Marketing Across Borders

By: Georgianne Dickey
ACC Vice-President
NTN Bearing, Senior Manager of Product & Marketing Communications

 

If you are like me, you have a customer base in Canada. It would make sense since 90% of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of the US border, making it extremely accessible to US marketers. Many of the distributors I sell to also sell into Canada, making it important to market to Canadian end-users effectively.  However, just because Canadians are so geographically close to Americans, we are different in many ways. The same messaging, methods and rules used in America may or may not work in Canada. If you plan to market into Canada you will want to do your research and develop a strategy.

Things to consider as you market to our friends up north:

Canadian values and self-perception

While there are obviously exceptions, Canadians universally view themselves a certain way.  They think they are easy-going, polite, honest, and assume the best in others.  Canadians have a strong sense of pride for their beautiful country.  They are also typically more conservative and are savvy shoppers. When they compare themselves to their perception of Americans, they think they’re more humble, kind and generally less aggressive.  If you want to appeal to Canadians in your messaging, do so with these observations in mind.  Relating to Canadian values will go a long way.

Languages

Nationally, 60% of all Canadians speak English as their first language, while about 20% speak French as their mother tongue. The vast majority of French Canadians live in the province of Quebec. 80% of the population there is primarily French speaking, and French is the only official language in that province. – Verbaccino, March 2017

Not only do you want to tweak your American messaging to appeal to Canadians, you will also need to be respectful of language.  You will need to produce content in both English and French, and not France French – Quebec French.

Over time, the two French languages have diverged a bit.  Much like English that is spoken in America differs from the UK.  For example “you look smart” in England would mean that you are very well dressed, not that you look studious.  Or consider “the loo” vs “the bathroom”.  There are hundreds of differences and not being cognizant will have a negative effect. Be certain to verify with your translator that you need Quebec French.

Canadian Consumer Protection Laws:

When marketing to Canadians, there are several laws to be aware of.  Canada does a good job of protecting their consumers while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete. These laws protect consumers by regulating information sharing and delivery.  You can certainly effectively communicate with Canadian consumers, but take the steps necessary to familiarize yourself with the rules.  Along with the Canadian Do Not Call list, there are two main laws to understand:

Details about these can be found at Canada.ca and are quite easy to follow.

Promotions & Sweepstakes in Quebec

In the fine print of many promotions you will find “excluding Quebec”.  Why? The Régie.

The Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ), translation: the Alcohol, Racing and Games Board, is the board established by the government of Quebec to regulate the alcohol, lottery, publicity contests, gambling, racing, and combat sports industries. The Régie has strict guidelines about promotion rules and registration and bonding requirements depending on products being promoted and value of prizes.

Because of the strict laws and bonding requirements, many companies will choose to exclude Quebec in promotions.  As a quarter of Canada’s population resides in Quebec, I would not recommend excluding them.  Running a promotion including Quebec residents will bolster the message that you are interested in their business.

I have registered and bonded many promotions with the Régie and it is much less scary than it sounds.  It is actually quite easy.  One main difference is that at a certain prize level you will have to bond your promotion.  You can find all you need to know at racj.gouv.qc.ca.

Aftermarket Facts

Just a few quick facts on the Automotive Aftermarket in Canada.  The overall Canadian light vehicle aftermarket in Canada is estimated at $21 billion. Of the 23.3 million light vehicle registrations, 29.5% are falling into the aftermarket “sweet spot”.

While the US currently has roughly 59 million vehicles in the sweet spot, Canada has 6.9 million vehicles in need of aftermarket parts and we want to sell them!