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Brand Purpose in Canada

Paul Gareau

SVP, Brand & Creative Team Leader

Kantar, Insights Division


Brand Purpose in Canada

The power of purpose is receiving a lot of attention in the marketing world these days, but is purpose a driver of brand power in the Canadian marketplace?

The short answer is yes. When executed correctly, purpose is a powerful driver of brand growth. According to an analysis of Kantar’s Global BrandZ database of the world’s 94 most valuable brands that have been tracked over the past 12 years, those that are recognized for high commitment to purpose have grown brand value twice the average (212 percent vs. 77 percent). The key to this finding is the word “recognized.”

For purpose to drive brand growth, consumers need to be aware of and recognize a brand’s efforts in making people’s lives better through its products, marketing, and way of conducting business. Getting credit from consumers is no easy task. Success relies on three key elements: meaningfulness, authenticity, and storytelling. 

Canadian Tire, the 97-year-old retailer of auto parts, tools, home décor, and sporting goods, is one of the top-performing Canadian brands in BrandZ metrics when it comes to being recognized for having strong brand purpose. With meaningfulness at its core, the brand is committed to being an active participant in the cultural fabric of Canada by embracing the joy of life in the Great White North. Whether it be through its long-running "Tested for Life" campaign, "We All Play for Canada" Olympic platform, or its Jumpstart children’s charities, Canadian Tire has always found a way to tell its brand story in an inclusive, Canadian way.

While not originating in Canada, McDonald’s has been in this country since 1967 and is another brand that Canadians recognize for having a strong brand purpose. This brand took a different approach to authenticity by using its “Our Food. Your Questions.” campaign to debunk myths about McDonald’s food quality. This courageous and transparent approach appealed to Canadians, who tend to have a healthy skepticism toward advertising claims. With its commitment to families, nutritional transparency, locally sourced foods, and the impact driven by the Ronald McDonald House Charities, McDonald’s masterfully tells stories that connect directly to the brand and how it is focused on making lives better.

The third and final example is Canada Goose. With its ascent in global popularity, it is no surprise that Canada Goose also stands out in BrandZ metrics for its recognized brand purpose. The brand has achieved success, in part due to its maniacal focus on authenticity and staying true to its northern heritage. The brand has roots in extreme cold weather performance in places like Antarctica and Mt. Everest and still manufactures most of its products in Canada. The brand honours the north by being unapologetic about its use of traditional materials to help deliver its performance and functionality, as well as by partnering with Polar Bears International and supporting northern communities through its Northern Resource Centre Program. Canada Goose’s purpose flows through every facet of the organization, which creates a strong brand narrative that no advertising campaign alone could achieve.

To create an impactful purpose for your brand, remember the following key lessons.

  1. Connect meaningfully. Ensure your purpose matters to people and is central to what the brand is and how it acts. Consumers are not going to pay attention to your brand’s purpose unless it is something they care about. Whether it be Canadian Tire evoking pride, McDonald’s impacting society, or Canada Goose inspiring exploration, there are multiple ways to be meaningful. Regardless of how your brand is meaningful, it is important to remember that the brand will not receive credit unless it delivers on its purpose in a tangible way.

  1. Use effective storytelling. A strong purpose lends itself to compelling narrative. Harness stories to maximize the effectiveness of your brand purpose, ensuring that there is a clear link to the brand and focusing on connecting with consumers on an emotional level. The key here is to demonstrate the impact of the brand’s efforts rather than simply telling people about them. For example, Ronald McDonald House Charities shows families supporting each other in their advertising as opposed to talking about the amount of money raised or invested.

  1. Purpose is more than advertising. It needs to flow through the organization top to bottom. There is nothing more inauthentic than a brand purpose that is manufactured just to be part of an advertising message. Canadian Tire and Canada Goose develop products with their brand purpose at the heart of the process. Advertising should be used to amplify how your brand or business delivers on its purpose, and not be the sole means of supporting it

Canadian consumers today recognize and reward brands that exhibit a strong, useful, and yet authentic purpose. By following the lead of some of Canada’s best brands, marketers can find ways to create an organization that understands its purpose, finds opportunities for supporting it, and explains it in a natural way that resonates with the public. Given the uniqueness of many Canadian brands, embracing a strategy that lends itself to natural conversion is certainly possible, if not entirely easy. Let’s start thinking big.