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At LEVEL5, we believe a brand is not just a marketing tool but a management asset. It’s the value of a promise consistently kept.

The Tim Hortons ‘RRRoll Up the Rim to Win’ contest has kept a consistent promise to consumers for years. Last Friday, City TV News asked our very own Matt Kelly to share his insights on why Tim Hortons may have broken this brand promise to consumers, and inadvertently compromised the success of the promotion. The issue at hand? Changing the rules to the annual ‘RRRoll Up the Rim to Win’ contest without properly informing Tim’s lovers across Canada that there are in fact TWO chances to win with each cup.

Since this is the second year that Tim Horton’s has offered two chances to win, it’s surprising that not everyone is aware of this opportunity. Here’s a clip of Matt explaining the potential impact of this contest confusion.

How can Tim Hortons fix this broken brand promise to consumers?

At LEVEL5, we believe that “Your brand is your business system” ̶ the all-encompassing DNA that unites the entire organization. So, across all communication and at every touch point of the Tim Horton’s business system, there should be very simple, clear and consistent information on how consumers play the new ‘RRRoll Up the Rim to Win’ contest. By delivering a clear, compelling promise – everyone wins. Consumers, crew-members and Tim Horton’s shareholders.

To learn more about how to measure the performance of your business from the brand down, check out our latest whitepaper.

Or, leave a comment on our LinkedIn company page.

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We are all brands. What people feel about us is the essence of our brand. Successful brands understand this. Trust, care and compassion all lead to forgiveness and sustainability of customer loyalty. Companies like J&J, Amazon, McDonald’s and Apple are a few that understand this power. Some that have not got it right yet include BP and Exxon.

I feel we have a responsibility to teach the next generation how to master personal relationships; a responsibility to teach the skill set to build a powerful and trusting personal brand.

I would like to give you two examples of men I work with who have mastered this understanding: David Kincaid and Sébastien Fauré.

Read more: http://strategyonline.ca/2015/02/11/the-secret-behind-true-mentorship/#ixzz3RYYZQ0rP

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By Matt Kelly


How Canada’s leading banks can benefit from measuring their brand as a business asset

Seven Canadian banks ranked within the top 100 global brands in the Brand Finance 2015 Banking 500 report, published on Monday. Collectively, Canada’s banks now rank 4th (up from 6th in 2014) in the world in regards to brand value. While that’s something to be proud of as a nation, my partners and I at LEVEL5 Strategy Group question whether Canadian banks have plateaued over all as a group.

Based on the results of the Brand Finance report, there are many lessons that the financial services industry as a whole can learn from leading Canadian banks about how to overcome stagnant brand valuation and why it is important to invest in international opportunities. There are also valuable insights to be gained from the U.S. and Chinese banks where smart brand strategies have led these groups to strong brand valuation growth in the past year.

Brand as a Business System™ opportunity for the world’s leading banks

At LEVEL5 Strategy Group, we believe that a brand is a core business asset that contributes to enterprise and shareholder value, and plays a vital role on the balance sheet. This is often a missed opportunity for many of the banks ranked in the 2015 Banking 500 report — because the more you align your business system under your brand, the more you get out of it. This simple truth is the basis of LEVEL5’s Brand as a Business System™ philosophy.

Our partnership with Brand Finance Canada Inc. allows us to look at the world’s most valuable banking brands and provide perspective regarding future performance. In this post I will examine the following:


  • Why do TD and RBC remain ahead of the pack in Canada?
  • Why have the Canadian banks plateaued as a group in terms of brand valuation and what can these organizations do to grow in 2015?
  • How can CIBC change their brand performance for the better?
  • What are some global trends and implications for Canadian bank brands in 2015 and beyond?


What are RBC and TD Bank doing right with their brands?

According to the 2015 Banking 500 report, RBC and TD lead the other big Canadian banks in regards to brand valuation. At LEVEL5 Strategy Group we think these banks have made some smart brand and operational strategies which have led to strong financial results. Both banks have also focused on growing international exposure.

According to the Brand Finance 2015 Banking 500 report, RBC is the leading Canadian bank on a global scale. But the brand valuation strength of TD Bank in particular, which ranks in 5th place in North America, can be attributed to smart, brave action™ on the part of its leadership team to operationalize a very simple, compelling brand promise across retail channels in Canada and into U.S. markets.

At LEVEL5, we expect that the TD Bank brand valuation will remain strong as the organization benefits from the lift in the U.S. economy this year. Also, RBC is making nice inroads in insurance and wealth management in Canada which has contributed to its lift in brand valuation since the 2014 report was released.

What can Canadian banks which have potentially plateaued in brand valuation do to improve in 2015?

Many of the leading Canadian banking brands, like Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank, are reaching a potential plateau as a group according to the 2015 Banking 500 report. Given the current economic outlook in Canada, I think that U.S. and international expansion is a smart move for the foreseeable future – similar to RBC’s recent acquisition in the L.A. market.

Edgar Baum, Brand Finance’s Managing Director in Canada agrees. In a recent press release about the 2015 Banking 500 report, he explains “there is a strong risk, in light of the slowing Canadian economy that this may impact banks dependent on the Canadian market in future years. Canadian banks are great operators and that is becoming increasingly an important factor in providing stability and reducing risks globally. There is still a tremendous opportunity to leverage home grown strength to build up an international footprint through organic growth or acquisition.”

My colleagues and I at LEVEL5 Strategy Group believe that leading Canadian banks continue to struggle to differentiate themselves and capture Canadian hearts and minds like other national brands, such as Canadian Tire, have done so successfully.

Even though most of the big Canadian banks have invested to create a better retail customer experience across channels here in Canada, the question remains whether that investment will result in any really meaningful brand differentiation in the future. Despite a slowing economy, it is imperative that Canadian banks continue to invest in building their brand, and in particular dial up the emotional connection with customers while aligning their business system under it. Canadian banks should aspire to have Canadians love their brands much like they do other iconic Canadian brands.

How can CIBC improve its brand valuation and differentiation from other national banking brands in 2015?

While CIBC continues to rank 5th overall on Canada’s list of most valuable banking brands, the financial institution saw a sharp decline year-over-year in global brand valuation rankings (from 45th in 2014 to 53rd in 2015) and is drifting away from the top 4.

I believe that CIBC has struggled for years because its brand remains an issue as a core business asset. Now that CIBC is under new leadership, the financial institution has an opportunity to make a serious concerted effort to create and deliver a compelling brand strategy in 2015.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, CIBC, like all Canadian banks can benefit by meaningfully differentiating itself from other national banks and measuring its brand as a business asset. In a recent LEVEL5 Strategy Group whitepaper, we discussed the idea that “a brand has a tangible value in which companies need to invest, in order for it to grow. Unfortunately, brand investment is one of the first line items to be cut in bad times.”

But when a brand is viewed as a business asset, it can be measured by its ability to generate more profit and cash for your business. This can be a big advantage in times of economic uncertainty.

What can Canadian financial services organizations learn from U.S. global banking leaders and Chinese banks which were big movers and shakers in this year’s report?

According to the 2015 Banking 500 report, America’s banks are still the most valuable in the world when it comes to brand valuation. According to the Brand Finance press release, “60 American bank brands feature in the global top 500, with a cumulative brand value of $201bn.” Wells Fargo is both the U.S. and global leader with an impressive brand value of $35 billion, and a successful customer-centric brand strategy to underpin that valuation.

But the big news story coming out of this year’s Brand Finance Banking 500 report is the rise in the ranks of the Chinese banking brands. According to the report, “Citi, BoA and Chase, America’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th most valuable bank brands have been overtaken by both ICBC and China Construction Bank.” And six of the top ten world’s most valuable banking brands are now Chinese. While the Chinese banks still have work to do domestically, these banks are big movers and shakers in global banking markets. What is clear about what Chinese banks are doing right with their brands is their focus on international expansion into developing countries. My colleagues and I at LEVEL5 Strategy Group will be watching closely to see if this is a signal that they will make a serious long-term play in developed countries and invest to build a truly global brand in the near future.

Overall, the 2015 Banking 500 report tells a good news story about the Canadian banking sector. But there is still a huge opportunity for Canadian banks to grow brand valuation and compete more aggressively in the global arena by focusing on measuring the brand as a business asset and taking smart, brave actions to better connect with customers in Canada and around the world. Now, despite a challenging economic environment, Canadian banks should be investing in their brands and brand experience to drive business results and sustainable growth.

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Six months after Target’s launch, Toronto-based Level5 Strategy Group surveyed roughly 1,200 Canadian shoppers about their perceptions of eight major retailers. Seventy per cent of them had already had contact with Target across the border.

“There were alarm bells even then. … Their expectations, not just of the product and the look of the store, but how the brand made them feel, were already established. Target was viewed as modern, confident, a little more streetwise,” said Level5 managing partner and founder David Kincaid. “It was not the same Target [in Canada].”

Read the full article here:

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Despite the mostly gentle reactions from Target’s competitors, analysts say many are actually ecstatic that the U.S. retailing behemoth is turning tail.

“It’s very positive for them. It’s one less competitor to worry about,” said David Kincaid, managing partner of Toronto retail branding firm LEVEL5 Strategy Group.

Read the full article here:  


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On November 28, 2014 LEVEL5 Strategy Group gathered together for a fun filled morning in giving back to the community at the Salvation Army Toy Mountain Toronto facility. Our nimble team of 17 moved and sorted over 13,000 children’s gifts on this day and we will continue to commit to this tradition for years to come…

Help support the 19th Annual Toy Mountain Campaign with an unwrapped toy or cash donation!



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It took 2,173 possible names, and nine months of labour, to deliver Shomi. In developing the Netflix-like video service to serve viewers moving away from traditional TV, Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. had to create a brand from scratch.
Read more here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/marketing/whats-in-a-name-how-rogers-and-shaw-brought-shomi-to-life/article20215173/#dashboard/follows/

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“LEVEL5 Strategy Group is proud to announce that our Managing Partner, Hua Yu, won the 2014 Mandarin Profile Award for her achievement in the Professional Services category.   

The Mandarin Profile Awards is one of the most prestigious award ceremonies within the Chinese business community.  The awards celebrate outstanding achievements of Chinese immigrants across 7 main sectors –  Family Entrepreneurship, Youth Entrepreneurship, Women Entrepreneurship, Achievement in Arts, Achievement in Professional Services, Achievement in Cultural Integration, and Enterprise Entrepreneurship. 

The annual event is created and organized by Fairchild Television Station, the largest multicultural media company in Canada.  This year’s ceremony was held on March 14 and broadcasted nationwide. 

LEVEL5 congratulates Hua for this great recognition and wish her continuous success in helping both Canadian and Chinese companies achieve their business goals.”


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The Secret to Profitable Talent Management_Your Brand_PRINT FINAL                              

Do you believe that brand should be used as a key tool in talent management?  We’re constantly asked how this can be done so we decided to bring eight of the best and brightest together to get their diverse perspectives on using brand to manage talent and organizational capability, not just marketing.

Click on the link below to read this whitepaper:

  The Secret to Profitable Talent Management_Your Brand_PRINT FINAL