Building an Engaging Brand Experience


John Alabaszowski stopped by our Professional Topics class to talk about his career as a creative director at MacLaren McCann. MacLaren is a multi-disciplined advertising agency that has over 450 employees spread across three offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. They were ranked as one of the top three agencies in Canada since 1922, and their clients include General Motors, GoodWrench, WIND Mobile, RBC, MasterCard, Halo, and more. John stressed the importance of conveying a memorable brand experience through story telling in terms of design and content. It’s not just about building sites anymore!

MacLaren Website

MacLaren’s web design is simple and gets its message across directly to the viewer. They don’t mess around with unnecessary words. It’s a great example of giving the user exactly the information they’re looking for.

John described the work environment of MacLaren including the company’s proximity to oncoming airplanes arriving in Toronto. They have  a whole floor of talented developers, film pros, designers, and more. MacLaren is a purveyor of the “truth well told” concept. They focus on telling the brand’s story in engaging ways.  Check out their work with MasterCard’s Toy Monkey commercial:

The message that MasterCard wants to send is conveyed in a way that makes the viewer feel connected to the story.


John made a point that I think all web designers need to remember once they set out to work in the design field:  It’s no longer just about building a site anymore. It’s about building a consistent and memorable brand experience. A good example of this is the MacLaren website. Because the site has so little textual content, I found myself reading most of the text on the homepage — that’s something I usually never do in other sites where too much text is overbearing. As a result, I understood a bit more of MacLaren’s brand personality and voice.

Read for yourself what they wrote in their ‘watch us’ (social media) section of their site:

Maclaren quoteThis kind of content writing is more fun to read than your generic “Watch us on our social media platforms blah blah blah” spiel. Corporate writing is boring and makes sites seem too serious and lack-lustre. I think even professional brands should adopt a more colloquial form of content writing to make things more interesting, and more ‘human.’


My favourite project that John and his team worked on was the Camp Oochigeas fundraiser campaign.  Camp Oochigeas is a camp that benefits kids with cancer. Their “An Evening of Summer Dreams” campaign employed the talents of various illustrators working in both traditional and digital media. They held a successful fundraiser event that needed designers to create consistent branding across the event website, invitations, welcome packages, tickets, and on-site decor.

An Owl's Journey

“An Evening of Summer Dreams” campaign won Silver at the Canadian Marketing Awards with Art Direction by Eric Belanger and Jeremy Lenz.

I just love it when digital design merges with traditional illustration. There’s something magical in this combination that makes me more inclined to stare at the art. The use of good artwork usually piques my interest about the brand itself.


• Put only your best work in your portfolio
• Don’t cram your portfolio with too much stuff
• Be clear about what role you played in your position/projects during interviews
• Make sure your portfolio can be accessed without internet connection (especially during interviews)
• Larger companies usually hire new recruits through ‘friend-of-a-friend’ referrals (so get to know your peers!!!)

Stay Social! Follow John on twitter: @JohnAla

That’s all for now!



One thought on “Building an Engaging Brand Experience

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s