In July 2013 we were engaged to review the Corporation of the City of Guelph’s identity and, if deemed necessary, scope options to revitalize and position the City as a vital partner in marketing Guelph as a destination for economic and community prosperity.
The project methodology involved an extensive review of key documents and secondary research materials. Brainstorming workshops and idea mapping sessions were held internally to gather information on how operational and strategic initiatives are differentiating the City from other municipalities. We also performed an audit of the positioning and reputation of various Ontario municipalities.
We delivered a final report that outlined high-level strategic directions, as well as recommended concrete steps and specific tactics to help the City of Guelph live its brand promise to ”Make a difference” in the lives of its residents and the community at large”. We have also been retained to provide ongoing support to guide implementation.
Our analysis and report of recommendations included a series of measures essential for the brand to emerge stronger and to provide the foundational elements and ground rules for the positioning and marketing of the Guelph brand in all media.
In addition to updating and optimizing the City’s visual identity, simplifying its brand architecture for easier deployment and to effect a consistent brand voice, we provided Guelph with a corporate brand policy, new brand foundation, a brand manifesto and a series of thematically-linked initiatives to reinforce the brand identity and promise.
So Nice is the leading Canadian-made brand of fortified organic dairy alternative beverages such as soy and almond milk, made by Earth’s Own Food Company. The brand’s mission is to provide Canadians with great-tasting, healthy products that nourish the body and the mind, and contribute to the preservation of the environment. Although So Nice has always been committed to minimizing its impact on the environment, to tell this story most effectively to the consumer, Argyle believed the brand would
need to shift its approach through a credible, consumer-facing CSR platform with strong storytelling opportunities.
Following research, Argyle recommended supporting school-ground organic food community gardening. Through a partnership with the national environmental not-for-profit, Evergreen, So Nice would provide funding for gardens at urban schools and learning centers focused on children. With a mission to plant an organic future, the program would aim to inspire the next generation of environmental champions.
To offer an inspiring launch vehicle for the Planting an Organic Future campaign, Argyle worked with So Nice and Evergreen to create video content on the process of planting and developing a children’s organic food garden at the Evergreen Brickworks.
Through a combination of communications that included the video being featured on So Nice and Evergreen Facebook pages, placement on the Evergreen YouTube page, and media relations, the campaign generated more than 51 million impressions. The video and posts promoting it on Facebook (the brand’s only social media channel), generated 1240 likes, 600 Facebook views, and 1099 web visits to the microsite in the campaign period. Please visit: www.sonice.ca/organic-future.
The Ontario Science Centre, one of the world’s first interactive science museums and one of Ontario’s most visited cultural attractions focused on interactivity and hands-on learning for visitors of all ages, prepared to launch a new exhibition: Brain: The Inside Story. Argyle's digital team was engaged to develop a small-scale social media program that would use the theme of the exhibition to enhance engagement with their audiences. Research began with reviews of the Science Centre’s detailed visitor analysis data. This helped identify and understand the optimal target audiences for the exhibition — their demographics, psychographics, interests, and other key factors.
Based on audience preferences and early-winter seasonality, we opted to focus a Facebook chat on an issue of significant interest to our targets: the link between the brain, concussions and sports injuries. The theme of hockey and other winter sports was a natural fit. To attract attention and enhance credibility, the team selected both medical and sports experts: Dr. Nick Reed of the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital was chosen to co-host with Canadian Women’s Hockey League player Tara Gray. The co-hosts generously appeared at no cost, given the importance of the topic and the Science Centre as an institution.
With the Science Centre and ‘Brain’ branding prominent in all communication, the team executed a one-hour chat through the Ontario Science Centre’s Facebook timeline. This provided a safe environment for audiences to engage with the co-hosts and other science experts from the Centre to answer questions regarding sport injuries and their effects on the brain. The slower pace and generous character allowances of Facebook timeline updates allowed more participants to follow along easily, and for the hosts to respond in detail to participants’ queries – delivering a highly personalized experience – and a 386% growth in their Facebook community.
As a not-for-profit corporation, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) administers the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002, associated regulations, and consumer protection on behalf of the Ontario government. RECO determined consumer communications would be critical to the delivery of its mandate and in 2010 conducted baseline public research that revealed low awareness of the regulator (17 per cent). In 2013, research by Vision Critical showed public awareness of RECO at 33 per cent. This, along with RECO’s first-hand experience, demonstrated that consumers lacked understanding of the home buying/selling process and the protection available to them.
Argyle implemented a two-phase multi-channel public education campaign to communicate the benefits of a regulated real estate industry and position RECO as an important source of information. Phase 1, executed in the spring (peak season for transactions) would build RECO awareness. Phase 2, executed in the fall aligned with Financial Literacy Month would encourage interactive education. Both phases consisted of a wealth of educational assets: a nine-video series RECOhelps, infographics, a Fact or Fiction online quiz, Be Home Smart communications, partnerships with BlogTO and Golden Girl Finance and a Facebook "Choose Your Home Adventure" contest, to name but a few.
The two-phased multi-channel fully integrated public education campaign targeted to Ontario home buyers/sellers was hugely successful in positioning RECO as a key source for real estate information and public protection. It generated 70 million impressions, grew RECO’s average social engagement rate by 1300 per cent, increased video views by 35 per cent and improved several business outcomes: Phone enquiries increased by 25 per cent, website visits by 15 per cent and email database engagement rate by 54 per cent, enhancing RECO’s ability to deliver on its consumer protection mandate.
For Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority, a massive ice storm in December 2013 became the flashpoint for an organization seeking to establish itself as the province’s leading voice in the promotion of electrical safety, and the culmination of a year spent refining its issues management protocols, communications channels and crisis capabilities. With hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings going dark around the Greater Toronto Area, the ESA became a guiding light for Ontarians desperately looking for the safest way to stay warm in the wake of the one of the worst storms in the province’s history.
In the spring of 2013, the ESA engaged Argyle for a tabletop crisis simulation that rehearsed what the ESA would do in the case of a major ice storm. When the real thing happened mere months later, the team was prepared. Communications reinforced safety messaging at via news and social media, and updated web content. This included storm safety tips for Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) to pass along to consumers; frequent Facebook and Twitter updates; and a series of releases on the hazards of downed powerlines, use of portable generators, checking for electrical damage, and other critical topics.
As the outage dragged on, and with conflicting information circulating about the length of time it would take to have all power restored, a major worry was the public’s patience threshold and whether frayed nerves would lead people to take safety risks. By ensuring public communications were frequent, accessible, empathetic and safety-focused (vs. regulatory and process-oriented), the ESA and Argyle reached a mass audience with a voice of reason. There were no known fatalities or critical injuries from electrical damage or equipment during the ice storm.
Saputo Inc. signed a title sponsorship agreement with TLN Telelatino to sponsor chef Lidia Bastianich's "Lidia's Italy Live" tour. When Argyle learned about the sponsorship we recognized an opportunity to promote Saputo's specialty cheeses beyond the terms delineated in TLN's agreement. Saputo Inc.'s research analysis indicated the greater business opportunity was to extend the reach of the brand and appeal (beyond Italian-Canadians) to a larger and wider audience, primarily female household food shoppers and home cooks from all backgrounds. The target consumer was interested in new culinary experiences, and would be less familiar with cooking with ricotta.
Argyle began with a focus on the “core” demographic by targeting Italian cultural and language media, which readily picked up the story of Lidia’s pending visit to Canada. To tap into a larger audience, Argyle worked with Lidia to incorporate Saputo ricotta cheeses into the recipes she would demonstrate on stage, highlighting their quality and taste appeal. We also helped focus her storytelling and familiarity with the Saputo family’s story of turning a love of cheese into a life’s journey in Canada. This helped her connect authentically with the sponsor, and speak about them in a credible and engaging way.
By using a strategy that connected Lydia’s brand with Saputo’s, Argyle reached a large media audience with a story of how easy-to-use, traditional Italian ingredients make everyday foods delectable. By doing so, we elevated Saputo’s participation in the tour program beyond simple sponsorship, securing 51 stories and more than 16,000,000 incremental media impressions that helped drive sales of Saputo cheese.
Maple Leaf is one of Canada’s favorite bacon brands. For years, innovation in this food category was lagging. In 2009, Maple Leaf responded to consumer requests for less mess by creating a recloseable package. From a “news hook” perspective, the launch of this new packaging wasn’t enough to generate significant media attention. Argyle was tasked with creating and executing a creative campaign to draw attention for bacon and ultimately this innovative new packaging from Maple Leaf. The result was a national integrated public relations and marketing program that hit close to the hearts and stomachs of Canadians, entitled “Maple Leaf: For the Love of Bacon”.
Argyle’s insight was that the key to success lay in exploring and celebrating Canadians’ love affair with bacon, with the Maple Leaf brand and its new packaging playing a critical visual role. The campaign used research into the characteristics of Canada’s bacon-loving population to generate coverage and conversation about the passion, joy and pleasure-seeking experiences around bacon in both mainstream and social media. The research generated many witty insights — such as the surprising number of Canadians who prefer bacon to sex — and all communications drove audiences to a new Maple Leaf “Republic of Bacon” website.
It turns out, in addition to consumers, the Canadian media loves bacon. The “For the Love of Bacon” survey was featured in more than 130 stories in print, online and broadcast outlets across the country with the total audience reach exceeding 29 million. The story was even picked up by international media. The stories also sizzled online with more than 2.5 million Twitter user timelines receiving a branded tweet about the Argyle/Maple Leaf survey. The campaign was highlighted by the International Association of Business Communicators as one of the “Best of the Best” public relations campaigns in the world that year.
Argyle was engaged by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) to develop and deploy an experiential learning/audience engagement campaign that would communicate the new 30% Off Ontario Tuition program to students on university and college campuses across Canada’s largest province. The program, a top priority of the newly elected government, provided a partial tuition rebate to students who meet specific requirements, including parental income of less than $160,000 and recent high school graduation. Awareness of the new program was very low, students were skeptical and difficult to engage, and yet the application deadline was fast approaching. Argyle was tasked with planning and executing a cross-province tour to engage students face-to-face, in parallel with social media interaction, to communicate the benefits of the new rebate plan and encourage students to sign up.
Argyle’s strategy for the program overcame student skepticism about on-campus marketing by using youth to connect with youth. By retaining and training a team of current and recent students to intercept and educate their peers in an assertive but authentic way, we aimed to reinforce the non-commercial nature of program. These ambassador teams, managed by our partner Free for All Marketing, made stops at universities and colleges across Ontario engaging students in high traffic areas... for reasons of fairness, we had to visit every campus in Ontario — rather than ‘chasing our numbers’ on the big campuses alone.
We designed an eye-catching but highly mobile display with 30% Off branding, and had laptops on hand to allow students to sign-up. Argyle developed a triage system to identify qualifying students quickly, directing those with questions to Ministry experts. Our ambassador teams also provided take-away materials and reminders to complete the process post-interaction – e.g., via emails and SMS notifications. Having ambassadors at a booth and roaming the campus was crucial in increasing campus reach and visibility, allowing for a greater number of interactions with students.
During the three month program, ambassadors distributed material directly to over 27,000 students at all 47 college and university campuses in Ontario surpassing the goal of 20,000 students. More than 29,000 students were directly engaged at the booth with ambassador teams averaging 88 interactions per hour. Most important, there was a significant overall rise in online registrations — an average increase of 27.5%, surpassing the target of 15%. The best result: more students received much-needed help with their tuition — an excellent example of public relations in the public interest.
In 2009, salmonella contamination of peanut butter at a Georgia manufacturing plant set in motion an outbreak linked to nine deaths and 691 reported illnesses in the U.S. and Canada – requiring a recall of more than 4,000 products at a cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The American Peanut Council, the trade association representing all segments of the U.S. peanut industry, is a longstanding Argyle client. Argyle was soon managing industry communications surrounding the largest food recall in North American history.
Our crisis management strategy for the American Peanut Council involved rapid, comprehensive research of the perceptions and behaviours of key industry publics: target consumers, regulators, media, online influencers and industry members. The research drove a strategy to align the industry with public interest by building the APC’s communications capacity, providing accurate information to consumers, engaging a leading food safety expert and developing an industry consensus on a long-term food safety and public communications plan. For example, while the Food & Drug Administration and Canadian Food Inspection Agency produced lists of products that were affected, Argyle and the APC also produced lists of products that were safe. And when moms across North America searched on Google, the campaign ensured they quickly found the APC site to get accurate information.
Program measurement showed a swift improvement in the accuracy of media coverage, followed by a rapid recovery in consumer opinion, sales and consumption. The program demonstrated the achievement of the Council’s most fundamental goal: protecting public confidence in the safety of its products. This campaign won seven awards including the ACE Award for PR Campaign of the Year from the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) and the National Gold Quill Award of Excellence in Issues Management from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). A full-length case study of Argyle’s work on this crisis recently appeared in the Journal of Professional Communication.