Marketing Cut-through; The Power of Blank Canvases

The Power of Blank Canvases
Recently we wrote about the power of blank canvases to provide businesses of all sizes with a marketing advantage. We used the example of retailers, who religiously cover the windows of their newly-leased stores with newspaper rather than recognising the potential of that property as a powerful brand canvas.

On the weekend I passed a local retailer-to-be who had possibly read our article, but definitely seen the opportunity. I snapped a pic of their windows which show that whilst doing something is better than doing nothing with your marketing – sometimes it isn’t a whole lot better.

‘Who? What? Who?’ the windows shout out to the passing traffic. ‘Very good questions’ shout back the traffic to the vacant store, ‘but we were hoping you could tell us.’

Spotting a Blank Canvas
In the same strip of shops is a great little business called Gourmet Kids. Gourmet Kids runs Children’s birthday parties where the kids get to roll-up their sleeves and bake cookies from scratch. It’s a huge hit, but as you can see from the pic below, getting much stand-out presence for your brand in a busy strip shopping environment is never easy.

Next door to Gourmet Kids is Fulbry’s outdoor and building supply. Fulbry’s is a local institution and has been located in the same spot for as long as anyone can remember and the huge painted ad for Fulbry’s on the side of what is now the Gourmet Kids store has been there for just as long.


The thing is, after decades Fulbry’s is moving. There are plans for a new development on the Fulbry site – but of greater interest is the huge brand canvas that is about to become a great opportunity for Gourmet Kids. As soon as the move was announced, my advice would have been to get the landlords on the phone and negotiate to replace the huge Fulbry ad with an equally huge, bold Gourmet Kids ad (even if it was just until the development was built). Quite possibly this could be the single greatest opportunity Gourmet Kids will ever come across to promote their brand and their business.

And Another One
Standing out in a busy retail strip with parked cars and a multitude of distractions is always a challenge, but there are often opportunities to stand out if you can see them. Recently Gourmet Kids started to capture the ‘waiting parents’ market. What a great business move. If you’ve ever dropped kids at a party you know the drill – ‘what do I do on a Sunday afternoon for an hour-or-so until I need to be back to pick-up junior?’

Gourmet kids have solved the parental problem by adding a cafe service. New tables on the footpath outside the shop mean parents can hang about, enjoy a relaxed coffee and chat with other waiting parents until the party’s over. Talk about capturing a captive audience. But beyond creating a new revenue stream for the business, Gourmet Kids have created a new blank canvas – literally. All they need to do now is to invest in a modest sum to have their branding added and their great idea becomes a marketing brainwave.


Every Business has a Bunch of Blank Canvases
Every business, no matter what location, size or market has blank canvases that are unique. The trick is to spot them.

I recommend setting aside an hour to list each and every brand touch point for your business, whether that be where your brand touches your clients or customers, your staff or your suppliers. Examples of brand touch points include: Your web site, delivery truck, brochures, ads, store interior, signage, office interior, staff uniforms, etc. etc. and etc. These are all the places where your brand touches the people who are responsible for your businesses success.

Once you have your list, look at the way you deliver each of the brand touches:
• Are there different places you could advertise where your target market can find you and where your competition is not?
• Is your delivery van or staff car a driving billboard?
• Does your office or store have any physical opportunities to promote what you do?
• Have you introduced your product or services to influential media, bloggers or locals for them to fall in love with?

Some business people are wired to identify the blank canvases for their brands. It’s as if they see the world through brand canvas tinted glasses. Carolyn Cresswell from Carmen’s Fine Foods, Kristina Karlsen from Kikki-K, Naomi Simson from Red Balloon Days, and Virgin’s Richard Branson are all naturals when it comes to spotting and leveraging blank brand canvases.

Your challenge is to learn how to see the blank canvases for your business and its brand so that you’re ready and able to spot the opportunities whenever and wherever they arise.

If you’d like to come have a chat with us about identifying your brand’s the blank canvases, why not get in touch? We’d love to show you how it’s done.

David Ansett, Brandamentalist
If you’d like daily updates of our brand thinking, you can follow me on Twitter here.


  1. Great examples of blank canvases again Dave and still it begs the question – how many blank canvases are really out there and how far can you take them? It seems as though the Mitchell Communication Group have done just that – taken it to the limit! I just walked up to get my lunch and witnessed a crane being constructed near the corner of York and Clarendon Streets. To my amazement rather than having the now common construction company’s name running down the side of the crane boom it had the Mitchell brandmark instead with the crane and construction company’s brandmark in less prominent areas. Now that’s a pretty impressive blank canvas – well it’s not blank anymore!

  2. Harvey, You’re right about blank canvases being unconventional. Mostly the conventional ways for brands to communicate are over-crowded and you do need to shout. Blank canvases are often more like having a quiet brand conversation directly with your customers.

  3. You’re right. And Harold Mitchel is one of the media gurus of Melbourne so he’d want to be better at it than most others. Pretty sure the crane you saw is building his new offices – in which case he’s negotiated to use the crane to promote his business instead of the building Co. Smart move with a BIG ‘S’.

  4. When driving to the gym over the last few months I have noticed a building being restored on my journey. I hadn’t paid too much attention until a couple of weeks ago stopped at the traffic lights my vision was attracted to a mass of bright colours. While waiting for someone to take up the lease the landlord had cleverly covered each of the shopfronts with imagery representing potential window displays – a florist, a cafe, etc. As each of the shops gets leased the ‘fake’ window display’s are being replaced with the real thing. An impressive use of a blank canvas.

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