Bordering on Success

Canada is the ideal launch pad for international expansion.


There has never been a better time to take a direct response campaign global. Europe and the burgeoning middle classes of Asia and South America offer hundreds of millions of tech-connected consumers ready to place their orders, and already having conquered the world’s most competitive market, your consumer brand is sure to be a hit. But before you head into the United Kingdom, Brazil, or Japan, wait—international success might be closer than you think.


The logical first step in creating an international brand is to take your product into Canada. The direct response industry in Canada is already geared to serve U.S.-based clients, eliminating the need to license distribution. There are full-service, turn-key solutions in every area from media buying to fulfillment—meaning you can keep all of the profits.


Canada also avoided the deep recession that hammered American consumers. Canadian real estate prices did dip in 2008, but they quickly roared back to record levels throughout the country. Historically low borrowing costs and strong job creation have translated into resilient consumer spending. Canada offers a lucrative market with a population of almost 34.5 million—about the size of California—and a welcoming environment in which you can lay the foundation for your expanding international division.


From an operations standpoint, dealing with the French language is easy.


If you walked into a Canadian mall 25 years ago, you wouldn’t have recognized any of the stores, but today, you’ll need to look hard to figure out you aren’t in Kansas anymore. The first Starbucks outside Seattle opened across the border in Vancouver, and The Gap arrived in 1989, marking the start of a huge wave of retail expansion northward. From Apple to Zara, the big, international bricks-and-mortar brands are here, and the most conspicuous holdout—Target—just opened the first of 130-plus planned locations in Canada.


A Road Well Traveled

Direct response marketers have been enjoying increasing success in overseas markets. Even consumers in countries such as Poland are starting to embrace DRTV and ordering over the phone or online, thanks in part to the expanding penetration of e-commerce giant Amazon. But Canada is the only country that can match the United States for its long track record of DRTV success.


Philip Kives, the son of a prairie farmer, played a key role in the early days of DRTV, when he created and aired a five-minute spot in 1962 to sell non-stick frying pans directly to consumers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kives parlayed that initial success into a distribution deal with another DRTV pioneer, Seymour Popeil, to sell more consumer products, and struck gold in 1965 when he began marketing music compilation albums under the name K-Tel.


Today, most of the world’s best-selling DR products and services looked to Canada for their first forays outside the U.S. Before you could buy Ginsu knives in Glasgow or Snuggies in São Paulo, they were already household names in Canada.


True BFFs of Trade

Canada and the United States signed a comprehensive free trade agreement in 1989, setting the stage for accelerated economic integration. Today, the two countries are each other’s biggest trading partners, logging more than $680 billion in two-way trade in 2011. About 19 percent of all U.S. exports are shipped to Canada, making it the largest buyer of U.S. goods, ahead of the European Union.


Marketers benefit from streamlined customs and clearing logistics that offer the ability to operate seamlessly on both sides of the border, and new regulations are easing shipping services’ ability to deliver packages directly to Canadian consumers. Not long ago, products sent from the United States to a Canadian address required third-party customs brokers to collect duties and taxes. A DRTV customer would get a nasty surprise at the door when the delivery person demanded cash before handing over the package, and refusal would mean that the product was returned.