How To Put Canadian Brands Back Among The Most Influential

April 20th, 2018 | ACA Team, Association of Canadian Advertisers

This is the part two in a recap of the Ipsos Most Influential presentation. Our previous post covered the ingredients that make an influential brand, as well as how Samsung rebuilt its brand.

Photo credit: Nick Iwanyshyn

How can Canadian brands gain more influence with Canadian consumers? That was the central question tackled by three leading brand builders during a panel discussion at a recent event to reveal the Ipsos 10 most influential brands in Canada.

The list was recently unveiled at a special presentation co-sponsored by the ACA in Toronto.

The Top 10 list was dominated by global technology giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple (numbers one, two and three respectively), while Canadian brands were absent. A year ago, Tim Hortons and the CBC ranked 9th and 10th but both dropped off in 2017.

After Ipsos COO Steve Levy presented the list and Samsung CMO Mark Childs answered questions about his brand’s return to the Top 10 after a brand crisis in 2016), Patrick Dickinson, senior vice-president of marketing and brand strategy for Hudson’s Bay Company; Eva Salem, associate vice-president of strategic marketing at Canadian Tire; and Daniel Shearer, executive vice-president and general manager at Cossette, took to the stage to discuss the conspicuous absence of Canadian brands.

The importance of building strong emotional connections was a key theme of the discussion.

“Good brands meet and exceed their customer needs functionally or emotionally. Great brands do both at the exact same time,” said Shearer.

The goal has to be to develop brands that become embedded into people’s everyday lives, almost like a ritual, he said. But if that’s not possible because of a lack of budget or scale, “we at least need to kill it on the emotional side.”

While brands like Hudson’s Bay and Canadian Tire strive to reflect the Canadian experience, simply being a reflection of Canada likely will not be enough to put a brand on the most influential list.

“Canadiana for Canadiana’s sake isn’t going to get you into the top 10,” said Salem. The most influential brands are those that understand customer needs — understand what it means to live in Canada— meet those needs in effective ways and build emotional connections around that experience, he said.

The right emotional tone has to be supported with strong storytelling, added Shearer. “We are a deeply social culture, a culture of relationships. We like narrative, we like storytelling, we like nuance.”

The panellists also discussed the heavy technology focus of the most influential brands.

Photo Credit: Nick Iwanyshyn


Dickinson said HBC has been investing in e-commerce at an “accelerated rate.” But that doesn’t mean it has to become an e-commerce business.

“We don’t think we are going to be Amazon,” he said. Rather, HBC is focused on strengthening all aspects of the consumer experience — from price, product, customer services and convenience — so that its customers don’t feel the need to go to Amazon.

The philosophy is similar at Canadian Tire which has been “laying a lot of pipework” to be a more digital brand to improve its customer experiences, Salem said.

The final session of the afternoon saw representatives of the numbers one and two brands answering questions about the responsibility that comes with so much influence in consumer culture.

The conversation was particularly topical, coming just one week after news broke about Cambridge Analytica’s questionable use of Facebook data during the 2016 U.S. election.

Susan Krashinsky Robertson, the Globe and Mail’s marketing and media reporter, began the discussion by asking Nancy McConell, Head of Agency, Canada at Google, and Jake Norman, Head of Agency Development Canada at Facebook, how their companies balance shareholder responsibility with responsibility to its users and society.

Both emphasized that consumer trust is all important for their brands.
“Trust of the individual… is at the core of everything we do and monetization will follow,” said McConnell.

“The first responsibility is to the community,” said Norman, though he acknowledged that Facebook had let its members down and stressed that Facebook is “committed to building that back up over time.”