It’s been said that the Canadian brand has an identity crisis. We’re often defined not by what we are, but by what we aren’t, and our predicament is aggravated by the fact that we Canadians are just too, well, Canadian. Unlike our neighbours to the south, we don’t often stand up and make speeches about how great our country and our people are.
We are humble. We work hard. We go about our business in an efficient and quiet manner—traits we share, aptly enough, with our national symbol, the beaver. But given the ongoing uncertainty south of the border, these exact traits present the Canadian business community with an opportunity to radically differentiate itself from the label that is too often applied to Canada: U.S. lite.
A compelling Canada brand attracts customers the world over to buy and invest in Canada, it is a source of confidence for Canadians – a key ingredient to successfully competing in global markets – and it can co-ordinate governments across Canada around what we want to be.
We’re not just about hockey and maple syrup. Canada is developing a unique and growing brand on the global stage, yet Canadian companies remain unaware of the strengths and the competitive advantage this can offer.
Here are the top international perceptions of the Canadian brand around the globe:
1) Land of natural resources and open spaces
2) Resource rich
3) Good reputation
Land of clean, pristine natural spaces
The maple leaf is a great brand. People in South Korea, China and India love Canadian products and they love Canadian companies. To them, there’s something novel about imported products. It’s a bit of reverse engineering. For us, everything it seems is made in China. People in China love products made in Canada.
Is Canada’s country brand being tarnished by the oil sands brand? I don’t believe that. People I meet know Canada as much for our snow and outdoor sports as the oil sands. Every time someone in the U.S. Congress says something negative, it gets major press in Canada and no press in the United States. We are just hypersensitive. The world sees us more holistically than that.
While Canada leads the world in external perceptions as a great place to study or visit, the research shows we can improve the perception of the nation as a business destination and desirable investment environment.
We really did create things that the rest of the world adopted. You can’t help but be proud to be a Canadian.
The opportunity for Canada (in terms of agri-food) is a result of our good governance, the high quality of our ingredients, the diversity of foods that we produce and process, and where we add value to meet those needs.
We study history to learn from our past so we can help shape our future. The lesson of our history is clear and points the way to future economic prosperity and success: Canada has relied on diversity and immigration to build a prosperous economy and will continue to do so in the years ahead.
Canada should seek to be the most global country on earth. We should be the globalists. If an organization has an international acronym, we should be a member and be making a contribution.
Why do we want this reputation for resourcefulness? If you need a watch, the world knows, you go to Switzerland. If you want precise engineering, bring in the Germans. If you want a ship built, Korea is best. We want the world to think: If you’ve got a tough problem and need ingenuity and imagination to solve it, don’t look to the Swedes, Chinese or Americans, call in the Canadians (even if “American ingenuity” gets 52 times more Google hits than “Canadian ingenuity”) and, by the way, pay us well.
Canadians are really nice people and we have a reputation for that around the globe. The rest of the world loves to deal with Canadians, so my advice is ‘kill them with kindness’ and go beyond. When our team is on site we are a shining light and everyone knows we are a Canadian company—our uniforms have little Canadian flags on them—and people love us. We help brand Canadian quality. Just like you want your Ferrari from Italy, you want your wine cellar coming from Canada, and that’s how we are trying to brand ourselves. If you want the best of the best, it’s coming from Canada.
I think our strong reputation… has a lot to do with Canada’s global brand. Canada is perceived globally as this beautiful, pure, wide-open place, so when Koreans think Canada they think fresh air, clean waters and sweeping golden prairies. I think that translates into how Koreans think about our food, because Canadian fish are pulled from those pristine waters, and crops are grown in those picturesque fields. That certainly has an impact.