The hive is alive with the sound of… conversation. Maybe that doesn’t have the same ring to it as “music”, but this is definitely a conversation you’ll want to listen in on.This week we’re buzzing with Brian Brown, Vice President at Lifetime Developments. The developer has been at the helm of some of Toronto’s most acclaimed projects. And, with three uber-successful project launches, 2011 has been a very good year for the company.

The marketing for Karma Condos, The Bond and The Yorkville has been unique and creative so, of course, we were excited to speak with Brian about how these interesting campaigns came to life and all the secrets of successful, envelope-pushing marketing.


BBH: How did you get started in the marketing industry?

BB: Immediately out of university, I interned at a boutique Branding and Communication firm called Ove Design. My first task was to put together a rationale on why they should spend the money to create their first Web site.

At the time, I was given one of the only computers in the office and was asked to share the dial-up modem with another person. I ended up staying with the firm for over 10 years. I helped them establish their Web Design department and moved up the ranks to a Managing Director position.

I left the firm for two years in 2000 to join Sun Life Financial as its Branding and Communications Director as they demutualized and rebranded their organization on a worldwide basis. It was an amazing experience that provided me the opportunity to travel to their international operations, learn about the different cultures and gave me a taste for what working in a large multinational organization was like.
BBH: What brought you to Lifetime Developments?
BB: As happy as I was at Ove, I was looking for a change and a new opportunity. I was intrigued by the development industry, not just from a marketing and communications standpoint, but also from a business standpoint as well. It was very clear that the industry was on the verge of a boom and that there was tremendous opportunity for Lifetime Developments. At the time I joined, Lifetime was in the process of transitioning from a lesser known low-rise developer, then known as Lifetime Homes, to a major player in the high-rise development industry.
My first year at Lifetime exposed to me to number of their different operations including Customer Care for a subdivision in Bolton. It was the perfect opportunity for me to learn the business from the ground up. Today I’m involved in all facets of the company from site acquisition to marketing to the point of construction.
BBH: We loved the “Design an Ad for The Bond” contest and even submitted one ourselves. How did this contest come to fruition?
BB: We were in a boardroom with our marketing firm, Montana Steele, as they presented a variety of names and design concepts to us. Their creative campaign for The Bond was very strong and we immediately decided that we would push forward with it. As we talked about the name, we started brainstorming on how to take the campaign to the next level and beyond static traditional media.
Social Marketing has become a strong focus for our firm lately and we decided that an online contest would be a perfect way to engage the community and connect with our young, urban, Internet-savvy target market. The contest was a great success. We received over 21 submissions, and the creative for some of the concepts was extremely impressive and refined.
BBH: Tell us a bit more about Karma Condos and the charitable donation initiative. What came first, the charity idea or the condo name?
BB: The name and the charity idea were presented to us at the same time. When we first started working with Blackjet on this project, they met with both Lifetime and CentreCourt individually and asked us both to describe our organizations and the project. What was consistent from both our firms was our desire to act socially responsibly, to not treat a project as simply a project and to make sure that each of our developments adds tremendous value to the neighbourhood where it is built.
Karma captured this. It’s about sharing good Karma and that one person’s efforts to do good should translate into many more people trying to do good. It’s a “pay it forward” concept. For every person that who visits our Karma Web site and registers, we donate $5 to one of three local charities (Ronald McDonald House, Wellspring and Sketch). The Charity is chosen by the registrant, and they in turn are able to notify their Facebook friends that a donation was made by Karma on their behalf and encourage them to do the same.
Our website has generated over $10,000 for these charities so far! Taking this a step further, we have volunteered our time with these charities to assist them in a variety of ways. We have a number of other initiatives planned for the future, and we are very proud of how successful this project has been embraced by the community.
BBH: These are some pretty creative ideas, but how do you ensure they will be successful? What’s the secret to envelope pushing creative marketing?
BB: We take our business very seriously, but at the same time, we really enjoy what we do. To me, that’s a big part of it. You have to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. We’ve also been very fortunate to work with some very creative people and agencies.
The secret to pushing the envelope with creative marketing is to be open to trying different things, to look beyond our borders and our industry for new ideas and concepts and to be willing to fail on occasion because not every idea is, unfortunately, a winner. Looking back, we have definitely tried a few things that have not worked in our favour and many that have but ultimately we have learned a great deal from all of our efforts.
BBH: Any exciting new projects on the horizon that you can share with us? Hints are always appreciated.
BB: We are working on another project with a partner that we are hoping to launch early next year. I’m really excited about this development. Our last project with this partner was a great success and we have pulled together a topnotch team once again. The location for this development is also very exciting.
BBH: What was the best or worst day job you ever had before beginning your career?
BB: I worked at a party supply store when I was still in high school. I remember one day being asked to get dressed up in a medieval peasant costume, and I had to stand near the corner of Dufferin and Sheppard to promote the store as people walked and drove by. It was one of my more embarrassing moments.
BBH: Dedicated Blackberry user? Or ardent iPhone supporter?
BB: I have been a dedicated Blackberry user and believer for years. But lately, my experience with both my device and the stock has not been a pleasant one. I’m seriously considering buying an iPhone the next time I need to replace my phone.

Thanks Brian for taking the time to buzz with us!

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