Canada is #1 in the world in quality of life, for the fifth year in a row, according to a study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and U.S. News and World Report. While it might be considered unCanadian to boast about that, it does help explain Canadians’ positive views of their country.
We asked Canadians how they perceive their home and native land. Canada is most strongly associated with feelings of contentment and a sense of well being, curiosity, readiness and capability, and being stimulating, and sympathetic, according to a recent Brand Emotion assessment. That stands in stark contrast to Canadians’ perceptions of our neighbour to the south.
The United States, engulfed in a pandemic, evokes feelings of struggling, humiliation, vulnerability and being in harm’s way. The picture is not all negative, however. The US is also seen as admired and respected, dominant and commanding, authoritative and dependable.
Brand emotion and visual semiotics
These findings come from a survey of Canadians who picked images they associate with the American and Canadian flags, using Maru/Matchbox’s Brand Emotion tool. Brand Emotion leverages visual semiotic systems to uncover the feeling individuals associate with brands or marketing communications.
Visual semiotics analyzes the way images communicate a message or emotion. It works by decomposing each visual image into its structural elements and identifying the emotional level associated with each element. Consumers create a collage of images to visually “tell” us how they feel about a brand.
The feeling Canadians most associate with Canada, this analysis reveals, is contentment and a sense of well being. While Canadians tend to complain about the weather and chafe at being in the shadow of the U.S. on the world stage, when you tap into how people really feel, it becomes clear that life is pretty good in Canada. Here are some of the images people selected that indicate contentment.
Canada, the land that invented Basketball, the Wonder Bra, Insulin, Plexiglass, the Electric Wheelchair, the Atomic Clock, Pablum, the Ebola Vaccine and Instant Replay, so it is not surprising that people also associate Canada with a sense of curiosity and being investigative. Images associated with this include:
A third theme that emerged was the idea of being prepared or ready. This includes a sense of Canada being up for a challenge—which is a handy quality in a pandemic.
As a country we are content, have an overwhelming sense of well-being and are curious to assess our ideas and analyze our path. We feel prepared for the road ahead, and the tests that come our way.
Star Spangled Banner
As Canadians look south of the border, to a nation setting new daily case records, there is definite concern—coupled with a sense of respect. The primary feeling is that the United States are struggling and embattled, disgraced, humiliated, chastened and repressed. People picked these images:
and if that’s not sad enough, Canadians also feel the U.S. is vulnerable, and susceptible to harm. These images were selected:
These negatives aside, Canadians also associate the United States with being admired, respected, and esteemed by others. Canadians also see the U.S. as commanding, preeminent and superior. Being authoritative, dependable and accurate is also an important part of Canadian’s perceptions of the United States. Images associated with these themes included:
In an ideal world
We also asked people to pick images that express what an ideal Canada looks like. It turns out that, for Canada, it is pretty much like looking in the mirror. Canadians see an ideal Canada as being content, curious, and stimulating.
Who we are largely aligns with who we want to be. We desire to be active, and implement change, learn, and showcase our accomplishments.
We also asked Canadians what they felt an ideal United States would look like. Guess what? It looks a lot like Canada. Canadians selected imagery that conveyed that an ideal America would be curious, content and stimulating. Weird eh?
Beyond the Toque
Canadians are stereotypically self-effacing, but when you use a technique that taps into our unspoken feelings you find that Canadians are pretty happy living in the country that is #1 in the world in quality of life. Brand Emotion gets past the superficial answers and surfaces how people really feel. And, in Canada, it feels pretty good.