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Key Insights

Key Insights

Disruptive times, disrupted choices, and plenty of opportunity

Behavioral economics has introduced a breath of fresh air into marketing thinking. Thanks to popular books like Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, we now know that many brand choices are made by what is known as Type I thinking, in which we naturally gravitate towards what we’ve done or enjoyed before. During a pandemic, however, people are faced with disruption in which their favorite brands may not be available. This funnels them into a less pleasant Type II response, in which they must make decisions. One solution, suggested by Scott Megginson his article, “Less is More: Are the days of SKU proliferation finally over?” later in this report is to reduce the complexity of your offering. Brands also need to make sure any new customers know why they should be buying them and what value they bring him.

Time is the new currency

With their homes converted into offices and schools, Canadians are suddenly finding that time is at a premium. Forty-six percent say that they have a hard time finding time to exercise, while 44 percent would prefer to get more sleep. Sixty-five percent of them are willing to pay for time-saving products and services, while 74 percent are saying that buying things online is less time-consuming than going into stores. This is a big reversal, and these time-starved consumers will certainly reward brands that make their lives a little more streamlined.

The un-controversy of inclusion

While Canada’s southern neighbor has seen a hysterical level of “debate” over BLM and similar social justice issues, don’t look for the same north of the border. Canadians have for the most part embraced alternative lifestyles and identities with open arms. Over 80 percent of people say that they would be comfortable around a gay, lesbian, bisexual neighbor, boss, or doctor. Canada has also added a third gender option to the national census beginning in 2021, as well as taken steps to ban conversion therapy. Not surprisingly, non-binary marriages grew more than 60 percent between 2006 and 2016, with roughly 12 percent of them having children, the vast majority of which involve female parents. Brands like TD Bank have long been ahead of the curve by supporting Pride events and featuring LGBTQ people in its ads.

A lifeline for e-commerce?

The pandemic may have increased the popularity of e-commerce, but Canadian online retailers are not necessarily the biggest beneficiaries. American giants like Amazon and Walmart can take advantage of similar taxes, fees, and shipping networks, easily reaching customers with low prices. Still, online shopping in Canada is expected to grow and expand with the rise of digital marketing. Domestic retailers are already investing in digital platforms to reach consumers across Canada to respond to global competition. And with changes in federal taxes on cross-border digital services by non-resident companies expected in 2021, they may gain an important advantage moving forward. Sobeys’ parent company Empire Company Ltd. has announced plans to reach 75 percent of Canadian consumers with grocery e-commerce by the end of 2023.

Gamer nation

Canadians play a lot of video games, with 65 percent identifying as video gamers. This may be because Canada is also the third-largest producer of games in the world, boasting 692 different game development companies with revenue of $3.4 billion in 2019. Canada is especially a leader in virtual reality (VR), both for gaming and education and training, making it a bright spot for career development for young people. Canadian brands of all kinds can ride this wave by getting into the exciting new field of e-Sports marketing. Just as with regular sports, there are plenty of sponsorships and advertising opportunities to reach consumers in Canada and beyond.

Viral inequality?

Canada has largely been a land of marriage equality, in which it is common for partners to take an equal share of household tasks, such as shopping, cleaning, and cooking. But the pandemic has revealed a few cracks in this rosy picture. While men are more likely to experience serious illness and die from the disease, women are much more likely to be concerned about the situation (83 percent to 74 percent), nervous about financial planning (68 percent to 62 percent), and likely you have bought extra items to be prepared in case they become unavailable (40 percent to 31 percent).

Local comes home

Concerns over the environment and global warming are driving rapid change in Canadian attitudes towards the origin of the products they buy. Eighty-seven percent of Canadians now say that buying products made in the country is better for the environment than otherwise. As result, major retailers are sourcing locally grown produce, farmers markets are multiplying, and small farms are continuing to implement direct-to-consumer initiatives. But just as climate change is accelerating local trends, it is also causing problems as well. Canada today is warming twice as fast as the average rate in the world. Changes in growing seasons are proving a challenge, as is the introduction of invasive insect species.

An appetite for virtual health

Across the globe, people have been finding lockdowns a mental and physical health challenge and trying to find ways to stay on top of it. For Canadians, the remedies of choice are working out at home and getting more sleep. 39 percent of Canadians are trying to exercise more, and 41 percent are managing to sleep more. In line with this trend, Lululemon has been surging, as more and more people are realizing that they don’t need a gym to stay healthy. The brand’s recent purchase of Mirror, a home workout system similar to Peloton, should only reinforce that positioning. In September 2020, Loblaws also announced a $75 million investment in Maple, a company that connects consumers with virtual doctors.