“Winnipeg” and “Vacation” is Not an Oxymoron. Really.

[Cache #208]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

This week, I am enjoying a vacation in and around Winnipeg.

Many people, as they made clear to me in advance, consider this to be a contradiction in terms.

A brand is what people think of you – and this city, arguably, has the worst brand of any major city in Canada.

Why?

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Is it the supposed mosquitoes?  This year is perhaps my 5th visit in the last 10 years to my aunt’s cottage on Lake Winnipeg (which my fellow smug Torontonians will most certainly not recognize as being bigger than Lake Ontario), and the bugs have been bad but once.  In fact they are nothing compared to the annual dark clouds of mosquitoes (preceded in the spring by black flies) that descended upon my family’s past lakefront home just minutes north of Ottawa in idyllic Chelsea, Quebec.

Is it the snow and cold?  Calgary, on September 8 last year – two weeks before the end of summer – got 8 cm of snow.  Winnipeg’s first significant snowfall was almost three months later, on November 29th.  But short summers and brutal winters are not a dominant part of the Calgary narrative, that city overall having a very positive brand in Canadian minds.  Although in fairness, with an average January low of -23C, it cannot be denied that Winnipeg is bloody cold.  But then again, we are Canadians, people.  Buck up.

So, why is Winnipeg’s brand so bad?  And what are your ideas – completely practical or totally outrageous – for how it can be made better?

Coin Branding president Andris Pone is co-author of the Globe and Mail #1-bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo and appears as a branding expert on CBC’s The National, CBC Radio One, the Globe and Mail, National Post and other media outlets.

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