Smart move for a made-in-Canada company, or branding disaster?
Wayne S. Roberts is principal and chief creative officer of Blade Creative Branding, a firm specializing in strategic branding, creative advertising and innovative online solutions.
With yesterday’s announcement that Canada Goose Inc. has sold a majority stake to U.S. private-investment company Bain Capital, another great Canadian brand falls into the hands of dreaded American raiders. What will happen to this cherished brand now that a big U.S. equity firm controls the company? How will its loyal brand community react?
Frankly, Canada Goose’s loyal customers will react much the same way other Canadians have reacted when Americans took control: “Whatever.”
Whether it’s hockey, beer or parkas, Canadians are well accustomed to having our success stories bought out by foreigners. Besides, whatever’s left of the cool factor surrounding the Canada Goose brand is slowly evaporating given how ubiquitous the CG shoulder patch is these days. Only when a brand seems rare and aspirational does it achieve revered cult status. If everyone’s wearing the same coat, how cool is it, really?
The coveted embroidery of the Canada Goose patch is even less hip than ever given the brazen knockoffs that are the subject of multiple lawsuits. You don’t sue Sears unless your brand’s equity is at risk because customers are lured into a tried and true (albeit morally bankrupt) sales pitch that goes like this: Why pay through the nose for CG when Sears and others will sell you a coat that looks almost as cool and costs way less? Saving money is cool, too!
The folks at Canada Goose want to expand their market. But if your super successful brand grabs headlines because it’s protecting its trademark—not because it’s innovating or extending its product line—it’s time to pull in a heavy hitter to fight your battles.
When CG’s CEO, Dani Reiss, says “Bain Capital [is] the right partner with the right resources and people to help us reach our potential,” I take it that he means, at least in part, that Bain has the powerhouse legal resources, worldwide, to beat up the knockoffs and protect the CG brand aggressively.
The Canada Goose folks got the big payout just when the getting was good. Better to take the well-deserved cash and focus on growth than burn through time and money trying to stem the growing tide of copycats that are watering down the whole shoulder patch parka market.
More importantly, keeping the Canadian CEO and his team on board while ensuring production stays in Canada (assuming that it will), is the best combination of messages to ensure CG’s loyal brand community stays onside as brand ambassadors. Even though being one is looking less hip than ever.