While several Canadian brands have big overseas ambitions for 2020, BrandZ™ data shows that on average, the country’s top brands generate substantially less of their revenue outside their country than the most valuable brands in other markets. This may seem odd in a place with such substantial overseas trade, but Canada is unusual for a G-7 country in how much of that trade is in primary products, like lumber and minerals. The top overseas brands by percentage of revenue? Crown Royal, Lululemon, Air Canada, Canada Goose, and Manulife. No surprises there but look for Tim Horton’s and Aritzia to join the list soon.
No room to grow
The typical Top 40 brand in Canada scores extremely well in terms of Power but poorly in terms of Potential. In plain English, this means that these are large brands in their categories and command a considerable market share (although, this being Canada, it may be a regional share). As a result, they have little headroom to grow more, unless they look for unusual opportunities to succeed. Top brands that want to increase their revenue need to find new markets or opportunities. Innovation may be their best chance to improve the situation.
Choosing media wisely
Canadians largely agree that campaigns today should be fully integrated, i.e. whatever appears on TV should look quite similar in digital. However, that doesn’t mean that brands need to advertise in all media. Kantar research has shown that combining certain platforms has a stronger effect than others. TV is the bedrock of Canadian advertising, and while it integrates well with all other media, it works best with Facebook, newspapers, and out of home. Radio, on the other hand, doesn’t integrate terribly well with other media, but it is effective on its own. The big takeaway? Working with local experts is always a good idea to get the most of your campaigns.
The practical consumer
Globally, more and more consumers are attracted to local, organic, and various stripes of healthy products. Count Canada out. By a wide range of measures, Canadians lag global averages on such things. Only 49 percent seek out natural foods (vs. 66 percent globally), only 23 percent buy organic (vs. 35 percent elsewhere), and only 24 percent are interested in detoxifying (32 percent globally). They also don’t particularly care about whether they’re buying from small local companies or global brands. This may be surprising in such a highly urbanized country, but it can only be good news for larger brand marketers, who have struggled in other markets with smaller upstarts.
Canadians face probably just as much personalized targeting and retargeting as consumers in other developed economies. However, two interesting trends emerge when asking them about their experiences with automated marketing. The first is that overall Canadians do not feel as targeted as people in other countries, and their reactions to it, both positive and negative, are less intense than global averages. That said, if you are attempting to catch people with the right message at the right time, it’s worth noting that Canadians are far more likely to remember a negative targeting experience than a positive and relevant one.
Cannabis, one year later
With some fanfare in 2018, Canada again stood out as a global trendsetter by legalizing the use of cannabis. Stores, including online ones, now offer a variety of ways to obtain legal weed. So, has legalization opened the floodgates of drug usage? Not yet. In 2018, Statistics Canada reported that 14 percent of Canadians used marijuana in the previous three months. Second quarter in 2019 shows it is up to a mere at 16 percent. This slow uptake, however, is likely due to supply chain issues, as well as the slow opening of new stores. Once pot becomes more widely available, social acceptance should follow in its wake. That is breeding new business opportunities, as a raft of new Canadian brands like Burb and Tokyo Smoke are blending cannabis with clothing, coffee, and other products.
A gender-equal society (mostly)
By and large, Canadian households are places where tasks are shared equally. Sixty-one percent of people report that they share childcare tasks, 46 percent claim an equal contribution to income, and nearly all say that they take part in grocery shopping. This has big implications for marketers, who have to take not one but two decision makers into account for any purchasing decision. Oddly, while the home is seen as highly egalitarian, the workplace is not. A surprising 46 percent of Canadian women says they’ve experienced discrimination at work.
But not great at gendered ads
Globally the advertising world has a big disconnect when it comes to gender, with 76 percent of marketers thinking they’re getting TV ads directed at females right—and only 40 percent of women agreeing with them. Canadian women couldn’t agree more. While roughly 97 percent of all ads in the country are directed either at women or both genders, female-prominent ads score worse than those featuring males or both genders. A reexamination of strategy and good data should start to help marketers replace wishful thinking with ads that actually work.
Laugh a little
Lorne Michaels, himself a Canadian, can be credited with introducing many of his fellow Canadians, like Dan Akroyd and Mike Myers, to American audiences on Saturday Night Live, from which they’ve often gone on to international stardom. Canada has a rich tradition of humour, which is one of its most beloved cultural exports. Not surprisingly, Canadians themselves love a good joke and that extends to their advertising. More than any other characteristic, humour improves ad receptivity among both men and women in Canada. So, if you want to break through the increasing clutter of the ad market, have a laugh. It’s not only good for you, it can help a brand too.
For the love of a store
The retail apocalypse that has unfolded south of the border has not replicated itself to any large degree in Canada. Instead, retail has transformed to become more enjoyable, streamlined, and digitally integrated. Canadians are bargain hunters and reward retailers who offer great value and shopping experience. Brands need to optimize their digital and physical presence to find growth in the omnichannel era or risk being left out.
Living in the moment, Quebecois style
It’s fitting that the phrase “joie de vivre” is in French. Because an astonishing 58 percent of people living in Quebec say it’s much more important to live in the moment than to prepare for the future. English Canadians are a little more cautious on average, with 47 percent saying they prefer to enjoy life now. But both are well ahead of the United States were only 41 percent think so. As a result, brands that lean into experiences might have a better shot at winning Canada’s heart than otherwise.
Integrated retail is coming to Canada
Brick-and-mortar retail is not dead in Canada. It has transformed to become more enjoyable, streamlined, and digitally integrated. Canadians are bargain hunters and reward retailers who offer great value and shopping experience. Brands need to optimize their digital and physical presence to find growth in the omnichannel era or risk being left out.