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Electric this

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 04-04-13 at 8:35 a.m.

Image for Electric this

It turns out the road to hell really is paved with good intentions - and so is the road to product rollout fail.


Being new, or even progressive, are not qualities that, in and of themselves, will make your product a hit. The automobile industry is learning that as the introduction of the electric car stalls at the starting line.


It shouldn't be that way. Research indicates that consumers harbour a lot of goodwill for the electric car:


-71% of Canadians find electric cars interesting[1]

-71% of Quebecers think the electric car will replace combustion technology[2]


So... why isn't this goodwill translating into tangible purchases?


According to consumers[3], the first motivator for buying an electric car is environmental concern; the second, freedom from the tyranny of oil. Major purchase inhibitors? Sticker shock, and the limited travel range before having to charge the battery. Benefits are external (environmental concern) and downsides are associated with the product itself (price, limited usage). Bad recipe.


Let's talk cellphones to compare. At the dawn of the tech-communication revolution 20 short years ago, only early adopters had the clunky new devices, the antenna on their cars broadcasting to the world "I am on the cutting edge." Status was enough then - but not anymore. Now, with some 5 billion+ people using cells worldwide according to the United Nations telecom agency (ITU), consumers expect their handheld to do everything but teleport them. And it does. Design matters, as the firms chasing Apple have learned, but apps, operation, and capability matter more. It's no longer "See how cool I look with my phone" but "I love what my phone can do." Not so much external validation as internal motivation. It's a computer, a camera, a social media connector. It's wireless , and 4G,  and sexy and powerful.


According to Panoramatm (CROP's proprietary sociocultural monitor), actual owners of electric cars are early adopters who seek social recognition by being the first to try out new products. They are in it for the novelty, more so than for the environment but they would never admit to it. In order to increase the market share of electric cars, manufacturers must target a greater number of mainstream consumers.


While they're helping save Mother Earth, automobile buyers want a car that they can, you know, drive. Yet instead of telling the showroom visitor about what a car can do, auto manufacturers are trapped into telling her about its limitations. That's the polar opposite of selling - it's pre-disastering the sale. What driver wants to go in knowing that his new car has a battery range of 400 kilometres?


Appealing to morality will only take you so far. Think, for instance, of recycling. Everyone you know has embraced it now, but the inherent ethical appeal would fade if you had to carry your trash to five separate bins four blocks from your house. There's only so much you can demand from your target citizen, and even less from your consumer.


Besides recycling, the only other truly "environmental" initiative we've participated in recently, involving a change in consumer behaviour, was the elimination of plastic bags at the supermarket. Beyond showing the world that they care about the environment, consumers adopted it for one good reason: You can carry stuff very effectively.


There's a consistent message here: you can't build a business model on buyers' goodwill - especially not at $40,000 a throw. Electric car manufacturers will have to perfect and then demonstrate the utility of the vehicle before it takes off. They can start by finding and using the voices of satisfied consumers, who can advocate for the tangible inherent benefits of owning and driving an electric car, such as:


-The car is a noiseless environment: I can listen to my favourite music without interference

-The engine has full power from ignition: on the start, I have more torque than a   sports car


Because the key to making an electric car go in the marketplace is what it does for the driver, not the planet.


[1] Crop Panorama 2012

[2] Crop / LaPresse published in LaPresse November 21st 2011

[3] ibid


Framing the issue

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 03-15-13 at 9 a.m.

Image for Framing the issue

During the last presidential debate on foreign politics, as U.S. President Barack Obama cited his accomplishments, the policy he was the proudest of - besides vaporizing Osama Bin Laden - was his position on shale gas and accelerating the exploration process.

Meanwhile, north of the border, Quebecers massively reject shale gas exploration. Likewise, a number of groups are fiercely opposed to the Northern Gateway, the pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, B.C.

Why do similar issues elicit such viscerally opposite reactions from just across our shared border? Sure, this could be about values - perhaps Americans and Canadians have different principles when it comes to energy or resources. However, we think the key factor here is not the answer but the question, and how it's structured. It's not about the picture - it's about the frame.

It's all about how you frame the issue - and the results are dramatically different. In the U.S., the administration and the energy industry frame shale gas as an "energy independence" issue. Shale gas exploration will make America energy self-sufficient - or even transform the country into a net exporter of oil and gas by 2020. Here, nationalism is cannily tied to oil and gas extraction. The question is: "Do you want to depend on Middle Eastern countries and their oil oligopoly for your energy supply... or are you a proud American?" Cue the fireworks and the flag-waving - the answer is never in doubt because the issue has been deftly framed to elicit the desired response.

In Quebec, a CROP poll conducted for the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec revealed that Quebecers are almost twice as opposed to shale gas as to the tar sands. Think about what that says when you consider how much negative media coverage the tar sands have received. Quebecers would prefer to buy their gas from other provinces or states rather than exploit their own. In Quebec, the discovery of a new resource is practically treated as bad news.

From the get-go, the energy industry here has been unable to frame the issue to its advantage. Meanwhile, its opponents did just that, pointing to possible contamination of the groundwater. In Quebec, the question is now: "Do you want to pollute your water?" And you know the answer to that one. Once that frame is snapped into place, it's very hard to remove. Not even a spokesman as credible as Lucien Bouchard (he almost made Quebec a country singlehandedly) can pull it off. In fact, rather than enhancing the image of shale gas, the issue is reducing his likeability.


Framing an issue starts with robust data about public opinion. You need to clearly understand the strengths and weaknesses of your project, as well as who are your allies, your opponents and the silent majority that you may be able to convince. Finally, it's important to understand the nature of the opposition, rational or emotional, in order to fine-tune the tone of communications.

Now the industry is stuck with an image problem, and has to find a way to reframe the issue. That won't be easy, but it's absolutely necessary to winning hearts and minds. Your mother was right: you seldom get a second chance to make that first impression.


List of winning participants to the Panorama study


Posted on 01-10-13 at 10:38 a.m.

CROP is announcing the list of winners from those who participated in the pan-Canadian survey on values and habits! The winner of $10,000 in cash is Sharon Johnson.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all participants!

1.     Sharon Johnson (10 000 $ in cash)

2.     Catherine Delmarque (iPad valued at $600)

3.     Roger Deneault (iPad valued at $600)

4.     Frieda Carter (iPad valued at $600)

5.     Cecile Managhan (iPad valued at $600)

6.     Leslie Cappe (iPad valued at $600)

7.     Richard Greene (iPad valued at $600)

8.     Pat Sloman (iPad valued at $600)

9.     Peppino De Agostinis (iPad valued at $600)


Eminem, The Chrysler 200 and the branding of cities!

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 03-31-11 at 10:27 a.m.


Click here to view the ad on YouTube


Every year, the Super Bowl in the U.S. is as much a festival of advertising as it is a celebration of football. Advertisers and advertising agencies outdo each other in their creative efforts to show off their abilities. And the most recent of these events certainly holds its own when compared to previous years.

Although all the advertisements were entertaining and effective this year, one in particular attracted our attention because of its relevance to major trends in consumer psychology that we have been measuring over the past few years.

This ad seems to promote the city of Detroit as much as the car! While thoroughly valorising the “masstige” virtues of the new Chrysler 200, it also defends Detroit’s “DNA”. It puts forth a narrative that goes to the very heart of this city’s “brand”.

In addition, the brand is positioned in a manner that rallies some of the most important trends in consumer psychology today.

It presents a vision of the city’s founding myth, the very spirit that initiated it all, while underlining the dynamic impulse that continues to drive it and gives it resilience.

This ad marvellously exudes the trend “brand authenticity” that we measure in our Panorama (3SC) program and which is currently on the increase in Canada. This trend expresses great respect and sensitivity toward brands that have a soul, a narrative, a story to tell, all of which must be incontestably authentic.

Personal potential, the need to surpass (challenge) oneself and pride are also expressed wonderfully (all of which are trends that are currently on the rise in Canada). It unabashedly tells about the hard times that the city has been through and especially its reputation as a “devastated” city. However, it also extolls the city’s resilience, its ability to take charge and to bring out the very best in itself despite everything.

“Neo-localism”, a trend that we see progressing year after year, is expressed equally well by this ad. The narrative exudes a proud and deeply rooted local identity that nourishes the personal identities of those who connect with this story.

Furthermore, the beauty of this concept is that it can be “cloned” to any city that has its own founding myth. Based on the history of any city, the values of its citizens, as well as those who look toward it for inspiration, a narrative can be constructed in order to build the branding of these cities.

In today’s context where cities have to develop their brand in order to position themselves on an international chess board that is becoming increasingly competitive, this ad seems extraordinarily inspiring.



What kind of cheese are you?

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 01-13-11 at 3:23 p.m.

Image for What kind of cheese are you?

The foods on our plate are faithful mirrors of our personality. As far back as 1825, the French gastronome Brillat-Savarin  was an ardent defender of this theory, which CROP’s Nutrio and Panorama programs have championed for more than 20 years, regardless of the product category being studied.

The world of cheese provides us with a good example via two products that are now well-integrated in the eating habits of Canadians, although they both come from Europe: Mozzarella and Feta cheeses.

So, are you more of a Mozzarella type or a Feta type of person? The answer might seem unimportant until we establish the profile of regular consumers of each of these products.

Of course, fans of both of these cheeses are generally hedonists and have a tendency to consider food more as a pleasure than as a simple fulfillment of a physiological need; however, the similarities end there and the rest paints a picture of two very distinct worlds.

The regular consumer of Mozzarella is of an impulsive nature, someone who seeks spontaneous pleasures and runs on strong emotions and sensations. He displays avidity for food: he enjoys the sensation of feeling stuffed and doesn’t hesitate to take a second helping of a dish that he enjoyed. He prefers spicy foods or at the very least, foods that have a strong taste – from this viewpoint, mozzarella plays the role of an ingredient that gives consistency to dishes that are otherwise spicy. His diet does not follow a particular routine; he eats when he is hungry and regularly nibbles between meals or even instead of meals. Spontaneity is the key word for him; he always has something with him or in his kitchen to alleviate the munchies or a sudden desire to eat. His voracious appetite does not prevent him from making some healthy choices: notably, he tries to limit his consumption of sugar, salt and fried foods. Finally, his values profile shows a certain taste for risk, which leads him to flirt with that which is forbidden and to be an early adopter of new products and services that appear on the market.

The regular consumer of Feta cheese has much more structured dietary habits. Meals are essential milestones throughout his day; they provide a regular rhythm to his daily life and are an opportunity to connect with the people around him. Impulsive snacking is not a usual part of his lifestyle. In fact, this consumer is the quintessential example of the Nutrio segment we call “Foodies” and the Panorama segment that we call “Explorers”, both of which have been on the rise in Canada over the past few years. We are looking at an individual who loves to discover new things when it comes to food, as well as in his daily life. He wants to broaden his horizons by exploring cuisine from other cultures, new ingredients that he sees in the supermarket or new ways of preparing food. He doesn’t hesitate to try complicated recipes or even make up his own recipes. He enjoys learning in general and is inclined to enrich his knowledge of food and cooking by perusing articles, recipes and websites as well as watching television programs on the subject. The Feta consumer is strongly preoccupied by the quality of the food he eats; he reads the list of ingredients in order to avoid foods that contain additives and preservatives. Endowed with a strong social and ecological conscience, he tends to prefer locally-produced foods and to reject genetically modified foods. Furthermore, he is often inclined toward sophisticated choices: to him, the elegance of a dish, its refinement in terms of taste and presentation are as important as its nutritional value.

While the Mozzarella aficionado is more of a strategic consumer who considers price a major factor in the quality vs. price equation, the Feta aficionado is much more centered on value added: he seeks “a little something extra” that gives him a different experience, which adds a touch of originality to his meal, even if it means spending a little more.

To accompany his meals, the Mozzarella consumer would probably choose a mainstream type of beer while the Feta consumer would be more likely to track down a relatively good quality wine.

Therefore, let us suggest that you don’t invite these two individuals to the same party, or if you have no choice, don’t seat them together because they probably won’t have much in common to talk about!

Similarly, if you are targeting both these types of consumers, your marketing strategies shouldn’t address them in the same manner. The Mozzarella consumer will be more receptive to an approach centered on the joy of eating substantial meals, on innovation and the accessibility of the product, in an environment that expresses intensity, with a touch of rebellion. On the other hand, the Feta consumer would be more seduced by an approach that satisfies his thirst for discovery, transforming a simple cheese into an experience that allows him to travel and is physically and culturally nourishing, encapsulated in a relatively sophisticated environment where the integrity (the naturalness) of the food is emphasized.

So, Feta, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Brie, Havarti, Gouda, Edam, Gorgonzola? If each type of cheese corresponds to a personality type, we can understand why the former French president, Charles de Gaulle, humorously wondered, “how can you govern a country which has 258 varieties of cheese?”
Of course, our tools are not limited to analyzing the cheese category as exemplified in this article. CROP’s Nutrio program allows us to draw up, in each food category, the profile of different types of consumers according to the specific product they favour or the brand they buy, thereby helping our clients ground their marketing strategies on the drives and desires of their consumers and potential consumers.

For further information on the values and/or food habits of consumers of your product category or brands, do not hesitate to contact us!