Thursday, May 12, 2005

Climb ev'ry mountain, ford ev'ry stream

It seems Canada will no longer be represented to potential foreign tourists as a virtual caricature of itself: The Canadian Tourism Commission is sidelining the "Mounties, mountains and moose" it has relied on for decades to attract foreign tourists. It's part of an extreme makeover the commission is giving to the "Canada" brand, after market research found Canada has lost much of its appeal as a destination. [...] As part of its plans to take the emphasis off nature, the CTC will retire the "Discover your true nature" slogan it has used for the past seven years. The new tagline will be: "Canada. Keep Exploring." Images of mountains and lakes may still play a background role in the new campaign, but will no longer be front and centre. Advertisements with the new branding won't be ready for several months. Mr. Chr├ętien (who has a famous name but is not the former prime minister) said the CTC needs to do more than tell people that Canada has beautiful nature or great cities. It needs to make foreign tourists see Canada as a "place where they can fulfill their dreams." "The idea of the campaign will be to make them understand that Canada has everything for them to explore, depending on what they want to do," Mr. Chr├ętien said.[...] Darrell Bricker, president of Ipsos-Reid, approves of the new brand positioning. Ipsos-Reid's global research shows that when foreigners are asked what they think of when they think of Canada, they talk about clean air and water and natural vistas. But Mr. Bricker said that kind of brand positioning will appeal only to one type of tourist and doesn't reflect the reality of Canada. "We're not all out there as coureurs des bois or something like that," he said. I'd be annoyed with this new campaign - it does seem overly simplistic, and stereotypical, still - but for the probability that any tourists drawn by it would be much less likely to be hanging around downtown Ottawa. Some of us actually do have to live here, in the Greater Parliament Hill Theme Park area. Beyond that personal complaint (yes, I know; live in a tourist destination, and you can't complain too too much about the, y'know, tourists), I think it's hazardous to genericize the Canadian brand, at least for the economic prospects of the existing tourism industry. If Canada is to be all about "exploring," without reference to the iconic notions that Europeans (for better or worse) automatically associate with us, that saps some of the brand's value. You can "keep exploring" anywhere, and there are locations far more exotic than Canada to do so.

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