Founded in a small warehouse in Toronto almost 60 years ago, Canada Goose has grown into one of the world’s leading makers of Arctic luxury apparel.
While many legacy brands are struggling to reinvent themselves for the digital age, Canada Goose is making out well in the face of change. The outerwear brand has grown its sales nearly 500% over the past five years, having launched its e-commerce presence only two years ago. Since then, e-commerce has comprised 15% of overall sales, a number that Canada Goose CMO Jackie Poriadjian-Asch expects to continue to increase that share as the brand ups the ante on marketing with a bigger focus on digital channels and tactics.
In this exclusive interview with CMO.com, Poriadjian-Asch talks about marketing a heritage brand, a day in the life of a CMO, the importance of celebrity collaborations, and her three top strategic priorities for the next 12 to 18 months.
CMO.com: Tell me a little about yourself and your career in marketing.
Poriadjian-Asch: I’ve always been passionate about people, above all else. My career has been largely spent in entertainment and sports, allowing me to develop brands and market products and services featuring some of the most interesting people in the world—from Howard Stern’s On Demand to UFC and its biggest stars, such as Rowdy Ronda Rousey and the Notorious Conor McGregor.
A fan of fans, I have a natural curiosity for what motivates and excites them. I feel a responsibility to ensure that the experiences created validate their loyalty and commitment.
Whether launching a digital-streaming service because fans don’t want to miss a live event happening on the other side of the world at 3 a.m. or designing a 555,000-square-foot Fan Expo, the goal for me has always been the same: make it feel intended for them—personal.
In my new role as CMO at Canada Goose, I look forward to immersing myself in the culture and tradition of this truly iconic brand, getting to know our “Goose People” who inspired so much of what we do, listening to the fans tell their stories, and together finding new ways to share them with the world.
CMO.com: What does your typical day of work look like?
Poriadjian-Asch: No day is ever the same, which is what makes it so exciting. Whenever possible, I start the day by connecting with our international team in Europe.
I quickly go through the daily papers—The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Globe and Mail—and trades from fashion and sports to media and technology—Women’s Wear Daily to Hollywood Reporter to Sports Business Journal and Mashable and Twitter.
Still relatively new to Canada Goose—I joined the brand in April—I try to soak up as much as I can across the business. We have an incredibly generous team of experts, from sourcing materials to manufacturing, merchandising, and design, all playing a critical role in driving the business and how we go to market. Coming from 18 years in the content and media industry, these areas are largely new to me. Understanding the fundamentals has been a priority.
I try to stop by the factory—one of our largest is connected to our headquarters—walking the floor and seeing the entire process of assembling one of our coveted handmade parkas. Our iconic Snow Mantra has more than 247 pieces and is assembled by hand. That’s craftsmanship.
This brand has so many dimensions and is naturally a part of so many of the biggest cultural moments. For example, as the unofficial jacket of films crews everywhere for over 30 years, we’ve made a commitment to filmmakers who often spend long hours outdoors. We’re currently at the Toronto International Film Festival supporting filmmakers and sponsoring the Canadian Feature Film Award there, while on the same day appearing on the runway at New York Fashion Week ... and on the field at the Toronto Blue Jays/Boston Red Sox game, where David Ortiz got a special jacket to celebrate his final series in Toronto.
Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports
More routinely, as we are ramping up for our fall/winter campaign, the team gets together to review creative, adjust media plans, and track sales performance.
I also try to set aside as much time as possible to connect with business leaders throughout the organization to make sure we stay in sync—as well as dreaming up plans for the future. Finally, at least once a month I like to host industry leaders to come in for a team workshop. Vice was welcomed by a packed house earlier this month, and we are looking forward to having Google in a few weeks.
CMO.com: What are your top three marketing priorities over the next 12 to 18 months?
Poriadjian-Asch: Partnering with the world’s best retailers is first. Marketing has a big role in our commitment to support our retail partners in whatever way we can, from sharing rich content across their channels to developing unique events and in-store experiences. We are focused on making sure we remain differentiated and sell through.
The next priority for us is bringing the magic of Canada Goose to retail. We are opening two flagship stores this fall, in Toronto and NYC. Bringing the magic of this brand and its products—its unique history born out of utility, craftsmanship, unparalleled quality, as well as customer service—making sure all of that comes to life through our in-store experience is definitely a top priority. Marketing is partnering with teams across the entire organization to bring this to life.
And, lastly, continuing to build on our e-commerce business is a top priority for us. With a direct relationship with our consumers for the first time, we want to ensure that everything we are developing, from communication to product, is relevant and meaningful. To deliver on that commitment, we are more focused than ever on developing insights around the customer, from segmentation and persona work to customer journey mapping, and then using CRM tools to connect in a context that matters. Much of this is already under way, with a commitment to data-driven decision making that can support not just marketing but the entire organization.
CMO.com: How would you rate the company in terms of digital maturity?
Poriadjian-Asch: We are more ahead in some areas than others but overall in a great position. Two years ago, Canada Goose made the transition from wholesaler to direct-to-consumer; it’s with that shift that digital became a top priority and remains at the heart of everything we do today.
We launched our first e-commerce site in Canada only two years ago, expanding to the U.S. last year, and [in September] we expanded into the U.K. and France. In that short time, our online business has grown to represent approximately 15% of our total business, proving that we are getting more creative in connecting digitally and rapidly enhancing our digital footprint.
With a thriving digital business along with all the digital marketing capabilities to drive it from SEM to SEO and retargeting capabilities, we are now turning our focus to how we leverage digital to build and engage the growing community of “Goose People” around the world. As with our core marketing, we’ve allowed those channels to build organically over time, but are excited to define a new ways of storytelling for the brand.
CMO.com: You did an interesting partnership with Drake. Why this musician? How did this partnership come about?
Poriadjian-Asch: Our relationship with Drake happened organically. We’ve supported each other since the beginning. When he was just starting out, he would stop by, check out the new collection, and maybe pick up a jacket every once in a while. We believe now–as we did then–that Canadian companies, brands, and individuals should support one another. We are now on our fifth collaboration together with his OVO line; the most recent was a spring collaboration in April, which sold out in an hour.
Collaborations are a way for us to reach new audiences and new markets, allow for product innovation, remain relevant, and have some fun. It is an important part of our marketing strategy, and we will continue to work with top designers and brands from around the world that share in our values. Our collaborations with Vetements and Opening Ceremony are launching this [month]. We are thrilled to partner with such visionary designers and collaborate on unique interpretations of some of our most iconic pieces.
CMO.com: Canada Goose’s sales have grown nearly 500% in the past five years. Can you talk about marketing’s role in that?
Poriadjian-Asch: Just to clarify, sales have grown nearly 500% during the past five years and 2,000% in the past 10 years.
The Canada Goose brand was built largely on street cred and word of mouth. In addition to the scientists in Antarctica and adventurers who summitted Everest, it was the bouncers at the hottest clubs, valets at luxury hotels, and revered filmmakers who were the first ones to support the brand, since they were working long hours outdoors.
Ramping up marketing has become a greater priority as the business continues to expand in over 50 markets with new distribution channels. The business requires marketing that can scale quickly.
Decidedly unconventional, we launched our first campaign last year with a short film called “Out There,” directed by two-time Oscar winner Paul Haggis, a fellow Torontonian and friend of the brand. The film secured 300 million views and 62 million OOH impressions. It also drove a 500% increase in searches for “Canada Goose” and was featured on YouTube’s leaderboard for the month of November as one of the most-watched ads in Canada. We also saw a double-digit increase in brand awareness and consideration to purchase in both the U.S. and Canada.
In June, “Out There” won three Cannes Lions: Gold in Design, Gold in Entertainment, and Bronze in Cyber. Its triumphant success proves how being an authentic brand with a real story truly resonates with people.
We have always tried to do things differently and swim upstream, rather than sticking with the traditional, which makes the job challenging and fun. While our original tactics have evolved and expanded, we will never be a brand that just does glossy ads in lifestyle magazines. It’s just not us.
CMO.com: You also have a new ad campaign going on right now, right? Can I get the details as to who you are targeting, what’s the strategy, how you will measure its success, why it’s special, etc.?
Poriadjian-Asch: Our fall/winter 2016 campaign launched ... with a focus on the product itself. The strategy was clear: demonstrate both the physical and emotional benefits that Canada Goose offers.
The insight came from customer themselves: With Canada Goose, you can be at one with the elements, not fighting against them.
The fall/winter campaign celebrates where we are from–taking the audience to the edge of the world in Newfoundland (right) and Labrador, sharing the rugged beauty of a part of Canada that is rarely seen. Its harsh elements brought our coats to life in the environment they were intended for.
We are supporting our growing retail presence throughout North America, Europe, and Asia with significant media investment–over 50% more than last year. While our core audience is 25 to 45, equally split male/female, we continue to grow with the younger 18 to 24 segment, finding a home on university campuses everywhere.
Our media plan is divided into brand marketing geared toward building awareness and affinity, and performance marketing focused on capturing intent and conversion. The plan is 80% digital, designed for our connected audience, and 20% committed to out of home, which is where the brand lives. OOH also provides scale in key markets; we have significant takeovers planned in Toronto, New York City, London, Paris, and Hamburg. We use a range of factors to determine market prioritization, from awareness levels using search data, to population size in our target segments, to past performance, online conversion, weather, and more.
There’s no better measure of success than sales. That’s always our leading indicator. Our priorities are to sell through and drive reorders with our key retailers. As marketers, we also want to ensure that we are engaging and relevant, so looking at impressions, clicks, and time spent on site as well as the [customer] journey is important. We’ve developed dozens of unique assets that allow us to be dynamic and adapt to how the audience is responding, enhancing at the same time their experience and our performance. We also look at brand interest day to day and do longer-term tracking through custom research. Finally, as it relates to performance marketing, metrics like [return on advertising spending] serve to validate the investment.
CMO.com: Everyone’s talking about storytelling. What’s the Canada Goose story? How are you telling it in interesting ways?
Poriadjian-Asch: Everyone talks about being a storytelling brand, but not everyone has an authentic, nearly 60-year-old story to tell. Authenticity is everything to Canada Goose. We don’t need to create drama or manufacture excitement. We were born in the Arctic, tested by scientists and adventurers who consider it a luxury to retain normal body temperature while facing the harshest conditions. It’s important to us that the people buying and wearing our product truly understand the heart and soul of our brand, that there’s more to this company than a great logo.
Craftsmanship is extremely important in our story. Each jacket passes through 13 stages of production–every cut, fold, and stitch is meticulously constructed. ... Every story we tell ties back to one of the pieces in our line.
We pride ourselves on being an ambassador for the brand of Canada. Canada is responsible for who we are and why we do what we do. Being made in Canada is at the very core of the brand and what truly sets us apart. ... Years ago, when other apparel manufacturers were moving their businesses offshore to improve margins, we stayed here because we knew that in order to be an authentic brand with strong, iconic values and to make the warmest jackets in the world, they needed to be manufactured in the country that really knows cold.
Expect big things in 2017, when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary and Canada Goose turns 60.
CMO.com: Can you talk about some of the company’s digital innovations?
Poriadjian-Asch: We leverage digital to support business growth in a big way. With the launch of our owned retail stores and our online store, digital innovations are at the center of delivering a true omnichannel experience. It reaches far beyond marketing and impacts everything we do, from POS to inventory management and the ability to have customer buy online and pick up in store.
Of course, the power of CRM in a digital age is second to none. As a retailer, we are more focused than ever in building the back-end infrastructure to know our customers better and ensuring we communicate to them in the most relevant way.
CMO.com: What’s your strategy for taking an older brand and making it relevant for a digital audience?
Poriadjian-Asch: It’s one of our biggest assets. We have layers upon layers of deep and rich history for fans of the brand to immerse themselves in. Our storytelling focuses on real people and their real experiences. From summiting Everest to traversing Antarctica, Canada Goose has been a trusted and constant companion. We hope sharing these experiences inspires new generations to get out there and chart their own course, whether at the edge to the world or closer to home.
CMO.com: Can you give your CMO colleagues one piece of marketing advice?
Poriadjian-Asch: I would give the same advice my boss, president and CEO Dani Reiss, gave to me: “Don’t lose the magic.” The stakes have never been higher for CMOs. We are in the boardroom, partnering with our CEOs and executive team. We are responsible for driving growth and delivering on business strategy.
Marketing has become increasingly analytical, even scientific, with a growing arsenal of tools that enable us to test, track, target, and measure virtually everything we do. It’s important that we take advantage of it but remain confident and willing to take risks. It’s the big, bold ideas that have always made brands stand out and stand apart.