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Overcoming Canadian Clichés

Trends and Insight 54 Add to collection

Full Punch shares its guide to importing your brand into Canada

Overcoming Canadian Clichés

We’ve all been there. You arrive at your sunny and warm vacation destination wearing shorts and sandals to stay cool in the heat, only to realise you stick out like a sore thumb. The locals are in long pants, even wearing light jackets like it’s the middle of fall. Because it is fall. Or maybe it’s autumn? 

And that is the point. When many brands enter new markets, they often look like tourists. And as much as a local might like the economic benefit of tourism, they also know they are not one of us, and the likelihood of engagement is lower. The good traveller knows, if you want to travel like a local, it’s best to know a local to learn about the culture you're arriving in. 

We speak a different language in Canada, and we're not talking about French or Quebecois, for that matter. Although, that is a thing. We like to throw a good 'u' into words, like neighbour, we say 'zed' not 'zee,' we wear a toque in winter and wipe our face with a serviette. In Canada, a couch is a chesterfield. A winter hat is a toque. And a toboggan is a sled. Speaking to us is a little different, and we can be your translators to better connect with Canadians.  

We've helped large US and global brands like Audi, McDonald's, Credit Karma, Expedia, and Amazon succeed in Canada by helping to import and adapt global work that works or creating new work to better emotionally connect with the Canadian audience. If you’re a brand looking to make an impact in Canada, on Canadians, we have some wisdom to share. 


Don’t generalise 

We are not the 51st state. Each Province, Territory, and region has different tastes and perspectives. This is why many Canadian advertisers deploy distinct campaigns in Quebec from the rest of Canada or even regional campaigns across Canada. A one size fits all approach won't work as an extension of your US campaign or even a blanket approach to Canada. Much like the US, there are distinct values and insights across geographies and psychographics. Understanding differences from one Province to the next could determine if a localised campaign is better than a blanketed national approach. 


Emotionally connect 

When considering running existing functional ads in Canada, there's a high likelihood they'll work just as well across the border. Rational benefits transcend geographies and demographic differences. Everyone wants softer hair and a knife that can cut through a shoe. Emotional connection is where there's more daylight between the two cultures. Canadian national pride is contagious. It's why we wear our flag on backpacks when we travel. We express pride through our values of inclusivity, equality, diversity, sustainability, political correctness, and informality. We respect, protect, and celebrate cultural differences. Advertising that taps into Canadian values and emotional interest will make a stronger impact on your brand. 


Avoid clichés 

Clichés are a lazy attempt at claiming knowledge of a country; it's a trap that doesn't work. Reflecting Canadian values, showing an understanding of Canadian attitudes and beliefs is the better way to connect. Canadian clichés like maple syrup, beavers, Mounties, lumberjacks and poutine fall flat. Your brand can speak our language without feeling forced into visual or linguistic stereotypes when we tap into true insights. 


Beware of spill 

Depending on the media channel or time of day, Canadians consume a lot of American advertising. It can be frustrating to show up at the drive-thru only to find out that chicken nuggets aren't $5 for a dozen, or worse, not even sold in Canada. American spill causes Canadian tune-out to American advertising when they know it’s not relevant to them, making it more challenging to connect when you want to sell your product in Canada. Though of obvious importance, tailoring your message to match your product line up in Canada is often an oversight. 

 

Embrace Canadian tastes 

Ketchup potato chips, poutine, even Hershey's has its own 'Canadian' recipe. Beyond flavour and food, Canadians have a uniquely non-America taste that influences our music, culture, movies, and the brands and advertising we prefer. Just because a campaign or promotion works well in the US, does not mean it will be equally effective in Canada. Our sense of humour is more on par with the UK than the US. We laugh at misery, sarcasm, and irony. Crack the right joke and get a laugh. Get the tone wrong, and the joke's on you. 

Canadians appreciate brands who get us. Not in a stereotypical ‘let’s pour maple syrup on everything’ kind of way, but in a way that connects better with our values and emotions.   

If you’re a brand looking to enhance your position in Canada or enter the market for the first time, take the time to understand the differences in message, geography, insight, and media landscape to ensure your brand can make an impact. 

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Author: Jack Dayan, Partner and Head of Strategy at Full Punch

Full Punch, Tue, 31 Aug 2021 20:40:13 GMT