Canada Ideal for Testing Products Before Hitting Other Markets


For many brands and products, English-speaking Canada is an ideal market in which to plan a launch. This is primarily because it’s a microcosm of the U.S. market on many levels.

We watch the same channels, consume a majority of the same sports and generally buy the same things. Products driven by television or launched on a variety of platforms – including Facebook, lookalike audiences, influencers, etc. – can provide useful insights for the broader North American market. Testing in Canada will provide meaningful insights into a broader push both in the U.S. and overseas.

The smart marketer will use the similarities between countries to better inform branding and distribution on both sides of the border.

Also, Canada is generally a more secure consumer credit market. It’s first and foremost a great market to test and tweak video creatives, both digital and broadcast before launching in the U.S.

Most Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border, so there is a great deal of overlap in needs and tastes. Interests in pop culture, entertainment, leisure and food are similar. Canada has also adapted to the digital age on a level with the U.S. In other words, Canadians will not be turned off by marketing over a phone or other device.

Depending on the product, there are a variety of ways to test direct-to-consumer initiatives in Canada by driving traffic to a microsite, either executing sales there or doing segmented media buys with promotion codes for response measurement. This can be a useful tactic in determining and refining audience and demographic targeting in order to build a marketing plan. Often execution is a combination of D2C and more traditional CPG marketing plans.

Once you’ve tested and optimized direct sales or drive-to-web plans in English-speaking Canada, the French market – especially in cosmetics and beauty – can be significantly more responsive. While largely French-speaking Quebec accounts for 35% of the population, more often than not ROI in these verticals exceeds 50%. It’s important to work with a partner that understands the intricacies of this market and can help shape targeted marketing messages, as English campaigns don’t always translate well.

One given is that it is important to use a .ca landing page as it adds a level of trust for Canadian consumers. With that done, creative and ad copy should be tailored to speak directly to Canadians. It’s also vital that the strategy include different price points, bundles and upsells to see which resonate best with the audience.

After assessing how the product or service performs in English-speaking Canada, carefully consider which other countries you’d like to penetrate and how much of each market you’d like to target for the initial non-Canadian push.

Depending on your supply chain and distribution networks, you’ll need to determine if a smaller city makes better sense than a larger metropolis for an initial push. English-speaking markets like the UK and Australia are often natural next steps. But be aware that the data and trends you’ve gotten from Canada may not be comparable to major markets there. Use your experience in Canada as a guide, but do your due diligence by studying purchasing habits and trends of whatever market you next choose.

While you may get better bang for your buck in Canada per transaction, you can utilize your lessons learned to expand your company’s horizons throughout the world.

The diversity of people and businesses are another reason that Canada a great test market. While some may think of Canada as a traditional “one culture” nation, it is brimming with a variety of ethnicities and nationalities and a vast array of business enterprises.

There are about 200 languages spoken in Canada, resulting from widespread immigration during the last two centuries. The country also has the highest share of foreigners of any country in the G7, including people from all income levels in cities as well as suburbs. But English is commonly spoken throughout the country as a first or second language, so there is no language barrier.

But all of this variety of people and places means that Canada is an ideal market for learning how your product will fare among different types of individuals and market segments.

As a fringe benefit, consider that many regions of Canada are very European in nature. If you plan to bring your product to Europe, you can consider testing in many cities that are strikingly similar to France, as well as other Western European cultural giants.

The Canadian cable television market, though not as large, is also very similar to the U.S. in terms of programming and style. If you study the landscape closely and familiarize yourself with the shows and broadcasters, you can carefully plan a TV marketing campaign that can succeed just as well in New York and California as it does in Toronto and Montreal.

All this said, it doesn’t mean you’ll reap the same rewards in both countries. The U.S. market is larger with more big cities brimming with potentially loyal customers. But the smart marketer will evaluate its Canadian equivalents and bring the lessons learned to America and even the rest of the world.

Ed Crain is the founder, president and CEO of Kingstar Media and Kingstar Direct

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