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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!




The condom ads that got it all wrong

29 Sep

I get what this Jontex condom campaign out of Brazil is trying to say. There is lots and lots and lots of lube on these condoms. I get that…because the logo says it.

But when I look at the creative idea, I just see the messy aftermath of a broken condom. Surely not what the advertiser wants me to think, but there you have it.

Jontex extra lubed condom ad

Jontex extra lubed condom ad

Jontex extra lubed condoms ad

On another front, I’m left wishing there was more to this campaign than one idea dressed up to look like three. Surely some creative device in addition to the Caution: Wet Floor sign could have been deployed to give more depth to the idea. Like a mop and bucket in the elevator, or plastic sheets all up the stairs.

What about a kid whipping across the kitchen floor on an inner tube? Have some fun with it!

Still says broken condom though to me. Messy business.


What does your Halloween costume tell a potential employer?

9 Aug
Bed sheet ghost costumes

What, the Elvis costumes were all sold out?

What the heck am I doing writing about Halloween costumes in August?

Blame Andrea Merson, my former colleague at Copeland. She and I got stuck into this topic today and I haven’t been able to drop it.

Andrea suggests that her approach to making a Halloween costume mirrors her approach to life. She takes on a daunting task, then finds herself alone at 3 am in the morning, still working on it but growing in confidence that she can deliver. Her ideas are very ambitious and frankly, quite whacky. But she always pulls it off.

Love it.

What does your choice of Halloween costume say about you? Do you just rush off to Walmart and buy a Superman suit off the rack? That mixes procrastination with low standards and zero imagination: you probably eat Pop-tarts for breakfast, cut and paste your work proposals and think Charlie Sheen is hilarious.

Superman costume

Well at least he isn’t wearing his WINNING T-shirt

Do you see something more ambitious and make a bee-line to Value Village to peruse the clothing racks and make-up aisles? Better. You want to make an impression. You map out goals and strategies to achieve them. You also probably grind your own espresso beans and write thank you notes longhand.

Or do you go deeper, committing yourself to a vision and sacrificing your personal time and your body to deliver? These are the people, like Andrea, who walk around with parasitic twins coming out of their heads and refrigerators on their backs. They go big. People never forget seeing a 6-foot Phillips head screwdriver arrive at their party. This is the sort of person who changes the company they work for. Or ends up in hospital!

Heidi Klum Kali costume

Heidi Klum as Kali. Wow.

I think it would be a very revealing job interview question. I know what sort of person I would hire. Wait, I did.

Not sure what it says about me that I just want to freak the shit out of people.

Cross-dressing Halloween costumer

Your blog writer dressed as a man dressed as a woman. With duct tape.

Today we are all Canadians

18 Jan

An island can be a stubbornly independent place, particularly when it’s at the far western reaches of a vast country, with a unique culture, topography and climate.

There are times when Vancouver Island – and Victoria in particular – doesn’t feel particularly Canadian. Especially when your mates in Whitehorse or St. John or Ottawa are griping about the winter.

We lose sight of the bigger community as we bask in 8 degree Januarys and stroll about the still-green parks in our shorts.

However this is not a post about winter, but about identity. Today we joined the rest of the country.

Copeland staff outside the office

It’s not Whitehorse, but it’s cold enough. Nice winter coat Jodie.

A big snow storm has proved to be the great equalizer. The schools are closed. The snow ploughs are hitting the main arteries. Vendors and home owners are hastening to their sidewalks with the shovels they haven’t used since 2010.

For a time we are Canadians again. The Canada of hockey and Tim Hortons and socks bunching up in the bottoms of your snowboots.

Here’s to the old red & white.

Particularly the white.

Canadian flag with snow

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David Bowie, song by song

Amy C. Amy Do.

Amy fall down.

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