Client News: It’s time for Hudson’s Bay to hit the trail

As Seen in Strategy Online July 13, 2017
Author: Harmeet Singh

A cross-country portage trip is providing digital content for the retailer, along with fundraising for a major Canadian project.

Hudson’s Bay Company’s brand equity and legacy here make it an attractive partner for Canada 150 initiatives, but when it came to selecting how it would invest this year, it settled on giving back to the country.

Earlier this year, the retailer launched its Grand Portage initiative, a fundraising program aimed at helping complete the remaining 2,200 unfinished kilometers of the Trans Canada Trail – now marketed as The Great Trail – which runs from coast to coast.

Like many brands, Hudson’s Bay was searching for the right Canada 150 opportunity, looking for something that would be the right fit for the brand and unique but would also leave a legacy, says Patrick Dickinson, SVP, marketing and brand strategy.

Helping to connect The Great Trail was ultimately the right choice, especially given the company’s roots of exploration and trading in the country, he says (back in 2015, the brand centred a TV campaign on its adventurous past). “From a brand and a story standpoint, it just fit so seamlessly with our history and heritage,” he says, adding that the thinking was, if it’s Canada’s birthday, why not provide the country a present?

Since March, Hudson’s Bay has been selling various merchandise associated with the initiative, including apparel and two flagship fundraising products – a larger paddle and a smaller paddle keychain – with 50% of sales from those latter items going towards the trail. Portions of its HBC Foundation initiatives through the year are also being donated to the trail.

Now the retailer has kicked off its actual Grand Portage program, with three brand ambassadors – chosen following a call to Canadians earlier this year – venturing across the country in a 66-day journey with a striped canoe, making stops and creating social media content to show Canadians the parts of The Great Trail that might be in their own backyards.

Along with generating digital and social content (teaming up with Olympians and local celebrities along the way), the ambassadors are also making stops in 10 key Cadillac Fairview malls across Canada where Hudson’s Bay has set up pop-ups with selfie stations (to generate more online content), a VR headset experience where users can experience parts of the trail and “wishing wells” for Canadians to donate to the trail.

Hudson’s Bay’s public goal for the fundraising initiative is $1 million. Dickinson says that so far, it’s been seeing success with sales of its fundraising products, particularly now that summer is upon us (since much of the merchandise is geared toward this time of year).

Vancouver-based agency Torque worked on the tour portion of the Grand Portage initiative, with the rest of the marketing content and overall program being managed by HBC internally.