The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) has more in common with Y2K than we might realize. Y2K was all hype and survival kit marketing, unless you were running a computer from the Stone Age that couldn’t handle a simple programming update. Likewise, unless your email marketing practices are from the Stone Age, everything will be OK as long as you can handle a basic email list update and adopting a new set of best practices.

The heart of the matter lies with the issue of consent. In order for individuals or organizations to contact someone via email communication, they must have proof of the recipient’s consent to receive that communication. Sounds pretty reasonable. As users of email, we should all be excited about targeted, permission-based emails instead of blind, blanket solicitations by spammers.

Many organizations are feeling underprepared as the July 1st deadline approaches. The good news for those hitting the panic button is that there is a three-year transition period (until July 1, 2017) to ensure all your ducks are in neat little rows and your email list stays CASL-compliant.

But before you ignore the rest of this article and go back to answering your emails, there is some bad news: If a company is convicted of a violation under the new legislation, fines can be significant, ranging from $1 million to $10 million. That’s why we’ve prepared a digestible synopsis of the complicated legislation for you. Read on.

So, what is the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL)?
In short, the legislation that comes into effect on July 1, 2014, has been passed to ensure that anyone receiving email from your organization has given you express consent to send it to them. In the age of permission marketing (nod to Seth Godin) we wouldn’t recommend you send emails to someone without their consent in the first place.

Under the new legislation, in order to send an individual email communication, the following 4 conditions must be met by the sender

1. Obtain express consent from the recipient of the email. (more on this below)
2. Clearly identify both the sender of the email and the organization on whose behalf the email is being sent.
3. Include a valid mailing address for all senders of the email and at least one of the following: telephone number, email or website address.
4. Include a clear, prominent and easy-to-perform unsubscribe feature that will remove the recipient from the mailing list within 10 days.

Implied vs. Express Consent
The new law identifies two types of consent — implied and express. Implied consent refers to a situation in which the sender infers that the recipient has an interest in receiving email from them, usually through an indirect action or circumstance (eg. scanned a contact badge at a conference, entered a contest). Under CASL, implied consent only applies when one of the following is true:

1. There is an existing business relationship from within the last 2 years (eg. purchase of goods/services)
2. An inquiry about goods or services has been made within the past 6 months.
3. For charities or political organizations, the individual has made a donation, volunteered or attended a meeting you’ve organized.

In all other cases, express consent must be obtained in order to communicate with an individual, and must contain the following:

1. Purpose for which consent is being obtained.
2. Types of messages that will be sent.
3. Name and contact information of individual or organization requesting consent.
4. Statement notifying the recipient of the option to unsubscribe at any time.

For an easy-to-follow example of the necessary email communication, we prepared a simple CASL Compliance Guide, which can be downloaded here.

The Bottom Line
During the grace period, from now until July 1, 2017, it’s true that you may continue to communicate with your existing email database, assuming that you have some record of implied consent. However, we recommend that you obtain a record of express consent as soon as possible. If executed correctly, you will have a more qualified email list that has granted you permission to communicate with them.

If your eyes are crossing or a head-splitting migraine hit about halfway through this article, please get in touch with us and let us help you navigate this exciting new opportunity to deliver customers relevant, meaningful content that they actually want to receive.

For a review of the legislation from the Government of Canada, visit the official CASL website.

Posted on 06 25, 2014 by Relevention

Relevention Founder to Speak at Two Upcoming Conferences

Relevention Founder Braden Douglas is going to be giving talks at two exciting upcoming conferences here in the lower mainland in the next week.

Braden’s presentation will cover the right strategy to building your brand story. The message is far reaching, whether you’re a fortune 500 company or a start-up, the Relevention strategic process will help you craft your message.

Braden will share practical insights, case studies, new ideas and equip you with the materials needed to form a foundation to build results on.

If you’ve been struggling to find your voice as a non-profit or business, you can’t afford to miss this! Event details below:

Digital Storytelling
October 1st 2013 – 1:00PM – 6:00PM
Ramada Inn – Abbotsford B.C.
Hosted by Domain 7, Jelly Marketing and Relevention, the workshop aims to teach local businesses how to tell their companies story online. Working from each other’s strengths, these three companies will provide a clear and practical breakdown of the main elements needed to successfully communicate your story online.

Istoria Conference
October 3-5 2013
Coastal Church – Vancouver B.C.
The istoria conference is designed to inspire and equip leaders in the church, non-profits and the business world. There are sessions with topics customized to business leaders in broad topics and sessions covering more detail for those producing or writing. It features several keynote speakers who are gifted in getting “story” right in this post modern culture.

Posted on 10 01, 2013 by Relevention

Your customers don’t care about you!

Volume 3 of our Relevention Magazine just rolled off the presses and is being distributed by Relevention CREW members this weekend at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA with a number of our clients.

One of the articles in the magazine tackles the much buzzed about concept of “content marketing.” (Download a pdf of the article for an introduction to the principles and history of content marketing and why it matters for you and your business.) We promised to continue the conversation here on our blog, so here goes.

First to recap, what is content marketing? I like this definition from the Content Marketing Institute:

 “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs.  Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.” (Check out some more definitions here.)

The objective of content marketing is to ultimately drive profitable consumer action. The guiding belief is that if a brand delivers consistent value, consumers will ultimately reward it with their business and loyalty. But, from a practical standpoint, what does this look like? Here are a few action items to get you started with links to dig deeper.

1. Original Beats Curated

There are basically two types of content: 1) Original content that you create yourself, or 2) Curated content that was created by someone else but that you deem worthy enough to share with your networks, usually with some of your own commentary. Curated content is cheaper, easier and more readily available, but rarely as memorable. Our advice? Don’t skimp on original content. You’ll likely always be doing some content curation, but don’t let it be the only thing you do.

Action Item: Identify where your area of specialized expertise intersects with something your target audience truly cares about. Start creating there.

Dig Deeper: Not convinced? This Advertising Age article might change your mind about the importance of original content.

2. Quality Trumps Quantity

Content marketing has gone mainstream with brands pumping out an ever increasing amount of blog posts, eBooks, videos, articles, photos and info-graphics via social media, email lists and company websites. This is leading to a deluge of mediocre content. People don’t want to give their attention to things that don’t deserve it, so invest the energy into developing something truly mind-blowing.

Action Item: Choose a few pieces of content you know you have the resources to execute well (or better than well) and skip the rest.

Dig Deeper: Worried about getting buried in the content marketing deluge? Heed the warnings in this Slideshare presentation.

3. Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Achieving results is the consequence of clear goals, thoughtful planning and disciplined execution. Content marketing is no different. You need a plan, or in ‘marketing speak,’ a content marketing strategy. That may sound intimidating, but it can be broken down into a few basic components by answering these questions:

  1.    Who do you want to talk to?
  2.    What do you want them to do?
  3.    What content will motivate them to do it?
  4.    How will you get your content in front of them?
  5.    How will you measure success?

Action Item: Take five minutes and answer the questions above right now. Have more then five minutes? Dive into the details with the step-by-step guide below. You’ll be well on your way to content marketing success.

Dig Deeper: We may have felt some ‘content envy’ when we came across this “big fat, roll-up-your-sleeves-guide for B2B marketers,” so even though we didn’t create it, we’re not too proud to share this practical Content Marketing Strategy Checklist with our friends.

After all that you’re probably wondering, “What meaningful, original content is Relevention creating?” Glad you asked! Check out the latest volume of our Relevention Magazine and let us know what you think.

Posted on 03 08, 2013 by Relevention

5 Steps to Mastering Your Message for Increased Sales

Every business we work with wants to increase sales. One of the fastest ways to get results is to change the way you communicate to your target audience about your product.

At Relevention, we use a Message Development Process that I first learned while marketing fabric softener at Procter & Gamble, and gained a deeper understanding of from the book Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall.

This process follows the typical buying behaviour of the average consumer and should be a filter for all promotional activities you create (print ads, websites, sales packages, etc.).

5-Step Message Development Process

1. Audience Need – What need does your target audience want fulfilled?

2. Clear Benefit – How does your product or service fulfill that need? Try to use only one large, clear benefit. There will be supporting benefits, but choose the one they care about most and you can deliver on.

3. Reason to Believe – Why should your target audience believe you can deliver? Communicate this through testimonials or proven results, by pointing out new technology or product patent, etc.

4. Dramatic Difference – How is what you’re offering different and better than competitors or alternatives? Effective comparisons are especially important if you’re trying to get consumers to switch to your brand.

5. Call to Action – What do you want your audience to do? Call, email, sign up, go online, jump up and down? People are bombarded with countless advertisements throughout the day; it needs to be very clear what you want them to do and how they can get your product.


Here’s an example of the formula applied to a 30-second Tide detergent TV ad.

Audience Need: 26–45-year-old mom wants her kids’ clothes to be clean (show kids getting grass stains).

Clear Benefit: Tide will get your clothes clean.

Reason to Believe: Tide has a patented formula that removes dirt from fabric (show close-up of the dirt lifting off the fabric).

Dramatic Difference: Compared to the other leading brand of detergent, Tide gets clothes cleaner (show side-by-side comparison).

Call to Action: Choose Tide today (Tide is an established brand found at every store, so there’s no need to tie it back to a website, phone number, or direct call to action).

Try the formula out and use it to test the clarity of your messaging and increase its effectiveness. Keep tracking results and refine your message until you see success.


Posted on 07 03, 2012 by Braden

5 Ways to Achieve a Local Presence without a Physical Office

Some of our clients want to expand into new cities or towns but they don’t have a physical space or office. Below are 5 tactics I recommend in order to achieve a local presence without a physical office. These tactics tend to be focused on business-to-business clients but can be deployed in business-to-consumer organizations to some extent.

1. Relationship Management
Be prepared to be personally invested in this community for the long term. Local business owners want to ensure trust and longevity; therefore, face time at networking organizations and clubs such as Rotary, Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce is important. Once you’re in these clubs, being active within their boards, committees and speaking engagements is key to building trust. Trade Associations are also a very good source of networking with very specific target audiences and industries.

2. Localized Search Engine Optimization
Ensuring your organization’s website is optimized for local search is critical. Placing the city name in search engines, such as “Financial Planning (Surrey)” or “Printing Services (North Vancouver),” is common practice for people looking for local service providers. Landing pages within the larger corporate website that focus on specific locales can help with organic search rankings. A physical PO Box in that city and a local phone number forwarded to your office can also help give a sense of local presence.

3. Physical or Out-of-Home Advertising
Out-of-Home (billboards, transit ads, etc.) advertising creates a trusting familiarity with residents and help generate brand awareness and loyalty. However, this rarely leads to immediate leads on its own and needs to be part of an integrated plan. Because this medium is frequency based, I always choose cost-effective OOH options over higher-priced billboards. Suppliers like REC Media are diamonds in the rough for this strategy and are able to gain national coverage.

4. Event Marketing
Sponsorship and event marketing can be cost-effective, and they also allow the sales team to be present with a potential audience. Charity events like galas and running races are usually cheap to participate in, and can be leveraged effectively with the right strategy. Be careful to choose the right events—there are never-ending opportunities to participate in them as every charity or organization seems to have its own gala or race these days.

5. Local Print
Community newspapers remain strong with consistent readership and circulation, because local families and businesses want to see their names in the paper, and the content is geared towards community activity that isn’t always prevalent on the web. Working with newspapers to create editorial or guest columns could be a good way to stretch a print spend. I typically use the papers to create awareness for a specific event, deal or activity as they are a good “call to action” medium.


Posted on 06 12, 2012 by Braden

Grocery Showcase West: “Top 10 Innovative Products”

We just wanted to give a warm round of applause to our client, Hardbite Potato Chips. They were named one of the “Top 10 Innovative Products” at Grocery Showcase West. It was the first time they got to show off their hot new look and their local BC brand.

Keep your eyes peeled for their new bag designs in store.


Posted on 06 01, 2012 by Relevention

How to Evaluate Celebrity Endorsements

Question: Hi Braden – How do you evaluate an endorsement deal? For example, if you wanted to hire a chef to create recipes and be a spokesperson for your food company?  
Eric T., Vancouver, BC

Answer: Thanks for your question, Eric. Endorsement deals seem so daunting and secretive but they can be a great “reason-to-believe” for brands. We’ve had our share of endorsement deals, so here are a few thoughts that may help.

The price to pay for an endorsement always comes down to two elements:

1. How are you going to leverage the likeness of the “celebrity,” and what’s required of them?
a. For example, we shot a 12-video series with Ned Bell for We had him for a photo shoot and used his likeness on brochures, the website, and packaging. He did 2 PR event appearances, and we also used a few of his recipes in a brochure. It was about 4–5 days of his time over 3 months. Our contract with him stated that if he entered into an endorsement deal with another company, we would be allowed to finish the run of the printed materials and website.

b. For this type of arrangement, we usually place a $ figure on their time: 40 hours x $150/hr = $6,000. (For confidentiality, I didn’t use the exact figure that was paid, but this gives you an idea.)

c. Ned Bell was also using us to get his name out in the market and start to build his “endorsement portfolio.” There should be a premium for “exclusivity within a category,” but within a small geography and category, the price will be small (maybe $2,000).

2. Does the “celebrity” bring instant credibility and audience to your brand that will help drive sales?
a. For example, when I worked at Frito Lay and our team created packaging for the World Cup of Hockey (remember that?), we signed Martin Brodeur and Ryan Smyth to appear on in-store point-of-sale material and packaging.

b. The objective was that fans of these players (this is why athletes have Twitter accounts—to increase their endorsement value) or hockey fans in general would choose to buy our chips because of our association with the celebrities. It also helps to create a “coolness” factor or bond with the audience that increases brand loyalty (in theory). I forget the exact figures, but it was about $12K–$15K for Martin and $8K–$12K for Ryan, and they needed to do nothing as we just used images they already had. Actually, we had to superimpose Ryan’s head on another hockey player because the photos they supplied didn’t quite work on pack.

c. We also signed the first product endorsement deal in 2011 with the Running Room and founder John Stanton for Silver Hills Bakery. We paid a lot, but the Running Room promoted us to their 500,000+ running community through their 140 locations across Canada; ran full-page print ads in their magazine (200,000 readership); and gave us event sponsorship, clinic sponsorship, and website sponsorship. Not only did we align with a credible brand that fit our target audience, but they also actively promoted us to their followers/fans. We also wanted to grow the Silver Hills brand in Ontario and we felt the Running Room was a good fit as they are strong in the Ontario market and could help give us credibility in that region.

We’re seeing a lot of chefs align themselves with food companies. Every tradeshow we go to has chefs cooking things and being a part of it… which means it’s going to lose its luster soon and agencies will turn to something else (clowns in 2013?). Endorsements need to fit the industry—and remember, they will have a shelf life (I still feel Frito Lay used Mark Messier for far too long). How many times do you go and check out a greenhouse website for recipes? Not often, and I bet greenhouse companies with celebrity chefs have low web traffic. Big endorsement deals don’t usually translate to selling produce… unless it’s Paul Newman.

Posted on 05 31, 2012 by Braden

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