Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Canadian marketing challenge

It’s a beautiful Canada Day today and I am feeling great!

Canada is a fantastic place to live and do business, but I would not consider us to be a leader in marketing. But I’m determined to change that. Someday, I will start a new Canadian marketing agency and bring attention and significance our country, specifically Toronto, as a cluster of marketing innovation. It’ll be a challenge, no doubt, but here are a few key reasons why I feel that Canada has the potential to be a world leader in marketing:

Diversity is our strength

Look around at all the talent and perspectives brought to Canada by individuals from different parts of the world. Think too about how these are the best and brightest from around the world and that Canadians don’t accept a whole lot of negative cultural baggage upon arrival. I’ve said before that the stability and domestic peace is a defining aspect of the Canadian identity. For excellence in marketing, this means a tremendous opportunity to innovate and learn through concerted action and policy. Diversity in the workplace and in the marketplace forces marketers to be even more effective at driving relevance to consumers.

We are highly technological

Sure sure, we’re only now getting the iPhone, but think about how technologically savvy Canadians are in nearly every way. Canada has the second highest broadband penetration in the world (after South Korea) and Canadians engage in many varied actions online. We do online banking, downloading, streaming, IMing, FBing, and share videos, among others. It’s the fact that these online behaviors have permeated home, school, and workplace that gives Canada an advantage in marketing. The lessons learned here about new media and the emerging techniques marketers are using to develop relationships with technologically-smart consumers are applicable worldwide. You could say that Canada is riding the very crest of this wave.

We consume
God do we ever consume. We consume and pollute at some of the highest per capita levels anywhere in the world. With so much consumption comes a challenge to marketers for their product to occupy a greater share of the consumer’s wallet. As super-consumers, Canadians are also adept at filtering out unwanted or unnecessary marketing messages. This is not to say that we’re unresponsive, since Canadians have very intense relationships with marketers they trust (think Air Miles with a reach of 70% of the Canadian population). At least it’s a good thing that Canada has a lead in database marketing to capture all of this spending information!

But we still need a determined industrial policy to support the creation of knowledge-based, not skills-based work. Canada’s manufacturing and heavy industry economy is turning a corner in its evolution and will unlikely ever return to the vitality it had after the nation’s post-war boom. New industrial policy must support innovation in the technology, medical, and artistic sectors. Strength in these industries spins off growth in related and supporting industries, including marketing.

So those are my thoughts on our country’s 141st birthday. That is my pledge to make Canada a better place.

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