Wherever there’s a Canadian, there’s a Canadian Tire

February 7, 2020
Matthew Sourgoutsidis
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What does it mean to be Canadian? 

  • Is it wearing knife-shoes and slapping circular rubber with sticks on ice? 
  • Is it tapping a tree with a metal pipe and waiting for sweetwater to drip out? 
  • Is it an iconic coffee chain that is now owned by Brazilian stakeholders? 

You may think hockey, maple syrup, and Tim Hortons are truly the most universally Canadian things on the planet. 

But this nation is and always will be a cultural melting pot. Canadians are a population of diverse and unique citizens. They speak multiple languages and consume foods from several continents. 

What makes Canadians different is what brings them together.  

In my opinion, something universally Canadian will never be a person, place, or thing. It will always be a feeling tied to community. Something more intangible. 

  • It is pulling up to a stop sign at the same time as another car and signaling that they should go first. Only for the other car to signal the same thing. 
  • It is getting bumped into at the mall and saying “sorry,” before the other person can 
  • It is a group of shoppers forming an orderly line on Boxing Day without being asked to


As a nation built on immigration and diversity, Canadian identity is a difficult concept to construct. There are the stereotypes that everyone loves to play with, but there aren’t many things or organizations that you can say are universally Canadian. 

Then we get to the case of Canadian Tire. 

For nearly 100 years, Canadian Tire (TSX: CTC) has been the go-to retailer to meet Canadian needs. As a Torontonian born in the 90s, a distinct part of my childhood involved bundling up wads of Canadian Tire money with elastics and pretending to be rich. The cents in my hands felt like millions as I browsed bicycles I could not afford.

Their slogan, “Made for Life in Canada,” fit nicely with my grandiose vision for wealth north of the U.S. border. But over the years, their brand slogan has also proven to be true and their commitment to family values has remained strong. 

Canadian Tire has made it their raison d’être to serve Canadians in every corner of the country—from the modern metropolis of downtown Toronto to the northern tundra of Canada’s subarctic territories. 

Innovation over an entire generation

To achieve its goal of serving Canadians wherever they reside, Canadian Tire has placed an emphasis on innovation, digital marketing, and eCommerce strategy. This allows them to connect with their customers in ways that were never possible with traditional techniques.  

"Digital is in everything we do...Digital is about engaging your customers the way they’re consuming information. It’s about using data to make better decisions. It’s about tailoring your offers and experiences to customers and their unique needs.” - Allan MacDonald, Executive Vice President, Retail

A critical part of their strategy has been developing new ways to reach consumers. With the help of a startup called #paid, Canadian Tire trialed a radical and direct approach to engaging with customers called influencer marketing.

That was four years ago. 

Since then, Canadian Tire has not looked back. Quarter-after-quarter, they’ve launched campaigns in collaboration with #paid creators, operating at the forefront of both digital marketing and creator media.

Here is what they were able to achieve with the help of #paid:

  • Today, 70% of all Canadian Tire transactions start with a digital engagement
  • The Canadian Tire website receives over 600 million visits per year. For reference, Canada’s population is below 40 million
  • 1 in 4 Canadian’s are now part of the company’s Triangle Rewards Program

A country as a brand

In a world of borderless eCommerce, Canadian Tire leverages its Canadianness as one of its greatest assets for building loyalty and inspiring customers. Digital creators and their passion for visual storytelling played a significant role in helping Canadian Tire in achieving this brand feeling.  

But how do you convey the feeling of being Canadian? 

Well, take for example the 2019 campaign Canadian Tire ran for its Wood’s brand. The campaign focused on creating eye-popping content of the Canadian wilderness. 

The goal: bridge the gap between the 135-year-old Wood’s brand and millennial campers.

“We knew we wanted to tell the story of Wood’s slogan, ‘the spirit of exploration,’ with the creators venturing into Canada’s vast outdoors,” explained Justin Zychowicz, the #paid Campaign Coordinator who managed the campaign, “to do that, we needed to connect Canadian Tire with creators who loved being out in nature. We also needed creators with the technical expertise to capture shots that would stop Instagram scrollers in their tracks.”

Canadian Tire required a variety of creators to accomplish their goal. Luckily, with over 16,000 creators in the #paid network, the platform was ready to take on the task. Justin, with assistance from #paid’s Handraise technology, recruited 9 creators to work on the campaign. 

Those creators went on to produce over 30 pieces of unique photographic and video content. 

“Sometimes you’ll look at a campaign and you know you have a winner on your hands,” said Jonathan, “the content blew us away and was of a quality we’d expect from top-tier creative agencies. We’ll definitely be working with these creators again.”

What were the engagement results?

The creators’ combined audiences of 2.5M followers propelled the content, resulting in the campaign’s cost-per-engagement coming in more than 10X below the target.  

It also sparked several thousand conversations about Woods, driving brand awareness and building purchase intent within the target millennial camping audience.

“Love their classic outdoorsy style 😍 gotta grab one of these for @thisguygoesoutside”

“What a great spot. Had no idea about this @woodscanada line. I'll have to check it out."

““Beauuuuutiful 🙌🏼 had no idea Woods did tents!””

Touching the Heart of a Nation

Stroll into a Canadian Tire and one thing becomes immediately obvious—it’s a store for families.  

It has always been that way. Just ask the folks at #paid’s Toronto office what they remember about Canadian Tire. Answers sound like: 

  • “I got my first bike at Canadian Tire” 
  • “I still have wads of Canadian Tire money in my sock drawer”
  • “My mom and I would get all our gardening supplies there every May long weekend” 

With this focus on families, it is not surprising that Canadian Tire makes it a priority to engage its customers on a deeper emotional level. Creators who have built their followings through authentically sharing their lives, and often that of their family’s, are collaborated with fully.    

Creating emotionally effective content requires creators who are as invested in the campaign. As the work is ultimately meant to inspire, content must be uniquely tailored to fit each audience.  

You can see the emotions firsthand in the Handraise messages that Canadian Tire received after launching their Back-to-Hockey campaign. This plan celebrated the early fall ritual of kids getting new equipment and gearing up for another year on the ice. 

The concept leveraged both national and familial sentiments and Canadian Tire received over a dozen messages like this. From those messages, they were easily able to select 5 creators who they felt best represented their target demographic—parents with young children.  

Upon launch, the Back-to-Hockey content quickly scored with the creators’ audiences. The campaign landed one creator on Instagram’s Explore page, which resulted in massive exposure.  

With dynamic content like this, it’s easy to see why with just five creators, Canadian Tire was able to generate nearly 250,000 engagements.

The Canadian icon doesn’t limit its emotionally charged creator campaigns to purely Canadian stories either. Just in time for holiday shopping, they inspired creator audiences to stuff their stocking with toys from Canadian Tire. 

Filling Feeds and Shopping Baskets

The marketing landscape has undergone significant change since Canadian Tire began working with #paid 4 years ago. What started as a trial, has grown into a deep and meaningful partnership. This is due in large part to how well creator content supports the brand’s digital expansion.  

With the results creator media has delivered, Canadian Tire has made this one of their go-to channels for marketing spend expansion. Especially as money shifts away from less effective traditional channels. 

“We’ve been laser-focused on shifting our marketing spend from mass to more personalized communications, so we can be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message for our customers.”
 -Susan O’Brien Senior Vice President, Marketing

The emotionally resonant content connects each creator to their audience and each audience to the brand. Most importantly though, with eye-popping and engaging content, Canadian Tire has been able to leverage creator media into measurable multichannel sales.

Using tracking embedded in Instagram's stories and via links in bios, Canadian Tire has monitored tens of thousands of organic visits and shopping baskets filled on their site. In addition, they’ve been able to convert creator sourced traffic into email subscribers using intelligently placed call-to-actions.  

Recently, Canadian Tire has started to make use of #paid’s creator Whitelisting PPC solution. Whitelisting allows Canadian Tire to deliver a creator’s best performing content to lookalike audiences all through the creator’s handle—a strategy that’s proven to outperform branded PPC by a factor of 3.  

Finally, Canadian Tire has been able to fuel its own digital feeds with content sourced from creators. In doing so, they’ve been able to reinforce their brand with content they know will deliver on their mission: emotional family-friendly and authentically Canadian content. 

2020 and Beyond

As we move into 2020, the relationship between Canadian Tire and #paid is stronger than ever. This year, #paid and Canadian Tire expect to execute north of a dozen campaigns across numerous Canadian Tire brands, from SportChek to Pilotis.  

As #paid continues to grow its technology and measurement capabilities, the organization hopes to grow its partnership with Canadian Tire along the way.

Canadian Tire, visionary early adopters of influencer marketing, were first in line for creator media and have embraced each technological advancement rolled out by #paid’s development team. 

The company has continued to innovate over the years and embodies the values that all great Canadian organizations should strive for. Family first, uniquely Canadian, and true storytellers. Like Canadian Tire, these are things that the team at #paid also looks to uphold and push forward.

These are exciting times of a new decade.  

#paid can’t wait to help propel whatever Canadian Tire has planned next. 

“We couldn’t be happier to continue our amazing work with #paid.  I was on one of the first campaigns we ever ran with #paid, and as I’ve moved on in my career from one product line to the next, I’ve always brought them along with me.  Creator media is that perfect blend of branding and bottom-line results that every marketer dreams of.”
-Kelsey hopefully 

This week
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