There are influential people in your life, and their brands in your lives are the same.

Steve Levy is a bit of both in my life.

Levy, of Ipsos fame, is an incredible public speaker, a highly recognized marketing information guru, and an invaluable though unpaid personal advisor to my professional life. For the first draft of this sentence, I wrote unwittingly, but that it was a brave comment to make about a person (Steve) who states, “Nobody is unpredictable” on their LinkedIn profile.

In early February, Steve revealed the 12th annual list of The Most Influential brands in Canada at a fantastic Globe & Mail Center event. Steve’s presentation, a keynote by world-class triathlete Andy Shibata of Air Canada, and an out-of-this-world panel of marketeers filled my insights tank for the week.

Steve has also made multiple appearances at SponsorshipX, and if you ever have a chance to watch him on stage, you will instantly want to sign up for his presentation courses. But enough about Steve. I want to share the key things I learned about Influential brands from his presentation, Andy’s keynote, and the panel.

Steve Levy

The first thing I learned to understand Influence is why one brand stands out among a sea of others. Brands with Influence outperform the stock market, weather pandemics, and continually find ways to adapt.

Some new drivers of Influence are essential to consumers – Empathy and Utility. Empathy resonates strongly with me because I believe consumers will measure brands on the integrity meter. Utility and affordability will be vital as the economic fears are front and centre in the minds of consumers.

Andy Shibata shared some simple advice – “Make it simple for others to tell your story.” Word of mouth has been the most effective marketing tool from the beginning. It will never change. Andy and Air Canada leveraged that fundamental principle during the pandemic when they had no marketing budget.

The closing panel dropped too many gems to count, but the topic I found fascinating was the notion of Generational Harmony. The concept, fortified by the Ipsos report, is that only some brands appeal to every generation. Great marketers understand how to have a symphony of activities related to their priority cohorts. In short, the marketing world can be obsessed with Gen Z, yet Boomers still control 40% of the wealth in Canada. Another takeaway was how focused the group was on serving their consumers, creating value, and solving problems. Yes, we just witnessed a ton of cute ads on Super Bowl Sunday, but this group’s focus on the other 364 days of the year reminded me of the need to put business first and laughs second. If you want to be an influential brand, understand a brand is a solution to pain. 

The panel moderator was Carla Serrano, Chief Executive Officer, of Publicis New York and Chief Strategy Officer, of Publicis Groupe and featured Alyssa Buetikofer, VP and Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada; Nicole German, Chief Marketing and Digital Experience Officer of Tangerine Bank, Bilal Jaffery, Principal, Head, Customer, AI and Experience Platforms, Accenture, Chris Stamper, SVP, Strategy Operations and Transformation, The Bay and Steve Levy, Ipsos.

Panel in action

If you want to pull your insights from the study, Ipsos has prepared a 24-page presentation available here – – that is well worth 24 minutes of your day.

The Nature of Influence