brand value

What do we want Made in Canada to mean to consumers?

Made In Canada Enamel Sign

‘Economic Action Plan 2014 announces that a private sector steering committee will be established to lead the development of a “Made-in-Canada” consumer awareness campaign.

‘…To help address the interests of consumers and highlight the quality and range of Canadian products, as we compete in more diverse export markets, the Government will undertake consultations with the private sector to develop a “Made-in-Canada” branding campaign…’

As a proud Canadian, my right-off-the-top-of-my-head reaction to this proposed campaign is wildly enthusiastic.  After all, we are most excellent shooters of pucks, drinkers of beer and extractors of petroleum.  We are growers of wheat, sayers of  “I’m sorry” and exporters of Arctic air masses.  We are Canadians and right now, at least, our national identity is about our success at hockey and freestyle athletes who spend much of their time in the air, upside down.  But this is more than own the podium.  This is a sustainable increase in sales.

The first of my whole cranium full of questions about this campaign has to do with who we are targeting.    The stated purpose is consumer awareness.  But to me, any Made in Canada program has to win the hearts and will of both manufacturers and their customers who each must believe that a Made in Canada logo will add cachet to whatever they’re trying to sell.   As Canadians, we love our country.  We’re proud of our country.  But, we’re also savvy enough to realize that a Made in Canada program has to stand for something beyond red mittens and waving the flag.

If we’re consulted at Spyder Works, and I hope we are, my first concern would be confusing Canada-the-country with Canada-the-manufacturer, exporter and purveyor of customer satisfaction.   Which positive attributes of a successful country contribute to the positive attributes of a brand?  Do Canadian companies reflect where they live?  And another question I have is whether Made in Canada is the same as Imagined in Canada ?  We have increasingly become a knowledge economy but many of our inventions, inspirations and innovations are actually made in China, or Mexico, or India.

If we are to put aside the Olympic celebration and ask what Canada really stands for, what are we really selling here?  On the plus side, we are an inclusive and diverse society that makes an honest effort to take compassionate care of our citizens.  We are brave peacekeepers.  We are well educated, creative and open-minded.  We are home to many well known global brands in many different categories like Lululemon, Roots, G Adventures, Bombardier, Blackberry, Agrium and Magna.   We are friendly and polite.  We are active and activists.

We talk a lot about innovation, but I don’t think the world necessarily notices.  But maybe, most noteworthy of all, with a population of 34 million, we are not a big country.  We are not Walmart or Home Depot.  We are more like a boutique with a hundred locations and we are not going to undersell anyone.  Maybe that’s what we need to talk about.  What is it about our Made in Canada boutique and Made in Canada logo that could excite our own Canadian companies, Canadian consumers and the rest of the world?

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Will Your Next Hire Help Your Brand or Hurt Your Brand?

In our day-to-day lives, we have all had memorable moments when we’ve had wonderful, helpful service and also occasions where customer service was so dreadful that we’ve wondered what the company was thinking when they hired this person.

As a marketer, my job is to think strategically and creatively on my clients’ behalf and recommend design, communications and customer experience opportunities to help them build their brands.  So, why am I about to stick my nose into the human resource department?  Because often your human resource team members may be disenfranchised during the branding process even though they’re the people who are hiring and indoctrinating your brand ambassadors.  They’re also the keepers and distributors of your corporate culture and behaviours, essential building blocks of your brand.  Kim Vogel, an experienced strategist says  “When HR is closely partnered with the business it creates consistency of message, produces company alignment and leverages an organization’s people resources to their fullest potential.”

So, how do you include human resources in the branding process?

First… encourage them to hire people whose values mirror your brand values.  Your recruiters are often at the mercy of job descriptions which emphasize credentials ahead of character.  Just because someone has a Fortune 500 company on her resume doesn’t make her a good fit with your culture or brand.

Second… support HR with internal communication that’s as well thought out as your external messaging.  After all, your employees are the ones who have to make your brand come alive on the front lines as they work with your customers.  There’s nothing that can kill a communications campaign faster than lax execution.  Let everyone in your organization know that they have skin in the game when it comes to branding.  And third… encourage dialogue between the people who communicate your brand and the people who deliver the brand experience.  They’re the employees who are closest to your customers.  When they have the tools to excel, so will your brand.

With the recent addition of Kim Vogel to the Spyder Works thought leadership team, look for more posts and blogs on strategic people practices in the near future.

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What do ‘most hated’ brands have in common?

Worst Brands

I recently read a list of America’s least favourite brands on msn.com and was surprised that all ten of them are either financial institutions or communications providers?  But, should I be surprised?  What kind of evil do financial institutions, cable, satellite and cell phone carriers have in common that ticks off so many of us?

It’s the fine print.   When a company woos you to enter a relationship with promises in 16 point type, and then hits you with cancellation fees, service charges and conditions in teeny tiny 4 point type, it’s not surprising that you might suffer from a little read rage.

I know that these love them or hate them brand lists proliferate and aren’t all exactly what you’d called peer-reviewed, but they do give us a window into consumer discontent, which in the world of social media is an increasingly explosive performance indicator.  Unhappy customers now have the technology to tell their 30 friends and 30,000 browsers on the web about their bad experiences.

A representative of the msn.com bottom ten companies might remind us that the terms and conditions for cable, credit cards, satellite TV, bank accounts and mobile devices are clearly spelled out.  And legally, I suppose that’s completely accurate.  But I’m talking about building brands, not court cases.  I’m talking about consumer expectations.  And when you surprise consumers with leg hold traps in the fine print, you end up with a relationship that’s headed for the rocks.

So, what would I recommend to a financial services or communication provider client?  I’d suggest that three years isn’t a long term relationship.  Aim for a life-long relationship.  And don’t think of a cancellation fee as a source of revenue but rather a financial settlement of a divorce with a consumer who’s never coming back.  Contracts may bind us together legally, but they don’t really keep us together.  The only thing that does that is wanting to be together.   The same principal applies in branding.  You may have a contract with your customers, but if they’re unhappy, you’re sleeping on the couch.

 

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