'Canadianness' and Branding

The 150th anniversary of Canada on July 1, 2017 is prompting the 'Canadianness' question for some brand builders.    The Hudson’s Bay ‘Country of Adventurers’ is one example of a lead up campaign.   To stimulate 'Canadianness' in brand building, are posting a series of blogs featuring objects that tell Canada stories.   In our work uncovering human stories, we have found objects to be profoundly evocative tools for exploration. They often serve as metaphors for lived experience and can help access unconscious thoughts and feelings.

This inaugural blog in the series, takes inspiration from the self-described ‘junk yard artist’, Patrick Amiot.   His recycled solar powered carousel commissioned for the city of Markham, evokes feelings and stories about Canadians and Canada.

The renowned artist and his collaborator, Brigitte Laurent, are known for creating whimsical sculptures that connect to their roots as Quebecois artists and Canadians.  Hockey and its players, coureurs de bois in their canoes, Mounties, moose and beavers are among the Canadian symbols that have been represented and reinvented through their art.  A humble, self-deprecating sense of humour, which we think of as typically Canadian, is always evident in the work and immediately puts smiles on viewers’ faces as it invites them into the story.

Amiot has the instincts of an anthropologist intent on teasing out the stories told by the objects or artifacts. Instead of focusing on the instrumental value of his found objects, Amiot focuses on their narrative value. To quote the artist, “ the whole purpose of my work is to glorify these objects, because they have their own spirit. This hubcap, or whatever piece of metal, from the day it was manufactured until now, has an important history. … these things lived incredible lives. If they could talk to you, they could tell amazing stories.”

Just as ‘The Pride of Canada’, a carousel made from metals collected across the country shares Canada’s story with Markham’s new immigrant community, so does the tattoo that a young man shows to help us understand his story of how it feels to be Canadian. Look for that story and more in our next blog on evocative objects of 'Canadianness'.


Storytelling by design

We have learned through experience that it is not enough to uncover deep insights. In order for organizations to embrace and leverage what has been uncovered, the storytelling back to the company must be by design. In other words, the story will fly off the page or slide only when the plot and structure are tight and woven together by a strong visual design concept.

A connection with an associate professor at OCAD lead to an introduction to a foursome of recent grads who have established ‘Potluck Collective’, a design collective with strong values, great skills and a passion for doing first class work. Intrigued by the potential power that working together on story flow and design could bring to a brand meaning narrative we reached out to them to collaborate.

Our metaphor inspired insights allowed us to give the designers an inspiration brief built from imagery, symbolism and quotes. Meanwhile, Potluck Collective spent some time immersing themselves in the category. At the inspiration brief meeting we shared the draft storyline that had emerged from our analysis and Potluck Collective shared their category insights. The inspiration brief and meeting served as the springboard from which to ‘storytell by design’

One short week later we had a brand meaning story made more compelling by the fresh design and thinking of Potluck Collective. The bold look and feel and simplified story structure enhanced the impact of the insights story. We know this because clients at the first debrief meeting quickly engaged with the brand narrative and added to its power by providing their insights about brand history and brand realities within the organization. The Potluck Collective collaboration reaffirmed our belief in the value of storytelling by design.