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Restyling a Victoria hair salon

7 Nov

Buying a business is daunting enough. Doing it in a new country where you don’t yet speak the language is a Netflix series.

You have to take a lot of people you don’t know – and can’t really understand – at their word.

Fortunately Liu Ping, the new owner of Royal Oak’s Salon Amici, got lucky. Helping her navigate the ownership transition – plus a significant rebrand and renovation – were the two former owners, now the Salon’s senior stylists.

The chemistry and camaraderie between these 3 ladies lies at the heart of this rebrand.


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Maggie Mackay and Praveena Charan opened the Salon’s doors in 1998. They named it Amici (friend in Italian) as a tribute to their own friendship. But twenty years owning a business can be a grind and they were only too happy when Liu Ping bought their company. In the spirit of friendship, they have been with Ping every step of the way as the Salon has undergone a comprehensive refresh.

Brand Intervention was engaged to provide a clear strategic direction and a fresh face (the Salon’s face, not mine!), and line up the team that would transform the interior.

A Brand Workshop with the Salon staff kicked off the process and pointed us in the right direction: We needed to more fully embrace Amici, and warm up the environment.

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Doing online surveys gave us a clear sense of visitor expectations, and told us how far people would travel to see their stylist, which helped us nail down our marketing territory as well.


Graphic designer Megan Munro provided a stellar refreshing of the logo and brought a signature colour palette into play.

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NEW LOOKScreen Shot 2017-11-07 at 6.08.57 AM.pngWe soon had our physical brand ready to roll with a new website, business cards, brochures and social media pages.


Enter interior designer Marika Beise of Rock Paper Square. She took in the brand essence and responded with a design upgrade that brought a visually warm welcome to complement the human one. Strong Construction provided the building savvy.

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Urban Sign transformed the exterior of the Salon with overhead signage and sandwich boards.

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The final touch was bringing in Derek Ford to capture the newly branded salon – and it’s re-emphasized spirit – in photos, many of which you see in this post.


I’ve worked on a lot of rebrands, but never before one where the spirit of the team was ultimately the brand strategy. Talk about living your brand. Thank you ladies of Salon Amici!

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Rebranding Fort Street Cycle

20 Jul
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Even their Google Street View was unlucky

It has been a rough first year for the new owners of Fort Street Cycle.

Bad energy left over from an unpopular ownership transition was sucking the life – and at one point, nearly every staff member – out of the shop. The new owners, from Beijing, were in crisis management from the get-go and wondering how they could survive. They decided they needed to start fresh. Well, fresher.

Brand Intervention.pngThis is where the Brand Intervention happens. (This is the icon that says that’s happening.)

I started with some online surveys to existing customers and non-customers to determine attitudes towards the store, and its perceived strengths and weaknesses. This was the key starting point for the rebrand because it told us that there was indeed some bad juju out there about the store – but no respondents had a clear sense why they felt that way.

It also told us that the brand really wasn’t on anyone’s radar and was considered past its day.

So there was no damage here.  But there was a lack of clarity about the store. The lack of clarity came from a lack of a vision, and a lack of  noise in the market. But we could fix those.


An analysis of the business, it’s core service and product offerings, and the opportunities in the market, indicated that we could chase the negative spirit away with a big, positive step forward. The store itself was in excellent shape: a good service reputation, a well-known location on Fort, and fantastic bikes: Cannondale, Cervelo and Giant, all high-end machines.

It just needed a focused brand strategy, and a look to pull it off.

The shop’s focus on placing service and proper fitting before bike sales pointed in the right direction, but we needed something bigger.

As luck would have it, the main competitive stores (Oak Bay Bicycles, Russ Hay’s, Trek and Broad Street Cycles) all referred to themselves as “bike shops” in their positioning lines. This created the opportunity.


Fort Street Cycle would no longer be just a bike shop. It would be about cycling: where the rider and the bike come together to create the magic. The store would be all about that. A place for cyclists to gather, to read cycle mags and drink coffee, to be professionally fitted, to watch live races on the TV, to post messages about stolen bikes, to find the latest gear to wear, to test ride new models, to talk cycling. Not a hardware store for machines, but  a place for people, something their “service-first” way of working already beautifully supported.

Hence the new tagline: Where Cycling Lives.

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As the brand strategy and visual look were being created, the store went on a serious hiring spree. Using both online ads and networking, there were soon ten passionate cyclists on the store’s staff roster. A mix of road and mountain cyclists, elite competitors and everyday grinders, they embraced the new brand direction and shouldered the tasks involved in bringing it to life.


Even though the store’s reputation had suffered in recent years, it was still an established brand with a history. We wanted to respect that by evolving the business, both the name and the logo. Enter long-time collaborator Michael Tension, who delivered a modern and impactful updating of the previous logo, along with an inspired palette of supporting colours to carry it. The name was shortened to Fort St Cycle, because it felt friendlier, and doing so created the space that allowed the name to be on one line in the logo, rather than stacked.

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The old….and the new. Urban Sign behind the new one.

The store had been quiet in Victoria for years and was poorly connected to both the cycling community and the businesses along Fort St.

To help improve that, we gave the staff tools to build new relationships, from branded work gear to highly personalized business cards (the photo is of the staff member, and they chose their own quote and colour) – neither of which the store had ever provided. Then we crafted marketing and social media strategies to slowly build back their audience.


Service Manager, Russ Parks in his new gear


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Michael Tension cards: folded and white on the inside for notes

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Once all the branded pieces were ready, Derek Ford did his usual exceptional job capturing the team spirit in photos. And then it was on to a welcoming Open House to let the market know Fort St Cycle was alive and kicking!

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Megan Munro poster

To promote the event and get rid of some pesky old branded water bottles, the staff rolled up invitations into the old bottles and left them in bikes with empty water bottle holders all over downtown.

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Message in a bottle campaign

The Open House saw a good crowd, and the positive buzz energized everyone and helped to exorcise the ghosts of the old brand.


Open House July 12

A new website from Leap is on the way, jerseys are being printed and a store renovation is planned for late fall. The store also has plans to lead a cycling tour to the Great Wall in China this year. More details on that coming up soon!  Until then, drop by the store and talk cycling: these guys know their stuff.

And ask for one of those cool new business cards!




Think of your brand as a body tattoo

2 Apr

How will tattoos look when I'm older?

Your brand’s personality is for the life of your brand.

It may undergo adjustments over time to reflect growth, just as people do, but the fundamental values should be set.

Just as you or I would keep at arm’s length the people we can’t get a bead on, so it is with brands.

When someone we know and trust says they value something, and their actions prove otherwise, our trust ebbs, if not disappears altogether.

And so it is with brands.

You ensure that the brand articulation you create has lifelong staying power by having an anchor belief as its foundation.

Telus power bar energy saving


Consider Telus. The telecom giant’s brand has an anchor belief that the future is friendly. For 12 years now, they have hit consistently at this belief through every customer touchpoint.

(You might argue that they haven’t been as successful on the delivery of the belief through customer service, but their promise of a friendly future allows them to disappoint you today!)

Your brand believes in something. It exists to deliver that belief.

When it stops delivering it, the bond with the customer is broken and the brand diminishes. All it takes is a stumble in our consumer-driven market and the crowd will stampede over you.

Beliefs, in the world of branding, are forever – something you want to take care to get right the first time.

The articulation of it should never be viewed as a means to an end. Like the tattoo that covers you from head to toe, it is a statement of life-long conviction. The means should flow from that.


Should you pay more or less for a quickie?

20 Mar

fastest ad agency in the world

Here’s the one page website for the World’s Fastest Agency.  They get straight to business.

* Pre-pay them $999

* Send your creative brief by direct message on Twitter  (keeps it to 140 characters)

* Get a big idea back within 24 hours via the same route

What can you expect for a thousand bucks?

I’m going to assume you get a decent idea. Could be a clever campaign or a game-changer, who knows. Guess you’ll find out soon enough.

With a slower agency, you pay more. Perhaps twenty times more. Because they have to pay overhead and salaries. There are more people, so there need to be processes. And they like some time to think about things, which is smart. They’ll deliver more too, more insight, documents and tools.

There’s research, audience profiling, market analysis, strategic planning…all of which add value and increase the likelihood of success.

The quickie idea is not well thought through. It has merely survived the overnight test.

But the ace in the hand is the speed. Everybody wants things tomorrow.  The appetite for excellence has given ground to the need for speed.

It’s a gamble, but so is working with a more traditional agency.

Frankly, I’m surprised the price point isn’t higher.

The Brand Intervention website goes live and other funky vibes

5 Mar

I don’t know about you, but I think 2013 is shaping up to be a lot more fun than 2012. Seems like there was a lot of drama going on last year – I’m blaming the Mayans, but you can throw stones at your catalyst of choice.


What is so cool about 2013 for me already is the people I’ve gotten to collaborate with: clients, co-workers and strategic partners.

I have two of those individuals to thank for my new Brand Intervention website, which went live today.


>> Megan Louie designed and developed it, virtually overnight.

>> Neil Tran provided the stellar logo.

With my client list steadily growing, and Carol Vincent and her team keeping me on my toes at Redbird Communications, I’m going like a lizard down a waterslide.

I’m going to end this with my all-time favourite boogie for you to groove to. I’ve been truckin’ to this funky little gem (not the prettiest mental image, I admit) for nearly 40 years, but 2013 is the year that it finally makes sense to me. UH!


When is it ok for marketers to freak the crap out of people?

28 Feb

Fear-based marketing is a pretty under-developed niche.

Of course, it’s not for everyone. I can’t image Lego or Gillette using it effectively, for example.

But when you’re peddling a movie like The Last Exorcism 2, it seems like a pretty good way to go.

Here, the marketers of this horror-flick have made a promotional video using a two-way mirror, a freakishly flexible girl and a line-up of unsuspecting hair salon customers.

Hang in there for the ending – it’s particularly memorable.


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When the promise of your product, in this case the film, is to scare the bejesus out of people, it only makes sense to do so whenever your potential customers come into contact with it.

This is smart marketing: clever, authentic and hugely watchable.


You’ve never seen a job interview like this before

25 Feb

Job interviews

When I wrote in this recent post that successful brands wrap themselves in the brand promise from in the inside out, I could very well have been writing about Heineken.

They know who they are as a company and see absolute value in hiring people who share their vision. To that end, they’ve created the brilliant video below, which demonstrates the extent to which they will go to ensure their new hires can authentically carry the brand promise forward.

Using a hidden camera, the Dutch beer-maker subjects their interview candidates to a series of tests to separate the wheat from the barley.

There’s nothing quite like the interviewer passing out in front of nervous job seekers to see what they’re made of!


Of course, this is also a clever viral marketing campaign for Heineken, one that avoids hard-selling the product in favour of soft-selling the brand.

Wickedly smart.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

Whatever your brand promise, it needs to be lived internally if it’s to be consistently communicated externally.

Think about how your business could align your hiring procedures more closely with what you stand for as a company and what your brand personality projects.

Thanks to Carol Vincent for bringing this vid to my attention!


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