Touching upon Canadiana, yet again!

One of my first blog posts was about Molson Canadian, the beer that drew on a sense of national pride, that owned all things Canadian and silenced stereotypes once and for all. (Read post here)

Along the way I’ve found many nuances of brands skirting the topic of what it means to be Canadian or to live in the great white north. From the landscape to the lifestyle to the type of people – I’ve heard it all. I recently saw an ad for Canadian Tire, a hardware chain that drew inspiration from the same potion of Canadiana – it talks about our love for the great outdoors.

It made me take a step back and reexamine the strength and merit of this over used sing-songs-of-all-things-canadian style of advertising.

I reflected on Indian advertising, and found a similar vein. India being way too diverse to touch upon geographical traits, brands touch upon Indian behavioral stereotypes to make an instant connection with the consumer. Here’s an example: (this ad is for a VoiP calling service for Indians living abroad, hence the use of cents instead of rupees)

I lived in Miami Beach for the first quarter of this year and was tuned in to the superbowl craze that envelops America. The ads being as important as the game, I sat up and paid attention. And then I saw it – a pride in homeland, or in this case, home state type of ad. Chrysler’s Detroit commercial, featuring Eminem.

My point here is, when does this patriotic/cultural stereotyping stop being heart-warming and start sounding well, slightly pseudo? Do Canadians really rake up a 6 ft pile of leaves just so the kids can play in it? Isn’t it cliched to assume all Indians behave in the same manner? And is it okay to start by assuming Detroit knows nothing about luxury?

One could argue that it’s just another way of connecting with the consumer on a meaningful level – by generalizing or playing to common beliefs. But is the consumer starting to tire of being pigeon-holed? When is enough,enough? Or are we already there? I welcome a discussion,as always.

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3 thoughts on “Touching upon Canadiana, yet again!

  1. I think stereotypes will never go out of fashion. Especially cultural ones, as long as they assume the texture of the time we live in. Somehow all of us are suckers for it. In fact within India we are getting even more rooted & proud of what we carry as cultural collage. So advertising is simply getting ‘deeper’ in its insight mining.

    Maybe as long as it doesn’t get offensive and is kind of reserved for Russell Peters rip offs on stage only, it won’t turn pseudo. As long it is refreshed. As long as it doesn’t reinforce negative stereotypes but bonds with those living within & in far away lands. We are as a species defined by our cultural identity. Stereotypes are just a manifestation.

  2. I guess you’re right Sandhya,this is a bit of an anomaly because sometimes when I look back at this post, I tend to hold with the views you’ve posted and at other times, the overuse of stereotypes annoys me. I guess if advertising were to uncover a new angle/fresh take on a lesser known/taken for granted truth, that’s where the wow moment comes in for the consumer. But if communication keeps beating a dead horse with the same cliches, it gets rather redundant.

  3. As another foreigner looking in the fishbowl of the US, I also wonder if there is legitimacy in “exploiting” stereotypes in advertising. I think it really depends on the narrative. Cliché for cliché sake is just about making fun of people or situations. Same thing for stereotypes. (Debating the difference between cliché and stereotype i will leave for another time.) But if the narrative – the story that encapsulates the context and content – describes the idiosyncrasies in such a manner that many of us can relate to, or project ourselves into, then they become a unifier, a common language, a common currency, a joke we are all a part of. The problems arise when it is done at the expense of a group. In the meantime, stereotypes become a bonding experience that gets many to face the same direction hopefully with a narrative that strikes the right chord of putting the same mirror to our collective faces where we all get to laugh with, and not at, each other.

    Certainly, isn’t the role of advertising to get many of us to feel a common emotion? What better way than to harness a common experience than to quickly elicit such emotion. Truth be known, there are so few arcs and archetypes and storylines, that we HAVE to employ a certain margin of stereotypes to get a large number of people on the same page – it just depends on how we bring the connective communication to life. Whether it is the music, the extremes of situations, or quirks, are they endearing or polarizing. If the former, then great. If the later, then they take on the negative definition of stereotype.

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