Corporate Canada a no show in latest list of top 20 brands

Canadian cities, Canadian health care, hell we’re even hitting the top spots at the winter olympics – Canada seems to do pretty well when it comes to worldwide rankings. But one list I’d love to see us crack is the top 20 brands in the world. Here is the most recent list. Google just bounced Apple from the top spot. But the day we have a Canadian company there then i’ll really know we’re punching above our weight. This depends on Canadian businesses truly reaching for scale, but also taking big bets and making long term plays. So for all you CEO’s doing your 5 year vision planning, whose got cracking this top 20 on their corporate bucket list?

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Why this ScotiaBank ad sucks – and how to make it awesome.

Air travel these days is unpleasant. Long lines, rigid rules, fees for everything. There’s no respect for the traveller anymore. And it seems that ScotiaBank has jumped right on the band wagon with these view obstructing ads plastered all over the windows in Calgary’s airport.

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They’re the equivalent of real life pop-up ads. But worse because you can’t close or remove the damn things. So even if you clear security early, and want to sit down for a minute and rest and just enjoy the view – you’ve got to strain your gaze a little to the right or left. Because Scotiabank has dropped giant credit card stickers on the windows.

Now this campaign could have been done much differently. And I think better. The pitch here is for Scotiabank’s air travel rewards card that let’s you earn air miles 4x faster. Great, ties in well with their “you’re richer than you think” tagline. And this is where the opportunity lies. The message about earning points 4x faster is on the escalator. See… Speed. The escalator is faster than walking. And that is not only a literal, experiencial connection to the benefit of the product – it is actually a benefit to anyone travelling through the airport. Who doesn’t want to get to their boarding gate faster? Or to the nearest washroom, if that happens to be the goal.

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What would have made this campaign awesome would have been to completely brand one of the two escalators that run side by side though the terminal. Have one run at 4x the speed of the escaltor beside it. Or have it run at 4x the speed of typical walking speed. Now we get it. We get on the ScotiaBank escalator and ZIP we’re travelling 4x faster than everyone else. Makes us feel special. Generates goodwill.

Not like the pseudo-popup ads on the windows. That’s just annoying. About 4x more annoying than an add that isn’t blocking my view.

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What’s next for Canadian boot maker La Canadienne?

bottesI first heard about La Canadienne in this Globe and Mail article a couple weeks ago. Like the iconic Canada Goose brand, La Canadienne manufactures their product here in Canada and started out providing non-branded product to organizations like the Canadian military. Also in common with Canada Goose is that La Canadienne focuses on high quality, high value product.

La Canadienne is interesting because they have only 1 retail store. So what’s the next step in the company’s growth? Will they open more stores?

If we take the analogy of Canada Goose as a road map then no, they won’t open more retail outlets and don’t need to. But wouldn’t it be a refreshing change if the brand was able to extend itself further. There is a world of difference between, say, Roots and Canada Goose. I’d like to see La Canadienne evolve into a Roots. And in my opinion expanding the number of retail outlets is key. After all, the brand is an experience, and brick and mortar offers a unique way for customers to experience the brand. Apple is a great example of a company that leveraged the powerful combination of an amazing product experience with an amazing in store experience.

La Canadienne will probably maintain its relatively narrow focus and continue to be very successful at what they do. But I hope the future holds something bigger.

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Startup to Watch: Vancouver’s PayWith

mobile paymentsVancouver start-up PayWith is a startup to watch. Their software enables consumers to pay for purchases with their cell phones – and offers merchants tools to track customer habits in order to build and reward loyal customers. The question is whether this can scale, or if it will turn out to be just a gimmick. Time will tell.

Here is an excerpt from a recent article on PayWith from the Vancouver Sun:

“If mobile payments are the Holy Grail of the Internet, Vancouver’s PayWith is well armed for the crusade.

But it’s software, not hardware, that the Vancouver start-up is bringing to the battle to win over merchants and consumers, so don’t expect to see any gadgets at the checkout.

Instead, PayWith has put all the changes into the customer’s smartphone with mCard, a mobile app for iPhones and Android smartphones that generates a one-time-use card number to pay the bill. Your credit or debit card details never show up as part of the transactions, protecting them against card hackers or other fraud artists.”

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If you thought Amazon’s entry into grocery means your online grocery business is screwed, you couldn`t be more wrong.

sharkAmazon has a reputation for disrupting categories. The online retailer is right up there with Apple in terms of brand power and reputation for innovation and vision. So when they enter a new category, I think it`s a safe bet that traditional companies in the category get a little, well, freaked out.

But what does Amazon`s foray into the Canadian grocery market really mean for Canada`s grocery retailers?

First of all, for any of the major Canadian brands thinking of competing in this arena I think it`s a huge concern, but only if you buy the idea that online grocery is going to grow. Now, I`ve seen the future (ie. Japan, where it`s common to order grocery items, including scotch which I took full advantage of on my last trip this May). And if the future is like Japan, then online grocery is a category that is only in still in it`s infancy in Canada. Like mobile and online shopping it will grow. Anyone watching the ecommerce space closely would buy that. But maybe not a brick and mortar retailer.

And therin lies the danger. Amazon`s brand, cutting through the consumer chatter like shark fin, belies a hungry and aggressive animal with a brand that has massive consumer confidence and serious marketing chops. If the category needs to grow, and is ripe for growth, then Amazon will be the company to do it. And in doing so they will emmerge as the top brand.

So is everybody but Amazon screwed in this scenario?

No. Online grocers who focus selling on organic products, particularly parishables such as fresh produce, meat and dairy may not be screwed at all. For them, Amazon may in fact be their saviour.

See, Amazon has the power to grow consumer`s acceptance of online grocery and home delivery. But people who buy organic are looking for more than just a low price and convenience. They want to buy local. They want a brand that is trusted to invest the community.

So as more people stop shunning digital grocery shopping those who want to buy organic will also be looking for the alternatives to Amazon. Right now, there are no strong brands who can fit that need. Enter the local organic delivery service – like SPUD, or Green Earth Organics.

If our local organic home delivery service is smart, they`ll seriously step up their marketing game to keep their brand at the top of the `organic` pile while keeping pace with category growth.

And if they added a few single malts to their product line-up they might even get a few extra customers. Just sayin`.

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Hey Justin Trudeau – Canada’s tech industry needs you bro

Tech startups are notoriously dominated by men. Bro’s. Aloof skinny-jeaned dudes with beards and bed head hacking the internet for the next big business opportunity.

This image contrasts with the exhaustingly conservative corporate Canada. So it’s no wonder that there is a vacuum at the federal and provincial level when it comes to tech. But hold on, there’s new kid in town.

Yes, I said kid.

He’s an advocate of marijuana and he’s aloof enough that, put him in a pair of skinny jeans, he might just pass for a senior programmer at Hootsuite.

Of course I’m talking about Justin Trudeau.

Taking a page out of Obama’s playbook, Justin is trying to do 2 things right now – 1) clearly differentiate himself from Harper 2) get people to vote who otherwise wouldn’t vote (since he won’t win over many conservatives he needs to activate more closet liberals). And when it comes to getting people to vote he is aiming at younger voters and divisive issues.

Who better than to champion a new era in Canada’s tech industry?

With Blackberry on the ropes we need someone who can kick corporate Canada in the loose fitting slacks and get them to see the value in investing in tech.

Justin just might be the dude to do it.

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Innovation eh?

Canada’s productivity is declining and as a recent article in Backbone Magazine details we’re not exactly leading the pack in innovation.

The article describes a common business scenario in Canada: entrepeneur has a good idea, it catches on, then they sell out.

Why?

It’s not just for the cash. We actually lack the systems and, maybe, the culture to grow businesses beyond the small to mid enteprise size.

It’s something I’ve noticed in Vancouver for sure. Nevermind legacy software or IT infrastructure – the whole market seems to be trapped in one legacy system or another, making piecemeal investments to upgrade. And even where there is an infrastructure improvement, the skill set is not there to support it. And even when the skill set is there, there isn’t a vision from the top.

Fundementally, there is a legacy mindset in Canada that is conservative and tinged with arrogance that may be a fatal flaw as the world quickly evolves to a place where consumers demand better experiences and industry disruption becomes more common. No wonder shoppers flock to the US, or that Blackberry didn’t see the iPhone coming.

But our markets remain relatively sheltered from competition. There is no sense of urgency, just a slow bleed at the lower end of the income scale. But this is slowly creeping up through the workforce. Canada’s global competitiveness is not keeping pace with change. We still have oil, and lumber, and minerals, and natural gas. And that goes a long way. But it isn’t something we’re creating. It doesn’t require a smarter economy. We can only lower the environmental standards for so long. Eventually the oil well will dry up.

Though there’s always water export, eh?

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