will include giving “professional athletes, writers, musicians, songwriters, podcasters, and other global voices opportunities to host real-time discussions, debates, ask me anything (AMA) sessions, and more.”

Of course, where there’s a trend picking up steam, there’s Facebook looking to get in on the action. Facebook recently tested its own social audio offering, Hotline, a web app that lets users host a live video discussion. Being touted as an extension of Instagram live, Hotline is served as a video but attendees can chime in via chat or raise their hand to participate through voice.

How can brands leverage audio apps and features like Clubhouse, Discord, and Twitter Spaces? 
It’s an interesting question, though a bit like asking “how can we predict the future?” These apps are so new, it’s hard to determine how they’ll shape up for bigger marketing purposes. That said, there are things we know about audiences and engagement that are evergreen, such as consistency of posting, relevancy, and the timeliness of content. We can use these insights to make an educated guess on how to best capitalize on audio social media.

Capitalize on FOMO
Everyone has FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Limited-time offers, flash sales, and the overall scarcity principle are tried and true marketing tactics, and there’s no reason we can’t take them into audio platforms. Since Clubhouse rooms can’t be recorded, sharing news, contests, or just really good content on the platform can be a great way to generate hype and make your discussions a can’t-miss event. 

Sponsor Rooms and Conversations
Even if no one from your company wants to get up and talk for an hour, there are ways your brand can be at the forefront of the conversation. Sponsoring a Clubhouse room, or starting a Twitter Space from your account and having a celebrity or expert lead the session, can align your brand with content people believe in and want to see more of. You could also create your own server or Stage channel on Discord, giving your audience a place to chat and share content.

Focus Groups and Social Listening
Actively listen to audio social media to hear what consumers want. They may not be telling you directly, but you can join rooms about your industry, listen to topics related to your brand, and find out what people are talking about. You can also be more specific and run a focus group, inviting people who already follow your brand—and even those who don’t—to attend a town hall-type session. This can give you direct access to feedback from your audience, which is never a bad thing. 

Put in the Work 
These social audio apps require effort—period. You can’t just record five episodes in a day and use that content for the next five months. You need to be actively engaged and set aside time to produce content. It’s never a bad thing to explore new marketing avenues right? If they work, great! You just found a new way to engage your audience. If they don’t, at least you positioned yourself as a brand that’s being proactive.

The Takeaway
It’s important to remember that social audio isn’t here to replace podcasts—at least not yet. Podcasts are still an incredibly valuable storytelling tool and have an important place in marketing and content strategies. Social audio can be seen as an extension or an entirely new medium all together.

With giants like Facebook and Twitter getting in on the action, it’s clear that audio social media is here to stay. It strips away the formality of video-conferencing in favour of candid conversations with little production value. Clubhouse might be the market leader, for now, but stiff competition from larger providers with more resources, like Discord, could signal a swift end for the popular start-up.

It’s still too early to tell who will dominate the space, but brands should listen in to see if social audio is a worthwhile investment. Afterall, a new way of communicating is yet another tool for marketers. And at the rate this one’s being adopted, that’s a good thing.