Branding Canada

What do we mean exactly when we speak of the Canadian identity? Without getting bogged down in philosophical jargon, one of the best ways to measure this is to look at how other countries view Canada. It is at that point we can detect something is wrong. The concept of Canada as a nature-haven run by Duddly Do-Right remains the prevailing perception of Canada. Is this what and who we are?

Defining this country by citing snippets of our history such as repelling the American invasion in 1812, Dr. Joe A. Naismith as the inventor of basketball, Tim Horton and 'I am Canadian' Molson beer commercials is not how we should define this country. Though part of our heritage they are not entirely useful independently in attempting to effectively define our identity.

Often we hear people complain about how Americans are ignorant about Canada. These same people would be surprised to know that the problem extends well beyond the United States. Most countries would be hard-pressed in identifying with a particular Canadian value. It is time to look not at why people know so little of us, but what we are not doing to get the message out.

Since 9/11, America has had to redefine itself as a nation. It is their ability to do so in times of distress that reveals the strength of their culture. But 9/11 does not have to restrict itself to America; it has presented a valuable opportunity for Canadians to find its own voice among the enlightened progressive nations of the world. As I write this, however, I feel we are missing the boat.

The danger of relying on "moments" in our history to help define us without a concrete body is that we become a hodge-podge of vignettes. A collage, if you will, of pieces of history. Part of the problem is Canada's relative weak ability to sell itself abroad is indeed the lack of a cohesive historical curriculum that helps to bind the country. If a country is void of its past, how can we ask it to be a confident equal among the great nations of the world? Perceptions do matter.

Living and breathing next to the most powerful single entity the world has ever known has not been easy for such a small country. Nonetheless, this is the card we have been dealt and we should play the hand with more cleverness and confidence. Can we make things right?

Many of Canada's achievements and accomplishments have gone unnoticed. In short, we are off the radar screen. Even Homer Simpson noticed this when he called Canada 'America Jr. Until then, we will continue to suffer under the umbrella of Americana. We need to break free and create a Canadiana umbrella.

One program I often listen to on the CBC is the Vinyl Cafe. I think this is a great program that helps to provide Canadians with a sense of Canadiana. It is a program that explores the vast and diverse cultural legacy in this country.

To those of you who believe in Nologos and Naomi Klein, maybe this is not for you. But for those of us who do, here's a question: With the proliferation of Canadian singers and bands on the global scene, why has not anyone thought to brand it as the Canadian invasion? If countries like the United States, Italy, France, Germany and Japan (members of the G7) all have brand name products synonymous with their respective cultures, why should not Canada?

Branding starts from the ground up. Simply, and naively, I might add, believing in Canada is not enough. You need to sell yourself. This starts with a solid background in history. Next is to clearly define what and how we want to be perceived in the world and how to develop, implement and execute the plan - moose out, fibre optics in? Rid ourselves forever of the reactionary anti-Americanism and constant navel gazing that comes with it. Maybe then we can save ourselves from expensive misguided, albeit well-intentioned, hollow government plans to brand Canada.

Canada is a talented country. It is also an insecure and fragmented society that has had the difficult task of being wedged to older great powers in Britain and the United States.

Only once we understand ourselves better and meet this with savvy marketing will others begin to appreciate us the way we want to be appreciated.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Mysterious and anonymous comments as well as those laced with cyanide and ad hominen attacks will be deleted. Thank you for your attention, chumps.