Branding Firm Announces Grades for Alberta Political Parties, 2012 Alberta Election

For Immediate Release:

Edmonton, AB, April 19, 2012 — With the 2012 Alberta Election campaign now in its final week, effective communication of party platforms and beliefs is at its most critical point. Specialist brand marketing firm Urban Jungle has evaluated the top five political parties and provided a grade based on their ability to communicate a clear mission, position and platform, level of engagement with citizens, and overall visual presentation.

“As a branding professional, I’m very interested in what political parties are doing to effectively position themselves, especially come election time. And as a voter, I know many Albertans don’t have a lot of time on their hands to read through the content on party websites or watch hours of debate. With that in mind, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to determine how well Alberta’s political parties communicate with Albertans in one minute or less,” said Urban Jungle founder, Craig Blackburn.

The results were more interesting than Blackburn expected. As he explains, the lack of attention to detail in party brand strategies may be a reason why the quick-starting Alberta Party has appeared to have fallen off the radar, and why the Conservatives have allegedly given up ground.

“A few of the important questions I ask when it relates to party branding are: Do we know how one party is different from or better than another party? Can we quickly determine their stance on important issues? Can we easily find their beliefs and values to understand if they are closely aligned with our own?”

In Blackburn’s view, effective branding is one of the reasons why Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party has resonated with many Albertans and reportedly surged into a front running spot above the Liberals and NDP.

“As a fairly issueless election, I believe branding plays an important role—arguably more than it does when an election has highly-polarizing issues. A case in point is the Wildrose anomaly. Relatively unknown a short time ago, Wildrose, armed with a strong position and platform, clear communication, and good visual presentation has effectively defined why they are different than the only party that has mattered to Albertans for over 40 years,” said Blackburn.

The political parties’ “brand report cards” can be found online at urbanjungle.ca

About Urban Jungle
Established in 2000, Urban Jungle specializes in brand development for organizations seeking to strengthen their brand, improve their business, and dominate their market. Unlike advertising agencies, marketing firms, and graphic design studios, Urban Jungle helps clients bring clarity to their brand vision—inspiring employees, guiding business development, and creating strong connections with customers and other audiences.

Urban Jungle
Phone: 780 701 9877
Web: http://urbanjungle.ca
Media contact: Craig Blackburn, Principal
craig [at] urbanjungle.ca
780 701 9877 x1

Alberta Election 2012: Party Branding. Who Gets a Passing Grade?

As a branding professional, naturally I’m very interested in what political parties are doing to effectively position themselves, especially come election time.

As the 2012 Alberta Election draws near, with little time on our hands and in many cases unable to read through the loads of content on party websites, how effectively are the parties communicating to Albertans in one minute or less?

Do we know what their mission or vision is? Do we know how they are different from the other parties? Can we quickly get their stance on important issues? Can we easily find their beliefs and values to understand if they are closely aligned with our own?

The following is a brief report on the five major parties in the upcoming election. I’ve evaluated them with a grade of A+ to F on how effectively they are communicating their party’s brand, taking into account their mission/vision, position, platform, citizen engagement, and overall visual presentation.

Alberta Party: D-

Mission: Not readily available on website

Position: Not readily available on website

Platform: Better Healthcare, Better Education, More Transparency in Government, Better Jobs, More Investment in Communities

Why a D-?: When the revived Alberta Party relaunched in 2010 I was excited to see where it would go. Many of Alberta’s influential people seemed to support the party as well, which was encouraging. Fast-forward roughly two years and the Alberta Party has withered into obscurity, completely irrelevant. Finally after reviewing their website I have some ideas why.

Unfortunately in my one minute review I have no idea what the Alberta Party stands for. Dreaming bigger, re-imagining, and reinvigorating is apparently all we need to do to become a better Alberta. It’s easy to say everything can be better—we already know things can be better, but how? Despite its positive and inspirational outlook on Alberta, the Alberta Party says a lot but doesn’t actually say anything. There might be some seeds of insight in their platform, but if these seeds exist they require too much digging to find the truth. The only thing preventing me from giving the Alberta Party an ‘F’ is its smart looking identity and fresh visual presentation.

Website: http://www.albertaparty.ca/

Liberals: B-

Mission: Committed to manage public money responsibly, and to build an Alberta that our children can grow into with confidence in their ability to succeed.

Position: Unlike the PCs and Wildrose, we believe in universal, public healthcare and education.

Platform: Guaranteed Health Care Delivery, Eliminating University Tuition, Direct Funding of Neighbourhood Associations, Instant Run-Off Voting.

Why a B-?: While the Liberals don’t have the prettiest website presentation in town, the most important information — what they stand for, can be quickly located in under a minute. Their commitment to Albertans is communicated and their platform is easy to find. The Liberals position themselves fairly well—noting why they’re different than the two right wing parties. In addition, they’ve gone as far as creating a microsite called “Tory? Or Wildrose?” noting the striking similarities between the PC and Wildrose views. A half point lost for their cliché-isms and one point lost for their DIY visual presentation.

Website: http://www.albertaliberal.com/

NDP: B-

Mission: Not readily available on website (It may reside on the About page, unfortunately, this page was down at the time of my review.)

Position: Most Albertans are not getting their fare share under a PC government. We believe it’s time that Alberta’s prosperity, drawn from our shared natural resource wealth, worked for all Albertans, not just a select few.

Platform: Quality Public Healthcare, Affordable Electricity, Education for Success, Protect Our Environment, Oil Sands Prosperity

Why a B-?: The NDP has both solid design and succinct communications working for it. The website boasts the strongest visual presentation of all party websites, making information easy to find, and most importantly, the position and platform can be found in seconds. One point lost for failing to provide some type of mission or vision statement, and a half point lost for the About page being down.

Website: http://albertandp.ca/

PC: F

Mission: Not readily available on website

Position: Not readily available on website

Platform: Not readily available on website

Why an F?: No clearly defined mission or vision, no positioning, and the PC platform is buried. Deep. So deep in fact, it took me about 20 minutes of Google-searching and reading to find something that resembled a platform. This proves to me the Tories don’t care what Albertans want nor do they feel like they need to tell us what they plan on doing. I suppose when you have the power to manipulate the media it doesn’t really matter. (Oops. Did I just say that out loud?)

The website should score a point for its contemporary visual presentation and on-site search engine (shockingly the only party to have one); however, pretty design is insignificant when concise and transparent communication efforts are an epic failure. Thus, an ‘F.’

Website: http://www.votepc.ca/

Wildrose: A-

Mission: To dethrone the PCs and restore order by putting taxpayers first. (While this isn’t an “official” mission, after a quick assessment of the website it’s pretty clear.)

Position: We believe in government transparency and accountability. We believe Albertans deserve a direct share in the success of the province’s energy sector; neither of which we’re getting under a PC government.

Platform: Balanced Budget and Savings Act, Wildrose Family Pack (Make Life More Affordable for Albertans), Alberta Energy Dividend (All Albertans share in our energy wealth), Decrease Patient Wait Time, Alberta Accountability Act (Make Government Accountable to Albertans)

Why an A-?: Whether you agree with the party’s views or not, from a branding standpoint the Wildrose party is pretty tight. They have a strong position, a strong platform, strong communication, and a nice, clean visual presentation. Wildrose is focused and they have clearly defined why they are different than the only party that has mattered to Albertans for over 40 years.

Like the Liberals, they’ve also created a microsite called the “Redford Files,” which focuses on the culture of PC corruption in Alberta. If that’s not a good positioning strategy I don’t know what is. From a strategic standpoint, this explains how a relatively unheard-of newcomer has resonated with so many Albertans and surged into a front running spot above the Liberals and NDP. Wildrose has
something to say and they’re saying it loud and clear.

Website: http://www.wildrose.ca/

Still undecided on who to vote for?

Don’t know where all the parties stand? Short on time?

In 5 minutes you can quickly find out which party you’re most aligned with. The answer might surprise you.

Check out CBC’s Vote Compass or keep reading to see where the parties stand on top issues. (Unfortunately the Alberta Party is not included in the Vote Compass results.)

Aboriginal Affairs

Alberta should contribute funding to schools on First Nations reserves.

Disagree: WR
Agree: LIB, NDP, PC

First Nations should have more say over how Alberta’s natural resources are used.

Neutral: PC
Agree: LIB, NDP, WR

Economy

Worker safety laws should be more strict in Alberta.

Agree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC, WR

During economic downturns, government spending makes it worse.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Agree: PC, WR

It should be easier for workers to organize a union.

Neutral: PC, WR
Agree: LIB, NDP

When businesses make a lot of money everyone benefits, even the poor.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Agree: PC, WR

Education

Alberta government should freeze tuition for university and college students.

Disagree: PC, WR
Agree: LIB, NDP

Private schools should not receive public funding.

Disagree: PC, WR
Agree: LIB, NDP

Employment

The minimum wage should be raised.

Disagree: WR
Neutral: PC
Agree: LIB, NDP

Welfare recipients should get more money.

Neutral: WR
Agree: LIB, NDP, PC

Energy

Alberta government should freeze electricity prices.

Disagree: PC, WR
Neutral: LIB
Agree: NDP

Environment

Environmental issues should be solved by industry, not government.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC
Agree: WR

Environmental regulation should be stricter.

Disagree: PC
Neutral: WR
Agree: LIB, NDP

Environmental damage caused by the oil sands industry is exaggerated.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Agree: PC, WR

Family Values

Taxpayers should not provide funding for abortion.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC
Neutral: WR

Federal Relations

Albertans pay more than their fair share to the rest of Canada.

Disagree: NDP
Agree: LIB, PC, WR

Health Care

The private sector should have a bigger role in health care.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC
Agree: WR

People should be able to pay for faster access to medical treatment.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC, WR

Housing

The Alberta government should limit rent increases.

Disagree: PC, WR
Neutral: LIB
Agree: NDP

Immigration & Multiculturalism

Immigrants should adopt Albertan values.

Neutral: NDP
Agree: LIB, PC, WR

More should be done to accommodate religious minorities in Alberta.

Neutral: LIB, PC, WR
Agree: NDP

Landowner Rights

Alberta government should have more say over what landowners do with their property.

Disagree: LIB, WR
Neutral: NDP, PC

Law & Order

The blood-alcohol limit for drivers should be changed from .08% to .05%.

Disagree: LIB, WR
Agree: NDP, PC

Oil Industry

The Keystone XL pipeline will take jobs out of Alberta.

Disagree: PC, WR
Neutral: LIB
Agree: NDP

Alberta government should take a bigger share of royalties from oil and gas companies.

Disagree: LIB, PC, WR
Agree: NDP

Public Sector

Alberta should scrap the Human Rights Commission.

Disagree: LIB, NDP, PC
Agree: WR

Most provincial government workers are paid too much.

Disagree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC
Agree: WR

The provincial budget deficit should be reduced, even if it means fewer public services.

Disagree: NDP, PC
Neutral: LIB, WR

Taxes

Corporations should pay more tax.

Agree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC, WR

Wealthier people should pay more tax.

Agree: LIB, NDP
Neutral: PC, WR

It’s Time Your Company Rethinks the Work Week

Who decided on the five-day, 40-hour work week anyway?

Is it really required in today’s ultra-streamlined, fast-paced digital world?

When you stop to think about it, people tend to find a way to fill up their time with things like Facebook, Twitter, checking email, texting, extended coffee breaks, etc. so their work stretches the course of the five-day week. Employees also take loads of personal days under the guise of a sick day too. You know it’s true, because you’ve done it. So if we all do it, why don’t we just decrease the time frame in which we do our work? You know…”get ‘er done,” and go home.

I know when it comes to questioning my stress management and work-life balance, five days at work is not equal to two days at home. I’m not a math major, but that sounds like a pretty imbalanced equation.

A lot of companies say they offer a work-life balance, but do they really practice it?

I’m not talking about one Friday out of the month or Fridays off in the summer. I’m not talking 10-hour days to make up for the day off. And I’m definitely not talking about a decrease in salary or benefits in lieu of time off.

What I’m talking about is Fridays off. Forever.
Four-day work weeks. Eight-hour days. Full salary. Full benefits.

Image credit: carsonified.com

In 2009 I made the decision to move Urban Jungle to the four-day work week.

After my daughter was born the decision was easy. I wanted to spend as much time with her and my wife as I possibly could and the only way I could do that was to take an extra day to ourselves. While some may question this move and think of it as too laid-back, over the course of the last three years I have found it to be the exact opposite.

Productivity is up. Creativity is up. Energy and enthusiasm are up. Instead of everyone thinking, “Ugh, it’s Monday,” it’s, “Sweet! It’s Monday!”

Fridays off is hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made for Urban Jungle.

Knowing we have Fridays off means we can bust out to the lake if we want to. We can cut the first tracks in the fresh powder at Marmott if we want to. We can use the extra day to catch up on errands, go to the AGA, read a book, bike in the river valley, pamper ourselves at the spa, and spend more quality time with our family if we want to.

If you are an employee, I ask you push your management to rethink the work week. If they say, “hell no!” tell them to call me. If you are a manager, I encourage you to rethink your company’s work week. I promise you will see a marked improvement in your office culture, starting with the staff and eventually trickling down to your customers. Over the last three years “sick days” and “personal days” at Urban Jungle are virtually zero.

Happy Staff = Happy Customers
Happy Staff + Happy Customers = Happy Boss

These are balanced equations everyone can understand.

Community Branding: Where to Start? (Part 1)

Community branding seems to be a growing trend across Alberta over the past few of years with places like Leduc, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Mayerthorp and even downtown Fort McMurray taking up the call.

The biggest challenge any community faces when tackling the concept of branding is just where to start.

  • Do we start with creating a slogan that everyone likes to define us or do we design a new logo first and get people involved by voting on whether to accept it or not?
  • Do we hire a consultant to do market research and surveys?
  • Do we format all of our branding requirements into an RFP and put the brand services contract up for public tender, then hire an agency, and let them guide us through their processes?
  • Do we assemble advisory or steering committees to provide community members with opportunities to be involved in the process? Who do we invite/select?
  • Who should be leading the project and what relevant experience should they have?
  • What should we expect our community to gain as the results of our branding campaign? More tourist dollars, business investment, residential appeal? How can we measure it?
  • Does community branding include advertising campaigns, copywriting, photography or storytelling?
  • How do we launch our new brand? Is it with new logos combined with our new slogan on everything? Do we have an unveiling party or a press conference? Do we engage in an advertising campaign?

 

Community Branding consultants and Communications experts seem to be in high-availability these days.

Each one offering their special secret to success, the one that will make your community brand “resonate” with targets like a magical tuning fork.

Before a community even begins to think about a comprehensive effort to strengthen a brand, it needs to first define itself—which leads to the two primary building blocks of any branding activity: the mission statement and positioning statement.

Building the Mission Statement

Whether the community is a renowned tourist destination, a thriving agricultural producer or a bedroom suburb, it needs a clear rationale for what its brand actually is — its purpose.

It also needs a vision that describes what its people want it to be — a clear attainable destination.

Our mission is to become…

In a mission statement the purpose and vision come together to serve as both the starting point and the linchpin of all the community’s branding and socio-economic development activities.

Mission statements can be elaborate or relatively brief. But in general they have the following key characteristics:

  • Short and concise: Craft a statement that’s no longer than 75 words.
  • Easily understood: Use plain language that is convincing and as memorable as possible.
  • Broad: Don’t try to be all things to all people, but also don’t limit your community’s key attributes too narrowly.
  • Visionary: Offer a vision of what your business aspires to be.
  • Realistic: Temper your broad vision with realistic, workable goals.
  • Motivational: Make a statement that will inspire commitment among community officials/employees, residents, businesses, and groups to achieve a common goal.

 

Defining your Community Brand

For example, let’s say that you are a bedroom suburb community. We’ll call your town “Rose of the North.”

  1. Your first order of business will be to solicit feedback from a “small” cross-section of informed community members. I say small, because the bigger the committee, the smaller your chance of developing and agreeing on what’s best for the community. Ultimately it are these men and women upon whom the success of your community’s mission depends.
  2. Next you’ll need to compile a list of words that describe your community: modern, traditional, tight-knit, ethnically diverse…; words that describe your ideal target audience’s image: affluent, well-travelled, modern, entrepreneurial, hard-working…; words that describe your ideal administrative image: trend-setting, experienced, young professional, conventional….
  3. Then you’ll need to start answering questions such as:

    What residential, community and business needs does Rose of the North fulfill? We provide residents and businesses with a relaxed atmosphere, safety, spirit and support.

    Who are we trying to attract? Our targets range from young professionals, married couples to retirees from the city and surrounding rural areas.

    How will we measure our success? Our success will be measured by the satisfaction of our community members with the quality of life they achieve in our town. This can be indicated by the increase in enthusiasm and participation in events, initiatives and groups. Or, by increase in new residents, businesses and groups in the community.

Pulling the Mission Statement Together

When your mission statement building activities are complete, you’ll gather the information together, repeatedly editing it down until you arrive at a strong, compact statement that clearly guides the development of your community brand while inspiring commitment from its stakeholders (residents, businesses, administration, etc.) to achieve the mission.

For more information about community branding or creating a mission statement, contact us »

Stay tuned. In my next community branding article I’ll take you through the task of building a Positioning Statement.

Freedom to Fail

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Alberta’s brand as it appears on the official government website.
[columns] [col_2]Alberta isn’t defined by a visual identity,
or advertisements, or what we say about ourselves. It’s defined by what others say
about us. It’s about our actions and how the world perceives them.

What are we, as Albertans, doing and saying
to show the world the true Alberta? The one
we experience every day?

Every day, in thousands of ways, people the world over are making decisions about where
to invest, live, work, and visit — decisions
that are shaped by the collective perceptions
of Alberta and our place in the world.
[/col_2]

[col_2]We have a story to tell. It’s a story about the freedom to create. About the spirit to achieve. And about a place filled with people realizing possibilities.

Alberta’s brand enables us to consistently present the authentic story of our province to a set of stakeholders as diverse as Alberta itself.

Whether promoting Albertan products, ideas, and innovations to a global marketplace or welcoming the world to our home, the branding initiative encompasses the wide variety of ways Alberta’s story comes to life. A truly global brand for a place unlike anywhere else.[/col_2]

Bravo.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think the Introduction (except for the flowery bit about spirit and people realizing possibilities), was written by someone who knows something about branding. It’s spot on as far as rationales go.

So what happened?

How could something that looks so set up to win turn out to be such an epic failure? It’s like looking at the framework for developing a concept but still waiting for the research to come back with some insight and concrete terms to use in the copy.

But no new copy ever arrived. And it ended up an emotionless sequence of empty words and fluffy concepts. And no real Alberta to be seen except for a few of the photos.

I think it’s easy to criticize because we’re looking in hindsight and we weren’t involved in the process, but based on what I see, I wonder how this brand strategy concept ever have made it past the Principals at Calder/Bateman, the team leaders for the branding campaign, the Bureau of Public Affairs, a 20-person advisory committee, Harris/Decima research, Ed Stelmach – leader of the project, and anyone else that had someone’s ear on the project.

Take a good look at the Alberta Brand Book and the video presentation below and determine if any of what you see achieves the main goals of the branding campaign.

Remember: the goal of any branding exercise is to capture and communicate to all audiences, the story of what makes the brand unique and superior to its competitors. In this case, to articulate why Alberta is a great place to live, work and invest. To shape the collective perceptions of Alberta and our place in the world.

Can you spot the difference?

Does any of this branding campaign provide clear points of difference or anything concrete and measurable about our province or its people?

Do Albertans really dream bigger, live larger, have millions more possibilities, more strength, more wisdom, more maturity, more wide-open spaces, more traditions, diversity, spirit, and ability to achieve more than other Canadians or the world?

Do we? Or are these just empty buzzwords describing a place where people are their dreams instead of their achievements, a set of values rather than realities; where we enjoy endless possibilities, open doors, freedom and spirit to create and achieve boundless things? Is that you? Is that Alberta?

My take.

I think the natural (and most simple) approach would have been to work out a strong set of reasons for why Alberta is a great (superior if possible) place to invest, live, work, and visit compared to other provinces. Four concepts directly targeting Alberta’s core audiences with compelling reasons why Alberta is highly worth considering. It probably would have taken half the time and expense, saved a ton of embarrassment, and worked.

Your take?

If after watching the video or reading the brand book you actually understand what makes Alberta unique (other than its geography), please let me know.

Why Rebrand Alberta (For Free)?

Earlier this week, Urban Jungle announced it is offering to rebrand Alberta at no charge to the province.

It seems this issue has raised a few brows and lots of questions. People want to know why the heck are we are offering to do this? And why for free?

Why rebrand?

1. I believe Albertans still need direction:

The rebrand would address where previous efforts failed. In 2009 Albertans should have been presented with a vision. We weren’t. As a result, here we are, three years later, still without a direction.

If Albertans are guided by a clear vision — one that’s defined by the people and for the people, instead of a fluffy slogan with lofty-expectations; a vision that’s aspirational and achievable; a vision that speaks to people from all walks of life; and a vision Albertans can adopt into our daily lives — then we have a strong foundation to becoming the living essence of the Alberta brand.

Clearly we do not have this shared direction and I hope that Albertans agree that it’s needed.

2. I believe Albertans can be more as people:

With the exception of immediate family and friends, I believe most Albertans feel disconnected from each other. Edmontonians and Calgarians constantly slag on the other and the rest of Albertans don’t feel like they matter. They’re left out of the conversation and left to fight on their own.

I also believe that Albertans feel left out of the processes in shaping our culture and society. Most people probably wouldn’t know how and where to even start. As a result, many people simply lose interest in taking part.

3. I believe we can be more as a province:

It’s no secret that Albertans are the “haves” of Canada, as Alberta is economically, socially, and resource rich. That said, I believe we are in serious danger of squandering our province’s advantages and potential, as we sit precariously in the balance of our most lucrative export—oil. It’s a scary prospect to think we have nothing else to hang our hat on other than oil don’t you think?

What’s even scarier is leaving a legacy of underachievement, mediocrity, and disadvantage to our children and grandchildren. I can’t accept that.

Alberta has the means to be global leaders.

Unfortunately the majority of Canadians (and the world over for that matter), consider us arrogant, greedy, oil-addicted, environmentally careless, Texans of the north. I think that’s really sad. Albertans shouldn’t accept this. We have a heck of a lot more to offer the world.

Why FREE?

1. I believe in doing something positive for Albertans.

An initiative like this is the best opportunity I’ve had to date to make the biggest contribution to our society. I am in full agreement with the premier’s position that the current branding efforts for the province has not achieved, and will not achieve, the intended results, and that a solution is required. Since my company is uniquely positioned and has the expertise and ability to donate our services to the taxpayers at no cost, I’d like to step up and help get it done right.

2. I believe the frivolity has to stop.

Did you know? The current logo, slogan, and ad campaign was created less than three years ago by ad agency Calder Bateman at a reported cost of nearly $25 million over three years.

Are you okay with spending another $25 million for the next “re-branding” exercise? I’m not.

Wouldn’t this money be better spent on healthcare, education, family services, low-income housing, or infrastructure? There are so many things (and people) this money could have a lasting impact on, instead it’s being frivolously spent with no accountability.

The government has had their chance.

And they’ve proven they do not understand the process and function of branding. To that end, we believe they will undertake another misguided re-branding exercise and waste even more taxpayer money.

Shouldn’t your government be accountable to their mistakes? Shouldn’t they own up to the mishap? Shouldn’t they offer Alberta taxpayers an apology along with a “do-over” at no extra charge?

I do.

Questions? Comments? Kudos? Insults? Start the conversation by adding your comments below.

It’s Smarter to Travel in Groups

It’s not too often I comment positively on advertising, but every once and a while a rare treat arrives in my inbox that’s too good not to share.

Today is one of those days, and this is one of those treats.

The following is a series of advertisements for De Lijn (pronounced de lang), a Belgian travel company. From start finish, you’ll completely lose yourself and forget these are ads. The concept is brilliant and the execution is even brilliant-er.

Enjoy!

Penguins

Ants

Crabs