Logos of American chains: why altered for Canada, but not other countries?

One thing I’ve noticed that that logos of many American retail and restaurant chains is altered for the Canadian market, usually with the addition of a maple leaf. However, the same companies will use the unaltered logo in other countries.

Basically, my question is this: why do American companies add maple leafs in the logo for Canadian locations, but they don’t alter the logo for other countries?

Because English-speaking Canadians can get quite snarky about being pulled into the great US cultural machine, and often insist that we be recognized as separate. We are not just another state or 13. Other countries have the advantage of language or distance to help delineate them, but English-speaking Canada doesn’t. (Note that this sensibility is quite different in French-speaking Canada.)

We really like our maple leaves up here (the Leafs are another matter…)
I suspect a several cases will be due to the same thing: Québec (and the French language).

I have heard that in some cases it’s to make the logo make a little more sense in Québec - the cases I’m thinking of have an apostrophe, like “Wendy’s”, when that isn’t a grammatical form in French. So putting a maple leaf instead of an apostrope kind of makes the name both “Wendy’s” and “Wendys”.

In the case of Tim Hortons, which is a Canadian company (historically), the reason for dropping the apostrophe was supposedly because of Québec’s language laws, with the advantage of being able to use a single logo for the entire country (wiki cite). I don’t know whether they were actually found to be in violation of the laws, or if they just dealt with complaints (anyone can file one) and made the change pre-emptively.

Aren’t out of country chain stores technically a different company, incorporated solely in that company?

Yes, but that is probably true of non-Canadian versions of chains, too. I think McDonald’s was a special case, in which the Canadian company ended up being responsible for a lot of the international expansion before the U.S. parent got involved (so, for instance, it was the Canadian head office that opened most of Europe, including Russia, not the Chicago parent).

It might be related to the fact that Canadian expansion might pre-date other international advances, so that the parent company is less sure of what it takes to succeed in foreign markets.

Adding a maple leaf would have, if anything, a negative effect in Canada. Sometimes, they just change the name, Bureau en gros instead of Office Depot, sometimes, as noted, they drop the apostrophe and sometimes do nothing (Costco remains Costco, no maple leaf, at least not in Quebec). And when Circuit City took over Canadian Radio Shacks, they called them The/La Source, by/par Circuit City, but they continued to operate them just like Radio Shacks. Now that the US Circuit City has gone down, they were sold to Bell Canada, which has already demonstrated its incompetence to run a phone company without having a monopoly. I am waiting to see where this story ends.

I think this is a lot of it.

However, it might also be the notion, also mentioned, that the Canadian branches were the first foreign expansions for a lot of these companies and by the time they got to Europe or wherever they didn’t feel the need to go to the trouble. I note, for instance, that Wal Mart - a much more recent addition to Canada than McDonald’s, to use that example - didn’t add a maple leaf to their logo.

IME, people in Québec don’t seem so bothered by Canadian/American companies having maple leaves in their logo, but they are bothered when a company that began in Québec goes that way, because having Canadian symbolism but not Québec symbolism is ignoring it’s roots - or something. It’s kind of a vague dislike/sense of disrespect. Sorry, I can’t seem to explain it better (I need a nap!)

As for changing the name; Costco isn’t really a word in either language (though obviously is has the word Cost in English), so it’s just another name. A business like Staples/Office Depot has a harder time, because the name is unilingual English and nonsensical in French, which is poor branding in a market which is 90% French. So calling them Bureau en gros provides a brand identity that they can market; people can understand the name.

As for The Source… finding a word that exists in both languages was a good call, simplifies the identity, and the “la/the par/by” can be relegated to tiny font and used mostly as a legal name.

But name recognition per se isn’t important; it’s brand recognition. The name – whatever the heck the words actually mean – are generally unimportant. Go to Mexico and see Home Depot, Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and so on. The vast majority of their customers speak no English, but the brand is understood.

Heck, here at home in the USA, what does Volkswagen mean to us?

(And just what do they call Walmart in Quebec?)

Walmart has the same name here. You make a good point, though I have the feeling ( but no cite) that companies coming here in more recent years have been less likely to change the name than older ones … maybe 20 years or so. Home Depot kept it’s name here, too but Home Outfitters became Deco Decouverte (can’t do accents with an iPod!). Clearly some companies have felt that it was worth it to have a French name here but I don’t know why they wouldn’t bother in the rest of the world. In some cases it might just come down to whether a small regiona chain was bought up -they may have wanted to keep some customer loyalty that way?

I’m guessing here, but I’d imagine that Mexico has no law stating that signs must be in Spanish. Quebec, however, has a law stating signs must be in French. This doesn’t generally present a problem when the business is a person’s name (Tim Hortons, though note the lack of an apostrophe), or something invented (Costco, Esso, Sunoco). But when the original company name is an obvious English word or phrase (Office Depot), it must be rendered in French if it is to be put on a sign. At any rate, “whatever the heck the words actually mean” seems to be of great importance to Quebecers.

Don’t tell them about the time Cirque de Soleil played Perth, Australia. I was in Perth at the time, on a bit of an extended stay, and the Cirque set up its Big Top in a city park. From the top of one of the tent poles flew a Canadian flag, and from another flew the provincial flag of Quebec. The locals recognized the Canadian flag easily enough, but had no idea what the blue and white one with fleur-de-lis on it was. Enough people were wondering that the TV news had to do a story explaining that the other flag was that of the province of Quebec, where the Cirque was from.

That’s ok, though, because Quebeckers are damn proud of the Cirque, and they continue to fly the fleur-de-lis. If they *only *used the Canadian flag/symbolism, that’s when people would get pissed off, because then Québec would feel ignored or dismissed or whatever. This way, Québec was actually strongly promoted in Perth, because it generated news stories and was associated with a “product”(the Cirque) that is generally well liked and favourable.

I am not very familiar with the language laws here as they pertain to businesses, but I do agree that they are probably the main reason for the renaming of certain stores here. I can never quite decide if the laws (as I read about them in case-by-case applications in news stories make a lot of sense or are just silly. I feel “Déco Découverte” makes more sense for Québec than “Home Outfitters”, but I can’t figure out what the big deal is between “Second Cup” and “Les cafés Second Cup”. Somewhere in there is a very fine line indeed, and it would take a legal specialist to be able to find it, I think. It keeps this province interesting, though.