Social Media – Amplifying Changing Customers’ Habits

cregan    March 8, 2015


Canadian Tire logo

Organization Name:   Canadian Tire Corporation

Industry:         Retail

Name of contact:  TJ Flood, Senior Vice President, Marketing

Web References: Canadian Tire Corporation

Description on how Social Media is used for Business Performance:

Our family was discussing where we want to go and what to do on our next vacation.  As we were talking, I jumped onto the internet to look for ideas about destinations, activities, how to get there, and costs.  As we narrowed our options, I turned to Social Media platforms like TripAdvisor and Facebook to see what others were saying about lodging, restaurants, activities, and carriers.  As we were gathering information and evaluating our options, I realized Social Media is impacting the way and speed at which our purchasing decisions are being made.  Today, we rarely call and ask for brochures or work with travel agents.  With access to digital information (pictures, words, audio and video), getting word of mouth recommendations and reading 3rd party recommendations, we have more information to make our decision.

Wow if Social Media is having this type of impact on us the consumer, what is it doing to company’s marketing groups who are trying to educate, communicate and influence buyers concerning their products and services?  I reached out to Andrew Barrett, Marketing Consultant with Barrett Group Inc. to hear his perspective on Social Media’s impact on marketing staff.

In this changing world, I discovered new phrases are evolving describing marketing including Social Marketing, Digital Marketing to Content Marketing.  Michael Brenner describes in his Forbes article “What is Marketing?” marketing means different things to different people.  Michael’s key point is marketing sits at the intersection of their business and customers matching the company’s solution with needs of the customer.

Tony Zambito wrote CMO 2104: Return to the 3 Purposes of Marketing highlighting changes in people and companies buy habits will require changes in marketing.  Regardless of what marketing groups do, they cannot lose sight of the marketing’s fundamental why and purpose.  Tony feels Peter Drucker’s definition of marketing, that follows, has stood the test of time.

 “The aim of marketing is to understand your customer

so well the product or service fits him/her and sells itself.”

 Drucker’s simple definition provides 3 key points to guide the role of marketing:

  1. Understand your customer so well.     To gain a “so well” understanding of customers means the role of marketing is to research and gain deep as well as profound insights into buyers and customers.
  2. The product or service fits.     A guiding purpose of marketing is to identify the specific goals and needs of customers and to guide the creation of products or services to fulfill them.
  3. And sells itself.    Marketing must be able to communicate as well as provide information, which enables buyers or customers to make informed decisions in such a way – it is self-evident

Mr. Zambito points out content marketing or other definitions are about communicating and providing information which is point 3.  TechTarget supports this view point, in their diagram below, where a Marketer Success is at the intersection of targeted content, active audiences and innovative capabilities.

Marketer Success picture

Andrew Barrett in his interview describes that Social Media is significantly impacting company’s marketing activities.  Digital brochure and product description are no longer good enough; companies must find and create innovative capabilities to:

  1. understand their customers/buyers and gain meaningful insights to their interests, needs, habits;
  2. represent their customers’/buyers’ needs to the company so their products and services fulfill these needs’; and
  3. reach out and communicate to customers/buyers about their product and services value.

Canadian Tire is a Canadian success story who is effectively using Social Media.  The importance of Social Media and Canadian Tire’s embracing of Social Media was evident in Q4 2013 earnings report.  In this quarterly report, the “Tested for Life in Canada” platform was announced.  Since then, Canadian Tire has won a CAISSIES award for their innovative Ice Truck campaign in which Social Media playing a big role.  As we look at the Ice Truck video, it is important to remember this campaign is part of their overall “Tested for Life in Canada” marketing strategy and communications

The Company

Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited is a Canadian retail company which sells a wide range of automotive, sports and leisure, and home products.  Retail operations include Canadian Tire, the core retail and automotive service operation; Canadian Tire Petroleum; men’s, women’s, and work apparel retailer Mark’s Work Wearhouse; sporting goods and sportswear retail conglomerate Forzani Group Limited; and PartSource, selling auto parts and accessories.

Canadian Tire Retail and its Dealers together form Canada’s most-shopped general merchandise retailer, with over 487 stores from coast to coast. Canadian Tire offers customers a unique mix of products and services through three specialty categories in which the organization is the market leader – automotive parts, accessories and service; sports and leisure products; and home products.

Social Media Importance – CEO Support

Social Media’s importance to Canadian Tire was outlined in their Q4 2013 Earnings Release statement “In 2013, Canadian Tire introduced new marketing and digital initiatives, including the ‘Tested for Life in Canada’ platform that solicits feedback from customers to determine the best and most innovative products”.

CEO Stephen Wetmore further commented their emphasis of Social Media in their 2013 annual report “… we have made significant investments in advanced technology and digital innovations that will improve the efficiency of our business, change the way we market our brand and enhance our customers’ experience both in-store and online.”

Canadian Tire’s Eugene Roman’s presentation “Innovation – ID-ah’s@WORK” outlines what is going on in the Digital Content World; very big shifts are creating new customer expectations; and how Canadian Tire is transforming retail into ispace.


“Tested for life in Canada” Program

Tested for Canadians pictureThe “Tested for life in Canada” series focuses on products that make Canadians’ lives easier as described by “Canadian Tire Cleans up the party”.  Susan O’Brien, VP, strategic marketing, Canadian Tire indicated “ Canadian Tire will continue to run the “Tested for Life in Canada series for the foreseeable future because it allows the retailer to highlight its most innovative product lines” and puts products in the hands of 15,000 consumers to get their feedback to ensure these products will work in our life as Canadians.

The “Tested for Life in Canada” and its consumer endorsements is a prominently featured on Canadian Tire’s web front page with a link to their collection of “Tested for Life in Canada” products and video explaining these products are tested by Canadians for Canadians.

For an understanding of how Canadian Tire tested and provided feedback on their products, Ahmed’s testimonial for Reflex Ice Washer Fluid was recorded in a simulation of his 1999 Toronto Snow Storm experience.

You will notice viewers had an opportunity to volunteer as a tester for the “Tested for Life in Canada” program.

Ice Truck Campaign:

The success of this campaign’s insights, strategy, execution, and results are summarized by Cream – The Innovation ExchangeThe Ice Truck commercial exemplified Canadian Tire efforts to connect with Canadians and show how they can benefit from using Canadian Tire products.  Andrew Barrett who worked on the Ice Truck campaign shares interesting aspects of the genius of this campaign.

The campaign was a major PR and Social Media success and viewed around the world and reported by major publications and media.  This campaign successfully linked the Canadian Tire brand with innovative ideas, uniquely used media components and achieving significant business results.  Andrew Barrett why he feels the Ice Truck campaign was a hit.


Canadian Tire further connected with their audience with a behind the scene look at how the Ice Truck was built and tested.


Canadian Tire’s Ice Truck campaign was recognized at the 2015 CAISSIES event (GOLD winner).  More information about this campaign is in the CAISSIES case submission.

When look across the Social Media channels, you realize Canadian Tire Social Media Marketing is addressing Drucker’s 3 marketing components.  With Facebook, Canadian Tire is increasing their understanding and conversations with their customers.  While “Test for Life in Canada” work is helping customers test products and provide product feedback and key product features.  Lastly, Canadian Tire is helping customers make informed decisions with their Canadian Tire YouTube channel showing product demo’s, how to guides, and corporate information.


We can learn a lot from Canadian Tire’s use of Social Media.

  1. Buy-in from the company’s leadership team is critical.
  2. Business goal(s) are a must for any Social Media activities.
  3. Multi-discipline team participating in Social Media activities is very important.
  4. Listen first to understand what is important to your target audience and why they are saying.
  5. An innovative idea and Social Media you can extend your reach internationally.
  6. Your customers are already talking about the company, so you should get involved with Social Media not wait for more in-depth knowledge.


Submitted by: Charlie Regan

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