The True North: Insights into Canada 150

Acknowledging the past 150 years since confederation has been an eye-opening experience. After a week of highlighting interesting campaigns and important initiatives, I have come to recognize multiple insights into the marketing industry and the realities of Canada’s history. In this article, the QMA aims to acknowledge the inspiring marketing initiatives that have taken place as well as the sensitivities which surround Canada 150. We hope you enjoy our take on the campaigns we shared and join us in commemorating the entirety of Canada’s 150th anniversary: the good, the bad and everything in between.

From promoting the exploration of Canada through Parks Canada and Via Rail, to the charitable initiatives of Roots and RBC, there has been no shortage of Canada-centric advertising this year. Agencies and retailers alike have recognized Canada 150 as the perfect opportunity to showcase the many different facets of Canada as well as commemorate the past, acknowledge wrong doings and continue building a country that Canadians can be proud of.

RBC #Make150Count:

Young Canadians are the face of the future. The #Make150Count campaign proves that a little can go a long way, and when given the opportunity people will go above and beyond to help others. Throughout this campaign, RBC gave thousands of Canadian youth $150 and asked them to make it count. The contributions that participants made in their communities as part of #Make150Count are impressive and send a positive message to other young Canadians. #Make150Count empowered young people to make a difference and take part in creating an inclusive, compassionate Canada. Through this campaign, RBC has shown the country that young Canadians are worth investing in. RBC has clearly demonstrated that they are truly passionate about “building stronger communities and encouraging positive social impact” in Canada now and in the future (RBC, 2017).  

Via Rail Discovers Demand for Travel

This summer Via Rail offered youth a $150 pass to explore Canada throughout the month of July. The overwhelming demand for travel from such a specific demographic has uncovered an opportunity in the market that Via Rail may not have fully recognized before. Through the promotional sale, two insights are clear: one, people aged 12-25 have a desire to see the country, and two, young Canadians want to travel for less. While Via Rail cannot sustain their business off of country-wide tickets for as cheap as $150, the sheer amount of interest in their services when offered at a lower price perhaps points to an area of their business model that could merit reconsideration. The Canada 150 campaign, whether Via Rail intended it or not, was an ingenious way of uncovering this consumer group’s interest in inexpensive travel. There is potential that these insights will influence Via Rail to take advantage of young Canadians’ interest in travel by offering inexpensive services that are mutually beneficial for consumers and their organization alike.  

The Future of Canadian Marketing

Given the controversy of Canada 150 over the past year, it is quite likely that consumers will see a change in the tone of future campaigns created by agencies and corporations. Although Canada 150 may end after July 1st, it is doubtful that marketing masterminds at Canadian agencies will forgo the Canadian focus in their campaigns. In fact, more corporations may focus their advertising efforts on “Canadian-proud” themes, which appeals to patriotic consumers. Additionally, for the remainder of 2017 marketers may concentrate on issues in social justice given the aftermath of Canada 150. As July 1st drew closer, the number of media publications who turned their Canada 150 coverage away from the celebration and towards underlying issues increased. Hopefully for the rest of the year, marketing campaigns will strive to instigate conversations about what  inclusivity, reconciliation, and real diversity look like in Canada.

Moving Forward Together: Canada 150 +

The city of Vancouver has made great strides to make Canada 150 more inclusive by renaming the campaign Canada 150 +. Incorporating the plus symbol into the campaign adds a dimension of inclusivity which acknowledges the many years that Indigenous peoples lived in Canada before confederation and the atrocities they have faced since. The president of the Pulling Together Canoe Society, Rhiannon Bennett said, “when you put that plus symbol there, it really shifts the whole conversation and acknowledgement of Canada’s history” (Li, 2017). The well thought-out symbol has been instrumental in creating an inclusive atmosphere, while paying tribute to the Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Although there have been a few missteps in the promotion of Canada 150, it has prompted a year full of discussion pertaining to Canada’s past, present and future. Many believe that the 150 experience will allow Canadians to better understand the entirety of our nation’s history. From a positive perspective, Professor Matthew Hayday at Guelph University says that, “The controversies that surround Canada 150 may well indicate our desire to perfect and improve this country” (Hayday, 2017). Moving forward, Canadian marketers will likely keep inclusivity a top priority while working towards inspiring more meaningful conversation, like those that surrounded the Canada 150+ campaign. In doing so, they will make a significant contribution to building a welcoming Canada for everyone.  

Megan Latham is a third year commerce student at Smith School of Business and this year’s Content Manager for the Queen’s Marketing Association. Megan has a passion for influential marketing and women’s rights. When she’s not searching up new content for The Nucleus, you can find her with her nose in a book!