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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!


Finally, some truth in advertising

13 Feb

In the U.S. there is something called the Heart Attack Grill.

Items on the menu include this Quadruple Bypass Burger, topping in at around 8,000 calories.

Quadruple Bypass Burger

Diners who weigh over 350 lbs eat free.

Yesterday their most loyal customer, a 52-year old daily regular, dropped dead of a heart attack outside the restaurant.  The unappetizing details are here.

The owner of the restaurant was quick to head-off the obvious remarks by reminding all that this wasn’t a laughing matter. A man – a good man by all accounts – was dead.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

While I am all for truth in advertising, if your brand promise is that you will kill your customers and you deliver on that promise, you should probably be in jail, not reaping the profits from people too stupid to save themselves.

“Taste worth dying for!” Heart Attack Grill slogan


The Bay just aged you by a few decades

11 Dec

Hudson's Bay Company founded in 1670

Seniors’ Event Now On!

The Bay’s latest radio commercial invites all 55+ shoppers to enjoy a Seniors’ Discount of an additional 15% off their holiday sale prices.

It wasn’t the discount but the age that caught my ear.

I don’t know of a single 55-year old who considers him/herself senior. Heck, I’ll be there in 5 years myself.

Is this promotion likely to get 55-year olds to skip their spinning class and dash into The Bay to collect the Seniors’ Discount?

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

This campaign is really out of touch with where Canadians are physically and mentally. Sure if this was 1912, 55 might be considered senior. But increasing life expectancy and the Boomer generation’s exuberant attitude towards the second half of their lives have pushed senior status much further down the track. The Stones are rocking their 50th anniversary concert tour for pete’s sake!

If The Bay wants to show it understands its customers, I would suggest they go in the opposite direction and hold a Youth Sales Event that extends to everyone up to the age of 100.

Race ya there.

Rolling Stones 50 years

It’s alright now. In fact, it’s a gas.

Your customers want a hug. Why are you giving them your back?

10 Nov

Ignoring your customers type only

Many businesses are using the wrong criteria to justify their lack of participation in social media.

  •      I don’t have the resources
  •      I wouldn’t know what to “tweet” (accompanied by a sneer) about
  •      I don’t care how many people in Australia “like” my business
  •      I’ve waited out bigger fads than this and been fine

This type of thinking is all wrong.

Social Media is neither a fad, nor a measure of how cute you look in your photos. It’s a customer service channel, and it’s time you started thinking about it in those terms.

Consider some of the findings in this new survey commissioned by Zendesk.

>> When asked if a lack of response to a social media complaint would deter them from being a customer, 50% of the respondents said Yes.

>> It gets more interesting. Of the respondents who had actually made complaints about customer service on Twitter, 79% said they received no response.

>> And then this: 75% of the respondents whose complaints were responded to said the mere acknowledgement was sufficient.

In other words, they just want a cuddle. Are you too busy, too tired or too selfish?

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

It doesn’t really matter what you think about Twitter or Facebook, any more than it matters what you think of the telephone as a device for communication.

What matters is what your customers think, how they act, and how your business is affected by both.

If your customers are using social media, hello: What you require is not only a kick in the pants to get going, but a social media strategy, which takes into account your resources, and lays out a plan for the golden triumvirate of monitoring, responding and providing value.

Hoping social media will go away is like hoping your customer will stop complaining. They may, but it’s not much of a success strategy.

Here’s a pretty neat infographic that tells the survey story.

Zendesk infographic customers service complaints

Customer Experience Strategy: got one?

9 Nov

Vintage exploding cigars and joy buzzers illustration

The last holdouts to the push-theory of marketing are waiting for something that will not happen: their customers will never give up the ground they have gained to control the relationship through digital channels.

So what’s a business to do?

As you continue to innovate and improve the product or service you offer, you move increasingly towards customer-centricity.

This not only makes sense from a sales-model perspective, but from a competitive one as well. The experience a customer has with your brand at all your touchpoints can be a strategic differentiator. For good or bad!

But in order not to make a hash of things, you need to evaluate your customer’s experience with you. Not once, not twice, but on an ongoing basis – much as you would test your online content – to optimize the relationship.

Customer Relationship Optimization

I had never even heard this term until I just wrote it, so I did some googling: It’s out there! It makes perfect sense that this should become the next big buzz-phrase in marketing, and here’s why:

Constant evaluation of the experience your customer is having with your brand ensures you’re making the most of your opportunities and creating loyalty and advocacy, thereby extending the duration – and I would suggest, intensity – of your customer lifecycle.

Simple. Not so simple is how you do it.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

Create a Customer Experience Strategy for your company. This strategy should be built around two phases:


Evaluating your customer’s experience effectively means both research and mapping.

RESEARCH  You build customer feedback into your existing channels to encourage a steady-flow of insights about what your customer needs. For example, all your outgoing communications (email, paid media, invoices) and in-bound channels  (website, social media pages etc.) should include a survey link (Survey Monkey works nicely), asking what your customer is looking for, and how well you’re providing what they want and value. This helps you to create your gap analysis.

MAPPING  This process evaluates the journey your customer takes when she engages with your brand. It allows you to walk in her shoes and see your business from her perspective.

How does your website hold-up to a customer’s actual needs? What is the experience of interacting with your call centre? What’s the first impression of your selling environment? How do you handle complaints? What does an email from your business feel like? How quickly do you respond to social media mentions? Obviously, there’s a lot going on.

Customer experience lifecycle

If your business draws a mindmap that includes every potential interaction between the customer and your brand during the customer lifecycle – starting with researching the category (search), through investigating the product, point of purchase, post-purchase, loyalty and retention programs, all the way to advocacy – you will end up with a blueprint for a comprehensive audit of your touchpoints.

There’s much to be said for hiring an outside consultant to do this for you: they’re faster, have better processes, know what they’re doing, bring objectivity to the task and are able to deliver a suite of recommendations on the back of it. They can also cost a whack of dough.

But you can scale down the scope and do some of the lifting on your own with methods you’re already familiar with but not putting to use, like secret shopping, both online and off.


The step that closes the loop is implementing the tactics that narrow the gap between what your customer wants and needs, and what you’re delivering.

There will be quick wins out of the gate and long-term have-to-do’s. Your research should help you understand what’s urgent and what can wait.

Because this is an optimized process of gathering insight, evaluating and implementing changes, your work is never done! Such is  the life of a customer-centric business…

Ideally there will be a mindset shift within your organization towards customer-centricity. The process of implementing tactics to improve your customer’s experience is not just for the customer but also for you and your staff. Defining the required internal cultural shift could have a seismic impact on your business. You may see staff turnover, as those unable to make the leap leave, but you will also begin attracting the right sorts of people to your business.

Does it all seem too daunting? Start small with a single evaluation, such as a website audit. The agency I work with, Redbird Communications, can give you a killer audit. Then implement the recommendations. Commit to a second evaluation. Implement. And so on.

Delight your customer. Win her loyalty.

Make her the most powerful marketing tool you can have: a screaming fan for life.

Are you killing your customers with Christmas?

3 Nov

Jim Carrey as Scrooge

Successful brands focus on customer experience.

Anyone who has ever shopped the day after Halloween (and sometimes before, egads) knows that this cool logic goes out the window for two months every year.

In the pre-Christmas panic to make the numbers, many retailers foist Christmas on their customers in a very undignified, and un-seasonal, manner several months before the holiday.

Which brings us to Shoppers Drug Mart.

As a customer, I can tell you that hearing Christmas carols piping through store speakers on November 1st is a profoundly grating experience that turns me into the ultimate Scrooge. I have ranted about this in the past (albeit it in rhyming couplets!).

Lo and behold, other Shoppers customers agree. Thousands of them, according to their Facebook page.

Which is why Shoppers has bowed to public pressure and killed Jingle Bells and Good King Wenceslas until later in the year. Bravo.

Even though I enjoy, in a sporting way, shouting “Merry Christmas!” to the cashiers as I enter and leave in early November, my sense of the season is always somewhat diminished.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

Listening to your customers when they speak to you. This exercise alone should be screaming ROI OF SOCIAL MEDIA to Shoppers – and any other retail business that is paying attention.

Be proactive in asking for your customers’ opinions. Don’t sit back and wait to hear they hate something you’re doing. Use your social channels to seek regular feedback. Thar’s gold in them thar comments! (According to Shoppers, they had “no idea” Christmas music was an issue for their customers two months in advance of the holiday. You are right to ask how the effin hell that’s possible.)

To find out the appropriate time to baste their customers with Christmas, retail stores should put a up poll like this one on their Facebook pages. They get great intel, which they can use to improve customer experience, and they show they care about that. Boom.


Do you want the customer who bitches loudest?

25 Oct

Barking dog by Chadlonius

Customers have always complained to get what they want, sometimes legitimately, sometimes not. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Now there’s this study released today from UBC’s Sauder School of Business, which suggests further method to consumers’ madness.

In a nutshell, your customer will complain even more loudly when they’re at fault!

This will be especially true in areas of technology, where the customer will often pretend to understand the problem when they have absolutely no clue what’s going on. We can imagine where that will lead as staff try to explain the issue technically.

That’s fantastic learning.

A smartly trained customer-care rep should be able to identify that moment when the customer is amping up. According to the Sauder study, that could be a signal that the customer either feels his or her intelligence is being questioned, or they realize they’ve screwed up.

How important is this customer to you?

If you answered VERY, congratulations. Every customer is important, none more than an existing one. Those who bitch the loudest are especially valuable, because they are often ready to take their dissatisfaction to social media channels and their own traditional networks. Or just sit at home stewing and plotting.

So how do you turn this potential brand antagonist into a brand advocate?

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

* Your business might have strict rules and processes around handling customer complaints, but empower your staff to throw the book out the window and use their discretion and common sense when dealing with a whirling dervish. Island Savings, for example, does this. You’ll have to hire better of course, not a bad break.

* It gets messy when the shit hits the fan. Encourage staff to listen, but then quickly address the problem with a solution. Nip that rising barometer of customer angst in the bud. Don’t fight.

* Conduct a staff-training workshop specifically around the squeaky wheel. Call it: Methinks he doth protest too much. Be sure your staff know how to identify the triggers and what the immediate responses should be.

As the Sauder study points out, the customer is not always right. But let them be wrong with dignity! They’ll stay if you do.

(Angry dog illustration by this cool guy > Chadlonius)

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