Tim Hortons, Cirque du Soleil and even former giants such as Eaton's department store have made it onto a select list of what brand consultancy Interbrand Canada has deemed the 150 iconic brands in Canadian history.
To coincide with the 150th anniversary of Confederation on July 1, "The Interbrand 150: Iconic Canadian Brands Report" celebrates the organizations, businesses and institutions that built Canada and are shaping the future of our nation.
But what makes a business truly iconic? Becoming an iconic brand doesn't happen by accident, notes Carolyn Ray, managing director of Interbrand Canada.
"An organization has the opportunity to become iconic when it truly understands the purpose it fulfills in the world, the customers it serves and the experience it creates. And it has fantastic people who deliver that promised experience."
According to Ms. Ray, the brands were chosen based on previous brand reports and supplemented by hundreds of nominations and stories about how these businesses have influenced the lives of people across the country. Among the familiar names are WestJet, Tim Hortons and Maple Leaf Foods, but the list also celebrates younger firms, such as Ottawa-based e-commerce innovator Shopify and Steam Whistle Brewing.
"Age doesn't necessarily determine iconic status, as we know with newer brands like lululemon or Porter, but there is something to be said for the resiliency of brands like HBC, Molson, Birks and Moosehead, not to mention most of our financial institutions, which really formed the backbone of our country," says Ms. Ray.
"Above all, we wanted to celebrate brands that helped shape and define the Canadian experience and have made us who we are. Some of those brands, like [aircraft manufacturer] Avro and Sam the Record Man, aren't with us anymore, but they do hold a special place in our hearts and it's easy to tell a story about the emotional impact they had on our lives.
"We also [asked] ourselves: What trends have these brands shaped? What cultural realities did they tap into? How have they truly impacted our economy through growth or innovation? And above all, how do they make us proud to be Canadian?"
One example is the Ski-Doo, the iconic product from Montreal-based Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP). According to Denys Lapointe, BRP's senior vice-president of design, innovation and corporate image, snowmobiling gathered momentum in the 1960s and quickly became a lifestyle activity. Today the Ski-doo is the No. 1 selling snowmobile brand in the world.
"I remember being six or seven years old when my father worked for Bombardier and visiting the factory in Valcourt in the 1960s," says Mr. Lapointe. "There were hundreds of companies making snow machines [then]. It was complicated to enjoy one. But today we have improved the technology and design, and [we] are making great efforts to simplify the customer experience before, during and after a ride. Now we're making sure anyone can do it, so that they can experience that wow factor."
Notes Interbrand Canada's Ms. Ray, "Iconic brands have a very credible and authentic sense of their purpose and beliefs. Because we consider brand a financial asset, we also believe purpose must drive business growth. It's not enough anymore to say your organization has 'a brand' or to run a campaign. The brands that will win are those that remain highly relevant in people's lives – their employees, customers, communities and partners. A strong sense of purpose is essential for CEOs who want to create high-performance, resilient, innovative organizations."
Another litmus test to evaluate the iconic brand's growth was export potential, says Ms. Ray. In other words, how well can a brand support growth beyond Canada's borders into global markets? Interbrand Canada hopes that its report will not only be a way of celebrating companies like Brookfield or Magna, but also serve as a call to action to other firms that understand the need for relevance and the balance between being global and local.
"We are sure that this list will generate passionate discussion, and we tried to be as inclusive as possible?," Ms. Ray points out, and suggests that "all brands assess the clarity of their purpose, values and beliefs."
"The report is really meant to be a platform to not only celebrate the history of Canada, but also understand the role that we, as Canadians, can play in shaping the future. This is a moment in history when we have an opportunity to truly lead by example."
Theresa McLaughlin, chief marketing officer at TD Bank Group, says staying relevant means looking beyond your own four walls as a company. That's why she and her team have been conducting "listening tours" not only with employees but firms such Netflix and Tesla.
"The main thing is we are taking the time to really listen to our colleagues, customers and make sure we are evolving," she said. "With any business there's this notion of offering service and convenience, but also giving back. We want to be a community partner, connected to the fabric of what's going on around us. We view ourselves as a steward."
This content was produced by Interbrand Canada. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.