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Rebranding Fort Street Cycle

20 Jul
Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 4.47.05 PM.png

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!





Branding a Victoria mortgage brokerage

11 Jun

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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!


10 Apr

I’ve often commented on the work coming out of St. Bernadine Mission in Vancouver because it’s so consistently offbeat and smart.

This one for client Dog & Hydrant, a store that sells stuff for dogs, takes the biscuit though.

The ad agency soaked some sticks in beef juice, attached a little sales message to them, and then left them on the outskirts of dog parks for Max or Molly to bring home to Master.

advertising for dogs by St. Bernadine Mission

Stickvertising by St. Bernadine Mission

Stickvertising? Sniffvertising? Whatever you call it, I wish I’d thought of it.

Are you a monster?

9 Apr

Redbird, where I spend many productive hours every week, focuses on raising awareness and changing behaviour.

I’ve learned that when you’re trying to change the way people think and act, you have to get past their filters. Personal relevance is a good start. Provide them with insight into their own behaviour and its consequences.

It helps (quite a lot actually) if the vehicle for delivering this insight is as beautifully conceived and executed as this chilling spot from Fragile Childhood, a not-for-profit that’s been raising awareness and changing behaviour in Finland since 1986.


There are so many good things going on here – the craftsmanship is very high. The sound is nice and creepy. There’s a fantastic bit of acting from the boy at the end. Santa Claus and a bunny? Genius. What kid doesn’t love and trust a bunny?

But for all that, will it work? Will it slip past the filters of parents who drink too much and prompt them to ask the important question: Am I monster to my child?

Thanks to Kristen at Aasman Brand Strategy in Whitehorse for bringing this spot to my attention on the Aasman blog – which has tons of other good posts on advertising and marketing.


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.

Opportunities abound for those who think fast and act faster

5 Feb
Margaret Thatcher leaving office for the last time

Mrs T calls it quits after Conservative party mutiny.


In 1990, after 11 years of iron-fisted rule as Britain’s PM, Margaret Thatcher was challenged within the Conservative party for the leadership. Her political capital all but spent, she failed to win her first-ballot nomination outright, and so bowed out of the race and the Prime Minister’s office.

A few hours after the announcement, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong carried a full-page ad for Nescafe Instant Coffee (that’s how we rolled back then folks). There was a pack shot plus a big headline that read:

“At least there’s one thing that won’t leave a bitter taste in her mouth.”

It generated Nescafe, and our ad agency, mountains of buzz.

We had the idea the day before the vote, and had to have to 2 ads ready, one in anticipation of her actually winning. It was a big spend for the client and an exciting night.

The marketing minds at Oreo demonstrated a similar clear-headed attention to their surroundings on Sunday when they tweeted this during the Super Bowl blackout.

Black out superbowl tweet from Oreo

Clicking on the link took you to this image.

Oreo's blackout  ad

I love how fast they reacted and responded.  There was no way to plan for the blackout, so this ad was no doubt in the can already. But someone, somewhere had the antennae up and jumped at this opportunity.

This is advertising at its best: fast on your feet, opportunistic, relevant.

What did the tweet cost? Relatively nothing. And the return on that investment was incalculable attention during a moment when everyone was, like a San Francisco receiver, wide open.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

Put Opportunism on your business’s Monday morning agenda and remind everyone in your company that anyone can come up with the big idea that links what you do with what’s going on outside.

If you’re not looking for it, you’re going to miss it.

With an instant gratification platform like Twitter, your fun idea can generate buzz as fast as you can come up with it.

There are dangers here too, but that’s for the next post!


(Mrs. Thatcher image courtesy The Telegraph)

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

3 Dec

Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem

Travelodge, the world-wide hotel chain, is using a novel approach to drumming up business over the holidays in the U.K.

They are giving away free room nights on Christmas Eve to any couple named Mary and Joseph. Travelodge is even offering free parking for your donkey.

According to a spokesperson, the promotion is an attempt to right the failure of the hotel industry  to offer a room to the parents of Jesus 2,000 years ago.

Is this a good marketing strategy?

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

‘Course it is. It’s respectful, smart and just cheeky enough to be fun.

Getting religion and advertising comfortable in the same manger is always a tough balancing act. The paper-thin skin of the devoted is easily ignited. This campaign seems to have figured out where the lines are.

Sleep in heavenly peace.


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