Changing the Image of Canada in the Minds of US travellers
Canada's Image in 1985
“Mountains, Moose and Mounties”
In 1985, the government of Canada approached Longwoods to see if we could help it understand why, over the past 15 years, its tourism sector had suffered a 50% decline.
Many theories had been used to explain why US travellers had stopped visiting, but there was no consensus or proven explanation as to why.
We conducted what was, at the time, the largest-ever study of the American travel market, completing 9,000 in-home interviews for analysis.
We found that Canada’s image amongst US travellers could best described as “Moose, Mountains and Mounties” … the country was seen as beautiful, but consisting of mostly empty wilderness.
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Canada's Ad Campaign in the 80's
Unfortunately, Tourism Canada’s advertising was reinforcing the negative stereotype of Canada as a place filled with empty wilderness, mountains, and mounties.
Results of our US pleasure travel study showed Canadians that their old assumptions about their country’s attractions had been wrong. Our research shed light on what was important when selling Canada to US travellers … that is was relatively close and easy to travel to, and that it was a warm, friendly and safe country to visit.
Most importantly the research revealed that, in the minds of those US travellers who had actually been to Canada, what made the country a great place to visit was its foreignness .
Canada was not America, and as such, it offered American travellers a unique cultural alternative without having to fly across the ocean to get it.
The New Campaign
"Canada, The World Next Door" TV ad
Longwoods' research became the foundation rebranding the image of Canada in the minds of US travellers. The new campaign, "Canada, The World Next Door," would focus on the country's culture and diversity.
We tracked the impact of “The World Next Door” campaign, and found that over the next four years, the campaign had successfully transformed the image of the country from its stereotype as a country with lots of wilderness - but not much to do - into an exciting and unique foreign destination.
Travel business grew 18% over that time period and, for a period, Canada's image even surpassed that of the United States.
OTTAWA (CP) – Americans are not as thrilled with our moose and mounties as the Canadian tourism industry once thought and that means a whole new marketing strategy is needed to lure them north on holidays, say Tourism Minister Jack Murta. “They are not as taken up with our wilderness experience, you know the Rockies and the mountains and all this, as we had once thought,” Murta said in an interview this week. These findings – the results of a study based on 9,000 in-home interviews with Americans – will be available to tourism industry members starting today when a huge computer database full of market information is unveiled at a federal tourism conference. Murta said the database represents the first time people have had access to such a huge source of tourism information and it will help the $20-billion-a-year industry grow. [...]
However, with increasing numbers of Americans choosing to stay home rather than risk terrorist attacks abroad, and with Expo ’86 in Vancouver already shaping up as a major tourist draw, Canada clearly would be a logical vacation spot–if only it could somehow transform its image from dull to dazzling. Enter the combined forces of market research and advertising and a $20 million ($14.4 million U.S.) campaign to jazz up Canada’s public persona. As the first step in overhauling Canada’s image, Tourism Canada hired a Toronto research group to conduct a survey of the U.S. market. What resulted was 9,000 hour-long, in-home interviews that produced the not surprising conclusion that there was a general perception of Canada as clean, safe and dull, with immense stretches of wilderness broken up by cities that closed down at 5 p.m. [...]
TORONTO – Lured by a weak Canadian dollar, an advertising campaign and fear of terrorism abroad, vacationing Americans are flocking to Canada. If the trend continues, this will be a record year for Canadian tourism. In the first three months, 1.3 million Americans visited Canada and stayed more than one night, an increase of 16 percent over the same period last year. And now the real tourist season is only beginning. To draw more American visitors, the government has launched a $20 million advertising campaign with a difference. Instead of promoting Canada as the Great White North, the land of moose, mountains and Mounties [...]