Thinking Outside with reBox
reBOX Creative Inc.
Thinking Outside with reBox
From an efficient yet funky office overlooking the Bow River in Calgary’s Sunnyside district, Robert quarterbacks a team of talented researchers, writers, artists, tacticians, and marketers as they research, develop, and execute brand strategies for a diverse portfolio of clients. Robert has deep roots in the branding world. Before reBox, he ran Prophet Strategies, a management consulting firm with niche-focused expertise in delivering brand positioning work to a variety of B2B customers.
“We had a client that loved our work distilling how they were unique and valued in the marketplace,” explains Robert. “They asked us to tell their story to the world. I smiled and told them, ‘That’s not what we do. We’re consultants not a marketing firm.’ The client smiled and said, ‘If you can figure it out, you’ve got our business.’ As an entrepreneur, I couldn’t say no!”
Rising to the challenge, Robert sought best in-class associates to partner with in the new venture that became reBox Creative. “When we started the firm, our intention was to help companies sure out what it is about them that is distinctive and sought-after in the marketplace,” he says, “And then figure out how to tell that story in a way that gets attention.”
“We already had the expertise in the brand positioning side of the business,” continues Robert. “We added the creative side to go out into the world and tell our clients’ story whatever form it takes. At reBox, we create in a variety of mediums, including trade-show booths, marketing collateral, advertisements, brochures, websites, and even broadcast quality commercials. The medium to us is irrelevant. It’s the message that counts. And, the message has to be delivered in a way that actually gets attention.”
From a business perspective, the intention was to start small, but within a year, reBox Creative was handling major corporate projects for multiple clients, such as BW Technologies by Honeywell, Pfizer, and Tundra Process Solutions all under the watchful eye of ‘brand captain’ Robert. Now, nearing its fifth year in operation, reBox Creative is focusing on growing its business to include larger firms and projects in addition to their existing clientele.
“We want to work with companies that aren’t afraid to embrace their uniqueness,” reveals Robert. “Most organizations are terrified to stand out. It’s human nature, because when you’re distinctive, you’re all alone in the marketplace. When companies such as Apple and Yellow Tail Wines initially launched products that were completely different than their competitors, they were mocked until the sales started rolling in. Then, their competitors jumped on board and tried to imitate their success. We work with companies that want to emerge in their market, who see their brand as the DNA of their organization, and are willing to give us the freedom to do what needs to be done to tell their story.”
According to Rob, most people confuse brand with a trademark or logo. In reality, a brand is a complex basket of both tangible elements and ethereal characteristics that represent a company in the eyes of their customers. A brand has been called a promise to the customer that encompasses product, service, and company culture. However, it’s important to recognize brands are not decreed by companies but rather evolve through their customers’ perception. As a result, customers will expect certain behaviors of a company based on the performance of their brand, because brand is all about emotion.
Like people, brands have personas consumers evaluate and then use to judge a company before spending a single dollar. For that reason, brands need to be consistently represented throughout a company. For example, if a company is targeting a luxury market for their product or service and their promotional materials are shoddy and cheaply produced, their messaging is not consistent with their luxury persona.
The tangible elements of a brand can include such things as the company logo, tone of messaging, colour palette (from printed brochures, product packaging, and website, to the office curtains), and right down to a company’s approach to customer support. The key to building a brand in the eye of the customer is consistency in every aspect of execution. If one facet is askew, a company runs the risk of diminishing their entire brand.
Even more importantly, a company needs to ensure they are talking to the right people with their brand while understanding how they differ from competitors in their market space. Without solid research, strategy, and execution, a company’s messaging can fall on deaf ears.
“When developing a brand strategy for a client, we have a tool we use called the reBox Positioning Pyramid,” explains Robert. “Brand positioning is the process of creating an identity for your offering in the mind and heart of the market relative to that of your competition.”
“The pyramid has three sides representing crucial elements that fit together to build a strong position in the market,” he continues. “The first side is availability. Define what business you are really in then identify the key influential competitors and determine their positions. By knowing this, you will be able to see what makes your company unique.”
“The next side is desirability. Get inside the mind of your market to learn who they are and how they use your product or service. What is their customer experience? We answer this question by conducting semi-structured interviews and undertaking ethnographic research – the study of how people live in their natural environment,” reveals Robert. “We also look at the psychology behind the buying experience or behavioral economics. We combine multiple disciplines to distill a client’s unique value proposition (UVP) – the one element of their business that sets them apart from their competitors.”
“The base of the pyramid is capability. How far will your company go? Is your company willing to match your current offering and expertise to what the new position demands? Can you live your brand’s persona?”
In Robert’s experience, companies are not always the best judges of what makes them unique. For example, one reBox client thought their promise to deliver a project ‘on time and on budget’ made them stand out when in reality all their competitors were conveying the same message.
“First of all, that’s a cliché. Everyone says they’re on time and on budget,” refutes Robert. “When we started to interview their customers, we got a very different story, and what we found was the company was phenomenal at keeping their clients up-to-date on the status of projects. In the dynamic operating environment of the engineers and procurement specialists that comprise their customer base, timely reporting allowed their customer to adjust plans and schedules pro-actively. This was their UVP, and they weren’t even aware of it!”
“With the Positioning Pyramid, we leverage science to distill great brands – boiling down the essence of a company to its unique core,” summarizes Robert. “Then, we find a creative way to convey this value through messaging.”
“Research shows people are exposed to more than 2,600 messages per day,” explains Robert, “And that’s a lot of clutter you have to navigate through to deliver your message! When everyone is accustomed to seeing a round hole, our job at reBox is to create one that’s square, because studies in psychology show the brain focuses on things that stand out. We use pattern interruption to get the attention of the target audience, so we can tell our client’s story.”
“Our mission is to creatively persuade the audience, get their attention, and guide them to what they are looking for,” he continues. “Once we crystalize a company’s unique value, we produce the marketing materials and other deliverables while acting as brand ambassador on behalf of our clients.”
“But, our involvement doesn’t stop with the delivery of a strategy or a brand standards manual,” Robert emphasizes. “We follow through to implement the brand persona throughout every aspect of our client’s business. This involvement can include staff training, ongoing executive coaching, or working with other agencies to ensure our client’s brand consistency.”
“It’s important to ensure when a message is delivered creatively it fits the brand,” clarifies Robert. “When attending a recent Global Petroleum Show, I visited the GenTex Oilfield Manufacturing booth where they were showing one of their Hot Oiler Units – a truck mounted system used to inject hot oil into pipes in the field to clear paraffin wax. At the other end of the booth, GenTex was serving BBQ hamburgers as requested by the show organizer, and there was a long queue of people waiting anxiously for a free lunch.”
“I wanted to talk to their market, so I joined the line and asked a few people, ‘Hey, who’s hosting this barbeque?’ Most didn’t know. They were just in line for a free burger. The promotion neither reinforced their brand nor told the story of the hot oiler unit. I suggested another, more creative way to tell the GenTex story.”
“Why not take a brand new hot oiler unit, clean it to food grade standard, fill it with vegetable oil, and deep fry chicken wings instead of flipping burgers? When the chicken’s done, sound the air horn and dump the wings into a big bowl for the audience – dinner and a show. Deep fried wings reverberate the hot oiler message far more effectively than burgers. GenTex agreed whole heartedly!”
“That would tell the GenTex story in a memorable and fun way,” surmises Robert.
“At reBox, our job isn’t to get a company’s customer to buy a second or third time. That’s their job,” summarizes Robert. “Our job is to get the right customer to buy from our client the first time.”
“Our goal at reBox Creative is to turn the B2B space on its head and get rid of the paradigm that business messaging has to be lackluster and unexciting to be effective. ‘B2B’ shouldn’t be an acronym for ‘Boring to Boring’.”
At that moment, the reBox Creative office telephone rings. Robert excuses himself and looks away for a second, then swings back with a huge smile on his face before picking up the handset and greeting the caller, “reBox Creative. How can I help you?” Practicing what they preach, Robert and his team live their brand down to the smallest detail, including a smile the caller can’t even see simply because it makes all the difference.