Client: Maxwell Fabrics Ltd.
Challenge: Expand a local fabric company’s reach
Solution: Build aesthetics and functionality into a customer-centered website
When the leadership of a family-owned business moved to the younger generation, it was time to revisit the company’s brand and marketing strategy.
Signals has worked with two generations of the family that owns and operates Maxwell Fabrics Ltd., a trade only supplier to the residential design community. Over the past three years, Signals has helped Maxwell grow from a solid local business into serious competitor in the highly competitive US market.
It started with a brand renewal that revitalized the visual identity and secured Maxwell’s position as a fashion-wise supplier of modern-classic, fabric collections. Then, to support the company’s mission of making beautiful fabrics accessible, we developed fabric sample books and a series of marketing materials. We also developed an advertising campaign for high-end interior design magazines to expand Maxwell’s presence in the US market.
Next, we designed and developed a new website that has enabled Maxwell to take advantage of the growing potential of online marketing. Our research into customer needs and competitors’ sites ensured that the new site would be built to address the changing needs of Maxwell’s client base, with a focus on giving existing customers greater control over their accounts.
Visually, the site speaks directly to interior designers and decorators. It showcases Maxwell fabrics within a user interface that is both functional and displays a strong sense of style. The new site also incorporates a sophisticated data management system that is integrated with the company’s order taking and inventory control system. Customers can order samples, check and order stock, obtain pricing, manage shipping and generally manage their accounts. In addition, the new site encourages visitors to create a web user account and take advantage of the tools that are provided throughout the site. This feature was designed to convert website visitors into trade accounts.
Maxwell people are now engaged in creating and applying new content and measuring the site’s effectiveness by reviewing site analytics. The site is relatively new, but Maxwell is already seeing a return on its investment in terms of the reduction in time required to personally attend to trade accounts.
Signals is proud to have helped shape the next generation of Maxwell’s growth.
Challenge: Turn a content-rich website into a compelling marketing tool and resource centre
Solution: A site that showcases the natural advantages of wood
WoodWorks came to Signals with a mission to convince its visitors to use wood in their next building project.
The organization was established by the Wood Products Council which is an alliance of all the major wood associations in North America, as well as research organizations and government agencies. Our challenge was to transform the ontent-rich WoodWorks site into an effective, one-stop point of access to resources and support for architects, engineers, contractors and developers.
Understanding that this audience is under pressure to contain building costs and may have misconceptions about working with wood, we set out to handle their objections upfront. We helped WoodWorks to shape their key messages and highlighted the top seven benefits of working with wood on the home page.
These advantages include practical concerns such as cost, code acceptance and fire protection, as well as sustainability and carbon footprint issues.
As well as marketing wood as a building material, the site also serves as an education and resource centre, housing a wide range of design tools, publications and technical support. We reorganized the site architecture to make it easier for visitors to find the resources and materials relevant to their needs. And we built the new site in WordPress so that it can be easily updated in-house.
The design of the WoodWorks site is open and inviting: the beautiful, almost sculptural images of wood convey the message that wood is the natural building material of choice.
Client: International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), Canadian Branch
Challenge: Inspire Canadians to support cancer control in developing countries
Solution: A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved
Signals has done a lot of work in cancer control in Canada and we’re proud of the impact we’ve made. But the reality is that three quarters of the world’s cancer burden remains in the developing world. So, we were keen to support a new Canadian not-for-profit with a mission to help reduce the cancer burden and suffering in resource-challenged countries.
Headed by Canadian cancer expert, Simon Sutcliffe and run by a dedicated team of volunteers, the group was originally known as the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), Canadian Branch. The organization needed to build awareness of its work and was looking to recruit medical professionals and attract donors.
Taking this on as a pro bono project, we conducted the Signals Discovery and Brand DNA process, and renamed the organization: Two Worlds Cancer Collaboration. This name reflects the reality that there are currently two worlds in cancer control — one with resources and one without.
A visual brand, fundraising materials and a website followed, using the work of yet another volunteer, photographer, Chuck Russell who create a series of photo essays that communicate the desperate need.
Signals continues to support Two Worlds Cancer Collaboration.
Client: North Hasting Business Improvement Association
Challenge: Revitalize the Hastings-Sunrise / Grandview-Woodland commercial area
Solution: East Village: A vintage neighbourhood with a progressive attitude
The North Hastings Business Improvement Association (BIA) brought Signals on board to help reposition a commercial district that spans two distinct neighbourhoods: Hastings-Sunrise and Grandview-Woodland.
Our challenge was to create a new identity for the commercial district that would be independent of the two communities – an identity that would encourage people to recognize this business area as distinct from East Hastings.
The branding process took six months to complete and involved a merchant survey, one-on-one interviews with merchants and residents of the area and a discovery workshop with the BIA Board of Directors. Based on this research, Signals developed a BrandDNA document which included a positioning statement that captured the area’s unique character: “A vintage neighbourhood with a progressive attitude.”
From the outset of the project, a name change was under consideration and was included as a question in the merchant survey. Accordingly, as part of the rebrand, we developed a list of potential new names for the commercial area. We presented the names in relation to the existing name and also tested each name against the new brand positioning and key messages. From the short list, the BIA board members selected “The East Village.”
While there are many East Villages across North America, most notably the iconic New York City community, this name was felt to be a fit because it best reflected the characteristics our branding process had uncovered: the friendly, neighbourhood feeling; the history of cultural diversity, the proud tradition of independence and forward thinking and an East Vancouver perspective. As well, the “village” moniker helps to distinguish the business/commercial section from the broader Hastings-Sunrise and Grandview-Woodland communities.
Once the name was approved by the board, Signals developed the visual identity, creating a series of custom illustrations that convey the quirky, welcoming personality of area. To launch the brand, an announcement presenting the name and visual brand was distributed to the commercial businesses throughout the area. The BIA’s new website marked the first presentation to the public, followed by street banners which appeared in the commercial area.
People have strong feelings about their communities. So, it’s not surprising that the rebrand has generated a great deal of interest, controversy, and even criticism. Along the way, we at Signals have learned a lot about the process of evolving neighbourhood identities.
Initially, the reaction to the re-brand was very positive. But it was not long before the new name came under fire, primarily from a group of residents who aimed their criticism at the BIA and the branding process.
The most vocal critics are champions of the unique and historic Hastings- Sunrise community – a position we respect at Signals. They argue that changing the name will have a negative effect on the community’s identity and sense of place. But the critics may have misunderstood the purpose of the rebrand: it was not directed at the Hastings-Sunrise community, it was intended to revitalize the business district that runs through two different neighbourhoods.
The branding initiative aligns with the BIA’s mandate to support local business. Funding for the BIA and its initiatives comes from a special levy paid by the Commercial Property owners within the BIA boundaries to improve the economic health of the business district.
The public debate about the rebrand has raised questions about branding commercial areas and the expectation of residents to be consulted. Some residents have approached the City to challenge its policy concerning the naming of business districts.
While the controversy continues, it has stimulated a considerable amount of interest in The East Village. In the words of one merchant, the brand renewal has engaged residents and merchants in a discussion of “who we are as a community.” What’s more, it has attracted visitors and generated valuable exposure for the area in major and local newspapers, as well as on TV and online. Since the brand renewal, two businesses have opened with “East Village” in their name.
From our perspective, the controversy rings true to the brand – it’s another manifestation of the tradition of “independent thinking” that has always characterized this unique Vancouver area.