The grand opening of the Brand Nova Scotia Centre
Lower Water Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia
1 June 2035
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests:
Welcome on this exciting and heartfelt evening to the gala opening of the new Nova Scotia Brand Centre. I am proud and honoured to greet you, as the Co-director of the Brand NS Corporation and as your host for this evening.
As I look around at all the familiar faces, I feel strongly that we as a people have finally found a way of working together for the common good.
As all of you probably know, Brand Nova Scotia was founded in the early part of this century and millennium by Premier John Hamm. The aim was to build powerful bridges between the excellence in Nova Scotia society and our economy—to allow what is rich and essential about Nova Scotia as a place and a people to contribute to our livelihood and prosperity. There is an old saying that people's prosperity depends on how they choose to live, and Brand Nova Scotia has been clear and unwavering proof of this.
Another saying is this: These days, in order to preserve things as they are, they must change often. The challenge of branding Nova Scotia gave the government and its partners in business and education a way of establishing common ground with common values that would keep what we all love about this province intact in the face of profound and constant change.
The first attempt in the early 2000s produced modest results. Branding was confused with marketing, and in spite of a generous budget government slowly choked the brand concept with lack of insight and preconceptions. The idea of branding a place, now commonplace and obvious around the world, was considered too strange and unlikely to be of value.
Luckily this powerful idea was revived in 2015 by a visionary Liberal government that saw the great potential of unified effort to build wealth in the province and preserve its deepest values by, to put it bluntly, investing in them—offering them to the world in the form of goods and services and making money doing so. Values and wealth were bound together in the founding motto of BNS: “The world needs more Nova Scotia.”
How did all this dynamism happen the second time around?
We started with a brand inventory. We gathered together those things Nova Scotians were most proud of. They were places like Blomidon and the Highlands, the Annapolis Valley and the Citadel, histories sad and joyful both, the Highland Clearances, the Expulsion of the Acadians, the Halifax Explosion, the Titanic where suffering and the strength of human heroism and spirit were tested, things like the Cape Islander fishing boat and the Bluenose, Micmac embroidery, Mabou and Lunenburg, the birch bark canoe, beers and wines, cheeses and apples and blueberries, mayflowers, the hydrofoil, artisan beer. People like Marjorie Willison, Rankin MacSween, Alexander Keith, and some contemporary leaders who were much beloved. Great companies were included and smaller ones that gave us great things as well. And then there were smells and sights like a field of clover and daisies in Great Barns or the light at dawn in Pubnico, and fall colours and textures. Unforgettable moments. These became our engine of brand wealth and drew the love of Nova Scotians.
Somewhere along the way the realization developed that pushing value messages to an already overloaded message-ridden world would not work, and so the idea of revealing brand values through exposure, through showing rather than selling, became the basic strategy. We would brand reality not illusion, and bring our customers into contact with that real thing we have the privilege to know and love in every way we could.
The decision to build certain industrial clusters was powerful. The visionary who saw that climate change and the internet would bring great world unrest and conflict should receive our gratitude. It was his inspiration and zeal to build a disaster relief sector, his ability to see that policing knowledge, emergency shelters, freeze-dried food expertise, rope, nets, water filtration, face recognition software, and many other products added up to a whole industrial cluster the world would need. What we all consider obvious now—the growing and constant demand for products and services that would help the world become safer and more peaceful—was not obvious back then.
Marine bio-mimicry became another powerful economic driver for Brand Nova Scotia. Nature has solved most of the problems humans face, and the solutions are at room temperature and water soluble. An infinite number of molecules created in the unforgiving research environment of evolution are available to adopt and adapt. Studying solutions to life's problems already created by marine organisms and using that learning to create new products and services suddenly revealed itself as a no-brainier. This came after the announcement by Boris Worm of Dalhousie University that a full 86% of living species had yet to be discovered and the majority of these were below the surface of the sea. A massive exploration of the ocean in and around Nova Scotia revealed new species with some interesting traits that were quickly and thoroughly examined and turned into new products. Products like mollusk glues resistant to any force but instantly released by a specific protein paste, algae that eat lime deposits in plumbing, new antibiotics from sea snail tissue, furniture design based on crustacean structures. The list goes on.
What followed was an explosion of activity. Nova Scotian celebrations in many international cities brought people into direct contact with Nova Scotia way of life and created great excitement. Food, wine, music, fashion, art, architecture, and products were presented to enrich and entertain. And the people loved it.
Collaboration among companies in the Brand Coalition produced many lucrative projects.
Nova Scotia artists and particular musicians told stories about their homeland and often sang songs filled with its praise in far-flung concerts around the world.
The book we all now use as inspiration, “The Idea of Nova Scotia,” was commissioned to explore the history of the province’s industrial and artistic culture. It remains a guaranteed and welcome gift to visitors and those we visit elsewhere.
Not every collaboration worked perfectly. Lobster gelato had a handful of obsessive devotees but wasn't a favorite on the Halifax boardwalk, the underwater art gallery was dramatic and surprising but enjoyed by only a few well-equipped divers, and the Fish Film Festival is yet to prove itself. But the underwater hotel is booked solid for two years.
Brand Nova Scotia was not THE answer but it marked a turning point of pride and dignity for Nova Scotia, not to mention a new international mercantile awareness and energy. Some say that just as the movie Braveheart signaled a sea change for Scotland's prosperity and independence, so the CBC television series The Idea of Nova Scotia—which chronicled the history of the province’s passage from its golden age of sail and being a country of its own through the two great wars to the present—was an important catalyst. Nova Scotians understood for the first time where they came from as a people. Thanks to the brand-development process we have a shared language for speaking to each other about what is distinct and important to preserve AND what we need to do to grow prosperity. We have an organizational vehicle to act on those conversations, and we have the ground of consensus to look out to the world with a view that is both unified and diverse.
So let me declare this gala event begun. In this building and in our networks around the province is written the future prosperity and well-being of our home. Take a moment, please, to appreciate how in the re-examination of our human potential to live well as a people together we have transformed our institutions and practices from business-as-usual to inspired. We have taken the concept of museum as a repository of cultural memory and turned it into a wise and healing refuge for insight and emotional renewal into the future. We have made the art gallery a place of vision, self-reflection, and vitality for many, many Nova Scotians, thus building a resilient culture and finding our way in a changing world. We have made our libraries welcoming places for lifelong engagement and curiosity. We have turned meeting rooms into collaborative spaces and studios where the practical and the imaginative are shared by mixed generations of intra- and entrepreneurs. Against all good advice from management consultants, we have blurred the lines and grown something remarkable. We have become designers and makers again, and in “doing” for ourselves we are not afraid to be open to the world. This place is both an incubator and showcase for what makes us live richly together as a people.
It is with great joy that I invite each and every Nova Scotian to join me in declaring this beautiful building, full of what we hold dear, open.
Tony Lamport is co-founder of Likely Stories