Marketing with patriotism is like walking a tightrope across Niagra Falls. It‘s a narrow, slippery path.
Take the country’s clichés too far and you’re teetering on the edge of irrelevance (and embarrassment).
Venture too far toward neutrality and you might miss out on potential rewards in consumer engagement, reputation building and sales that can come with celebrating your country.
Regardless of your approach, make sure you get your cultural facts right – etiquette, traditions, connotations. Test out your approach on a local. They can tell you if you’re hitting the right note.
What’s perfectly acceptable in North America may be offensive in India, or just plain wrong. You don’t want to be that company.
If you’re marketing to Canadians, there are several beloved but overused symbols you’re going to need to work hard to de-cliché.
- Mounties – Used and abused via Mountie-themed plush toys, mugs and other tchotchkes since 1920
- Loons – What do they even do?
- Beavers and moose – Pretty much owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company since 1670
- Hockey – Pretty much owned by Tim Horton’s since Tim Horton
- Beer – Pretty much owned by Molson since this commercial
- The CBC – Dutifully airing Can-con (Canadian content) since 1936
- Tommy Douglas – Introduced universal health care
- Poutine – A symbol that’s used, but not used enough, in our opinion
- The National Film Board of Canada and our shared experiences watching NFB shorts on CBC
- Our artists and musicians – Douglas Coupland, Joni Mitchell, Justin Bieber (C’mon. Why not?)
- Mountains – They’ve been used lots in marketing, but they’re so darn beautiful and we’ve got plenty to go around
- Canadian stereotypes: The prototypical Torontonian, Vancouverite, Calgarian, Montrealer, etc. Make sure to make fun of everyone equally and in good humour
- Experiences that unite us: The monarchy, camping, the cold, multiculturalism, making fun of Americans
- The North – Down in the provinces we don’t hear much about life in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Tell us a story
Run with it.
Canadians generally don’t respond well to a “rah rah rah“ approach to patriotism. Whoever decided on B.C.‘s short-lived slogan, “The Best Place on Earth,“ must have not noticed Canadians‘ fundamental bashfulness. Instead, try taking a humorous approach. Tell lesser known stories. We have lots.
Recent ads by Sleeman Brewery, based in Guelph, Ontario, highlight the less-than-law-abiding history, including bootlegging, that makes their beer “notoriously good.“