How can we navigate the launch of a key Government-Funded agency?
Berlin has worked with Energy Efficiency Alberta to launch the agency and introduce both the idea of energy efficiency, and the programs designed to support energy efficiency, to Albertans. This started with some fascinating public perception research about the relationship between Albertans and efficiency, where we learned a great deal about the role that sustainability plays in the lives of Albertans.
Since then, we’ve managed both operational and educational communications initiatives and have developed a diversity of materials and strategic communications to support the mandate of the organization. We’ve collaborated with funding partners, program delivery partners, and we’ve helped to onboard the incoming agency management and staff to ensure that institutional knowledge contributes to continued agency success. We’ve managed emerging issues and media and public relations.
Program uptake and participation has exceeded all expectations and models, and we are thrilled to see the work of the last year having such a meaningful impact.
We’re all very proud of this work, and so happy to still be supporting EEA as it continues its work.
How can a Hospital advocate for itself?
The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation has been working with Government to secure funding for the redevelopment of the hospital campus for the last 20 years, to no avail. RAHF hired us prior to the 2017 provincial budget to build a campaign to increase public awareness of the needs of the RAH and put pressure on the Government to finally include the hospital as a line item in the capital budget.
Given the complexity of relationships and professional responsibilities, neither patients nor doctors, administrators or foundation members are in a position to speak as unequivocally as this campaign needed to. Rather than soften the message, or equivocate, we created a proxy.
We created a persona and character for the RAH: Alex. Smart, warm and not one for mincing words.
Alex is a puppet replica of the Active Treatment Centre at the RAH, the main tower that most Edmontonians are familiar with. We captured Alex’s voice through a series of video blogs, hosted on a custom built website that allowed people to send a letter of support to the Premier, the Health Minister and their local MLA directly. We hosted a news conference at the launch of the campaign and dominated the news cycle in the following days. A multi-platform ad buy was launched and featured newspaper, television, radio and digital ads.
And it worked. On budget day, it was announced that the RAH would receive $520 million for two new redevelopment projects.
In the seven weeks between the launch of the campaign and the provincial budget, the website saw more than 30,000 users and hundreds of letters were sent to the Government. The campaign reached the majority of Edmontonians, allowed the Foundation to engage with citizens in a different way and resulted in a major funding announcement for the hospital.
How can communication support a legislated mandate?
Our work included the development and articulation of an overarching communications objective tied to the business objectives of FRIAA, to which all communications activities were oriented. It then flowed down to various strategies FRIAA would use to achieve its communications objectives, and finally a set of easily understood tactical recommendations that would lead into an implementation phase.
Consultation with FRIAA management, leadership and stakeholders drove insight gathering and strategy development. Other core partners were consulted during the development of the overarching communication strategy and various other stakeholder groups were engaged as we moved into the development of program-specific communication strategies.
We are still working with FRIAA as they begin to implement the recommendations of the communication strategy. To-date, we’ve helped them develop specific messaging supporting their FireSmart funding program, and implemented a targeted outreach strategy for that program. We develop and distribute their newsletter, and help them build regular engaging content and stories for their website. We have also built them a program website and supported them in an issues management capacity.
How can we use a standard communication tool to begin repositioning a community institution?
Beaumont Credit Union hired us to take over for their long-time marketing agency because they wanted to develop a more strategic approach to positioning their bank. Presenting to senior management and the board, our recommended approach to re-positioning the financial institution was adopted in its entirety.
Today we’re working with them to begin implementing the new positioning strategy. We built a system to help the bank evolve to better represent the core strengths of the institution while concurrently pushing itself to grow alongside the community it serves — one that has seen transformational change in the last decade in terms of the composition, demographics and focus.
Working with them on this Annual Report was a subtle and valuable opportunity to begin repositioning the role they serve in their community.
How can we ensure that funding opportunities are fully subscribed?
FRIAA has been a client for almost two years, and in addition to our ongoing communication work with them, we helped them launch a large-scale funding opportunity last year.
FRIAA has a track record of accountable, responsible allocation of funds to many programs that enhance our forest resource for the benefit of all Albertans. In this case, the challenge was ensuring that the program the FRIAA FireSmart funding call for EOIs was fully subscribed.
Our solution was practical and clear. We identified individuals within communities across the province (administration, fire services, local government) responsible for this kind of program, and developed a custom kit for them. We then physically mailed them out to each of those important stakeholders.
The kit walked them through three progressively more detailed pieces, leading them from the basic “what is FRIAA FireSmart?” question to the detailed instructions for application. The results: the program was over-subscribed.
How can we equip municipalities to affect behavioural change in their communities?
The Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission hired us to build tools that their members can use to promote responsible flushing.
It was important for us to clearly communicate that pee, poo and toilet paper (the three P’s) are the only things acceptable to flush, and anything else can cause costly sewer backups. The ACRWC also wanted residents to understand that a backup can happen on their own property, and it’s not just the overall sewer system that suffers.
Enter: ‘The Clog’. The campaign features a digitally drawn illustration of a 60s horror movie style monster. Our research early in the project discovered that this style of illustration and design hadn’t been used in this type of campaign before, and was likely to make citizens look twice.
We wrote the copy and applied the illustration and supplementary graphics to a website, brochures, digital and print ads, social media avatars and posts, and other ads that member municipalities could use.
When the Festival International des Sports Extrêmes (FISE) decided to make Edmonton its Canadian home, Edmonton tourism reached out to us to support them in extending the event’s reach into the community. We conceived of and implemented a number of local “FISE Clinics” where we brought together some of the best riders in the world and local athletes. We leveraged these as part of our media relations strategy, and built on the relationships as we expanded into more traditional media support for the event. We connected with the local extreme sports communities on behalf of FISE, and worked on the ground at their inaugural Canadian tour stop.
Our role required us to collaborate and coordinate with Edmonton Tourism, The City of Edmonton, FISE (France) and their social media Agency in the UK.
Lakeland contracted us to help them create a logo, word mark and visual identity system flexible enough to incorporate sub-brands such as their various schools, applied research department and athletic teams. Working with a core team at the college and engaging a variety of staff at different points, we worked with them to find a visual articulation of their brand that fit the school, region and history. We also engaged their student body and employees and created constituency and buy-in for the brand that led to enthusiastic uptake and personal engagement with the new brand.
We helped them plan the introduction of the brand, and following the successful launch, worked with them to create a variety of banners, signs and other material and templates that their internal design team could use. As we transitioned out and their internal design team took over, we continued to provide oversight and guidance, ensuring a seamless and successful implementation of the new brand.
How can we design an accessible communication tool for a group who deals with challenging and controversial issues?
Homeward Trust’s Annual Report provides them with an opportunity to showcase their accomplishments and demonstrate their impact to a broad audience. It’s an important document that helps spread the word about the great work they do. We worked with the Homeward Trust team to design an Annual Report that presented information in a way that was clear and engaging, and portrayed the people they serve with dignity and respect.
How to make an uncomfortable topic easy to
The City of Edmonton hired us to change the way people feel about affordable housing. Our research identified the reasons many people openly or quietly oppose affordable housing and helped us build a campaign that changed the tone of the discussion and calmed people’s fears.
We packaged the campaign in a way that gave this conversation a positive tone, often lacking in public discourse of the issue. Our work included a website, online ads, an explanatory video, posters, postcards and a media launch event.
How to make a problem into a point of pride?
Most cities don’t see $5 billion worth of investment in their core in 20 years —but we’ll see it in 5. It’s hard to even appreciate what that means for us. What is $5 billion?
Well, for starters, it is a whole bunch of traffic headaches, road closures, and sidewalk detours. It’s confusion and unpredictability. It’s unanswered questions and a bunch of rumours about what’s going to happen when, which alley is closed this week, and who couldn’t get into their parkade yesterday.
But it’s also a collaboration between the City, developers, business owners and the people who live, shop and spend time in the core.
For this project, we had to navigate an issue that has been divisive, and create a communications approach and key messages that would help ensure that the conversation didn’t get mired in the history of the issue, or in the frustrations of increased traffic and reduced parking.
We built messaging strategies and a creative platform that would allow the many organizations involved in the revitalization to communicate using a unified, upbeat voice. This included strategies that help to proactively address questions and concerns, and a platform that expressed the celebratory, future-focussed nature of this change.
How can we backward-engineer a parent brand from a group of its sub-brands?
The City of Edmonton Recreation Centres act as community hubs and provide Edmontonians with a wide variety of health and recreation opportunities. However, with new recreation centres opening year after year, facilities became disconnected and inconsistent in their individual branding practices. In order to help The City unify these facilities while still communicating the uniqueness of their individual offerings, we developed a modular visual identity system for the overall Recreation Centres brand that could be adjusted to reflect the different types of facilities.
We worked with civic and recreation centres’ leadership teams to understand the role of Recreation Centers in the City’s vision, and the diverse fabric of recreation opportunities offered by the City.
In addition to a logo, the system includes a colour palette, graphic shapes and textures. All of these elements work together to both strengthen each facility’s own identity, and identify them as part of a unified network. We sought in all of this to communicate the inclusive, diverse and optimistic character of the Recreation Centres’ brand.
Community Pot-luck / Ground-breaking event
The Ritchie Market is a unique project that reinvigorates the idea of a “local” by creating a place that serves as a community hub. Set to house some of Edmonton’s most beloved local businesses, the multi-use building is a neighbourhood-centric project in one of Edmonton’s oldest communities. Berlin was hired to provide strategic counsel on how to introduce the Ritchie Market to the community, provide event implementation and media relations.
Like a new neighbour, we wanted to introduce Ritchie Market to the community and its residents in a way that was friendly and welcoming. We reconsidered the idea of a stuffy ceremonial ground-breaking and instead invited residents to our community pot-luck. Serving BBQ from ACME meat market, coffee from Transcend, and sweet bike rides from Velocity Cycle (all future Ritchie Market vendors) to residents and well-wishers in the area. Project leaders Greg Zeschuk and Poul Mark were also on hand to meet the neighbours and answer any questions people might have regarding the development. The event was featured on multiple news outlets and generated buzz on social media, but perhaps the biggest success was getting into the community and receiving their support for the project - making the event more than just a groundbreaking but more of a “welcome home”.
Formerly known as the Alberta Association of Services for Children and Families (AASCF), Align is an umbrella group of front-line agencies that provide contracted services for Alberta children and families. After 48 years, the organization had become a bigger, stronger and more confident body that needed an update to its brand (all of it).
We hosted facilitated sessions with the executive board and the membership to discuss the organization, its current direction and its future objectives. As good things often come unexpectedly, the name Align came out of conversation:
“When all the moving pieces come together perfectly and just work. It was like the stars were aligned…”
We explored a host of other ideas, but ultimately, it was from that conversation that the name Align was born. Just as stars cluster around each other, a collective like Align is a group of entities that work together to achieve a common objective.
The visual platform and identity we developed to support the brand alludes to constellations by referencing star trails. These connections represent the movement and accessibility of Align in an expressive and open way.
The Base is 16,000 square feet of advanced training, sports therapy and injury recovery. Big and bold in its approach, it needed an identity and space design that reflected the ambition and energy of the space.
Our role started early: naming it, building the logo and developing a plan for the interior of the space. We designed many elements – illustrations of the training philosophy, neon signs… - but the piece with the most significant impact was the feature wall, where we were given carte blanche.
We also designed and executed a media strategy that included earned media and both online and non-traditional out-of-home ads.
Online, we structured the campaign in two flights: One to build awareness, and a later one designed as a call to action. For out-of-home, the client had identified elite under-18 hockey players as a key audience, so we took over series of walls at the arena in town where all of those athletes pass through. While they play all over the city, Bill Hunter Arena is known as a hotspot, and one that those athletes are likely to visit at times throughout the season.
How can we help the public understand how the wastewater flows uphill in the Metro Edmonton Region?
The Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission (ACRWC) is a wastewater transmission network providing wastewater services to 13 municipalities in the Metro Edmonton Region. ACRWC wanted to hold a media event for the launch of its new $19 million dollar pump station in St. Albert. We were hired to plan and execute the media event, which invited media and community members to tour the facility and learn more about system operations.
To help the public understand the inner workings of the pump station, we also built a visual vernacular and 3D renderings that were on display around the perimeters of the facility.
A long-time client, River Valley Health was embarking on a new (and wonderfully ambitious) venture.
Applying their unique 43/22 system to 16,000 square feet of rehab and performance training.
Step one was introducing the idea and philosophy to their committed and passionate client base, and we did that in a way that made heroes out of athletes that work with RVH (and, for the record, RVH believes that we are all athletes).
We worked to find a balance between aspirational and achievable - between strength and humility. And, in the end, we created a takeaway that include both a fold-out poster of their athletes and a booklet describing the practice and principles that have made them an industry leader - and the reason that Olympic athletes and world champions seek them out.
Representing employees of the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Public Libraries, The Telus World of Science, EPCOR and Capital Power, CSU 52 recently issued a request for proposals for design and development of a new website. Our response to that RFP diverged from the scope of work that it outlined.
Rather than diving into sitemapping, our response to the RFP laid out a process of consultation with their members designed to begin the kind of dialogue that is necessary if they are to meaningfully evolve to better serve their membership.
We started with a member engagement process, designed to begin the meaningful dialogue with their members. We drew on our experience in stakeholder consultation and brand communication to design a process that would set the stage for this organization to evolve.
We believe that they hired us because we pushed hard on “why”. We worked with them to understand what was lacking and what they could do to get where they wanted to get to. We didn’t simply design a website - we needed to help them learn about, build and strengthen the relationships they had with their audiences.
We conducted a series of workshops focus groups and member consultations with and for them, and we developed a new identity system. We completed a web strategy and web design, and developed their new online presence.
Steeped in the skateboard and punk scene of 80’s and 90’s, Aaron’s career started with a revelation: that he was better at capturing the moment than creating it. Realizing early that he’d never land an inverted heelflip, he started exploring photography by documenting his community.
His curiosity and the opportunity to uncover truths about his clients and subjects drive his photography and film. He has shot people like Romeo Dallaire, Henry Rollins, Elvis Costello and Cadence Weapon, and his work has appeared in publications like The Guardian, British Vogue and Observer Music Monthly.
We work with Aaron a lot, and when he came to us to talk about re-exploring his brand, he wanted to focus more on opportunities that allow for creative collaboration with the client, or to make the project more his own through strong artistic direction. He wants to be known for the way his work brings out the character and personality of the subject.
We designed a new identity and system that creates a collaboration between the foreground and the background, between the photographer and his subject. Our identity system is modular, and allows Aaron to use the elements of the identity to highlight truths in the work - just like he does every day for his clients and collaborators. His job isn’t to create the truth, but to bring it forward, and the identity we developed for him does the same.
Research showed that our audience seeks a sense of community, and that they do lots of research. So, ads needed to create a more emotional connection - not list details. And, as warm memories of home are developed early we invited people to rediscover the joy of youth in some of our most “neighborly” communities.
In the first month that these hit the street, direct traffic to the Brookfield site more than doubled. And - as this is an annual campaign, we decided to check ourselves against previous years. The year-on-year ROI increased by 25% - and the only change was that Berlin developed the creative.
Our client was enthusiastic about the work - here’s a quote that she provided for us afterwards:
“Simply said, Michael and the team at Berlin are creative geniuses and it all starts with the time they take to get to know your business, the consumer and the market. Their remarkable level of service and unique creative solutions can only be described as ‘elite’ within the industry. If you’re looking for smart, compelling communication that engages your consumers, you should be talking to Berlin.”
Multiple IABC Capital Awards, 2014.
Establishing the model for a Canadian pub, Hudsons burst onto the bar scene in western Canada a decade ago. Since then, many copycats have waded into the new “canadian pub” market.
In late 2013, Hudsons hired Berlin to be its agency, developing the brand strategies for its 10 locations. Our first campaign was built to distinguish Hudsons from all the other “cheap drinks!” campaigns favored by other bars and pubs. Our creative defined the Canadian pub culture through the proprietors of more stereotypical pub cultures. Though it's sometimes hard to articulate, there is a model for the Canadian pub - and it's embodied in the party you find at any Hudsons. Sometimes it’s hard to see how unique we are, and as Canadians, we are particularly reticent to draw a hard line, or to vocally assert our uniqueness - so, we let others speak for us.
How can we broach an uncomfortable topic with students?
Believe it or not, dorms help disease spread. One of the challenges facing The University of Alberta’s Wellness Services group was managing and preventing the kind of outbreaks that tend to happen when students live in very close quarters. Shared facilities cause illness to spread more quickly and broadly than in other communities — whether it’s the weird cold your roommate brought back from their trip, or just the annual assault of the flu.
You’ll also probably not be surprised that self-reporting of illness — the lynchpin of efforts to control the spread of illness — is uncomfortable for many people.
Our job was to create a concept and materials that hurdled those challenges by speaking to the students on their terms, taking the stigma out of self-reporting. Our “protect the herd” call to action has become a rally cry.
River Valley Health was one of our first clients. We’ve had the pleasure of working with them for years.
As an integrated injury recovery and performance centre, RVH has helped Edmonton athletes find their potential for years. One of the most highly regarded group of experts in Western Canada, they work with olympic athletes, internationally-ranked boxers and fighters and professional soccer, football and hockey players.
In all those years, they have developed an integrated system that helps those athletes win. It is a system that works. Our role on this project was to articulate, communicate and create a brand around this unique system.
This sub-brand proved the broader RVH Brand promise: we are all athletes. Our job was to help the world understand it.
The name, identity and other materials were designed to communicate the unique, methodical system, and get people excited about it. The design of the Red Pyramid in Egypt inspired the “43 22” name. Built at a rise of 43 22, it was the first smooth sided pyramid to stand - others, built at other angles, didn’t survive. It was the perfect balance of foundation and elevation that made this one strong. And, that’s what makes the RVH system different.
“No more crap!”
It has been a few years since former mayor Stephen Mandel famously cried out for beautifully-designed buildings in downtown Edmonton. Since then, Edmonton’s downtown skyline has indeed improved and has drawn investment from out-of-city developers. Brad Lamb, Toronto’s Condo King, announced his entry into the Edmonton market in 2014 to build on his international success.
We were hired to help access the Edmonton market with the exciting news of Jasper House, Lamb’s first foray in Edmonton. The first press release over the summer led to coverage on the front page of the Edmonton Journal, on Global Edmonton TV, on 630Ched, in Metro Edmonton, and in the Edmonton Sun.
In the fall, we organized a party to introduce Brad to Edmonton. With over 200 guests on a night that it was pouring rain, local influencers, dignitaries like the current Mayor of Edmonton, and supporters of gorgeous architecture came out for a memorable evening.
While Lamb was in town, we set up a series of back-to-back interviews during his brief stay in Edmonton. These led to coverage again in the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Sun and 630Ched, but also on CTV news. Not only that, but he interviewed for future features in widely-read publications, like Avenue Magazine.
The party was strategically scheduled to occur a week before the sales centre was set to open. There was so much buzz in town that Jasper House condo units were more than one-third sold out in the first five days of the sales centre opening - already enough to secure the financing for the 36-storey condo tower. Lamb Development Corp quickly confirmed plans for Brad’s next development in Edmonton: North.
As an agency, we’re used to creating campaigns for other people. Often our work exists for a short window of time, intended to make an impact and then fade into the background to make room for the next campaign. A creative project born out of a desire to experiment with our knowledge of consumers and clients, the Berlin Desk was designed in partnership with industrial design graduate Jaymes Barone and produced in partnership with Oliver Apt. Its design balances aesthetic simplicity with the hard-working functionality of an agency desk.
About 16 months ago, Berlin’s Creative Director wondered: what if an ad agency could apply its understanding of the consumer to more than advertising? What if that agency was able to direct product development too? The Berlin desk is an experiment, conceived while reading Bruce Mau, refined in an Industrial Design context and now entering the traditional purview of the ad agency.
Months of research into the use of desk space in agencies, more months experimenting with solutions, and days debating how creatives might share needs with account folks have resulted in a desk that is simple, compact and uniquely useful.
With features that bridge a historical account-creative divide, and that are useful both for small, boutique shops and the giants that need to find a way to fit 100 desks in a room, this is, aesthetically and functionally, the best desk on the market for creative professionals.
Independent, Confident and Innovative. This is a region where businesses are focused on getting stuff done. This is not a group of soft or tentative people. This region has a history of risk taking, innovation and industry. There is a sense that anything is possible here, and that “getting ‘er done” is more important than ironing your suit. Here, you’re judged by your actions, not your tie.
Berlin was hired to create a new look, feel and platform for this unique brand.
How do we make an issue relevant for the public?
The Edmonton Literacy Coalition wanted to see more government support for adult literacy programming, and were looking for a way to make the need relevant.
We developed an integrated campaign that showed the ‘other’ 60% (the adult Albertans who do read well) what daily life is like for the 40% who don’t have basic levels of literacy. Our campaign integrated targeted public relations, a media event, and public-facing advertising. The work was designed to create advocates for the issue and bring it closer to the top of the list for policy-makers.
Once the campaign was in market, our client was invited to meet with the Mayor of Edmonton to talk about how to move the needle on this issue at the municipal and provincial levels of government.
Multiple ACE and IABC awards, 2013
How do we activate a community of interest?
The Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) hired us to elevate the importance of post-secondary funding to policymakers and build and activate a community of interest around the issue.
We were fortunate to have a wealth of research that we sifted through to identify key insights that would drive our campaign. We identified that 98% of Alberta parents hope that their children will have the opportunity to attend post-secondary. This was the strong, but oddly quiet constituency around which we built our campaign. They had strong feelings, and simply needed a means to express them to the right people.
We launched a media relations campaign and a paid online ad buy (as well as some select print) driving people to use a simple online tool we built to share their feelings with policymakers.
Weeks after our campaign, the Government of Alberta announced that they would reaffirm their commitment to Alberta post-secondary education with a $50 million funding increase.
IABC Award of Excellence, 2014
How could one little card require 6 plates?
It’s great to be able to use one’s own self-promotion material to play with the craft. In this case, Rian’s design was broken into layers, and each was hand printed for us by our friends at Fort Heavy.
The back of the card is printed blind (no ink) then white, then black then gold - in four distinct processes. The front of the card (actually a different sheet) is printed once with gold ink and once in black. The two sheets are then glued together and cut - and THEN the edges are painted (2 or 3 coats) with gold paint.
The result is an elegant, strong, intricately creative and easy to understand card. Perfectly balanced, like our approach.
Recognized/featured by FPO