This year saw the first US-based Transform Conference, hosted by our good friends Transform Magazine. The theme – collaboration, innovation, and branding in the digital age.

While successful newcomers like Uber and AirBnb were among the presenters, some of the most insightful lessons came from quite unexpected sources, like Meals on Wheels and the Canadian city of Mississagua



When Meals on Wheels started research into a rebrand, they discovered a problem. While among the general public they had 88% name recognition with almost as much favourability, 60% of the 88% believed MW to be just an outdated delivery service.

If that were the case, Seamless would be a direct competitor.

But it’s not the case at all.

In fact, many among the general public believed MW should do more. What they didn’t know is that MW does much, much more. No one had any idea of what the brand stood for

Turns out that name awareness doesn’t equal brand awareness

The reality is MW services the three biggest threats facing the infirm and elderly living alone: nutrition, isolation, and safety. The motivating factor is the friendly visit.

The brand focus needed to shift. MW had been using imagery of lonely, hungry, victimised elderly people to define their mission. Instead, the brand took as its centerpiece amazing seniors inspiring over two million volunteers nationwide.

MW’s new slogan finally came together. MW is not a food delivery service, it’s a movement.

Meals on Wheels is a national movement of everyday people coming together to do their own parts and making great things happen.



Mississauga had the obverse problem of Meals on Wheel’s: almost no name recognition. (Also, a difficult name.)

Without name recognition, people bring biases based on the region, province, or country.

Place brands are unique in that they have no owner, and yet everyone has a stake in it. Mississauga’s marketing team consider themselves brand stewards. They work for residents, organizations, and businesses, all brand shareholders. They needed to find a common language to distill into a consistent message, despite the diversity represented.

To arrive at an authentic place brand, the team didn’t create, they articulated.

They engaged segmented focus groups to find out what Mississauga represented to residents, what words they used, and what they found the most important characteristics of their city. They took what they got and distilled that into a narrative. From there, they built out the visual identity.

The most important finding in their research was the necessity of research. Dissenting opinions were dealt with by backing up branding decisions with statistics and case studies.

Since launching the rebrand, they’ve had an overwhelming positive response.