Patriotic advertising is a viable way of appealing to the consumer base. However, it may lead to undesirable adverse effects if applied inappropriately or without alignment with other important determinants of consumer behavior. The following paper presents an overview of patriotism-oriented marketing in the Canadian market and provides an assessment of the likely consumer response to the approach based on the available data.
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Patriotism is one of the strongest ideological drivers of human behavior. Unsurprisingly, marketing professionals have incorporated this factor into various advertising campaigns to varying degrees of success (Lee, Lee, & Lee, 2014). While some companies, such as Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and Walmart, have managed to establish a strong national sense to their brand, which is currently recognized both locally and in countries around the world. It should be mentioned that the results of patriotism-oriented advertising campaigns are not uniform, with some brands being unable to achieve the desired boost in revenues. Nevertheless, the approach remains popular in many developed markets, including that of Canada.
A typical approach used by companies that intend to create patriotic advertising is to appeal to defining characteristics of the product that can be tied to its origin (Usunier & Lee, 2005). These characteristics include certain properties of the product, such as high quality or the inclusion of specific components associated with the location. The simplest example of such branding would point to the fact that a product is manufactured in the country of interest.
A more encompassing approach would be to appeal to the perceived features that are associated with a certain country in the public consciousness and assert that the product in question conveys these properties (Gelb, 2002). Simply put, the former can be achieved through the use of nationalistic-themed imagery, whereas the latter is intended to communicate the idea that choosing a certain product contributes to the feeling of belonging to a certain nation.
In Canada, patriotic advertising has become increasingly popular in recent years. The most recent example is the planned government-led branding campaign referred to as “Made in Canada.” The campaign includes emphasizing the local origin of the goods and features recognizable imagery that uses the national colors and symbols (see Appendix A for the example). The campaign is intended to capitalize on the support of the local economy, which remains among the most significant determinants of purchasing decisions. Another example is the advertisement for the Molson beer brand.
The video features prominently the Canadian nature accompanied by the narration of values associated with the country. Interestingly, the reaction to the video was polarizing, with some viewers praising the approach while others are voicing concerns regarding the cynical exploitation of the values (Huffington Post Canada, 2013). Apparently, the first campaign is an example of a more simplistic approach, whereas the second one is more oriented towards consumer culture and the intrinsic values that define consumption patterns.
Domestic vs. Foreign Products
In order to understand the implications of patriotism-oriented advertisement and sales, it is first necessary to obtain an overall understanding of the situation on the market. According to the recent estimates, Canadian consumers are primed towards locally produced goods. For instance, according to the research conducted by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), almost two -thirds of Canadians made an effort to buy locally produced goods in 2013 (BDC, 2013). In addition, nearly one-fourth of the consumers gave their preference to products from their region, province, or city (BDC, 2013). The local goods are perceived as valuable primarily due to the positive effect on the local economy, followed by the environmental advantages (see Appendix B for details).
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At this point, it is reasonable to point out that the data may not reflect the actual situation on the market as it is based on self-reported data rather than sales figures. However, in the absence of the necessary data, it is reasonable to make an assertion that patriotism-oriented advertising would be a feasible marketing move due to the alignment with the reported predisposition towards the domestically produced goods.
While it is challenging to determine the response of the consumers without extensive research, it is possible to assess the most likely outcome. As was shown above, locally produced goods are valued primarily for their contribution to the local economy and the positive impact on the environment. For this reason, the “Made in Canada” campaign can be effective only after the said benefits are readily associated with the production location. In other words, the consumption of local goods will increase after the identified connections are established.
Another determinant of the consumer response is the cost and quality considerations. Currently, the income level of the population remains low, which undermines consumer purchasing power. While this factor does not constitute a useful variable for determining consumption patterns, it does prompt Canadians to make more cautious purchasing choices. These assertions are partially confirmed by the results of a survey conducted by Ipsos.
According to the available data, the most significant factor that influences purchasing behavior is the cost of the product, followed by brand recognition and health implications (Ipsos Marketing, 2013). In addition, almost half of the consumers dedicate significant time to a broad online search that includes visiting customer review sites and selecting the best place to make a purchase (see Appendix C for details).
Such behavior is consistent with wise consumer decisions and cautious spending and suggests that in most cases, the consumer response will be determined by the actual quality of the product rather than the implications of the country of production. It is also important to clarify that certain high-quality products may benefit from their inclusion in the “Made in Canada” campaign. For instance, the locally manufactured winter clothing, which is currently highly popular both in the domestic and international markets, may enjoy an increase in demand after being branded as Canadian-made. However, this effect will be due to the quality of the goods (which is already known to the buyers) rather than the values conveyed by branding.
In other words, the products that may benefit from additional patriotism-oriented marketing are those that are already recognized as superior products in terms of quality and cost. The inferior options will eventually be ruled out in the process of the online inquiry, while those that are already sought after may enjoy a minor increase in popularity, mainly due to the implications for the local economy.
However, it would be unreasonable to expect a significant increase in revenues as a result of patriotic advertising. According to the results of the research, the majority of Canadians are willing to pay a premium for locally produced goods (BDC, 2013). However, the products in question must be consistent with the consumers’ expectations in terms of quality and health implications in order to create the desired effect.
As can be seen from the information above, the patriotism-oriented advertisement does have the potential to leverage sales in Canada. However, it should be applied with regard to other trends in consumer behavior, including increased attention to quality, cost, environmental impact, and health. Once all of these determinants are aligned, it is possible to expect the increase in revenues of the products oriented at patriotic values.
BDC. (2013). Mapping your future growth: Five game-changing consumer trends. Web.
Gelb, B. D. (2002). Observations: ‘Market patriotism’–advertising dilemma. Journal of Advertising Research, 42(1), 67-69.
Huffington Post, Canada. (2013). Molson Canadian ad goes viral: Proud patriotism or cynical exploitation? Huffington Post. Web.
Ipsos Marketing. (2013). Major consumer trends. Web.
Lee, K. T., Lee, Y. I. & Lee, R. (2014). Economic nationalism and cosmopolitanism: A study of interpersonal antecedents and differential outcomes. European Journal of Marketing, 48(5), 1133-1158.
Usunier, J. C., & Lee, J. A. (2005). Marketing across cultures (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education.