When Canadians think of 60-second heritage videos about our past, the typical reaction is to either shudder with repulsion or yawn with boredom. It’s not our fault. It’s this very (dark) Canadian history in film that we have painfully engrained in our consciousness.
Unlike our star-spangled friends south of the border, we Canucks never had a “Saving Private Ryan”, “Forrest Gump” or even an “Independance Day” to capture our imaginations and inspire patriotism. We too have a rich history, but Hollywood just doesn’t make films about Frederick Banting and Tommy Douglas. Almost all of our iconic films are comedies, and our commercials often follow suit.
Thankfully, The HBC History Foundation has launched a new series to tell some of Canada’s most adventurous stories.
Feeling less like “Heritage Moments” and more “We The North”, the first spot by Toronto agency Red Urban vividly re-creates Canadian heritage in a way that can resonate with even the most modern, cynical viewers.
Many Canadians likely had no idea who John Rae was, but this 19th century badass has a story that clearly deserves to be told. An interactive history journey has also been created for the “Country of Adventurers” campaign website.
Hudson’s Bay Company may now be owned by American private equity firm NRDC, but its history is unquestionably Canadian. The brand’s roots go back as far back as 1670, including a remarkable claim as the onetime largest landowner in the world.
While its brand image today is in fantastic shape, HBC is more closely associated with the domestic bliss of #stripespotting than its history as North America’s oldest company. This campaign, with national television buys including programs such as the Emmy Awards and MLB Postseason, appeals to viewers’ adventure-seeking attitudes.
Outdoorsman Les Stroud, host of Survivorman, was enlisted because “the best people to tell Canadians about our past adventurers are modern adventurers,” according to Red Urban Creative Director Christina Yu.
While Hollywood increasingly relies on biopics and adaptations to entertain us, brands should take a page from this book and tell their own stories. The mythology is all there – and often communicated impeccably well to employees – but it’s rare to see the same effort employed in consumer-facing brand campaigns.
As posed by Adam Toren of Entrepreneur, “Stories are what people remember. Even when they forget names and faces, they rarely forget the story and how it made them feel.” We look forward to seeing HBC tell more stories about men (and thankfully, women!) such as David Thompson and Maud Watt as “Country of Adventurers” continues.
Let’s look for more Canadian brands to entertain and endear us with authentic, relevant stories like this. After all, we’ve got plenty to tell – Jose Bautista’s bat flip has already been immortalized by the CBC in a “Heritage Minute” of its own.