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‘Branding’ Canada: Yoga pants, potash and the quaint town of Dildo

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'Branding' Canada
Forget about Anne of Green Gables and the Mounties: Let's use some imagination in a new "branding" campaign for Canada.

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Part of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget this week pledged to strike a private-sector steering committee that would help develop a "Made-in-Canada" consumer awareness campaign.

Citing a successful Australian initiative launched in the late 1980s, Mr. Flaherty's budget bemoaned the fact that no "widely recognized" Canadian branding exists.

"The quality of Canadian products is recognized across the country and around the world," his budget document says.

"Branding products 'Made in Canada' is a potentially powerful tool to encourage consumers – both in Canada and internationally – to choose such products."

Vito Piazza, a branding expert and the president of Sid Lee Toronto, told The Globe and Mail's Susan Krashinsky that a successful campaign needs to stay away from maple, moose and Mounties and that "we should drop the apologetic, unassuming Canadian voice and tell a story of progress through fresh and modern visual language."

So – no apologies – I put my mind to it:

1. Lululemon: Here's a "Made-in-Canada" company if ever there was one. So what if it sometimes sells see-through pants and its founder makes fun of your thighs?

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2. We can now brand our bread "Made by Bimbo."

3. Hudson's Bay Co.: No, not the blankets. We own Saks.

4. Why stroll on the beach in Hawaii in a bikini and flip-flops when you could be scraping a windshield, wearing a Canada Goose parka and Sorel boots. (And so what if both brands are now owned by Americans? We started them.)

5. I didn't know that Canada is the garter snake capital of the world until Reader's Digest told me. We could brand the snakes and export them.

6. Potash. It may not be as sexy as the stuff on the Champs-Élysées, but farmers seem to like it.

7. Yes, maple syrup is overused as a Canadian symbol. But while other countries have strategic oil reserves, we have strategic maple syrup reserves.

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8. We should trademark "Canadian bacon." Ma Fischer's Restaurant in Milwaukee offers two eggs, any style, with Canadian bacon for $7.95, with absolutely no net benefit to Canada.

9. Ditto "Montreal smoked meat." Chicago's Fumaré Meats & Deli offers Montreal-style smoked meat on rye for $8.99, but there's not so much as a "thank you."

As a destination
Then there's Canada as a product. To attract tourists, we could:

1. Lure visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador with a promise to take their picture at the Dildo town sign. There's also this town sign: Come By Chance.

2. Explain to Americans that they can buy more with their dollar than they could a year ago. So the outrageous sum for a cup of coffee is now less outrageous. Of course, they'll pay more for some things, but if they wait a few years the government will have closed that pesky Canada-U.S. price gap.

3. You've heard Neil Young talk about the oil sands. Now take the tour.

4. Or you could live here, and buy a house that's apparently more overvalued than anywhere else in the world. But just think what you'll make when you sell it.

What they think of us
CNN took a recent look at "10 things Canada does better than anywhere else." We could use seven of them:

1. "A study titled 'Sorry … I'm Canadian' reports 90 per cent of Canadians aged 18-25 apologize if a stranger bumps into them." (We could turn that around and explain that if you visit Canada, you can push as many people out of the way as you want.)

2. "Hollywood loves filming here." CNN noted how Canada has been a stand-in for foreign locations. It cited the fact that a lot of Titanic was filmed off the coast of Halifax. (Well, the place where it sank wasn't that far off the mark.)

3. "Canadians are hilarious – sometimes even intentionally," said CNN, launching into a list of renowned comedians such as Jim Carrey, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Dan Aykroyd, Seth Rogen, Mike Myers and others. (True, they were made in Canada, but that doesn't mean that they're in Canada.)

4 & 5: We have good chocolate bars, great skiing.

6. The maple leaf is one cool symbol. (Not the Maple Leafs, the maple leaf.)

7. And, of course, the inevitable "adorable terms and phrases," like hoser, two-fours and serviettes.

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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