Thomas Pigeon, Canada’s Legendary Brand Builder and Storyteller, Looks to the Future

In the late 1970s, Canadian Thomas Pigeon embarked on a mission to redefine brand design in Montreal.

Recognizing a gap in the local market for exceptional package design, he seized the opportunity to establish his company, Pigeon Brands, as a global force that would change the industry forever.

He realized there was only one direction to go, and that was to move forward.

“Anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” said Pigeon, who served as founder and CEO of Pigeon Brands for nearly five decades.

Armed with a strategic vision and commitment to excellence, Thomas Pigeon transformed his agency into a powerhouse, partnering with prestigious brands such as Catelli, McCain, Kraft, and Tim Hortons. His foresight and determination laid the foundation for Pigeon Brand’s reputation as a trailblazer, setting new standards for creativity and effectiveness in package design.

Thomas envisioned brands that could travel through diverse communication ecosystems, introducing the concept of “brand traveling.” This approach led to the creation of integrated campaigns for some of North America’s leading marketers.

“As my life progressed, my career was cobbled together by amazing mentors who constantly showed me doors to go through,” Pigeon shared. “I was never nervous about going through those doors to see what was on the other side. In our early days in ‘package design,’ brands were utilitarian in their style and communication: big logo, big photo, then call it a day. I knew there was more, and there is more.”

Thomas Pigeon Turns Pigeon Brand Into A Branding Icon

Over the decades, Thomas Pigeon expanded Pigeon Brand’s footprint across Canada and beyond, from Montreal to Toronto and eventually Mexico City, serving markets in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Pigeon’s influence transcended borders, contributing to the success of iconic brands like Tim Hortons, Pfizer’s Viagra, and Kraft’s peanut butter, cementing its status as a global leader in brand building and design.

“Brands are stories, and consumers are emotional in many of their brand choices,” he said. “I knew if we developed a skill in emotional brand storytelling, we could do something that hadn’t been done before. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most creative people on the planet. The design, production, and client service team, even the admin team, had a unique zest for life that got me fired up every time I walked into the office. Clients who became believers entrusted me and my team with incredible mandates with incredible responsibility, and the best of the best let us do what they paid us to do… tell brand stories and drive sales through the roof.”

Thomas Pigeon on the Future of Brand Building and Design

For 46 years and 10 months, Thomas Pigeon led Pigeon Brands to unprecedented heights as its founder and CEO before he decided to sell his company in late 2023 to pursue new dreams and goals. He’s forging a new path as a high-level branding and marketing consultant in North America and Europe. He’s also a sought-after speaker and visionary who works with top business executives from around the globe.

When asked about his vision for the future of brand building and design, Thomas shared insightful perspectives and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in the field.

“Technology risks dominating the scene,” Pigeon explained. “Bigger, better, faster, cheaper has become the mantra of many contemporary businesses. AI and AR are exciting tools. But tools they are. Speed to market and pandering to a board of directors versus focusing on consumers’ needs and wants risks diluting the magic that the great entrepreneurs who created these brands brought to the table – powerful risk takers like Harrison & Wallace McCain, the Irving brothers, Ron Joyce, and Daniel Servitje. I had the pleasure of working alongside or for all of them.

He says new entrants into the marketplace need to listen to the wisdom of the past.

“Data is important; it’s become essential today, but the magic comes from a mix of data and gut instinct,” Pigeon shared. “The magic is in your heart and spreads through your soul. Undying belief in brands and vision is what made the innovators successful, fueled by unbridled passion.”

As Thomas embarks on this new chapter, his wealth of experience and deep understanding of the intricate balance between technology and tradition positions him as an authoritative figure for the next generation of brand builders.

His story exemplifies the enduring significance of passion and vision, emphasizing that while technology may advance, the fundamental principles of brand building are anchored in human connection and creativity. Pigeon’s dedication to maintaining the magic in brands continues to inspire people, urging entrepreneurs to merge data with intuition and lead with conviction and heart.

Thomas Pigeon Says ‘Hard Work Trumps Luck Every Time’

One of the most significant challenges Thomas Pigeon faced while leading Pigeon Brands was believing in himself. Upon relocating from Montreal to Toronto in 1991, Pigeon quickly realized the stark difference in the competitive landscape.

“We were the big guys on the block in Montreal,” Pigeon recalled. “But upon arrival in Toronto, it was immediately apparent we were at the bottom of the pile.”

Determined to make a mark, Pigeon invited the heads of every major branding firm to their office on King Street East. To his surprise, everyone showed up, curious to see what this young entrepreneur from Montreal had to say.

Pigeon took this opportunity to advocate for an end to “speculative design”—the practice of no-fee pitch work. “Everyone with a glass of wine in their hands nodded and said, of course, we’ll stand together,” Pigeon remembered.

However, one by one, they all broke rank. Despite this initial setback, Pigeon’s resilience and unwavering belief in his vision set him apart.

“Of those twenty firms, only two are standing today—Pigeon is one of those,” he noted.

Pigeon’s personal and professional values are deeply rooted in respect and integrity.

“Hard work trumps luck every time,” he emphasized, reflecting his belief in the power of dedication and perseverance. He advises younger generations to “avoid shiny objects and focus on the long-term plan. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Save for tomorrow,” highlighting the importance of patience and strategic thinking.

Thomas Pigeon Is A Trailblazer in Design, Branding, and Marketing

Among his many achievements, Pigeon takes great pride in being the first non-American elected to the NYC-based Package Design Council International and building Canada’s premier package design and branding consultancy.

These milestones highlight his commitment to excellence and ability to break new ground in his field.

As Thomas Pigeon continues to inspire the next generation of brand builders, his story stands as a powerful testament to the transformative power of dedication and imagination. From his beginnings as a local entrepreneur to becoming a global industry leader, Pigeon’s journey illustrates that with determination and vision, the possibilities are limitless.

Reflecting on his achievements, Pigeon defines success as “respect, first and foremost,” noting the importance of recognition from peers and superiors. He believes that success is also about having joy in life, being passionate, believing in oneself, and maintaining a positive focus while avoiding distractions. “Don’t be distracted by the negative, work hard and believe in what you do,” he adds. “The money will come.”

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