Brand Canada: so what is a “Canadian”? 10 quirky facts.

Some odd insights from Ipsos Reid’s Darrell Bricker

I’m excited about an event coming to Ottawa ‘s Chateau Laurier next month: the IABC 2012 Canada Business Communicators Summit. But even better: Beg to Differ has one free pass to give away (more about that below). But since I think, thumb speak, sildenafil and write a lot about Brand Canada, it’s the opening keynote by Dr. Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs and author of Canuckology that has me thinking.

Grab from promotional video by HarperCollins Canada (see full video below).

Disclosure: the author isn’t paid to promote this conference, but is helping out a friend, and is gratefully accepting a free pass himself in return.

A conference strong – and free (*if you win the pass)

So here’s how the IABC Summit’s agenda for day one describes Bricker’s Opening Keynote:

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.

  1. The average Canadian spends 7.7 minutes in the shower.
  2. 750,000 Canadians believe the country borders the “Antarctic Ocean”
  3. Only 27% of Canadians know what happened in 1867. (Hint: you’re soaking in it)
  4. The majority of Canadians believe in angels, but in Saskatchewan and Manitoba it’s 77 per cent.
  5. Canadians would rather have the superhero power to heal themselves than travel in time.
  6. Almost one in three Canadians admits they let “laundry pile up until they run out of underwear”.
  7. 58 per cent of Canadian women feel most romantic with the sound of waves nearby.
  8. 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.”
  9. The most popular answer from Canadian men to the same question: “don’t know.”
  10. Only 40% of Canadians trust polls…
Many of these facts in video form:

Books by Darrell Bricker

Disclosure: by buying through these Amazon Affiliate links, you’ll be supporting Beg to Differ.


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.

Grinding to the next level: new era at Bridgehead

Three short years ago I wrote about my favourite coffee shop chain Bridgehead on the occasion of their 10th location in Ottawa. Well, tomorrow, they’ll be opening their 15th store just off Preston. Think it’s a fluke they’ve been so successful? I Beg to Differ!

The new HQ – off Preston Avenue.

More than a store

The bright, spacious new retail store is just the beginning. There’s a lot more to this space.

Sorry, when I say “store”, I’m using the wrong word. The new Bridgehead location – just now getting its final tweaks prior to public opening tomorrow – will be far more than just another retail coffeeshop. It’s going to be the new head office for the Bridgehead chain and the new central warehouse to supply all 15 Bridgehead outlets across the urban core – big enough to have space for a community room, and hold coffee tasting workshops for staff and the public.

But in an even bigger development for the chain, it’s a roastery as well! So as of tomorrow, all coffee in all Bridgeheads across Ottawa will be roasted by their own local staff right here in Ottawa. 

This marks Bridgehead’s transition from being a retail reseller of other people’s coffee to being a producer and innovator, selling their own coffee. Along with this, they are building a team of experts who have already had to learn to produce large volumes every day.

Bridgehead 2.0

The roastery is filled with gear straight out of a steam-punk alchemist’s lab.

And you can really taste, smell. and see the difference. I tried one of the new Espresso roasts in a tasty, steaming cup of Americano today, and it not only tastes better, it looks better – with a real head of dense foam like you find on your cup in Europe.

One day early, I was invited in for a sneak peak at the new location, and I asked Bridgehead’s Coffee Program Manager Ian Clark whether  that was just my imagination. Here’s his geeky-but-fascinating answer, plus a look around the new roasting facility – including a glimpse of their new “Human Roaster.” Check out the YouTube.

Brand evolution

What becomes very obvious very quickly is that Bridgehead is evolving into a different kind of brand. Always a savvy purveyor of great coffee, they are now becoming a place where great coffee products are developed and refined.

What does this mean for Bridgehead? Well, this is where I’d love to hear from you. Have you tried the new roasts? Are you excited about visiting? Let me know in the comments!

Surface impressions: Microsoft just nibbles the Apple.

Microsoft tries to challenge the iPad, apple-to-Apple. But scratching the Surface, it is bruised at best, and may even be a lemon. We Beg to Differ.

Microsoft tries to challenge the iPad.  But scratching the Surface, viagra approved Microsoft wants you to compare them apple-to-Apple. We Beg to Differ.

I finally had a chance to see the video of the much-hyped “secret” launch event for Microsoft and look into the branding and positioning of even more hyped new tablet.  Now, price I’ve never touched the actual product, ask but just skating on the surface here, a  few impressions.

Reinventing the reinvention

The format of Microsoft’s presentation seemed oddly familiar to me, like deja vu, or a vaguely remembered movie. And here’s why. Read Write Web did a beat-by-beat comparison (embedded below) of the Surface launch with the epic launch of the iPad by Steve Jobs.

And you’ll never guess who comes off looking like an innovator and who comes off like a copycat:

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

Tough day on the Jobs: Steve Sinofsky’s “somebody’s gonna get fired” face.

In the clip above, you see a brief moment where Microsoft  Executive Steven Sinofsky goes pale, tightens his lips, and sprints for the podium to grab a back-up tablet after the machine he’s holding completely freezes. Here’s a blow-by-blow of that excruciating moment from UK’s Daily Mail.

Now, as someone who’s done presentations for major consumer product launches (remember CorelDRAW 8?), and had to skate through crashes in the middle of your prepared schpiel, I have great  sympathy for what this guy is going through. Particularly since my screw-ups weren’t documented on YouTube for later dissection.

But this ain’t Palookaville. This is Microsoft (remember Windows 98?). So when the stakes are this high, you have to wonder how unstable the machine is to crash at that moment.

The name and brand strategy

I’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around the name. Maybe because it’s a two-dimensional metaphor – and most of the product shots are three-dimensional, and because Microsoft can’t seem to make up its mind whether this is a tablet (just a “surface”) or a new kind of lightweight quasi-laptop.

This confusion seems to be baffling even the most enthusiastic reviewers:

Microsoft is clearly straddling the uncomfortable divide between the old world of mice and keyboards, where it dominates, and a future ruled by touch screens, where Apple and Android devices prevail….

Surface splits the difference between a standard tablet and super-light laptops such as Apple’s MacBook Air or ultrabooks that run Windows.

So what is this thing? I’m sure a new category descriptor like “power tabs” or “laptabs” will emerge. But Microsoft could have helped us – and themselves – by figuring that out ahead of time.

Microsoft’s brand mangers also can’t seem to make up their mind whether it is a “Microsoft Surface” – like “Microsoft Word” or “Microsoft Comfort Mouse” – or whether “Surface” is a standalone brand with “Microsoft” as a lower visibility endorsement- like X Box. If it’s the latter, the Surface name is too weak to be memorable, and not distinctive enough to create a solid new product category to stand against iPad.

The wordmark is pure Apple minimalism as well, and the design of the Surface’s paper-thin launch site could easily be straight off Except that Apple actually tells you something substantial about their product.

And that’s the real problem with the Surface (and the substance of this product). Microsoft should have spent less time playing the Apple game (which they will never win), and more time playing the Differ game.

But, my fellow brand-watchers, what do you think? Am I being too hard on this little West-coast start-up?

Sorry Ashton Kutcher. That’s a wipe-out.

Yesterday, a friend linked to the video below, wondering why Ashton Kutcher and advertiser popchips would post such a “racist video”. Then an online debate broke out about whether it is racist or not. I won’t paddle into that one, but I will offer this…

Yesterday, health a friend linked to the video below, wondering why Ashton Kutcher and advertiser popchips would post such a “racist video”. Then an online debate broke out about whether it is racist or not. I won’t paddle into that one, but I will offer this…

(Guitar Riff. Maniacal laughter.) WIPEOUT!!!

Anyone who’s had a joke fall flat knows that  humour is a tricky balance. It’s like surfing a wave. You’ve got to ride the edge between keeping your audience laughing and “sucking water” (so to speak).

But “edgy” humour is an even bigger wave, and humour dealing with controversial topics like gender, race, is the biggest, nastiest wave of all. Only the most skillful comedians can hold themselves on that edge without making people angry.  Peter Sellers did it brilliantly in The Party by creating a character that with stereotypes, but ends up making most of us love him. Will some people be offended? Sure they will. But most will sense the risk, see your skill, and cringing, go along for the ride.

Ashton Kutcher? Sorry my friend. Stick to the small waves.

Or better yet. Stay on the beach.

Update: The ad has been pulled by popchips.