We have been supporting not-for-profit organizations since our beginning. Whether donating items, funds, and time, we believe we all can help different organizations looking to make a positive impact.
This year, we made a formal commitment to our community and introduced open – our giveback program that supports organizations supporting movements and causes specifically around youth, equality, and the environment. (You can learn more about open on this page.)
Our first official ‘open’ project saw us partnering with the Somali Canadian Association of Waterloo Region (SCAWR). SCAWR is an organization that helps new Somali Canadians navigate a new community, as well as provides youth programming. They were looking for help to share their achievements and stories within an annual report and regular newsletters.
Working with the team was such a pleasure! With all of their content ready to go, our team could design the digital annual report and newsletter templates, providing them with valuable, reusable communications tools. Being able to connect with your members, partners, and potential donors is critical for any not-for-profit. Staying connected helps promote services, celebrate success stories, and thank supporters, encouraging more engagement across the entire community.
We are so grateful that our first open project was with SCAWR! Faduma and her team have such amazing energy that really inspired us. We are thankful to have learned about SCAWR and the amazing impact they are making on the lives of their members and our community!
We will be accepting applications for 2024’s open project soon. Watch our instagram page for more details.
by Studio Locale
Think beyond moving billboard ads on transit. How to use creativity when designing transit advertising to bring a better experience to the community. Studio Locale’s segment starts at 42:53.
The Mike Farwell Show.
A lot of headlines are talking about it – “Are we in a recession?”, “How hard will the recession be?”, “Will Canada go into a recession?” While different outlets and economists are discussing if we will/are, businesses are evaluating strategies and tactics to work through one. And as they consider all the options, here’s why it’s important to maintain your marketing during a recession.
When the economy takes a downturn, buyers tighten their budgets, reduce their spending, and re-evaluate their priorities. Business can see sales begin to drop, and often the first go-to solution is to cut costs to protect profit. One of the line items first to be reviewed and cut? Often marketing.
Under the profit and loss statement, marketing is considered an expense. Reducing spend on advertising may seem like a no-brainer way to positively impact profit. However, nothing lasts forever, not even a recession. And by cutting off marketing activities, you can nearly guarantee to remove yourself from the race when your customers are ready to spend again.
Because, with marketing budgets being cut, buyers are exposed to less advertising. Companies that continue to advertise will have fewer competing messages to contend with and often see it reflected in their recession sales – staying the same or sometimes even increasing! What’s even better is that you can increase sales without increasing your marketing budget – something that you’d have to do in non-recessionary times.
One of the first, and the most often referenced still, studies that measured marketing effectiveness during a recession was completed by Roland Vaile, a Harvard graduate who tracked the performance of 250 U.S. companies from the end of World War I into the 1920s. He found that there was a positive correlation between marketing budgets and sales. Companies that increased their marketing budgets during the economic downturn increased sales by 20% over pre-recession levels. On the contrary, those who decreased their marketing spend suffered a sales drop 7% below pre-recession levels. (You can read more about this study in a number of marketing forums and magazines. A more recent article that referenced this study can be found here.)
So even during tough times when revenue may be declining, there’s still value in continuing with your marketing activities.
It can also be a good time to evaluate and consider the changes that may benefit the business in the long term. It could be time to analyze your customer base, look for new consumer insights, or explore more effective communication strategies.
The downturn could present opportunities to further grow your business. How can you innovate your products/ services to be more customer-focused? Is there an opportunity to grow the business in a new way?
When there is a downturn in the economy, it can present a number of opportunities to grow your business further – by building brand awareness, reviewing your communications and marketing strategies, or product refinements. We can help use your marketing budget smartly. With services that span across branding to websites to marketing, our team can help you navigate through these scenarios and strengthen your business. If you feel now is the right time, let’s connect.
We frequently can be heard saying to our clients “When you get bored of your branding, your clients are just beginning to become familiar with it.” We don’t take branding lightly. Brand equity can take time to build and changing your brand without any real purpose can diminish your overall brand value. So when we’re approached to partner for a rebrand, we begin in understanding why a rebrand has been put on the table in the first place.
Many times at the top of the list is to remain relevant with your client base and target audience. Your brand is no longer resonating with your target market or appearing to align with their values. Or it’s feeling old and stuffy compared to newer brands that are in the market.
But rebranding to remain relevant shouldn’t be like dressing in the trendiest outfit you can find, heading out to the newest club, and then posting crazy antics all over social. When we do that, it’s not too long before we regret the whole thing and go back to the old version of ourselves. Or worse, our new found clients realize we are posing as something we’re not. At the end of the day, we realize that we can’t pull off something that’s different from who we really are.
Rebranding to remain relevant still means remaining authentic and true to your brand attributes and values. Changing to trendy styles, colours, or messaging, when it’s not who you really are, will feel off when clients begin to interact with your company.
When beginning a rebrand to remain relevant, we start with reviewing:
This serves as the foundation for developing a new brand that feels more relevant and better resonates with your target audience.
The story behind why rebranding for relevancy is always slightly different. One of our favourite team projects where we rebranded a client to remain relevant is Giffen Lawyers. In all cases, we really dig in to understand the core values and what clients were looking for.
Another example we love is the King Arthur Baking rebrand. As a 200+ year old company, they returned to their roots as a baking company to remain relevant to and resonate with their clients.
It can be tricky to know when to build customer insights into your brand strategy. As business owners, CEOs, or CMOs, we like to think that we have a fairly good handle on our overall brand and marketing strategies. We invest time and resources into determining our name, the product offering, crafting a logo and developing clear messaging. It’s built through product research, market insights, and alignment with our brand vision and values. We identify our target audience through the holes in the landscape, then work to position our solution to fill them.
Yet even with all that work, we still need to keep an open mind and be ready to pivot if our customers present a different opportunity. We may have an idea of how we want our customers to use our products or interact with our brand, but they may find a new way on their own. Successful brands listen to what their customers are saying and adjust their products and marketing when it makes sense. Their brand strategy stays fluid enough to flex with customer insights, while remaining true to their brand values.
One of our favourite examples of this is Vans. The company shifted elements in its brand and marketing strategies a number of times to align with its customers. Most of the changes occurred during its earlier years, while it was still a scrappy start-up. (Not that that was even a term in the late 60s and early 70s?) Some of the most noticeable shifts to incorporate customer insights, in no particular order, have been:
Name change – The now famous shoe company started out as Van Doren Rubber Company. It was named after one of its founders, Paul Van Doren. They changed their name to simply Vans after customers started saying, ‘let’s head down to Van’s”.
Product offering – Their original product was a deck shoe with rubber souls marketed for the whole family. They began to notice that the shoes were becoming popular within the California skate scene as the sole was sticky on the boards. New target audience? Yep! Vans began to focus on creating a shoe specifically for skaters. They even had two skaters help with updating the design of the shoe. By the mid 70s, almost all of the skaters in the area were wearing Vans.
Tagline – Their tagline “Off the wall” is from a skateboarding term coined in the 70s while Californian skateboarders were literally doing tricks off the walls of empty swimming pools. Early skateboarders were pioneers in the sport and embraced individuality. The term is often associated with being rebellious and creative. Vans adopted it to reflect the spirit of the brand and the ethos of its customers.
Customization – Allowing for more creativity for its customers, Vans offered custom orders where you could choose different colours for the 3 main areas of the shoe (toe, heel and sides). This let each rider have their shoes reflect their own personal style and included making unique left and right shoes. We love that Vans still has customizable shoes. Not only can you choose your colours, but you can also upload your own art and customize the checkerboard! (There was a time where you could also buy just one shoe – the left or the right – as your kick foot would wear faster. Vans was providing a solution that was unique to their main customer’s problem, which broke the convention of always selling 2 shoes – off the wall again!)
Going with the flow and listening to their customer base however didn’t secure the success of Vans. They have had their share of challenges, including filing for bankruptcy protection in the 80s after introducing too many style variations. They were able to come back from it and have continued expanding the brand to appeal to a larger target audience. Their brand and marketing strategies, while fluid enough to shift to these changing target audiences, have stayed true to their brand values. Something that we believe has largely contributed to their success.
It’s not uncommon for family businesses to plan its succession around future generations taking over. It’s a practice many have planned from the get go. (Or when their kids show an interest in the business!) Often they are named after the founding family members, the family name, or even something enduring to the family as a whole. The initial logo may have been an image of the homestead, or of a family element.
However, as the family business evolves there may come a time where rebranding makes sense. The rebrand could include an updated logo, a new name, or new brand messaging.
A few of the common scenarios include when:
We all love a great success story. A small, family run business with humble beginnings takes off and is working to become a popular, sought after brand. A name change may not make sense if brand equity is already there. However, an updated visual brand can be helpful as it is introduced to more potential clients and positions itself against larger competitors.
Many smaller family businesses begin in their local area. When the decision is made to expand beyond the immediate areas, it’s a good time to take a look at how the brand will be received by the larger target audience. What resonates with your local market may no longer work as your sales area increases.
In this scenario, you may have a brand review as part of your business plan after outside investors have committed. Being open to reviewing your brand and making changes to appeal to a larger audience, shows outside investors that you’re serious about growth. But note, this is a review of the brand, not necessarily your values. Compromising quality or commitment to your products and services should not be up for discussion.
Sometimes the rebrand reflects the transition from one generation to the next. It symbolizes the change in leadership and the introduction of fresh ideas, strategies or offerings.
There are times when the next generation has selected another career path outside of the family business. When a non-family member has purchased a family business, a rebrand may be a good signal that the new owner is just as committed to its success as the family was. There is an investment being made towards the future of the business.
In all cases, the rebrand for a family business should consider:
Pioneer Craftsmen is a great example of a family business that rebranded to support its growth. In its 3rd generation of family leadership, the brand refresh successfully expresses Pioneer’s forward-thinking design and craftsmanship while still paying homage to its heritage. It continues to represent the lasting quality that the company is known for.
Having consistent marketing throughout the year definitely helps in building brand awareness and driving sales. When you build marketing campaigns that change with the seasons, it’s a smart way to leverage naturally occurring events or buying trends over the year. It also can help make the most of your marketing budget and have a positive impact on your ROI.
Your strongest season will depend on your individual business. So your individual marketing campaigns should be based on your yearly demand and sales fluctuations. There are so many considerations to look at when you’re building your campaigns. What works for one organization may not work for another, so you need to look at your specific business and build what makes sense for you. As you create your marketing campaigns, here are some of the key elements to look at and how you can change them over the course of the year.
Making updates to your messaging can be a quick way to keep your ads relevant and your audience engaged as the seasons change. It can reflect features/benefits during peak purchase times, build brand awareness and trigger future purchase planning, recognize special events or celebrations – whatever will resonate with your target audience and aligns with your brand.
As you plan the media channels you will use over the year, having an understanding of where your target audience will be can help you determine which ones are best when. You should consider where your target market can discover your product or services, and when they will need it. When are your clients actively searching for your solution vs. when it’s more effective to build brand awareness for future purchases? What marketing channels best support any seasonal goals? Now’s the time to consider all of the channels – digital media, traditional media, video, print, and radio ads. There may be some hidden opportunities to connect with your customers.
Similar to considering which channels make the most sense, how often ads should be presented can also help optimize your marketing ROI. Ramping up before and during a busy sales season and then adjusting to maintain brand awareness on the off season is an efficient use of marketing dollars.
Your visual brand can be one of your strongest assets when it comes to brand recognition. Giving it a seasonal lift or shift can be an effective way to grab your customers attention in the midst of the usual visual stimulation.
Outside of your media elements, you can also look at running special promotions leading up to and during your peak season. In addition to straight price savings, you can also consider cross-promotions with other companies that compliment your products or services. Running ads, email campaigns or dropping flyers are some of the channels to let your customers know of any seasonal offers.
With minimal in-house marketing resources, Netflash is a Waterloo Region based Internet company looking for support from a marketing agency. In addition to high speed Internet, they also provide various phone and TV packages. Competing against larger ISPs, the team is busy implementing bigger strategic projects in addition to managing the day to day activities of their organization.
Aware that their marketing needed some TLC and dedicated resources, they reached out to Studio Locale to be an extension to their team and manage all of their marketing initiatives.
We have worked with Netflash on different projects over the past number of years. Because of this, we have a fairly strong understanding of their business, their products, their target audience, the competitive landscape, and their business challenges. We were able to jump right in and begin with both some tactical execution for inflight initiatives, as well as recommend some branding tweaks. (If we don’t have an existing relationship, fret not. We’ll buckle down and learn everything that we need to know to be an effective extension of any organization.)
Understanding the need for ongoing communications to support various expansion initiatives, we created a communication schedule, crafted quick messaging and designed templates for immediate distribution. Flyers and emails were distributed, and landing pages were created to support and achieve conversion targets.
With the immediate marketing needs covered, we looked at the current competitive environment. There were some aggressive competitive campaigns and we wanted to better position Netflash against them. As many business owners know, it can be challenging to define your unique value proposition (UVP), and Netflash’s UVP and differentiators had become complicated in their messaging. We took the team through an exercise to clarify and simplify their core values and value proposition.
We presented messaging options along with a supporting visual lift for each one. The goal for each approach – make Netflash easy to remember, support brand awareness and have a single message that reinforced their differentiators.
Once a direction was selected, we rolled it out across all of their touch points. We updated their flyers, emails, and digital banner ads to reflect the new messaging. Each supports brand awareness along with specific calls to action based on where and who is receiving the message.
Keeping open communication between both teams is critical and we have standing monthly meetings to review activities, results, and determine if any shifts are needed to support the team.
The Netflash team is happy to have dedicated marketing resources supporting their internal efforts. Within the first year they have seen:
Brand messaging, graphic design, media planning, marketing materials
Erynn Hayden Truc Hoang Jessica McLachlan Anneta Wamono Philip Mondor Robin Mondor
The reality of your company appearing at the top for an online search these days is that you need to pay to rank. This makes the ongoing management of your Google Ads campaign a priority on your to-do list. And while you want to rank in one of the top positions, you don’t want to have to throw more money at it than you need to. So, how do you make sure your Google Ads campaign is providing you with the results you want, at a price point you can manage?
Let’s start by looking at the metrics that are usually a good indicator that your Google Ads campaign may not be running effectively.
Your ads are not showing on the search engine results page while you try to search for the relevant keywords
Your monthly Google Ads report is showing impressions but your click through and conversion rates are low.
Your sales team is receiving leads but the contact profile doesn’t align with your target customer.
In an attempt to hit all of the possible keywords, you’ve included every possible keyword, essentially casting a very large net that’s not catching the leads you want.
A close review of your keyword list, as it relates to what your target audience would be searching for, will help your ads present to the right audience at the right time. Just as important as your targeted keywords are those that should be on your negative keywords list. Make sure you include only search terms that align best with your ideal customer.
Negative keywords let you exclude irrelevant search terms from your campaigns and help focus on only the high quality keywords that drive results to your business. Updating negative keywords regularly will save budget on Google Ads, as they will enable you to attract the right leads and avoid searches that have low chance to convert.
Be specific with the locations you want to show your ads to and select the exact areas that your business is serving. That will help increase conversions and help use your ad budget in an effective way.
Ad quality is evaluated on a number of factors: how relevant your ad text is to search intent, how likely users are to click your ad and the quality of users’ experience once they land on your website. Ads that closely align with the intent of the search query are highly likely to receive more clicks.
Determining a bid strategy that best serves your business goals is one of the key factors that impacts the effectiveness of your Google Ads campaigns. Whether you want to build brand awareness, lead traffic to your website, increase brand consideration, or encourage customers to take a direct action on your site, the right bidding strategy is crucial.
It may be that your ads are presenting at the right moments, but the supporting content on your website isn’t convincing enough for them to get past the first page, fill out your contact form, or call. User experience on the landing page can have a huge impact on your Google ads effectiveness. The better your website content, the less likely users will bounce off the landing page without taking action. With more useful information and a better experience, the better your ad quality score will be, which helps your ad show in a higher position.
Our team can help! We’ll manage all of these campaign components and considerations for you. Each month, we’ll provide you with a summary of results and actions taken during the month to optimize the campaign. We also provide recommendations for additional tactics to improve the campaign performance so you are not wasting your money.
Reach out and our Google Ads experts will be happy to talk next steps!
Anyone who knows Phil knows of his love for great type. He is one of the judges for the 2023 Award for Typography in this year’s RGD Student Awards.
The thought of selecting a marketing agency that best fits with your organization may feel overwhelming at first. There are many agencies to choose from – all with different approaches, experiences, and price tags.
Ultimately, you want to find a team that understands what you need, and is easy to work with. Here are a few tips to help make the process a bit easier and hopefully enjoyable.
When beginning any relationship, it’s important to make sure you are a good fit for each other before going all in. You will be able to determine how invested an agency is in your success based on the types of questions they ask you. In turn, you can gain insights into their approach to your specific challenge and the experience they will bring to the table.
Be ready to provide specific goals and targets, challenges, timelines and budgets. Without this information, it will be difficult for any agency to come back with a viable approach and recommendations. (We equate it to asking an architect to design you a house without sharing elements of what you have in mind. You might be thinking of a classic Georgian and the architect is thinking contemporary; 2 storey vs. bungalow…. You get the picture.) If you don’t have those details yet figured out, be honest about that too. Many agencies can help define and set goals as part of the strategic planning process.
You feel a good connection with an agency but aren’t sure their recommended approach is the right one. Don’t hesitate to suggest working together to find an alternate plan. There are multiple paths you can take to get you to where you want to go. A good agency will know that and be open to finding the best course of action that works for your organization.
If you feel your organization is at the stage of needing an outside agency, shoot us a note. We’d be more than happy to sit down and have that initial conversation. Shoot us a note and we’ll get started!
Our ad for Ink-Stained Wretches supporting local journalism received an IABC Gold Quill Award of Merit in the Government Relations/Public Affairs category. The ad ran to thank the 29 municipalities across Canada that have passed journalism support motions and encouraged others to join, helping them spread the word about UN World Press Freedom Day.
Mirko and the rest of the Ink-Stained Wretches have been working tirelessly to support and advocate for local journalism in the face of sometimes undemocratic and hostile environments.
It’s a nice feather in our cap! (pun intended!!)