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Happiness and the sexes

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 09-27-13 at 10:23 a.m.

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Like Life and Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness is an "unalienable right" that the United States Declaration of Independence says all human beings have been given by their Creator and for the protection of which they institute governments. That can seem abstract, but it has a very practical application, to wit:


Happiness and life cycle

Researchers have discovered a U-shape in the human happiness graph over the course of the life cycle, with reported satisfaction declining roughly from the mid-20s to the 50s before increasing again into the later "golden" years (mid-60s). This may seem counterintuitive - but is deeply, inextricably linked to expectation and experience. Younger people tend to be overly optimistic. Nobody believes he'll be the one to experience the messy divorce, the health problem, the foiled or dissatisfying career. Instead, life gets in the ring, knocks you around and puts happiness on the ropes, until expectations are tempered and seasoned by experience in later years.


Recipe for happiness

But the lingering questions are: Who are the happy people? What do they do? What is their trick? Is it innate or acquired?


Beyond the life cycle, we know that happy people (those who self-proclaim to register 5/5 on the Happiness scale: roughly 20% of the Canadian population) have some mental postures in common. For instance, they value life's simple pleasures, and ritual. It is crucial to understand rituals from a branding perspective. Happy people have rituals. Unhappy people are instead mired in routines that they periodically need to escape.


The importance of ritual

There is a profound difference between ritual and routine: Ritual brings deeper meaning to both significant and everyday acts. When moving from sleep to activity, most of us enjoy a simple, almost universal morning ritual - making coffee. Reflect, for a moment, on all the steps involved in that process, and the sensorial aspect of it. How dearly would you miss it if it changed... or disappeared?


Think about your weekend newspaper, the promising bulk of it, implying all the luxurious time you'll have to read it on your day off. Or opening a bottle of wine: the whole ritual of unwrapping the foil and inserting the corkscrew, feeling that tension and then hearing the satisfying plonk of the cork. It's so not the same with a screw top. Routine? Routine removes meaning and implies a mindset in which everything is a chore and nothing offers possibility.


Meanwhile, happy people also tend to love a challenge, and have the energy to address it. They have a sense of being rooted in a community and of being connected to others.


Is happiness the same for men and women

But let's make it more interesting: Is what's true for men also true for women?


Happy women, in fact, are more conservative than their female counterparts. They are leery of families that do not consist of a father and a mother. Religion holds a more important place in their lives, and they often put moral duty before happiness. Happy women are those who feel the frame of their life is firm, even rigid.


Meanwhile, the happy man is more epicurean. He is romantic and attuned to his senses. He is uninterested in spiritual questioning and declares that he is very open to new models of the family. For him, happiness means pleasure coming before duty. Happy men are men who indulge themselves and go with the flow.


To circle back to the United States Declaration of Independence, Liberty and Happiness seem to come together for men, but not for women.


Hey folks - we're just reading the stats here, so please: no hate mail.



Prize draw winner announcement: Study on legal services related to labour law conducted for the Loranger Marcoux law firm.


Posted on 06-28-13 at 9:08 a.m.

CROP in please to announce the winner of the prize draw among those who participated in the study on perceprions, attitudes, and use legal services related to labour law! Mr. Sylvain Poisson is the lucky winner of a 32GB iPad mini.

Congatulations and thanks to all the participants!


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)