How Cadillac Fairview is driving young shoppers back to the mall

The brand's first TikTok campaign helps remind consumers that its centres are more than shopping destinations.


Cadillac Fairview is a bit of rarity in the world of commercial real estate.

Back in 2015, the owner of major shopping malls and office buildings identified an opportunity to stand out among a sea of sameness by putting its own brand at the forefront, says Jason Anderson, SVP of brand, marketing and communications, who has overseen much of that years-long transformation.

In the ensuing years, CF brand building leaned heavily on improving the experience for those who visited its properties – which explains the multitude of innovations it has rolled out in recent years, from a loyalty offering to a Live by CF customizable shopping app (developed by its Ravel by CF innovation team) and three new pilots launched just last month designed to meet new omnichannel needs arising from the pandemic.

“More recently, through the pandemic, with many of our buildings either being closed or severely restricted, we haven’t been able to lean on the experience of our properties as much, because people haven’t been able to be in our properties,” Anderson says.

In response, the company moved its brand building efforts outside its own four walls, increasing ad spend in a bid to remain top-of-mind until mall-goers could rebuild old shopping habits. It’s a strategy Anderson believes is effective given that few players in commercial real estate prioritize their own brand.

While the marketer acknowledges that CF still has “a lot of work ahead of us,” especially in light of a fresh wave of infections, vaccine passports and other uncertainty drivers, the brand is back to looking at the future with a degree of optimism.

Among its top priorities moving forward is helping people, including younger demos, remember the joys of visiting the mall – and not only for shopping. After all, malls are community gathering places and a common hangout among the TikTok generation, a safe escape from parental supervision, where many adventures, first dates and first kisses are had – an oasis of sorts that many are now needing to rediscover, Anderson says.

So, for the first time, CF has launched a campaign on TikTok to help recall those feelings of excitement and happiness, relying, in part, on nostalgia.

The campaign, which is part of a larger “Rediscover” push launched earlier this month, features four popular creators, including the dance trio Basement Gang, Inuk throat singer Shina Nova, Indigenous hoop dance artist James Jones, and lifestyle influencer Mykenna Dorn.

Anderson says CF “used our buildings as a bit of a canvas and asked [the creators] to think about how they would bring rediscovery to life through dance and through music” – forms of artistic expression that have found a home on the platform.

But it also found inspiration for the campaign in a 1980s commercial for the Toronto Eaton Centre that featured dancers at the mall. In order to capture the energy from the original ad, Anderson says TikTok felt like a natural fit.

Of course, getting customers back into its malls is one of CF’s many ongoing priorities, says Anderson. Gradually, the focus will shift back towards building the CF experience within its properties, as well as getting customers to purchase from its retail partners once inside.

“We need to be focused in those three areas – helping people rebuild the habit by being in their heads outside of our buildings, creating great experiences inside of our buildings, and then incentivizing people to ultimately buy when they are here,” he says.