Ethnographic research
Dialogic research
Social listening
Brand strategy
Tourism strategy
Living the brand workshops


For many decades, Banff & Lake Louise (BLLT) had been positioned as “The World’s Finest National Park.” Concerns had been growing that it was time for a change.

Three goals drove the Banff & Lake Louise brand renewal:

  • To continue to solidify BLLT’s position as the premier international destination in Alberta and to extend the year-round offering.

  • To “do its part” to grow tourism revenue in support of the 2020 Alberta goals of $10.3 billion in tourism expenditures.

  • To overcome the destination’s greatest weakness: a lack of shared vision and brand clarity. 

The urgency to execute the brand renewal was driven by increasing competition from destinations with similar offerings and the need to connect at a more powerful and emotional level with travellers. 

Stormy Lake’s approach to develop the brand model included innovative stakeholder engagement and insightful visitor research.

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Using our Dialogic Research process, we gathered 96 industry stakeholders to a half-day session where a number of brand dimensions were discussed, including the visitor experience, product development, barriers to growth and development, and what might be a vision for tourism in the destination. We also explored the industry’s personal and emotional bond with the destination, which resonated strongly with what we found from visitors.

The session was particularly useful as industry were able to identify the core brand challenge:

“Every mountain destination in the world has beautiful mountains. It’s not unique that we have mountains. If you go to Vail or the European mountains. Our views are unique to us here. But all of these have mountain views.”

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What makes Banff & Lake Louise unique? We spoke to countless visitors to find out.

Visitor intercept research was conducted with Asia visitors in their own language (China, Korea, Japan), English-speaking visitors (Canada, US, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, India) and a few French-speaking visitors from Quebec and France.

During the research we repeatedly heard how beautiful the destination was, year-round. This perspective was shared by frequent regional visitors, infrequent international visitors and everyone in-between. Because every mountain destination is beautiful, we tried to move the conversation away from scenery, but visitors kept dragging us back there.

As we spoke to more and more visitors, we saw that they used the same language to describe the destination as they would a nice beach resort in Cabo. The difference being that, for the destination, they were describing an experience of beauty on a far deeper level. The way they described it, in-person, showed us that they had just been deeply touched by the natural surroundings. And as soon as they had experienced it, they knew that they would never forget it:

“You can enjoy things, but some places have an air about them, if you go, it never leaves you. When you experience that feeling, it is special. I will always remember this place.”  (UK Visitor) 

This emotional impact was heard not just in one specific place, but all over the destination. It was experienced by all sorts of visitors: regional, national and international–across all cultures. This insight was to impact the brand development enormously.


This phase of the strategy development leveraged the digital data analysis framework of Crimson Hexagon to scan, monitor and analyze over 10,000,000 postings across the United States over an 18-month period focused on the Ski Traveller. A keyword search strategy was designed and implemented to scan over 500,000 different sources, including online media sites (New York Times, Skier Magazine), forums (Trip Advisor), and social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest).

The first key strategic finding identified a new primary winter target audience. The Ski Traveller represents a spectrum of skiers and interests, but two segments stood out. Both the Enthusiastic Skier and the Passionate Skier share the same interests: skiing, snowboarding, hiking, outdoor snow biking, but how they experience these activities are very different. The Passionate Skier takes these interests to the extreme and the Enthusiastic Skier participates much more gently.

All of the information supported a significant shift in strategy away from the Passionate Skier and towards the Enthusiastic Skier. This shift ran counter to decades of focus on passionate, expert skiers. But the honest assessment was that Banff is a more accessible destination. Of course Passionate Skiers will enjoy themselves, but the meat and potatoes was the Enthusiastic Skier.

The second strategic finding was related to competitive positioning. Comparing Banff to its key competitors of Whistler, Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and Park City, each destination’s social conversation was analyzed over four topics: ski & snowboard, active outdoor, sightseeing and town activities. Banff had only a 3% share of voice in social media, yet, in absolute terms, Banff owned the category of nature. Back again to indelible impact of the destination.



Using these insights from research, we built a brand model based on three core components:

Brand attributes – based on visitor needs, how we want to be described.

Brand essence – how we act and speak.

Brand promise – what we are selling that is different than anyone else.

Time was spent to craft all the elements to be as simple, engaging and inspiring as possible. The one key element we want to describe in more detail is the crux of this, the brand promise.

The brand promise was the key component of the brand model and it was based on two elements. The first was awe. Moving, impactful, life-affirming awe. And sheer amazement at the scale of the natural environment and at the quality of the services and products available in Banff & Lake Louise. It’s the intake of breath that you hear from everyone in the car as you drive into the mountains and experience the moment.

Second, there’s a permanence to it. You are permanently changed by the experience. It’s bigger than a moment. It’s a thunderbolt that strikes you to your core. What Banff & Lake Louise offers in abundance, in a way that is truly unique, is:


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Our creative partner on this project was C&B Advertising (with whom we also worked on the Travel Alberta brand “Remember to Breathe”).

Using the brand model, a new identity for Banff & Lake Louise was developed.

C&B created a powerful brand story, “Alive,” based on these insight that has since propelled Banff & Lake Louise to new heights in terms of the visitor experience and year-round occupancy.

View the introduction to the creative rebrand here:

For any questions about this case study or how Stormy Lake could help you, give us a shout using the contact details below. Thanks for reading.