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By: Matthew Kelly, Managing Partner

You may have noticed the world’s most successful brand, and the world’s most valuable company, turned a $1,000,000,000,000 last week (in market cap).

Not bad for an organization that Steve Jobs had to save from bankruptcy just 21 years ago.

So how did Apple do it?

The playbook is too long to review here but one overarching theme comes to mind.

He understood innately what consumers deepest desires were. Enjoying their favourite music anytime, anywhere.  Connecting with loved ones on facetime. Demystifying technology at friendly genius bars.  While competitors were selling features and technology, Apple was selling desire, generating love.

I loved my first ipod. Having thousands of songs at my fingertips in this tiny, beautifully designed metal wedge, in any colour under the rainbow.

I loved my iphone.  I marveled that it was so easy to use it did not come with an instruction booklet. That I could ditch my camera and video camera .  I could search the web and find any answer on google. I would trade my old phone in for the new one even when the old phone was perfectly fine. I didn’t blink when the invoice said $659.00 for a phone. Steve understood the emotion attached to ‘I’.

At LEVEL5 Strategy Group, we say a great brand understands the Value of Promise Consistently Kept™.

Steve Jobs understood what humans valued at a deep level. He promised ‘simplicity’ through emotions and built a tightly controlled, exceptional customer experience to deliver that promise. 21 years later Apple is still delivering against that promise, better than anyone.

These days I love turning my iphone off. I’ve become too involved. Too dependent. But I also can’t wait for Apple’s next category disrupter.

If only Apple could deliver what I really desire these days – a simpler life.

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By: Richard Baran-Chong, Manager, LEVEL5 Strategy Group

Pizza. It’s every child’s favourite food. Heck, it’s still one of my favourite foods. And for the first time in my pizza-eating career, I’ve finally encountered a pizza that I don’t like: Papa John’s.

I should clarify – it’s not the pizza I don’t like, it’s the company. And it really isn’t the company, it’s the words of their founder, John Schnatter. Unfortunately, in Papa John’s case, the organization is positioned around the personality of Mr. Schnatter and so its success, or demise, is tied to his words and actions.

At LEVEL5, we use positioning as a means of aligning a client’s strategic intent, style, competencies, and communications in a consistent manner. It can range from very functional-based positioning, on things like ‘Infrastructure,’ to more emotional-based positioning around things like ‘Personality’ (as is the case with Papa John’s).

A Personality-based positioning presents both great risk and great reward. It can be a risk to an organization when the individual has done something wrong, as we’ve seen in the case of Papa John’s where the company’s stock price has fallen nearly 15% since July 11th (the day Forbes reported Mr. Schnatter’s words and he resigned as chairman, though trouble began in November when he called out the NFL). Conversely, it can also inspire confidence and spur loyalty. Case and point, Elon Musk: the man behind Tesla who can attract billions of capital despite never making a year of profit, missing production targets, and burning through dough faster than, well, pizza in a 900-degree wood burning oven.

Papa John’s has moved quickly to distance themselves from Mr. Schnatter’s persona. For starters, he’s being removed from their marketing materials (I hope they recycle those pizza boxes!). Next, we might see a change in their name. Perhaps we will see “PJ’s” as an abbreviated version of the company; the same move pulled by BP, or British Petroleum prior to the oil spill. But these are just surface changes.

Regardless of company name, the organization faces the dilemma of re-positioning themselves while still standing out in an already crowded and mature pizza market as they fight for a bigger slice of the pizza pie. They may hold their ground and have a new personality take over or can ditch the personality-based positioning altogether and embrace a new positioning around their Products, which is already reflected in their tagline “better ingredients, better pizza.” Needless to say, it’s more than a cheesy exercise of changing a name or logo.

To put it in their language: positioning can be thought of as the crust that holds everything together. It requires all of the internal workings of the company, the toppings (yes, including pineapple), to be carefully selected, placed and aligned to become the pizza they want to be seen as in the market, strategically. It’s one thing to redefine your pizza, but ultimately, it needs to be delivered consistently through a brand-driven customer journey… and ideally within 30 minutes or less.

We work with organizations every day to help build and implement brand-driven strategies, which includes companies that need to undergo a shift (or reinvention) of their strategy, positioning, or even the way they execute their strategies.

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By Matt Kelly, Managing Partner

In July 2018, the Toronto Star published a public interest story about a Toronto school where the kindergarten students speak 40 different languages. That’s right, forty. It stopped me in my tracks; not just as a Canadian who takes pride in our diversity, but as someone who advocates the importance of building and maintaining powerful business brands.


Shared identity has become part of our DNA.

As Canadians, we’re celebrated across the globe for being open, welcoming, polite, egalitarian and … well, nice (how very Canadian). For the most part, Canadians have come to take diversity for granted – no longer just in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, but right across the country. Consequently, we’re not bi-lingual; we’re multi-lingual. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Stop and think about that school for a moment: 40 different languages. 40 unique cultures being lived at home. A total of 630 youngsters, all of them embracing Canada while viewing their world (and making sense of it) through 40 different lenses. The fact that close to 1 in 5 Canadians (these children included) has a disability adds to the diversity of our population.

As an executive who, for many years, was concerned with ensuring that brands translated well into only English and French, I’m struck by what a profound new challenge this presents to clients. It’s not enough for us to acknowledge diversity. We need think about what it really means for our products and services, our customer experiences.


Are you tuned into the diversity of your customers’ values?

At LEVEL5, we believe that successful, branded organizations – the ones that stand apart from their competitors – understand that a brand is ‘the value of a promise consistently kept.’ That is, they understand what really drives value in their marketplace; they make a powerful promise to their customers based on an understanding of what they value; and they operationalize that promise with a consistent, customer experience – from sales to supply chain.

But in today’s world we need to understand and distill hundreds of value drivers down to just a few within the context of a widely diverse market of different languages, cultures, values, generations and attitudes. That’s why, at LEVEL5, we stress the importance of recognizing diversity as an important factor when building a brand strategy and delivering a valuable customer experience.

Our BrandMap™ tells us there are 96 human emotions, 186 personality types, and scores of rational reasons to embrace or reject a brand. Choose the wrong set of value drivers to base your brand promise on and you’ve wasted your marketing dollars and misdirected your organization. A huge cost and missed opportunity.

Get it right, however, and you can position your brand for long-term success and capture more loyal customers.

So ask yourself this:


How well do you know your ‘Canadian’ customers?

Do you have a clear understanding of how they perceive you versus your competitors and does your brand make a compelling promise to your customers that transcends individual needs and attitudes? Do you (and your employees) understand, on a deep, emotional level, what really matters to consumers and what this means for the customer experience you engineer for them?

If not, get on it, and quickly. It won’t be long before those 630 students are making brand decisions of their own.


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By: Hua Yu, Managing Partner
Contributors: Sylvia Palka Melo, Manager & Frank Zhang, Senior Consultant 

During the 2006 Winter Olympics, Tim Hortons launched a series of “Every cup tells a story” commercials. I still remember the one that told a story of an Asian father and son: watch the commercial here.

The commercial portrays a father who was very strict when it came to his son putting studying ahead of playing hockey. Fast forward decades later, that same boy is now a father cheering on his own son at a hockey game. During the game, his father unexpectedly shows up to the hockey game with two cups of Tim Hortons double double coffees. It turns out that the father would secretly come watch his son play hockey.

The commercial resonated with many Canadians, including Asian-Canadians, who have embraced “hockey” & “double-double” as part of their life here in Canada


To capitalize on China’s population, growing economy and flourishing coffee culture, Tim Hortons has announced a 1,500-store China expansion over the next decade. Read more here.

How does Tim Hortons ensure that the brand stays true to its Canadian roots while finding a way to resonate with Chinese consumers who may not understand the appeal of “hockey” or what a “double double” cup of coffee means?



Opportunity: The coffee consumption culture is flourishing in China, especially among the middle class and younger generations, who represent significant consumption potential coupled with a strong appetite to experience global brands.


Watch Out: Tim Hortons announced that it will first focus on opening new stores in Shanghai and Beijing. Both markets are highly developed and saturated with several domestic and international coffee brands already set up in prime locations. For instance, in Shanghai, the distance between Starbucks stores is less than 100 metres. The high concentration of locations and well-established brand reputation among existing players will make it hard for Tim Hortons to “steal” market share from brands such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee. Location, location, location will be key.



Opportunity: The Chinese-Canadian community is the second largest visible minority in Canada – many of which are advocates of Tim Hortons. They also have friends and families in China that they frequently communicate with whether through text messaging, email, phone calls or video calls (think: We Chat). There is an opportunity for Tim Hortons to leverage existing brand advocates within the Chinese Canadian community to better understand how to communicate the Tim Horton’s brand in China. A good place to start is by identifying which rational and emotional benefits will versus will not resonate with Chinese consumers. The benefits that resonate in North America may not resonate in China.


Watch Out: Tim Hortons brand positioning in North America is a personality-based positioning centred around a professional Canadian hockey player: Miles Gilbert “Tim” Horton.  How the Tim Hortons brand translates its brand story to resonate with Chinese consumers will be one of the key success factors for its Chinese market entry. 


Opportunity: Chinese consumers are considered especially technologically savvy, with the country’s infrastructure having adopted some of the most advanced technologies. How Tim Hortons will leverage technology as part of its consumer experience (e.g., online ordering + in-store pickup, delivery services via third party platforms), build its payment system (e.g., McDonald’s and Starbucks accept WeChat pay in China), and engage with Chinese consumers (e.g., WeChat Channel, WeChat Mini Programs, etc.) will be very interesting.


Watch Out: Successful global brands actively cater to Chinese consumers’ unique appetite by offering local food items. For instance, McDonald’s offers congee as part of its breakfast menu; KFC provides rice instead of french fries with its chicken dinner combos. Even with the most advanced technology offering, missing the mark on understanding and customizing to local tastes, flavours and behaviours will be a deal breaker.


While Canada’s Chinese communities have embraced Tim Hortons, only time will tell whether the values and roots of the Canadian coffee chain brand will resonate in China and rise to the top against some of the already established players in the Chinese market.


“Double double” may indeed mean something to the Chinese consumers in the future!


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By: Selina Phan, Analyst Intern

On June 14, 2018, LEVEL5 hosted its first-ever Women in Consulting panel event. The event welcomed 40 female students to sit in on an intimate conversation with three current LEVEL5’ers as well as a LEVEL5 alumnus. Among the panelists were:

  • Ashlee Goodfellow, Director
  • Sylvia Palka Melo, Manager
  • Mary Wong, Consultant
  • Katie Armstrong, Career Coach at UofT Rotman and LEVEL5 alumnus

Moderating the panel was LEVEL5’s President and Managing Partner, Ian Madell.

Each panelist shared their professional path to consulting, their tips on how to determine whether a career in consulting is the right fit for them, the future of consulting, and what it’s like to work at LEVEL5. Below are some highlights from the panel discussion:



In the age of digital disruption, the fundamentals of consulting will remain the same – organizations are always transforming. What will change is the content, models, and application of tools to help organizations through these transformations… and that’s where consultants come in to help.

To learn more about how digital leaders can navigate today’s digital disconnect, check out LEVEL5’s latest whitepaper here.



Some consulting firms have a technology focus, others are sector specific, and then there’s the decision of working for a large firm or a boutique firm. Decisions, decisions!

If you are interested in getting into management consulting, go out and talk to people. Learn about each firm’s different specialties, and the type of people they employ. Figure out what kind of fit, culture, and atmosphere is right for you. When you’re a member of a consulting team, you’re a member of a tribe, and you must know what is important to that tribe to work successfully with others.

At LEVEL5 Strategy Group, we believe a Brand is the Value of a Promise Consistently Kept™ – this is our unique point of view, and we are committed to helping our cross-sector clients achieve inspired growth strategies through the power of their brands.

We dig deeper into how LEVEL5 helps brands generate sustainable business growth and remain relevant to customers in a recent blog post by one of our Managing Partners, Matt Kelly.



Advocate for yourself. Ask for opportunities and feedback when you can, to identify areas of improvement and communicate what opportunities you wish to pursue. Opportunities are rarely given out on a silver platter, and it’s important to identify what you want and how you want to pursue it. At the same time, it’s equally important to be self-aware, and assess yourself continuously to identify areas for improvement. Identify what your strengths and weaknesses are and focus on improving your weaknesses and leveraging your strengths. Lastly, as a consultant, confidence is critical.


A special thank you to our amazing all-female attendees. The event was a huge success, thanks to the engagement and enthusiasm of everyone who attended.  


LEVEL5 will be hosting more events in the future, so be sure to keep an eye out for further events by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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By Efram Lebovits

In my last post on change leadership, we explored why change is essential to organizations of all types. From government and not-for-profit agencies to successful retailers and other private sector business, change helps to ensure relevancy, sustainability, and in some cases, survival.

In this post, I share four practices that LEVEL5 employs with respect to getting productive, constructive and successful change started and establishing momentum. You may need to apply only some of them or you may choose to apply them all, and the order in which you apply them may vary as you embark on your organization’s change journey.

  1. To build alignment among senior leaders, begin at the end.

I know I just said you don’t need to apply all of these practices, but if you’re going to skip one, don’t let it be this one! In order for change to take place, you need all of those directing the change to be on the same page with respect to your organization’s goals. With this in mind, start by outlining what the ultimate end game looks and feels like.

At LEVEL5, we often work with change catalysts on our C-suite / senior client teams to create a blueprint that helps facilitate the process of obtaining buy-in from others on the leadership team (I wrote about some of them in my previous post). This often takes the form of a multi-page story that we refer to as a narrative. This narrative is built by the change agent(s) in collaboration with their colleagues, and essentially outlines what they want to be when they grow up, so to speak.  The key is to ensure that everyone involved understands that this isn’t a strategic plan or a set specific deliverables, it is simply a story describing a future state and how it looks and feels.  This process really helps shake out otherwise unstated differences and helps ensure everyone is aligned to where the organization is heading.

  1. Show your leadership team what change could look like by removing blinders.

Not everybody’s chomping at the bit to change. If you want to engage those who are resistant, you need to help them understand the why behind it. By showing them what great looks like in other organizations, both within and outside of your particular industry (take Nordstrom’s digital transition, for example) you can open them up to the possibility of shifting towards a greater future.

I’m not suggesting you copy others. I’m simply saying that education provides perspective. Sometimes even the best leaders think, hey, this works, so why change? They don’t think to look around for new possibilities. Take the blinders off and they may still refuse to shift, but at least they’ll be doing it from an eyes-wide-open perspective.

  1. Subject your senior leaders to the canary in the coal mine.

In some instances, senior leaders have difficulty understanding the need for change because they simply can’t see the problem, even if it’s blatantly clear from the customer’s, employee’s or stakeholder’s point-of-view. So what do you do?

You need to get your leaders to experience the problem first-hand. For example, if it’s a purchasing issue, insist that they walk through the customer’s purchase process. That way, they’ll no longer be blind to the hiccups and they’ll be more likely to accept what needs to change before you reach the point of no return.

  1. Grant permission for company-wide change and go for it!

Getting alignment to change at the top may be tricky but it’s doable (and frankly necessary). Once you have it, pay it forward. Grant permission to the next level of leadership and advise those leaders to do the same so that everyone within your organization is aligned and motivated.

Promote a change-positive environment, with some boundaries, granted, but not so many that people are afraid to think big. Sure, a single change agent can get the ball rolling but at the end of the day this requires organization-wide collaboration. Once people feel like they have permission to see the world differently, it’s amazing what new ideas are born.

Throughout all of these steps, diplomacy rules. Your job isn’t to beat people over the head until they are convinced; that just doesn’t work. The job of the change agent is to educate and help others see the light in their context while creating a shared understanding of the end game.

If you have a hard time presenting your case objectively, consider bringing in a third party to help steward things with you. At LEVEL5, we often play the role of mediator/facilitator/catalyst supporter for this very reason, and help change agents get the buy-in they need to move forward. Contact us if you’d like to know more.

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By Efram Lebovits, Principal

Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, once said: “Change before you have to.” Easier said than done. Difficult, frustrating, disruptive, risky – change leadership can be all of these things and more, which undoubtedly explains why there is still such great resistance in many business circles.

Nevertheless, change, we must. Customer needs are integral to success; as they evolve, we need to evolve. Economies rise and fall; businesses need to respond. Opportunities that are there for the taking should be taken. And if none of these rationales are enough to inspire change leadership within your organization, here’s one that might:

Do or die: sometimes change is a matter of survival.

Take Blockbuster, for example. (Remember them?) In 2004, they had more than 9,000 stores and employed more than 84,300 people around the world. By 2010, they had zilch. Turns out they shouldn’t have sniggered at the proposal presented to them by Netflix founder Reed Hastings in 2000. (Read more of the demise of Blockbuster here.)

And what about Kodak? Failing to recognize the digital revolution as the tsunami it was, they never fully embraced the new alternative to film. Their active foray into digital was late and half-hearted.  In actuality, they created the first digital camera in 1975 but the organization decided to shun it and not lead the change in how photography was captured.  In fact, quite the contrary; they held on to film as if their life depended on it.

Most recently, of course, was the demise of Toys R’ Us, whose failure to adapt its business model in the wake of shifting parent needs, child play activities and growing online competition – not to mention a mountain of debt – became its downfall.

That said, leadership teams shouldn’t only look to change in dire times.

If change isn’t driven by the need to survive and it’s not simply change for change-sake, what does it mean, then? What role does change play if you’re:

  • An insulated agency of the government operating in a quasi-monopoly?
  • A successful retailer, wealth management firm, entertainment provider or other private sector success story?
  • A business-as-usual not-for-profit organization that’s doing relatively well?

It means evolving so that you can maintain relevancy and sustainability for the longer-term, both of which can only be accomplished when leadership teams agree on the importance of staying ahead of the curve.

At the very least, organizations need a handful of change leaders within their most senior ranks who understand the dynamic nature of our world.

At LEVEL5, we have the privilege of working with such leaders. They understand that competitors, consumer expectations, engagement, digital and delivery are all shifting quickly, and they’ve built mandates for change leadership to ensure they keep up with the pace.

Is your organization struggling to mobilize a change agenda?

And if so, why? A couple of quotes come to mind: “Good is the enemy of great” (James C. Collins), and “Success breeds complacency” (Andy Grove). Just as every organization has naysayers, every organization has forward thinkers. It is up to the latter to be a catalyst for organizational leadership by rallying behind a change agenda.

In an upcoming post, I’ll share fours steps you can take to align senior leaders to change. Until then, if you need a hand formulating a change mandate or engaging your team in an existing mandate, feel free to reach out for support. You’ll find us here.

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By Claude Ricks, Managing Partner


Napster hit the scene in 1999. I can still remember the thrill. A world of music had opened up to me and my newly digital-music-enabled computer. A music revolution had begun and I remember thinking, this is it. Digital has arrived!


Back then, digital was a thing. And it remained a thing for many years; a thing people went to IBM for because IBM does technology and that’s what digital’s about, right? Back then, yes, but not anymore. Today, digital is an enabler of things, only some of which actually relate to technology.


As I was getting my fill on Napster, I was clueless about the digital transformation to come. Now, as the managing partner of a management consulting firm that builds and helps implement inspired growth strategies, I live and breathe it. Still, the majority of those who aren’t in my day-to-day shoes continue to wonder…


What the heck is digital transformation?


That’s the question posed by Simon Chan in his article of the same name. It’s a fair question and a complex one at that. In my experience, people seem to have an easier time grasping what it isn’t versus what it is, so let’s start with that.


Digital transformation is not a website or mobile app. It is not social media or e-commerce. It is not process automation or data analytics.


If you knew that already, you’re ahead of the game. If you didn’t, don’t worry. If it wasn’t such a tricky concept to grasp, Chan wouldn’t have written the article in the first place and I wouldn’t have been compelled to join in the conversation.


Digital transformation (DX) has become a nebulous term.


It seems to encapsulate everything that has anything to do with both business and IT, and as Chan rightly points out in his article, that’s way too broad. In an effort to zero in on what DX actually is, Chan defines three words that are key to pretty much every DX conversation – digital, strategy and transformation.


Here, paraphrased, is a summary of what he has to say about each:


Digital refers to communication between electronic devices. It reflects how phones, computers, printers, tablets, etc. communicate with one another using binary code, i.e. ones and zeros. No surprises there.


Strategy is harder to define. It means different things to different people, but Chan settles on it being the accumulation of three things: 1) Taking a stance; 2) backing up that stance with objectives; 3) taking action.


Transformation is way more than change. It’s profound. It’s radical. It’s a complete and utter makeover that touches all parts of an organization.


It’s with his definition of transformation that Chan really starts to speak LEVEL5’s language. As we convey quite passionately in every DX conversation we have, and in our white paper Navigating the Digital Disconnect, DX is about broad organizational change. And just as transformation must touch all parts of an organization, so must digital transformation.


So why all the DX confusion?


As Chan points out, there are several cooks in the kitchen. While all DX initiatives should be run by the CEO, that’s rarely the case. The CMO, COO, CIO and CFO, as well as the average Joe, are all coming at it with their own perspectives. For the sake of simplicity, Chan drops their varying approaches to DX into five buckets:


Bucket #1: The customer experience, driven by the CMOIn light of the customer shift towards digital versus physical (retail) channels, marketing teams are heavy players in the DX movement, leveraging web sites, mobile apps, social media, CRM systems, marketing technologies and more to find new customers and retain existing ones.


Bucket #2: Operational efficiency, driven by the COO and CIODX isn’t about transforming a company’s digital and technical assets. It’s about using those assets to change all aspects of a company, including operations. Technology plays a valuable role in the breakdown of departmental siloes and in the promotion of better communication and culture.


Bucket #3: Cost management, driven by the CFODX is also a vehicle for cutting costs. The virtualization of data centres, Cloud computing, remote working tools and methods, artificial intelligence – these and other digital initiatives can help significantly reduce costs associated with work premises, human resources, IT equipment and more.


Bucket #4: Shift in business model, driven by the CEO
Finally, the CEO! Chan describes this bucket as “a profound business model shift, which permeates every living cell of the company, resulting in changes to structure, capabilities, policies, processes, people, technologies and culture.” It’s what ultimately enables a company to increase market share and compete in new markets.”


Bucket #5: DX as a world view, driven by the average person
Here, Chan’s talking about the big picture. How do the changes that are associated with digital technology impact society? Business aside, what will the impact of those changes be from a political, economic, social, theological, psychological, legal and environmental point of view?


By presenting these five buckets – or segments – Chan has done a great job of conveying, in simple terms, just how broad-reaching digital actually is. If I could add just one thing to his commentary, it would be the importance of cross-pollination between these segments.


You can no longer focus on one or two segments and call yourself digital.


In a recent white paper Navigating the Digital Disconnect published by LEVEL5 one of our panel members shared with us that real digital transformation is often messy, that’s because the journey is a bit chaotic and organic, as your organization uncovers the journey that aligns with your strategy.  This is why the CEO needs to own DX journey and the C suite, CMO, CFO, CIO, COO, and every member of their respective teams, need to be aligned if you’re using digital as an enabler to ownable, competitive advantage.  With that many players in the sandbox, you need a leader… that’s where your CEO steps in – and a DX coach.


At LEVEL5, our partners are all great coaches, we’re all operators, have walked in your shoes and understand messy and chaotic digital transformation journeys.  We view your brand as ‘the value of a promise consistently kept’™, and we can help you with the challenge of consistently keeping promises in a world changing at the pace of digital.  Want to learn more? We’re passionate about what we do and welcome every opportunity to talk about it…reach out, with no obligation of course. You’ll find our contact information here.

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By David Kincaid, Managing Partner and Founder L5

At LEVEL5, we define brand as the value of a promise consistently kept™. Keeping a promise is no easy task. No organization knows that better than Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC), who yesterday announced the decision to discontinue selling products tied to a well-known gun manufacturer. Hats off to them.


Brand value is a powerful combination of positive AND negative attributes.

MEC’s recent decision really drives this point home.

As a reminder, MEC doesn’t sell guns. But they do sell outdoor equipment that’s made by guns and ammunition manufacturer Vista Outdoor Inc.

MEC also has more than five million passionate, involved members. Many of these members have a deep, emotional attachment to the brand. They feel they have a voice in how MEC makes decisions. They also have strong opinions on whether or not these decisions live up to the organization’s corporate purpose and values.

MEC should be commended, not only for knowing its members at a deep, emotional level, but for making a fast and informed, data-based decision aligned to its vision and values. 

“This one has been a very emotional issue with a lot of different opinions…requiring listening with the facts at hand,” stated CEO David Labistour when sharing MEC’s recent decision. As of this writing Walmart, Dicks, Krogers and REI in the USA have all taken action related to gun restrictions. There’s no shortage of other companies that could stand to take a leaf out of MEC’s book. Here are just a few valuable takeaways.


Three important lessons for branded organizations:

  1. Acknowledge that brand value is generated largely by associations with positive and negative emotions. And remember, negative emotions are typically three times more powerful than positive ones, i.e. you can’t just bury your head in the sand when things get ugly.
  2. Demonstrating a meaningful social responsibility strategy is quickly becoming a powerful driver of brand value, choice of employer among millennials, and even financing. In fact, in a recent poll conducted among 2,000+ Toronto Star readers, 75% respondents said they prefer brands with a social conscience. (Check out the strong opinion Blackrock shared earlier this year on the topic of social responsibility.)
  3. Know your customers. Really know your customers. And your employees, too. Not just what they say, but how they feel. How do their emotions inform and connect to your brand promise? How does your response to controversial situations align to your organizational values and the behaviours they guide? Social media gives consumers a powerful voice. It’s imperative you understand the thoughts and emotions behind their words, not just the sentiment of their words.

A new day has dawned for brands and branded organizations.

The leaders of great brands understand the emotional impact they can have in the marketplace with their current and potential customers. They pay attention to what’s being said and felt, and rise to the good, as well as the bad and the ugly, in order to keep their promise consistently.

It’s inspiring to see David Labistour use the MEC brand to drive positive social change. Congratulations @MEC!


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“The company’s relationship with its franchisees is a huge challenge for them,” said David Kincaid, managing partner of consultancy Level5 Strategy Group. “The general relationship status with franchisees still feels strained and now this Ontario minimum-wage issue just strained it further.”