Best Brands

From WestJet to Shoppers, 4 lessons from Canada's Best Brands

Marketing on a dime and more


WestJet (#3)

Big-impact branding doesn’t have to break the bank

Westjet’s “Christmas Miracle” ad has been viewed more than 35 million times online since it was first posted last December. The video, which shows passengers in Toronto and Hamilton telling a camera what they want for Christmas and then receiving those very gifts when they land in Calgary, is one of the first Canadian spots to go truly viral on social media. The best part: the whole thing cost less than a traditional TV ad (at least according to the company). It goes to show, you don’t have to spend a lot to make a big impact.


Shoppers Drug Mart (#4)

Strong brands data mine

The drugstore chain is one of Canada’s strongest retail brands, and the company climbed by 4.6 points and two spots in this year’s Reputation Institute survey. But the truth is, people have loved shopping at Shoppers for years.

A big reason why lies in Shoppers Optimum, the company’s loyalty plan. When Loblaw announced its $12.4-billion takeover of Shoppers last year, the first question many customers had was “What’s going to happen to my Optimum card?” (Trust us. A lot of those questions were directed at Canadian Business.) Don’t worry: the Optimum plan isn’t going anywhere. After all, it’s not just a branding asset for Shoppers (although it is undoubtedly that); the customer data set the company has collected using the Optimum plan is among the most extensive in Canada. It allows Shoppers to target consumers with individualized advertising and coupons and, on the macro-level, gives the company a wealth of priceless information about what kinds of customers buy what, where and when. That makes Optimum a truly rare thing: a brand-builder that improves the overall Shoppers Drug Mart experience, while adding to the company’s short-term bottom line.


Home Hardware (#8)

Strong community ties build strong brands

A dealer-owned co-operative, Home Hardware has worked hard in recent years to stress its connection to the communities where it operates, by sponsoring local minor sports teams and tournaments, and playing up its “Home Owners helping home owners” ad campaign. Alan Middleton, an assistant professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business, believes that’s what pushed the company into this year’s Top 10. “I’ve always thought they’re a bit shabby compared to the other (hardware stores),” he says. “But they have that down-homeness that appeals in Canada.”


TD Bank (#11)

Customer service matters

To understand how TD built the strongest banking brand in Canada—one that consistently towers over its rivals in our survey—you have to go back to 2001, when Toronto-Dominion bought Canada Trust. TD’s new acquisition had become the largest trust company in Canada largely by selling itself as the anti–big bank, offering its 3.7 million customers revolutionary (for the time) services like 24-hour telephone banking and extended branch hours. When TD bought the company, many of those customers were wary. To win them over, the bank launched a massive campaign promising a “customer-first” environment at all TD branches (while also quickly adopting Canada Trust’s extended hours). As detailed in a study by Harvard Business professor Dennis Campbell, TD revolutionized the way it measured the in-bank experience, streamlining its customer satisfaction survey and using a massive pool of customer data to find out not only how customers felt about their banking experience, but also what specific elements of “satisfaction” mattered most to them.

For example, the bank found a 1% increase in “comfortable banking” metrics—a.k.a. the percentage of customers who said the teller made them feel appreciated—led to a 1.7% increase in overall customer satisfaction, which increased branch profitability by 0.4%. A 1% increase in speed of service, on the other hand, led to only a 0.8% increase in satisfaction and a 0.2% increase in branch profitability.

Armed with that data, TD managers were able to focus not only on improving the bank experience, but also on improving in the most efficient and profitable ways.