How Canada Goose Climbed to the Peak of Winter Gear
February 12, 2021
The Creators of the Iconic Canadian Parkas Use Pro-Level Quality, a Sense of Place, and Retail Innovation to Stay Ahead of the Pack.
Shorter days and colder temperatures mean it’s time to reach for your trusty winter coat. Perhaps more than any other piece of outerwear, a winter coat has a tough job: keeping you warm in even the harshest conditions, but also looking stylish enough that you don’t mind putting it on every time you walk outside.
One brand stands apart as the holy grail of winter wear: Canada Goose. Originally founded in the 1950s as Metro Sportswear Ltd in Toronto, the brand specialized in wool outerwear, raincoats, and snowmobile suits. The company’s breakthrough came in the 1970s with their invention of the volume-based down filling machine and the start of a new brand, which was then called Snow Goose. Their customers were mostly wholesale accounts and organizations whose members spent long days exposed to the unforgiving weather of Canadian winters, such as local police departments, the Canadian Rangers, and government environmental agencies.
If Canada Goose’s down parkas are warm enough for a trek to the North Pole, then it’s only logical to believe that they will keep you warm if your car gets stuck in the snow on the way home from work.
Nowadays, the brand is synonymous with something very different: luxury. Part of that status has to do with price point—entry-level models retail for around $1,200—but it also has to do with the brand’s increasing relevance to the world of high fashion—Canada Goose recently named supermodel Kate Upton as the face of the brand.
The Warmth of Pro Logic
We’ve written before about how brands such as YETI have leveraged “pro logic,” and Canada Goose is another great example of this marketing technique: if the brand is trusted by professional Iditarod mushers and polar explorers, then its products must be the best.
The “pro logic” also involves an emotional component: not only do the pros vouch for the product’s quality, they also provide the consumer with the feelings of comfort and safety. If Canada Goose’s down parkas are warm enough for a trek to the North Pole, then it’s only logical to believe that they will keep you warm if your car gets stuck in the snow on the way home from work.
The promise of superior warmth is central to the success of the Canada Goose brand. As Dani Reiss, CEO of Canada Goose, says, “Canada Goose is an emotional brand and I think consumers relate to it on an emotional level, especially because warmth and protection from the elements are emotional experiences. People put on a Canada Goose coat, and that creates emotions.”
Canada Goose proves that if a brand tells that powerful story of place, of authenticity and legacy, then consumers are willing to pay extra for it.
It’s one thing for YETI loyalists to rationalize the cost of a cooler because of how long it keeps their beer cold, but it’s an entirely different emotion that convinces consumers to splurge on a Canada Goose parka—in harsh climates, it can literally be the difference between life and death.
The Power of Place
Every Canada Goose product comes emblazoned with the same message on the tag: “Made in Canada.” And if there is one piece of clothing that a consumer would want to be made in Canada, it’s a winter parka.
As Dani Reiss writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Our country of origin was also critical. To many people, owning a Canada Goose jacket is like owning a little piece of Canada, and for that they’re willing to pay a premium.” The centrality of place in the brand’s success convinced Reiss to keep its manufacturing in Canada as many of its competitors began moving theirs to China and Southeast Asia.
Canada Goose has found an innovative way to bring a bit of Canadian cold to its customers, even in the dog days of summer.
One of those competitors whose home is also synonymous with winter weather, L.L. Bean, is a case study in what can happen when a brand abandons the place that made it so special. Only 25% of L.L. Bean products are still “Made in Maine,” and its famously loyal customers have noticed. The company recently reduced its lifetime warranty to only one year after purchase (with a receipt), and though the brand blamed the backtrack on customers who were taking advantage of the policy, it probably has more to do with the fact that customers are simply returning a lot more products than they used to, back when the bulk of the brand’s products were still manufactured in Maine.
Obviously, not every brand can use its home state or country as the foundation for its marketing. However, Canada Goose proves that if a brand tells a powerful story of place, of authenticity and legacy, then consumers are willing to pay extra for it.
A New Retail Experience
In 2018, Canada Goose installed “cold rooms” in five of its 12 brick-and-mortar retail locations. This experiential retail concept is as simple as it sounds: consumers can walk into a -27 degrees Fahrenheit room, complete with ice sculptures, to test out the legendary warmth of Canada Goose gear.
The idea originated with the cold room at home in Canada where the brand tests all its new products. It’s also a great example of what the future of retail might look like. Brick-and-mortar retail was already in trouble before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that trend will only continue as retailers absorb the financial hit of a year of lockdowns and restrictions.
While Canada Goose is hardly the first brand to debut novel retail experiences in an effort to draw consumers away from Amazon and e-commerce, Canada Goose’s cold rooms offer another advantage. As CEO Dani Reiss said to Fast Company, “We’ve found that the cold room is very exciting to customers right now, but we think it will continue to have value long after the novelty factor has worn off. It means customers can explore buying a coat in the summer months, when it’s hot outside.”
For brands to survive in the future, they simply can’t afford more than half a year of seasonal downtime during which consumers aren’t shopping for their products. Canada Goose has found an innovative way to bring a bit of Canadian cold to its customers, even in the dog days of summer.
How BMDG Can Help Transform Your Brand
Part of what makes Canada Goose such a special brand is found in the brand’s name: Canada. As we’ve seen, the brand’s home is valuable reputational real estate, especially when it comes to selling winter gear. At Britton Marketing & Design Group, our home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is equally essential to our success. We’re inspired every day by its people, its unique blend of urban excitement and rural serenity, and the insights it gives us into helping brands market to the New American Middle.
We recently partnered with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (NEIRP) to rebrand the region we call home. The tagline we came up with—Make It Your Own—captures the newfound vitality and entrepreneurial spirit that is at the heart of the region’s transformation from a manufacturing center into a center for innovation.
At BMDG, we love nothing more than finding new and innovative ways to help our clients tell the story of the place they call home, and using that story to connect with consumers.