The Canada brand is incredibly hip—and right now, it’s the envy of the world.

But what exactly is our brand? You could say that it reflects the values and traits that speak to what Canada has to offer. According to The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, we rank first in the G7 in terms of overall living conditions and quality of life, democracy, economic freedom, social progress and overall reputation. We have the most educated workforce among OECD countries. In 2015, Canada had the best reputation among citizens of other nations.

These are impressive facts, but stories are more memorable.

Canada’s story is that we’ve become a place with a conscience, a place that’s inclusive and accommodating, and whose people are willing to listen to each other’s points of view. We’re committed to multiculturalism, which means we’re open to new ideas and new influences—an openness that can lead to innovation. We look out for each other. We feel that being polite is a virtue, and we put keeping peace above making war. We look after people in war-torn countries and give them a home.

We’re seen as abiding by some pretty great shared values. And, in a world with walls going up and long-held values under siege, that can really stick out.

Creating a competitive advantage

From a brand perspective, the world has shifted. We used to tell the world what we produced—computers, cars, wheat. But it’s no longer enough just to tell the world what you make. You have to tell them why. You have to tell them that you stand for something more. It’s a shift from value to values.

This is an opportunity for exporters to use the Canada brand to their advantage.

Aligning with the Canada brand demonstrates that you’re a progressive company. It says you believe in equal rights and support fair labour practices. It says your customers can benefit from a politically and financially stable country with a well-educated workforce. That your supply chain is unlikely to be interrupted by upheaval of any kind. It shows that your products have proven themselves valuable to people of all nationalities who live right here in Canada. And, just as important, it speaks to your capacity for inclusivity and innovation, which leads to better products and better relationships.

It’s sort of un-Canadian to bang a drum. But in my opinion, our exporters should spend as much time telling others why they do things as they spend on talking about what they do. We want to be polite and self-effacing and play down success, but I think that as companies, we should step up and declare ourselves Canadian.

I also think that as a country, we’re coming of age. And I have to believe that leveraging the Canada brand can translate into opportunities for growth.

After all, the world clearly likes what it sees.

Click here to learn more about 150 Years of Canadian Innovation

Neil McOstrich is Co-Founder and Chief Storytelling Officer at Cleansheet Communications, a creative ad agency in Toronto. To see Neil’s stories that leverage the Canada brand, click herehere and here. Neil can be reached at