How Canada Goose is going beyond advertising stereotypes with the help of Annie Leibovitz
The clothing brand’s top marketer tells us how teaming up with the acclaimed photographer has allowed it to transform the way it markets its outdoor apparel to women.
Ad campaign by Annie Leibovitz / Canada Goose
From taking the last professional photograph of John Lennon on the day he died to snapping the late Queen Elizabeth, Annie Leibovitz’s decades-long career has produced some of the world’s most iconic images. It’s one of the reasons that Canada Goose’s chief marketer, Penny Brook, has always wanted to work with her.
“I have wanted to work with Annie Leibovitz since the Louis Vuitton ‘Core Values’ campaign,” says Brook. “She frames people’s personalities and the atmosphere around them. These days it’s hard for images to tell stories without words. So much campaign work becomes quite generic, relies on a line or an explanation.”
In Brook’s words, there is a “content face-off” these days and Canada Goose wants to cut through. One way it is doing that is by working “really hard” to speak to a female audience. She’s aware that when people think of the brand, they think of outdoor wear but ‘Live in the Open’ has taken on a life of its own.
“It’s become much more emotional,” the marketer explains. “It’s important for us to be a brand and a platform for people to truly live in the open, which is really about freedom of expression. With women, we wanted to create a platform to live boldly and bravely, where women could tell their authentic stories without us contriving or trying to create this artifice of who we wanted them to be.”
The appeal of Leibovitz’s work, then, is that it’s so layered it almost becomes art. Her dark and moody photographs appear to draw you in. Talent aside, for Canada Goose, it’s also about working with a powerful woman for this project. “She really gives a platform for people to express their true personalities, which I loved,” Brook adds. “It goes without saying that the aesthetic is just inspirational but there’s not many times that you see an image and you have to sit with it for a while and you’re stopped by it.”
Brook refers to the talent the company works with as “goose people and friends,” who represent the brand’s core values. “We see an opportunity, as a brand, for women to be represented and seen as their true selves,” she continues. “And to go beyond stereotypes that often happen in advertising.”
Empowerment and individuality are what formed the premise for the FW23 ad campaign for the apparel brand, which was shot by the famed photographer. It featured actor and singer Sheila Atim, cinematographer Sophie Darlington and ice hockey player Kimberly Newell sporting the new season’s style.
According to Brook, the trio brought so much of themselves to the project. Newell is very in tune with her emotions and happy to share them on camera, Atim is a fabulous actress with a geology degree which was useful while they shot in New Mexico and filmmaker Darlington offered guidance on the importance of nature and sustainability.
Brook notes that this level of openness can be quite a rare thing within brand campaigns. “Until we really start filming, we don’t know exactly what we’re going to get from our talent,” she adds. “But that ability to be truly vulnerable is inspiring for other people because it ignites this feeling that you can be vulnerable, feel insecure, great, courageous, and they can all sit within the same period of time. That’s OK.
“You’ve got somebody like Sophie, who’s a Bafta award-winning cinematographer and wildlife photographer, sat there giving the most amazing advice to Kimberly,” remembers Brook. “They’re generations apart and Sophie is sitting saying ‘It’s OK to feel this way, you’re going to do great’. There’s that feeling of motherhood there.”
While shooting in New Mexico, Leibovitz and the entire team couldn’t help but take inspiration from acclaimed American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. The artist owned two homes in the northern part of the US state and is famed for her portrayals of the landscape, which she continued to make right up until her death in 1986. Brook says that similarly to O’Keeffe, Leibovitz feels very at home in New Mexico. “She has been looking for a long time for an excuse to shoot there,” she says. “It seemed like a perfect pilgrimage to that place with this group of women.”
It’s clear that this is a real passion project for the head marketer, who has been with Canada Goose for over ten years. “It’s been an amazing opportunity for me to ensure that the content that we create is something that I’d be very proud to show my children,” she reflects. “We’re a purpose-driven brand, and for me, that’s what keeps my flames so alight and burning even brighter today than it did ten-and-a-half years ago.”