Marketing through the eyes of Canada’s marketing trailblazers

Created by American Marketing Association (AMA) Toronto Chapter and sponsored by IT World Canada (ITWC), the Legendary Leadership Series: Marketing Trailblazer 2022 event, which took place earlier this month, saw three of 2021 Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends  inductees, Sharifa Khan, Rem Langan, and Bryan Pearson, discuss what it takes to be the first in their respective industries and transform categories. 

The event provided attendees with an opportunity to access and learn from the three Marketing Legends who have dedicated their professional lives to pursuing excellence in marketing.

About AMA Toronto

AMA Toronto is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that has empowered business growth and leadership potential within the community for more than 70 years. AMA Toronto provides opportunities to build professional connections, develop leadership, and accelerate professional knowledge and growth. With more than 20,000 members and 70 chapters across North America, the AMA is the largest marketing association in the world.

“Locally, AMA Toronto is a welcoming community, focused on advancing the practice of marketing and the success of marketers in Canada. Internationally, we offer marketing resources and connections that will put you at the forefront of global industry knowledge. We also serve as a gateway for Canadian businesses wanting to grow and expand internationally,” said Miglena Nikolova, top account marketing lead at IBM Canada, who is also the immediate past president of AMA Toronto. “Our goal is to help transform individual marketers into impactful business leaders who can succeed on both the local and the global stage.”

“These exceptional leaders are Marketing Legends, inducted into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends — they’ve shaped and influenced marketing in Canada, and in many ways have global impact. Sharing their career accomplishments and inspiring stories celebrates excellence, provides inspiration, and empowers leadership potential across the marketing community,” said Nikolova.

Multicultural marketing is a critical need

Currently serving as the president and chief executive officer of Balmoral Multicultural Marketing, a full-service multicultural marketing and advertising agency helping clients target Canada’s growing communities, Sharifa Khan has been in the marketing and corporate communications industry for 40 years. When she came to Canada as a young immigrant, she said she noticed that the Canadian landscape was changing dramatically – the newcomers were already contributing to the country economically, socially, and culturally, and their consumption power was already increasing. Yet major brands and companies were essentially ignoring them in their marketing. 

Sharifa Khan, a 2021 Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends inductee

“I could see marketers just don’t have newcomers on the radar. This realization, I can say, sparked my passion and conviction in me. So, this is where I found my calling, and I made it my life’s mission to be able to build bridges of understanding, helping brands and companies to look at these immigrants and better connect with them and value these communities and in turn, help these diverse communities to be connected. I think multicultural marketing is a critical need, and I jumped in with both feet and here I am, I found my home,” said Khan while speaking about what motivated her to start a career in marketing.

Her motto is “Building Bridges of Understanding”. She is a maestro in putting a cultural lens to strategy and brands, to drive considerations and solidify relationships between mainstream and these ever-growing market segments. Over the years, Khan has been dedicated to promoting the goodwill and image of Canada’s diverse multicultural communities to mainstream Canadian communities, corporations, and government. She has led her agencies in winning numerous medals at the Cassie, the Strategy Marketing Awards, and the Summit International Awards, for Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG), BMW, Canada Life, Ottawa Tourism, Britta and Clorox.

In 1999, Sharifa was awarded federal recognition from then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for her entrepreneurial success. In 2002, she was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Award and in 2012, the Diamond Jubilee Award. In 2004, she received the Alumni Achievement Award from Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University). She is also a recipient of the 2013 Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award for her achievements. And in 2018, Sharifa was named one of eighteen Women of Influence in Canada. 

Measured marketing is the way to go

With more than two decades of experience developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies, Bryan Pearson is an internationally recognized expert, author and speaker on customer loyalty and marketing. He is a global leader in loyalty, retail marketing, and analytics, and a passionate advocate for the ability of marketing, leadership and culture to transform business performance. 

Bryan Pearson, a 2021 Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends inductee

Pearson is the former president and chief executive officer of LoyaltyOne, a provider of loyalty marketing services to enterprises in retail, financial services, grocery, petroleum retail, travel, and hospitality sectors globally. He currently serves as a Director and strategic advisor to a number of organizations.

“Back in the day coming out of my MBA because I didn’t want to be an accountant, I didn’t want to be a financial analyst and I knew that HR was probably not the best place for me to stretch my wings and so maybe it was by default, but the reality was, I like the way marketing sat at the centre of purpose of the organization and represented the consumer, how it really was a place where insights and strategy arose, and I think that was the first bump,” said Pearson while speaking about how he uncovered his true calling.

He has been a passionate advocate of measured marketing and championing that as a way to think about how people use customer information, especially coming out of loyalty programs, and how they use that not only to inform strategy, but to measure results and really transform their business. Pearson said that’s a flag he carried and weaved around a lot through the majority of his career at LoyaltyOne, and it’s something that he remains passionate about.

In 2012, Pearson published ‘The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy’, which draws on his first-hand experience in building emotional loyalty in an information age and details strategies for building unwavering customer loyalty while also navigating the minefields of privacy. In July 2013, Bryan published a companion e-book titled ‘The Loyalty Leap for B2B’ to address the specific needs of business-to-business marketers.

It is important to build the social side of a company

Rem Langan is an accomplished marketer with over 35 years of experience in executive management, marketing, and communications in both the business and the not-for-profit sectors. Currently, he acts as a consultant to companies and not-for-profit organizations on a variety of issues and areas.

Rem Langan, a 2021 Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends inductee

As chief marketing officer for McDonald’s Canada, Langan directed all financial and human capital related to marketing and communications, overseeing annual marketing budgets, while providing direction for all advertising and communications activities across Canada. Additionally, he was responsible for leading McDonald’s sports marketing partnerships, including relationships with the NHL, NBA, and Olympics. 

He worked in the advertising business for a few years and then lined up with McDonald’s and had the opportunity to work around the world with the company. But, he says, from day one, what really interested him is the social marketing side of branding. 

“In the early days, people didn’t really understand the social marketing side of branding. I don’t know if they still do today – it’s gone through so many iterations. But what I was really interested in was trying to get back to the community,” said Langan. “My interest has always been in trying to build the social side of the company and that led me to all the things I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I think corporations should be involved in all that, they should be helping in terms of the social issues that we face today. And I think that’s where I spend the majority of my time – it wasn’t easy at the beginning but I think now it’s really rewarding.”

As the president and chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Canada, Langan set the strategic direction of the organization, leading the development and execution of all internal and external fundraising initiatives including the creation of the McDonald’s 10 Cent Happy Meal program, which has raised close to 100 million dollars in Canada since 2004. 

Over the years, Langan has been an active board member of numerous charities including Variety Village, Parachute Canada, Canadian Paralympic Committee, the Toronto 2015 Sport Legacy Fund, Ontario Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, and POV, as well as a founding board member of The Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation and the Impakt Foundation for Social Change. 


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Pragya Sehgal
Pragya Sehgal
Born and raised in the capital city of India - Delhi - bounded by the river Yamuna on the west, Pragya has climbed the Himalayas, and survived medical professional stream in high school without becoming a patient or a doctor. Pragya now makes her home in Canada with her husband - a digital/online marketing fanatic who also loves to prepare beautiful, healthy and delicious meals for her. When she isn’t working or writing around tech, she’s probably watching art films on Netflix, or wondering whether she should cut her hair short or not. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 647.695.3494.

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