“I am Canadian!” and what it means to your business


by Rafael Mael

To outsiders, Canada means wide expanses full of moose and mountains. It means maple syrup and hockey, snow and warm clothing, ice wine and elk. But on a deeper level, Canada is known for its people and its personality. Canadians are viewed as friendly, stable, tolerant, and value-driven.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your business could have the same reputation? If customers from inside and outside of Canada would link your business to the reliable image of Canada, wouldn’t this positively impact your sales?

How Canada is viewed – from the inside and the outside

Within Canada, many are willing to pay the difference to buy Canadian. In fact, almost two-thirds of Canadians make an effort to buy locally-made when possible, according to a 2013 study released by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). The study found that respondents were willing to pay higher prices for Canadian products, up to 10-15% higher than for identical, foreign-made products. Clearly, the label “Made in Canada” is viewed as badge of honour.

On the international stage, worldwide consumers’ opinions of Canadian brands are at an all-time high. This past January, a worldwide survey released by the online statistics database Statista evaluated how respondents viewed brands from various countries. It found that respondents’ attitudes towards products made in Canada rose 45% over the preceding year. That’s positive news indeed.This came on the heels of the Best Countries Report, released by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, based on a survey of over 16,000 people worldwide. Canada came in second place for “Best Overall Countries” (right behind Switzerland) and in first place for “Quality of Life.” (If your curiosity is piqued, you can see the full rankings here.) It follows that businesses in a country with such a reputable character should feel proud to reflect the Canadian image.

This came on the heels of the Best Countries Report, released by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, based on a survey of over 16,000 people worldwide. Canada came in second place for “Best Overall Countries” (right behind Switzerland) and in first place for “Quality of Life.” (If your curiosity is piqued, you can see the full rankings here.) It follows that businesses in a country with such a reputable character should feel proud to reflect the Canadian image.

Harnessing the “Canada” in your product

Some products are iconic to Canada, so branding them as such is an obvious way to drive sales. For example, a bottle of Acadian Maple Syrup sports the maple leaf and a prominent “Canadian” label. Many ice wine companies slap “Made in Canada” on their bottles as well. The outerwear company Canada Goose is another overt example, with maple leaves bordering its eye-popping logo.

But marketing can go beyond your logo. A more subtle approach lies in campaigns that build on Canadian pride. For example, Roots recently released a commercial encouraging people to nominate “Canada’s Nicest Person.” This is an excellent way to not only point out the company’s loyalty to the Great White North, but to connect Roots to values that Canadians hold dear.

But what does that mean for your own business? Here’s a rundown of some do’s and don’ts when it comes to portraying your Canadian image.

Don’t…

  • DON’T…expect a Canada spin to compensate for weaknesses in your product. This can backfire, especially when it comes to fellow Canadians. Their disappointment in a faulty product will triple when they realize that the country’s name has been taken in vain.
  • DON’T…lie. When the iconic maple leaf pins sold on Canada Day switched from made in Canada to being manufactured in China, it led to a major PR disaster.
  • DON’T…enter the market blindly. Some foreign companies have entered the Canadian market expecting to make a killing, but misunderstood the market and fell flat on their faces. One famous example? Target Canada. They didn’t study the demographics of different provinces well, leading to empty shelves in some locations and overstocking in others.

Do…

  • DO… emphasize the inherently “Canadian” aspects of your products, not only to locals, but also when you’re selling internationally or to tourists. Foreigners appreciate products that shout “Canada!” such as winter gear, snow-related items or maple products.
  • DO… use subtlety. That might mean including a maple leaf or beaver, or adding signs to point out products that are “locally-made.”
  • DO… tap into your own family or community roots. If your family or community is hockey-crazy, brainstorm a tie-in between your store and hockey, and highlight it. The same could be true about nature, fishing, wildlife, or anything that you find special to the Canadian in you.
  • DO… search out local Canadian artisans or companies and offer to carry their wares. Not all made-in-Canada goods are expensive, and this is a fantastic way to differentiate your store from the mass-produced products your customers can find everywhere else. 

So while trumpeting “I am Canadian!” from the rooftops may not serve your business well, including Canadian references in your marketing may successfully attract customers – both fellow Canadians and foreigners – to your store. Just keep it authentic. The goal should be to show your patriotism and to use your Canadian roots to connect to your customers in a genuine way.

 


Rafael Mael is a marketing strategist, business adviser and an electrifying professional speaker. He’s the founder of Maelstrom Marketing, focused on helping independent business owners boost sales and streamline operations.

Rafael was recently a Special Presentations speaker at the Fall 2017 Toronto Gift Fair.

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