Mike McPhee

Island Lake Lodge’s marketing mastermind is one of the Top 10 Business People of 2018

Mike McPhee on a mountain

Mike McPhee is the director of sales and marketing at Island Lake Lodge in Fernie. — Photo courtesy Mike McPhee

Marketing in the digital age is more complicated than it's ever been. By utilizing inspirational content marketing, Mike McPhee, sales and marketing director at Island Lake Lodge in Fernie, has managed to reach his audience in clear, creative ways.

McPhee has been with Island Lake for the past decade and has another decade of experience in the industry. During his tenure, McPhee has revitalized the company and taken it to new heights, surpassing targets a few years in a row and collecting marketing and community tourism achievement awards along the way. McPhee sits on several marketing committees and boards—including the province.

McPhee even put forth the ultimate marketing tactic, writing a book with Mark Gallup about the history of Island Lake Lodge, titled Bears Above the Valley.

McPhee’s marketing prowess has garnered him the honour of being named one of Kootenay Business magazine’s Top 10 Business People of 2018.

Mike McPhee in the snow

McPhee has been with Island Lake Lodge for the past 10 years. — Photo courtesy Mike McPhee

Why did you choose this line of work?

It chose me. I was a young photographer and moved out west to follow my dreams. In part, I was inspired by Mark Gallup’s photos of Island Lake.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments?

I have directed and produced a few TV shows and have been involved with dozens of other shows and movies. My photos and stories have been published in some great magazines and books around the world. I got a master's degree along the way. I have two wonderful boys that make me laugh and are turning into little mountain men.  

What’s something interesting about yourself that not many people know?

I grew up on the streets of Winnipeg in the music scene and played in a punk band.

How do you come up with your marketing strategies? By yourself? Group meetings? Brainstorm sessions?

I have a great team in the company and we do brainstorm and talk about ideas regularly. I sometimes have big ideas when I’m in a quiet, calm place like on the river, a hike or driving.

What successful marketing tactics have you used at Island Lake Lodge?

We have been focusing on what is now called “content marketing” for a while—basically, creating inspiring, entertaining and educational content that grabs people and holds their attention. We have also sought to partner with like-minded brands and companies and have some very successful and interesting collaborations from companies like The North Face, Salomon Snowboards, The Ski Journal, Fly Fusion magazine, Fernie Brewing, Teton Gravity Research and Sherpas Cinema.

Which of your marketing ideas are you most proud of? Why?

Probably the TV shows we have done. Though it's been tough to produce them with logistics and crazy mountain weather, we have had them syndicated all over North America, they have gone viral on the Internet and they have reached tens of millions of people. 

How is marketing different now in the digital age as opposed to 20 to 30 years ago? What has remained constant throughout the years?

It's much more complex now. Demographics have fractured and communication channels have multiplied in a massive way. Consumers have become numb to overt sales pitches, hence the need to engage them with inspiring content. One of the big-picture changes is that the power has shifted from the brand or company to the consumer. Its no longer a one-way communication path where we marketers push a message to the masses. It's now a two-way communication and the consumer has all kinds of tools to give their own opinions, ask questions, rate things and either advocate a product or perhaps the opposite. The constant is that if you give people what they want, you can still gain a lifelong brand advocate. We live in a world with all these new advertising options and all the traditional options as well. Pretty hard to navigate sometimes.

What practical advice do you have for small business owners or new marketers that want to make their business stand out from the crowd?

Make business decisions based on the wants and needs of your customers, not your own personal wants and needs. It's hard to get past this sometimes. Tell mini stories about your business or product as much as possible and do it online. Post diligently on social media—once per day is good. Follow the 80/20 rule: 80 per cent inspirational content and 20 per cent sales focused. Be authentic and real. Have fun with it.  

Kyle Born

Kyle Born is a writer for Kootenay Business and his initials match that of the magazine—it must be fate that brought them together. View all of Kyle Born’s articles

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