Inside Canada Goose’s migrating strategy

How the Toronto brand has ramped up its marcom at home and abroad.

This story appears in the December/January 2015 issue of strategy.

This past year was huge for Canada Goose from a marketing perspective, having launched its e-comm site and undertaken its first-ever international marketing push.

The Toronto-based company has seen meteoric success over the past 12 years. Some media estimates suggest the company has grown 3,000% between 2002 and 2012, owing largely to its content-first marketing approach and much-emulated celeb-seeding strategy. This year, the brand expects to break the $200 million revenue mark.

Distributed in 50 countries (including traditionally mild-wintered ones like Japan and Italy), CMO Kevin Spreekmeester says the company has gone through a steady expansion, growing its Toronto factory to better meet demand, plus it just announced a new New York City office. Canada Goose has also grown its marketing department significantly, from two people based out of Toronto to more than 30 based in offices around the world. But Spreekmeester, who has worked for the company for the past seven years, says they are never satisfied, and have turned their attention to maintaining that phenomenal growth.

In 2011, the brand undertook its first consumer survey, which Spreekmeester admits was something it should have been doing all along. “I think the biggest takeaway was we need to make stronger emotional connections with our consumer,” he says. “Consumers all know us as ‘Made in Canada,’ and they love it [and] understood the quality proposition. What they were struggling with was, ‘How do I feel about the brand?’” It just completed its second round of consumer research, and Spreekmeester says it’s “moving the needle” on consumer connection.

Canada Goose’s new mandate to bring emotion to the fore is the driver behind this year’s flurry of marketing activity, he says. It delved deeper into the content-creation space, bringing on board in-house videographers for the first time to create videos for YouTube (video is a growing portion of the brand’s budget, Spreekmeester says). In the new year it will bring in a new agency of record (replacing incumbent DS+P), though Spreekmeester can’t announce who it is yet.

This fall, the brand worked with Danish filmmaker Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen and Publicis London to roll out a brand campaign (pictured) in the Scandinavian market (in a bid to better reach the countries where there are many outdoor-loving adventure-seekers – the brand’s target demo). “We’ve developed a campaign based on the Scandinavian term ‘friluftsliv,’ which means ‘free air life,’ or the Scandinavian concept of living in nature. It’s an old term that’s kind of lost its way. But we made it our business to open a discussion about what it means to them today with three films about three different people who all live a ‘free air life’ existence.”

The films toured on the Stockholm film fest circuit, and though it’s too soon to tell if this translated into sales, Spreekmeester says the anecdotal response has been good, with positive social media chatter.

And while the brand may be best known for its impressive celebrity seeding strategy, whereby it works with stylists and movie wardrobe folks to get jackets to big film shoots, with A-list celebs often seen sporting the Canada Goose logo, it’s never actually signed a real celebrity as its spokesperson before. It has preferred to tell stories through its owned channels of high-profile people in niche communities that are intrinsically tied to wearing warm coats (think mountaineers or dog-mushers). But even that’s changing: in September the brand signed tennis star Milos Raonic.

“This is the first time we’ve got a relationship [using Raonic as a spokesman on marketing material] with a 100% global personality in a top-tier sport,” Spreekmeester says. “He’s driven to be the best. We believe that like us, one day he’ll be number one. So he’s a significant part of the direction we’re going in.”