Canada is an under-tapped resource. For many global organizations, it can be a second thought when strategizing a North American product or service rollout. As an executive who has worked here, and across the Americas, I know from first-hand experience that Canada is uniquely positioned to be the launch pad for organizations looking to make an entry into the lucrative Americas marketplace.
Given the global economic climate, Canada is one of the strongest proving grounds to test new products and services, or refine existing ones, before bringing them to a new market.
There are three standout reasons that set the conditions for success: the diversity in people and cultures; the vast geography and resources; and the concentration of populations in key markets.
Canada is diversifying, and fast. According to Statistics Canada, we have the highest proportion of foreign-born people of any Group of Seven country. The recent census has found that two-thirds of Canada's population growth is because of immigration – and this proportion is only likely to increase.
What does this mean for business? Companies can tap into unique demographic niches that could provide valuable feedback on different products. Whether these are cultural, religious or behavioural niches, Canada has a vast breadth to allow for extreme customer segmentation. There are strong ethnic communities in which established independent retailers operate to appeal specifically to that culture. This enables businesses to reach very specific groups of people through pre-established channels.
Brand familiarity in other countries and contexts can also create new opportunities here.
While Panasonic has long been recognized in Canada as a consumer brand, in other markets it is well known for its solutions in residential and commercial building construction, such as heating and ventilation or insulation.
We also see companies in health care leveraging the diversity in Canada to conduct new drug trials. The result is an increase in life-sciences funding into the Canadian marketplace and greater access to emerging health-care treatment options.
By leveraging the diversity of our cultures, Canada is able to provide a vast array of industries with opportunities to test and learn, and develop solid strategies to expand their company's business.
Canada contains a vast array of geographic diversity encompassing everything from lush green valleys to dry, sandy deserts. With temperatures ranging from 40 C in the summer to -50 in the winter depending on your location, Canada has some pretty extreme weather.
It is home to a number of extreme-weather testing grounds in automotive, aerospace and infrastructure, even products for the home. This combination of weather and technical expertise allows Canada to set itself apart when it comes to introducing new products and services.
In 2011, Cold Climate Innovation at the Yukon Research Centre, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Energy Solutions Centre and Panasonic partnered on a pilot project to install vacuum-insulated panels – used in refrigerators – in a new home near Whitehorse.
Vacuum insulated panels have been used for many years in refrigerators because of their high insulation performance (leading to energy savings), and high recyclability (made with 75 per cent recycled glass).
Now they are being used to insulate homes in extremely cold climates.
Whether your products or solutions are best tested or marketed in the frigid days of January in Yukon or the scorching ones of August in southern Ontario, Canada offers a climate range that can suit any need.
Even with a vast diversity of people and land, Canada is only one-tenth the size of the United States. And according to Environics Analytics, there are 68 Canadian consumer segments defined by socio-economic status, urbanity, life stage and social values. This means that companies can sliced and diced based on segmentation ensuring they are hitting the right targets.
And, with nearly 85 per cent of Canadians living within 150 kilometres of the U.S. border, you can reach a variety of target markets with a very nimble team and still achieve the level of diversity needed to gather data on experimental projects that will be helpful for the launch in other markets.
As new products, services and brands are launched and reinvented, it's imperative to have an understanding of what works and what is really going to move the meter.
Canada is a strong test market and will continue to be a bellwether for global products, marketing and consumer communication. This is just one reason why I continue to ensure my career keeps me with one foot on Canadian soil.
Michael Moskowitz is president of Panasonic Canada.