Few of the city slickers who don trendy Canada Goose parkas this winter will ever find themselves spending a night on the tundra, climbing Everest or having to survive falling through ice in the Arctic. But the company behind the coats wants to tell its customers these stories.
Next week, Canada Goose Inc. will launch the biggest advertising campaign in the company's history, and the first major branding effort for a marketer that has long relied heavily on word of mouth.
The campaign is centred on a four-minute video, to be released on Tuesday, based on real stories of adventurers that the brand refers to as "Goose people." To make the video as cinematic as possible, Canada Goose hired some Hollywood talent: Paul Haggis, whose films include Crash and In the Valley of Elah, directed; and the director of photography is Sean Bobbitt, who did the same job for such films as 12 Years a Slave.
The reason for the push is the brand's recent spike in growth in international markets, such as the United States and parts of Europe. While sales growth has been brisk, the marketing team is concerned that people outside of Canada may not be as familiar with the brand and its lore of travelling on the backs of rugged adventurers into harsh and remote winter conditions.
"Today, consumers value things that are real," Canada Goose chief marketing officer Kevin Spreekmeester said. "They are starting to want to know the story behind what they're buying … We've done much, much smaller stuff in the past. Now, we really need to get ahead of the story."
In recent years, as the coats became trendy, the company saw annual revenue increase from $5-million in 2001 to $150-million in 2013. This year, Canada Goose forecasts its revenues will reach more than $300-million.
That's driven by global growth. When the company sold a majority stake to U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital two years ago, part of the stated goal was to help the brand to expand more aggressively.
The new campaign is targeted at countries where its growth has been particularly strong, including Canada. In Britian, growth is at 40 per cent this year compared with last year; in the United States, sales are up 33 per cent. This year will be the first time the United States eclipses Canada as the company's biggest market. Other countries that the campaign will be targeting are France, Germany, Sweden and Norway.
As the brand reaches farther afield, its stewards want to ensure that a distinct image of authenticity travels with it. The short film will be based on the stories of people such as Marilyn Hofman, a medivac flight nurse who once fell through ice into the Churchill River in northern Manitoba, and credits her survival partly to the parka; and Lance Mackey, multiple winner of the Yukon Quest and Iditarod dog sled races.
The video will be interactive, featuring what the company calls "rabbit holes" where viewers can click to pause the video and hear the real people narrate their own stories in greater detail. (Actors play them in the main videos since, as Mr. Haggis explained to the marketers, people have a hard time playing themselves.)
"He assured us that even though it's not a feature film, it would be of that quality," Mr. Spreekmeester said.
That's important because the company is relying on people choosing to watch it. Seventy per cent of the campaign budget will be dedicated to promoting the video online (the rest will be spent largely on out-of-home posters and billboards, and some print.) With the sheer amount of distracting content on the Internet, advertisers are trying to create what feels like entertainment, to avoid being ignored.
"People don't differentiate between branded content and content they love, as much as you might think.… They just want content that is inspiring, entertaining or delightful," said Michael Joffe, brand-activation lead at Google Canada, who sat on the branded content awards jury at the Cannes advertising festival this year. "We're really in a world of choice. It's up to the viewer not to skip [an ad], to watch and to share videos. If you can have a consumer spend 10 times the amount of time with your content as they would with a typical 30-second ad, that's a huge opportunity."
Advertisers that manage this also see a lift in important measures such as purchase intent, he added.
"This isn't a one-off. It's the beginning of something really special," Mr. Spreekmeester said. "The challenge for us will be, after working with Sean Bobbitt, Paul Haggis and [still photographer] Joey Lawrence, how do we elevate it next year?"
Hiring Hollywood-calibre directors to lend something special to a commercial is nothing new. Some examples of advertising by auteurs:
Director: Spike Jonze
This classic features a Swedish man chiding the viewer’s pity for a little lamp abandoned in the rain as needless anthropomorphism. Its film bona fides paid off: the ad won the Grand Prix in the film category at the Cannes advertising festival in 2003. (Mr. Jonze has also directed ads for other brands such as Adidas, The Gap, and Levi’s.)
Director: Paul Haggis
Dick’s Sporting Goods “Growing Up”
While the director is known mostly for film, Canada Goose is not his first foray into advertising. He directed some emotional commercials for the sporting goods retailer in the U.S.
Director: Jon Favreau
Director: Wes Anderson
Director: Guy Ritchie
Haig Club “Welcome”
This ad starring David Beckham has the trademark panache Ritchie brings to films such as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. (He has done commercial work for Nike as well.)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Director: Terry Gilliam
Nike “The Secret Tournament”
If you want to host a soccer tournament in a dystopic underground cage, the man behind Brazil and 12 Monkeys is a pretty good bet.
Director: David O. Russell
KFC “I Ate the Bones”
The director of American Hustle can also be hired to hustle for fried chicken.