Thoughts from our VP Strategy, Colleen Tapp

When it comes to brand love, we all know that making an emotional connection with consumers is critical. The bad news? According to a recent Forrester study, 9 out of 10 consumers say they feel nothing - no connection to brands, even those they purchase. So how can brands do better?

They can start by being more authentic, tapping in to consumers’ deeper needs, building loyalty over time by surprising and delighting their devoted followers, and by telling memorable brand stories that their supporters can call their own.

By being a little more like The Hip.

Much has been written over the summer about The Tragically Hip and their indefatigable frontman Gord Downie, who, diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer, performed what is likely the band’s last tour, inspiring fans with his courage, and arguably, even if just for a brief moment, helping us find our own true north – an identity for Canada that we could all get behind. The Hip thrilled us, made us all feel like we belonged to something and reminded us of the power of an emotional connection.

The lure of a can’t miss event, the heartbreaking reality of terminal cancer, and the last chance to see a beloved band perform no doubt drove the frenzy to score a ticket. But it was something even more than that – something real and deeply personal that made us stop in our tracks wherever we were, to watch them live or view the final Kingston concert from a pub in Tofino or a street party in Sydney.

With virtually no marketing, the Man Machine Poem Tour was a phenomenon which might have even eclipsed the Olympics in the hearts and souls of Canadians. What made us respond with a desire to be part of something larger and more meaningful than ourselves? What made it all so magical for fans?


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines authenticity as “being really what it seems to be; genuine,” which sounds simple enough, but is hard to achieve. The Hip, with raw, enduring rock and roll sensibility, poetically enigmatic lyrics and a character that is at once very Canadian yet very much their own, have always been undoubtedly true to their own spirit and personality – they are the real deal.


Despite selling over six million albums, The Hip’s relationship with their fans is also profoundly personal. While the concept of mortality (Gord’s and, hence, our own) drove the emotional response to the last tour, it was always deeper than that. Really great bands drive a connection with fans over time that is well beyond the music. It is a deep, personal history, an enduring relationship, experiences that mean something to us, and a fulfillment of deep unconscious needs – to belong, to be thrilled, to feel free. And when we feel deeply, it becomes part of who we are - we spread the word, we seek out the like-minded, we share our feelings.

Surprise & Delight

Even at a challenging time, The Hip fully embraced the opportunity to surprise and delight their fans: from Gord Downie’s memorable tour wardrobe and signature moves, to ever changing setlists, to convincing the CBC to suspend its Olympic coverage to air the last Kingston concert with commercial-free reverence (no doubt raising some much needed brand love for Canada’s public broadcaster), delighting fans who live streamed from coast to coast and beyond.


From the beginning, The Hip have been consummate storytellers, weaving tales that are both distinctly Canadian and completely universal. 38 Years Old, the story of an avenged rape, evoked such a sense of place, time and emotion that it left us with heavy hearts, while references like Jacques Cartier’s “real bum’s eye for clothes,” made us laugh out loud.  The stories they told resonated with fans, who in turn told their own personal Hip stories - stories about where they were, who they were and how they felt when they first heard that song or saw them live. Somewhere along the way, the fans themselves became the heroes of these stories.

And that, is a powerful connection.