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June 2011

Brand USA: What Canadians Can Learn From the American Mindset

In today's global environment, the difference between the way Americans and Canadians think is becoming increasingly clear. As a long time member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), I often look to my peers for thoughts on industry trends. To get an American opinion, I'll often target senior communicators (IABC members) who work for well-known global brands like Coke and Southwest Airlines. It's amazing that, in every case, I get a well-crafted response from American communicators. And these aren't juniors. Titles range from Senior VP's of Development and Communications to Global Brand Managers.

Outside of the IABC, I will often send links to my articles or blogs to Americans who might benefit from the information. Again, in virtually every case, I get a return response and thank you for a job well done. Now here's the question of the day - Why can't I get similar responses from Canadian companies?

I'm not here to knock down Canadians, because there are some people who actually take the time to respond. But many won't. Consider the job hunt. I find it hard to believe that someone is so busy, that they can't take 30 seconds out of their day to respond to an inquiry email. If the Global VP of Brand Marketing for Coke can respond to one of my emails, so can Canadian communicators.

What is it that makes many (but not all) Canadians and Canadian companies different? Is it because most live by the status quo - and don't want to be bothered with even looking at a new way of thinking? A recent article in Marketing Magazine talked about the brain drain to the USA. Not surprising. Often while attending industry events, I hear people say that they've given up on dealing with Canadian companies - and get all their work from Americans.

As a writer, I often follow comments posted by readers in major newspapers. There seems to be a clear pattern emerging with many Canadians. There's a claim to an almost moral superiority over Americans in business, culture and politics. To that I say hogwash. I see it more as a form of missplaced arrogance and ignorance over the good things we can learn from Americans. In my global travels, it's always been the Americans who, to me, have been the nicest and most receptive people both personally - as well as business-wise.

Perhaps it's time for Canada and Canadians to wake up from their slumber. I know that nationalism and passion for our country are in us. For once though, I'd like to see this passion rising from something other than hockey and conversations about daily trips to Tim Hortons.

Branding The 'Big Easy': Why New Orleans Has More Than One Story To Tell

Having recently returned from a wonderful trip to New Orleans, I find myself thinking about the people and places I've seen. When it comes to enriching and engaging experiences, New Orleans serves it all up in a rich cacophony of sights, sounds, tastes and aromas.

From the unbridled craziness of Bourbon Street, to the secluded wings of the Royal Sonesta Hotel - to the historical and magnificent seclusion of the grand plantations - New Orleans offers visitors an experience like no other. What's even more appealing about the place is the sense of warm hospitality offered by the locals. In some areas, it's as if time stood still. Feel an urgency to check emails every hour? Not on Louisiana time. Feel like dancing in the streets? Go ahead. Everyone else is doing it.

Historically, New Orleans (or NOLA) is a mix of stories from a range of backgrounds and cultures as rich and diverse as their own Louisiana gumbo. Spanish, Creole, Cajun, French - they all blend together in a rich symphony of fun and excitement that is New Orleans. The place is pure poetry - enchanting, intriguing, mystifying, engaging and welcoming.

To those of you who have never experienced NOLA, I urge you to go there. As a brand, the city has given itself the tagline "It's New Orleans - You're Different Here." I would expand that even further to say "It's New Orleans - Things ARE Different Here."  If great brands tap into emotions, then NOLA has it all. Just one visit will leave you with a powerful connecting experience that begs you to go back and do more.

New Orleans doesn't have just one story to tell. It's power and resonance as a brand come from its ability to meld a hundred different stories into one glorious place. But don't just take it from me. Take a look at this video narrated by NOLA's own Kermit Ruffins - trumpeter, singer and composer extraordinaire. May your journey always take you back to NOLA.