Explore Canada “gets” it!

About six months ago, Canada launched a tourism campaign called “Know Canada,” targeting Americans. We discussed why the strategy of the campaign was wrong. Here is the key argument: The campaign is based on facts, whereas “purchase decisions” are based on emotions. We also debated that the campaign was addressing to the wrong part of our brain, its cortex. Finally, we concluded that the campaign did not explain the “Canadian archetype,” and for that reason would not be really successful. Well, turns out that we are not the only ones thinking that the campaign was not enough. The Canadian Tourism Commission asked Canadians to submit home videos of their first-hand experiences in their country, in an initiative dubbed “35 Million Directors”, the citizenry responded with 65 hours of video. The result is a two-minute film from DDB Canada that’s made of user-generated clips that were voted on by Canadians called “Canada Shared by Canadians.” The result is… truly, and archetypically Canadian. See it yourself.

Let’s analyze the two campaigns and see what we can learn from their mistakes and accomplishments. Our starting point is the slogans. The original campaign’s slogan is “Know Canada.” Here is more on the idea behind it:

Canada didn’t need to be rebranded or redesigned,” explains BMD President and CEO Hunter Tura. “America needed to be educated. And that is the basis for our campaign: Know Canada.

Apparently, people who created the “Know Canada” campaign assumed that by having access to “factual” information, Americans would be convinced to visit Canada. Unfortunately, “learning” is not a message that “turns on” Americans, it might actually turn them off. In the age of knowledge that we are living in, many people already feel drowned in information. What they want is not to be taught but to safely “explore” That’s the great American archetype, right there! Think for a second: Explorers built America. Actually, most of the west coast was explored within the last 2 centuries. That’s why the Explorer spirit is still very high in the US. Do you think it is a coincidence that it was an American who landed on the moon first? Or, is it by chance that the Curiosity rover on Mars is built by NASA. Probably, Americans will be the first ones to explore microscopic extraterrestrial life (on Mars). Or, is it just a coincidence that “cool” predominantly originates from America? Have you ever though why Hollywood, the world’s myth-making capital is in the US? Or, that all the innovation comes from the Silicon Valley? These are all products of the dominant American archetype: the explorer. That’s why the slogan and the execution of the second campaign, “Explore Canada” is much more effective. It talks to the American collective unconscious.

On the next articles, we will be talking about the other stuff that the “Explore Canada” campaign did right and explain how your brand can benefit from it.

540-698 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto, ON, Canada

5 Replies to “Explore Canada “gets” it!”

  1. Recently, I was working on an assignment about campaigns that are not well researched. That’s when I came across your comments about the “Know Canada” campaign. I decided to check out the campaign for myself. Then, I asked myself three questions: “What is the purpose of this campaign? Is it to raise Americans’ awareness about Canada? How effective is it?” I do not think the “Know Canada” campaign will encourage more Americans to visit Canada or to have a better understanding of the Canadian identity.

    While the campaign’s aesthetic is great – the look and feel are beautiful – its purpose is not clear. I agree that Americans need to be better educated about Canada but, then, I also believe Americans need to be more informed about what is happening around the world. However, that is another issue – and blog.
    Thank you for your posting. It has helped me to think more deeply about identity and brands and their purposes.

    By the way, I came to Canada a few years ago, too.


    1. Soydanbay – 540-698 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto, ON, Canada – I am a passionate brand consultant who has a rare ability to combine rational thinking and creative intelligence. I give my clients the freedom to express their brands and deliver compelling customer experiences. I love branding. Actually I am obsessed with it.
      Soydanbay says:

      Thanks for reading the article and commenting here Marcela.

      When we first saw this campaign, a strategist that I very much respect told me: “Any communication that assumes that the other party needs to be educated is ill advised.” I concur!

      In case you would like to read more on my thoughts about placebranding, please feel free to click here: http://soydanbay.com/category/brand-strategy/place-branding-brand-strategy/

      Glad to be connected!


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