A commemorative 150th corporate anniversary book that captures the journey of Economical Insurance from its founding by a group of community-minded pioneers in 1871 through a century and a half of innovation, growth and service to Canadians
Dr. Ulrich Frisse, worked for months at our head office, mostly alone in the silence of a pandemic-era office building, studying and photographing stacks of materials. With his academic’s eye, he saw not only papers inscribed with scrolled lettering and endless numerical entries, but fascinating societal themes and stories behind them. Along the way, Dr. Frisse shared some of these discoveries with our staff in lively seminars. He also interviewed more than four dozen employees to learn about day-to-day office life from the 1960s to now. Now, it is our absolute privilege to be able to share Dr. Frisse’s work with our employees past and present, our broker partners, our valued customers, and all of those who would like to understand a little more about the history of our company (and really, of Canada itself).Rowan Saunders
President and CEO, Definity Financial Corporation
Economical® 150—Still Making History traces the story of Economical Insurance, a member of Definity Financial Corporation, from its founding in 1871 in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario to its current standing as a leading, national, P&C company in Canada. Built on the vision of neighbours helping neighbours, Economical was founded and operated throughout most of its history on the organizational principle of mutuality. Its founders were mostly immigrant-turned-community builders dedicated to ensuring protection of their businesses and homes against the ever-present peril of fire. As new technologies and modes of transportation made their appearance and the way of living and consumer behaviour kept changing over time, Economical evolved into a P&C company, offering a wide range of insurance products. Over the course of 150 years, the company has gone through many stages, from being a 19th century start-up to embracing opportunities and challenges, as well as undergoing diversification, modernization and rapid growth. What makes this story particularly unique is that after a century and a half in business, Economical keeps being driven by innovation. On November 23, 2021, after years of building towards this goal, Economical realized its objective of becoming a public share company with the debut of Definity Financial Corporation, its new parent company.
When they approached us about their 150th corporate anniversary, the Economical team was looking for an integrated solution, including a book, to mark this exceptional milestone. The company story was to be told in its broader historical and societal context and presented in a way that would make it relevant to today’s readership. The presentation and design needed to reflect the intent by Economical’s leadership team to hand out a copy of the book to Economical employees as a thank you for their contributions to the long-standing success of their company. The Economical team invited us to be creative in devising other story-driven solutions that would help create buzz around the anniversary and could be incorporated into the company’s larger 150th anniversary campaign.
Eight months of in-depth archival research in the extensive Economical archives and other public archives, combined with interviews with over 60 client stakeholders, including past and current board members, executive team members, broker partners, employees at head office and in the various branch and service offices, provided the source base for the book and other story-driven deliverables. Dr. Frisse’s fluency in German was of great benefit during the research stage as most of the founders and early stakeholders of the company were German immigrants and, consequently, German was the language commonly used in correspondence, Annual Reports, etc. during the 19th century.
While devising the concept for the book, we decided that the storyline had to be more than just a straightforward chronological narrative. Insurance products are driven by changing needs in society, so we deemed it essential to convey the story in that broader context. Also, embedded in the history of a 150-year-old company are transitions in the work environment, as they relate to the changing role of women, the advent of the telephone, fax machine and eventually the computer, etc. Furthermore, a contextual narrative needed to pay attention to the fact that insurance products and related risk assessment practices are reflections of changes in the use of new technologies at different times throughout history, such as the dangers associated with steam or electricity.
During the research stage, we conducted multiple photo shoots to produce the imagery for the book and the design team adopted Economical’s 150th anniversary brand guidelines to ensure that the design of the book was visually aligned with the look of other company communications throughout the 150th anniversary year. The outcome is a contextually rich, fully branded publication that tells the fascinating story of Economical through an inspiring narrative and a branded design, supported by hundreds of images.