Canada 150 pizza marketing tips

Michelle Brisebois
June 14, 2017
By
Canada is turning 150 years old this year and as we ramp up for the big event July 1, you can sense the momentum.

I need to confess up front that I think “business anniversaries” mean more to the business (and by “business” I mean the founder or president) than they do to the customers or even the employees. Unless there’s a big benefit for the customers, celebrating the fact a business has been around for X number of years tends to be a big yawn. I wasn’t even sure how passionate Canadians were about being Canadian, at least when it came to food. Then there was “Ketchupgate.”

In 2013 Leamington Ontario’s Heinz plant had more than 1,000 full-time and seasonal workers and the tomatoes it processed accounted for half of Ontario’s $52-million dollar crop (Financial Post, March 2017). The most recent owners, based in Brazil, announced Heinz’s ketchup would no longer be produced there. A Facebook post by a construction worker went viral and French’s stepped up to promote its ketchup as the “Canadian choice.” Sales of French’s ketchup started eating into sales of President’s Choice ketchup (which is actually the most Canadian produced of all the ketchups) at Loblaws so the grocery retailer took steps to cool sales of French’s. Loblaws looked like a villain for trying to squelch sales of French’s ketchup and in turn had to do their own damage control. There are many nuances to this story that one most sort through to understand the true business issues, but the big “a-ha” was the notion that Canadian-made products were important to Canadians. It shouldn’t really come as a shock. We’re seeing it all over North America. Protectionism and nationalism are big political stories currently and it’s tied to the most important “what’s in it for me” reason of all: jobs.

Wheat, tomatoes, cheese, vegetables, protein. This is pizza and this is Canada (see the end of this column for some Canadian trivia tidbits and to enter the Seasonal Pizza Challenge). The opportunities to highlight pizza alongside swelling national pride are tremendous. While the opportunity is there; the danger lies in not linking that pride to the correct feature and benefit of the ingredient. Let’s start with tomatoes. Are the ones you’re using Canadian? If so, ride the coattails of the public awareness around how many jobs are linked to producing these sauces. For my money, this is the ingredient to lead with in your marketing. You can play on the “red and white” theme but make sure the words “Canadian grown and produced” are front and centre. If you’re wondering what the white topping might be, let’s talk about cheese. This is another ingredient with lots of media attention. President Trump fingered Canadian cheese as the evil villain in the Wisconsin dairy industry woes, much to the surprise of Wisconsin dairy farmers who cite overproduction in the U.S. as the issue). Nevertheless, Canadians are circling the emotional wagons where many things we export to the U.S. are concerned and cheese is one of them. Ask your suppliers for more information about your ingredients. If you source from local farmers, take a page from fine dining and say, “From Gary and Catherine’s farm, harvested by hand using local labour.”

If you source from larger distributors, work with your sales rep to understand your ingredients and tell a compelling story about them. Your campaign might feature an ingredient each week focusing on its origin story.

Here’s where social media can really work. The official hashtag is #Canada150, designed to unite all activities related to the national celebration. Provinces and municipalities are also promoting their own hashtags, for example, #ON150 for all Ontario celebrations and #C150TO will focus on happenings in Toronto. You can use several hashtags in your postings, so find out what’s trending in your area and leverage all of them.

Beyond the ingredients, pizza offers restaurants the best opportunity to visually celebrate Canada. A rectangular pizza with a white sauce background, red pepper cut to resemble a maple leaf in the centre and strips of bacon on either side offers some great culinary flag-waving opportunities. Shape the crust to look like a maple leaf and use maple-smoked bacon or a drizzle of maple syrup for flavour. If your establishment will see lots of visitors from other countries this summer, keep in mind that poutine, bacon and maple syrup are some of the top foods associated with Canada.

Canadians are different from the rest of the world. A survey of countries conducted by Havas Worldwide, “Pride and Prejudice: Shifting Mindsets in an Age of Uncertainty,” found that what makes most people in the world proudest of their country is its culture, followed by its history. However, in Canada the top answer was its values. “Things like diversity, equality and politeness have more of an impact on ‘Canadian pride’ than hockey, maple leafs and the vision of the country’s founders,” the survey concluded.

Make sure your customers have an experience rich in respect, equality and courtesy. That will be the best way to celebrate being Canadian. That and double bacon.

CANADA 150 TRIVIA

Every Canadian child learns in geography class that the Prairies are Canada’s __________.

What percentage of the world’s consumption of maple syrup does Canada supply?

Who invented Hawaiian pizza? THE ANSWERS

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies. Inspired by Michelle's ideas? Enter your Canada Day pizza in the Seasonal Pizza Challenge at the Canadian Pizza Show.

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