What it takes to be a legend

The Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends has picked the crème de la crème of the country's marketing industry as inductees for its first year on the awards scene. An initiative by recruitment agency Mandrake and the Toronto chapter of the American Marketing Association, 225 nominations were whittled down to 30 finalists, from which a dozen were selected by a panel of marketing and business execs to be honoured Jan. 27 at a gala event held at Toronto's Exhibition Place Liberty Grand.

The Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends has picked the crème de la crème of the country’s marketing industry as inductees for its first year on the awards scene. An initiative by recruitment agency Mandrake and the Toronto chapter of the American Marketing Association, 225 nominations were whittled down to 30 finalists, from which a dozen were selected by a panel of marketing and business execs to be honoured Jan. 27 at a gala event held at Toronto’s Exhibition Place Liberty Grand.

VISIONARIES are entrepreneurs who have created or launched companies and, in doing so, established an iconic Canadian brand.

Dave Nichol

Before branding was known as branding, Dave Nichol was on TV sets, convincing Canadians that Loblaw’s President’s Choice products offered the same quality as

name-brand products – maybe even better – but simply came in different packaging. His trademark affability eventually helped sell millions of Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies (which, incidentally, are still Canada’s best-selling cookie).

‘David Nichol is unquestionably an icon in the area of store branding,’ says John Torella senior partner and consultant at Toronto-based J.C. Williams Group.

But in the beginning, his competitors thought the new marketing strategy was ‘lunacy.’

‘They thought it was a manifestation of my ego,’ Nichol says. ‘That it’s going to go away. That it’s not going to attract any of their consumers.’ My, were they wrong. Today, the President’s Choice lines of products and the Insider’s Report created under Nichol’s reign as president from 1985 to 1993, have helped revolutionize the retailer-brand in North America and define Loblaws as the go-to supermarket for original, fantastic-tasting products.

Products Nichol says he supported with his ‘very romantic marketing style.’ You remember those meandering soliloquies, which he often wrote himself, that painted a picture of where he had visited, what he had dined on and how it was now conveniently available at Loblaws.

After parting ways with the chain, Nichol, who was born in Chatham, Ont. went on to introduce his own line of beverages while working with Cott Corporation from 1994

to 1997.

Today, he runs his own consulting firm specializing in creating unique products for clients or under his own name. But indicative of the recall power of Dave Nichol ‘the brand,’ folks still think he works for Loblaws: ‘Every week somebody stops me on the street saying how great my latest TV commercial is.’

Ron Joyce,

co-founder, Tim Hortons

Need we say more? Ron Joyce partnered with ex-hockey player Tim Horton in the late 1960s to launch a coffee-and-doughnut chain. Since then it has grown to rival McDonald’s, and for many Canadians, it signifies home.

‘The key to Ron Joyce’s marketing success has been keeping his ear close to his consumer. It’s one of the top three brands in Canada.’

Richard Talbot, Talbot and Consultants, Unionville Ont.

‘Right from the start, Ron Joyce focused on offering customers great service, products and value. Our menu and chain have evolved, but we remain focused on these core principles.’

Bill Moir, EVP, Marketing, Tim Hortons, Toronto

Guy Laliberté, founder and CEO, Cirque du Soleil

At 18, Laliberté left his home in Quebec and became a street performer in Europe. It was the training ground for Cirque du Soleil, which has wowed over 30 million people around the globe.

‘He’s a genius. Everyone sees him as an incredible creative person but he doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a business guy: He’s created [one of] Canada’s global consumer brands.’

Jean-Francois Bouchard, president and senior partner

Diesel Marketing, Montreal, (Cirque’s AOR)

‘From day one, he’s kept his promise, his focus. It’s not a circus show; it’s an experience. And now the world knows it.’

Philippe Garneau, partner, GWP Brand Engineering, Toronto

Michael Budman and Don Green,

founders, Roots Canada

Detroit natives who met at a summer camp in Ontario, Budman and Green saw the potential of the great outdoors and made it central to Roots, which they started in 1973. But it was outfitting the Canadian Olympic team in 1998 that brought colossal global success. Today there are 225 stores worldwide.

‘They’ve built Roots into a multinational brand and essentially done it through marketing. But not your typical in-your-face marketing – it’s more lifestyle marketing with celebrity branding.’

Richard Talbot, Talbot and Consultants, Unionville, Ont.

Builders have built and enhanced existing brands and, in doing so, increased the competitive nature of their organizations.

Christine Magee/Stephen Gunn

Surely you’ve seen the TV spots, heard the radio ones and hummed the catchy little ditty.

In 10 years of marketing, Sleep Country Canada and president/spokesperson Christine Magee have found their way into our collective consciousness and become a great Canadian business story in the process.

The strategy? ‘Chinese water torture,’ says chairman and CEO Stephen Gunn dryly. He’s serious. ‘We’ve advertised the same amount in every market since inception. In Toronto, we’re on five times a day, on the top eight radio stations that women listen to, which means we’re on 40 times a day…every day, 365 days a year, year after year after year….’

Extensive indeed. But the simple, message-focused marketing that the spots are known for have helped spawn a kind of brand recognition in the otherwise anonymous industry of mattress sales that any company in any category would covet.

‘They’re an example of how you go from building awareness of a brand to making it unquestionably the undisputed leader in a category. They have created a category of one and it’s called Sleep Country,’ says John Torella, senior partner and consultant at Toronto-based J.C. Williams Group.

The story of their success started in 1990, when along with partner Gordon Lownds, they started Sleep Country with four stores and a warehouse in British Columbia. Now, the chain boasts 93 stores across the country and eight distribution centres with plans to enter Winnipeg with six stores in fall 2005.

Magee says the relentless marketing has only worked because the company is committed to providing a great in-store and home delivery experience. And admit it, the jingle is gold. ‘It’s quite difficult to be in the cities in which we operate without having heard of the existence of Sleep Country Canada.’

Why buy a mattress anywhere else?

Judy Elder, (posthumous), Microsoft Canada, director of consumer products, which includes MSN.CA and Xbox

Prior to Microsoft, Elder, who passed away in 2002, was president and COO at Ogilvy & Mather, and previous to that, VP communications at IBM Canada. She was an active member of the Canadian Marketing Association for 10 years, which she helped redefine while in her role as chairperson of the board

of directors.

‘She set Canada’s largest marketing association on a new course, with a clear vision as to how it could better serve the community. That’s the legacy we continue to try to live up to today. She understood the issues and began the process of trying to figure out the answers.’

John Gustavson, president and CEO, Canadian Marketing Association, Toronto

‘Judy Elder always believed that every problem has a solution, and she courageously challenged her colleagues to think beyond traditional means to find creative answers. Her passion made her an excellent mentor, as did her willingness to take risks on smart people and coach them to greatness.’

Frank Clegg, president, Microsoft Canada, Mississauga, Ont.

Paul Alofs, president and CEO, The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation

Part corporate bigwig, part noted philanthropist, Alofs has balanced both worlds over the course of his impressive career. Previously, he was president of HMV Music Stores, which he took from sixth to first place in record retailing in Canada. In 2003 he joined Princess Margaret Hospital, where he has helped raise $40 million for cancer research.

‘He’s always found a way of creating theatre, inspiration and imagination through marketing and by doing so he’s always been at the forefront of trends.’

Diane Brisebois, president and CEO, Retail Council of Canada, Toronto

‘Once Paul had a vision for something, it would take a nation to get in the way of activating it. He is the best idea man I’ve ever met. Largely because he has no fear…no idea is a bad one.’

Lisa Zbitnew, president, Sony BMG, Toronto

ENABLERS are marketing communications professionals with a proven, long-term track record of providing excellent brand-building expertise.

Frank Palmer, CEO and chairman, DDB Canada

In his 40 years in the ad biz, Palmer has built a small Vancouver agency into a national powerhouse and spun off a successful hot shop in Downtown Partners. He has amassed a long and impressive list of awards and honours in the process.

‘Over the past decade, much of Canada’s most interesting and awarded work has come from Vancouver. That would not be the case if it weren’t for Frank Palmer. He is the godfather of the Vancouver school of advertising.’

Chris Staples, co-CD, Rethink, Vancouver

‘Frank has always subscribed to the theory of managing with heart first and then head. This philosophy has enabled the company to attract some of the best talent in the business for a long time. Bringing out the great in others is a rare talent; Frank has mastered that.’

Rob Whittle, national president of DDB Canada, Toronto

Paul Lavoie, chairman and CCO, Taxi

Lavoie co-founded Taxi in Montreal in 1992 and has since opened offices in Toronto and, most recently, New York. His approach to creating longevity in a brand has earned the agency and Lavoie several honours and a coveted client list.

‘Paul’s greatest contribution to the industry is the confidence he inspires. Confidence that advertising really does make a difference. And confidence that small agencies can do big work for big clients. If Taxi hadn’t been so successful, I don’t think we would ever have launched John St.’

Arthur Fleischmann, president, John St.

‘Paul Lavoie came into advertising through the world of design, so he brings a very different sensibility. Taxi has never separated the two disciplines – and that is why their work is so seamless from screen to shelf.’

Chris Staples, co-CD, Rethink, Vancouver

MENTORS are individuals who, through philanthropy or academic position, have provided others with the opportunity, inspiration or ability to pursue excellence in Canadian marketing.

Dr. Alan Middleton, assistant professor, Schulich School of Business

Ad man turned academic, Middleton has guided both clients and students alike during his impressive, career. Along the way he started his own agency, Amca Marketing, ran one of the largest, J. Walter Thompson, co-founded the Cassie Awards, and became a published author.

‘I did my doctorate with Alan at York University. He was a source of encouragement and wisdom. Beyond his teaching he also spends extraordinary time outside the classroom advising, encouraging and guiding his students, current and former alike. Alan Middleton is simply a superb teacher. ‘

Karl Moore, Ph.D., associate professor, Faculty of Management, McGill University

‘Alan Middleton has a real natural affinity and love for the business. When he went into the academic world he probably found his true calling because he was always a student of marketing even when he worked in the agency world.’

Tony Altilia, president and COO, Downtown Partners, Toronto (worked with Middleton at Enterprise Advertising Associates)