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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.

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!


Please be brave to change

28 Apr

Zazie surreal landscape illustration

I had just completed a straightforward upload for the latest version of Camera360 on my smartphone – an app I really use and enjoy – when the following message from the developer popped up:

Please be brave to change.

Love this. It acknowledges that loyal customers don’t want change. They want the business and the product to stay exactly the same, only get better.

We all know how it feels to land on our favourite website or open a heavily-used app and discover everything’s new. It’s frustrating and it distances us from the brand.

Bringing customers into the process and asking them to take a leap of faith is smart marketing. It humanizes the business. It brings the customer closer.

Of course, the change has to ultimately be better for the customer or all the sweet messages in the world won’t save the business from their wrath!

Hey Camera360 guys – nice win. Your app is now WAY better and the launch of it gets a thumbs up from me.

Google user ratings for Camera360(Cool top image by Zazie here)

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)

Social Media is the new heroin

29 Jul

Social Media addiction syringe

Here is a stunning article on the impact all our social media activity is having on our mental and physical health.

Six thoughts really stood out for me:

  • Our social roots are becoming broader but shallower
  • Our social media activity is entrapping us by making us needy for response to whatever we post
  • Our self-presentation is wholly contrived
  • We are becoming increasingly isolated, anti-social and lonely
  • Social media mobile apps are pushing our use of mobile devices to unhealthy levels
  • It is all entirely addictive

I agree with these points but want to counter-weight them with some benefits to the use of the platforms:

  • We are exposed to a vast amount of good thinking (like The Atlantic article for example).
  • If we are so disposed, we can meet many new people. Without social media I would likely never have met new friends like Russel Lolacher, Yukari Peerless, Simon Salt and Amy Severson, among others.
  • We can build our reputations. Although with so much pushing of content, it’s debatable how many people are actually listening.

Of course heroin addicts will go on about how mind-blowing chasing the dragon is, whilst being wholly unable to admit to the degree of the habit or the damage done.

How’s your habit?

Will ad agencies be able to weather the mother of all storms?

24 Jun

dramatic storm clouds

Should ad agencies be worried that even their own staff think they’re not particularly creative places to work?

More to the point, these same staff nominate their clients as the most creative companies.

American advertising giant Deutsch has released an alarming – but perhaps not wholly surprising – report on their own survey of 1,500 people from the biz and it predicts more rough weather for the industry.

Among the findings, this one stood out:

Deutsch ad agency research graphic on who is creativeThe impact for agencies is significant in several ways.

Tangible: We will be challenged to attract and keep good people. In the past, being able to work at a company that dripped creative juices kept top-tier talent in place. When employees felt the need for change, they invariably headed off to another agency, either for greater creative freedom or the cash. Now, the bigger creative opportunities may seem to be with the clients rather than the agencies. And we all know who has the cash these days.

Where are young people coming into the business going to make of this?

Intangible: Ad agencies will lose more of their swagger. Mad Men is all fine and good, but the brazen strut and obscene spending days are long gone. In their place are lean shops with tight fiscal control and multi-tasking employees. Media commissions are gone, competition is fierce and the office bar is shuttered. One might reasonably consider what the reputation of ad agencies will actually be in another 5 years.

Tangible: As clients get more creative, agencies become more redundant. If companies like Google are hiring away ad agency staff and building their own marketing empires internally, what need of ad agencies at all? To act as incubators for creative talents? To be the Google farm team?

Intangible: We will lose our cultural influence. Traditional media is where agencies have shone. With ad spend in print and broadcast down, and the big ideas happening in strategy rather than execution (by example, location-based and hyper-marketing), will we have anything to brag about at parties anymore? (“Did you catch the smart ad that referenced the content in your email?!”)

Here are some possible ways forward:

Embrace our role as experts in consumer behaviour. That’s the high value work that businesses want. They know the landscape has completely changed in the past 5 years and they are scrambling to adapt to a super-powered consumer. They could well turn around and build their own internal research departments, but they are focused on process, product and service developments, and digital and mobile shifts in their business. So it’s high time agencies owned this loud and proud. Our strength is our understanding of the way consumers think, feel and act. Businesses are business-centric. Agencies must be consumer-centric.

Build niche expertise. There are myriad businesses out there that aren’t huge and can’t create their own marketing departments. Many have niche products that are aimed at niche markets. Agencies that abandon the generalist “full-service for all types of businesses” position and instead become experts in a particular vertical will attract those companies.

logo redbird communications victoria bcBy example, Redbird here in Victoria has adopted a strategic direction of raising awareness and changing behaviour. This niche position means they won’t be just another do-it-all agency in the deck for potential clients to shuffle through when they’re hunting for marketing and advertising support. Expertise will bring some of that swagger back.

Stop calling ourselves ad agencies. We barely even do ads anymore. Instead we help create experiences between businesses and consumers (yes, it can go both ways). That could be by offering up insight about the in-store environment, by repositioning the brand to own a more profitable and engaged area, by aligning the internal sales and marketing processes so that the customer has a more consistent brand experience.

It could mean asking the consumer what they value, or figuring out how to get a crowd to show-up at a particular time for a product launch using mobile technology. The list is endless.

We are doing these things already. Sometimes we even write ads.

But calling ourselves ad agencies suggests that it’s business as usual. In the industry, we’ve known that hasn’t been the case for several years and have been spinning a revised version of ourselves back into the market. What the Deutsch research has made clear is that even agency employees aren’t buying it anymore. That’s the mother of all crises right there.

Batten down the hatches.

Find out how potent the local grass is

22 Jun

daisies growing in the grass with blue sky background

I would argue that we’re more disposed to get closer to a company when it proves itself useful to us without pushing its product down our throats.

More and more, businesses are seeing the value of utility, and recognizing the social sharing potential in that.

Here’s a great example: Claritin has an app for allergy sufferers that alerts you to changes in the pollen count on your mobile device or tablet.

Claritin Pollen Alert app on mobile devices

If you suffer from seasonal allergies – as I do – then finding out which pollen counts are up can be very helpful. If grass is high, I’m in trouble.

The Claritin Pollen Alert, which is location-based, shows pollen obnoxiousness in real-time. Today, for example, the pollen count is at the maximum. The chief pests are grass and evergreen trees, with a sprinkling of sorrel and dock (weeds).

That will explain why I have an electric toothbrush in my ear.

What’s the value in knowing? Well, when I see the count is high in the morning, and that my particular allergens are flagged, I know it’s going to be a bad day. I double-dose my Claritin right out of the gate, rather than have my histamine go into production overdrive after being outside for a few hours and have to scramble to get it to settle down.

That’s helpful. And now I’ve shared it.

Nice work Claritin.

Moblesse oblige

21 May

Mobility rules. Everyone has a device these days. But are we really ready for a mobile world?

Well we are, but they are not.

Our devices are consumptive. Time was you would take a book on a long journey. But now you have your smartphone or tablet, so your options are different and endless.

But there’s the rub.

What our devices are really consuming is electricity. They crave it like vampires do human blood and zombies, living flesh. They devour power.

electrical outlet face

You would think, therefore, that the first thing airports and train stations and ferry terminals would do (you know, those places where we spend so much of our valuable, non-renewable time) is retrofit their waiting rooms with sufficient electrical outlets, so you could charge up your device and get lost in a movie or a book, rather than run out of juice and spend half your time hunting the damn outlets down, and the other half impatiently waiting your turn to use them. Because there are only two…for hundreds of people.

Sideways winky happy face snarl.

I’m sure there’s a very logical reason why they won’t give it up.

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