Also trending: Absolut and Netflix get in with Canadians

Sit tight, our Brands of the Year will soon be revealed! In the meantime, check out these other buzz-worthy contenders.

Before we unveil the Brands of the Year from our October issue, we’re revealing the contenders who deserve a shout-out for getting consumers (and the industry) buzzing in 2014. Check back each day this week to read about some nod-worthy brands (or in some cases, a person), as we gear up for the online debut of our Brands of the Year next week.

AbsolutBest tech-tapping brand: Absolut makes it with makers

By Jennifer Horn

Today’s makers and hackers are like the dot-comers of the mid ’90s. They’re the first to jump on new technologies predicted to transform industries, and Absolut showed this year that it’s not about to stand on the sidelines and watch these creators make their mark.

The alcohol brand spent the past year picking the brains of some of the country’s smartest tech tinkerers, hosting a series of maker events, and in turn, saw 6.1% growth in a relatively flat category in Canada (vodka growth for the same period, July 2014, was only 0.6%).

“Technology gives [makers] the power to create, customize and consume products the way they want,” says Chris Bhowmik, senior brand manager, vodka, at Absolut distributor Corby Spirit and Wine Limited. “Brands will need to adjust in the future by giving up control of [their] products to consumers.”

At the brand’s 11 MakerFest events in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, Absolut gave craftspeople, robot builders and solderers a space to exhibit interactive installations in front of more than 5,000 people.

The catch was that they had to use Absolut glass bottles and hack them to hold, display or add to the design in a compelling way. Think robots being told to pour drinks with the power of the mind (for example, using EEG headsets, attendees had to simply think hard about the drink being served).

MakerFest, which is part of the brand’s global campaign “Transform Today,” helped Absolut achieve trending status on Twitter in Canada, and moved the brand beyond the traditional use of UGC in marketing, giving consumers a say in how its products can give back to the world.

With files from Matthew Chung

LivingRoom2_BehindCouch_CoupleMixed_shot1-0073_V_FINAL_2-onbThreat of the year: Netflix turns up the dial in Canada

By Tanya Kostiw

For many Canadians (including this writer), a world without Netflix seems unfathomable. The OTT provider has rocked the nature of content consumption for many, to the point where it’s hard to believe we lived in a pre-Netflix world only four short years ago.

Today, the U.S.-based service, which offers unlimited access to TV shows and movies for a monthly fee, has become a staple in many Canadian homes, since launching a Canadian version in 2010. Netflix famously doesn’t divulge numbers, but Toronto-based Solutions Research Group data suggests three million Canadian households had the service in January, while reported its subscriber base to be more than 4.6 million the same month.

The OTT provider’s popularity has turned up the heat on traditional broadcasters, which have been releasing “TV everywhere” content offerings to keep up with today’s consumer. The most direct challenger of late is Rogers’ and Shaw’s recently-unveiled Shomi SVOD platform, which will be offered in a beta version to its internet and TV customers in November.

Netflix has also made waves recently for its creative. Along with DDB Vancouver, it picked up a Bronze Film Craft Lion in Cannes this year for the “Pep Talk” spot, which plays on the idea of being part of the Netflix bandwagon, touting the tag line, “You Gotta Get It To Get It.” It features a hockey coach riling up his team by referring to the idea of inspiring movie clips on Netflix – without ever mentioning any at all. The spot made news during the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, when New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault joked about “Pep Talk.” This tagline and positioning carried forward in the second leg of the campaign, currently in market, with “Airport,” “Test Results” and “Proposal,” which similarly play on ambiguous cinematic drama.

Netflix’s foray into the original content space has also made noise – and it’s not all from our southern neighbour. In March, Netflix announced its partnership with the Canadian hit Trailer Park Boys and franchise distributor Entertainment One to release an exclusive eighth and ninth season, with the former kicking off in September.

Meanwhile, Canadian regulation of the OTT provider continues to be a hot topic, such as at the recent CRTC Let’s Talk TV hearing.

These stories appear in the October 2014 issue of strategy