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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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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.

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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!

Abeego battles for $100,000 prize

4 Jun BDC Toni Desroisiers

BDC Toni Desroisiers

Toni Desrosiers, founder of innovative Victoria BC-based Abeego,  is a finalist in the BDC’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Abeego (also a Brand Intervention client) is the maker of the original beeswax food wrap.

One finalist was selected from each province. The winner of a public vote, which is on now until June 12, will be awarded $100,000 towards the business!

Check out the finalists and cast your vote for Toni here.

That kind of money would seriously influence her goal to wean humans off plastic cling. You can vote once a day until June 12th and follow her progress on Facebook.

Good luck Toni! And thanks for helping her.


How do you recover from the loss of your business?

29 Nov

Titanic sinking

Sometimes good brands don’t survive. It’s the law of nature.

When a brand starts to go under, it’s natural for the owner to feel a sense of personal failure. After all, they identify with their brands, infuse them with their energy, and live the business 24/7. Even when they’re not on, they’re on.

Taking advice at such a time isn’t easy. Remember the captain on the bridge in the movie Titanic? Aghast and stricken numb while his crew barked at him and passengers leapt into the waters.

The owner is the one who has to stay with the business until the cold, final plunge.

Sometimes it’s the owner’s fault. Inept management, a flawed pricing strategy, weak pipeline activity, and dozens of other potential cock-ups – all can be the responsibility of the owner.

At other times, it’s outside forces. Increased competition, the economy, deregulation of the market, insufficient working capital, loss of key staff or clients, bad bloody luck…. they all have the potential to drag a company under.

But whatever the underlying issues that set the business on its date with disaster, the owner needs to push himself off from the wreckage and focus on survival.

The lessons learned from this experience are the reward for having had to go through it. Like all lessons, they are best applied fresh.

As soon as the staff are looked after, and the lease, assets and debt issues resolved (made that seem easy didn’t I!) it’s time to plot a successful return.

You have to understand that your next business venture is Resurrection.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

  • Make a list of the lessons you’ve learned, starting with the most painful.
  • Make a second list of the things you won’t ever do again.
  • Make a third list of the people who kicked you when you were down. Hopefully it is a very short list. Memorize it and destroy it.
  • Make a fourth list of the people who stood by you and supported you through this. Keep it forever.
  • Write a description of what your ideal post-catastrophe incarnation looks like: Is it consultancy to keep your head in the game until you’re in a better space to thread the needle again? Is it a part-time job that allows you some time to regain your senses? You will no doubt have significant financial pressures, so you may need to have more than one job on the go. One of the toughest transitions for an owner who has lost his business is getting into the groove and culture of an entirely new brand. It’s like jumping from a failed marriage right into a brand new one. The shift takes time and patience from those who take you on.

Soon enough, your business sense and professional skills will find a focus. The cash will start to flow again, your confidence will return, and your thoughts will inevitably turn to the next entrepreneurial push.

Now is the time to go back and read Lists 1 & 2.

All empires fall, but the lessons live on. Be the lesson, not the empire.

Who should be driving the delivery truck?

17 Oct

Yesterday I met a local businessman who didn’t know what a blog was. He asked how you go about finding them.

He was genuinely amazed to hear that such things existed – in such numbers – although not moved to go looking for them.

Nor does he spend a moment of his life thinking about Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

But he does make a food product that is beautiful and satisfying and ethical, and his company is about to expand to new facilities for the 2nd time in 4 years.

He doesn’t care to be an expert in the message delivery channels. That’s why he was talking to a marketer.

He’s too busy creating something really stunning to deliver.

Food for thought.


5 inspiring local businesses

27 Sep

We have it pretty good here on Vancouver Island. Aside from the fact that we have the best weather in the country, natural wonders that defy adjectives and a capital city that draws raves from visitors and locals alike, we also have talent in abundance.

Fortunately for those of us living here, a lot of that talent is entrepreneurial and finds its expression in some inspiring businesses.

Here are a few that impress me, for their drive, their innovation, and their ability to live up to their brand promises.

Island Savings Credit Union (Duncan)

Island Savings waves of kindness

Most customer service-focused businesses talk a good game. Island Savings lives up to the talk in spades. This year I became a client of this Duncan-based credit union and discovered just how good and welcoming a financial institution can be. Since 1951 Island Savings has been a pivot in the communities it serves. This year they took it up another notch with their Waves of Kindness campaign and total rebrand.

Bottom Line: Tops in customer service.

Hoyne Brewing Co. (Victoria)

Dark Matter from Hoyne

Brewmaster Sean Hoyne spent 13 years building the brewery at Canoe Club before going it alone with Hoyne Brewing. The result is a breakthrough addition to an already star-studded local brewery scene. In his first 2 years, he’s gotten rave reviews and put instant classics into local shops and bellies, including The Big Bock, The Hoyne Pilsner and my personal favourite, The Dark Matter, which he describes as the elusive unseen fabric upon which our universe is embroidered.

Bottom line: Innovative products, creative packaging, user experience 🙂 

Contech Enterprises (Victoria)

Contech Enterprises products

Long before it was imperative to have environmentally-safe products for pets and pests alike, there was Contech. Among its many astonishing innovations is a Mountain Pine Beetle Repellant that uses Verbonone, a synthetic pheromone, to tell the destructive little pest that the tree it’s about to chow down on has no nutritional value. Twenty-five years into their business of “thrilling our customers with better products to build a better world”, Contech just keeps getting better. It was voted Technology Company of the Year at the 2012 VIATeC Technology awards.

Bottom line: Company values, market-leading innovations.

D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism (Victoria)

The Atrium 800 Yates St.

Photo from

With so much old architecture in Victoria, the newer buildings can tend to get over-looked. That is, until you walk into the D’Ambrosio-designed The Atrium at 800 Yates St. It’s a stunning first impression, with its elegant waves of hemlock and soaring 7,000 sq. ft. glass skylight. The Atrium is the jewel in the crown of a local architectural firm that has been creating award-winning sustainable designs for 20 years. But there’s a + to Franc D’Ambrosio’s company, which is their work in urbanism. So that intuitively-designed waterfront walkway you are on is just as likely to be from the minds of this inspiring creative collective.

Bottom line: Creative products, sustainable practices.

Wildplay Element Parks (Victoria)

Wildplay Nanaimo bungy jumper

I am not about to catapult myself over a 600-foot ravine no matter how much you try to cajole me, but for people with a less-pronounced yellow-streak, there is Wildplay Element Parks. Starting with a purchase of the Bungy Zone in Nanaimo 7 years ago, Wildplay is now exploding all across Canada, using degrees of knee-weakening thrills to introduce groups to the benefits of outdoor experiences. They’ve just opened their newest park in the Yukon, with the Wildplay staples of  aerial adventure obstacles and zip lines. Hard to imagine a more exciting business than one that makes you pee your pants and experience personal growth at the same time!

Bottom line: Brand experience, innovative products.


Which of The Walking Dead characters would you want on your business crisis team?

21 Feb

Daryl is the coolest character in The Walking Dead

Now that the TV series seems to be taking a welcome turn down a darker alley, the deeper natures of the main characters are coming to light.

Naturally that got me thinking how each would function in a crisis on your business team.

Who are the keepers and which ones should you best leave outside without a key?

Glen in IT

Glen is a survivor on The Walking DeadHe’s resourceful, ingenious and honest to a fault. But during the bar scene with Rick and Herschel – a quiet crisis that took maturity to spot – Glen was all set to give away the farm. His honesty and trusting nature would have spelled disaster for our castaways if Rick had not been there to moderate the discussion. Glen will panic. Yes he brings some interesting resources to the table, but he will bring disaster to you. Chuck him.

Rick, Managing Director

Rick is a survivor from The Walking DeadLike Glen, our Head Boy Scout is honest to the core. He is also growing a pair as the series matures. Does he make some woolly-headed decisions? He sure does. Leading those swamp zombies around like pets on a leash to appease Herschel? Poor strategy and no evidence of being quick on his feet. He wants to do the right thing and is ethical to a fault. But the business world is changing and he has finally realized he needs to change right along with it. Keep him.

Shane in Sales

Shane is a survivor from The Walking DeadAmbitious, unorthodox, disrespectful of authority (unless its his own) and a classic whack-a-doodle. He will do what no one else in your company will do to keep the business alive. He is the G. Gordon Liddy of the team. You turn him loose at your own peril. On the flip side, he will see the crisis coming while the rest of your team is playing kerplunk over chips and salsa around the boardroom table. He’s a survivor, but he will survive over your dead body. Your call.

Lori, Head of Marketing

Lori is a survivor from The Walking DeadYou can decry the lack of solid female characters until your throat is bleeding, but the smell will only attract the walkers. Lori – memorably nicked Olive Oyl by Daryl – has a big department to look after and often can’t see the forest for the trees. And she’s a mess behind the wheel. Yes, she’s loyal and has the MD’s back, but she also slept with Shane in Sales, so she’s not a pivotal person on your crisis team. Send her out to buy sandwiches. Don’t let her back in.

Dale in Accounting

Dale is a survivor in The Walking DeadHe’ll be tut-tutting everything that doesn’t line up with his own personal moral code, which makes him a bit of a negative-nelly-I-told-you-so irritant. He also has a smug satisfaction in being old school. The thing is, Dale has experience. He manages to keep his wits about him when all hell’s breaking loose and keeps his eye on the guns. He also knows a rat in the woodpile when he sees one: that kind of insight could prove useful. I say keep Dale, but keep him quiet.

Andrea, Research and Development

Andrea is a survivor in The Walking DeadShe sees that Shane in Sales is ambitious and gravitates to him as the future of the company, which has alienated others on the team. On the other hand, she is one of your superstars, growing by leaps and bounds, and crisis invigorates her. She is best utilized in a supporting role for now. Turn her loose on crisis management best practices and have her deliver a white paper to the entire team. Give her some responsibility that recognizes her forward progress – but mind her blinders when it comes to backing the wrong horse.

Daryl the general contractor

Daryl is a survivor in  The Walking DeadJust because he’s under the sink hooking up the dishwasher hose again for the hundredth time doesn’t mean he isn’t listening. Or learning. Who cares right? He’s not even on the team! He’s just some contractor who’s always there fixing things. Well pay attention to the working class guy. This redneck sees past the business bullshit to the true nature of a crisis. Is it a lack of intestinal heft on the team? Are you over-thinking the problem or over-reacting to it? Daryl’s your guy. He’s not a people person, but he’s a problem solver. He’s handy with a Bowie knife too and doesn’t suffer Shane’s ambitions. Just don’t expect him to hang around if a better job comes along.

Herschel, the Chairman

Herschel is a survivor in The Walking DeadCrisis does one of two things to people: convinces them they are not up to the task, in which case they turn to drink, or forces them to change and grow. Your old Chairman has been doing things his way for so long, it’s hard to imagine him changing at this stage. The technology scares him, he hates social media and doesn’t know what the hell you mean by cross-analyzing the data sets. But he didn’t get to where he is without entrepreneurial skills and a willingness to roll up his sleeves. Since Dale is such a wet tea bag, put Hershel front and centre on your crisis team as the voice of experience. Just make sure Daryl is standing behind him with a loaded crossbow.

Carol in Human Resources

Carol is a survivor in The Walking DeadAsk her to go outside and pick some flowers for the boardroom table. Lock the door behind her.

Ok great – the team is in place. Now throw open those boardroom doors and meet the crisis head on!

zombie hands coming through the door

(Daryl photo courtesy of

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