Why ‘Know Canada’ Tourism Campaign Flopped

The following is a blog that I just had to re-post. It is written by branding specialist, Soydanbay. It discusses Canada’s recent rebranding campaign and why the approach taken was wrong.


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 were not alone thinking that the campaign was not good. 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.

Clearly, 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 strong 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.


Günter Soydanbay

Brand Strategist (514) 882-9646

gunter@soydanbay.com ; Twitter: GunterSoydanbay

230 Chemin du Golf Apt.513, H3E 2A8, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


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