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The ‘Eh-List’: Where do you stack up with Canada’s top brands?

Picture yourself grabbing a coffee from your local Tim Hortons, filling up at the Petro-Canada before rolling out to the mountains, and swiping your Royal Bank credit card to pay for your gas; there are many things that Canadians have in common, and that includes the brands we cherish. So, when it comes to your spending habits – does your wallet align with Canada’s national brand leaders?

Canadian Banks Dominate

According to the ‘Top 100 Valuable and Strongest Canadian Brands’ put out annually by Brand Finance, Canadian brands are swiftly gaining value and outpacing their historical betters (2019).

Source: (Brand Finance, 2019)

Canadian banks are cashing in, grabbing the top five spots, with the ‘Big Five’ all-seeing immense brand growth between 2018 to 2019. For the first time ever “the cumulative value of Canadian banking brands outstrips the total value of UK banking brands, coming behind only the US and China” (Brand Finance, 2019). According to RBC, their branding focus has switched from “emphasizing their accessibility and friendly disposition,” to now “focusing on the communities in which they live” (Kolm, 2018). For RBC, this means a more localized approach has earned them brand value with Canadian audiences.

Canadian Convenience Remains in Steep Competition

Although it remains a cultural icon, Tim Horton’s brand has been struggling since their recent purchase by Brazil’s 3G Capital (Mahdawi, 2018). You may also be surprised to hear that the Quebec chain Alimentation Couche-Tard has been working around the clock to rebrand all of their locations, now making their Circle-K brand visible in nearly every neighborhood (Couche-Tard, n.d.). Circle K is now rated as the worlds’ fastest-growing retail brand (Brand Finance, 2019). Have their efforts paid off? Where do you grab your coffee – Circle K or Tim Hortons? The Brand Finance report may have Circle K gaining ground but many Canadians still have brand loyalty to Tim Horton’s and just can’t start their day without that “Double Double.”

Canadian Stores can Win Online and In-store

Thanks to a dedicated brand committee on their board, along with constant acquisitions widening their brand portfolio, Canadians can count on Canadian Tire to deliver a great retail experience (DGI&R, 2018). Understanding that e-commerce still has challenges when it comes to quality customer experiences, Canadian Tire has focused on creating strategies based on their customer’s journey. Omnichannel opportunities and customer inclusion are their key branding moves as they continue to supply consumers with the newest and hottest products, competing with Amazon on every sale (Brummond, 2019). As with the other Canadian brands we’ve mentioned, Canadian Tire finds success in understanding the Canadian consumer.

Source: (DGI&R, 2018)

According to a 2019 study by the University of Victoria, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has moved up in the ranks to the most trusted Canadian brand in 2019. What makes the local co-op so great? They really know how to prioritize their goals to reach their target market (Canadian Business, 2015). Why should this excite us so much? Having implemented their “MEC All Out” campaign this year, they are representing values that Canadians care about such as environmental sustainability while encouraging healthy, active lifestyles (Rushton, 2019). This brand platform builds loyalty, differentiates them, is uniquely Canadian and cannot be easily replicated. Does your love for the Canadian outdoors innately make you more loyal to Canadian outdoor brands and retailers? The brand rankings would suggest they do.

Travelling the Great White North

Now reported as the fastest growing brand in all of Canada, Calgary’s own Parkland Fuel has been helping us reach the great outdoors while pumping out profits in the Oil and Gas industry. One of their most notable brand strategies has been their recent partnership with Shopper’s Drug Mart, which was recently purchased by Loblaws (both making the Top 50). Being able to fuel up while paying at the pump with PC Optimum points has brought a sigh of relief to many Canadians’ wallets (Esso, n.d.).

Source: (Esso, n.d.)

If traveling by air is your goal you may be excited over the new changes WestJet made when they launched their new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The airline was subsequently rebranded as a full-service provider for in-flight experiences and earned the top spot as Canadians’ preferred air-travel brand for 2019. Known for creating heartfelt advertisements that have generated emotional trust towards the organization, WestJet focuses on keeping customer experience their top priority (WestJet, 2019). When it comes to travelling across our vast country or beyond – are you willing to go the extra mile to support Canadian brands in the industry?

A Canadian Classic

Lastly, we can’t talk about the things we love as Canadians without mentioning poutine. If you’re making it at home, there’s a very good chance you’re reaching for a bag of fries made by McCain. In 2018, this Maritime company turned to analytics more so than ever before and increased diversity in their advertisements (MicroStrategy, n.d.). While keeping a warm place in the hearts of Canadians, their brand portfolio holds the top spot as the global leader in frozen foods (McCain, n.d.). They attribute their success to their wholesome values focused on family-oriented culture in each international location they operate (Czarnecka, 2017).

Source: (Save a Loonie, n.d.)

Canadian Brands Know Canada Best

Why are these brands succeeding? They all pay attention to the desires, needs, and values of Canadian consumers and focus their businesses on catering to these, keeping a sense of responsibility to their community at heart. No one knows Canadians better than Canadians which is why several large US brands have failed upon entering Canada. It’s a mistake to look at the Canadian marketplace as akin to any other in North America. We are uniquely Canadian and marketing messages should be designed with this in mind. That being said, as we continue to grow as a country that embraces multiculturalism and diversity it will be important to make sure our messaging evolves so it can resonate with Canadians today, and Canadians of the future.


Brand Finance. (2019). Canada 100 2019: The Annual Report on the Most Valuable and Strongest Canadian Brands (pp. 1-32, Rep.). Retrieved July, 2019, from https://brandirectorypublic.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/reports_free/Canada 100 – FREE.pdf.

Brummond, K. (2019, June 12). 4 Key Takeaways From Canadian Tire’s Marketing Campaigns. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://quickbooks.intuit.com/ca/resources/marketing/canadian-tire-marketing-campaign/

Canadian Business. (2015, October 30). How MEC scaled the heights to become Canada’s Best Brand. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.canadianbusiness.com/lists-and-rankings/best-brands/top-brand-2016-mec/

Couche-Tard. (n.d.). Global Circle K: Couche-Tard. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://corpo.couche-tard.com/en/our-company/our-brands/global-circle-k/

Czarnecka, M. (2017, November 15). How McCain Foods keeps its family-business feeling at global scale. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.canadianbusiness.com/lists-and-rankings/best-managed-companies/mccain-foods/

DGI&R. (2018, December 9). 10 Canadian Dividend Growth Stocks Increasing Dividends. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.dividendgrowthinvestingandretirement.com/2018/12/10-canadian-dividend-growth-stocks-increasing-dividends/

Esso. (n.d.). Earn PC Optimum Points When You Get Gas: Esso and Mobil. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.esso.ca/en/pc-optimum-rewards

Kolm, J. (2018, October 5). 2018 Brands of the Year: RBC banks on the next generation. Retrieved July, 2019, from http://strategyonline.ca/2018/10/05/2018-brands-of-the-year-rbc-banks-on-the-next-generation/

Mahdawi, A. (2018, July 09). What happened to Tim Hortons? The downfall of Canada’s brand. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/09/tim-hortons-canada-coffee-brand-popularity-downfall

McCain. (n.d.). Our Business & Brands: McCain Foods. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.mccain.com/about-us/our-business-brands/

MicroStrategy. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://www.microstrategy.com/us/resources/library/videos/mccain-foods-embraces-analytics-to-transform-the-way-they-do-business

Rushton, S. (2019, April 4). Introducing: MEC All Out: MEC Blog. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.mec.ca/en/article/introducing-mec-all-out

Save a Loonie. (2019, April 13). McCain Superfries Coupon – Deals from SaveaLoonie! Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.savealoonie.com/print-coupons/mccain-superfries-coupon/

University of Victoria. (2019). Canada’s Top 10 Most Trusted Brands. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.uvic.ca/gustavson/brandtrust/top-10/index.php

WestJet. (2019, June 6). WestJet Flight Light [Video file]. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C00FGmht8w

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Erin Hill
About the Author - Erin Hill
Erin Hill is a guest blogger for Tenato and was introduced to us through our own Jenelle Peterson as they both sit on the board of directors for the Calgary Marketing Association. When Erin’s not out connecting with the Calgary marketing scene, she can be found at Mount Royal University finishing up her business degree with a major in marketing and minor in sociology. In her spare time, Erin performs as a stand-up comedian which challenges her to hone her writing and presentation skills and also requires a healthy dose of tenacity and grit!