In 2020, Canadian Tire (CT) was forced to reconsider how it would engage with consumers during the holiday season. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Canadians navigate their daily lives and led to the cancellation of most holiday events. Despite this, the desire to continue celebrating life’s seasonal moments still exists. CT, “Canada’s Christmas Store,” saw the opportunity to show Canadians how they could still celebrate the season safely.
CT’s market research showed that consumers want a retailer who can help make holiday preparedness easy and convenient (one-stop-shops) to offer more time to enjoy the season with loved ones. As Canada’s Christmas Store, CT’s goal remained unchanged regardless of COVID-19: give Canadians what they need to create a special Christmas for their families and help bring loved ones together safely. The research also revealed that nostalgia was a prominent theme in 2020 holiday décor, which CT was sure to include in the activation’s creative strategy to leverage a key trend that was sure to resonate with Canadians young and old.
CT’s objective was to drive brand affinity and defend CT’s position as Canada’s Christmas Store while reinforcing its purpose of being there for Canadians. The activation was designed to offer internal and external stakeholders, including residents of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), a way to celebrate and preserve beloved Christmas traditions while generating positive word-of-mouth awareness and excitement through traditional and social media channels. CT also wanted to contribute financially to its non-profit organization Jumpstart Charities (Jumpstart).
CT’s strategy was to show Canadians that while Christmas may look different in 2020, the magic was still very much alive. CT sought to help Canadians find ways to live out cherished Christmas traditions and safely create new ones. So, CT created Canadian Tire’s Christmas Trail (the Trail), a magical, multi-sensory, immersive Christmas drive-along experience at the historic Black Creek Pioneer Village (BCPV) just north of Toronto, complete with Santa and his elves, show-stopping lights, festive music and treats, all from the safety of guests’ vehicles.
Internal and external communications for the Trail were key to generating buzz and early awareness through multiple touchpoints and channels. A comprehensive microsite and email alias were created for ticket purchases and to streamline communications.
Our communications and engagement strategy for the various stakeholder groups included:
Media and Influencers
- Top-tier media and influencers were invited to preview the Trail over three days to leverage organic content to drive awareness and ticket sales.
- Media attended to capture B-roll and conduct interviews. A film crew also captured professional B-roll and imagery to offer to media as requested.
- The Trail was attended by top Toronto-based influencers, including Astrid Loch, Kevin Wendt and The Beckerman Twins, and notable celebrities including Nelly Furtado and Nazem Kadri also requested to visit.
Employees, Jumpstart, Vendors and Partners
- Corporate employees experienced the Trail exclusively over two days before public opening.
- CT Board members, vendors and agency partners were offered dedicated times to experience the Trail.
- Video content shared on CT’s internal channels helped bring the experience to employees outside of the GTA.
- 100% of ticket proceeds went to Jumpstart and select Jumpstart families were invited to experience the Trail.
- CT produced digital ads to help launch the first round of tickets, which sold out in less than three days. CT pulled the ad units from Facebook and Instagram to alleviate consumer traffic until more tickets became available.
- Triangle Rewards loyalty members were surprised and delighted with a CT gift card when they showed their card, driving potential acquisition for non-members.
Throughout the Trail, CT product and subtle branding was woven into creative designs to inspire optimal photo-sharing moments. The curated designs included:
- Entrance: The string lights and vintage signage was inspired by a traditional German Christmas market that brings people together.
- The Mill: The traditional big red bows, thick garland and tartan trim were inspired by the villages in classic Christmas films such as A Christmas Carol.
- Tree Lot: Decked out with vintage lights, rows of live trees, snow trickling down upon entry and live carolers inside.
- General Store: Inspired by BCPV’s old heritage buildings, which CT brought back to life with garland strung on the porch and wreaths, greenery and lights placed around the windows.
- Photo with Santa: A safe photo moment with Santa and his elves helped fill the void for families unable to get their traditional photo in 2020.
The CT Christmas Trail achieved three consecutive ticket sell-outs thanks to awareness generated by top-tier earned media coverage and highly branded, organic influencer content. CT’s objectives were exceeded as follows:
- Drive brand affinity and defend CT’s position as Canada’s Christmas Store: The post-event Trail survey was distributed to approx. 5,000 guests. A 40% response rate revealed:
- An average Net Promoter Score of 9.4/10
- 90% would recommend the Trail to friends and family
- 63% felt the Trail increased their perception of CT as a leading Christmas retailer
- 444 employees responded, 30% higher than average; 98% said the Trail made them feel proud to be a CT employee
- Reach as many key internal and external stakeholders as possible: 22,137 guests visited the Trail over the 41-day activation, including over 2,244 employees, executives, partners and their guests.
- Generate positive word-of-mouth awareness via media and social channels: Earned media and social highlights include:
- 102 media and influencer attendees
- 653 pieces of organic influencer content and 1.5M social impressions
- 107.6K social engagements on Instagram
- Organic influencer content averaged 8-10 IG story frames (estimated value: $100K+)
- 43 media stories generating 11.3M impressions
- 100% brand mention in coverage: “CT is keeping the magic of Christmas alive” key message in 83% of coverage
Make a significant contribution to Jumpstart Charities: Currently, $149,085.00 is being donated to Jumpstart.
Video for Canadian Tire Christmas Trail