Telco Brands: the Fair for Canada FAIL in one picture

Rogers, Bell, and Telus blow their big chance. By being themselves…

My friend Ottawa blogger and media commentator Mark Blevis has put out a couple of smart and incisive critiques of the “Fair for Canada” campaign by Canadian telco mega brands TELUS, Rogers, and Bell. Please do go ahead and read the and Full Duplex posts.

But I think the many, many problems with this PR blitz can be summed up in one picture – brought to you by your three friendly Canadian mega corporations.

Actual screen capture from the Fair for Canada mini-site:

Sorry big Telcos, the combined boards of Telus, Bell, and Rogers don't qualify as ordinary Canadians to, you know, ordinary Canadians.

Sorry big Telcos, but the combined  ”Bell, Rogers, and TELUS Boards of Directors” writing a letter to Stephen Harper doesn’t qualify as “What Canadians are Saying” to the rest of us, you know, Canadians. Neither do the rest of the links below it – all from media outlets and corporate lobby groups. There is not one individual Canadian quoted.

And I *may* be wrong about this, but that pretty lady in the picture looks more like a member of a Stock Photo Catalogue than like one of the only seven women out of the 39 Directors who signed the letter (three of whom also have the last name “Rogers”).

(A quick aside for TELUS: in this context, it’s probably better not to highlight the fact that two of your Board members have the nicknames “Rusty” and “Dick”. You’re welcome – DenVan.)

Still not convinced? Okay, how about a picture AND a video?

So how about the video they posted showing a few “ordinary Canadians” – who also happen to work for the big three. Again, if you want to tear apart the content, there’s plenty there to dissect – as Techvibes editor Knowlton Thomas did with this quote:

“That’s not real competition,” says Amanda, a call centre trainer for Rogers in Moncton, in the video. She’s speaking of the government allowing a fourth legitimate carrier into the market – you know, to create real competition. Like the other telco employees in the cringe-worthy video, you can practically see the puppet strings tied to her jaw.

And yes, it’s obviously heavily scripted, and these employees are hardly neutral observers.

But here’s what really baffles me: they didn’t post that video to YouTube! That embedded video above is a pirated version of the “official” one on the Fair for Canada site. Why? Because the original is posted in a non-social video player called Wistia (American by the way). No comments. No share button. No easy embeds. No messing around with openness, fair access, or ordinary plebeian social tools.

And of course, no Facebook “Like” button either. Or a Twitter icon – or any social icons at all. And certainly no mention of the issues that really matter to Canadians: prices, decent (non-arrogant) service, and fair competition.

So what do you think? How about rebranding this campaign?

Canadian Telcos tell you what “fair” means

Shut up and let us control all the channels.
Because we still think we can.


Farewell to a fearless storyteller. Alex Colville

Please join me in sharing an Alex Colville Painting today on Facebook

AC Deanna Toxopeus

I noticed an interesting and powerful trend among my Facebook friends today. In honour of Canadian artist Alex Colville – who passed away in Nova Scotia yesterday at 92 years old – they’ve been sharing his work through their cover photos, avatars, or Facebook posts.

And it has made his work come alive for me again.


So I joined them…

AC Dennis Van Staalduinen

My Facebook page with Alex Colville’s 1962 painting called “Ocean Limited”

I have been deeply inspired by Colville since I was introduced to his paintings in grade nine by Mr. Ross at Confederation High School. My teacher was a die-hard fan of strictly realist art and had little time for abstraction or “fakery”. But still, he loved Colville and praised his work loudly as an example of the triumph of realism.

I loved it too, but for the opposite reason. I loved how Colville could take “realistic” scenes and elements, strip out many key details like shadows and blemishes to focus on simple forms, and create this mythical, dramatic, and often creepily ominous moment. Every Colville painting made my head spin with stories and questions.

And seeing them again has made me want to see, share, and experience more.

AC Paul Wilson

So please join us…

  1. Please visit and LIKE the “Share a Colville Painting Today”  Facebook page.
  2. Visit the official Alex Colville Gallery site, choose an image from the many examples on the Facebook page, or search “Alex Colville” on Google.
  3. Share the image with your Facebook friends – either as your cover photo, avatar, or through a post.
  4. Make sure you mention Alex Colville and share a few words about what you love about his work.
  5. Optional: tag the Facebook page ( and we’ll tag you back.

AC Bob LeDrew AC Jeff Leiper


Social Media Case Studies: my students want to write yours!

Algonquin Social Media Students 2013 Accelerated ClassMy Algonquin College students need real world subjects for their social media case studies.

As many of you already know, when I’m not doing my regular brand naming, storytelling, and strategy gig with Brandvelope Consulting, I moonlight as an instructor in the Social Media Certificate program – teaching professionals how to use social more effectively – at Ottawa’s Algonquin College.

In the next two weeks I’ll be starting two new versions of the Applied Social Media in Business class – the one week Accelerated version starting on Monday, and the seven week evening program starting Tuesday, July 2.

The Applied Social class is all about studying and developing real world social media case studies. We try to help our students understand in practical terms how social fits into real world workplaces and business strategy situations. From customer service to research, content marketing to old-school promotional marketing, small business to agencies to big brands. We try to cover a mix.

But the case study needs to be REAL: And this is where we need your help.

You see, I’m insisting that my students write case studies about real word social media campaigns, causes, and strategies. And these students are almost all entrepreneurs, mid-career professionals, 0r communications managers themselves, so the feedback they provide is consistently solid and valuable.

So please consider volunteering to be the subject of a social media case study!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Volunteer in the comments: give a brief outline of how your business uses social, and your contact info in the comments below (Twitter is fine).
  2. My students will choose from the options and contact cases that interest them.
  3. They will set up a brief 30 minute interview with you by phone, Skype, or Google Hangout.
  4. The interview will follow the basic outline below.
  5. The student will develop a Case Study – highlighting your challenges and approaches, and ending with their ideas and recommendations.
  6. The student will share the final Case Study (confidentially) with you. And it will be up to you and the student if it gets shared beyond that.

Outline for my student’s Social Media Case Studies and interviews

1. Business profile:

  • Type of business – describe product / service / cause.
  • Position of interviewee – how they – and their boss – define success at work (beyond social).
  • Unique challenges this business or team faces.
  • Business goals that can be used as Key Performance Indicators.

2. Social marketing situation:

  • How active and strategic have they been on Social?
  • Platforms? Content? Campaigns? Niche audiences?
  • Who does the work and how engaged are employees / management?
  • How successful have they been at setting and measuring KPI?

3. Opportunities:

  • Where do they see Social going?
  • What would they like to try if they had time, staff, and/or resources?
  • What do they need to get better at.
  • This is the final section the students will be developing in their Case Studies. And these will be outsider recommendations as if they were consultants helping a client improve their Social Media strategy. So these need to be based on solid critical thinking, but constructive in nature.

Links to the Algonquin Social Media Certificate Program:



Sports branding: Senator’s arena becomes Canadian Tire Centre. Sigh.

Another stadium re-branding: we’re more than just tired.

So you’ve heard about the Ottawa Palladium? How about the Corel Centre? Scotiabank Place? Well forget about them all. As announced this morning, Ottawa’s professional hockey stadium is about to change its name for the fourth time since 1996.  

Your name here

The good part…

Stadium Brand names - sponsorship

Percentage of 111 stadiums for the “big four” professional sports leagues: NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL

Okay, I’m a branding guy. So I get the naming rights game. I’ve been part of board room decisions around JetForm park, and I worked at Corel during 1996. Big brands will pay a LOT of money to get their moniker on the side of a stadium, and into the mouths of fans and broadcasters. And that’s all good.

And we could choose a much more embarrassing corporate partner than Canada’s iconic automotive / hardware / electronics / now grocery brand. We could have a “Sleep Train Arena” like the NBA team the Sacramento Kings, or “Dick’s Sporting Goods Park“, the home of the Colorado Rapids soccer team.

And it sounds like the Senators ownership team actually chose this partnership:

Senators owner Eugene Melynk said of the discussions leading up to Tuesday’s official agreement. “The possibilities kept growing and growing and growing. They made up their mind pretty quickly. After that, they moved so fast. In the end, it’s very extensive. You’re going to see a lot of big changes.”

The annoying stuff…

Here are a few reasons this name change is annoying to me – and if Twitter is any guide (and it is) – it’s annoying many other Ottawa fans as well. Yeah, we’ll get used to the new name. Again. But before the anger dies, some thoughts on stadium branding.

  1. Another name: it’s hard to really develop affection for a brand – any brand – if it keeps changing its name every few years. I had just gotten used to saying “Scotiabank Place”…
  2. Generic corporate blandness: 86 out of the 111 stadiums for the “big 4″ professional sports leagues have generic brand names. That’s 78%. A massive majority of hard-to-differentiate place names. Try this test: tell me where the Pepsi Center is. Minute Maid Park. Gillette Stadium. See? They could be anywhere.
  3. Back to “Centre” again?  The word “Place” wasn’t exactly rocking anyone’s world, but I counted: 17 out of the 30 NHL teams play in a building called “The <Brand Name> Center” or “Centre”. That’s more than 56% of teams in the same league calling their building the same boring thing!
  4. Lack of emotion: Distinctive names aren’t just more interesting and unique, they are durable. San Francisco sports fans demanded the return of “Candlestick Park” after 3M, then bought, then abandoned the naming rights.  That’s a strong brand!
  5. You can be creative: Scotiabank also sponsors the Saddledome in Calgary, or as they call it “Scotiabank Saddledome”.
  6. Palladium is a strong name: and this is the kicker. We once had a strong, completely unique name for the stadium, and it’s still used as the street name for the stadium itself. There is no other Palladium in North America. And “Canadian Tire Palladium” isn’t so bad is it?

But enough about me: what do you think?