Building stronger connections: finding opportunity in change

For 55 Rush capturing a consumer's heart comes down to solving their problems
With over one million Canadians connected on the Parent Life Network, brands can dialogue with new parents during key new lifestage decisions. Huggies, for example, sent members free diapers just as they were beginning baby planning, to start a meaningful relationship even before The Big Day.

With over one million Canadians connected on the Parent Life Network, brands can dialogue with new parents during key lifestage decisions. Huggies, for example, sent members free diapers just as they were beginning baby planning, to start a meaningful relationship even before The Big Day.

In a landscape that’s increasingly about opt-in, being able to meaningfully motivate consumers into action is becoming ever more important. For Toronto online community building experts 55 Rush, it comes down to knowing how to offer real value at exactly the right moment.

With attributes like that, why not name an agency after it?

Launched in 2010, Toronto based 55 Rush curates four digital communities driven by custom websites and expansive social plays. Online, the Student Life Network has grown to 1.4 million Gen Zs, with half a million followers on social. The Parent Life Network comprises over a million parents and almost 400,000 on social. Canada’s largest network of students and parents, yconic, sits at about 1.3 million site members (primarily aged 16 to 20), and 75,000 on social. 55 Rush has also recently added the Canadian Newcomer Network to target and help new Canadians.

For users, it’s all about useful and timely information, giveaways, deals, resources and forums – and, in the case of yconic, scholarships and school rankings. Brands like CIBC, Sobeys, Fisher-Price, CST, Huggies and Disney partner for access to awareness, data and insight tools fuelled by a coast-to-coast community that’s growing at a rate of about 50,000 new users a month.

To 55 Rush cofounder and creative director Stephen Sills, the group’s success comes down to problem-solving. “The experience we’ve gained over the years says that the only thing that drives significant action – whether that’s purchasing decisions or anything else – are moments of change,” he says.

When COVID shut down plans for its annual graduation campaign, 55 Rush pivoted to '#PROMisON2020', partnering with CIBC and Kid's Help Phone to create a virtual event. It attracted a starstudded line-up, including a guest appearance by the PM.

When COVID shut down plans for its annual graduation campaign, 55 Rush pivoted to ‘#PROMisON2020′, partnering with CIBC and Kid’s Help Phone to create a virtual event. It attracted a star studded line-up, including a guest appearance by the PM.

To capture those moments, 55 Rush has become expert at building communities that super-serve consumers at critical life stages. And, he notes, doing so gives clients a chance to begin a lasting dialogue. As an example, he points to the value a brand like Huggies brings when it offers new parents a complimentary first package of diapers just as they are starting baby prep.

“When people associate you with a solution, they stick around,” he says. “We provide value, so that every time consumers hear from us, there’s that social contract that says we’re not wasting your time.”

Sills says the 55 Rush philosophy comes down to four key pillars: it’s about being relevant, immediate, memorable and personal – with consumers and clients.

Case in point: “We were recently in a discovery meeting and the partner asked: ‘Could you identify when parents are going grocery shopping since COVID began?’” he recalls. “We said: ‘Yes, we can literally start now.’ We can put up a question for a brand while we’re in the meeting.”

On the StudentLife Network, members have access to contests, information about schools (such as Campus Guides) and the chance to interact with 1.4 million members. yconic, meanwhile, is targeted to parents and students, and is a community of 1.3 million site members (primarily aged 16 to 20), and 75,000 followers on social.

On the StudentLife Network, members have access to contests, information about schools (such as Campus Guides) and the chance to interact with 1.4 million members. yconic, meanwhile, is targeted to parents and students, and is a community of 1.3 million site members (primarily aged 16 to 20), and 75,000 followers on social.

Access to a vast consumer network enables fast reality checks heading into planning. Sills gives examples of starting meetings with category feedback less than an hour old. “That usually makes it way more fun because people start getting creative. They start asking questions like: ‘Hey, can we ask them this?’”

55 Rush demonstrated its capability to pivot last year during their Student Life Network annual spring prom campaign. When COVID interrupted planning and proms were cancelled everywhere, 55 Rush went online for ‘#PromIsOn2020,’ and gathered together a national prom committee made up of students from across the country.

They brought along long-time client CIBC, and turned what was a dark time into a nationwide fundraiser for Kids Help Phone and the country’s first ever virtual prom. The event attracted celebrities from the Prime Minister to Finn Wolfhard from StrangerThings and hockey star Mitch Marner, and featured a DJ set from Juno award-winning artists Loud Luxury. Student Life Network expected about 3,000 participants and ended up with over 16,000 – and raised $160,000 for Kids Help Phone.

The 55 Rush team is looking at building out its community hubs to encompass French-language content as well as U.S. market expansion.

The 55 Rush team is looking at building out its community hubs to encompass French-language content as well as U.S. market expansion.

New projects include ‘Campus Guides,’ which allows students to offer real-time, honest feedback about schools, and the ‘Remarkable Student Competition,’ which finds and rewards students innovating for the future.

And Sills says they’ve really only begun exploring the possibilities of the Canadian Newcomer Network. That’s a community full of moments of change – new jobs, homes, banks and more.

In the coming months, 55 Rush is looking to create French equivalency for its content and is considering growth into the US; big expansions for a core team of about 25.

“It’s a business model that’s online-driven and platform agnostic,” says Sills. “We can grow and drive value in all kinds of different ways. We have to be ready to respond to the shifting opportunities the world brings us, because those opportunities are happening constantly.”

CONTACT:
T.J. Donnelly
President & CEO
tj@55rush.com