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Do you remember Molson's iconic ‘proclamation' ad from the year 2000? Against the warm and fuzzy backdrop of our favourite cultural images and a matching music track, ‘Joe' passionately debunked common stereotypes of Canadians and our values before proudly proclaiming: I am Canadian.

While the goal of the ‘rant' was to sell beer by making viewers feel good about themselves and their country, it also defined Canada as a brand, leaving no doubt as to who we are and what we stand for.

The Canada brand is—and has been for many years—a powerful marketing tool. It represents quality, competence, reliability and integrity wherever Canadian goods and services are sold.

Canada tops national reputation ranking

It's not only we Canadians who believe in the strength of our brand. In the latest global ranking of national reputations, Canada returned to the top spot, a title it has held four times in the last six years. We came in ahead of Switzerland, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand.

The rankings by the Reputation Institute are based on the world's largest survey of the reputation of countries. According to Nicolas Trad, the Institute's Executive Partner, a country's reputation has a direct impact on tourism, exports and foreign investment.

He says a one-point increase in the overall Reputation Index of a country in a particular market causes an average increase of 3.1 per cent in tourist arrivals and an increase of 1.7 per cent in exports.

The Canada brand provides a valuable advantage to Canadian businesses and exporters, if they understand how to best use it.

4 ways to use the Canada brand as a competitive advantage

1. Use it in your marketing and packaging

Using the maple leaf or “Made in Canada” statement on your packaging represents high quality. This is particularly beneficial for Canadian businesses in the agriculture industry, as food made in Canada is in high demand. The Canada Brand program from Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, for example, is designed to give the Canadian food and agriculture industry a competitive advantage through a common strategy and set of tools.

Their objective is to raise the profile of Canadian food products and help differentiate them from the competition. The strategy and its elements are free to use and were developed in collaboration with industry and the provincial governments. More than 700 Canadian agri-food businesses and associations are now using the Canada Brand to enhance their local and international promotions.

Check with your national industry association to see if they offer similar resources to help you effectively brand your products.

2. Own your Canadian identity online

For many young Canadians travelling abroad, putting a maple leaf on their backpacks proudly proclaims who they are and where they are from. They do it because they know Canadians are admired and respected around the globe.

Consider structuring your online presence to reflect your Canadian identity as well, and use a .CA domain in addition to a .com because being Canadian online matters. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority manages the .CA domain and enforces presence requirements to ensure only those who live or do business in Canada can get one.

3. Embrace Canada's diversity

Canada is admired around the globe for our diversity and inclusivity, and this multiculturalism is a major competitive advantage when conducting business internationally. For a Canadian company looking to expand into a new market, in many cases we have the tools and resources we need within our own organization to understand what foreign markets demand, and what cultural sensitivities and language challenges exist.

4. Leverage your local strategic partners

Being Canadian allows you to tap into Canadian networks, associations and partners that can help you learn how to fly your Canadian flag, and learn from the experiences of Canadian companies that have been successful in the global market. If you're not already a part of your industry association, this a great place to start. You can also connect with organizations like Export Development Canada, whose Sector Advisors are well-versed in how Canadian companies should represent themselves abroad.

For businesses, the Canada brand is the equivalent of a maple leaf on a backpack and it lets foreign customers know they're doing business with a company from the most reputable country on earth.