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“The company’s relationship with its franchisees is a huge challenge for them,” said David Kincaid, managing partner of consultancy Level5 Strategy Group. “The general relationship status with franchisees still feels strained and now this Ontario minimum-wage issue just strained it further.”

Read:  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rbi-earnings-may-shed-light-on-impact-of-tim-hortons-pr-debacle/article37934846/

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by: Matt Kelly, Managing Partner


If you’re familiar with the work we do at LEVEL5, you’ve no doubt heard us say that sustainable, brand-driven growth comes from understanding the value of a promise consistently kept™. While we maintain that this is the most meaningful driver of an organization’s growth, we recognize it’s not the only one.

 

Our brand experts spend a lot of time in primary research, quantifying the most powerful drivers of behaviour in order to help inform our clients’ growth strategies and transformation efforts. One driver we haven’t yet explored in this space is the CEO’s public profile.

 

When it comes to corporate leader profiles, less is no longer best

 

In a pre-digital era, flying under the radar was the norm. In fact, it was the preference. Only those associated with scandal tended to make headlines. In other words, no news was good news. These days, however, we expect to know what everyone is doing at every minute of every day – CEOs and top executives included. Indeed, those of us who don’t have some sort of social media presence actually risk being regarded with suspicion.

 

In a survey[1] conducted by Weber Shandwick in partnership with KRC Research, 81% of global executives expressed their belief that external CEO engagement plays an essential role when it comes to building a company’s reputation. Furthermore, they believe that the reputation of their own CEO accounts for nearly half of their company’s reputation (45%) and half of its market value (44%). And that applies regardless of whether their reputation be good or bad.

 

What also came out of this survey was the strong and positive correlation between a CEO’s reputation and his or her ability to attract investors, generate positive media, maximize crisis protection, and attract and retain talent.

 

Ask yourself this: what has your profile done for your company lately?

 

Have you, and do you give your stakeholders a clear picture of what the individual behind your organization stands for? Have you taken and are you taking steps to build a deeper connection with your public? How aligned and supportive is your messaging to your brand’s promise to the marketplace?

 

Keep in mind it no longer takes a press release or book deal to reach a mass audience. Simply look to the content marketing and social media capabilities within your own company. Therein lies the means with which to reach your customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders regularly and authentically.

 

For inspiration, you need only look to Elon Musk. With a following of 17 million or so, the co-founder, product architect and CEO at Tesla is a perfect example of how:

 

“leaders in the making can leverage social media to not just create impact but also encourage debate, generate conversations, and show what it takes to be a leader, through something as simple as a message on social media.2

 

Most would agree that highly regarded CEOs have a clear vision for the future. They inspire and motivate others. They communicate well and are acutely focused on delighting customers. At LEVEL5, we’d add two points to this description of the esteemed CEO. First, brand-driven CEOs know what truly drives their marketplace. And second, they create, deliver and advocate for their organization, internally and externally, through their brand strategy and the stories they tell. The same goes for all senior executives in highly regarded branded organizations. 

 

To stay on course, make time for an alignment check.

 

Ask yourself, is your  brand’s growth strategy clear and broadly understood within your organization? And if so, does it align with your own reputation-building strategy? If you want to go the full distance, it’s not enough to be remarkable on the inside. You need to have a clear and compelling go-to market approach that stretches beyond the confines of your organization. Only then can you, personally, make a positive impact on your company’s reputation and its value.

Need a hand leveraging your personal profile to your ownable, competitive advantage? Get in touch. We’d be glad to help.

 

[1] The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era
[2] Creating Brand Value on Social Media the Elon Musk Way


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by: Matt Kelly, Managing Partner

Reflections on BlackRock’s C-Suite ultimatum

CEOs and CMOs take note. On January 15, 2018, a provocative article published in the New York Times advised corporate leaders of impending pressure to dial up social responsibility. According to the article, chief executives of the world’s largest public companies will soon be receiving a letter from the CEO of BlackRock, one of the most influential investors in the world, stating that “their companies need to do more than make profits – they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock.”

This article landed on the heels of Apple being told last week by two of its largest investors to make its devices less addictive to children.

Today’s leaders are feeling more pressure to contribute to society than their predecessors ever did

“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” wrote BlackRock CEO Laurence D. Fink in a draft letter that he shared with the author of the NY Times article. “To prosper over time,” Fink wrote, “every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society”. Companies that don’t serve the community and demonstrate a sense of purpose will lose the license to operate, he contends. 

What’s with BlackRock’s activist point of view on social responsibility?

Fink believes that “having a strong sense of purpose is inextricably linked to a company’s ability to maintain its profits.” At LEVEL5, we happen to agree. In fact, we would add that a strong sense of purpose can also build culture, align organizations, help to attract and retain the best talent, and become a meaningful point of difference in crowded, highly competitive categories.

So, what’s your organization’s stated sense of purpose?

How is it supported or embedded in your strategic plan, your vision, mission and shared values? Could your brand promise and purpose be one and the same – much like Princess Margaret Hospital’s promise to ‘Conquer Cancer in our Lifetime?’ Do you have strategies and tactics to implement and measure your contribution beyond fundraising or goodwill?

If you’re looking for sustainable growth in a low-growth marketplace, as many of our clients are, embracing and operationalizing your firm’s contribution to society makes sound business sense. What’s more, it happens to feel pretty good!

Get in touch if you’d like to learn how we can help you take your social initiatives to the next level.

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by: Matt Kelly, Managing Partner

Be it a product or an experience, the choice to buy is driven by both the rational and the emotional mind. In fact, the same is true for any decision, including one as seemingly simple as whether to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee.

While most business leaders understand the role of the rational mind, few have a clear understanding of how emotions influence their customers. Price, convenience, safety, ease of use – there are hundreds of rational attributes that brands hang their hats on. But what about their customers’ feelings?

As the following example proves, the times, they are a-changing.

“Twenty years ago, who would ever have believed that people would line up outside a store to buy a coffee for at least double the price of the norm? Who would believe that people would camp overnight in front of an electronics store in order to be one of the first to own a smartphone especially since, two months later, you could walk into that same store and make that same purchase at the same price (if not cheaper)? These are not rational rea­sons but emotional ones and the ability for organizations to identify the emotional attributes and purchase drivers associated with their brand(s) is a competitive advantage that can lead to long term growth and success.”

Source: The Emotional Science Behind Effective Branding – a Better Way to Grow Your Branded Business, September 2011. Download the whitepaper >

Of the 184 personality types and 96 human emotions your customers envelop, you need to identify one or two that you can build your brand or organization around to drive sustainable growth. Without the right tools, it’s an exercise not unlike looking for a needle in a haystack.


What if we told you that we could quantify the role of emotion in your customers’ decision-making process?
A few years back, market researchers used to focus almost exclusively on the rational mind. In recent years, however, psychological and neurological findings have highlighted the flaw in this approach, prompting new methodologies to surface – ones that focus on both rational and emotional drivers over the course of an entire customer journey, not just at point of purchase.

Although they still represent a vast improvement on the ways of old, many of these newer approaches remain fairly superficial, often surveying a short list of drivers and usually category antes. Not ours, though. BrandMap™, our proprietary research tool, helps C-suite executives identify feelings about their brand at a very deep level and explore the subtle dimensions that their customers associate with their brand’s personality, needs, wishes, and values, as well as its more rational attributes and benefits.

Using a mathematical projection technique, BrandMap™ literally quantifies emotional drivers with 87% accuracy. As a result, brands don’t need to operate on gut instinct. Rather, they can effectively determine both the emotional and rational space they want to operate in and then develop measurable ideas, claims and tactics accordingly.


By the way, BrandMap™ isn’t just for B2C. Emotion drives all sectors.
As we’ve come to learn at LEVEL5 Strategy Group, it’s equally important for B2B brands to understand the emotional drivers behind their offering. 

“Customers can fall in love with a brand. So when a brand falls short of its promise, customers react in the same way that they do to any broken promise or failed romance: with disappointment, sadness, anger, resentment, self-doubt, and bewilderment. In other words, they react emotionally.”

Source: The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept™, What I’ve Learned About Managing Brands as Assets by David Kincaid.

Having researched enterprise software and services a number of times over the years, we’ve concluded that emotion (how you make customers feel and how you personify your organization) can often account for as much as 60% of the final purchase decision and the primary reason why you could end up losing an account. 

Your customers want to ‘feel’ successful, inspired, reassured, perhaps even brave – complimenting rational attributes like performance, value, and being liked by employees. Features (the rational draw) are well down the list of importance. This begs the question:


What emotions are driving your category, and are they positive or negative?
If you read our recent article entitled Your Brand: One of Your Most Underutilized Growth Drivers, you may recall that we define a brand as “the value of a promise consistently kept.”

So, what is the promise you intend to keep and what positive emotions can you leverage? More importantly, what negative emotions are standing in your way? We’ve been able to quantify that negative emotions can be up to three times more powerful than positive emotions, so addressing any negative associations with your brand should be a priority.

On the flip side, are there any negative associations with your competitors’ brands? If so, exploit them. Turn their emotional downfalls into your emotional drivers.


You’ve identified your brand’s emotional drivers. Now what?
Take these five steps to create an ownable competitive advantage; one that enables you to motivate, maintain and attract more customers and ultimately realize the growth you seek.

  1. Quantify the most powerful emotional drivers of choice – of the category, your brand and competitors
  2. Position your brand against a core subset of those drivers
  3. Create and deliver a powerful and compelling brand promise
  4. Align your organization to operationalize that promise 
  5. Measure and track progress against those drivers in your balanced scorecard

If you’re interested in harnessing the power of emotional science to guide your organizations growth strategy, to fulfil your brand promise and to drive greater business results, get in touch. We’d be happy to walk you through some of the tangible benefits of LEVEL5 BrandMap™ and show you how you could leverage insights from this tool to enhance your competitive advantage and make 2018 exceptionally prosperous.

On that note, here’s wishing you the very best for the holiday season and the year ahead!

 

 


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By David Kincaid

 

Still searching for that perfect gift for the business booklover on your holiday shopping list? Or perhaps you’re looking for an inspiring book to add to your winter reading list.

 

Look no further! THE VALUE OF A PROMISE CONSISTENTLY KEPT is an essential read for anyone overseeing (or interested in learning more about) brand management – and what it REALLY means to manage your organization’s brand as an asset.  

 

No dull, dry textbook here. The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept is 170 pages of insightful, practical (and at times witty) inspiration for managing your brand as an asset.

In this book, Kincaid shares the concepts behind the business system and the tools that C-suite executives can use to create value from their brands. Along the way, he describes the path that led him to his current role as a globally recognized brand builder.

BUT DON’T JUST TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT… HERE’S WHAT BRAND LEADERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BOOK:

“With this book, we get to learn from the victories, mistakes and revelations of an executive who made brand-building a mission, and who successfully motivated entire organizations to share in it.”
Mike Rapino, CEO & President, Live Nation

“His insights and advice, drawn from broad and diverse experience, are invaluable to business leaders committed to maximizing enterprise value.”
Susan Helstab, Executive VP, Marketing Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts


IF YOU ORDER BY DECEMBER 15, YOU WILL RECEIVE YOUR BOOK ON OR BEFORE DECEMBER 22.

All orders placed by December 15th will receive a free copy of LEVEL5’s special release book: Brand Forward, Brand Back



ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE VALUE OF A PROMISE CONSISTENTLY KEPT TODAY: https://www.thevalueofapromise.ca/

 


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by: Matt Kelly, Managing Partner

Having worked with CEOs across all industries for the past 15 years, we’ve observed two chronic worries that preoccupy them all.

NUMBER 1: Generating sustainable business growth

In a hyper-competitive, slow-growth world, how do organizations generate sustainable, long-term growth – be it growth in revenue, ridership, donations, margins, profit, customers or funding? For many it would be a significant accomplishment to see growth for two consecutive quarters, let alone two consecutive years.

NUMBER 2: Remaining relevant to customers

How do leaders align and integrate their organizations to effectively focus on the core activities that really matter to customers?

Few CEOs realize that the solution to both of these concerns is right in front of their eyes. All they need to do is look to their brand – through the correct lens, of course.

Unfortunately, most CEOs fail to see the distinction between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy. As a result, they end up divesting their brand. What they should be doing, however, is investing in their brand with a view to driving growth and improving organizational alignment. That’s how you manage your brand as an asset.

To effectively invest in a brand and brand strategy, you need to understand what a brand actually is.


At LEVEL5 Strategy Group, we define a brand as the value of a promise consistently kept™. Let’s break that down.

Value: LEVEL5 quantifies and tracks the most powerful drivers of value – both the rational drivers of value, like quality, price and convenience, and the critically important emotional drivers of choice, such as trust, love, passion and excitement. We’ve discovered that the negative drivers of value (e.g. unreliability or lack of appreciation) associated with your brand can be three times as impactful as positive ones. Have you quantified what drives your brand value? Have you addressed your negative attributes?

­­­­­

Quite simply, a valuable brand spurs demand and creates pricing power. Forbes values the Apple brand as $170 billion, representing 21% of the company’s recent market value of $806 billion. Why do consumers line up to pay over $1500 for the new Apple X iPhone when their current cellphone is working just fine? Because Apple has figured out what really motivates their customers.

Strongly branded organizations tend to outgrow competitors, weather downturns better, deliver superior margins, and attract more loyal customers willing to pay a premium for that relationship.

Promise: Based on what the marketplace really values, what inspired promise is your organization making to customers to drive growth and competitive advantage?

When Starbucks promises indulgence to its customers across the globe, it materializes not just a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte for $4.69, but comfortable retail environments, customized products and services, valuable loyalty programs, and employees trained to do whatever it takes to please customers. Compelling promises are simple, differentiating and inspiring, and they deliver against what customers really value.

Consistently kept: One of the greatest dangers of making a promise to customers lies in not consistently keeping that promise. Breaking a promise erodes trust. And eroding trust compromises price premiums, loyalty, and any competitive advantage you might have realized.

What branded organizations do effectively is not only quantify what drives value and turn that into a compelling brand promise; they also leverage that insight to align their organization to deliver against it – consistently.

Delivering consistently is no small task, especially in today’s digitalized world where the customer’s journey is evolving at the pace of technological innovation. However, understanding your brand value drivers, and more importantly, having your people in tune to how you consistently deliver your brand promise is how the best of the best continue to grow and outperform their peers in every sector.

Think about Starbucks. They rarely drop the ball and disappoint because they have aligned their entire organization to operationalize their promise.

Ultimately, if you want to realize meaningful growth in a low-growth world and align your organization on what really matters to your customers, you need to be a brand-driven leader. Start with quantifying the most powerful driver of value. Build an inspired brand strategy and promise, and keep that promise consistently by operationalizing it throughout your entire organization. Therein lies your path to achieving inspired growth and an ownable competitive advantage.

Brands may be the CEO’s most underappreciated asset at their disposal. If you’re interested in getting more out of your business, put more of your brand into it. Let us know if you’d like us to show you how.

 


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Author: Sylvia Palka Melo, Manager

Majority of CEOs and C-Suite Executives will agree digital is no longer a thing, it is a way of being… But what does that mean? The good news is, there’s a number of business leaders who have figured it out, and achieved inspired growth strategies in the process.

On Tuesday, November 14th, LEVEL5, in partnership with Spencer Stuart, hosted the eighth annual LEVEL5 Leaders Forum Power Breakfast: THE BRAND DRIVEN CEO – DIGITAL 2.0

At LEVEL5, we have built our business and brand around the perspective that your brand is the value of a promise consistently kept™. Today, digital is emerging as a key “way of being” to consistently help shape and deliver that promise and achieve ownable competitive advantage. So how do today’s CEO and C-suite leaders use digital to keep their brand promise consistently?

To move the C-suite digital agenda forward, we brought together an unmatched group of leaders from digitally led organizations, to offer insights and best practices on what can be a confusing environment:

  • Drew Green, CEO, Indochino
  • Steven Goldsmith, President & CEO, Brookstone
  • Andrew Zimakas, AZ Consulting Services
  • Claude Ricks, Managing Partner, LEVEL5 Strategy Group

The panel discussion was moderated by Amanda Lang, renowned Canadian business journalist and currently the host of Bloomberg North on Bloomberg TV Canada.

5 HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PANEL DISCUSSION ON HOW CEOS NEED TO THINK ABOUT DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN ORDER TO LEAD IT:

  1. Real digital transformation needs to start at the top of the organization – with the CEO and C-suite. If there’s a gap in organizations around digital, it is the CEO’s role to provide the vision for where the organization needs to go, and then engage employees to make that vision a reality. The transformation cannot start from the bottom-up – staff need digital vision leadership.
  2. There is a technology component to digital, but CEOs don’t need to be “techie” to lead digital transformation within their organization. If you have a smartphone, shop on Amazon, bank online, or watch Netflix, you can lead your organization’s charge on digital. Technology is merely the means for digital transformation.
  3. Digital transformation is not about finding and implementing new technologies as fast as budgets will allow for. Nor is it simply about adapting to new environments in an effort to maintain ownable competitive advantage vis-à-vis your competitors. Digital is a tool to meet business objectives in new ways and continuously explore “what’s next” when it comes to meeting the needs of your customers.
  4. Digital transformation journeys will be different for each organization. There’s no such thing as a linear “best in class” roadmap to follow. Digital transformation is going to be needs to be agile and messy. However, many CEOs are reluctant to be perceived as “disorganized” or “not in control”. You have to take chances, fail fast, learn from failures, and keep moving forward with your digital journey.
  5. Digital has enabled customers to take full control of the customer journey, making these journeys more complex, but also more important than ever. Digital enables organizations to engage with customers in new and creative ways; leveraging the valuable data they create to find new ways to address unmet needs.

The event was a huge success and it’s thanks to the support of Spencer Stuart for helping us host, our panelists for sharing their experiences, Amanda Lang for facilitating, and our guests for attending and engaging in meaningful dialogue.

A LEVEL5 white paper discussing key success factors and practical roadmap for implementing digital across your branded business system will be released in January 2018.

SIGN UP TO RECEIVE THE WHITEPAPER HERE.

 

Leaders Forum Power Breakfast Panelist Bios

Drew Green, CEO, Indochino – a seasoned entrepreneur and an expert in managing fast-paced, high-growth companies; since joining INDOCHINO as CEO in 2015, Drew has tripled the size of the company through a commitment to an experience-based omni channel commerce strategy.

Steven Goldsmith, President & CEO, Brookstone –  a retail leader and expert in ecommerce, Steven is leading Brookstone’s expansion into domestic and international retail markets and new product development; previously President of The Shopping Channel, and EVP of Merchandising for Sears Canada and Victoria’s Secret.

Andrew Zimakas, AZ Consulting Services –  25+ years’ cross-industry experience, including Loyalty, Financial Services, Media, and CPG. Andrew led the digital launch of Tangerine and as SVP of Corporate Strategy for LoyaltyOne, he’s helped the organization navigate the increasingly digital nature of the loyalty and analytics space.

Claude Ricks, Managing Partner, LEVEL5 Strategy Group – leads the Digital Strategy and Transformation practice at LEVEL5 leveraging his deep understanding of digital technologies with an agile implementation lens. He has also been COO of gShiftlabs (a leading digital content SEO platform), co-Founder and CEO of SQI Diagnostics (a publicly traded biotechnology firm), and co-founder of the ATKearney change management practice.

 


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A huge congratulations are in order for Hua Yu, Managing Partner at LEVEL5, for being awarded the most “Influential Woman in Ethnic Brand Strategy, Canada” as part of Acquisition International Magazine’s 2017 Influential Businesswoman Awards.

The 2017 Influential Businesswoman Awards honour the remarkable achievements made by women from a diverse range of industries. These outstanding individuals have been breaking down barriers with their hard work, devotion, innovative thinking and high impact leadership.

Hua’s 25+ years of experience in brand management, multicultural strategy and international marketing enables her to help clients of all sizes and industries to achieve ownable competitive advantage through their growth strategies.

Hua remarks, “Building inspired growth strategies is why our clients partner with LEVEL5. By 2030, visible minorities in Canada are expected to account for one-third of the country’s population, therefore the importance of identifying and understanding the ethnic consumers is becoming critical, and represents a major growth opportunity for Canadian companies.”

In 2015, Hua founded #WeWorkingWomen, which has grown to be the no. 1 Chinese women leadership digital platform in Canada with over 30,000 subscribers.

LEVEL5 extends our congratulations all the 2017 Influential Businesswoman Award winners – your high impact leadership stories and experience are an inspiration to us all.

Read Hua’s interview with Acquisition International Magazine here: lvl5.ca/rj8wvq1

To learn more about the award winners visit the Acquisition International website: http://www.acquisition-intl.com


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Author: Sylvia Palka Melo

Before a CEO can begin to build ownable competitive advantage, there are two very important, yet often difficult questions that he or she must first answer. It’s the ‘WHAT’ and the ‘WHY’ of any business – and in this specific order:











What
business are you in?

This may seem like an obvious question; however, it always proves to be one of the toughest questions for a leadership team to answer. If I were to ask you what business your organization is in, I bet that I can guess your answer. It has something to do with the product or service that your organization provides to the marketplace… was I close?

This is exactly where leadership teams get trapped when endeavouring to answer this very same question. They look to their competitive frame of reference – which is largely driven by the product or service the brand provides relative to competitors. In effect, they limit their competitive universe and confine their ability to create ownable, competitive advantage.

On the flip side, if the answer is considered carefully, it can be a catalyst for inspired growth opportunities by means of developing new (or enhancing existing) revenue streams, driving new innovation, creating new markets opportunities, and motivating and aligning employees.  The best way to get to your ‘WHAT’ is to think about the benefits that your brand delivers to your stakeholders (i.e., consumers, employees, supplies, shareholders, government, etc.) and the value that it creates.

Here are some examples of organizations that re-framed their ‘WHAT’



Why do you exist?

A brand’s purpose (its ‘WHY’) is influenced by the benefits it creates and value that it drives (its ‘WHAT’). Thus, it is only after leadership teams identify their brand’s ‘WHAT’ can they begin to define the ‘WHY’.

Check out LEVEL5’s latest whitepaper where we share the steps that brand-driven CEOs of Canadian Tire Retail, TELUS, Campbell Company of Canada and Equity Trust Financial took to help define their brand’s ‘WHY’ …and create ownable, competitive advantage along the way.


Asking once is not enough

Markets have never been more competitive or disruptive, therefore it is important for leadership teams to continuously re-think what business you are in because the answer influences the value that your brand creates, and ultimately, why you exist.


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Author: Sylvia Palka Melo, Manager

LEVEL5 congratulates our client, SoOPAK, on the launch of their new website. Head over to www.soopak.com to check it out!

SoOPAK provides inspirational and simple packaging solutions for customers of all industries and size. After experiencing tremendous growth since opening up shop in Mississauga, Ontario in 2014, the company decided that it was time to ensure that their brand promise reflected their position as North America’s most trustworthy and reliable leader in short-run packaging.

LEVEL5’s Perspective: There is no such thing as an “unbrandable” industry or organization
SoOPAK brought on LEVEL5 to help develop a customer-centric, brand-driven strategy that will drive profitable, sustainable growth in a very utilitarian, transaction-driven industry. LEVEL5’s perspective (and experience) is that all brands, including those that operate in what many view as “unbrandable” categories, provide a source of differentiation and competitive advantage. Once brand is recognized and managed as a true “company asset”, it can become a significant source of enterprise and shareholder value. SoOPAK is proving that the packaging sector was never “unbrandable”, but merely happened to be unbranded… until now. In fact, the company even has a website tab dedicated to their brand and brand story.

SoOpak Pic 1

SoOPAK embarked on the website redesign with its brand strategy and customers in mind. The new website’s goal is to provide visitors a seamless, interactive way to explore cutting-edge packaging designs and full spectrum of solutions. The new design allows for easy accessibility, clear navigation and an enhanced user experience.

SoOpak Pic 2

SoOPAK’s CEO, Carole Jiang shares, “our new website will extend our geographical reach and allow SoOPAK to deploy our innovative packaging solutions to a broader base of customers. We are thankful for the assistance we received from LEVEL5 Strategy Group in helping us develop an inspiring strategy that drives what we believe is great ownable competitive advantage.”

LEVEL5 looks forward to continuing our work with SoOPAK to unlock the value of their brand. Congratulations on this exciting milestone in your brand journey!