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Branding a Victoria mortgage brokerage

11 Jun

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 9.58.29 AM.png


A well-regarded young mortgage broker wants to launch his own brokerage in a crowded Victoria market. How do we make his business stand out?


Build the business around an important and under-serviced sub-audience the brokerage can legitimately specialize in:

Victoria’s mortgage specialist for First Time Home Buyers.


Research showed us that First Time Buyers, generally 20 – 29, are the fastest growing segment in the real estate market and the most likely to concede they could have gotten a better mortgage. They are on the go, rate shop on their mobile phones, and often take mortgages based on the lowest rate, which rarely serves their long-term interests.

This convinced us of some major business directions:

> The brokerage should be mobile like its audience, and do without a fixed office, meeting wherever is convenient.

> It should be about more than mortgages, but should also support and educate buyers about all aspects of the first time home purchase process.

The name flowed from there, as did the logo and responsive website (both designed by Victoria graphic designer Megan Munro.)

blog-post-mobile2.jpgScreen Shot 2016-06-11 at 10.32.11 AM.png The website offers resources and information about the first home purchase process. MobileFirst will continue to pile on the content as the business matures.


The owner realized that most first time buyers are entering a foreign world of notaries, accountants, contractors, insurance agents, lawyers and so on. So he decided to create a network of respected and like-minded professionals in these fields so his clients wouldn’t have to venture into unknown territory to find trustworthy people.

Victoria photographer Derek Ford did some ace photography of the MobileFirst team.

Jake 2.png

To help the business get some traction among rate shoppers and site visitors, a 15 page guide for First Time Buyers was created and offered by email to site visitors.

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The branding work wrapped up with business cards designed to mimic the smartphone format.

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“I chose to work with Doug as he came highly recommended from colleagues, and he did not disappoint,” commented Jake after the brand launch. “I’m truly grateful for his expertise.”

Buying your first home in Victoria? You now know who to ping!


Brand Intervention on the 5:00 news

24 Sep

Occasionally I get asked by the media to comment on a story related to advertising or branding.

This piece, which aired yesterday, was about the Vancouver Island Health Authority opting to change its name and not tell the public. Click on the pic to watch the story.

Doug Brown CTV news story

I’m sure you can imagine the confusion this might cause.

While I think the change is a positive one, the lack of an announcement is a bit of a cock-up.

A brand, like a person, has a history, an identity and core values. Some of those you can change and some you can’t – but a company should always think about its customers and bring them into the loop when rolling out something as significant as an identity change.

Otherwise you may end up on the 5:00 news.


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!


Starting the New Year off with a bang

15 Jan

I’m thrilled for my first post of the year to be an introduction to my new brand and logo.

Oh, you’ve seen Brand Intervention winking away up there in the masthead for a few months now, but I needed a really cool logo to make it official.

logo for Doug Brown's Brand Intervention

I think my friend (and graphic design genius) Neil Tran killed this.

I’ll be following this up toot sweet with a new website and refreshed blog design.

Until then, it’s back to hunting down those brands that are making a hash of things – or doing it unreasonably well – and sharing my insights about them with you here.

Bang! We’re off…


Use words to nail a perfect idea

3 Feb

In my professional bios, I always state that I am still in hot pursuit of the perfect idea. I define perfection as simplicity, beauty and absolute executional relevance to the product.

Have I ever come close? Perhaps on two occasions, both print ads. Coincidentally, they shared a theme of being type-only ads where the words tell the visual story.

I was influenced in this regard by the legendary New York graphic designer Bob Gill, who loved type-only design and applied the concept of reductum ad infinitum with relish. He removed everything from his designs except what was essential to telling the story. His United Nations lunch series invitation inspires me still.

U.N. lunch invite by Bob Gill

Bob is 80 now and his website still crackles with energy and simplicity.

I came across these word-as-image examples and recognized in them not only the excellent logo of a fellow T-CAAN agency, Vancouver’s Elevator Strategy, but a number of executions which nail my definition of the perfect idea. Most of them would make memorable animated logos.

I loved Voyeur the best. Which was your favourite?

A remarkable Victoria furniture designer gets a makeover

8 Aug

Victoria furniture designer and maker Christina HilborneMeet Christina Hilborne.

She’s talented, skilled, ethical, and a little bit nuts. Which is why we love her.

She dropped in to see us in April with an amazing portfolio of furniture she designed (talented) and built (skilled) herself, with an emphasis on sustainability in her materials (ethical) that we admired.

She had also adopted for her business the unusual name of Splintered Minx (little bit nuts) that we recognized as an opportunity for her and for us: She needed a makeover.

We’ve since spent 3 months working with this amazing woman and we are happy and thrilled to introduce her work and her new look to Victoria furniture lovers.

New company name, new logo, new website, Facebook page, sales piece….and a marketing and social media plan in the works.

People like Christina are why we dig this business.

screen shot from Christina Hilborne's website(website)


Screen shot of Christina Hilborne's Facebook page(you know…)


photo of the cover of Christina Hilborne's sales piece/catalogue

(cover of her sales piece)


photo of inside spread of Christina Hilborne's sales piece/catalogue

(inside spread)


The Copeland team comprised Michael Tension (graphic design and art direction), Asmaa Methqal (account management and digital planning), Tom Hammarberg (website design) and Lindy Philip (production goddess).

6 tips to help you find the right name for your business

18 Jul

Gone fishing postit noteOf course you want a good name for your business. There’s a lot riding on it. But coming up with a name is a lot tougher than you might think.

Simple, memorable, unique business names are getting pretty hard to come by. They’ve all been done it seems.

You toil away hour after hour scrabbling good options together only to learn that the name you just love is already being used by 117 businesses in Canada and the U.S. Back to the fish pond.

Along the way to finding the name your business will become identified with, you might bear these criteria in mind:

1. You want it to endure. No trendy name is going to sound good in five years, so if you were thinking of naming your mobile appetizer cart business There’s An App For That you may want to reconsider.

2. You want it to be memorable. Anything starting with Van Isle, or Island is not going to cut it here on Vancouver Island. Which hasn’t stopped hundreds of businesses from doing just that! It can’t be memorable unless it feels…

3. Unique. Don’t grab the name of a business you like and imitate it. Don’t default to your geographic location unless that’s your selling point. Figure out what your selling point is and try finding a name that represents that. Speedy Muffler, classic example.

4. Stick with simple. I don’t need to tell you that. But simple names are easier to write on cheques, easier to Google, easier to remember, easier to spread. They make your company’s business offering look straightforward too.

5. Tell people what you do. Most names don’t. If you have a unique offering, begin to tell that story through the name you choose.

6. Try to communicate your values or personality. Honest Ed’s in Toronto was a forerunner in this respect. Thrifty Foods here on the Island is another classic. People already know something about you before they do business with you. Of course, your business then has to live up to your own hype.

If you’re the sole proprietor of a business and looking for the most effective way to re-brand, take a good long look in the mirror before you re-name your company. We work with many businesses who create elaborate names for themselves that have little to do with any of the above criteria. And yet their real strength lies in the person who owns the place.

Two very recent examples.

Sheila Beauchemin, a busy Victoria consultant, came to us requesting some branding help. Our advice to her was to stop investing in her arbitrary company name, Western Dynasonics, and start investing in her own. She is the brand. Every ounce of her energy should be driving the reputation of her own work.


 old business card for Victoria BC consultant Sheila Beauchemin


Victoria BC business consultant Sheila Beauchemin's new brand ID

Christina Hilborne makes gorgeous high-end sustainable furniture. Like Sheila, she was hiding her strongest asset behind a name, Splintered Minx, that didn’t enhance her name recognition in the market. As a craftsperson, this would be especially important. We recommended naming her company after herself.


Furniture maker Christina Hilborne's old Brand ID


Victoria BC furniture maker Christina Hilborne's new brand IDDon’t tell people what you do, tell people what you do for them.

Many business are not built around the reputation of the owner, but on the services her or his team can deliver. With Web Conferencing Solutions (WCS), we looked to find a simpler name that delivered on what the company did in a customer-benefit sense. They weren’t really promising web conferencing solutions, but bringing people together. CommonSkys was born. (You guessed it: CommonSkies was already taken.)


 Web Conferencing Solutions old branding


CommonSkys new name and logoThe name you choose can change the fortunes of your business forever. Don’t leave it up to a committee of friends and family.

Websites for all three businesses coming right up folks.

Edit: Read Tom Hammarberg’s companion post on choosing domain names for your business

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