Brands Have Value

Have you ever wondered if brands contribute anything to your company’s bottom line? Well, brands can be considered assets and have been included in some financial statements as such. Take a look at this list to see how much a brand might be worth:

  1. Royal Bank of Canada: $11,060,000,000
  2. TD Bank: $10,855,000,000
  3. Scotiabank: $7,717,000,000
  4. Bank of Montreal: $7,114,000,000
  5. Bell: $7,081,000,000
  6. CIBC: $5,028,000,000
  7. Rogers: $4,787,000,000
  8. Telus: $4,290,000,000
  9. Enbridge: $4,093,000,000
  10. Bombardier: $4,090,000,000

Yes. Those are billions of dollars.  And they’re not arbitrarily assigned, either. They’re carefully calculated by Brand Finance. Find out more about it from this article in Marketing magazine.

The Case for Branding

In the context of marketing, branding is one of the most important things an organization can do. Your brand sets the parameters within which your marketing endeavours must operate. The images selected for your advertising, the media used for advertising, the tone of voice in the ad copy, the selection of new products and services, pricing, and many other equally important factors are all developed in keeping with the brand.

More important still, your prospective clients and existing clients need to understand what your organisation stands for, what it does, what it is that differentiates you from the competition, and how your clients should talk to other people about you. Your brand provides the answers to all these questions.

Purchasers, investors, and decision-makers of consumer or business products and services all follow the same decision-making journey:

  1. There is a purchase trigger, that is, there is a recognition of a need to be satisfied
  2. An information search occurs internally and externally. At this point, the decision-maker searches his or her memory for companies (brands) that will help him or her satisfy the need. Failing that, the decision-maker will seek information from external sources such as ‘expert’ friends (usually via social media), the Internet, marketing collateral, newspaper articles, and similar.
  3. The consideration set of solution providers will be narrowed to a decision set based on the selection criteria of the decision-maker. The criteria might be based on features and benefits of the product or service, or the psychosocial benefits of the brand, or a combination of both.
  4. The final decision is made, and the purchase or investment proceeds. Throughout this stage, the purchaser is assessing the experience and weighing his or her comfort level.
  5. The product or service is then consumed and again the purchaser assesses the experience. A successful experience will see the purchaser advocate for the brand by telling friends and colleagues about the positive experience, and then return for repeat purchases. An unsuccessful experience will see the purchaser loudly condemn the solution provider and seek a new solution starting at Step 1.

Ideally, your company’s or organisation’s brand will be known to the decision-maker at every step of this process. That means the decision-maker must be aware of your company / organization and what it does in advance of the purchase trigger, which in turn means you must be advertising your brand so it will be remembered when the need arises.

Not only that, but information about your solutions must be located in the places your prospective new clients will be looking. That means your brand must be on the minds of the key influencers with whom your prospective clients will be consulting. Your brand must be present everywhere on the Internet they will be seeking information: search engines, social media, websites, and blogs.

If you have been careful to maintain brand integrity correctly, your products and services will meet the expectations held by your prospects and set by your branding. If so, your new clients will find the purchasing / investment experience a positive one. Likewise with their consumption experience, which means you will advocates feeding positive information into the arenas other prospective clients will be consulting. A strong brand makes it easier for them to feed the right information, ensuring consistency in messaging across all media and information sources.

This is why municipalities, economic development agencies, and business organisations must have representative branding. Most regional economic development alliances (REDAs) will be seeking specific types of investors as they create economic clusters. Correct branding will provide value by informing prospects of what the REDA is offering, what value they can provide, and how their offering differs from other REDAs. Without correct branding, the REDA will be severely hampered in attracting investment and creating advocates.


Is Target Canada an empty brand?

Much has been made of Target’s poor entry into the Canadian market in 2013. Some have blamed insufficient advertising in the lead up to the launch, its unimpressive product pricing, and the in-store experience. However, tSG sees these as symptomatic of a much greater fault: empty branding.

Advertising in advance of the launch, and subsequent to it, positioned Target Canada as a new member of the community. Their ‘Can’t Wait to Meet You, Neighbour’ campaign featured Bullseye, the bull terrier, complete with a Target logo painted over his eye, motorcycling across Canada.

But Target is recognised in Canada as an American brand. It is known in Canada for its very competitive US pricing. And Target Canada is using the US parent’s brand tag as its own: “Expect more. Pay less.” Target Canada seemed to be setting expectations for an American-style shopping experience, that is to say, very low prices.

Yet, the company attempted to brand itself as a ‘Canadian’ company, similar to the identity owned by The Bay. For example, Target had Roots Canada create an exclusive line of (clumsily named) Beaver Canoe products. Confusingly, Target Canada presented their ‘Canadian’ products on the same shelves as products sporting distinctly US brands.

tSG believes Target failed to meet Canadian consumers’ expectations. Rather than greet consumers with the super-competitive prices it branding promised, Target Canada conspired to contrive an identity that is not real. Consumers know Target is not Canadian. Canadian consumers did not expect (nor want) Target to provide a Canadian experience; they expected (wanted) an American experience. In other words, Target failed to recognise that Canadian consumers had a pre-existing awareness of Target’s brand promise. When Target Canada not only failed to deliver on that brand promise, but, much worse, attempted to construct something that smelled false, they ended up with an empty brand.  The result: consumers have rejected the retailer.

Are social media the best channels for making sales + serving your clients?

On a recent trip to Australia I saw some subtle differences in how marketing is executed there compared to here in North America, or more specifically, in Canada. It was very quickly obvious that many companies invested much more in social media and brand engagement.

Almost every billboard and transit ad didn’t just show a Facebook or Twitter logo indicating the advertiser had a presence on social media, they actually provided the URL (e.g. Not only that, many of them ran contesting to drive social media engagement. This made me wonder about two things:

  1. If you have an ecommerce website, wouldn’t adding an extra step to the sales process make it more likely that the advertiser would lose the prospective sale? I mean, isn’t it a distraction for the consumer to have to go through a Facebook page to get to the point-of-sale website when you could simply encourage them to go directly to the website?
  2. What happens when you have thousands of consumers using your Facebook page as though it’s a customer service website?

We at tSG have long urged the use of social media simply as a brand support, not as a client acquisition tool. The reasons for this:

  • People are not on social media to be sold anything. They’re there to connect with people and brands they like. That’s why it’s called social media.
  • Using social media to open a ‘service window’ (i.e. to handle sales enquiries and service complaints) creates the opportunity for a flood of communications. Unless you have the human resources to manage that inundation, you are only going to make yourself look bad because you won’t be able to cope.

Online media analysts, Forrester, released a report in October 2012 showing that an intermediate link through social media, when compared to a direct link to an ecommerce website, was not effective in aiding online sales. In fact, social media barely even played a role in the online sales process.

Also, establishing your social media pages as service windows takes a considerable investment in time, finances, and human resources. That investment can be quite large – larger than what most small and many medium to large businesses are able or willing to commit. It’s one thing to use social media to prove what you do to make a customer happy; it’s quite another to set a precedent that can become an overbearing and unattainable expectation.

So why are Australian businesses driving consumers to social media pages using traditional media?

According to Google, 52% of Australians have smartphones. Not unlike Canadians, Australians use them constantly: sitting on public transport, sitting in cafes, sitting in a pub, walking down the street. However, Australians are much more likely than Americans and Britons to use a smartphone for banking, searching for real estate and local businesses, make in-store pre-purchase comparisons, and post to social media. Out-of-home media sales increased 14% in Australia last year, probably because companies want to direct consumers to their social media page while they’re already Facebooking or tweeting, that is, while they’re using their smartphones.

Mobile advertising is becoming more and more important to the marketing strategy. Mobile advertising is making it possible to build brand engagement through social media but it also makes it possible to make a sale. Mobile advertising enables you to reach the consumer with appropriate messaging, that is, you can communicate to them while they are on their way to a competitor’s store or while they are trying to find yours. Mobile advertising enables you to gather data, run analysis, and optimise your advertising budget, just like other digital advertising.

Now, couple all that with contextual digital billboards that can be adjusted based on the weather or road conditions, and you have a powerful way of driving sales. A hot summer day? Drive consumers to follow your social media page. Once there, offer them an exclusive coupon to purchase your brand of beer at the nearest liquor store. Add in the power of a mobile app and all of sudden you’re holding all the aces. Your app can sense where the consumer is standing in Edmonton or Calgary or Red Deer and give them directions to the nearest store so they can redeem the coupon.

All that without breaking the bank or investing oodles of time and precious human resources in a social media page that will assist with less than 1% of online sales.

Read more about it in this article and in this one here.

Sex sells…but this is taking it too far

And we wonder why marketers have a bad name.

A German liquor producer has grabbed some global attention with a sleazy gimmick. G-Spirits is poured over the bare bodies of European models before being bottled. I’m not entirely sure how they manage to bottle the liquor after it has been poured over the girls’ flesh… but, more importantly, I’m not entirely sure why, either.

If you would like to find out more, go here for a Gawker report in which you will find a link to the company’s official (porn) website, and some very funny comments. I’m not providing the direct link because, quite frankly, it’s just weird.

I mean, sex has been used to sell booze for years. But this? This is just plain pervy!

What we’ve been saying all along….

A recent article on titled Where are the sales from social media? presents the stats that prove what we at tSG have been saying along about social media: it is not a sales tool.

The way we see it, social media as a sales tool or advertising medium is impeded by two huge obstacles:

  1. Users’ motivation for being on the website
  2. Privacy regulations

Let’s look at these individually:

  1. Users of the most popular social medium, Facebook, are on the website to check their friends’ statuses or, more often than not, to post something about themselves. This narrow-focus of intent relegates advertising on Facebook to ‘annoying clutter’.
  2. The much-hyped statics from Facebook are good, but not spectacular. Privacy regulations make it difficult to extract the vital data that we want to see. And they make it difficult to communicate with potential target audiences.

But social media is good for one very important job: brand support. Getting your advocates to speak to their friends and family on your behalf has spectacular impact. Strong and distinctive branding makes it easier for them to advocate for you because it helps them to understand who you are, what you stand for, and what you are trying to achieve, all the ingredients necessary for them to speak on your behalf.

Sleep Therapeutics Brand Launch

Huge day in the history of tSG. We’re launching two big brands today (Wednesday, June 22). This morning we’re presenting a regional brand for a national company of sleep therapists. Sleep Therapeutics are a leaders in treating sleep disorders. They asked tSG to help with their rebrand and here’s the new logo:



You will be seeing more of this in the weeks and months to come as the marketing campaign kicks off. Keep your eyes peeled for it, Edmonton!

Canmore Brand Launch

Last night was the big event, the culmination of 6 very intense weeks. The new Canmore community brand was launched at a big event at the Radisson Canmore.

We’re very proud of the final product. It’s a whole new approach to branding that we’re quite sure has never been attempted before. Since Canmore has so much to offer, we have created a multi-faceted brand and visual identity. You will be seeing more of it in execution over coming months, but here’s how it works:

There are many aspects to Canmore’s authentic Rocky Mountain lifestyle. The Canmore brand concept and logo design uses colour to present each aspect of the brand.

Think of the Canmore brand as a beautifully cut diamond. Many people looking simultaneously at the diamond will each see a different facet, and each facet will reflect a different colour. This is how we present the Canmore logos – a different colour for each aspect of Canmore’s multifaceted lifestyle.

Now, imagine that all those colours are brought back together in a complete spectrum, viewed through a single prism. All those colours, or brand facets, are now combined to represent the community of Canmore.

Today, the streets of Canmore are lined with banners showing the beautiful new logo and its many facets. The streets are bright with colour and look warm, friendly and inviting – just spectacular (photos to come shortly). A superb and distinctive look for Canada’s global destination for mountain lifestyle.

It has been a truly extraordinary experience working so closely with Andrew, Tulene, Teresa, and Julie at Canmore Business and Tourism. They are fabulously talented people and we’ve enjoyed working with them. Despite the pressure of incredibly tight timelines, they managed to keep their sense of humour – always a sign of true professionals. Also, a big thank-you to Aaron Mumby for his assistance and contribution.

Promotional Contests Should Be Mindblowing, Not Epic Failures

Most consumers are very cynical towards marketing. Ask any Nielsen researcher. Between 50% and 70% of consumers don’t trust marketing messages.

As a consumer, I share some of this cynicism. As a professional marketer, I am often appalled at some of the lousy marketing practises that continue to add fuel to the cynicism fire.

Two examples come immediately to mind:

  1. Shaw TV’s Celebrity Apprentice contest
  2. Canadian Tire’s scratch-and-win promotion

Let’s start with Shaw. Despite the fact the ‘reality’ show is broadcast in the timeslot-of-death that is late night Sundays, has little to no redeeming value, features Donald Trump reigning kinglike over all, Celebrity Apprentice must have some fans. Just no-one I know.

Anyway, it seems Shaw, for reasons known only to them, wants to push some viewers to the show because it’s running a promo. Only the promo isn’t much of an investment, and certainly isn’t enough to drive more viewers.

Enter to win two tickets to be in-studio for the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice in New York. In addition, there are return flights to NYC, two nights in a hotel (no word on which one), and $500 spending money.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I would love to be in NYC. But two nights? It takes a day to fly there and a day to fly back. There’s more time wasted travelling to and from than in the actual destination.

$500 spending money? What will that get you? A cab fare from the airport? You would have to be a huge fan, or desperately in need of an excuse for a few days away from work,  to enter the contest for that feeble prize.

Cynicism meter hit a 7.5 on this one.

OK. Now Canadian Tire. A scratch-and-win promo card arrives with the weekly bundle of straight-into-the-recycling doorstep-delivered flyers. “Scratch it at the till in the presence of the cashier. You could win $5000 in Canadian Tire gift cards.” Obviously it is intended to drive store traffic. Great so far.

Off we went to CT. We needed some things anyway and, quite frankly, it’s easier to shop at CT on a Sunday than it is at Costco or WalMart. In other words, the promo was working – we went to CT instead of the competition.  So, hand the cashier the promo card and lo and behold…

….we WIN!

My wife has a huge smile. She’s already digging up the backyard and building an extravagant outdoor room. But wait… the prize is not a $5000 gift card. It’s a $5-off coupon for M&M Meats! That’s not even a consolation prize to the consolation prize. It certainly didn’t console us.

Epic failure. Not only did we not win the main prize, we didn’t win ANYTHING AT ALL. Instead, we were handed a coupon, which is not a gift, it’s not a prize, but the opportunity to spend more money at another retailer.


Cynicism meter hit a 9.5 on this one, kids!

Lesson here? If you are going to run a promotion, regardless of what the promotion is, please, please make it worthwhile. Make sure it’s of value to your target market. If not, you’re just annoying a lot of people who will blog about it. And people like you will read the blog and agree with it and avoid the callous, valueless promotion.


Because all you’re doing with your penny-pinching promos is insult your customers, and making them more cynical, and giving them reason to not watch your TV shows, or buy your products.

Thomas Friedman and the ‘market society’

Every once in a while, I’ll come across an interesting piece by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times. And I know a lot of people, particularly in the US, write him off as a ‘commie’ or an ’übersocialist’, but I think he usually has some well-considered and meaningful points to make.

At tSG, we try to be ethical in everything we do. We are careful to quote reasonable project fees, we don’t charge for meeting with our clients, or e-mailing them, or chatting with them over the phone. We don’t charge ‘docket opening’ fees… in fact, we aren’t entirely sure we know what those are. And while we don’t profess to have the moral high ground, we do feel comfortable knowing that we work hard to earn what we get paid for.

Which is why I mention Thomas Friedman. His piece in the New York Times today considers the morality of business and how the US economy has evolved into an everything-is-for-sale capitalist society. This might be less so in Canada, but the point can still be made. I’m sure you can find examples similar to those presented by Friedman in his article.

As a marketing and communications agency, it probably sounds ironic for us to be saying that everything should not be for sale, that some things should be allowed to exist without the push and pull of market forces, that advertising and promotion don’t cure all ills. It might even sound like we’re pontificating, shouting from a soapbox called labelled ‘Paradox’….

… but in the end, we don’t care. It’s simply what we believe to be true.

Anyway, take a look at Friedman’s article. In case you missed the links above, you can catch the article here.