Staying true to your core brand values is essential. It encourages your brand community to remain loyal over years and decades, and provides stability for the brand to build on as it grows.
For nearly 140 years, the Canadian National Exhibition has been an integral part of summer in Toronto. Through generations, world wars, and technological advancements the CNE brand community has remained relevant, successful, and stayed true to their core brand values.
Over the decades, the CNE has been a family friendly event, offering midway rides, games, entertainment, and food for all ages. This has allowed The Ex to become, and remain, an annual tradition to be passed from one generation to the next, with memories kept alive by the opportunity to go back and relive moments from the past. That ability to hold the same feeling, while staying up to date with current entertainment trends, is a major feat for any brand community.
Related: Vintage CNE Ads from the Past
This is not to say that there haven’t been changes to the Canadian National Exhibition over the decades. A look at old photos shows the massive shift in the look and attractions at the exhibition. However, through those changes, from horse racing in the early 1900s to surfing in 2019, the CNE has stood by its belief that everyone must be welcome and entertainment should be present at all times.
Note: The recent phenomenon of weird food attractions at the CNE is one example of an update that hasn’t changed the brand. Hot sauce bun hamburgers and deep fried chicken feet may be enough to get some people through the gates, but they don’t overtake the main attraction and promise of family friendly fun and entertainment.
It’s interesting to note that the CNE is presented without a named sponsor or brand partner. While there are brands who partner with The Ex, it is not the “Coca-Cola CNE”, and we don’t see posters shouting, “Pizza Pizza Presents the 2019 Canadian National Exhibition!”. In fact, you have to go the Our Partners page of the CNE website to even see the partnership at all. This is significant in an era when corporate names are on sports stadiums, Home Shows, and seemingly everything else possible.
Example: The National Home Show and Canada Blooms is a big event in Toronto every spring. There are hundreds of brands represented at show booths, and thousands of people attend the event. However, this show is still much smaller than the CNE. In fact, the National Home Show takes place in the Enercare Centre, which is just one of the half dozen or so buildings used during the CNE. And yet, the National Home Show has a presenting sponsor, RE/MAX on full display in their logo, on their website, and anywhere that you’ll find official mention of the event.
The Canadian National Exhibition chooses to, and succeeds at standing on their own as a brand and delivering on their long time promise to their brand community. They don’t depend or lean on other brands to prop them up or lend credibility to their brand. The Canadian National Exhibition survives as the CNE, all by itself, and all signs point to it continuing to do just that.