Thank you _________
Hello everyone. And to Marketing. Happy 100th Birthday.
SLIDE TAXI 100th birthday ad
I have spent 25 of those years in this industry.
It was a different industry back in 1983 at JWT Montreal where I started as a junior art director.
For instance, everyone smoked like chimneys - including our petite receptionist Caroline. I remember her having the same voice as I did. JWT Bonjour - un instant.
And of course our industry has dramatically changed since then. Due in large part to the dramatic advancements in science and technology Take a look at the most powerful personal computer in 1983.
Le Model 16 from Radio Shack. It was expensive at 7299$ but well worth the power of 128K
This Microwave oven was located in the accounting department.
A quick conversion of price to power tells me my current laptop would have been worth about 72 million dollars at that scale.
The designer in me loves iconography so I’ve distilled the last 25 years of scientific advancement down to —- two images.
Here’s the first SLIDE: Jackson 1983
And here’s the second. SLIDE: Jackson 2008
This is also concrete evidence that clients should not being doing their own creative. The great and oft ignored lesson of the last century.
And by the way, this evolution is not over. Here’s my prediction for 2012.
SLIDE: JOAN RIVERS
The one thing that has not changed about our job descriptions in the last 25 years is our mandate.
And that is to build the framework for turning products and services into instruments of competitive advantage.
I have had the pleasure of working on some great brands and creating others from scratch.
But there is one brand I’ve really had a passion for and have thought a lot about over the years.
It is a brand I love dearly and one that has been, I believe, poorly managed.
That brand is Canada.
CHAPTER TWO: WHY CELERY DOESN’T CUT IT
Some people say you cannot brand a country as geographically and culturally diverse as Canada. There are too many variables for one brand message to say it all.
Others presume branding is the superficial and mercantile exercise of slapping a logo and a slogan on to something, and for a country that is just wrong.
And others just hate the idea of branding altogether.
A couple of years ago I was in a Starbucks in San Francisco and. A guy in front of me asked for a medium coffee and the perky cashier responded gleefully with, “you mean a grande latte” There was a pause and the customer replied with real venom, “ Listen lady, I don’t speak brand.”
For the purpose of this discussion and to skirt these negative perceptions, let’s replace the word ‘brand’. Another word with the same intent is ‘reputation’.
Every country has a reputation. It is formed by a host of impressions, political, commercial and social. Some of those impressions are carefully orchestrated - and some of course beyond control.
Canada’s reputation is often ill defined in the minds of our global neighbours – and even ourselves. I believe this is because we have not managed our reputation attentively, or with shared purpose. We have allowed the diversity of Canada to define Canada in broken fragments according to short-term tactics, not long-term goals.
Without a singular clear vision, as we know, default to describing ourselves by what we are not.
We become as Mike Myers suggests, the essence of not being.
“ Not British, not American, it is the mathematic of not being. And a subtle flavor - we’re more like celery as a flavor.”
Jean-Marie Dru, Author of Disruption, writes about the dangers of putting too much emphasis on negative comparison “If you define yourself or your product by counterpoint alone, you risk appearing hollow, meaningless.”
Canadian author Will Ferguson writes: “We should be setting our standards by who we are and what we could be … not by what we are not.”
But as marketers we know that. And we would never manage one of our client’s brands like that.
We also know that when we don’t actively define a brand – others step in and fill in the blanks with their own pre-existing definitions – usually outdated clichés, or worse nothing at all.
There is one consistent theme to all the research I’ve read on international perceptions of Canada and it can be summed up by this image.
Blank. Canada is not a country you think of.
On behalf of the Canadian International Council, Robert Greenhill wrote a significant and well researched report on Canada’s reputation entitled, ‘Making a Difference.’ Those interviewed were not the usual suspects but highly qualified to bring a global perspective to their responses, individuals like Jeffry Sachs and Henry Kissinger.
Here’s a sobering quote that sums up one of the key findings of the report.
“Where has Canada made a significant difference over the past 20 years? Nothing comes to mind.”
Robert Greenhill’s point was that with a quarter of a trillion dollars spent in the last twenty years on diplomacy, defense and international development you would expect Canada to have made a bigger difference than say smaller countries with fewer resources like Sweden or Ireland.
A case of spreading ourselves too thin. Or as one person said, “You are basically everywhere and nowhere”—and strategically directionless.”
A reputation starts with a clear sense of identity and collective sense of purpose. Our reputation should be our brand promise to both the world and ourselves.
Defining and rolling out a brand reputation for Canada is a monumental task. I have asked myself, is this an exercise worth doing?
Being nebulous and anonymous with a celery flavor hasn’t done any harm - Or has it?
As marketers, we know that when a brand has focus it becomes a contender. It has a competitive edge.
Obviously Canada cannot afford not to be competitive.
Our long-term prosperity, and our ability to pay for the social programs and public services that we value so highly depend on our ability to compete effectively on a global scale.
According to the ( link - http://www.conferenceboard.ca/ ) Conference Board of Canada’s 2008 report Canada has underperformed against almost all metrics for competitiveness.
We receive “B” grades on our economic, education,
and social performance,
And worse, we get “C”s for environmental performance and health, and a “D” for depressing on innovation.
Beyond a dull edge to our competitiveness, Canada’s lack of focus and nebulous image can have negative social consequences.
For instance, at the last referendum there was no purposeful Canadian idea in favor of Canadian unity brought to the debate. It was all scare tactics. Once again definition through a negative. The message was NON!
SLIDE : NON!
And like a confused parent, using the slap then hug approach, we then poured into Quebec by the busload imploring, please don’t leave. We love you.
In that vote, this country was one percentage point away from becoming severed states. A high price to pay for weak reputation management.
With a kack of a clear definition among Canadians several generations old, what can we expect in a Canada whose population growth is defined by immigration?
Enough about the issue. What about the opportunity?
The good news. We are working with a blank slate.
SLIDE : BLANK
What if there was an idea that articulated clearly what Canada is today and what our ambitions are for tomorrow?
What if that idea engaged Canadians and enhanced our values, our standards and our productivity?
An idea all Canadians naturally wanted to be part of – whether from Ste Foy or Saskatoon - or born in Shanghai.
CHAPTER THREE: OUTING CANADA
I am talking about turning a page in our history, a turning point that can affect our future. I believe there is an untapped opportunity to bring significant social, economic and even environmental benefits to Canada.
It is a project I call OUTING CANADA
Outing Canada is not a rebrand but a relaunch of Canada’s brand.
It is about getting organized to create the conditions for updating Canada’s reputation in an authentic, contemporary and relevant manner. One that is more in line with our ambitions and that brings visibility and opportunity.
A prerequisite to this exercise is answering three key questions.
SLIDE: Who? What? How?
1-Who should lead the effort?
2-What is the compelling idea or essence that will galvanise the majority
3-How can we bring this to life in a tangible and visible way?
1- Who should lead the effort?
Let’s identify the players, their roles and the process that could lead to action and results
The first step is as basic as getting organized. It has been a key obstatcle to date.
Canada’s reputation management has been left to chance and been a victim of inertia. That’s because the government bodies charged with the task have fallen short of fully grasping or accepting the potential of what an exercise in reputation management could accomplish.
Government has not demonstrated the aptitude to lead but they have a key role to play, as a facilitator. And it must start at the top.
We need buy in from a Prime Minister who understands and believes in the ROI or this initiative.
We need support through government policy, and by opening doors.
The skills to lead this initiative are rich in our industry and I believe we should grab it. The benefits are obvious:
We spend a lot of time money and energy promoting our industry. This initiative would be the best and most visible case study on the intellectual value we can bring to a brand.
It would be a great recruitment tool for our industry
A role for education would be to provide the stimulent or the necessary R&D.
Lastly, and critically, the private sector’s role is that of accelerator.
Canadian business has the energy and resources to get results. They afterall are those who have the most to gain. We need 10 great companies to make that difference and get this thing rolling.
2- What should we rally around?
We all know that a reputation comes to life through its consistency and through celebration. We need a single focal point. A postioning that could be the root of a host of independent projects that blossom together into a halo effect.
I would like to share a positioning developed by TAXI.
This is the criteria we used:
1- A positioning that fits our national character and can resonate with who we are.
Anything that does not match our DNA will be rejected like a bad transplant and will never flourish.
2- A positioning that builds on current international perceptions of Canada. Too radical a change will not ring true and demand enormous energy and time to deliver proof and build credibility.
3- A positioning that fulfills - or better yet - anticipates a domestic and international need.
4- A positioning that is both inspirational and aspirational. One that people to want to be a part of.
5- A positioning that is inclusive. That means it’s bigger than religion, ethnicity, history or geography. A positioning that is universal for Canadians of all origins.
6- A positioning that will inspire programs that can convince the best and brightest to stay in Canada or make Canada their home.
7- A positioning that Government can back with policies to promote and facilitate its mission.
8- A positioning that is forward thinking and will build confidence. Louis Rubio, President of Mexico’s Center for Research and Development said, “ A lack of self confidence leads a country to keep chewing on the past”
9- A positioning that is clear and inspires action.
CHAPTER FOUR: POSITIONING
Finding a sustainable positioning comes from locating the sweet spot between certain intrinsic Canadian characteristics: people, place and an identifiable cultural context we can all tap into.
1- Place. What truth about our country is the most recognisable and motivating?
2- People. What truth about our people is the most unique and motivating?
3- Culture. What significant global cultural truth can the Canadian experience genuinely be a part of – or better, lead? This will give the idea traction in the marketplace.
We combine field and desk research and pour over their findings until these truths emerge.
Let’s start by taking a look at:
Resources and natural landscape inform much of the world’s perceptions of Canada. Words like majestic, natural, clean, cold and unspoiled come through in every research document I’ve read.
This is a no brainer.
SLIDE : PRODUCT TRUTH
NATURE ON A GRAND SCALE
These features suggest a great place to live. And you have to admit it’s really beautiful here.
Oh…. By the way. This is a picture of Wyoming.
The point is that nature is not an ownable trait. It’s not what you have - it’s what you do with it that counts.
Which brings us to:
Nature is our gift but also our crutch. With such an abundance of resources, we have been inclined to simply harvest them and export them. To be blunt? I think that the abundance of natural riches has also made us fat, complacent and yes - dull.
Research and brand audits gather the world’s perception of Canadians in a consistent snapshot:
Trustworthy, honest, gentle, moral conscience, friendly, tolerant.
“Happy complacent people living in a nice place.”
What this portrait misses is the next generation: younger, confident, and ambitious. Many who are in this room, who want to be actively involved and more than happy passive bystanders. They are defined by the very things that have characterized great moments in Canada’s history:
Confidence and Innovation.
In fact Canada’s history is full of unsung moments where confidence and innovation have carried the day.
One of my favorite stories is about Joseph Howe, the father of responsible government in Nova Scotia. He loved to preach:
“Boys brag of your country. When I’m abroad, I brag of everything that Nova Scotia is, has, or can produce; and when they beat me at everything else, I turn around on them and say: ‘How high does your tide rise?’
Canada’s first creative’s weren’t in any agency – they were our ancestors, both native and newcomer. Let’s face it, they had to innovate to survive:
- Blistering heat
- Bone-chilling cold
- The longest winter in the world
- The shortest growing season in the world
- The largest landmass in the world
- And lest we forget: black flies
And where product innovation is concerned we are a nation of firsts.
The first telephone
The first long distance call
The first transatlantic cable
The first wireless voice message
The first transatlantic wireless transmission
The first short landing and take-off aircraft
The first domestic communications satellite
The first commercially successful snowmobile
The first new world country to abolish slavery
The first commercial jet transport
The first oil company in North America
The first commercial oil well in North America
The first light bulb
The first radio voice broadcast
The first commercial radio station
The first frozen food.
Sorry about the frozen food but we recovered with the beer case handle
The first instant food
The first working electron microscope in North America
The first crash position indicator
The first panoramic camera
The first documentary film
The first commercial motion picture
The first motion picture showing in North America
The first zipper
The first paint roller
And what about the Canadarm?
SLIDE: People Truth
SELF ASSURED: TOLERANT, FRIENDLY, CONFIDENT INNOVATIVE
With confidence you can do anything.
With innovation. You can do great things!
What emerging trends or zeitgeist can we be part of?
This dimension will lend real world traction to our brand and actions.
One of the most pressing concerns around the globe is the environment. People like Al Gore, the scientific community and countless blogs have brought awareness and debate to the mainstream.
The term ‘green’ was the single most patented word in 2007.
In a recent poll of 125 countries, Environment is the issue of greatest concern, ranking #2 against the Economy. Terrorism ranked a distant third.
This trend has given birth to a new consumer: a more affluent, neo-green, Prius driving, solar paneled consumer willing to pay a premium for sustainable products and services. This growing category is not made up of tree huggers or the naive self-righteous. This consumer is a market opportunity on the rise.
And as those consumers and influencers mature, they move from building their personal careers and reputations to participating in their communities and giving something to the future.
This consumer evolution will affect every facet in our lives from technology to design.
Contributing to environmental concerns and a wake up call for careful management is of course the rapid growth of the middle class in China, Brazil and India, and their appetite for natural resources.
Anne Golden and the Conference Board of Canada suggests that this fact profoundly affects Canada. As demand increases, we have a narrow window of opportunity to develop a national natural resources strategy aimed at maximizing economic benefits while ensuring the long-term sustainability of our resources and environment.
Without a plan to take control of our own destiny, the aggressive appetites of other nations can quickly transform into more radical forms of aggression
CONCERN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Each of these truths stakes out a key point. We can use them like a GPS to triangulate a location, or sweet spot for Canada’s brand.
SELF ASSURED, INNOVATIVE
NATURE ON A GRAND SCALE
CONCERN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
We summed it up with two words: Outside thinkers
SLIDE: OUTSIDE THINKERS
Outside Thinkers puts a unique and credible Canadian spin on innovation.
It’s about a direct relationship between natural resources and innovation.
It’s about a radical shift from Canada as a Land of stuff to a Land of Innovation.
SLIDE: Land of stuff >Land of innovation. I
This is a major shift.
Making Canada more productive by investing in and promoting our most precious natural resource: our thinking.
Channeling that thinking into tangible evidence of who we are and what we can promise the world and ourselves.
This is not something an advertising initiative can accomplish. This is a whole host of tactical initiatives that can line up behind the brand vision of Outside Thinkers.
What kind of initiatives? Here are a few ideas. Maybe they will inspire someone here to get involved or spark the connections needed to bring ideas to life.
Idea #1: Greenest Fastest
One of my favorite thinkers is New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman who suggests in his new book,
SLIDE : Hot, Flat and Crowded ?
“The major industrial country that gets the greenest the fastest, with the smartest technologies — that’s the country that will lead the 21st century.”
He suggests ‘The ROI for that will be a higher standard of living, economic and national security.”
Why should that be Canada? For starters- well we’ve got the right logo.
SLIDE: MAPLE LEAF
To make that happen we would need a massive plan with a vision for the long term. We would all the necessary conditions like Capital, Technology, R&D etc. but the most important catalyst would be the vision and leadership to commit.
As Friedman suggests we need to change our leaders not our light bulbs.
Idea #2: Made in Canada
a) Transform our resources into value added goods.
b) Goods unique to Canada or that reflect our unique National character.
Anthropologists will tell you that countries exhibit undeniable traits. Often, these traits are interpreted into products. For example, the German attention to detail, order and efficiency takes tangible form in exquisite automotive and mechanical engineering. Swiss punctuality is transmitted into Swiss precision in watches. The character of the people influences their products, which reinforce their perception of who they are.
It is also can be a powerful way to reinvent. When I was a kid in the 60’s, the derogatory cliché about anything cheap was that it had been “Made in Japan” But Japan reinvented itself in the 70’s and 80’s and brands like Sony and Honda have contributed to our new perception of that country.
Commerce has the potential to help identify a nation to itself and the world. The manufacturing sector has a role to play as well.
They have the money and the resources to make a difference.
By treating our natural resources like commodities, we are selling them short when we should be selling them at a premium and getting the recognition for it.
We have trees. Sweden has IKEA. Which one has more value? Which one can be replicated? Which one will last longer? Which make a more visible and memorable statement for their country?
We have water. In fact we have 20% of the fresh water on the planet. France has Evian and Perrier. And they sell it for more than the cost of high-octane gasoline.
We have iron, nickel, copper and oil. America, Japan, Korea, and Germany have Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW. Oh, we can build them. And we do. About fourteen million of them a year. But there is still no such thing as a ‘Canadian’ car.
Why not a next-generation hydrogen powered Canadian designed car with an optional snowplow?
I could go on and on. We harvest lots of produce. Where is our ‘Canadian Food’? We have the recipes. We have the chefs.
These observations extend to our intellectual resources.
When I turn on the T.V. in New York and I laugh, it’s often a Canadian making the joke. We have the actors. We have the directors. We have the writers. But we don’t put it all together. We ship them raw to the factories of Hollywood to be transformed into products.
We are selling ourselves and our resources short. We ship them off shore before the full value of their potential is captured. The reward and recognition for Canadian leather doesn’t go to Canada – or even to the Asian manufacturer, the reward and recognition goes to the Italian designer.
How do we get these kinds of ideas off the ground? Canada has a history of not taking risks.
Here’s an example, the telephone was invented here but banks hesitated at financing it. The US saw an opportunity and scooped it up.
I believe the solution is to create innovation clusters of strategists, designers, manufacturers and finance to not just incubate but hatch ideas and give them wings.
IDEA # 3 A Canadian eco urban transport solution.
Take the ingredients, engineering and design with proper marketing, a global need and build the great Canadian electric bike.
TAXI is now collaborating with Magna Industries to market a Canadian electric bike. That’s an example of ‘outside thinkers’.
IDEA # 4.
If we cannot make stuff, let’s at least get the credit for the ingredients.
SLIDE: IDEA 4 CANADA INSIDE
Visual of the Challenger Arm.
Canada Inside would be a program to celebrate and promote Canadian ingredients. Think Intel inside, the objective being to generate a desire and a premium for our key ingredients. For example, in the food category we have some of the most stringent health and food inspections laws in the world. A world perception of Canadian ‘quality’ exists.
We are experts in insulation. We have great architects. We have the source material. We are a leading window manufacture. Let’s put these separate ingredients together and design the ultimate prefab house for the world.
Today Prefab is the best way to insure fuel-efficient housing.
Banks like them because their customers spend less on utilities.
Transform our boring Consulates into story telling opportunities for Canada. These are often street level presences in major international cities with significant passing traffic or access to it. Adding retail or a restaurant would provide a Canadian showcase to the world. We could tell the world of existing success. Like Blackberry and the Cirque du Soleil. Two of may brands the world does not know are Canadian.
This is a big one. Let’s take our values, ingenuity and resources on the road and alter history. An unexpected twist on Canadian tolerance, friendliness and innovation.
Here’s the headline.
SLIDE: CANADA INVADES AFRICAN COUNTRY.
The press coverage would read:
Canada has launched a multi tiered offensive against the nation of xyz in Africa where the average annual income is less than x dollars and the infant mortality rate one of the highest in the world.
Armed with expertise, supplies and personnel, Canada’s attack is not focused on overtaking this impoverished nation to serve an imperialistic agenda, but rather to provide the means for them to define their own future.
Water, Health care, generic and inexpensive medication, communication, education, implementation, security and transportation.
Has this ever been done before? Who more qualified to take this on than Canada? What better way to poke fun at our own disinterest in military prowess and history as peace keepers?
I have identified an issue. I have defined an opportunity. I have outlined some ideas on how to solve it.
But whose job is it to get this done? Does the issue need to become a crisis for the best minds and the best energies to be applied to it?
I have been preaching this sermon for about 10 years. I have also been helping my clients build their businesses and building my own. Like you, I have a day job.
But I also believe that in Canada we have the privilege of being part of a shared project in everything we do.
So in absence of the crisis – maybe economic, maybe social –, which will force action on this issue, TAXI has sought out projects to be part of defining Canadian creativity globally.
TAXI led the charge to get Canadian agencies on the global stage with initiatives that raised participation at Cannes from 20 delegates to 250 in the last ten years and entries along with it. As we all know In 2007 Canada won the Grand Prix for Dove Evolution. Some of my American and British pals have asked what’s spawning this creative revolution? Canadian beer? No. We just got organized.
In 2007 TAXI developed a unique protective coat for the homeless to survive the Canadian cold and leveraged it through PR to garner international attention. (link - http://15belowproject.org/)
In 2006 we worked with Belinda Stronach on the “Spread the Net” initiative to bring a live saving innovation to Africa. And the electric bike – a Canadian eco urban transport solution.
And this year working with MIT Media labs to promote the One Laptop per Child project, we have learned about the partnerships and methods that spawned the idea of Canada attacking with generosity a country that needs our help.
Why the distraction from our core businesses? Why the human resource expenditure? Why take the risk? I’d love to leave you thinking that TAXI has a huge heart but there is more to it than that.
My partner, Rob Guenette says it best,
“Never allow short-term greed to stand in the way of long-term greed.”
We have observed a business phenomenon in this country. It is the three generations of entrepreneurship and it goes like this:
The first generations are the entrepreneurs.
They build the company with simple means and lots of sweat.
When you think of it, Canada’s founders were entrepreneurs.
Both natives and European settlers. Scottish industrialists. The Chinese labourers who built our railways, the Japanese who developed our west coast fisheries, the eastern Europeans who farmed our prairies.
Like entrepreneurs they faced their share of obstacles and yet, they survived and prospered under these difficult conditions.
The second-generation entrepreneur’s vision is growth.
This quickly becomes all about trying to hold the damn thing together and manage that growth. They have kept the thing rolling. Managing lots of space with a small population they continued to dig stuff and sell it. They even managed to give a discount with a weak dollar.
It’s all up to the third generation.
The company built on the sweat of the first generation and the shrewd management of the second generation, is now in their hands.
Canada like a third generation company is at a fragile juncture. The market conditions are not the same as when grandpa, opened shop, the competition is stiffer than in Dad’s day, and the son who has inherited it all has lived a pretty cushy existence thanks to his forefathers hard work. His survival instincts are les well honed.
Sound familiar? Birk’s and Eaton’s, Molson and Seagram, companies that defined Canada struggled with the third generation challenge. Struggled with how to adapt businesses built for one era survive in a new and transformed era. Let’s face it; historically this is the point at which things can go seriously down the tubes. When everything has become just a little too comfortable .
I believe we are that third generation. You and I. happy, friendly and tolerant.
Yet in this room we have the creativity, the skill and the confidence to define our future rather than just let it grow through chance and inertia.
It’s not the time to do the easy thing and sit back. It is the time to forge ahead and secure the next generation – our own children. Now wouldn’t that be a great gift to mark our 100th anniversary.
To join in one of these projects or create one of your own, you can connect with others and their ideas at
SLIDE: Outside thinkers .com