The Big Shift” – Understanding Communications in the New Canada.
The presentation will explore the profound changes that are happening in Canada today. What do Canadians look like? What do they value? Who do they trust? Understanding these factors is essential to being a successful communicator in the New Canada.
Indeed. We communicators need to know our audience. But as Canadians communicating to Canadians, that actually means we need to know and understand ourselves – our own brand and how it relates to Brand Canada.And that is bloody hard – whether you are a backpacker in Europe, a business, or the Dalai Lama. We all have our blinkers on.
So what is a Canadian?
We’ll get to the Bricker’s mind-bending insights in a moment, but I want to hear from you:
What is this thing we call a “Canadian”?
What does being Canadian mean – and can we measure Canadian-ness?
How does that effect how we communicate with Canadians?
And in return for sharing, you could get a free pass to that conference.
Special offer from Beg to Differ (Generously provided by organizers of the IABC Summit) What you get:
Free One-day conference pass valued at $675 for either November 2nd or 3rd (your choice). How to enter:
Two ways: 1) Answer the questions above in the comments; OR 2) Share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #CdnIABC12. I’ll draw a winner at random on Monday morning.
Ten surprising facts about Canadians
So without further ado: some shocking stats about Canadians taken from Bricker’s book and this interview – originally from the Globe and Mail.
The average Canadian spends 7.7 minutes in the shower.
750,000 Canadians believe the country borders the “Antarctic Ocean”
Only 27% of Canadians know what happened in 1867. (Hint: you’re soaking in it)
The majority of Canadians believe in angels, but in Saskatchewan and Manitoba it’s 77 per cent.
Canadians would rather have the superhero power to heal themselves than travel in time.
Almost one in three Canadians admits they let “laundry pile up until they run out of underwear”.
58 per cent of Canadian women feel most romantic with the sound of waves nearby.
When asked to compare their partner to an animal, Canadian women were less likely to choose gorilla, tiger, or stallion (Oh my!). The most popular answer? “Cuddly bear.”
The most popular answer from Canadian men to the same question: “don’t know.”
London’s airport manager “BAA” to become… wait for it… “Heathrow”!
Beg to Differ celebrates the departure of a bad brand, the arrival of an old friend, and after the gates, wishes the grand old dame of British airports a successful baggage retrieval. (Oh, but don’t bother hailing a cab. Take the tube instead.)
London’s airport manager “BAA” rebrands to… wait for it… “Heathrow”!
Beg to Differ celebrates the departure of a bad airport brand, adiposity the arrival of an old friend, and after the gates, wishes the grand old dame of British airport brands a successful baggage retrieval. (Oh, but mate: don’t bother hailing a cab. Take the tube instead.)
If you’ve ever flown through London’s Heathrow Airport, or Glasgow, or Stansted you’d be forgiven for not knowing that you were actually in the hands of an entity called BAA – which once stood for British Airports Authority, but more recently became “BAA”, which stands for, well, not much at all. Because it was just another TLA (see previous rant here).
And now, in a stroke of brilliance (and possibly desperation), they decided to drop the three letter moniker. Here’s the story in brief:
It is the end of an era for BAA with the company announcing that the name is to be dropped in favour of stand-alone brands for its airports. Its airports – Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Southampton and Stansted – will cease to be called BAA gateways from today.
So the company running Heathrow Airport will now call itself “Heathrow”? And didn’t spend a billion dollars doing it? Wow. Unlike a lot of nonsense in the branding world, that actually makes sense!
The simple rebranding of BAA as Heathrow might look pretty bleeding obvious to the untrained eye, but it’s a job very well done. Brand managers around the world should note how the strategy has been executed.
Indeed. And hopefully they also think twice before choosing a meaningless abbreviation, acronym, or impossible to spell “domain grabber” name as well.
I wish “umbrella brands” like “The Ottawa Hospital” (better known as the Civic Hospital, Riverside Hospital, and General Hospital) would take note of the other lesson here: Branding is the art of making sense. And stretching the idea of a Hospital – or an airport – to cover whatever you want it to? That just doesn’t make sense.
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!
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:
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?
But I’ll warn you, it’s a lot of information, and you’ll have to wade through some sections knee-deep in self-congratulatory hype. So as a public service, I’ve distilled 10 aspects of the list that jump out for me (below).
(But first, a slightly bitchy side note to Interbrand: guys, if you’re going to release these three days early, please 1) skip the giant countdown clock , and 2) actually send notices to people that signed up. Okay, my chest is clear, on to…)
10 Highlights of the 2009 Best Global Brands
1) Coke is still it: Top five brands are unchanged
The top five brands on the list are exactly the same brands in the same order as last year, and although Microsoft and GE lost more value than most brands ever have, with the spread in value between the top four, those mega-brands don’t look likely to change anytime soon.
Nokia’s brand is losing steam however, while gaining ground behind it is Google (in a big way) and McDonald’s (growing, but more modestly).
2) Google is the big disruptor
The Google brand shouldered ahead of Toyota, Intel, and Disney, and now is very close to overtaking McDonalds. As a matter of fact, its brand value has almost doubled since 2007, when it was 20th in the rankings.
Think about that for a moment: “Google” has grown from geek-niche-buzzword to #7 brand in the world in just 10 years – growth rates we haven’t seen since, well, Microsoft pulled the same trick for the ten-odd years before that.
But now that Google is starting to look more and more like a big, aggressive company (because they are), can their brand sustain its quirky garage-band appeal? Already their “don’t be evil” internal mantra is attracting more cynicism than praise. And while Googlers are still innovating, and making a lot of feel-good noise with their open source projects, one wonders when critical mass and inertia kick in (see Microsoft?).
3) Other big winners this year
By dollar value gained, H&M, Ikea, and Amazon gained a solid amount of value this year.
But apart from the indominatable Google, Apple grew the most, adding an incredible $1.7 Billion in brand value. Apple is the darling of the branding industry of course and a favourite of mine (see my Steve Jobs tribute), with its creative energy and focus on human-friendly products and messaging, so it’s heartening to see that doing it right by your customers still pays off during a recession.
4) Surprise! Financial institutions are the biggest losers
Have you heard about this recession thing? Well, if you have, then it should come as no surprise that the industry hardest hit in the brand value bottom line was the same industry that imploded and begged for (and received) massive government bailouts.
American Express, Morgan Stanley, and HSBC all lost billions of dollars of brand value, while Citi and embattled Swiss giant UBS both lost half of their brand value in one year. Several others dropped right off the list, including Merryl Lynch, AIG, and ING. Could it be a coincidence that many of these losers also have meaningless nomonyms for names (see my definition here)? Probably just a coincidence, but their names certainly didn’t help them.
5) Automobile brands: losing value
Also not surprising, every automotive or motorized equipment manufacturer on the list except Ferrari lost a significant amount of brand value this year. Harley Davidson and Lexus lost the largest percentages.
But despite losses, a few brands managed to hold their own or gain ground. Apart from Ferrari, Audi managed to gain, while Ford kept its ranking – the only one of the “Big Three” American manufacturers to have a substantial corporate brand seems to have benefited from its perceived stability as well. Another star: Hyundai:
Hyundai boosted ad spending and aggressively promoted its Assurance program, which allows buyers who lose their jobs to return cars. Hyundai’s brand value slipped 5%, but it moved up three places to No. 69. – Business Week.
6) Food and clothing: the basics still sell when times are bad
The same pattern held true for clothing brands – although it must be said that the list is incredibly top-heavy with luxury brands – so Gucci, not GAP; Rolex over Timex. I suspect that this is because of a) the weighting given to “brand premium”, that is, the amount consumers are willing to spend over and above competitors, and b) the fact that lower-priced clothing brands for us mere mortals tend to be less global.
7) Adobe: New kids on the branding block
Abode finally made the list after it “recorded record revenue and double-digit growth for the sixth consecutive year. They weren’t immune to the downturn (they lost money overall), but importantly from a brand perspective, they grew strongly in the consumer preference category. And their brand awareness continues to grow through the ubiquity of their consumer-facing products Flash, and the Acrobat / PDF line.
8 ) Brand USA – still the biggest brand builder
We were watching to see if the recession would dent the US dominance in global brands. With 52 brands on the 2o08 global 100, the Yanks are the uncontested branding champs, but those of us who were hoping for a moment of guilty schadenfreude were mostly disappointed that the US claims 51 – still a majority – of the 100.
Note to the rest of the planet: keep working.
9) No new countries
The names of countries in the Global branding club stayed exactly the same this year with only 9 brands coming from outside Europe and North America (Japan 7, Korea 2). Russia, China, India, Brazil, and the rest of the world have yet to break in. But of course, it’s only a matter of time.
10) Brand Canada: maintaining numbers, but losing ground
Both of our two Canadian contender brands Thomson Reuters and Blackberry grew this year, and both made gains in the rankings with Blackberry jumping 10 spots to number 63. But they weren’t joined by any other brands, and what’s worse, we slipped a rank in number of brands-per-capita when the UK added a brand and vaulted ahead of us. On that list, we were 10th; now we’re llth.
A country can be a great brand. But it isn’t an accident. It takes careful work, pill discipline, and an attention to detail – think of a fine Rolex or Tag Heuer watch. Switzerland is tiny, but by carefully tuning and refining the little gears that run their brand image, they’re ensuring they’ll be winners for generations to come.
3. Trust: the logo is just the tip of the Matterhorn
Trust is not spoken. It must be earned through consistent behaviour over time. You can’t just stick a Swiss flag on your product – even if you’re a Swiss company. The Swiss have very stringent rules and a continuing debate around what high level of quality constitutes “Swissness”. Which leads to better products and more trust, and more value for the Swiss trademark. It’s all tied together.
A great country brand is adaptable, sturdy, and practical. In the case of brand Switzerland, they are building their brand built around three key tools (“pillars” of their brand platform):
1) Reality – the country’s real strengths and limitations, both in the sense of real business assets and liabilities, but also in terms of physical location, historical facts, shifting allegiances, and other tangible influences.
2) Existing perceptions – how the country is perceived abroad – for better and worse. The smart brander draws on positive themes that already exist in the minds of outsiders that only have to be tweaked, not created from scratch.
3) Intangibles – positive, but subjective, forces driving the country’s brand like a track record of innovation; internal attitudes to themselves (and to change); and all the other internal brands that are already successfully trumpeting the idea of the country in the marketplace.
5. Apply the same logic to your brand.
Read those 3 pillars again, and insert “company” or “charity” or “government service” where it says “country”. Then check out the brand manual linked above.
So ask yourself:How are you doing?
Is your brand running like a Swiss watch, as trusted as a Swiss Bank, as mouth-watering as fine chocolate, or are you just yodelling your customers’ time away on a mountaintop?