A fresh look at brand Canada. What do you think?

Just today, thanks to a tip from Dave Jones (thanks Dave!), I came across the project below sponsored by American Public Radio International (PRI) radio program Studio 360. The goal: to re-package Canada’s brand for Americans. Tall order, and I think they *mostly* nailed… something here. But what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Beg to Differ in the comments!

It’s fresh. But does it work?

Just today, adiposity thanks to a tip from Toronto agency punk Dave Jones (thanks Dave!), I came across the project below sponsored by American  Public Radio International (PRI) radio program Studio 360. The goal: to re-package Canada’s brand for Americans. Tall order, and I think they *mostly* nailed… something here. But what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Beg to Differ in the comments!

Sacrilege or divine revelation? You decide.

But before you weigh in on the success or failure of the exercise, check out these four things:

 1) A Summary: from Studio 360 of how it worked and what they were after:

To get beyond hockey, beer, and Mounties, we asked the international firm Bruce Mau Design to come up with a visual rebranding. As part of its research, the BMD team talked with Scott Thompson of the sketch comedy group The Kids in the Hall who summed up the issue simply: “We know you, but you don’t know us.”

“Canada didn’t need to be rebranded or redesigned,” explains BMD President and CEO Hunter Tura. “America needed to be educated. And that is the basis for our campaign: Know Canada.”

2) The brief: to read a more full explanation, click the image below for the agency’s presentation in PDF format:

Click here for Bruce Mau design brief (PDF format)

 3) The video teaser ad: the YouTube Video below shows how the idea would play out in multimedia format.

The big question: does it work for you?

  • Visual appeal: does the logo and design system create a memorable foundation for Canada’s brand?
  • Tag line: do the words “Know Canada” work for you? What do they say – or not say – about us?
  • Sustainability: can this really work as a brand – or is it just a clever campaign?
  • Customers: Who is it actually aimed at, and more importantly, for what purpose (i.e. who would pay to roll this out? Tourism? Trade? Canadian Chamber of Commerce?

Update: Oh, and for some more fun summer reading, you can also check out the “Know Canada” Web site here, other 360 Redesign Projects, and the paired Redesigning Project with Jian Gomeshi and CBC Radio Q taking on brand USA . Great discussion on the Brand New blog a few days ago.  Articles by Huffington PostNational Post, and Here and Elsewhere.

15 thoughts on “A fresh look at brand Canada. What do you think?”

  1. <strong>Update:</strong> Oh, and for some more fun summer reading, you can also check out the <a href=”http://knowcanada.org/#” target=”_blank”>”Know Canada” Web site here</a>, other <a href=”http://www.studio360.org/series/redesigns/” target=”_blank”>360 Redesign Projects</a>, and the paired <a href=”http://redesigningproject.com/” target=”_blank”>Redesigning Project</a> with Jian Gomeshi and <a href=”http://www.cbc.ca/q/redesignproject/topics/index.html” target=”_blank”>CBC Radio Q taking on brand USA</a> . <a href=”http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/in_brief_know_canada.php#disqus_thread” target=”_blank”>Great discussion on the Brand New blog</a> a few days ago.  Articles by <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/12/know-canada-bruce-mau-studio-360_n_1666133.html?utm_hp_ref=tw” target=”_blank”>Huffington Post</a>, <a href=”http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/07/03/canada-redesigned-u-s-public-radio-program-rebrands-the-great-white-north/” target=”_blank”>National Post</a>, and <a href=”http://hereelsewhere.com/journal/bmd-rebrands-canada/” target=”_blank”>Here and Elsewhere</a>.

  2. I think it’s funny — when done well — these stereotypes. But — and maybe the Canadians should sit down, don’t need any injuries here — you guys don’t fly as far under the radar as you think you do. Global business, global arts and literature, and the great global boundary hopper (the Internet) have kind of…opened boundaries. We know more about you than you think we do.
    So the whole “ignorant American” and “America needs to be educated” begas the very real question of “based on WHAT” and how is that evidentiary enough to build an entire campaign around?
    When I first saw this campaign, also from Dave, my comment was:
    It’s very clever. The concept and angle, plus visuals, are cool.
    A few questions:
    1. What is the chief purpose? Tourism? If so, it seemed a little focused in this presentation on people, and truth is, I come for places or experiences when I travel. Perhaps the campaign has less Bieber and peanut butter and more Montreal, Toronto art fest and Victoria.
    2. When they say America, do they mean US, or the continent?
    FWIW, maybe it’s me (my sister lived in Toronto for years and I worked for a company based there for a while, we traveled to Quebec quite a bit, etc.) and just my friends but I think we do know quite a bit about Canada beyond hockey and syrup. One thing I didn’t notice in this campaign (as I skimmed it) was a big heads-up on your chief Canadian advocates: popular writers who are spreading Canadian culture worldwide, such as Louise Penny. Writers and artists are cultural advocates without boundaries. I learned more about Quebecois separatism from Louise Penny books than anywhere. And it made me go look it up, see if what she wrote was all true and it was.

    1.  @juliepippert Thanks for the American perspective on this one. It’s hard to evaluate ourselves dispassionately from this side of the border, so it’s nice to hear that some Americans – maybe even most – know and care about Canada. Maybe not as much as we *wish* you knew. But when you consider Canada has a combined population about the size of MIchigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, do average Americans really know more about those states than Canada? Be interesting to find out.

    2.  @juliepippert But to your two main points:1) Purpose is really the question here for me. Knowledge is nice, but to what end? Selling more Pamela Anderson straight-to-video movies? Not sure that’s a big win for either country. For a good brand to work, it’s got to be more than an academic exercise; it has to compel people to do something. Does this? Hard to say.2) By America, they (and we) mean USA. You folks have pretty well usurped that word. My European relatives make me smirk when they tell me they’re coming to “America” for a visit.  

  3. Not sure this really addresses the “American” audience as much as it fulfills a stereotype of Canadians about the US. I do like the Red Bars, they have a thinning effect on that t-shirt, so sign me up!

    1.  @kamichat There we go! Our new tag line: “Canada, it makes America look thinner.” As for fulfilling Canadian stereotypes, completely agreed. And by playing up the “Canada as cipher” mentality, it does nothing to fill the gap. The tag “Know” is also “NO”, and the red bars bracket empty space. I’d prefer to define a brand by what it IS, not by the negative spaces we leave behind. 

    1.  @writewrds  I’m not sure anything could be described as flattering to Ms. Atwood’s hair. And how’s this for a wall-to-wall Canadiana moment? I ended up sitting right behind her for a Michael Ondatje / Rohinton Mistry reading in Hamilton, and had a hard time seeing around that hair. That and during Mistry’s brilliant reading, she tried quietly to take the cellophane off a CD (Stan Rogers, Fogarty’s Cove), but ended up making a lot of noise.

  4. Basketball as a Canadian invention? It was invented *by* a Canadian, but it was not invented *in* Canuckistan.  What say the jury?
    I say no.
    It was invented in Springfield, Mass at the “Y”, it was raised in the U.S., it’s youth, teenage years and early adulthood were spent in the U.S., and it never really tried to travel the world until it had reached maturity in the U.S….

    1.  @gschaadt Hey, we assimiated you, and claim ownership of Bell (American), Marconi (Italian), Isaac Brock (British), John A. Macdonald (Scottish), Stephen Harper (Torontonian), and McKenzie King (from a planet in the galaxy Cygnus A), so why not Basketball too? 

  5. I was going to say this when the post was fresh, but I chickened out.  I think this campaign is fun, but unecessary.  Canada doesn’t really need rebranding. The maple leaf is an easily recognizable symbol and we are the only country that is associated with it.  You see a maple leaf, you think of Canada.  Isn’t that what a good brand is supposed to do?  (Hey, I’m just an amateur (and brandmateur?))  If anything, I thought maybe the brand could be marketed better.
    This recent article confirms my thoughts about the quality of Canada’s brand, but given our high rank, it contradicts my thoughts about better marketing http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/28/country-brand-index-canada_n_2035399.html 
    One thing I didn’t like about the campaign is that it resulted from the same old Canadian insecurity about not being noticed in the US.  Wish we could get over that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *