Tag Archives: branding

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.

EXTERIOR SIGNAGE BEFORE/AFTERScreen Shot 2017-11-06 at 3.05.52 PM.png

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!




A good brand specialist is part snoop, part janitor

19 Feb

silhouette window cleaner

Your brand is not a logo or a look that you toss out into the market with fingers crossed. It’s your company’s promise.  It tells the world what it can expect from you on a consistent basis.

Your brand promise might be experiential. You might promise “innovation” or “simplicity” or “to treat your customers like family”. (Hopefully that doesn’t mean shouting matches at the table!)

It could be functional. You might promise to “save time” or “use less energy”.

Whatever your brand promise might be, it has to be authentic to your business offering and relevant to your customers.

Even more importantly, it has to be achievable.

Part snoop. Part janitor.

Because of that last requirement, the first place I look, when helping a business uncover its brand promise, is not at the product or service itself, but within the company. That’s where the promise lies.

It’s there in the messy desk drawers. It’s hiding under the unpaid invoices and in the smell that greets visitors to your premises. It’s in the sound of your voice when you pick up the phone and the turnaround time for managing a customer’s complaint. It’s in the clarity of your sales pitch, and in the structure and frequency of your staff meetings.

All those things tell a story about the business’s ability to deliver against its promise to the world.

There is a closet detective in every good branding specialist. And a cleaner!

In order to ensure you live up to your promise, your company needs to have its house in order, and that usually means some things have to improve.

To figure that part out, I use a process I call the Brand Evaluation, where I analyze a business against the promise it should be making to its customers. This involves asking a cross section of staff a variety of questions that challenge them to think about their business and their brand in new ways.

I ask the tough questions during these sessions and dig hard for the dirt.

I learn what sorts of promises a company can support currently, what it’s getting hung up on, and what needs to change in order to offer a different level of promise to the customer.

The DNA for the look of your brand

Once the workshop is complete, I have the groundwork for an achievable brand promise – and the DNA for the physical look and feel of your brand.

But your brand promise is not just for your customers. It should also drive internal behaviour and give a company something to measure their operations against: their internal processes and communications, their customer touch-points and the business culture.

Then you’ve got yourself an authentic, consistent and achievable brand to unleash on the world.

Bring your brand to life where it matters most

8 Feb

Incredible Hulk "fearless" at Square1

Take a long hard look at your brand and what it really stands for. Are your values just words on a page? Or does your company LIVE those brand values every day.

“We live to be innovative and unconventional and yet keep the experience simple for our customer.”

Fantastic. How do you reflect that position on a day-to-day basis away from your external marketing efforts? How do you answer your phone to underline it? How does your accounting system match up? What are you internal processes that support innovation and simplicity? That’s where the rubber hits the road.

Companies that live their brand values – and live with them – find it effortless to communicate them externally. And they get buy-in from the most important brand ambassadors they have: their employees.

Companies that wear their values on their sleeve know where they’re going and how to get there.

I watched this principle in action this week in the offices of Dallas-based Conversion Optimization agency Square1.

brand values on Square1 boardroom glass

They have listed their four key brand values (Curious, Fearless, Creative and Strategic) on the glass wall of their boardroom and each value receives epic personification in the form of a character and an associated value statement.

When you approach the front door, you are accosted by an 8-foot Hulk, who represents Fearless. That’s a big first impression.

The other 3 are placed at strategic areas throughout the office.

Hiawatha "curious" at Square1

Spiderman "creative" at Square1

Soldier "strategic" at Square1

There are tons of other dramatic and creative things going on in their workspace, including a massive combat scene in the creative department.

This is a company that is serious about its values.

How serious is your business about yours?

Creative department mural in Square1

A remarkable Victoria furniture designer gets a makeover

8 Aug

Victoria furniture designer and maker Christina HilborneMeet Christina Hilborne.

She’s talented, skilled, ethical, and a little bit nuts. Which is why we love her.

She dropped in to see us in April with an amazing portfolio of furniture she designed (talented) and built (skilled) herself, with an emphasis on sustainability in her materials (ethical) that we admired.

She had also adopted for her business the unusual name of Splintered Minx (little bit nuts) that we recognized as an opportunity for her and for us: She needed a makeover.

We’ve since spent 3 months working with this amazing woman and we are happy and thrilled to introduce her work and her new look to Victoria furniture lovers.

New company name, new logo, new website, Facebook page, sales piece….and a marketing and social media plan in the works.

People like Christina are why we dig this business.

screen shot from Christina Hilborne's website(website)


Screen shot of Christina Hilborne's Facebook page(you know…)


photo of the cover of Christina Hilborne's sales piece/catalogue

(cover of her sales piece)


photo of inside spread of Christina Hilborne's sales piece/catalogue

(inside spread)


The Copeland team comprised Michael Tension (graphic design and art direction), Asmaa Methqal (account management and digital planning), Tom Hammarberg (website design) and Lindy Philip (production goddess).

The value of one

30 May

(Guest post by Vancouver Island University MBA student Kayodé Wan.)

Kayodé Wan is also known as "brandnutter" on TwitterA while back, I had the misfortune of watching the movie, Eat Pray Love – a movie spun off a 2006 memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert, staring Julia Roberts. A misfortune because, I was coerced by my mate/host, who wanted to watch a chick flick to help deal with her insomnia. Since I was couch surfing, I had little to say about it.

While trying to keep my eyes open, and faking enthusiasm, one particular scene caught my attention.  Elizabeth, Julia Roberts’ character, is at a café with her mates, and they start this game, where one person mentions the name of a city, and another person mentions a word that aptly describes it. Paris was synonymous with romance: Rome sex, and New York ambition. Immediately, my I.M.C (Integrated Marketing Communications) cap came on: how can this concept be applied to branding?
The singular beauty of the word simple

In this day and age of information overload, brevity honestly is the soul of wit. I get a mild fit of irritation when I peruse a news article for instance, and it’s *blinking* long. You might reckon this a glaring symptom of A.D.D; and you’re probably right – I blame my twitter addiction. Now relating this to branding: can you in one word describe your brand? Or more importantly, can your target audience sum you up in one word?

Apple equals “innovation”. Louis Vuitton equals “posh”. Dana @1shelter Worberts equals “Wasabi-terminator” (my MBA classmate, who at sushi restaurants, devours lumps of wasabi with frightening ease). The bottom line here is, companies that can effectively communicate what they’re about, devoid of being garrulous, score major points: they seep through the fortified and sky-high mental walls of their audience. This is by no means an easy task; KISSING is hard (and by KISSING, I mean Keeping it short and simple).  Now let’s practice, me, Kayode Wan equals “@brandnutter”. Now your turn…

I conclude this train of thought, with a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

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