Fans Not the Real Losers in the NHL Lockout

For the second time in five years, the players are locked out by the NHL.

Regardless of whether you side with the Millionaires or the Billionaires, the fact remains—an NHL lockout is not the way to successfully build a brand that’s in desperate need of building.

The media is constantly saying, “It’s the fans who are getting hurt.” No, it’s not. Fans have found new ways to entertain themselves. The only thing that is getting hurt in this lockout is the NHL brand (and of course all of the workers who rely on the NHL for a salary).

Of course the NHL will always be #1 in Canada. But in the coveted US market, the NHL is as irrelevant as Cricket. Sure I am over-dramatizing a bit, but Hockey follows far behind the NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, College Football, College Basketball, and the UFC.

After seven years of record revenues and seven different Stanley Cup champions, an exciting and easy-to-market product with thrilling action and competitive parity, one would think the NHL should be on the rise. Instead, the league is taking a giant leap backward. At the time of this post, the NHL has lost 1,698 games to labour disputes since 1992. If you’re into statistics, that’s more than the other three major sports leagues combined. The MLB has lost 938 games. The NBA has lost 504. The NFL has lost zero.

If the NHL is trying to grow the brand in the US, it takes serious investment and unwavering commitment to build a relationship with customers. Cancelling games and fighting about how much everyone gets paid is not the way to grow.

Will the NHL recover from the lockout in the US? Only time will tell.

As for solving the financial dispute…

I believe the lockout comes down to one very simple premise: we want rules in place that will force the owners to stop paying the players obscene amounts of money.

And to that, I have a solution. Why don’t the owners offer the players way more than what they’re asking for in merchandising, but pay them way less in salaries? Forget the measly 47-49% of merchandise the owners are offering right now. And forget the 57% that the players are demanding. Give them 70%, heck even 75%. Merchandise is the only place where players actually earn their money and can continue to earn their money well after their careers are over. The most popular players can still make their millions and the average player can still get a pretty decent cut of the pie as well. The best part is this remuneration strategy puts the ownness on the players to try harder, play better, score more…do whatever it takes to build their personal brands and get the fans to like them and buy stuff with their name on it.

In regards to salaries, I believe there isn’t an athlete in the world that is worthy of a million dollar plus salary. They’re not saving lives. They’re not making the world a better place. They’re playing hockey. They’re entertaining us. That’s it. And with that in mind, I propose that the lowest paid players should make no less than $500,000—still an awesome salary compared to the rest of us; and the highest paid players should make no more than $1M.

Top 10 Business Resolutions for 2013

With 2012 drawing to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on your company’s progress over the past year and to plan it’s growth for the upcoming year. Do you want clarity? Focus? Better culture? Increased success? These top 10 business resolutions are designed to help you continue to grow and put your best brand forward.

1. I will live my brand vision and values every day.

And if I don’t have a brand vision—one that is jargon-free, easy to recite, and clearly defines what we stand for and why we’re in business, or values that communicate how we should act—I’ll make it my top priority to create them.

2. I will craft bold strategies.

Recalling the words of Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Porter: “Strategy is about choices and trade-offs. It’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”

3. I will execute my strategies with discipline, courage, and passion.

Because if I don’t have discipline, courage or passion, why bother at all?

4. I will set clear objectives and measure the results diligently.

All things which get measured, get managed. If I want to achieve my company goals, I need objectives and a process for measuring their effectiveness.

5. I will manage my brand as a complete experience.

An experience guided by knowing “what we do” always trumps “what we say.”

6. I will treat my customers with the respect they deserve.

My customers are not data points nor a means to reaching sales goals. They are people. In addition, I will extend the same respect to co-workers, vendors, colleagues, and every person whom I come into contact with.

7. I will learn more about my brand.

Including how to communicate it and how to deliver the best possible customer experience. When making any decision, I will choose long-term over short-term, and substance over style.

8. I will read more.

There’s nothing quite like reading a good business book to spark new ideas or to help refine old ones. Whether it’s a hard copy or an ebook, making the effort to better myself through reading will revitalize my mind and my business.

9. I will communicate better and lead more effectively.

Employees and colleagues are not mind readers. They don’t always know what I’m thinking; therefore, it’s my job to properly communicate my expectations and goals. Once communicated, it’s my duty to coach and encourage, not to assume, ignore or intimidate.

10. I will use my brand to improve people’s lives.

And if my company cannot directly improve lives I will find another way. There are many worthy organizations that make a difference in my community. I will find a cause that matters to me and I will give what I can. 2013 will be the year I sponsor a charity event, serve on a committee, volunteer, or make financial donations to the groups that make my community a better place.

Building a strong brand is like maintaining a good relationship; you have to continually work at it.

If you apply these New Year’s resolutions to your business strategy, you are guaranteed to grow; and growth is the true measure of success.

The Best Rebrands of 2012

Last week I discussed what were in my opinion the five worst rebrands of 2012. The major theme running through these fragmented, incomplete messes was the fact that they were not rebrands, rather incoherent logo redesigns called “rebrands.”

This week I’m looking at the three best rebrands of 2012.

Leaders in their respective industries, each company appears to have prioritized strategy by going through the complete rebranding exercise—including redefining their market position to guide their customers’ beliefs, and executing a complete and interconnected brand strategy.

Winner: Cheer – Stay Colourful

Cheer Laundry Detergent has been a leading North American detergent brand since it launched 60 years ago. Well-established as a brand made for coloured clothes, its relevance in the marketplace had faded in recent years.

After analyzing its category, Cheer discovered that none of its competitors were speaking to Gen-Y, an untapped market doing laundry for themselves and their families for the first time.

Looking forward, Cheer dove head-first into the Millennials’ world, which led it to completely redefine its position. Cheer = Colour. No longer is Cheer average and expected. Now, Cheer is alive, vibrant, expressive, and digitized. Cheer now exists as a living, breathing entity with a kinetic design system that connects with young adults in surprising and unexpected ways.

This system manifests itself through an updated identity, changing patterns, and an arresting midnight blue package that practically jumps off shelf. The brand that IS colour, now is able to make a meaningful connection with the right consumer—the colourful Millennial.

Runner Up: Avignonesi – Genuineness

Avignonesi is a well-known wine brand from the Montepulciano estate in Tuscany, Italy. Their Vin Santo is one of the most famous wines in Italy. Despite its popularity, the vinyard was beginning to look tired and dated, and it wasn’t well positioned in the marketplace. It was a vinyard, much like other vinyards.

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After Belgian businesswoman Virginie Saverys purchased the estate, she completely reorganized and rethought Avignonesi, turning it into a biodynamics-driven vineyard, which significantly raised the quality of all the wines. She wanted her ideas on reading and respecting the “genuineness” of the Montepulciano territory of Italy to shine through in all Avignonesi communications.

After its repositioning, Avignonesi determined “genuineness” guided by its “honesty and respect for the land” would be the central idea through all its communications. Underlining the concept is that Avignonesi is a wine that will give great rewards to those who are willing to invest themselves (producers as well as wine lovers).

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After updating its identity, the concepts were translated into a brand book as well as a range of communication materials including new stationery, wine labels, packaging, barrel identification, website, mobile devices, to name a few.

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The new wines in their totally revised packaging were very well-received by wholesalers, selling out quickly. The brand story—with its focus on respect for the land—is clearly understood and appreciated by wine lovers worldwide.

Second Runner Up: Cisco – The Human Network

Cisco Systems takes third place mainly for the sheer magnitude and scope of its rebranding challenge. Another reason it made my top three was because it didn’t simply change its logo and call it a rebrand like Arby’s or Microsoft did. In fact, it never changed its logo at all.

Founded in 1984, Cisco has grown to become the world’s leading provider of networking technology selling everything from hardware to software, and servicing businesses of all sizes, including governments, service providers, and consumers.

When a company expands to Cisco’s size, how does the brand remain personal and relevant to a diverse worldwide audience, across all media, and connect with authority and authenticity to its customers?As you can see from its old corporate image, Cisco was about as bland as they come. From its tired stock photography and lifeless print materials (above) to its bland website and mind-numbing software interfaces (below)—everything was cold, cliche, and impersonal.

With competition rapidly increasing in its category, Cisco needed to redefine itself and present a differentiated and unified brand experience.

After an extensive brand audit, Cisco distilled its mission, “to change the way we work, live, play, and learn.” The redefined mission, was then strengthened by its core positioning concept referred to as, the ‘Human Network.’ The new concept incorporates its tech services, differentiates it from the other ‘robotic networks,’ reflects its culture of innovation, inspiration and thought leadership, and provides the company with a much more flexible and approachable platform to build from.

Moving into the brand experience, the company’s new design system accommodated a broad and diverse spectrum of bright colours and authentic imagery across all customer “touch points.” While the end result from the creative perspective isn’t the most ultra-inspiring, from a strategic perspective Cisco now has a guideline of brand assets that allow for maximum creativity of every marketing communications and product design effort so it can stand out and fit in simultaneously.

The rebrand influenced the re-architecting of its corporate website, social media practices, design of the employee workplace, and ad campaigns.

Brand standards were also adopted by its user experience teams in the development of its hardware and software products. The image below demonstrates a much more colourful and inviting user experience.

Cisco has raised its consciousness of brand alignment and the power of delivering business value in the customer experience. And for that, you get my slow clap Cisco. Congratulations on an extremely difficult job done well.

What do you think?

Did I get it right? Or was there another rebranding effort in 2012 that stood out among the rest?
Feel free to send me your insights and opinions.

Content and image sources: http://www.rebrand.com/, http://www.brandingmagazine.com/

The Importance of Brand Colours

Colour. It’s arguably the most important component of a strong and easy to recognize brand identity.

Without colour, brands wouldn’t exist in our minds quite the same way.

What if we were to change the colours of a few of the world’s most recognized brands? How do your impressions change? Does Starbucks look like an calming place for coffee and conversation? Does Google appear stronger or weaker? Are you more, or less confident in Apple?

Choosing the right brand colours often goes unnoticed, but with colour affecting over 60% of the consumer’s purchasing decision, choosing the wrong brand colours can literally make or break a company’s success.

So, what do colours say about your brand?

California-based market research company, Marketo teamed up with design studio, Column Five to create a stunning and enlightening infographic on the importance and meaning of colour. I have redesigned and adapted this infographic for Canadian use below.

Reinforcing Brand Through Interior Design

Retail brands like Apple get it.

Hospitality brands like Hudsons Canadian Taphouse get it.

Arts and culture-focused brands like the AGA get it.

But interior design is an often overlooked aspect of reinforcing brand in both the corporate and professional environments.

This company clearly doesn’t get it.

How would you feel about walking into this disaster every morning?

What is branding through interior design?

Branding through interior design, (also known as the branded environment) is the process of transforming an office environment into a three-dimensional embodiment of a brand. One that instantly reinforces a company’s position, communicates its identity, unifies its culture, and delivers the brand experience to customers.

Does your office design energize your staff? Strengthen your brand? Reinforce your position?

By integrating your brand strategy into the interior design process, you can create an office environment that helps employees, customers, and business associates better understand your company’s mission, vision, and values.

What’s included in a branded environment?

A branded environment is devised of components such as architecture, layouts, finishing materials, lighting, environmental graphics, way-finding devices, signage, and décor elements that reflect and reinforce the personality of a business. It also extends beyond the office space to how a company designs and decorates its spaces at trade shows and hosted events.

All of these elements work together to create a physical and sensory relationship with the customer. When implemented correctly the interior design communicates your brand’s message and it lets people touch, explore, and engage with your brand in the physical space. Your branded environment enables your brand to be experienced beyond print, web, advertisements, and television.

Why is the “experience” important? What are the benefits of branding your environment?

The benefits of a branding your environment are many. Internally, better environmental design leads to happier staff. Happier staff generally means higher retention rates, increased productivity, and a better understanding of your organization’s mission, vision and values.

Moving outward, this leads to improved position and communication, better customer recognition, differentiation from competitors, and higher perceived value from your customers, investors, partners, and the media.

What does a space like this say about Lego‘s culture?

Who should be involved in the interior design process?

Designing your branded environment should not be taken lightly. The process should be led by a Registered Interior Designer (RID) who is a member of the Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). A seasoned professional will know what questions to ask, how best to reorganize your space, work within your budget, and source the proper materials and contractors to bring your space to life.

The process should also include a multi-disciplinary team of strategic consultants including a brand strategist as well as your marketing, communications, and graphic design team.

Unsure of how to select an interior designer to help you with your new space?

Aside from your budget and timeline, the most important things to consider are the designers’ qualifications and portfolio.

Kelowna-based Hatch Interior Design provides a great “how to” guide breaking the process down from start to finish. Hatch is LEED ID+C accredited, NCIQD qualified, and run by an amazingly talented, chic, fun, and cool duo. Another thing that makes Hatch extra special is their exclusive focus on sustainable interior design.

Don’t forget the exterior.

Just as important as your interior is the exterior of your space. Unfortunately many businesses don’t have a choice in this matter, for example, companies situated in malls, high-rises, etc. But for those companies that do have a choice, Edmonton-based architectural firm Ziola New Studio is an excellent company. Like Hatch, it too focuses on sustainable design, but for both the interior and the exterior. Ziola is the firm responsible for the ridiculously cool design of the clubhouse at the Jack Nicklaus Northern Bear Golf Club.

Timing, Luck & Love

Over the years I have met many business owners with ground-breaking ideas, cutting-edge technology, knowledge, skills—you name it, they had it all. And for whatever reason their businesses never took off.

On the other hand, I have also met business owners who had very little knowledge of what they were getting into, they didn’t have any revolutionary ideas or products, and they either met the right person at the right time, or a sudden shift in the market created a demand for their product or service.

There are many factors to becoming successful other than you simply ‘being awesome.’

Sure it takes a tight brand strategy, and yes, it takes vision and skill; but sometimes it comes down to timing, a little bit of luck, and a whole lotta love.

So if timing and luck play a role in success, how does one beat the odds?

I believe that it’s a willingness to put in the time. And time is a tough thing to give when we’re groomed from a young age to be instantly gratified.

Why do you need to put in the time? Because you never know what tomorrow will hold. Tomorrow you might meet the right person. Tomorrow the market might suddenly shift. Refusing to give up on your dream means that you take control and you leave less of your destiny up to chance.

When you wake up every morning the question should always be “Am I willing to put in the time?”

If you can answer “Yes,” then I believe you are well on your way to achieving your dream.

This may sound easy, but what happens if business doesn’t skyrocket as fast as you had planned? What happens if you aren’t making the money you thought you would and you have a mortgage, a car loan, and groceries to pay for? When it seems like nothing is going your way, are you willing to persevere and keep driving forward?

One thing that you aren’t going to learn in university/college is adversity.

You have to train yourself not to be stopped by anything. If you let one thing stop you, you’ll let anything stop you. When I first started Urban Jungle I had to take on a 2nd job just to make ends meet. I even had to sell my car and put up my house as collateral.

What are you willing to do?

I am a firm believer that your level of commitment will dictate your success. Committing to your success means that you will do everything in your power to make it happen. This means doing whatever it takes; no excuses, no ifs, no buts, no maybes. Failure is not an option.

Plus, your commitment to success needs to feel empowering not daunting. Business should feel more like a challenging game of poker and less like digging a ditch.

Burn the Boats.

Around 200 BC, Xiang Yu, a great Chinese warlord faced a situation, which made it necessary for him to make a decision that would ensure his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men greatly outnumbered his own.

He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy’s country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave the order to “burn the boats” that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, “You see the boats going up in flames? That means we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! You have one choice. Win. Or perish!”

They won.

“Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to burn their boats and cut all sources of retreat. Only by so doing can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as the BURNING DESIRE TO WIN, essential to success.” – Napoleon Hill

Committing means to devote yourself unreservedly and work smart.

Are you willing to put in an 18-hour day?
Are you willing to sacrifice seeing your family and friends?
Are you willing to put your house on the line and risk all your savings with no guarantee of return?

I’m not saying that you will ever have to do any of these things. You may never have to work an 18 hour day and you may never have to put up your house as collateral. But that’s not the point. The point is, are you willing to?

If you are willing to, then it means you’ve increased your odds. Tomorrow just might be the day.

Cool Brands Do Video. Do You?

We’ve all seen amazing promotional marketing videos before. Whether they’re funny, inspiring, shocking, or heart felt, some companies do video exceptionally well. They tell great stories and as a result they connect us with their brands in ways others cannot.

Traditionally only mega-brands and companies with insane ad budgets could do video and reach a reasonably sized audience over TV. However, with companies like YouTube and Vimeo completely dominating the online video scene over the last few years, the playing field has been leveled. Now anyone can produce a relatively inexpensive video and instantly reach their audience in a new and engaging way.

So, the question remains, with video being one of the best types of marketing pieces you can have in your arsenal, is your business getting in on the action? If not, you should be.

Here are three reasons why you need to start doing video yesterday.

1. Your competitors aren’t.


Cool brands do video because their competition doesn’t. Have a look right now. Go to your competitors’ websites and see what they’re doing. Chances are their sites are 1-dimensional. Text, text, and more text. Sure they have photos, (and perhaps they’re even professionally shot photos); however, they probably don’t have video. This means their website still isn’t a priority, which also means they’re likely still committed to killing forests to reach their dying audience.

Check out this video Edmonton-based law firm, Bishop & McKenzie developed for their website. While other law firms are still trying to figure web out, B&M is already moving ahead with a series of great, inspirational videos that tell the story of the firm and why articling students or clients should choose them over the rest. Brilliant.

Consider this your intervention.

Today is another day you could have had the opportunity to stand out and show all of your customers why you are different and better than your competitors. Which leads me to my next point. Positioning.

2. Position your company in 30 seconds or less.


Cool brands do video to stand out. Quickly. They know the quickest and easiest method to position their brand and get their marketing message out there is through video. Let’s face it. People don’t have time to dig. You have less than 10 seconds to impress your audience or they’ve left to find someone who can. Once you have a clearly defined image that embodies your brand; things like personality, promise, and identity; and once you know how you want people to experience your brand, video is one of the best ways to communicate your key messages and stand out among the masses.

The following is a video developed by Amplomedia for an Edmonton organization, Live Local describing its local food delivering services.

3. Diversify your content.


Cool brands do video because they understand their audience. They know their customers are tired of reading type and they’re begging for something more. Video is much more dynamic than text; so, rather than just read about your business, your audience can hear and see what you are all about. Video helps you appeal to more people, because many people prefer to watch than read. Making videos to diversify your content shows your customers that you’re well-rounded, you’re fun, and you care. Simply put, video is better marketing.

Here’s a beautiful video promoting the RunWild Marathon, Alberta’s fastest growing, family-focused road race. RunWild believes in the power of video, and so do RunWilders. In only 2 years RunWild has ranked as a Top 10 Event by Canadian Running Magazine and it’s already the fourth largest race in Alberta.

What’s the biggest reason not to do video?

To “go viral.”

Sure, when a company’s video goes viral, their exposure increases dramatically. Just ask anyone who’s had their video promoted by Ellen or Jimmy Kimmel. The statistics are staggering. Viral videos launch nobodies into the stratosphere.

Unfortunately your odds of becoming viral are much worse than winning at the craps tables at the Bellagio. Chances are you’re video will not hit 1,000,000 on YouTube. It probably won’t even hit 10,000. So the point of doing video shouldn’t be to attain Bieber status. It should be to convert qualified viewers into superfans. Would you rather have millions of views and be a celebrity or would you rather have 100 views with 10% becoming solid marketing leads and potential promoters of your company?

How to make video work for you.

We all know why the cool brands do video, but how do they do it?

Careful planning and expert execution are key. A marketing video shouldn’t just be something you do on your own or throw together in a hurry. Instead, get resourceful and work with a local production company to create a stunning high-quality, professionally made video.

If you’re in Edmonton, look to award winning video rockstars, Lindisfarne Productions. Lindisfarne was the company responsible for creating the RunWild video above, as well as this beautiful video for the Warner Hockey School, which shows how hockey literally saved the town of Warner.

If you’re out on the west coast, give RF Productions a call. RF is known as being one of the very few companies that create and deliver insanely cool and HD quality video on the same day. Yes, that’s right. Same day. It’s called a “Same Day Edit” or SDE, and RF completely kills it when it comes to SDE’s. Check out this video below they produced for Pinkberry Canada showcasing the grand opening of Canada’s first Pinkberry location.

The bottom line.


Get creative, and use video to your advantage. Whether it’s to entertain, demonstrate a product, answer FAQs, introduce employees, or show footage of a special event, make sure your vids are of something people will want to see

All the cool brands are doing it. What are you waiting for?

Culture Club: Are You Admired For Your Corporate Culture?

When asked, I define corporate culture as the blend of human psychology, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours within the workplace. Every company is different and the culture cocktail can result in an inspiring utopia, a depressing nightmare, and everything in between.

A company’s culture can build crazy momentum, or miserable stagnation. A strong culture flourishes with its clear set of values that actively guide the way a company operates. Employees are passionately engaged in the business as they self-govern from a sense of confidence and empowerment rather than left to navigate their days through miserably extensive procedures, policies, and mind-numbing bureaucracy.

Your brand is the single most important asset to differentiate your company consistently over time, and corporate culture is one of the most important elements in building your brand. As such, culture needs to be nurtured, evolved, and invigorated by the people entrusted to keep it true and alive.

With HR experts forecasting a people crunch similar to what Alberta dealt with in 2007-2009, one can only assume that culture will play an even more important role in companies successes.

Organizations are literally going to thrive or dive by the culture they’re creating today.

What does the future of your company look like?