Happy marketers, despairing progressives
Classifying (segmenting) Canadians based on their values as consumers and citizens has revealed an even more surprising trend than expected.
We have discovered that a type of consumer-loving, social-climbing and extremely conservative Canadian (when it comes to their view of family and gender relationships) has increased their share of the Canadian population from 6% in 2010 to 19% in 2022. A meteoric thirteen-point rise in twelve years!
We have named this segment “The Proud” because its members exhibit an acute need for social recognition.
More than half of these individuals (55%) are under the age of 35. They have incomes significantly higher than average and live in the country’s large urban agglomerations. Moreover, a large majority of these individuals (63%) have an ethnic origin other than British or French.
They represent a plurality (38%) of those under 35 years of age in the Canadian population. This new type of youth are keen consumers, who are also replicating the old stereotypical roles of men and women in society.
As we have repeatedly pointed out in our previous articles, consumption has become one of the most important “values” in our society in recent years. As the graph below illustrates, The Proud are, by far, the most faithful and enthusiastic proponents of this activity.
For brands with a significant proportion of this type of consumer among their users/buyers, there is a tremendous opportunity if they address this segment appropriately and with relevant offers and content.
The Proud love beautiful packaging, prefer to shop online, are highly receptive to the added value of available options and are avid followers of social media and streaming content.
At the same time, they are committed to engaging in the most “sustainable” consumption possible, both ethically and ecologically.
A setback for society’s progressive values
While the retail trade and service industries may delight in their great enthusiasm for consumption, this undoubtedly represents a step backwards for society’s progressive aspirations.
Their attachment to traditional stereotypes is also striking. Neoconservatism has made strides in Canadian society in recent years, but this segment represents one of the most flamboyant expressions of it.
The two graphs below illustrate the rise of neoconservative values in Canadian society and the position of The Proud on certain issues.
Two trends account for this phenomenon. The fact that we find a large proportion of ethnic community members (regardless of generation) in this segment partly explains these results. Many of these communities hail from much more traditional cultures than ours.
But this factor does not account for everything. Not all members of ethnic communities in Canada display such levels of conservatism.
The other and perhaps more important factor is the deep sense of disempowerment The Proud feel in their lives, regardless of ethnicity (whence The Proud’s keen need for personal recognition). They feel slightly disconnected in the face of societal change yet refuse to be marginalized.
An article published on our website in June 2022 deals specifically with the rise of this disempowerment among Canadians and the neoconservatism it has engendered.
This type of mentality tends to provoke a strong desire for escape and the potential gratification through consumption becomes a sought-after outlet; hence, the concomitant growth of these indicators.
Let's note that despite this feeling of lack of empowerment, this Proud feels that he can adapt to current life uncertainties, expressing a very strong to assert himself socially.
Note, too, that one out of two (49%) in The Proud segment say that they would likely vote for Donald Trump if he ran for prime minister of Canada, compared to 18% of the Canadian population as a whole!
The different types of Canadian consumers
We have focused on The Proud because it is the segment that has experienced the most growth, as well as being the most surprising. As an expression of the neoconservatism that is taking stronger root in our social fabric, this segment represents the most astonishing social phenomenon we have witnessed in recent years.
But it is also important to examine the other types of consumers/citizens.
Six segments comprise the panorama of the different types of Canadians:
The Postmodern (14%)
Driven by a deep desire to fulfill their personal potential and be in full control of all the levers of their lives and destiny, the members of The Postmodern segment are highly motivated by their need for fulfillment and to express their uniqueness and creativity. They are ardent proponents of gender equality and extremely receptive and open to all forms of diversity (social, ethnic, gender, etc.). They are also strongly engaged with the ecological and ethical issues of the day.
They are enthusiastic consumers, early adopters and delighted by innovation, yet attempt to consume in a sustainable and responsible way. Although they are very hedonistic and keen in their desire to enjoy all of life’s pleasures, they opt for a very healthy lifestyle. All this makes them quite eclectic!
They like to buy personal care products and prefer to shop in-store, even though they prefer to work remotely from home instead of at the office. They follow social media, although they read more content than they post, and they are big fans of streaming content.
This type of Canadian comprises an over-representation of women, young people under the age of 35 and people with higher-than-average incomes.
In quantitative terms, this segment has remained relatively stable, dropping by 3 points, from 17% to 14% of the Canadian population, from 2010 to 2022.
The Hedonist (17%)
The members of The Hedonist segment take pleasure in whatever forms of gratification are available to them, especially the joys of consumption. For The Hedonist, too, society is changing too fast. They are very conservative (gender equality, diversity, etc.) in reaction to the difficulty they experience dealing with the uncertainties of life today.
Their priority in life is a carefree pursuit of pleasure. They are completely disengaged from all social and ecological causes.
In many ways, The Hedonist is very similar to The Proud in their consumption, conservatism and need for recognition.
However, by contrast with the Proud, this Hedonist has a lot of difficulty to adapt to today's uncertainties. His rather passive, benefitting from life pleasures in an apathetic way, whitout any need to assert himself socially.
They consume a great deal of social media and streaming content and are consumers of “adult entertainment”!
Their numbers have also declined sharply, from 28% of the population in 2010 to 17% in 2022. Their sociocultural proximity to The Proud suggests that many of them may have migrated to the latter segment over the years.
This segment comprises an over-representation of people under the age of 45, manual labourers, technicians, people with average incomes and households with children.
The Fatalist (16%)
This is another very conservative segment with an especially poor sense of control over their lives, whence their high level of fatalism. They are convinced that they are powerless against “fate”!
They feel that society is not only changing too fast but has also become toxic and anxiety-provoking. Uncertainty, risk, the social jungle are all manifestations of a world that The Fatalist believe is going to hell and in a handbasket, a world to which that they are having trouble adapting.
Their conservatism is nostalgic: everything was better and less complicated in the past. This accounts for their dislike of all forms of diversity (social, ethnic, gender, etc.) in today’s society.
It is striking that they read no newspapers and are quite uninformed about current events. They seek escape through gaming and televised sports, as well as streaming music (Spotify, YouTube, etc.).
This segment has been quite stable over the years, declining slightly from 17% of the Canadian population in 2010 to 16% in 2020.
In this segment, there is an over-representation of men, people 55 and older, lower incomes and Quebecers.
The Circumspect (16%)
The Circumspect have much in common with The Fatalist with respect to their apocalyptic view of society and the uncertainty prevailing there.
But this defeatist and menacing view of society does not result in conservative values. They are proponents of female equality and emancipation in society. They still feel in control of their lives and are able to manage despite their Darwinian view of today’s society.
But their primary characteristic is their circumspection, their cautiousness, in the way they consume and in other areas of their lives.
They systematically avoid risk. Their purchasing criteria are essentially price oriented. They are frugal consumers who practice a kind of introverted forced simplicity. They shop mainly in discount stores (and in-store).
They consume very little social media, opting for traditional media and live content at scheduled broadcast times.
This segment has grown by 9 points in recent years, from 7% of the Canadian population in 2010 to 16% in 2022, as more people encounter difficulties dealing with the uncertainties of today's world.
This segment comprises an over-representation of people 55 years of age and up, low incomes and people living in localities outside the major urban centres.
The No-Logo (18 %)
The reference to Naomi Klein's book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (Knopf Canada, Picador, December 1999), is intentional. The members of The No-Logo segment are committed “greens” who believe that the consumer society is creating superfluous needs that we must resist for ethical and ecological reasons. Their frugality can go as far as voluntary simplicity.
Their personal values are quite similar to those of The Postmodern, except for their frugal consumption. They feel empowered, have a strong desire for personal fulfillment, believe deeply in gender equality and enthusiastically embrace all forms of social diversity.
They have a very pessimistic view of the planet’s future and are very aware of the uncertainties in life today.
They are proponents of the circular economy. They repair. For them, buying new is a last resort. They garden and enjoy preparing food from scratch. They walk and take public transit. They make very little use of the Internet, social media, streaming or in-store shopping.
They mainly consume traditional media and still read printed newspapers.
This segment has declined by 7 points in recent years, from 25% of the Canadian population in 2010 to 18% in 2022. Some of them may have migrated to The Circumspect segment because of their difficulty dealing with today’s uncertainties.
This segment has an over-represented of women, people aged 55 and over, people with university degrees and residents of small municipalities.
How the types of Canadians have evolved
The following table summarizes how each of the segments has evolved in recent years.
An overview of the disparity among Canadian consumers and citizens
A practical way to provide an overview of this classification of Canadians is to project the segments onto our sociocultural map.
This map shows the values that we monitor on the two axes that divide Canadians based on the synthesis of their values.
As citizens and as consumers, our map contrasts people with the following mental postures:
A two-way split, based on feelings of empowerment leading to very modern values of personal fulfillment and social equity or, conversely, to feelings of disempowerment that produce the neoconservatism that we have described earlier.
In 2012, we said this in our general trends report:
"Society is increasingly divided along an axis of feelings of empowerment and control over one's life vs. a fatalistic view and lack of control; the fatalistic vision is unfortunately the one that is growing."
In 2022, we could say exactly the same thing! And the division between the top and bottom of our sociocultural map clearly testifies to this.
Note, too, that the proportion of Canadians feeling this sense of disempowerment is in the majority. These individuals are not all neoconservatives, but the trend is still there. Which says a lot about the evolution of the country and our ability to live with our new more complex and uncertain world.
Business opportunities and potential neoconservative excesses
We must always be cautious when projecting that current trends will continue to move in the same direction in the future. Admittedly, in this case the temptation is strong.
After all, do we really believe that our world will become less complex in the coming years and that the global forces impacting our lives will stop making us feel disempowered?
It is hard to believe that this will be the case so it is easy to envision a scenario in which neoconservative tendencies will continue to intensify. Neoconservatives are getting better organized politically, as are their various networks.
Consumption as an outlet should continue to retain its appeal and may even rise under the impetus of the new young keen (and conservative) consumers. We can expect a healthy consumer marketplace if, of course, we succeed in curbing inflation.
On the other hand, Canada is one of the most progressive countries in the world. We can also envision a scenario of adaptation to life’s uncertainties through our wealth-distribution policies.
However, it will still be necessary to educate this new youth about the country's heritage in terms of equality and humanism.