Project Spotlight

Brand Positioning of Alberta’s First Nordic Spa​


The Challenge

When we first started working with Kananaskis Nordic Spa (KNS), one of the things that became apparent was that the word “spa” was a loaded word. Traditionally, it brings to mind specific imagery – depictions of water, green and blue colour palettes, crisply folded white towels, and often a female client getting a massage.

In order to position a company to stand out in the wellness and spa industry, we had to draw contrasts between this default, pre-loaded conception of spa and what KNS was offering.

KNS offers hydrotherapy, and hydrotherapy is different from your traditional spa services. KNS was the introduction of hydrotherapy to Alberta. So, in addition to using the brand to stand out from the traditional spa atmosphere, we had to educate the public on what hydrotherapy was.

"Hydrotherapy is not about reward or pampering; it is about ritual."

Once-in-a-While Treat vs. Ritual

The big question was then how we make KNS stand out in the very confusing spa and wellness marketplace? When we first started doing the work, it became clear that we needed to make spa a lifestyle.

If we look back at the original and typical connotation of what spa means, it really is about pampering or rewarding oneself, it was something that you did once in a while to treat yourself.

Hydrotherapy is not about reward or pampering; it is about ritual. We had to position KNS as a place where the demands of modern life need to incorporate hydrotherapy as a regular practice. KNS is not a place a person goes to run away from their life, to leave it all behind, but rather they go there as part of their regular routine to improve their life and support themselves. This is a regimen, part of their regular schedule.

The brand positioning and wording are about embracing (not escaping) the elements and the properties of the space and showcasing the elements of Canadian winter, fall, or summer – snow, ice, cold, hot, sun, etc.

Another key piece of the visual system was the incorporation of the maple leaf tartan. The spa director thought of using tartan robes instead of the traditional white robes and this has proven to be a famous visual element of the spa. We pulled the colours from that maple leaf tartan – the brown, the red, the green, the gold – and built a palette around those comfortable and warm colours. And we pulled that palette into all of the visual tools for KNS including brochures, the website. The palette and the tartan represented the Canadian perspective on spa and wellness. That it should be accessible and not this high-end retreat for only those that can afford it.

The colours used contrasted from the traditional green and blue used by nearly every other spa brand.

Finally, we used striking high-contrast black and white treatments on all key photography. The images would again really stand out from the soft pampering images of typical spa.

The Impact

When you put time, effort, and resources into building a brand and a visual system, it is hard to measure the outcomes and impact with quantitative results, it is really more about the qualitative results.

The first question we ask of ourselves and our clients is, “Does this feel right?” We go back to the question of our positioning – does this (look and feel) make us stand out from the crowd? Does this feel like a Canadian take on “spa” and what we mean by our offering?

And then we ask, “Does it connect the dots?” When you see a graphic or some of the visual elements implemented in the marketing, does it actually connect to the physical experience that guests have with the actual product?

Finally, the impact is qualitatively measured by how the client is showing up in social feeds and other digital means along with the competitive set. If someone is scrolling through a Facebook or Instagram feed, do those very different brand treatments stand out from the rest when users search for “#spa”?

If you asked the client about our work today, I think they would say yes to all of the above. The look and feel, the style, and the brand positioning definitely had an impact and continues to have an impact today.

Find Something Interesting?

Through open conversation and informal brainstorming, we can all take something valuable away from new ideas and trends. We’d be happy to discuss what we’ve written here today and get your thoughts. We want to know what you think.

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