5 Key Marketing Lessons from the Most Iconic Canadian Brands

You don’t have to hop the border to see great marketing in action. In the spirit of #Canada150, let’s show some true patriot love for our most iconic Canadian brands!


44 years ago, a small leather goods store sprouted up in Toronto. Its line of comfortable, durable clothing caught on with Canadians who love the outdoors.

Today, there are over 200 Roots stores all around the world.

From its iconic beaver logo to its rustic store design, Roots capitalizes on our reverence for the Canadian wilderness. When we think Roots, we think nature. And when we think of nature-ready clothing, Roots is the first brand that comes to mind.

With so many distinctive cultures, it can be hard to pin down what it means to be Canadian. Roots succeeds by tapping into something that transcends cultural and generational lines: love for the great outdoors.

Roots Flag

Hudson’s Bay Company

Hudson’s Bay Company holds the title of Canada’s oldest company, but the modern Bay bears little resemblance to the bygone fur-trading empire. The company dabbled in everything from fur to transportation to oil exploration before it finally settled on retail in the 20th century.

The retail face of Hudson’s Bay has evolved as well. When it broke ground in Quebec in 1965, the HBC gave its stores a trendy new title: The Bay/La Baie. The company later refreshed its brand and reclaimed the original name.

Throughout its incarnations, Hudson’s Bay has maintained an iconic brand identity. People immediately recognize the name and the four-colour stripe pattern (known as the HBC Point Blanket) as a symbol of quality. Hudson’s Bay has held its place as other large department stores struggle in tough economic times.

When times change, Hudson’s Bay changes with it. The original Canadian company owes its longevity to its ability to adapt without compromising on core values.


Surprised? You’re not alone. Aldo is iconic, but many shoppers don’t realize their favourite shoe store is Canadian.

Aldo was fashioned from the remnants of Le Chateâu’s shoe division. Its key to success was bringing trends to its shelves before its competitors could. Its founder set out to capture the latest in street styles in record time. Now, Aldo has 2,000 stores in more than 55 countries.

Aldo sells itself as a global brand, and its social feeds feature photos of trendsetters from around the world. This has paid off to the tune of millions of followers on Facebook and Instagram. Its success proves Canadian brands don’t have to fly the flag to stand out in the world marketplace.

Molson Canadian

As the story goes, John Molson was committed to “brewing the best beer in the world for the people of Canada.” We could argue about the merits of his brew all night, but one thing’s for sure: Molson knows the Canadian people.

Molson first launched its “I Am Canadian” campaign in 1995. Canadians aren’t prone to self-promotion, but when Molson made the declaration a retort to Canadian stereotypes, it was a hit.

“I Am Canadian” has been the heart of Molson’s marketing ever since. Molson has since incorporated theme into mountains of merchandise and viral video campaigns.

We love brands that help us define our Canadian identity. Molson has leveraged this to build an incredibly loyal following.

Tim Hortons

Let’s face it: we can’t talk Canadian brands without mentioning Tim Hortons. Canada’s most trusted brand is so prevalent in our communities and culture that it’s practically a part of Canada itself.

It didn’t get there by accident. Though it has changed corporate hands over the years, Tim Hortons has always maintained a clear and consistent identity. Its advertising appeals to nostalgia and family values, and small communities embrace Tim Hortons for its sponsorship of sports teams and fundraising for local causes.

Tim Hortons Marketing

The Tim Hortons of today is the same one we stopped by for Timbits after hockey practice. It owes its success to the generations of good will it has built with Canadians.



Images: Roots


Canadian Tech: A Story of “The Hustle”

Jessica Chalk, TrafficSoda and Growing a Company in the Canadian Tech Industry

Ambitious. This is the one word that our President and CEO, Jessica Chalk, uses to describe the rapidly emerging Canadian technology industry. TrafficSoda was born and bred (and is growing into its teenage years) out of Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, the hub of new tech growth in Canada. With the upcoming celebrations for Canada 150, I sat down with Jessica to talk about growing a business in this new and booming Canadian tech landscape.

Jessica started in tech before TrafficSoda did. She began her career in the Accelerator Center, a Waterloo based Start-Up Incubator, which has supported the success of local legends like Axonify, Clearpath Robotics, Kik, Miovision, Sortable, and Plasticity Labs. Simply being around the dynamic and innovative energy of the ‘AC’ is what drove Jessica to start TrafficSoda (though in a much earlier iteration than what it is today).

“The hustle, the determination, and the excitement of all these entrepreneurs around just helped me all of a sudden decide that I wanted to take the leap,” Jessica remarked enthusiastically. It’s obvious that this environment still pushes Jessica today just as much as it did back then.

TrafficSoda began in 2013 with support from what seems like everyone in town. The Accelerator Center provided a location for the early phases of the start-up, Laurier supplied office space, resources and mentors, Communitech offered support, local mentors furnished advice during high and low times, the Government of Canada delivered a Jumpstart grant that helped pay for part of the bill, and early investors gave it all a chance.

This close-knit, committed community support is what defines the Canadian tech industry to Jessica: the championing of every single entrepreneur who wants to step forward. That unique generosity and genuine helpfulness seems built into the infrastructure of the industry itself. Individuals, public and private companies, universities, educational institutions, and people who have “been there, done that” all provide support.

“All you have to do is ask,” Jessica simply reminds me. “[In Canada], we are not just one in a million. We are one in a thousand, one in a hundred, and we have access to the right people.”

Being Canadian is a core facet of the TrafficSoda identity. Our team is made up of people coming from Guelph to K-W to North Bay to Alliston to Toronto. Our chairman is Jim Estill, long time local tech entrepreneur and private sponsor for 58 Syrian refugee families. Our VP of Operations, Mohammed Helu, is one of those Syrian refugees. That diversity is what makes us strong.

Being Canadian provides opportunity. Being Canadian helps our clients feel comfortable and let their guard down more than they normally would. Being Canadian in the North American tech industry allows us to be the ‘David’ next to the American ‘Goliath.’ Being Canadian gives us an entrepreneurial spirit. Being Canadian gives us a chance to be a part of something new and exciting, where our collective potential is limitless.

As for the next 150 years? Jessica hopes to see a focus from the community on companies that are ready to scale and grow, supporting them as much as we are currently supporting the startups and founders. The momentum needs to keep moving forward, so we can transition from an emerging tech industry to a solidified one. With the current political climate, Jessica believes this is the perfect opportunity to define exactly what is the “Silicon Valley of the North.”

The unique Canadian tech scene gets its identity from its inclusiveness, collaboration and passion. This is seen time and time again, as new entrepreneurs are supported and successful start-ups are championed. Even TrafficSoda, as we transitioned from a purely tech firm to a digital marketing one, still feels accepted and backed by the community. We feel honored and
excited to be a part of such a dynamic, exhilarating, and full-steam ahead community. Cheers to Canada’s 150th!


Image: niroworld