Is there a formula for becoming an iconic Canadian brand?

What business leaders across the country say about connecting with audiences through brand.

Originally published for the launch of the Interbrand 150 Iconic Canadian Brands report as part of a series in the Globe and Mail.

If the thought of becoming an iconic brand feels slightly overwhelming, here are some ideas from featured brands that might get you thinking differently about starting that journey.

1. Tell stories that make your customer the hero.

You can sell the greatest yoga pants in the world, but get them believing in the transformative power of yoga and you’ve made a real impact on Canadians. “Our goal is to inspire Canadians of all backgrounds to elevate their lives through the power of practice, which has been at the core of lululemon’s brand and culture since its inception 20 years ago,” says Duke Stump, executive vice-president of brand and community at lululemon athletica. “Story telling is fundamental in unlocking possibility and imagination”.


2. Stand for your customers’ values

Nothing’s more iconic – or cherished – than Canada’s natural landscape, which is why Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) decided early on to define itself as more than a provider of camping gear.

“Our value is to inspire and enable people to lead active lifestyles and get outside,” notes CEO David Labistour. “Doing so goes beyond the quality of the products to providing clinics in stores to develop specific skills, the advice of our staff, our repair and maintenance service, and partnerships with like-minded organizations. Our products and our services and our purpose are driven and aligned to this large, great beautiful land mass we all live on.”

According to Matt McGlynn, RBC’s vice-president of brand marketing, being iconic is also a matter of how well an organization can scale or grow, its longevity and its community presence. Take RBC’s “Someday” marketing campaign, which Mr. McGlynn describes as being “all about allowing and empowering people to achieve their dreams, [whether they’re] an Olympic athlete [or] an everyday client.”


3. Forge partnerships that create impact

Mackenzie Investments, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is the platinum sponsor of the True Patriot Love Scotiabank Mackenzie Expedition, a re-creation of the last leg of explorer Alexander Mackenzie’s monumental journey through British Columbia. The endeavor is a partnership with the TPL Foundation, a national charity whose mission is to inspire every Canadian to contribute to the resilience and well-being of Canada’s military and veterans as well as their families.

David Faassen, senior vice-president of marketing at Mackenzie Investments, will participate in the two-week journey, along with other business leaders and soldiers. Following in Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s footsteps echoes in the company’s motto – “confidence in a changing world” – and supports its purpose. “It’s going to be worth it,” Mr. Faassen enthuses.


4. Champion uniquely Canadian experiences

While many of the iconic Canadian brands connect themselves to a specific national experience, Rocky Mountaineer – an aspiring Interbrand 150 brand – champions unique adventures in the also iconic Canadian Rockies.

“Reflecting who Canadians are has always been a trademark of the most iconic brands,” notes Monique Gomel, the rail-tour company’s vice-president of global marketing and communications. Rocky Mountaineer, which offers railway tours in Western Canada and the U.S. state of Washington, complements the scenery with superior service and dining.

“These are people who’ve always dreamed of seeing the Rocky Mountains,” says Ms. Gomel. “It’s on their must-do list.” Rocky Mountaineer not only takes them there, but also offers the best of local cuisine and staff to provide a high level of service.”


5. Embrace continuous evolution

Known for creating some of the grandest, most immersive movie-going experiences imaginable, IMAX has created technology that has revolutionized filmmaking. But even as it celebrates 50 years in business, President Mark Welton says success is essentially a matter of maintaining an innovative mindset.

At TELUS, one of the keys to its success has been staying consistent with its social purpose of improving the lives of Canadians and maintaining its focus on putting customers first. While the technology it provides is constantly evolving, the company continues to focus its efforts and investments in areas that will make a meaningful impact on Canadians’ lives such as community investment, health care technology, the environment and education.

“If you always have customers at the core of what you do, you’ll always be relevant,” said Simone Lumsden, vice president of Brand and Customer Experience Marketing, adding that the company not only puts a high value on measuring its sentiment with Canadians, but its employees. “Our team members are the embodiment of our brand. Our social purpose is delivered by the actions of our team and how they engage with our customers and their communities every day.”


To read more about the report click here and to see the full Iconic Canadian Brands series in the Globe and Mail click here


Photo: Copyright 2012 IMAX Corporation. 


Managing Director, Interbrand Canada