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By Sylvia Palka Melo, Senior Consultant


What do all brand-driven CEO’s have in common? They treat their brands as assets and align all the elements of their business system to make sure that their brand delivers consistently on its promise.

On October 5th, 2016, LEVEL5, in partnership with Spencer Stuart, hosted our Leaders Forum series power breakfast to offer senior executives a new way to think about and manage their brands as assets. Ken Wong, renowned professor at Queen’s Smith School of Business, moderated discussions with brand-driven CEOs who have successfully brought their brand to life profitably across their business system including:

  • Allan MacDonald, President, Canadian Tire Retail
  • Joe Natale, former CEO, Telus; Managing Director, BearingPoint; Managing Partner, KPMG 
  • Ana Dominguez, President, Campbell Company of Canada
  • Michael Jones, President & Chief Executive Officer, Equity Financial Trust

Each panelist openly shared their learnings and experience with integrating their brand’s vision, purpose and promise across all functions and departments within their organization through the power of people, processes and partnerships.

The prevailing keynote that came out of the discussion is that the management of a successful brand begins at the top. It’s the responsibility of (and an opportunity for) C-suite executives to identify the changes required to lead a brand forward, and to support the team within the organization that will make those changes happen to generate competitive advantage and sustainable, profitable growth. As the leader of an organization, you are not just an ambassador for your brand – you are also its guardian. That’s why managing and building a brand begins not in the marketing department but at the top of the organization.

A big thank you to our partner, Spencer Stuart, for helping us host this event, our panelists for sharing their experience and learnings, and our guests for attending and engaging in meaningful dialogue.  

Stay tuned for our white paper on key considerations, actions and best practices for bringing your brand to life profitably across your business system.

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L5 wants to congratulate our client, Keyspire, on their ranking as the #1 fastest growing consumer service company and the 11th overall fastest growing company in the country. Last week Profit Guide released their 2016 Profit 500 ranking, highlighting Canada’s quickest growing companies. Published in the October issue of Canadian Business and online at, the PROFIT 500 ranks Canadian businesses by their revenue growth over five years. Keyspire made the 2016 PROFIT 500 list with five-year revenue growth of 5,446%.

Keyspire is a real estate investor community that empowers personal freedom and financial security amongst its members. They have something to offer for everyone, from educating someone who is new to real estate about the basics to facilitating land development opportunities for the seasoned investor.

We look forward to continuing our work with Keyspire and wish them all the best in their exciting year ahead.

For more information on Keyspire, visit:

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michaelBy: Michael Maringola, Analyst Intern, Summer 2016

After four months and lots of beer (clients), my summer at LEVEL5 has been a fulfilling and valuable experience. As an intern I was given an inside look into the management consulting industry, with a special L5 spin. It has been a long journey from that first interview with my orange tie to a long and hard good-bye. In that time, I’ve learned that it does not end with just the analysis, nor with the insights. It’s about the story, and LEVEL5’s story is one of the most compelling I have ever experienced.

Throughout my LEVEL5 journey, I was given ownership over various projects. Each project was a challenge of its own and I truly believe that is what made my experience at L5 unique. From focus groups to client meetings, I learned essential skills that created a foundation for communicating with different groups. The combination of mentorship and collaboration with executives at focus groups taught me how to draw useful insight from large amounts of information. The workshops provided me with an opportunity to create an effective analysis and uncover insights. The combination of opportunities and support I received at L5 through every step was unparalleled.

L5 really embodies their core values, which allows everyone to provide the best value to their clients. Over my four months, I found myself reflecting those values as well. Every piece of analysis conducted for clients had a credible basis, central to the beliefs of accountability and integrity. The openness at the firm created an ideal environment for collaboration where I felt comfortable asking questions and everyone was willing to share their perspective. The positive energy from everyone at LEVEL5 created an environment where I felt driven and motivated to conquer the next challenge.

I was immediately given interesting work that allowed me to challenge myself. Over the last four months, I’ve had the pleasure of working on projects in various industries, from real estate (a personal interest of mine), to breweries (which at the time wasn’t a personal interest, but definitely is now!). From the very first day, I was embraced by the culture and people at L5. My colleagues were extremely supportive in providing me with help and guidance throughout my internship. I was able to build strong relationships and share many positive experiences that will stay with me for a lifetime.

Ultimately, my internship at LEVEL5 Strategy Group has provided me with numerous opportunities for growth, both professionally and personally. The L5 culture is unlike any I have seen before. I was welcomed into the firm and will fondly remember the projects I was able to work on. What made my experience truly special was the time spent after work connecting with colleagues through activities such as disk golf and volunteer initiatives! Getting to know all the L5ers is definitely what took my summer internship experience from great to truly exceptional. It was a summer full of SMART, BRAVE, ACTION.

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By: Sylvia Palka Melo, Senior Consultant

On August 23rd, 2016, LEVEL5 opened its doors to over 60 of the best and brightest students from the top business schools in Canada for our annual Open House. The event kicked off with a keynote speech by LEVEL5’s Founder and Managing Partner, David Kincaid, on the company’s history, our unique perspective on Brand as a Business System™ and our culture – which is at the heart of the LEVEL5 brand. There’s a magical ingredient to the LEVEL5 culture that makes all the hard work worth it. It’s summed up in the answers to two simple questions that we ask ourselves every day:

1. Did you learn anything?
2. Did you laugh?

As David explained, “whether it’s four in the afternoon or eleven-thirty at night, I can ask anyone in the office those same two questions and feel pretty confident about their answers. When they say yes, I know that our culture is in good shape.” At LEVEL5, our employees are not just part of the company, they’re part of a family in which there is no shortage of laughing and learning.

Following the keynote speech, the students were broken into three groups for a panel discussion, where LEVEL5 team members fielded questions, sharing experiences and shedding light on the most interesting aspects about working at LEVEL5 – from our culture, to the different types of client projects and industries we work with to how we define and help organizations manage their brands… and everything in between. After the panel discussions, the groups all came together to network and connect. In true LEVEL5 fashion, there was plenty of laughing and learning throughout the evening.

LEVEL5 thanks all of those who attended our Open House and wishes you much success in the upcoming school year!

Be sure to check with your university’s events calendar to find out when LEVEL5 will be at your next on-campus recruitment event.

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Author:  James Madell, Summer 2016 Intern Analyst

For a day in July, LEVEL5 shut down the office to volunteer at Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre (WNC). Serving a client base of 50 children between the ages of 6 to 12 (below our ‘typical’ client age range), we worked together to serve a BBQ lunch to fuel the kids for an afternoon filled with fun hands-on activities that we also participated in.

Following a successful partner led BBQ, we switched roles from consultants to activity and group leaders. As the afternoon progressed a courageous group of L5’ers helped take the reins of several groups of kids, of varying ages, and helped steer them through the activity stations that the rest of the firm had helped organize. Activity stations included, slip and slides, water balloon capture-the-flag, egg and spoon races, however the most popular stations definitely involved covering the WNC staff, and some unsuspecting L5 staff, in paint. To finish off the afternoon, the remainder of the five hundred water balloons that were purchased for the day were put to good use as the kids participated in a massive water fight. While the majority of the LEVEL5 staff refrained from taking part in the water fight, a few water balloons were reportedly thrown into the fight from the L5 sidelines. However, at this time all consultants and partners are refusing to confirm or deny this claim.

This day allowed us to give back to a community centre that is close to home and is helping make a difference in local resident’s lives in our neighbourhood. We had a great time working with the awesome team of WNC staff and we look forward to helping out more in the near future.

Thanks WNC for a fantastic day!

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With heightened competition, digital shifts, an onslaught of e-commerce and the rise of global marketplaces, several major retailers are shaking up their top ranks (think: Sears Canada, Canadian Tire, Sobeys and Holt Renfrew).

“The competitive space is shifting. What worked 10 years ago doesn’t work now,” says David Kincaid.

The ferocious competitiveness and wild unpredictability of today’s market make sustainable competitive advantage a function of an organization’s ability to react and regroup their branded business system smartly and quickly.

Read the full article here:  Shakeup in retailing being felt at highest levels

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The L5 team congratulates our favorite USA Sports Team and client – the San Jose Sharks – on their very successful Stanley Cup run.

LEVEL5’s definition of a great brand is ‘the value of a promise consistently kept™.’ This powerhouse sports and entertainment brand definitely kept its promise of providing a season of gritty, gutsy, never-say-die hockey and a truly memorable fan-centered experience – on and off the ice.

Thanks for inviting us into Sharks territory… a very special destination.

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Author: Sylvia Palka Melo

On June 9, 2016, over 40 members of #WeWorkingWomen (女仕界) – a social network that connects and celebrates professional Chinese women – had the pleasure of participating in a workshop on Building Skills for Change with Olivia Chow, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University and her team of experienced trainers.  From LEVEL5, Ashlee Goodfellow (Manager), Sylvia Palka Melo (Senior Consultant), Shirley Cho (Business Assistant) and Joanne Wan (Analyst Intern) were also in attendance for the workshop.  

The goal of this distinctive workshop is so much more than to teach participants about effective communication and leadership. By focusing on three fundamental elements “People, Power and Change”the workshop is designed to help uncover individual inner passions and provide coaching on how to act, take action and make a difference in the world.  

Immensely interactive and hands-on, the workshop kicked off with a lecture by Olivia Chow on building skills for change. As part of the lecture, Olivia introduced the power of effective storytelling and shared the three components of a good story that many organizers have found to be effective and helpful in achieving positive change:

  • Story of Self – “here’s who I am”
  • Story of Us – “this is what we have in common”
  • Story of Now – “here’s what we are going to do about it

By weaving these three components together, the storyteller has the power to connect and inspire people as well as to motivate change.  As part of the lecture, Olivia also spoke about coaching as a key for leadership development and the principles of an effective coach. The key to becoming a good coach is to help people find their own solutions. Rather than offer advice and feedback, effective coaches listen and ask questions to get people to uncover the answers by themselves – Olivia refers to this as “coaching by enabling others.”

Following the lecture component, participants were broken into small groups and assigned to one of Olivia’s trained instructors to practice telling their Story of Self. Each participant was given three minutes to tell their story. After each story, group members had the opportunity to put what they have learned about effective coaching to the test. Despite this being the first time undertaking this type of exercise for many in the room, the support and encouragement was overwhelming. It was truly an evening of inspiring stories and a room full of brave working women!

A key takeaway for everyone was the value in learning how to communicate who we are and why we are so passionate about making a difference – and to help others do the same through effective coaching.

For more information on Olivia Chow’s Building Skills for Change seminars, visit:


About #WeWorkingWomen (女仕界)


Hua Yu, Managing Partner at LEVEL5, founded #WeWorkingWomen in October 2015. Since its inception as a blog, the network has grown into a true global social platform, with over 10,000 members and 100+ volunteers… and continues to grow each day.

For more information on #WeWorkingWomen, please visit their website:

To join #WeWorkingWomen WeChat account, please search “nvshijiequanzi”.

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Author: Sylvia Palka Melo, Senior Consultant, LEVEL5 Strategy Group


More than three decades ago, David Kincaid was putting himself through Queen’s University playing drums in a rock band. It’s a period in his life he recalls with fondness. These days, he regularly returns to his old Queen’s stomping grounds, serving as an Adjunct Professor of brand management at the Smith School of Business.


This month, you can also find the Artsci’81 alumni’s latest book – The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept –  featured in the latest issue of Queen’s Alumni Review (2016 Issue #2, pp 50). The feature can be found in the Ex libris column, which highlights books by alumni and faculty.

Whether it’s standing in front of a classroom of business students or a boardroom of C-suite executives, David has been on a mission over the last 30+ years to clarify the confusion between brand management and marketing and to demonstrate how organizations can prosper by managing their brand as an asset. That’s why he coined the title of his first book The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept – to inspire business leaders of today and tomorrow to unlock the power of their organization’s brand and leverage it throughout their entire business system.

At LEVEL5, we define brand as THE VALUE OF A PROMISE CONSISTENTLY KEPT. Here’s what we mean:


You can measure the value of your brand on your balance sheet — usually a major contributor to the value on the goodwill line. You can monitor its value by using internal and external metrics. Using these metrics, management can evaluate each activity within the organization, based on its contribution to the brand’s performance and its return on investment.



A brand represents a promise made by an individual or an organization to its customers, its employees, and its shareholders to deliver value that’s unique to that brand alone.



To keep the promise of a brand consistently, leaders must inspire and coordinate everyone within the organization to work toward the common goal of delivering value to its customers. They must demonstrate clearly how each person contributes to the brand’s success and encourage and reward each person to keep the brand’s promise.


In the words of David Kincaid, “a branded business system guides not only what a company sells but also how the company is run. Only C-suite executives have the comprehensive perspective and accountability to harmonize the operations of each department and function to create a cohesive approach to delivering a brand to the customer. Once a brand is acknowledged and managed as a tangible asset, it can become a source of enterprise and shareholder value.”


Backed by 35+ years of experience managing some of Canada’s (and the world’s) most iconic brands, The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept is the ultimate brand management handbook of advice, tools and illustrative examples for managing brands as assets.


Read the May 2016 issue of Queen’s Alumni Review here:

You can purchase your copy of The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept here:



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Author: Sean Pavlidis, Manager, LEVEL5 Strategy Group 

In September 2015 the Dallas Cowboys overtook Real Madrid for the title of ‘World’s Most Valuable Sports Team’ at a whopping $4 billion valuation – a pretty impressive feat for a team playing a sport that only has 16 regular season games.

Even more impressive is that the team hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 20 years.

When working with management teams of sports franchises across North America, we frequently hear that to succeed “all we need to do is win,” or “we just had a bad season” to justify poor financial performance. While winning is absolutely important – nobody is going to argue that – dependence on team performance is dangerous and often blinds management from the other efforts they can be making to ensure that their franchise is a financial success. Even with the best possible GM and Coaching Staff, only one team can win a championship each year.

Even if your team is incredibly successful, studies show that statistically a winning record only accounts for 20-40% of franchise value. [See below for a chart mapping out z-scores of the 10-year winning percentage of North American sports teams (x-axis) vs. franchise value (y-axis) – outliers such as Leafs, Cowboys, and Yankees have been removed for statistical purposes]:

Fields of Green_Blog Post pic

When the broader organization and environment is taken into consideration, franchise and brand value is driven from 3 distinct drivers:

  • The Team (Winning, Star Power);
  • The Organization (Reputation/ Tradition, Entertainment Package/ Delivery); and,
  • The Market (Media Coverage, Geographic Location, Competitive Forces).

For the most part, only one of these driver areas – organization (which holds brand and fan experience) – is in the direct control of the management of a sports franchise. However, relative to efforts around the team it is viewed as a cost center vs. revenue and loyalty driver – especially when the team is consistently performing well and the need to work for ticket sales diminishes. What the management of sports teams often don’t take into consideration is how powerful a strong brand and fan experience can be in building long-term franchise value.

In the general business world, brand is king. Apple’s high valuation isn’t because it makes the best products; it’s the brand and customer experience that allow Apple to drive retention and command such a high premium. Even when the product is inferior, its brand strength allows it to skate over hiccups without losing momentum. What’s so different about the sports world? Not much when you consider teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Knicks, or Washington Redskins who have incredible brand valuations without necessarily having the strongest performance in recent history.

On average, 50% of our behavior as consumers is based on an emotional response to a product or service. Our proprietary BrandMap™ Fan studies have indicated that in sports a strong brand is 60-70% driven by measurable emotional vs. tangible attributes, and once understood, defined, and consistently executed can help a sports team:

  • Retain loyal fans and create new ones (even ones that may not like or ever attend the live sport itself!)
  • Increase sponsorship/ partnership revenue and opportunities
  • Maximize the value of winning seasons, and mitigate risk of losing ones
  • Drive merchandise sales
  • Increase media coverage and engagement

But building and maintaining a strong sports brand isn’t as simple as cultivating a stellar fan experience in the stadium. What really separates the good from the great sports brands is how they manage that brand and profitably engage their fans beyond of the confines of the game – “think outside the rink” as we like to tell our hockey clients. Sports revenues are naturally cyclical, and the ‘product’ itself [e.g., ticket sales] has limited scalability and geographic reach. Teams that over-focus on attendance as their primary performance measure will find their franchise value plateau once they consistently hit full capacity.

You don’t need to look any further than the $4B Dallas Cowboys franchise to see the latest initiative – a fan-accessible practice stadium outfit with a shopping model, office space, and distinct membership opportunities giving fans exclusive access to their heroes – that Jerry Jones and their Chief Brand Officer have undertaken to continue to build the brand far beyond the confines of the team and game itself.

Absent of environmental factors, what truly separates the most financially successful franchises from the pack is that they understand what they are selling is far bigger than just a sports team – it is an incredibly strong emotional connection. This connection creates an identity that a person attributes to themselves, and a deep bond to a community of like-minded others.

What makes the best franchises special is that they understand the unique emotional connection they own, and then they drive it throughout their entire organization from fan experience and engagement through to corporate and community partnerships.


LEVEL5 BrandMap™ Fan Studies,,
Sport Marketing: Managing the Exchange Process