Diversity is the language of commerce, and an increasing number of the world’s consumers are now located outside the United States. At LinguaLinx, we know that marketing to a global customer base may prove challenging, but definitely rewarding. Each month, we like to shine a spotlight on a different global market. Since we share a border that is 3,987 miles long (excluding Alaska), why not focus on Canada, our neighbor to the north? Here are some important key points to take into consideration when looking to market in Canada.
A Bilingual Nation
Because everyone speaks English, so it’s easy, right? Wrong. Canada has two official languages – English and French – as part of the Official Languages Act. Bilingualism is practiced at the federal government level, and both French and English have equal status in federal court. French and English are taught in schools. French is the official language of the Quebec province. A recent report by eMarketer titled “Focus on French Canada: Using Digital Channels for Marketing in Quebec” focuses on this topic. It is not a good idea to ignore French-speaking Quebec if you want to achieve marketing success in Canada. To really reach this demographic, it is important to translate your materials and localize them into French Canadian. It is a great step in building consumer loyalty for your brand. This should trickle down into your customer service efforts as well.
Everybody’s Doing It!
A lot of U.S.-based brands look to Canada as their first international stop due largely in part to proximity and preexisting awareness of the brand. Also, a lot of the population already speaks English. Global brands such as McDonald’s, Costco, and Wal-Mart have done very well. Lowe’s has been very successful since its Canadian expansion in 2007, as well as Crate and Barrel in 2008. Both brands were successful due to a slow but steady gradual expansion. If you are taking a look at Canada, do some research and see what brands are already there and what they did to be successful.
But Not Everyone Is Successful…
A recent example of a brand who has had a lackluster expansion north of the border is Target. After 18 months, the company has reported losses, but they remained committed to right the ship. Target is not the only one, either. Wal-Mart has been very successful in Canada, but they had to close their Sam’s Club stores, as they could not compete with Costco. When looking to do business in Canada, remember that it is a foreign country with its own regulatory requirements. Also, the cost of doing business is higher in Canada, with higher minimum wage and different taxes. Most importantly, consumer preferences are different in Canada. Each culture has its own nuances. Sometimes, expanding too quickly may also not work our in your favor. Target took a giant leap and opened 100 stores north of the border. It is important to be aware of this to make sure that your brand will be well received and wow a new customer base upon entry!