Canadian Tire’s (CT) brand purpose is to be there for the jobs and joys of life in Canada – no matter what life looks like. Building off the success of the 2020 Canadian Tire Christmas Trail (the Trail) and the uncertainty surrounding the 2021 holiday season, CT saw the opportunity to help more Canadians celebrate safely. In 2021, the Trail, a one-of-a-kind, interactive drive-along Christmas experience, returned for a second year, hoping to reach even more hearts and minds than the season before.
Guests who attended the 2020 Trail were invited to complete a post-event survey. With a +40% response rate, the findings revealed:
This positive response presented the business opportunity to further increase brand affinity amongst customers in 2021. CT’s objective was to drive brand affinity and defend CT’s position as Canada’s Christmas Store while reinforcing its brand purpose. The updated activation was designed to offer more internal and external stakeholders a way to 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 Jumpstart Charities (Jumpstart).
The communications goal was to drive awareness through multiple touchpoints including traditional and social media, email, and employee communication channels, leading to word-of-mouth, and peer-to-peer recommendations. CT’s intention was to ensure each stakeholder group who visited the Trail left with the impression that CT is Canada’s Christmas Store. This was done by reinforcing elements that worked and correcting those that didn’t such as:
In 2021, CT created new vignettes to appeal to returning guests while maintaining the overall experience for new customers who may have been excited by what they saw on social media in 2020. Updated designs included:
CT encountered many weather-related challenges over the 43-day activation period. Since the Trail featured live talent and large builds, the safety of both guests and performers on the Trail was pertinent. As such, CT had clear language on the Trail website indicating the event was not ‘rain or shine’ and could be cancelled. When weather forced the Trail to be cancelled, CT worked quickly using the email alias to ensure any guests affected were notified and refunded in a timely manner. CT’s ticket strategy helped provide the chance for guests to book again if they were cancelled. For example, after a powerful windstorm damaged the Trail, preventing it from opening for that evening, CT was able to move the entire guest list to the following week, before those tickets were released publicly.
The Trail also felt the effects of global supply chain issues and experienced product delays and shortages, but pivoted by reusing builds and product from 2020 in updated, elevated ways to keep the Christmas magic alive. For example, when CT was unable to secure quantities of the 2021 ornament collection, life-sized replicas were made for the milk and cookies vignette. This allowed the Trail to feature key product assortments without needing the physical product.
The CT Christmas Trail achieved six consecutive weeks of ticket sell-outs thanks to awareness generated by top tier earned regional media coverage, highly branded, organic influencer content and positive word-of-mouth reviews from guests. The drive-through activation reinforced CT’s brand purpose and defended its position as Canada’s Christmas store all while ultimately reaching additional internal and external stakeholders in 2021 and exceeding objectives as follows: