Feats of death-defying marketing

Break out the locally grown, modestly priced bubbly: it's celebration time. We kick off strategy's glory season trifecta with Brands of the Year, a tougher race than usual, thanks to the recession.

Break out the locally grown, modestly priced bubbly: it’s celebration time. We kick off strategy‘s glory season trifecta with Brands of the Year, a tougher race than usual, thanks to the recession.

In our search for the brands whose long-term marketing broke through to create deep connections, a clearly defined persona and culminated in top-of-mind status, we came up with a strong field of candidates. But the crap economy knocked many off the podium.

When the debate wound down, the four that made it through the nomination and feedback stages hail from banking, sports and two ends of the media spectrum.

In the media microcosm corner, Strombo made the A-list. The CBC host has become so widely and highly regarded since he packed his Much VJ bags and trotted the few blocks over to the pubcaster’s studios that he can be considered a brand in his own right – and The Hour gets more than its fair share of hot guests and buzz for a show outside the U.S. or Quebec, where media is more geared to cultivating the celebrity brand.

On the macro side of media, Corus caught our eye for many of the same reasons P&G took overall brand of the year last year: institutionalized research fuelling consumer-insight driven brand development in tandem with a focus on maximizing channels and a commitment to innovation. Phew. Plus, they do some darn slick branding for women of all demos and kids (see p. 36 for the latest on Scaredy Squirrel).

Veteran Quebec brand Desjardins earned its BOY interest for a long-term program to develop a more inclusive urban persona. It’s also been making strides cracking the saturated and broker-centric Ontario market with its anti-establishment DTC insurance salvo.

Our overall brand of the year may seem like a bit of a wild card, but you only have to stare into the eyes of the fans on the cover to see why no one red-carded the win. After many had tried and failed to get Toronto onside for pro soccer, the TFC team nailed it with a multi-faceted

out-reach-driven playbook that was very inclusive of diverse ethnicities and distinct soccer psychographics. The launch strategy is being used as a template now by other teams. Well played.

The Who profile this issue also acknowledges great brand building, literally. Fiona Stevenson and her CoverGirl team won Procter’s Best Brand Building Award, which I had the pleasure of judging with P&G Canada president Tim Penner. Stevenson had the recession to deal with as she juggled consumer campaigns for numerous product launches, created custom aisle-stopping displays to level the retail playing field and influenced the influencers, from beauty editors and bloggers to in-store beauty advisors. Judging by the October Glow’s Reader’s Choice report, in which CoverGirl took the vast majority of picks, nothing got dropped.

The same can’t be said for my recent performance at P&G’s awards show. When the scheduled entertainment was a no-show, one of the garden party performers gamely subbed in. Picture a very small stage and a large man with a unicycle. Along with Penner and global brand building officer Marc Pritchard, I helped prop up the ridiculously tall contraption that the juggler clambered on. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. After sacrificing a new hairdo to test his blindfold, I was tasked with throwing ridiculously large knives up – way up – to him. I don’t throw. Much scurrying to avoid falling blades ensued before he caught all three, then proceeded to juggle them, blindfolded, on the unicycle.

Which is not unlike the impossible feats many were called upon to perform this year, fighting the consumer-side recession impact, plus pressures from head office, while still bravely moving forward testing new grounds – all with less time and money. We look at how marketers and agencies are facing new challenges, specifically how they are tackling social media (see p. 24) and organizing for the digital revolution (see p. 17).

Stay tuned for more Best Of coverage with the Agency of the Year, Media Agency of the Year and B!G Awards reveal next month, and Marketer of the Year in December.

cheers, mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant