Case Study by John Furneaux RGD, Principal at Projektor
The Canadian Gift Association (CanGift) is rooted in a 40-year history of inspiration and innovation. In order to continue to meet the needs of Canada’s $10 billion giftware industry, the Association was transforming itself and needed to support that transformation with a new positioning, name and visual identity program. Additionally, CanGift wanted to better align its visual expression across all of its shows and communications touch points, which through years of acquisition and change had become fractured and inconsistent.
There were two primary audiences we focused on for this rebrand. The first was the Association’s 1,400 members: giftware wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, importers and exporters, whose success is vital to the health of the Association. The second, equally important, audience was Canadian retailers who attend the Association’s Gift Fairs and read its Retail News magazine, who look to CanGift as a valuable resource for trends and information.
Concept / Design Process
The overall project unfolded in three phases – research and strategy, visual and verbal expression, tools and implementation. The phases took place over a period of about three months each, allowing us time to engage a broader team at CanGift in the process, receiving valuable feedback and ensuring buy-in with the end result.
Working in partnership with CanGift’s long-term PR partner, Idea Workshop, we began by conducting an in-depth, month-long audit of the environment that CanGift was working in – assessing over 20 North American Associations and Shows and reviewing best practices and trends.
The audit allowed to us show the client relevant examples of more effective brand identity programs from within their sector, and also helped Idea Workshop identify gaps and opportunities in the client's communications efforts, particularly when it came to social media platforms. An additional internal audit was also undertaken so that the organization could fully understand all of the implications of making a brand identity change.
An extensive consultation process, speaking with a wide range of members across Canada, led us to articulate a fresh brand promise: to ignite interactions and empower connections between members and retailers. This came to life in the tagline: Inspire. Connect. Succeed.
With the visual identity, we wanted to build off of CanGift's four decades of experience and also exemplify a promising, multi-dimensional future. Each element of the new maple leaf logo reflects the diversity of Canada and the building blocks of a dynamic trading environment, fostering inspiration, engagement and sustainable connections.
We then developed a verbal and visual image platform to signal the new promise to both internal and external audiences. The new visual identity creates a bold and dynamic image across a range of communications channels with special attention paid to online applications, particularly social media and video. Given the range of partners who would be working with the new brand and the diversity of items on which it would be applied (from exhibit displays to magazines), clear, straightforward, yet flexible, guidelines were required to ensure that the brand aligned across all touchpoints.
A training session was held with CanGift staff to ensure they fully understood not just the technical specifications of the new brand but more importantly the intention behind it, so they would be better able to brief and lead any creative partners they might need to engage in the future.
In addition to the branding for the Association, we developed an updated brand architecture and refreshed brand expression for its Alberta, Quebec and Toronto Gift Fairs, with updated names, new visual identities and the tagline Engaging Retail. The Fair identity system was developed to come to life six times a year through Fair signage and collateral along with the latest digital applications and experiences.
The new identity launched in the winter of 2013 and had its public debut at the Toronto Gift Fair in January 2014. The Association launched an updated website as well as the rebranded social media channels to much acclaim and stakeholder fanfare.
“The industry and the Association have undergone significant transformation over the past decades. Changing populations have combined with the evolving face of communications technology and have dramatically altered our business environment. The new brand identity responds to this shift and articulates our key mandate - to enhance opportunities for individuals to form successful, enduring connections and to keep our stakeholders abreast of industry innovation and transformation. Without exception, the rebranding is being enthusiastically embraced by our suppliers, our members and the buyers they serve.” - Peter Moore, Association President and CEO.
The new identity was then rolled out at the Alberta and Quebec Gift Fairs, and received significant coverage in the trade media including Home Improvement Retailing Magazine, DigitalJournal.com, Canadian Florist Magazine, HomeStyle Magazine, Furniture Today, Canadian Grocer, Toys and Games Magazine, Retail News Magazine and Gifts and Tablewares.
- Audit & understand. Undertaking a comprehensive audit and agreeing on the findings prior to starting the creative design process helps to focus the design team with their exploration and the client in their approval process.
- Create flexible systems. Identity systems have to work across a wide range of mediums – from paper to pixel to place. The best ones are built as a flexible system that allows it to be reconfigured for the wide range of applications without losing its unifying impact.
- Design for partners. Your design work will need to be brought to life by a range of creative partners. Make sure you are able to easily explain the core essence of the design as well as any technical specifications.
- Build consensus. Ensure that key internal stakeholders are brought along for the entire development journey so that they understand what decisions need to be made. Make sure to provide them the ability to offer input throughout.
- Don’t be afraid to be bold. Taking bold steps forward while acknowledging the past sends a strong message about the commitment an organization makes to change.
- The devil is in the details. Organizational rebrands can be very complex with thousands of touchpoints needing to be changed in a short period of time. Establishing a corporate understanding and the commitment and resources required is key to ensuring the vision becomes reality.
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