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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!


HTML5 video: The next big thing for websites?

24 Oct

There hasn’t been a standard for showing a video/movie on a web page.

Most videos are shown through a plug-in (like Flash). However different browsers may have different plug-ins, and we all know the issues with Flash and SEO.

That’s why the HTML5 <video> element looks set to become the next big thing.

It defines a standard for embedding a video on a website – one without a plug-in – and the results can be stunning.

This site for architectural/design firm Powerhouse Company uses the element to impressive effect. Click on the pic to watch it.

I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of this.

example of website using HTML5 video

Advancing the Parallax revolution

19 Aug Egopop website using Parallax scrolling

Last month, the branding work I did for 4 Pillars, the national debt consultancy, was brought to exuberant life on their new website, which utilizes Parallax scrolling.

The effect, in which multiple backgrounds appear to move at different speeds, creating a 3D effect, has been around video games for years. It’s quickly becoming a go-to for great websites.

For the 4 Pillars site, Las Vegas front end developer James Lai took the traditional dimensional feel of Parallax scrolling a step further with his layering of images, text blocks and video. I was thrilled with the result. The technique allowed the homepage to be clean and dramatic and yet still tell the story. Click on the image to view it and scroll down…

Parallax scrolling 4 Pillars website

This prompted hours of travel down Internet wormholes looking at cool things being done around the world using Parallax scrolling.

My current favourite is this one for web designer Aleksandar Grkinik, aka Egopop.

Egopop website using Parallax scrolling

Not only is the design of this site so gorgeous and whimsical it makes me want to blog about it, but the killer use of the Parallax technique gave me a feeling that I was experiencing something completely new on a website.

Another fave is this one for Ukrainian-born actress Anna Safronck. The homepage unexpectedly animates as you scroll down it, distracting you (only momentarily, mind you) from the photos.

Parallax scrolling website for Anna Safronck

Seen any memorable Parallax scrolling sites? Share them please!


Finding a strategic advantage for a small Victoria business

17 Jul Fastrac Print and Mail, Victoria, BC

Fastrac Print and Mail, Victoria, BCWhen I started working with Victoria-based printing and direct mail company Fastrac a few months back, I quickly realized what was missing was a clear differentiator.

Fastrac owner Greg Hawes has a great rep in the market for being a good professional, with a big heart. In other words, he does what he says he is going to do, and people like working with him.

But this is probably true of most of his competitors. With no real edge in technology or deliverables, a differentiator needed to come from a new angle. To find it, I did what I usually do. I asked a lot of questions and I listened to my client talk.

Eventually, something he said caused my antennae to perk up:

Fastrac meets their deadlines. If they tell you that the job will be ready on the 15th, it will be ready on the 15th.


All that remained was for Fastrac to put their money where their reputation was. So I proposed that they guarantee their delivery time or the printing is free.

Fastrac Print and Mail Victoria

Did this make Greg nervous? You bet it did. He wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. But he saw the other benefits that would arise from institutionalizing a guarantee:

  • It would give teeth to an operational advantage and turn it into a selling point
  • Fastrac would have to live up to the guarantee, and as a result, the scrutiny of operations would increase
  • The culture of customer-centricity that Greg has fostered would become even more pronounced
  • It would increase the perceived value of what Fastrac does, without having to change what it does
  • It would attract staff in the future who can live up to the promise

I’m pleased to share Greg’s new website with you. Mike Kirk of Stem9 (who created the Robbins Parking site as well) was the developer behind it.


Need something printed or mailed on time? As the website says, Greg’s your man.


Thanks for hanging in there while I took a bit of a break from blogging to get a whack-load of client work done!


The Brand Intervention website goes live and other funky vibes

5 Mar

I don’t know about you, but I think 2013 is shaping up to be a lot more fun than 2012. Seems like there was a lot of drama going on last year – I’m blaming the Mayans, but you can throw stones at your catalyst of choice.


What is so cool about 2013 for me already is the people I’ve gotten to collaborate with: clients, co-workers and strategic partners.

I have two of those individuals to thank for my new Brand Intervention website, which went live today.


>> Megan Louie designed and developed it, virtually overnight.

>> Neil Tran provided the stellar logo.

With my client list steadily growing, and Carol Vincent and her team keeping me on my toes at Redbird Communications, I’m going like a lizard down a waterslide.

I’m going to end this with my all-time favourite boogie for you to groove to. I’ve been truckin’ to this funky little gem (not the prettiest mental image, I admit) for nearly 40 years, but 2013 is the year that it finally makes sense to me. UH!


How to survive the end of the world in 2012

5 Dec

Monk watching tidal wave in 2012

I read this very enlightening post on B2C entitled The Future of Marketing: 46 Experts Share Their Predictions For 2012.

I suggest you take a look.

One thing that everyone can agree on is that no one agrees on anything.

The future of marketing next year is either mobile, social media, consumer data, results, apps, targeting advertising, KPI, brand control or one of several dozen other must-haves.

There is a sense of intense singularity around what you need to do next year to survive. So where does that leave you? Do everything and cover off all the bases?

The future is a snake in your sleeping bag. The instinct is to thrash around and try to kick the living crap out of the thing. But maybe it’s better to just lie still and assess.

Here at least are 4 essentials components of success in marketing in 2012. And surprise, they’re no different than 2011.

1. Ensure your website is killer. By that I mean engaging, simple to navigate and constantly updated. It is your most important selling tool, likely your first impression and the hub of all your marketing efforts.

2. Have an SEO strategy in place. Google “Marketing and advertising Victoria BC” and see what comes up first. Optimum search placement is the result of a smart SEO strategy. No point having a killer website without this one.

3. Offer a mobile-friendly website. No point having a killer website and a smart SEO strategy without one of these. Don’t have one? Drop me a note and we’ll get you one toot sweet.

4. Invest in knowing your customer better. Spend some time and some money on this because content might be king, but knowledge is power. And kings get assassinated by their snaggle-toothed lieutenants all the time.

If you’re doing all four, you can focus on growth and stop thinking about just surviving.

Good luck to your business in 2012!

Skewering the world’s last dictator

29 Nov

Out of South Africa this week comes a TV commercial for Nando’s grilled chicken restaurants – the same one that’s on the corner of Government and Pandora here in Victoria.

This cheeky, hilarious spot lampoons Zimbabwe’s iron-fisted ruler Robert Mugabe, who sits alone in his dining room at Christmas, glumly remembering the good times with his fellow dictatorial buddies, Muammar Gadaffi, Saddam Hussein, PW Botha and Idi Amin.

When you’re done chuckling, note that this is really just a traditional product and price ad – they’re actually trying to sell something. It survives repeated viewings beautifully and while only a few days old, has already chocked up 440,000+ views on YouTube.

Clearly somebody is executing an exceptional digital and PR strategy around this entertaining spot.

Check out Nando’s whimsical website too. It’s almost as much fun as the TV ad.

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