Creativity Knows No Boundaries

CanAm Council meeting highlights two sides of marketing for cross border business.

How do you get Canadian beer drinkers to Buffalo to sample the local brews?
How does a Canadian digital marketing firm lasso a client in the great state of Texas?

Those were two of the challenges presented at the CanAm Council’s recent meeting, one by an American company and the other by a neighbor to the north. More than 25 professionals – American and Canadian – enjoyed the ambiance of Morton’s The Steakhouse in the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo to learn about “Building a Market Presence and Growing Across the Border”.

With a focus on the two companies’ marketing creativity, Blair Severn, the CanAm Council Executive in Residence and Co-Chairman – and Co-founder and Chairman of Enabling Ideas – served as moderator of the insightful event.

U.S. into Canada

The U.S. side of the marketing challenge was presented by Biagio Patti, vice president and associate media director at Crowley Webb, one of Buffalo’s leading advertising agencies. Biagio talked about how Crowley Webb approached and executed a marketing campaign to drive interest from Southern Ontario to bring beer lovers to Buffalo Beer Week, showcasing the area’s craft brewers.

The campaign included lots of digital technology, including Google paid ads and Facebook ads, mixed with digital billboards near the Rainbow Bridge, radio spots and traditional print advertising in Toronto magazines. Ads were timed to coincide with Toronto’s own Beer Week, so as to target a very specific audience of beer drinkers.

Perhaps the most innovative component of the campaign was geo-fencing, the use of GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary around a physical area.  The technology uses software to trigger a response when a mobile device user enters or leaves a particular area. Crowley Webb used geo-fencing around targeted breweries in Southern Ontario so that when a person used a smart phone or device within those breweries, an ad for the Buffalo Beer Week would appear in their browser.

Based on the experience of Crowley Webb and the campaign, Biagio offered the following recommendations to U.S. companies looking to attract Canadian customers:

  • Contact media vendors in Canada to see what works and help understand the demographics. Even if a particular media is not used in a campaign, they can be valuable resources to help in planning.
  • Utilize technology such as Facebook, Google and geofencing as cost-effective components
  • Assess data from the right sources – use Canadian sources in gathering Canadian data, and vice versa.


Canada into U.S.

The Canadian side of marketing challenges was presented by Allie Hughes, CEO of H&C, Inc., a diverse Canadian marketing agency with offices and clients around the world. Allie discussed strategies and techniques used for both her company, as well as those used to help clients build significant cross-border business.

Specifically, Allie highlighted work her agency does for Bloomfire, a knowledge sharing platform company headquartered in Austin, Texas. Bloomfire turned to H&C to help them make space in the Canadian market for their software products. While Allie laughed about her Canadian accent versus the Texas drawl of her client, she noted her business is all about relentless relationship building so that differences don’t matter.

H&C invested in American technologies to facilitate their work with clients in the United States. These include HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers and  Pardot, a business to business marketing automation tool.

Allie said 40% of H&C’s business is with United States clients and she made some recommendations for Canadian companies doing business in America. Examples include:

  • Research, to understand your target audience and any specific buying habits and cultural nuances.
  • Research to know your competitors across the border as well – avoid making assumptions.
  • Utilize content marketing including localized SEO tools to reach your audience.
  • Regionalize your web site, highlighting your existing cross border business with case studies.

Both Allie and Biagio suggested working with professionals who understand cross border marketing as an important component for any business looking to expand into new markets.

Thanks to the sponsors of our CanAm Council.