5 Questions With Interbrand’s Carolyn Ray on Canada’s Most Iconic Brands

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Interbrand Canada / Canada 150 / Iconic Canadian Brands

“As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year, our nation is reflecting on the people, places, and events that built the country. But what about the brands — the companies, organizations, and institutions — that helped shape the Canadian experience and make us who we are?”

That’s an invitation from Interbrand Canada, which is compiling “The Interbrand 150: Iconic Canadian Brands Report” to showcase the influence and impact of Canadian brands at home and abroad — and needs your help.

All Canadians (and non-Canadians!) are invited to nominate the brands they think should be on Interbrand’s list of 150 iconic Canadian brands and submit their stories about those brands, past or present, that they consider part of the nation’s identity.

We spoke with Carolyn Ray, Managing Director of Interbrand Canada, to find out what makes a Canadian brand “iconic” and what she expects to see when the report is released in June.

brandchannel: What qualifies as an “Iconic Canadian Brand” in terms of this report?

Carolyn Ray - Interbrand Canada Managing DirectorCarolyn Ray (right): An Iconic Canadian brand is one that, in its own way, authentically becomes part of the country’s fabric. It can be new, old, or out of business. It can be for- or non-profit. Serious or fun. National or local. But it must have created significant impact, either inside Canada or globally, and impacted the Canadian experience in a significant way.

bc: How are you evaluating the ‘iconicness’ of the brands, and what does ‘significant impact’ mean?

CR: As we’ve done with our previous Best Canadian Brands and Best Global Brands reports, we’ll be using our brand strength dimensions to evaluate the submissions. In this particular report, we’ll be looking more at authenticity, clarity (your ‘why’ and belief system) and engagement (how you sustain the brand over time).

That said, this study is much more than simply understanding what makes a brand strong—it’s also about creating impact in our country. What trends have these brands shaped? What cultural realities did they tap into? How have they truly impacted our economy through growth or innovation? How do they make us proud to be Canadian?

bc: The impression of Canadians is that you seem to be particularly resilient. Is resiliency a theme you’re exploring in this report?

CR: Definitely. Given the vastness and diversity of our great country, resilience is part of what makes us authentically Canadian. When you look at HBC as an example, they’ve been here longer than Canada. What can we learn from these brands? How did they grow and stay relevant over the past almost 350 years? I think the learnings could be magical and transformative for other organizations that want to stand the test of time.

bc: When did you start and what’s the submission process?

CR: We’ve been studying brands in Canada for the past 16 years, and as Canadians, we have our own experiences about what brands have shaped us. In preparation for Canada150, we began shortlisting brands last year, and the submissions we’ve received from across the country have made this report even richer. We also hope to engage Canadians even more as we release the results throughout the year, starting in June.

bc: Can you share any of the submissions you’ve received, and what’s on your personal list?

CR: Absolutely. In fact, we’ve had many submissions through Twitter (tagging @InterbrandCDN with the hashtag #Interbrand150), so they are publicly available. For example, we’ve had some great tweets about @MuskokaBrewery, @CNRailway, @Saputo, @Seadoo, @FourSeasons, @Arcteryx, @Harveys, @StHuberts and even Trivial Pursuit!

We’re also getting a lot of nominations by email at IconicCanadianBrands@interbrand.com. Personally, some of the iconic brands on my list are the @RCMP – the Canadian Mountie is a symbol of Canada — or the maple leaf. No other country can claim these symbols. However, my daughter would definitely say @lululemon or even @justintrudeau. It’s all open for discussion!


Get more branding insights in our Q&A series.

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