Zach Belland

Sr. Maketing Strategist

"It’s about understanding the target audience, and realizing they’re people just like you and me."

For as long as he can remember, Zach was fascinated with how people thought and behaved. “I was on a mission to figure out why people were doing what they were doing,” he says, “from why they bought a MacBook over a PC, to why they were loyal to a specific bank. I wanted to understand the why.”

It’s not surprising, therefore, that he chose psychology as his major out of high school.

Two years into the program, he made a switch. His senior classmates were graduating but weren’t finding jobs. Zach transferred to marketing at NAIT.

Psychology and marketing are related subjects. Both are about understanding what drives decision-making. Marketing has the creative component.

At first (Zach admits) he wasn’t a good student. In junior high, his focus had been sports—hockey, soccer, volleyball, water skiing, snow skiing, golf. In high school, it was his part-time work—bagging groceries, running a department at Sport Chek, detailing cars, bartending.

During his degree in marketing, however, something changed.

“In my fourth year, I was working two jobs and taking a full-course load. Something clicked. I graduated on the Dean’s list and knew I was on the right path.”

The NAIT marketing curriculum included an exchange program. In fourth year, he spent two months in Italy getting an education in international marketing and luxury brand management.

He discovered a lot of cultural differences that directly affect marketing.

“Here, we’re all about me, my service, my company. My product is the best. We’re more efficient. We have the best safety record. We’ve been in business since 1982. We have the largest selection,” he says. “There, the focus is on giving versus taking. It’s about the end consumer and fine-tuning their experience with a particular product, service, or brand.

“It’s about understanding the target audience, and realizing they’re people just like you and me. The fact is 100 per cent of customers, clients, and employees are people.”

Zach likes to quote author Simon Sinek: “If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.”

While still at NAIT, Zach worked full time as part of a marketing team for a crane and heavy haul company, primarily serving the oil and gas sector. He started in second year as a marketing admin assistant. By the time he graduated, he was leading the marketing department.

“We had 28 branches across western North America from Fort McMurray to New Orleans. I conducted branch audits, created promotional collateral, oversaw advertising, managed our internal and external online assets, led our internal company newsletter, enforced brand consistency, and assisted in the execution of many amalgamations. I also co-ordinated and attended trade shows across North America.

“You name it. If it was marketing related, it came across my desk.”

In 2015 when the price of oil fell, Zach decided to move out of oil and gas. He took a six-month communications contract with Service Alberta and then moved to BioNeutra to help launch a natural sweetener called VitaFiber.

In May 2018, he joined Focus Communications.

Zach likes that Focus puts clients first and gives back to the community.

“At the core,” he says, “nothing makes me feel better than helping others. Whether it’s a small business owner seeing their idea come to life, a large corporation navigating a rebrand, or the opportunity to share an umbrella with someone less fortunate waiting to cross the street—helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.

“Through Focus, I have an opportunity to help businesses, charities, and people far more than I could alone. My hope is that I can positively impact everyone who interacts not only with me, but also the Focus brand.”