Old-School Marketing No Longer Working? Blame Canada

Old-School Marketing No Longer Working? Blame Canada

Reader Comments (88)

  1. Funny post. Really enjoyed it. Hope to read more of you.

    But yeah, in a world where people are able to share things online relatively quickly, good or bad, you have to be a bit more careful with how you treat your customers. The Consumerist is a living tribute to that.

  2. Hey James, I really enjoyed this article. You’re absolutely right about the need for businesses to connect with their customers, and vice versa. The Internet and social media is continually making this easier to do and now it’s what customers expect.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Happy Canada Day to you too James. Wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I read this.

    By the way. . . I THINK that kissing the cod is a more of a Newfoundland custom. And hey, after a couple of glasses of screech, it probably seems quite normal 😉

    From another proud (and usually polite) Canadian.

  4. It’s all true what James says. In fact, Canadians are so nice, they don’t even consider it dangerous to hitchhike all over the country.

  5. Happy Canada Day James, and thanks for an amusing post! However, I think us Canadians are similar to American in most ways. We’re just smarter and better looking.

    And, perhaps, a bit more frostbitten.


  6. Now we just need to figure out how we can trademark all of this and us Canadians can start charging royalties for being nice and clear in advertising messages.

    Happy Canada Day everyone!

  7. That’s o.k., you can blame us. We don’t mind. If it makes you feel better then it’s worth it and we’re more than happy to help.

    Thanks James..really well-written..loving it, and sharing it 😉


  8. How could you forget the beer? And speaking two languages which requires you to listen twice as hard. These things too are Canadian. But alas it’s true our non -pushy nature requires we speak to people’s real needs and only when spoken to.Fortunately the “Long Tail” of the Net allows us to have conversations with ourselves that others can listen in on — just in time to buy. How truly Canadian!

  9. I really liked this post. It’s so true. Canadians are such nice people. I’ve been to Canada and loved it. So much different from NYC. Thanks!

  10. About time somebody exposed this covert Canadian “nicey-nice” influence, James. As a kid I grew up in Buffalo and now live in Maine. Both places share a border (nicely, I might add) with Canada. At night, if the moon is just right, you can actually see little ripples of nicey-nice, slithering south over the border like fog. It’s quite a sight…

  11. @Sonia. You’re laughing now, but just wait till one washes over you. You start holding doors open for people, and actually meaning it when you say “if there’s anything I can do…” It’s pretty freeaky.

    But seriously, I think MOST people are nice if you treat them nice. In fact, maybe it’s just us marketers who need to learn to stop shouting and start treating prospects with a little more respect for their intelligence.

  12. Are Canadians all that nice? Just put a hockey stick in one of their hands and see what happens!

    Or, is that how they work out all their aggression?

    And, that scent of freedom in the air has to go.


    (Yes, I know Ann Murray was singing the “wrong” words for “The Maple Leaf Forever.” These words are from a CBC attempt to revive a old patriotic song with dated words. And that was the dated flag, too.)

    Happy Dominion Day.

  13. @James. Oh, they’re still smuggling cigs, I imagine. If only someone would bring down some of the GOOD Canadian ale… (and not just the export). Hmmm, sounds like a good sideline biz idea. Who’s in?

  14. Great article! Is it sad that I started getting the South Park song stuck in my head while I was reading?

  15. James, great post eh! I received an email today from one of my American friends wishing me a happy Independence Day eh. I thanked him and explained we’d never toss tea in a harbour and we kept the Queen on one side of our coins eh. We are lucky to have such great neighbours to the south though and if they want to use our ideas that’s great eh.
    Happy Canada Day!

  16. Loved this; a serious point, James-ly made.

    I love the accent. I’m quiet and Scottish so Canadian ‘hooses’ and ‘aboots’ tickle me. It also gets me brownie points because I can tell if someone’s Canadian. Just like the Scots hate when folk call us English (different country!!) I’m guessing there are a few not-so-laid back Canadians who hate when foreigners assume they’re from the USA.

    Happy Canada day!

  17. Happy Canada Day!

    Interesting. I love Canada because so many of my clients are from Canada. Seriously. My clients are all over the world (mostly English speaking countries as my website is only in English) but Canada, namely Quebec and Ontario, outnumber others (next best spot is London). I always wondered why.

    Are Canadians more spiritually developed? Or, OMG am I doing something right in my marketing that appeals to good Canadians?

    Another mystery I’d love to look into …

  18. I didn’t know we were nice until I went down to Vegas and a lady in an elevator asked me if I was Canadian because I “looked” nice. I smiled at her when she stepped in. I guess nobody else does that?

    Anyhoo, I don’t say “eh” or kiss cod but I’m definitely proud to be Canadian and I’m especially proud of our reputation. I enjoy helping people and not getting anything in return. It’s a rewarding feeling. More people should experience it.

  19. >You see, Canadians have a reputation for being really, really nice.

    Yes, but first you must get past their smiling-yet-cunning Customs Inspectors and Immigration officials. Never mistake “nice” for “pushover” when you’re entering the country.

  20. @tom
    I’ve been chuckling at your comments for quite a while. You’d better watch out! Canadian nicey-nice IS known to be contagious!

    I know. The border crossing stinks! But, give us our due. You started it! We didn’t even want to implement the new passport regulations :/

    As for the hockey bug… well… there just isn’t any getting around it. Anyone who isn’t interested in hockey up here is considered a freak (like me!)

  21. @Marja Ernst

    Why else would I use the YouTube link it did?

    1. Toronto Maple Leafs
    2. Canadian Content
    2. A politically-correct rewrite of words

  22. Canadian hockey players are actually very polite. They always say “ooh, sorry eh?” as they smash you into the boards, and “oops” if they accidentally rip your nose off in a tussle. (Although I don’t think they call them “tussles.”)

  23. Funniest tweet (so far) about Canada Day: from @blondediva11

    “Damn Canada Day-there are too many people taking zambonis to work. The traffic is a nightmare.”

  24. As a fellow Canuck, I loved this article! It has plenty of good points, and it was ridiculously entertaining. A great read!

  25. Happy Canada Day!

    I really like this post especially in reference to SouthPark. As soon as I saw the title I was singing the tune in my head.

    I don’t think you can really blame Canada. I mean there’s a whole lot of diverse culture/race there that maybe they got all the best each culture/race has to offer and threw out the worst. They also have a very harsh climate that makes it essential for Canadians to help each other out.

  26. As an Englishman who moved to Wasaga Beach, Ontario 20 months ago I can relate to this. Fortunately us Brits are generally considered quite trust worthy up here so that helps with getting a message across 🙂
    One thing though James as you are “unrepentant Canuck who survives exclusively on maple syrup, poutine, and beer” I’m surprised you don’t include a double double from Timmies!

  27. Oh, so that’s why I LOVED Canadians and living in Canada so much eh? Ahh, how I miss the maple syrup, frozen snot and tinkering of dinner, I mean, bear bells.

    Btw, I’ve been back home living in Australia for 6 months and still haven’t lost saying “eh?”

    Great post and Happy Canada Day!

  28. Well I am Canadian eh! and proud of it. We’ll take the blame for anything especially for being nice and changing the way we advertise. Ya don’t push us around just ask us nicely. That’s the way I like to market.
    Great post eh!

  29. Hey really nice post! Happy Canada Day to you to!

    Somehow that country reminds me of Mother Nature (Kind, benevolent and giving), looks like its citizens are going a step further!

  30. I loved this piece! Very quirky but right on the money, both about marketing & Canadians! I work for a self storage facility, AAA Storage City, in Ridgeland, SC and we have realized, WOW, marketing tactics that used to work, don’t work so hot anymore. Something needs to change! Am reading “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” by David Meerman Scott right now and loving it. Once again, great blog, James!

  31. Hey James,
    Though I live in Australia at the moment, we celebrated Canada Day, just the same. You’re right about Canadians–we really ARE nice people, aren’t we? I’ve always thought so.
    One thing I disagree with is the “oot and aboot” argument. I’ve always heard something more along the lines of “oat and a-boat.”
    Great article. I think everyone could use a bit more Canadian in them.

  32. Damn those flappy-headed Canucks! They’ve been doing it right all along, and distracting us from noticing by supplying us with an endless supply of great hockey players!

  33. Informative and amusing post…after reading the title I was little worried about what the content was going to include. However, you make some really valid points and all of it is what should be happening but has been lost somewhere along the line, we can learn a lot from this post…and the Canadians.

  34. Thanks for the chuckle. It was great. But I realised how ready I really am to come home to Canada. Been living in Denmark for the last 4 years and thought I wanted to stay. This past week with Canada Day, etc, I just really realised there is no place like Home!

  35. I was surprised after reading this post that it was actually written by a Canadian. Canada is vast, and I think a lot of what you said must be central to your area of the country–which province?

    I’ve never heard of kissing cod and not too many of us actually enjoy 8 months of cold-although it’s usually more like 6 (we put up with it because winter sports are great and the other seasons are so darn beautiful).

    I’ve never heard “about” and “house” pronounced “aboot” and “hoose”, although I’ve heard this reference before. While we don’t say “abowt” and “howse” as many Americans do, it’s somewhere in between.

    Also, let’s make it clear how we use the expression “eh”. It’s exactly the same as the American “huh”. So, while we wouldn’t say, “Beauty, eh?” We might say, “Beautiful, eh?” Just like the Americans would say, “Beautiful, huh?”

    I realize you’re a Canuck but this certainly didn’t sound like it was written by a Canadian.

    Despite my rant, I actually enjoyed the post. Great points about Canadians and the way we “receive” marketing. We don’t like to be yelled at, or pushed, or coerced. Gentle persuasion is the way we roll.

    And the moose? Although I don’t see any until I travel east toward Newfoundland, they are truly majestic.

    Thanks for making me laugh and curse all in the same post!

  36. From the outside world Canada and America seems to be the same entity. Of course they are like chalk and er chalk.

    If it wasn’t for south park I wouldn’t know anything about Canada:)

    • @ Allan: Well, Al, you can Blame America for the fairly mainstream ignorance about Canada, and just about every other country on earth. American isolationism (the Monroe Doctrine) is hardly new. Living most of my life in the border city of Toronto (that’s a quaint little city of nearly 4 million near your Buffalo NY., in a province (that’s somewhat similar to a state only usually about 10 times larger) called Ontario, I always get a kick when American networks or major cable stations report the weather. The map nearly always shows only the Continental USA. Canada is just a great void -mostly a straight line until you hit NY state, above which there is this, well, BLANK. Alaska and Hawaii are generally depicted as two “out of body” squares which relate to, well, nothing. So for most kids growing up state’s side, America is attached to nothing. So it does not really surprise me much that your knowledge of Canada has been dependent on a cartoon show which spoofs the second largest country in the world. We are vaguely thought to be a third world country (we’re actually your largest trading partner), populated by Eskimos (politically incorrect for the Inuit – I’ll leave it up to you to mispronounce that on your own – men with red coats, strange circular-brimmed hats riding horses- and the occasional white man who somehow got let out of the American Revolution. We wear Winter Clothes all year round of course with strange woolen hats called “toques” – I’ll leave you to mispronounce that too – Many think we speak French. One of our provinces is called Quebec, where the majority of our French co-founders chose to live. We (the vast majority who use the English language) apparently end nearly all our sentences with an ear-screeching “eh?”, which is more a dialect found in rural areas. Since we introduced the metric system for measurement, and measure heat in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, we have worsened America’s perception of how COLD it is in Canada. You see Celsius makes 0 the freezing point, where you make 32F. your freezing point. So if you do hear that Canada is sweltering under temperatures of 40 degrees, you tend to imagine we think 40 degrees is very, very hot. Well, in Celsius 40 equals over 100 degrees by your thermometer. It gets all very confusing. If you drive across our border you suddenly think you can drive at 100 mph, but you see, again, metric is different. 100 on our speed signs means 100 kilometers per hour (100km/h) which is roughly 60 mph. So we’re not as speedy and not quite as cold as you may think. Sure, go way up North and it’s cold, but most of Canada has the same temperatures as your Northeastern states. So Allan I hope that helps you a little with understanding that while America is a beautiful and majestic country, Canada is not the frozen wasteland filled with either Igloos, Tepees or for that matter, cod kissing contests -what a revolting thought. And although South Park is a hoot, I think you might surprise yourself just how advanced our civilization is. One thing you may find a bit scarcer are handguns. We never developed a wild-west. And as another reader pointed out, this is a VERY LARGE country. Each area has its own differing traditions, environments and ways of expressing themselves. The absence of constantly honking car horns in our big cities is refreshingly different, but I’m sure we also have our quota of loud, pushy and rude folks. One thing is for sure. I think most of we Canadians are thankful our next door neighbours are Americans. I too have difficulty with this thing about aboot and hoose, I think that too must be a regional thing. And yes, we do have a Queen and use British spelling for the most part. But then again, we stuck with George III, his two sons, then, Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II. And I have little doubt, when the time comes, Charles III and William V and Queen Catherine will take their rightful places as the Sovereigns of Canada. Just try to spread it around that your weatherman’s map is missing a few million, square miles and that Blackberry is a Canadian company and you’ll do just fine. Thus endeth your first seminar in Canada 101.

  37. @Allen
    *shakes head* That is one of the worst things you can say to a Canadian. Sorry. Kind of like mistaking an Aussie for a Brit, or a cup of tea for coffee. Just. . . not a great thing to do. Mind you, most Canadians are too nice to say so 🙂

    PS. (not that I have anything against Americans!)

  38. Hello, James!

    I loved your “Canada Day” column I read today, because it reminded me of first exposure to your fellow Canucks.

    My Aunt Marggie took me on a cross-country drive of the US and Canada in the summer of 1966. A good portion of that four-week trek of 8,983 miles, was spent in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia … and everyone we met along the way were some of the nicest people you would ever want to know.

    You may want to blame Canada for their influence on today’s changes in marketing methods, I, instead, would like to thank them.

    Also, may I add one more thought … along with the “nice” factor, a good helping of kindness and respect will earn you more than just money!

  39. Nice thoughts, but we’ve been behaving like that in the South all my life, (and I’m over the legal speed limit in many states.) We hold the door for each other – especially ladies – ignore screaming admen, and call each other “Honey” and “Darlin'” – even if we’ve never met them before. We don’t rush through our words, either, so that you can chew on them as they come your way. Unfortunately, the native folks who have left the South seeking faster, slicker lives elsewhere have influenced the perception of the rest of the world as us being snake-oil salesmen or religious hypocrites. Like Canada, you’ve really got to come visit us in our native habitat to appreciate it. Having the drive-thru cashier say “Thanks, Honey. Ya’ll have a great day,” actually starts the great-day process flowing. I have many friends here in North Carolina who have relocated from the Northern climes, and to a person, they like the weather, the slower, more friendly lifestyle, and the fact that people will generally stop to help.

    And the weather is much more agreeable here than in the lands of our far-North cousins.

  40. James, to be frank, I was ready to blast U in the comments when I read your title and 1st paragraph, eh? But doggone it, I read on…

    And you’re spot on with the Canadian attitude, lingo and culture. (Will buy U a Timmy’s Double-Double next time I see U 😉

    As a fellow Canuck & web marketer in Vancouver BC, I believe we bea-ver-y instrumental in making a ‘whale’ of a change in the web marketing landscape!

    Catch ya on Twitter (@shermanhu) & HAVE A (belated) CANADA DAY, EH?!

  41. @ MJ – Canadian born and raised, just like the beef. And I straddle the border of Quebec and Ontario, so I get the best of both worlds.

    Kissing cod is very traditional to the Eastern Provinces (NB? NS? One of those two) and often joked about across Canada.

    And yes, the cold in Quebec lasts from end of October to beginning of May. In 2008, we still had snowbanks in August from the winter of 2007 (I kid you not).

    And I love snow and ice, so you won’t hear me complaining.

    You may never have heard aboot and hoose because Canadians typically don’t hear their own accent. I know I can’t, much to my dismay, because I’m sure it sounds great.

    But the Americans sure do hear that accent. Ask ’em.

    Personally, I know my accent sounds more like ‘oh’, so goat would be ‘goht’ and oats is ‘ohts’. Or so I’m told.

    As for ‘eh’, it’s not at all used like ‘huh’ here in Quebec and Ontario. It can be a question (You like that, eh?), an exclamation (Eh! Check that out!), a request for confirmation (Beauty, eh?), an introduction (Eh, that’s a nice car. Eh?). It probably does more than that, because I’m sure it’s a verb, too, but I can’t think of an example right now, eh?

    Interestingly, people in Alberta tend to say ‘hey’, not ‘eh’, but we just smile and nod politely.

    And I’m glad you liked the post – and the moose! Had one in the yard of my cottage last year, actually, and I’m about four or so provinces east of Newfoundland.

    Must’ve been lost 🙂

  42. Sorry I didn’t comment earlier, but when I first read this post I choked on my back bacon. My pet moose was blocking the door so I couldn’t get on my dog sled to find more maple syrup to wash it down, eh.

    As a very proud Canadian, you nailed this piece with tongue firmly planted in cheek at the right moments and honest admiration in others. Well done.

    We are a modest bunch but to say “Canadians” are all one type of person would be incorrect since it is the most multi-cultural nation on the planet.

    We love our universal health care, clean water and good roads. Despite the fact that income tax is high, few of our fellow Canucks carry a hand gun. It’s is a wonderful and vast nation full of great people doing creative stuff.

    I think may want to ask why Google has a large building full of colleagues here along with the home of Reasearch In Motion – neither are housed in Igloos.

    On the social media tip, it should be noted that Toronto (5th largest city in North America and 30th largest on earth) was the first in the world to have a million users on Facebook.

    Loved the piece and wrote one myself on my great nation yesterday – Happy belated Canada Day!

    Cheers 🙂



  43. Hey really nice post! Happy Canada Day to you to!

    Somehow that country reminds me of Mother Nature (Kind, benevolent and giving), looks like its citizens are going a step further!

  44. Hey James,
    Although I wasn’t too sure of it at first, I ended up loving your post (LOL). The niceness part is definitely true, and it shapes the world’s perception of us… something I notice when I travel and the reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m from Canada…always very positive.

    From a marketing standpoint, I defintely agree there has been a movement from “push” to a “persuade” type of sell, and it only seems natural that Canadians would be among the first to move in this direction.

    And when I say LOL, I mean I was actually laughing out loud at the office!

    Thanks to my colleagues on Twitter (@cedgell @jenholl) for sharing!

  45. I am an Asian freelancer working for a Canadian firm. Little late to comment on this one but its really a nice post, I was really taking it too seriously at first but I think I am really getting closer to Canadians.

  46. “[Canadians] enjoy being frozen solid nearly 8 months a year.”

    I think I speak for most Canadians when I say that we don’t *enjoy* it. We deal with it. And it helps us appreciate our summers and the warmer climates we visit.

    Besides, surveys show that Californians aren’t happier than anyone else. Weather is over-rated.

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