As an agency, we are often challenged by clients when it comes to investing in marketing. Small and medium sized businesses, with limited cash flow and budgets, worry about spending their hard earned dollars on marketing their products or services.
It’s not uncommon to be asked:
“Can you guarantee a percentage increase in sales?”
“Will we see a significant increase in market share?”
It feels pretty risky to spend money when there isn’t a direct line back to revenue. Surely the company can continue to grow and reach the desired sales level by following the approach that has got it this far right?
Let’s say you are leaning towards staying the course, doing what has worked up to this point to get you to the next level. Choosing to do so is actually going to move you backwards! While you continue to grow as you have, your competitors are learning more about your target market. They are engaging in brand awareness strategies and getting in front of potential customers. Both of these build trust when it comes to future buying decisions. Seeing a loss in market share and sales is only a matter of time.
Marketing is defined as an expense on your PnL (Profit and Loss). However, an effective, profitable marketing campaign should be considered a strategic investment to increase sales and revenue. At first glance, marketing seems like it’s all about spending: market research, strategy development, media buying, and marketing materials on top of agency fees. When in fact, those activities are the long-term strategies and elements that are required to gain new clients and grow your business.
Marketing is not all about spending money, it’s about putting in motion activities that serve to fulfill the goals set in your business plan. It’s a key to your success.
When your company is ready to grow, marketing is an investment that will help you get to the next level. Without a strong marketing plan in place, it is nearly impossible to attract new customers to your business. Marketing generates leads, leads convert into sales and increasing sales means … (your next business goals get inserted here)
With all that said, regardless of the stage of business development you are in, marketing should always be considered as an investment to achieve the business goals.
by Studio Locale
To our surprise, the new brand wasn’t for Waterloo, Ontario but instead Waterloo, Iowa. Oh. False alarm.
Like many people, we’re excited to examine a logo refresh to see the new face of a brand and weigh in on it. As designers, we look to understand how it reflects the brand’s values and resonates with the target audience.
You might remember the negative attention the University of Waterloo “lasers” rebrand had a few years back. It seemed like everyone had something to say. The feedback was so negative that the design was pulled and returned to a fairly safe refinement of the traditional coat of arms that UW is known for. When it comes to brands, it seems that everyone has an opinion.
But this article isn’t about what we think about the new brand for Waterloo, Iowa. Upon discovering this “other” Waterloo, we thought that it’s rare that we have the opportunity to look at how multiple organizations (in this case cities), with the exact same name, brand themselves differently.
Do they look exactly the same? Does each brand evoke a different feeling that represents the aspects of the place and people they represent? How do cities choose to represent themselves? Is it history, geography, reputation?
Turns out there’s a Waterloo in Illinois and of course the one in Belgium that all have unique brands. So we thought it would be interesting to look at all four together.
Before we take a look at the brands and how they compare we think it’s important to consider why cities have brands.
#1 with a bullet is of course to send you official looking letters, like property taxes, that you feel compelled to pay. But all joking aside, there are a few reasons.
Although branding includes much more, we explored the visual brand identities of the 4 Waterloos. What does each city’s visual branding look like?
Having seen all four cities’ brands, what do you think? Which would you most like to move to, visit, or work in? Does the way each city is presented inform how you think and feel about these places?
We’d love to have you weigh in. Share your thoughts with us.
Or if you are looking to rebrand your city, our door is always open. Please reach out and we can chat.
Podcasts seem to be all the rage these days. There is no limit to what you can find a podcast on. So it’s only natural that brands would be looking to join in on the fun, but should brands be using podcasts as part of their marketing strategy?
I’m sure we all have our favourite podcasts that we queue up for when we’re on the road, exercising, making dinner, or enjoying some downtime. The choices are pretty endless and we can find one on just about anything that interests us. And because we’re picking the specific podcast or topic, chances are we are actively listening through most of it.
With so many actively engaged ears to tap into, brands and organizations are beginning to enter the ring and start a podcast of their own. Positioned as the actual brand, or shows hosted by various c-suite individuals, brands are using podcasts to:
But here’s the thing – with so many podcasts out there, most topics have gotten past the saturation point. There are hundreds of podcasts that are all pretty much saying the same thing, acting as endless echo chambers. Worse still, with nothing different to say, they become time wasters. Listeners skip ahead, or flip between episodes to find the bits worth listening to.
When considering if your organization or leadership team should join the podcast making wave, here are a few things to think about before hitting record:
If what you are sharing is a mainstream idea or trend, what else can you add to the conversations?
What is it about your experience that not many others can speak to?
Reading a script can seem unnatural, but rambling about what you had for breakfast isn’t a good use of your listeners’ time either. Have speaking points or direct questions set and ready to go.
Do you have clear marketing goals – build brand awareness, support brand values, lift sales, generate lead, build relationship building, or present case studies of your brand to potential customers
Like any other media channel, a good content plan is key and you want to have a solid content schedule in place before you launch your first episode. Depending on the frequency of your podcasts, a good rule of thumb is to have at least six to twelve months worth of episodes outlined before you get started. And putting together an outline will help you assess if you have enough to talk about and determine if a podcast makes sense.
If you find you don’t have a ton of topics, don’t be afraid to switch gears and create a limited series. Ten really well produced episodes is going to be way more impactful than 24 fly by the seat of your pants sessions!
Another idea to think about if you don’t have enough to support a podcast is to use that content and create short videos that you can post on social media or your website. You can still communicate to your audience the core ideas you wish to share in a super clear and concise approach.
Or consider being a guest on another podcast that aligns with your values, perspective or industry. (You might want to consider disclosing if you paid to be a guest as that makes it essentially a paid promotional podcast.)
Rolling Stone magazine also recently came out with some other tips for companies considering to start a podcast. They are all really great to consider as well as you ponder a podcast.
Hope you find this helpful if you’ve been considering a branded podcast. Feel free to reach out if you are looking for a second opinion on whether it makes sense for your organization or not.
We know how hard it is to come up with meaningful and engaging marketing communications. Whether it’s email campaigns, newsletters, social media posts, digital ads or video commercials, you really only have a couple of chances at most to grab a potential client’s attention. After that, our short attention span brains move on to the next shiney item in our feeds or screens and we forget all about what we saw a minute ago.
So how do you make the most of each opportunity that you get in front of your target audience? How do you stand out from all of the other visual chatter and spectacle to make someone stop and take notice?
To help you assess how effective your marketing communications are, we’ve listed our favourite questions that we ask at the start of each marketing engagement. All of these will help you look at your different marketing channels to see if there are other opportunities to help you get you to the next level in your marketing.
This is always our first question and can be harder to answer than you might think. Have you clearly defined what you are looking to achieve with your marketing? Are you using SMART goals? (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound)
Clearly stating your marketing objectives helps keep all of your activities focused on these goals and hopefully prevents you from getting sidetracked.
Sometimes the biggest opportunity can be identified as you better understand who is engaging with your communications and where.
For each of the target audiences, what is the core message that you want to reiterate? How is it relevant to them? Remember that people can only handle a maximum of two ideas in any one communication. Ideally, there is just one – again, our brains are tapped out and for many, if one thought goes in, another goes out, so make sure it is worth it!
There is a balance you want to achieve between too little, too often, and just right. You can find that balance by mixing up the channels, the presentation of the key message, and then scheduling each for the optimal time.
Remember that time is valuable and you don’t want to be seen as wasting it with communications that seem overly repetitive or irrelevant. On the other hand, not often enough and you’re not going to be top of mind.
These are just a few of the key questions we ask when beginning a marketing conversation with clients. Every one gives us insights into how we can help improve on your marketing activities and work towards your goals. If in answering these questions, you’ve now got more – reach out! We can work through it all together and build a solid plan to tighten up your marketing and help work towards your business objectives.
Simply Perfect is an off-shoot brand of Custom Foam Systems, a local Kitchener company who has 50 years of foam engineering experience. They came to us to help design and develop a new e-commerce website, visual language and messaging, and a 360 degree, multi-channel marketing plan to help them launch their upgraded Simply Perfect Mattresses. Their goal was to reach new customers within the region to choose a Simply Perfect mattress over other in-market foam mattresses.
With an existing name and logo that they were happy with, we began with completing their visual brand and messaging. A solid colour palette and brand narrative rounded out the brand and gave us the foundation to build an e-commerce website.
The website introduced this hidden Waterloo Region gem, showcasing their foam technology and expertise built over the years. With four sizes to choose from, along with custom mattress orders, the website integrates with their in-store ordering process and inventory system.
Following the launch of the website, our team rolled out the media plan. For their launch, advertising channels included radio ads, Google Ads, and targeted display ads to both build brand awareness and bring sales traffic to the website.
Launched during the pandemic as a means to fill the gap from lost in-store sales, the Simply Perfect brand is getting out there. As there is never a silver bullet, and with other strategic factors at play, sales have been steady and brand awareness is increasing with more social media followers joining each month since the new website was completed and the marketing campaign began.
The team now has the tools to support growth of this amazing product and we’re excited to see where they end up taking the brand.
Brand messaging, website, digital media campaign, brand management
Moayad Farah Erynn Hayden Truc Hoang Philip Mondor Robin Mondor
Langen Studios Farm Fresh Creative
Shahir is a Halal food brand deeply rooted in Vancouver, British Columbia looking to expand their reach from a regional player to a national brand. To support this goal, they came to Studio Locale to refresh its brand identity, packaging, and website so as to reflect the integrity of the food itself. It was important for the identity to present Shahir as a premium, established, quality brand, which aligns with the authentic Halal process their products undergo. It was also important that the identity be visually memorable, allow for growth and expansion within the Muslim community across North America.
Identity and Packaging
Within the food industry, packaging isn’t just a vehicle to help transport the products from the store to a consumer’s home. It can be a powerful communication tool used by companies to visually tell their brand story and to differentiate their products from the competition.
Designing food packaging requires a lot of effort and attention to detail. There are different steps and elements involved in the process, from product photography (which requires both a professional food photographer and stylist), to understanding and complying with the specific food label requirements (in Canada this includes bilingual labelling, claims, statements, nutritional info, and ingredients), and finally to rolling out the approved direction across multiple product lines, which may include various shapes and sizes of packaging.
We told the story of Shahir through their packaging; about their commitment to Halal tradition and producing natural and premium quality products. It’s about being able to trust that Shahir products will make every meal, special occasion, and community event a flavourful one. And, it’s about Shahir’s dedication to following all Halal requirements, which ensures the utmost integrity throughout the processing stage.
In this day and age websites are very much a critical part of a company’s marketing strategy. Customers want to be able to go to a familiar place online and find all of the information they may need about the brand, products or services, along with how and where to purchase. More than that, designing and building a brand website as part of brand storytelling is a powerful approach that businesses can use to define and establish brand love and loyalty.
We built Shahir’s website with its brand story at the heart of it. Shahir’s story is about a commitment to Halal tradition and premium quality, naturally. Every page on the new website delivers the message that Shahir has an unwavering commitment to providing quality Halal food choices with integrity. When consumers choose Shahir they never have to compromise on taste or tradition. They can trust Shahir products to make every meal, special occasion, and community event a flavourful one.
With a successful brand relaunch, Shahir products can be found on the shelves of select Halal grocery stores and national grocery chains.
Food & Beverage
Marketing strategy Packaging Brand development Website
Erynn Hayden Truc Hoang Jessica McLachlan Anson LeClair Philip Mondor
However, when it comes to branding or marketing RFPs, they can be really challenging for our industry.
A good design and marketing agency knows that there is not a one size fits all approach in developing a brand, appealing to a target market, creating a website, or solving a communications challenge – these all require unique, strategic solutions. And the struggle with branding and marketing RFPs is that we are not able to have conversations with you.
Sure there is typically an ‘allowance’ period to ask questions after it’s been sent out but those questions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what we need to know about your company, your goals, your history, and all the nitty-gritty details we like to uncover that come out during our initial discussions.
Studio Locale works to reinforce the project understanding by working together through conversation and discovery meetings before providing potential approaches. Our process is designed for the best outcome based on your wants and needs balanced with your goals and budget. Understanding all of this is critical before we can start, and while most RFPs highlight many of the requirements there are often nuances to what is being asked for that need a discussion to sort out. Without that conversation, teams will make assumptions as to what you are looking for which can lead to added scope or incomplete deliverables in the end. And no one likes it when that happens.
We work with organizations, groups, and other businesses who are looking for change and want to do things differently to get to the next level. That level of success requires working with a team who is invested and committed to seeing you succeed – digging beyond surface-level solutions that are only thinking short-term.
If this approach sounds appealing to you, we would be more than happy to start a conversation about what you are looking for and how we might work together on your project.
There is brand recognition and equity in a logo that has taken time to build and modifying it is throwing away all of the value you have worked hard to achieve. That said, there are cases where changing your logo is the most logical next step in furthering your brand value and improving the relationship you have with your customers. So when is the right time to rebrand or refresh?
A well-designed logo might stand the test of time, but then again, there may come a time when it needs a bigger overhaul.
General Motors updated their logo in early 2021. It was the first major update of their identity in over 50 years. The rebrand supports their shift in focus to electric vehicles and reflects the updated mission of a cleaning future.
Burger King also launched a revived brand. They wanted the perception of their food to shift from the unhealthy views of the past and reflect their new mission of healthier fast food. The new look is more nostalgic to its past while also introducing bold, playful elements that are very much in line with current trends.
So how do you know whether your logo still works or if it’s time for a rebrand? If your target audience does not think of your brand the way you’d like, it might be time for a rebranding exercise.
There are times when a logo just needs to be updated. These changes are not drastic and typically consist of a slight modification or enhancement. Visually, your logo will be different when compared to the previous one, but the changes are more subtle and the brand equity remains intact.
Even the oldest brands that are household names, like Coca-Cola, have changed. For over 100 years, the brand has evolved to keep its appeal, stay fresh, and be competitive in the market. Each new version keeps the core elements of the brand intact to remain recognizable.
The key to an effective update is making sure your visual identity still matches the message and brand position you occupy, or wish to occupy, in the marketplace.
As you work through the process of refreshing your logo or rebranding, you also need to keep in mind all of the materials your identity touches such as website, signage, packaging or brochures, and develop a plan of action to implement or roll-out your new look. We have an easy to follow checklist that can help identify what might need updating that you can find here.
Your logo has an important job to do and works hard to represent your company or service in the best possible light. Take a look at your logo. Is it doing the job well as your ambassador? If not, it’s time for an update or make-over.
Whether it’s a refresh or rebrand, you will ensure your identity looks visually energized and current to your customer, while making your competition look twice.
While it is impossible to target everybody in the market, it is crucial to clearly identify who is your target audience(s). The more insight you have about them, the better opportunity you have to relate your brand to solve their problem. Let’s imagine your target audience as a real person. Who are they? There are two sets of questions you can ask to define a clear picture.
By determining this information, your company has a clear idea of whom your business should focus its resources on and how to convince them to purchase your goods or services.
Your marketing materials are just like a car. They may appear to be running ok and doing what they are supposed to do, but upon careful inspection, you may uncover things that could be hampering your ability to generate more leads and sales. In the case of our car analogy, perhaps an oil change, putting more air in the tires, changing a spark-plug or starter will help it run better. The key to evaluation is doing an assessment of which factors could be impacting your performance and making adjustments accordingly. Here are some common factors to start with.
Your customer needs to be clear on what you’re offering, how you’re different and what your product or service is promising to deliver. For example, if your unique selling point is durability, then durability should be the core message that shows up on all marketing materials: print ads, digital display banners, billboards, flyers. We can support the “durability” message with the help of secondary feature points – ie. protective coating, solid workmanship, material finishing, but “durability” – your unique selling point is always in the spotlight.
Part of building a solid brand identity is being consistent in the message you are communicating. A tune-up approach would be to modify your messaging so it’s the same throughout your advertising. That way, every time your customer is exposed to it, it tells them the same thing and reinforces the same idea so they remember it.
If you placed all of your marketing materials on a table, would it look like it all came from the same company? Is there a consistent appearance through font use or colour treatment? Or has your design palette changed on some pieces and not carried through on others? There has to be enough flexibility in your design to create a distinction between product lines and services, while still maintaining some commonality that visually unifies your family of materials to support your brand.
Now, go one step further and let your competitors’ marketing join the table. Be an impartial examiner, do your assets stand out from the crowd, create a positive impression and convey the unique benefits? If yes, congratulations! Your brand is working well to provide a unique face for your company. If not, this is a good signal to transform. A tune-up approach that partners with an experienced creative agency to objectively review everything and make recommendations will make the repair process easy.
Now that you are clear on your target audiences, have a consistent message and a cohesive look and feel, the next question would be: “How do I deliver the right message to the right people?” An effective media mix can be the answer.
The media mix is the combination of all the communication channels your business can use to achieve its marketing objectives. A few popular mediums include websites, emails, direct mail, digital ads, social media, newspapers, radio, television, and billboards. Each media channel has its own strengths and mixing these channels together in a media plan can help convey the brand message to your prospects productively. At different stages in the buyer’s journey, we can apply a different media mix in order to achieve the most effective results. Let’s take a look at the buying cycle of a mom-to-be who is preparing to deliver her first baby and see how a media plan can influence her decision-making process.
In the awareness stage, the buyer lists down diapers as one item in her long preparation list. She actively looks for information, she may read newspapers covering her interests and do some online searches. Therefore, the focus in the media mix should be on building awareness through mass advertising: digital display banners, SEM & SEO to make sure your brand shows up as possible brands to look at.
Next, in the consideration stage, she is clearer on her criteria of a “perfect” newborn diaper: softness, absorbency, and comfortable fit. She visits some stores, reads product reviews, and joins online mom and baby groups. So, it is important that your brand has information on the point of sales she is likely to visit, appears with testimonials on different social media, and has informative and appealing product pages on your website.
And, in the last stage – the decision stage – when she chooses a brand, the mix at this stage might be more personalized, which includes an email offering detailed product information, a special promotion and maybe a baby welcome kit. The benefit of an integrated marketing campaign is having the same creative themes and marketing messages across all elements of your media mix.
For the most part, performing your own marketing maintenance and repair is easy. You know your business best and what needs to be done. However, if a tune-up becomes particularly complex, you might benefit from seeking a little extra professional help from a marketing agency, even if it’s just to gain a fresh perspective or second opinion. A good partner will be able to help confirm your suspicions on which issues are affecting your performance, uncover any new ones, and guide you on how to fix them.
It defines who you are, what you stand for, how your customers know you, and what they can expect when interacting with you. And it is amazing how many things your brand touches; everything within your business operations from Customer Service to Sales, Human Resources, R&D, Production, Administration, Purchasing, and of course Marketing.
Whether you’re launching a new brand or going through a rebranding exercise, the impact of this activity on your marketing materials, budget and timelines can be very significant.
The whole picture doesn’t become clear until you make a list of everything that will need to be developed or changed to reflect your new look. Even when you’ve done so, it still feels like you’re missing something.
To make this process a little easier, Studio Locale has developed this checklist that outlines the key brand and marketing materials you may need to create as you launch your (re)brand. It assists in planning and preparing for a new launch, making sure nothing slips through the cracks or sneaks up on you. Our clients have found it very helpful as a starting point and an excellent resource for future marketing considerations. You can use this checklist to help decide which tactics you need in each stage of brand development: awareness, consideration, preference, usage and advocacy.
The locale in a story influences the characters greatly. It is not just the setting of where the story takes place, but also the history and backstory between the characters and their surroundings. It forms the characters and contributes to who they are. The choices they make throughout the story are forged by their past experiences and interactions. Without this type of setting and character development, the story will often feel flat, barely scratching the surface of what makes the characters relatable, interesting and engaging.
Successful branding and marketing requires a similar locale development to give the (insert appropriate – logo, campaign, message, website, etc.) a genuine authenticity that will resonate with, feel natural to and engage with its community. What is the history of the company or founder that brought it to this point? How does the vision or goals for the brand fit in with the current environment? What are its essential values? Without developing this part of the brand’s narrative, similar to an underdeveloped story locale, it will feel thin and unsteady amidst the sea of competing brands. It will fall short of standing out and being memorable (or stand out and be memorable for all the wrong reasons!)
At Studio Locale we are a team of experts at uncovering those experiences that shape brands – mainly because of what has shaped us! We come together from different backgrounds, bringing unique perspectives, experiences and insights to each of our projects.
We are open to new ideas, don’t claim to be experts on everything, love to learn and hear different perspectives. Each new interaction, both inside and outside of the studio, influences how we approach the challenges brought to us by our clients.
Bringing over 20 years experience of building brands, designing logos, creating websites and producing marketing materials, we understand where design and communications has been and where it is today. We watch for new trends, new tools and new ways of connecting with clients and the communities that shape the space where brands live.
Anson has been building websites and applications for more than 20 years. With a never-ending desire for continuous learning, he has enjoyed the journey from building basic websites in the late 1990s to evolving his skills to combine strategy, user experience, marketing and the technical know-how that is required to produce a successful project today. Always focused on the customer experience, Anson views digital experiences through the eye of the user to build solutions that meet their needs while supporting the goals of your organization. And Anson has been a champion of accessible websites long before current AODA regulations mandated it – another layer of the customer experience at the forefront of site designs!
After 10 years of running her own spa, Erynn decided to make a career change into graphic design – a field she was always drawn to and practiced while owning her own business. Her passion for design allows her to always strive for the best possible solution, pushing her own limits and those of design. She loves learning and figuring out new ways to tackle design obstacles. And when not designing, Erynn spends her free time with her family, going on lots of little adventures and acting like a kid again, feeding her soul and providing inspiration for the next challenge.
A recent graduate from Conestoga’s Graphic Design Program, Jess is a hard working and passionate designer. She has always enjoyed all things art, and now gets to pursue her passion as a career. Always learning, Jess enjoys finding new and creative ways to bring clients’ ideas to life. When not designing, she can be found at the hockey rink or reading a book.
A graduate from Sheridan College’s Software Engineering program, Moayad started his development career as a full-stack developer but his true passion lies in front-end development. His keen eye for the details and visual balance enables him to fine tune the user experience on websites and bring the design concepts to life. Outside of development he enjoys learning something new, watching his favourite shows, and playing video games.
TT moved to Canada from Vietnam where she managed marketing activities for international brands Huggies and Abbott, bringing with her a wealth of knowledge in brand management, strategy, product development / launch, marketing strategy and execution. TT’s expertise provides her the ability to assess which marketing activities are required to achieve the objectives and then execute on them flawlessly. When not building marketing strategies and campaigns, she fills her time exploring and watching princess movies (reluctantly!) with her daughter.
From his early days, Phil was always creating. Sketching, building, and creating filled his days, providing him with opportunities to further develop his talent and before graduating from high school, he had designed the commemorative street banners for the opening of Kitchener’s new city hall. He honed his craft at OCAD (before the U), guided by iconic Canadian designers, and then on to two agencies where he supported some of the largest Canadian companies alongside boutique brands. But Kitchener was still home and creating a studio had been a long-time goal so he made the switch to build a studio in Kitchener. Phil continues to balance art and design to develop creative solutions that deliver results with an unexpected flair.
Starting with a successful career in corporate communications, marketing and client services at two of Canada’s largest communications companies, Robin was given the opportunity to make a change and build the studio with her partner-in-life, Phil. While the timing for the move wasn’t the best with two small kids at home, the lure of launching something together in a community she loves was too much to resist. That continued tenacity and desire to help other companies grow to their greatest potential drives Robin every day to build the best brand for all of the studio’s clients.
You can learn more about the creative and professional services we offer our clients here at Studio Locale.
When starting conversations with a new client who is looking to brand their organization, it’s often one of the first questions we are asked. It’s a question that doesn’t have a clear cut answer. Often we’ll come back with a question in return to begin to uncover what the brand needs to deliver and use that as the starting point.
We can appreciate that spending a good chunk of your marketing budget on branding sometimes feels like an expense rather than an investment.
You can’t hold it.
You can’t sell it.
And there’s no immediate ROI.
But here’s the reality – your branding is the foundation of all of your communication and marketing activities. It is a direct reflection of your values and your vision. When done right, it will last, growing and evolving right along with your company. It is the ‘face’ of your company. It’s part of the image that will hopefully pop into someone’s head when they hear its name.
Test that quickly – Nike, Lululemon, Roots, Apple. Bet with each of those, one or more elements of their brand popped into your head. Their logo? Tagline? Website? Retail environment? All of them have spent a considerable amount of time and resources developing, and maintaining, their brand.
You may not have the level of marketing dollars larger brands do, but you do still have the opportunity to invest in your brand. We work with our clients to help determine what that investment should look like based on your goals and provide options to get you there.
If you feel the time is right to (re)look at your branding to push you to the next level, we are happy to sit down and begin building a relationship that will take you where you want to go.