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Branding Canada, Eh!

The best part about blogging is that it can be about opinions, unconstrained by the lack of context or data, just pure opinion.

Canadian BoyLast week I went to a breakfast session put on by the good folks at Leger Marketing. The talk was about branding a nation as opposed to a corporation. I was fascinated by the subject as I have long had a secret desire to take on branding Canada as my next career challenge. It’s unlikely to ever happen but it sure is fun to think about how brand to the country I love so much.

So here are my thoughts as a citizen on what elements we should brand as a country. I know I am oversimplifying but hopefully it will be food for thought.
First my simple criteria for selecting my three point brand focus:

  • Branding a nation is difficult so our brand focus should leverage something that is already culturally grounded in our psyches. For example, if we are not a warlike people, we should not consider a brand association with aggression.
  • Branding a nation is time consuming so it should align with a macro trend that will help us leverage our brand position into real economic benefits that strengthen over time as the trend or trends develop
  • Branding a nation should be about something that will benefit the citizens themselves as well as the external audiences for our brand
  • Branding a nation should take into account the realities of attributes about the nation that are not easily overcome, for example in our case we have a very large geography that is not easily changed
  • A brand strategy should have a focus – we can’t be all things to all people. People can’t remember any more than 3 things at any one time, so let’s keep our brand focus at 3 things.
  • Our brand strategy should support economic as well as social goals – for example, increase tourism, exports, inward investment, talent attraction and retention

So without further ado for brand element #1, I think our Canadian brand should be associated with Extraordinary Customer Service.

  • We are already known as “nice and polite”, why haven’t we translated this brand equity into something tangible. We can leverage attributes that already exist in our psyches.
  • As technology becomes more commoditized, It is clear that customer service will increasingly be “the” competitive differentiator. With the advent of social media the ability of each and every consumer to talk about customer service and influence your business has increased exponentially. We’ve already lost control of the message, why not ensure that every interaction with a Canadian is a positive one and let the people promote our brand for us. There is nothing people would rather talk about than how they feel about a product, service or company.
  • And lastly, we’d all benefit. Just think how much better life would be if Rogers and Bell Mobility offered extraordinary service. What would we do with the extra time we’d have, the time that we wouldn’t have to spend on hold or arguing about how their service really isn’t working as it should be.

The only downside? What would we complain about?
So chip in here – what do you think we should be known for up here in Canada?


  1. Heidi
    Heidi October 1, 2009

    We should be known for our creativity – which leads to innovation – which leads to commerce – which builds our economy – which attracts the best and the brightest minds to Canada – and from this we all grow.
    In order for Canada to be known for customer service requires Canadians to take pride in doing a job well. I believe that Canada currently has some of the worst customer service I’ve encountered.
    Take for example, the difference between trying to grab a quick lunch in Toronto vs. New York.
    In New York, they EXPECT 200+ people to move through their deli between 12 and 12:15. They expect it, they’re prepared for it, and they make it happen.
    In Toronto, when you show up at noon, I’m left with the impression that a) it’s their first day and b) they are surprised to see you.
    A retail experience in Canada is so frustrating, I’d rather shop online. Pity b/c if I was in a store where someone actually helped me or knew the merchandise or seemed to be even mildly interested in what the store sells, I would probably double the value of my transaction just on impulse purchases.
    Online, it’s surgical. I get what I want, and I’m outta there.
    The last time the Roger’s advertising account was up for review, (circa. 2001) I mentioned to one of the agencies involved in the pitch that Roger’s goal as a company should be to be one of Canada’s Top 3 most loved brands. If it was, every other business objective they have would radiate from the achievement of that goal. Of course, it fell on deaf ears – but I still believe that it’s an honourable goal.
    I, like you, believe that Canada needs to be famous for something other than spectacular nature and scenery.
    We have the minds, we have the history of innovation (Canada Arm, insulin etc. etc. etc.) we just have to be proud, and give a sh*t.
    Creativity is the beginning of this conversation. I’ve gone beyond conjecture and nice thoughts – I have a presentation that outlines the How. How do we get from here to there.
    It’s done, and waiting for an audience.
    Thanks for reading.
    ~ heidi

  2. Rob
    Rob October 1, 2009

    The brand promise of “extraordinary customer service”? One needs to deliver on the brand promise. This is not a strength for the Canadian brand. Few would look to Canada when seeking world class customer service practices…and one should not use brand as a means of moving an entity (corporation, country) from one state to another. One needs to deliver on the brand promise before being willing to make the brand promise public.
    Creativity is an interesting idea. Canada does provide leadership in this area and is an under-utilized resource of this country.
    There are many attributes of Canada that could form the foundation of a strong branding initiative…besides scenery and natural resources. As mentioned before creativity, international political standing and respect, community mindset, Education leadership, and thought leadership in selected sectors to name but a few. Out of this group could form a compelling, unique, sustainable, and globally significant brand. Wonder what it could be…

  3. Lynda Partner
    Lynda Partner October 1, 2009

    thanks for the feedback, great value add. I am thinking of setting up a community site to keep this conversation going – it’s a huge idea. I was thinking if we did this and could demonstrate momentum we’d be part way along the path of convincing the government to invest in making this a task force. What do you think? Would you participate?

Comments are closed.