BLACKBOOK Lifestyle is revamping Ottawa’s brand.

ABOVE: Daniel Mackinnon and James Jefferson are the principals of Ottawa’s premier events and marketing agency, BLACKBOOK Lifestyle. 

What makes the perfect brand? It is a head-scratching question to which only a few know the answer. James Jefferson and Daniel Mackinnon are two of those people.

Mackinnon and Jefferson co-founded BLACKBOOK Lifestyle, an events and marketing agency, over twelve years ago. The agency offers services in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal and has racked up an impressive clientele list, including Fairmount Chateau Laurier, the Juno Awards, Otto’s BMW, and Bayshore Shopping Centre.

“Our approach is always sleek, creative, and anything but the cookie-cutter norm,” said Mackinnon.

Both Jefferson and Mackinnon got their start in the media industry. Jefferson worked as a fashion designer and owned a high-end fashion boutique. Mackinnon owned a lifestyle magazine. The pair cite their transition into marketing and events as a natural progression.

“I love what we are doing now. I think it’s really fun. There is so much creativity in what we do. We will do events, fashion shows, photo shoots for magazines, etcetera,” said Jefferson.

The two have found their niche in Ottawa, a traditionally bureaucratic city.

“I think the essence of style is alive and doing well in Ottawa. I think a lot of people in Ottawa are a little too quick to look at outside markets and feel like they must go to Montreal or Toronto for certain things. When in fact, there's a lot of stylish people here in Ottawa and a lot of successful designers and architects,” said Mackinnon.

With only three full-time employees, BLACKBOOK Lifestyle provides solutions to clients using a boutique-style approach that recognizes the notion that one size does not fit all. They manage their clients’ public personas through social media, news releases, graphic design, magazines, radio, and whatever else they require.

When hosting the Juno Awards afterparty, they executed an impromptu 3 a.m. poutine run for their celebrity clients to fulfill their spontaneous requests.

“We pride ourselves on being owner operated. Clients work directly with us, not just an account. We make things happen. It starts and stops with us. We are a full-service agency. We take a lot of pride in being able to oversee every single facet of the branding, advertising, marketing, printing, translation, writing and editing processes. We don’t outsource anything, so that allows us to be a one-stop shop for different clients,” said Mackinnon.

The team approaches each client intending to refine their brand voice while bringing an added style element, flare, and outside influences. They grow to understand their clients’ likes and dislikes, leading to a more personal experience.

Noting the sometimes corporate and governmental nature of the city, the pair emphasizes the importance of thinking outside the box and not being afraid to push boundaries while remaining classy and elegant.

“When Bayshore Shopping Centre renovated its parking garage, we held a party in the parking garage to launch the new space during construction. Planks were placed over the wet cement for guests to walk on in their cocktail dresses. It was so completely and utterly transformed; you would not even know where you were. It was just so exciting,” said Jefferson.

So, what makes a perfect brand?

The key factor is brand association. “I think when you recognize a brand without actually knowing why you recognize them, it’s a sign of success,” said Jefferson.

Staying away from bad press is also an important factor when building a brand. “Sometimes people will say, ‘all press is good press.’” That is not true. Especially now in an increasingly digital world because anyone can pull out their phone at any time,” said Mackinnon.

BLACKBOOK Lifestyle’s own brand is modern, contemporary, and sleek. It is associated with luxury. The duo attributes their company’s brand to the success they have seen over the last twelve years.

When they first founded BLACKBOOK Lifestyle, their objective was to create an agency that spoke to the industries and demographics that are not always supported in the market.

“I think we have been successful in achieving the goal we set out. I think that our company’s approach reached upscale clients in a way that maybe other agencies could not. In doing so, it has opened the eyes of a lot of different brands and companies outside the city who might have previously looked at Ottawa in a slightly different way. We have sustained ourselves through twelve years of business and three years of a pandemic, and we are still going strong. That is something we are very proud of,” said Mackinnon.

Photos of BLACKBOOK events coutesy BLACKBOOK Lifestyles