Idyllic images of Canada's snow-capped mountains, golden wheat fields and sparkling lakes are hampering efforts to attract tourists, skilled workers and inward investment, according to a marketing professor who is helping to rebrand the country.
Nicolas Papadopoulos, director of Carleton's International Business Study Group at Carleton University, has researched national branding for 20 years. He said that if Canada was to remain competitive, it would have to move beyond the image of a country with wide-open spaces.
A conference of political and business leaders was held at Carleton to explore the potential for rebranding.
Dr Papadopoulos said for the past decade there had been increased global competition among countries engaged in location marketing. He cited Deutschland Europa, Cool Britannia, Swiss Timing, Czech Made, Crafted with Pride in the USA and Invest Australia as recent examples of country branding.
Dr Papadopoulos and colleagues surveyed more than 19,000 people on their image of Canada. Using a one-to-seven range, with one being the lowest and seven the highest, Canada scored a two in people's knowledge of what goods they produced, a six in how much people seemed to like Canadians and their country, and a five on the willingness to buy Canadian.
He said: "What they seem to be saying is that 'I don't know what you make, but since I like you so much I am willing to buy your products'. There is a bank of goodwill on which Canadian exporters can capitalise."
For the past three years commercial attaches, politicians and business leaders have promoted Canada's technology and engineering sectors abroad.
But Dr Papadopoulos said some of these were drowned out by federal departments and sectors that relied on well-worn nature images.