Hudson’s Bay hopes to rebound with a colourful campaign

The newly private retailer begins its plan to reconnect with Canadians by showing the importance of feeling life's important moments.

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Recently privatized HBC is unveiling a new strategic direction for the Hudson’s Bay brand – “Live a Colourful Life” – as the beleaguered retailer tries to reconnect with Canadians through common values.

As the brand sees it – and a voiceover in the new ad explains – colour is a sign of a “life well-lived,” and a colourful life only comes only when you take the time to feel, emphasizing tactility and people connecting on a physical and emotional level through hand-holding, hugs and dance. The Socratic dialogue-sounding concept includes, according to the release, being “never boring, always real, and full of feeling, thoughtfulness and style.”

Daniel Koppenol, VP and creative director at HBC, says the work amplifies what it’s able to offer as a lifestyle-centric marketplace and is the first step in redefining its purpose and re-establishing its connection to Canadians.

In a release announcing the campaign launch, Allison Litzinger, HBC’s VP of marketing, brand, customer and loyalty said, “As a brand, we echo the values of our country and the pride we have in our way of life – focused on inclusivity, meaning and happiness.” The creative includes both rural and urban settings, as well as diverse/LGBTQ people to “celebrate all Canadians and all of Canada,” the brand told strategy in a follow-up interview.

“Our goal is for the total Hudson’s Bay experience to transcend the simple transactional retail that we see with the rise of online shopping,” it says. “We want to reinforce that ‘feeling’ (literal and emotional) is a key ingredient to living a colourful life – both through experience and also through what we can provide as a retailer.” The brand says it wants to inspire Canadians to live their best style and explore the colourful life they can design for themselves at Hudson’s Bay.

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The digital creative elements include the prominent use of the coloured stripes found on its iconic blanket, which have since been expanded to a range of other home and décor products. In December, the retailer extended its coloured stripes into a line emphasizing natural ingredients and beauty essentials, its first private label beauty product.

HBC and its executive chairman Richard Baker closed the plan to privatize the company last week, following a process that took several months and was at times highly contentious. Despite the cost of the process and clashes with activist investors, Baker has said privatizing HBC will help the retailer make investments to improve its shopping experience and turn its business around, without the quarterly demands of public shareholders. Baker says in a release issued last week that it is committed to transforming HBC to capitalize shifts in the way people live, shop and work. This will “take patient capital and a long-term view to fully unleash HBC’s potential at the intersection of real estate and retail.” Hudson’s Bay’s chief executive Helena Foulkes is officially leaving March 13, with Baker taking over her duties.

The campaign, which launched Monday, was led by BBDO along with Koppenol, and will run nationwide on TV, cinemas, on social and digital, as well as a planned takeover of Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto. The brand would not say whether this ad spend is lower or higher than previous efforts. It has been partnered with BBDO since last March.

In November, HBC named its new SVP of marketing, Meghan Nameth, who will lead the company’s integrated marketing strategy, with a focus on cross-channel customer engagement and sales.