As Canadians, we link our identity to a handful of icons, including hockey, universal health care and the pronunciation of the letter "z." Even though that last Canadianism may seem minor, some marketers rely on it to appeal to Canadian consumers.
But how effective is it for a retailer to simply run through the alphabet of everything it offers? In a country where people obsess about the spelling of colour and centre, there’s definitely something to be gained by ending the alphabet in a very particular way.
Competing against much larger U.S. retailers, Zellers went out of its way to make a connection between the first letter of its name and the iconic Canadian pronunciation of that letter.
That store's efforts to be seen as a Canadian retail alternative included a play on Club Med for its points card and a teddy bear mascot with an equally distinctive name.
Just last year, Blackberry also played the zed card by launching a new smart phone with a name that had a Canadian ring to it.
Being sensitive to its U.S. consumers, Blackberry created different commercials for that market, with a different pronunciation.
Now, some might say all this attention to zeds didn’t benefit the now-dead Zellers and the teetering-on-the-brink Blackberry all that much.
But at least their sensitivity to pronunciation was a refreshing change in an environment where American marketers routinely enter the Canadian market with products that don't make the pronunciation distinction.
But there is one segment where U.S. marketers have always been sensitive to Canadian pronunciation. Instead of simply running this America ad in Canada, Lincoln went to the expense of creating a different commercial with Canadian pronunciation.
Because cars are so closely tied to image and identity, it’s very important to get that identity correct when speaking to Canadian car buyers. But in the end, it all comes down to dollars and cents. If the product is low-end and utilitarian, marketers will go cheap and run the U.S. product name, commercial and pronunciation in both countries.
But when there’s a risk of offending the identity of Canadian buyers of big ticket items, marketers will spend the extra loonies to do a custom version for Canada.