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If we asked you to list your company’s core values right now… could you? The mention of corporate values usually leads to deep yawns and glazed eyes. Here, we discuss why values are not just “nice-to-haves”.

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VW BrandMaps (002)

Between the endless negative media clamour, a tsunami of legal troubles, plummeting shareholder confidence and ensuing frustration with dealerships and consumers alike, there’s no denying that Volkswagen’s clean car image has been tainted by the emission scandal. Even with all the negative publicity, our latest BrandMap™ study (see screen shot above) reveals that Volkswagen’s brand is not showing signs of distress… at least not yet. 

History is littered with corporate crises. As we have found with other strong brands who were faced with crises of their own (think: Maple Leaf Foods’ listeria outbreak in 2008), the heart and mind of the consumer is less impacted by what caused the crises to occur. What matters to them is how the brand manages the crisis and offers a meaningful solution. In the face of a crisis, strong brand equity offers brands time – the time to manage the crisis and restore its promise to the market.

Also in Volkswagen’s favour is the auto industry’s longer than average (i.e. 5-7 years) purchase cycle. This gives Volkswagen some runway to deal with the crisis and recover deteriorating brand perceptions. When it comes to consumers, both existing Volkswagen drivers and prospective purchasers, it’s still too early to predict the long term impact on their hearts and minds. The ball is in Volkswagen’s court to clean up its act, pun intended.  

Read this web page to get a clearer picture on BrandMaps(TM).

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We Working Women

In Hua Yu’s very limited spare time outside of LEVEL5, she runs a Chinese language blog called #WeWorkingWomen, which promotes being a successful borderless professional women based on a 8Q Career Advancement Model. The blog was launched five months ago, and has already attracted more than 4,000 subscribers and continues to grow every day.

They held their very first offline, BMO sponsored event with readers who were invited to meet Vicki Saunders, the founder of SheEO and a successful woman entrepreneur in Canada.  

For more information on We Working Women, please visit their website:

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“It’s this recurring pattern,” Mr. Kincaid said. “The big guys get bigger by acquiring the small guys who were addressing an unmet need in the market. And after some period of acquisition, an unmet need for local, unique products, appears again. [Small breweries] crop up, they get to a certain size, and the big guys buy them again.” 

Susan Krashinsky reports here.

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“The goodwill of being a co-op is being diluted,” says David Kincaid, founder of branding consultancy LEVEL5 Strategy Group.

A membership is still $5 at Mountain Equipment Co-operative, but almost everything else is changing. The iconic retailer has evolved far beyond its roots as a pioneering supplier to back-country adventurers. But loyalists are fretting as the chain goes big business in an increasingly competitive industry. Has MEC outgrown the co-op?

Sean Silcoff and Marina Strauss report here.

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BComm., HBA, MBA, MSc., students and graduates with driven, curious, young business minds joined us on Thursday, August 20th for another successful L5 Open House to learn about the world of strategy consulting and Brands as Business Systems (TM).  Thanks to all who attended!


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On July 11, LEVEL5 Founder David Kincaid travelled thousands of miles and successfully conducted a cross-cultural business training for the senior executives at FAMSUN, the world’s second largest feed machinery company headquartered in Yangzhou, China.  This is the first business training completed in China by LEVEL5.  The focus of the training is to help FAMSUN manage the cross-cultural challenges to grow its global business profitably and sustainably.  Dave’s personal experience in building global brands across different markets was the key to this successful training program, which won praises among the FAMSUN executive teams.

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A recent University of Victoria survey found that Canadians trust homegrown brands the most when it comes to making purchase decisions. Yesterday, LEVEL5 Strategy Group partner Paul Brophy went on BNN to discuss the results. He also shared three key ingredients required for any business to consistently deliver on a brand promise and therefore successfully build trust with consumers. The brand promise ingredients include: being relevant to the consumer, differentiating from the competition and being ownable by the organization.

To learn more, check out the full BNN video here: