Friday, March 7, 2014

How Canada’s Image is Being Redefined by Rob Ford and Justin Bieber

As disruptive events help shape countries into what they stand for today, I believe Canada is going through its own brand revolution, or maybe evolution. With our recent success at the Sochi Olympics, Justin Bieber’s highly visible troubles with the law, and our very colourful Toronto mayor all making international headlines, I am noticing the perception of Canada is shifting from staid, conservative and somewhat low-key to one that better reflects the colour of our flag – namely energetic, flamboyant, and loud.

Historically, Canada has had a reputation for being restrained. Even our successful, high profile Canadian superstars who prospered in Europe and America helped maintain this perception of our country. During my many travels, any mention of Canada would bring references to Quebec, our winters and hockey. Yet there were many other instances when individuals I was speaking with did not know where Toronto was located, or any other salient information about our country.

I first noticed a significant shift in how we are being perceived when I was travelling to Houston several weeks ago on business and overheard a conversation between two American travellers, one from Florida and the other from Ohio. Both were factory workers who were heading to a national union meeting. What startled me was they were having a conversation about Rob Ford. Hard to believe that in a city thousands of miles away from Canada, two Americans would know every nuance of our Toronto mayor’s saga. What truly startled me was their level of knowledge, going into great detail about what he had done, the issues he was facing, and some of the comments from both U.S. and Canadian media.

For two individuals who I’m sure six months ago would not have been able to locate Toronto, they were extremely positive about the mayor’s conduct. The same can be said about the European and U.S. media regarding one of Canada’s most visible pop stars, Justin Bieber. His recent antics and the videos that captured them have shone a different light on our country’s image, one that is far less staid, reserved or conservative. We are fortunate our Olympic athletes were far more reserved in their conduct, both as part of the Games and during the social events. They do, however, continue to help shift our image with a strong commitment to owning the podium, no longer happy to be second fiddle to any country.

Brands, even a country’s brand such as Canada’s, need to stay relevant and meaningful to ensure they remain viable for investment and growth. Although some of the visibility and attention Canada has been receiving may be seen as negative, I believe the rest of the world sees it very differently. They see a country that is actually coming out, standing out, and standing up for something more colourful. Maybe all this attention is good for our country and how we see the world.

 | Globalnews           

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