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Newsletters, email campaigns and personalization: why settle for a passing grade?

Categories: CROP in the news

Posted on 01-23-19 at 3:05 p.m.

Image for Newsletters, email campaigns and personalization: why settle for a passing grade?

A CROP-Relation 1 Study


Dominic Bourdages
Vice President, CROP



A growing number of companies are looking to personalize communications to their customers in order to increase relevance by targeting the right people, at the right time, with the right content.

While personalized communications hold the promise of increased benefits (higher conversion rates, positive impact on brand image, increased loyalty and, ultimately, increased revenue), the risks associated with low or poor personalization are just as tangible.

The main issue is that too many marketing professionals still approach "one on one" communication with a mass communication mindset. When two of the key objectives consist of maximizing the number of mailings and minimizing creative costs, personalization is automatically relegated to the background.


First indicator: the opening rate

A quick Google search for email and newsletter opening rates leads to dozens of sources, with rates ranging from 15% to 45%. Some even claim that opening rates higher than 25% are a resounding success.

But seriously, can brands afford such poor performances? And most importantly, why are opening rates so low?

We asked the main stakeholders: consumers. 2,189 Canadians were questioned about their attitudes and behaviours regarding branded newsletters and emails. The results follow.

Of all branded communications received personally, Canadians report an average opening rate of 45%. A very honourable rate, one could argue. But in fact, it is nothing less than an admission of failure. It cannot be considered normal that over half of Canadians reject emails from your brand. Keep in mind that if your consumers receive your targeted communications, it's because they have expressly agreed to do so.

And the reason we choose to send out personalized communications is precisely to avoid this type of waste. Especially since the negative repercussions of a low opening rate are very real for brands.


What the opening rate won't tell you

Let's look at this from a consumer's perspective. What happens when such a communication is received? The answer is somewhere between certainty and hesitation. Half the time (51%), the identification of the sender is sufficient to decide to open the communication, or not. For the other half of emails received (49%), consumers hesitate and review the email's subject line before choosing whether to read it or trash it.

The following illustration summarizes the poor performance of email communications, as things currently stand.


Performance indicators: opening

Spontaneous opening rate: 18%

The total opening rate is partly composed of e-mails opened spontaneously by consumers, at the mere sight of the sender's name. It is easy to conclude that these e-mails are appreciated and expected by consumers, and therefore very effective.

The spontaneous opening rate represents the level of trust and relevance you have succeeded in building with your consumers. In the field of targeted and personalized communications, this is the ultimate sign of a "loved brand".


Conscious opening rate: 27%

The conscious opening rate represents the e-mails opened after consulting the subject line, when the sole mention of the sender's name is insufficient to prompt this action. These emails ultimately reach their target and contribute to building a bond of trust and relevance.

The conscious opening rate represents the level of relevance of your communications. It should be interpreted in comparison to the conscious rejection rate.


Conscious rejection rate: 22%

The conscious rejection rate represents the emails that will ultimately be trashed after hesitation and viewing the subject line. These emails generate little or no interest among your consumers. They have a negative impact on the perceived relevance of your brand, because they are the result of overly broad targeting or poor personalization.

The conscious rejection rate should be considered a red flag, especially if it exceeds the conscious opening rate.


Spontaneous rejection rate: 33%

The spontaneous rejection rate includes all branded emails that have no chance of reaching their target. They are systematically rejected at the very sight of your brand name. This is akin to a colleague that no one wants to invite at their Christmas dinner table.

The spontaneous rejection rate can mean two things (or a combination of both):

• Either it represents the direct negative effects of an inadequate personalization strategy;
• Either it is the result of an acquisition campaign that is far too aggressive and poorly targeted.

In all cases, the spontaneous rejection rate represents the "surplus weight" of your brand's consumer database. And since the Holiday season is a perfect time for resolutions, I encourage you to analyze the perceived relevance of your brand's communications, and to set goals for improved performance in 2019.

A high spontaneous rejection rate should encourage you to seriously consider streamlining your database, as it will often lead to a wave of unsubscriptions.


Breaking free

Over the last six months, half of Canadians surveyed said they have unsubscribed from mailings of at least one brand. In terms of dissatisfaction, 50% is nothing short of a disaster: this means that half of the population receive brand communications that they no longer want to receive. Some will say that this is a harmless, normal correction, because many consumers subscribe frantically to all kinds of things, only to realize their mistake later. However, without knowing the reasons for unsubscribing, it is impossible to draw accurate conclusions.


Why are consumers breaking free?

Clearly, consumers are telling us that they receive too many personal communications from brands. And all this "spam" is counterproductive for our industry.

Not only are they claiming that they receive too many e-mails (43%), they are also saying the we don't know them well enough and that their evolution as consumers is not recognized (42%), that our communications are sorely irrelevant, and that they are both useless and annoying (29%).

It is also important to note that one in ten Canadians (10%) unsubscribed while being convinced that they had never agreed to receive such communication from the brand in the first place. This is not about compliance with Bill C-18, but rather about building a relationship based on relevance and honesty. It's quite possible that many of them simply forgot that they had subscribed. But the lack of relevance of the communications will have exhausted both their tolerance and their memory.

It is interesting to note that this percentage varies greatly from one brand to another. In fact, among the brands with the highest personalization scores, only 5% of consumers say they have never consented to receiving communications. Conversely (you can see this coming!), this percentage rises to 31% for brands with the least relevant communications.


The boomerang effect

But the most pernicious effect of brand communications that are deemed irrelevant by consumers is its effect on their opinion of brands. A good personalized communication strategy will bring an average positive difference of +37 on brand evaluation. On the other hand, a brand guilty of implementing a poor strategy will suffer great damage to its sympathy capital (negative difference: - 24).


Your targeted communication strategy

Generally speaking, the type of content consumers want from brands is strikingly similar to Maslow's pyramid. Personal communication (as opposed to mass advertising) appears to find legitimacy in the value it offers consumers. This is the most democratic type of content, with four in five Canadians (79%) expressing a desire to receive a variety of promotional offers.

The middle levels include, respectively, informational communications (58%) and product recommendations that they may find interesting (31%).

Finally, the creation of pure content (journalistic in nature and not directly related to the brand promoting its products/services) is at the top of the pyramid (18%).


Relevance strategy pyramid

Your targeted communication strategy should therefore differ from your overall communication strategy; first and foremost, it should be based on a creative strategy aimed at creating tangible value for your consumers. Obviously, any form of discount qualifies for this category. However, it is not necessary to give up profits to meet your consumers' expectations. A VIP status with different benefits will be equally appreciated.

Secondly, your targeted communications should meet informative needs: new arrivals, modified opening hours, etc.

Quickly, however, you will need to get to know your consumers better, as their expectations of your targeted communications will increase. You will need to demonstrate that you are making the necessary efforts to be relevant in each of your communications. Ultimately, once you have achieved this status of trust and relevance, you will be able to easily customize your product recommendations to your consumers, and you can expect much better conversion results.

Finally, as your brand becomes legitimately recognized as an "expert, your can also develop a journalistic content strategy (and deploy it in a personalized way), thus completing the picture by broadening the communication base with your consumers. At this point, you will no longer be talking about your products per se, but your editorial line will focus on sharing your brand values, establishing an emotional connection with your audiences, and positioning your brand as an undisputed leader.


Preferred media and formats

Not surprisingly, when it comes to preferred media, email is by far the dominant option with 90% of mentions. However, postal delivery ranks surprisingly high, as the preferred media for 21% of Canadians. Obviously, age is an important factor in assessing this statement, and this percentage is but an average. Note that there is a direct correlation between the two variables.

Postal service as a preferred media

Perhaps one could say that "rumours of the postal service's demise have been greatly exaggerated". As of now, sure. But in the long run, it will likely follow the same extinction curve as printers, land lines, cars that run on gasoline and other "technologies" from the past century.

Especially since other communication channels available to brands generate little enthusiasm: traditional media (radio, TV, out-of-home) and text messages rank third with 9%, followed by social media ads at 8% and smartphone notifications at 6%. As for web banners, with a measly 3%, they should soon join the QR code in the cemetery of "marketing innovations".

Finally, with respect to format, short text with pictures seems to be the preferred format, with 57% and 48% of mentions respectively. Only one-third of Canadians prefer more sustained copy. Finally, video trails the pack with a low 10% mention. But don't dismiss video entirely, as it remains a highly appreciated format, except in the context of an email, where it is relatively unpopular.


Personalize before it's too late

While a good personalization strategy can have positive impact on your brand, it would be foolish to believe that it can mend your relationship with consumers who have already written you off. Indeed, Canadians' interest in personalized communications decreases drastically for brands that have abused generic email messages, and who may now be perceived as completely irrelevant.


Big Brother is watching you

Purchasing history is often the first source of information that communications professionals will turn to when they want to initiate a personalization strategy. But be aware that one in three Canadians (32%) express discomfort with such a strategy. However, the acceptability index of this approach remains one of the highest (+21). Needless to say that using people's browsing history will generate a highly negative reaction in 40% of respondents (index +9). Finally, geolocation represents is the epitomy of unacceptable "spying", as 61% of Canadians are against this type of indiscretion (index -22).

In the end, the inherent transparency of a survey remains the most acceptable approach to learning more about your consumers, as three in four Canadians (76%) agree with this practice (index of +33).

Be honest with your consumers and explain why you are interested in them. They will be grateful and their relationship with your brand will be stronger.


Learning #1: Waste no time in assessing your targeted communication situation

The best way to effectively define objectives is to establish an overview of the current situation, and to be able to compare yourself.


Learning #2: The relevance of communications determines consumers' opinion of a brand

Get to know your consumers better as individuals. Make sure your communications are relevant to increase your brand's "love score". Otherwise, your brand image will suffer.


Learning #3: Develop customer-centric measures

Identify your best customers, show them some respect and develop a trusting relationship. For those consumers who seem uninterested in your mailings, reduce the frequency of communications until you find out more about them.


Learning #4: Your consumer is evolving

What your consumer finds interesting today is not necessarily what he/she will find interesting tomorrow. Acknowledge their evolution and provide them with the opportunity to share it with you.


Learning #5: Don't underestimate the perception of intrusion

Define what your consumers find acceptable. Don't invoke the law or your existing business relationship to "spy" on them. Give them the opportunity to explicitly accept the information you may use. And above all, explain your intentions.


Learning #6: Start embracing personalization today

If you are considering personalization, do it before your brand is considered irrelevant, as an eventual reconciliation with your consumer may prove difficult.

The diffusion of innovation in these effervescent times – And Lulu by Alban Berg

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 12-11-18 at 4:34 p.m.

For my last post of the season, since I break for the Holidays, I wanted to complete my series on the segmentation of the Canadian population with a final chapter examining the adoption of innovation by consumers and citizens.

To do this, I synthesized the work we've done in recent years to update Everett Rogers's theory on the diffusion of innovation, which first appeared in 1962. Its fifth edition was published in 2003.

Most people have heard of the so-called "Early Adopters," the first consumers to acquire the latest innovations, use them in an ostentatious way and take a leadership role in enthusiastically promoting them to their entourage. These are the people who will spend the night camping outside an Apple store, waiting for it to open so they can rush in to be the first to get the newest gadget.

However, behind this stereotype is a complete theory of the diffusion of innovation by Everett Rogers. Simply put, according to his model, innovations, new ideas and practices in society get diffused through the leadership of groups of individuals, moving from the most to the least receptive, until they have reached an optimal penetration.

The original model looked like this:

The theory goes that for any given innovation, "Innovators," small marginal groups very plugged in to the latest advances, act as leaders and interest the "Early Adopters," a much larger mass of individuals who truly set an example in the marketplace and in society and who, in turn, inspire the "Early Majority," thus helping the innovation in question reach the largest number of consumers and citizens. According to this theory, the diffusion is driven primarily by the leadership of each of these segments, in sequence, one after the other.

Next come the "Late Majority," who are more skeptical and only jump on the bandwagon when the innovation has been generally deployed. Finally, we have the "Laggards," those traditionals who reject, until the very end, all expressions of modernity.

What determines which segment a person belongs to is essentially income, socio-economic level, and status in the social pecking order. (In the 1960s, if you didn't have a colour TV, you were a second-class citizen!).

More than a half-century later

In the current frothy climate of innovation, many analysts believe that Rogers's theory is no longer relevant. They point to the tremendously rapid penetration of smartphones and use of social media.

However, whether or not you agree with Rogers's entire innovation diffusion theory, his segmentation model is still very useful when looking at the adoption of innovations, new ideas and social practices by people, consumers and citizens.

Based on a careful analysis of Rogers's segmentation, our studies have succeeded in reproducing his model. This work has led us to conclude that his model is still relevant but at a much faster rate (infinitely faster in some cases - as with smartphones).

We believe that the diffusion is much faster than it was in Rogers's time because there are many more Innovators and Early Adopters, and with the help of social media, their leadership is much more influential, personalized and effective, since they are spreading their influence to communities of interest (sometimes exponentially).

Full disclosure: our measurements of the progression of the segments presented here are approximate, since we did not use the same data as Rogers for our measurement tool. Nevertheless, it makes perfect sense in our current climate of hyper-valorization of consumption and the constant societal changes ("innovation" here is referring to more than just technological gadgets).

Our various analyses of the subject have produced the following estimate:

What is striking about our new "edition" of this model is the abundance of motivations and hot buttons that put people in a particular segment rather than another. They are easy to target with advertising and marketing when you know how to identify them among the various stakeholders (consumers, clients, volunteers, etc.). The also have very defined sociodemographic and socio-economic profiles.


Today, six main types of motivations underlie membership in these different segments of innovation adopters ...

1. Status, creating a social identity (pride, just as true today as in earlier decades);

2. Gratification, pleasure, play;

3. Exploring new ways to interact with today's world (notably, by being more ecological);

4. Transforming the rituals of one's life;

5. Finding leverage to get ahead in life, to achieve one's goals;

6. Being in control, in all areas of one's life.

This cocktail of motivations behind innovation adoption has become much more complex over time, especially since each of these motivations can be combined with the others, depending on the individual and the adoption segment he/she belongs to.

Five "adoption" segments with very different motivations (our updated Rogers model) ...

Innovators (10%):

These are people who get involved in online discussion forums to suggest improvements to products and services and even to offer advice for the creation and marketing of new products. They are enthusiastic participants in what is known as "co-creation," in having conversations with brands and non-profits to initiate innovation.

They have multiple motivations: they want to develop their potential, transform their lives and life in general, play, take pride in themselves (status), while getting involved in creating a more ecological and socially better world.

A marked over-representation of men, people under 45, professionals, high-income earners and residents of the country's big cities.

The main value proposition to convince them: "Come help us build the future." Engage them in the process of co-creation with the brand.

Early Adopters (18%):

A less intense version of the Innovators. They have almost the same motivations, although they are less active on discussion forums (not very motivated by co-creation) and not terribly concerned about the ecological and social issues of the day.

They want to be the first to own the latest innovations for reasons of status, personal expression and play.

An over-representation of people under 45 and high-income earners.

The main value proposition to convince them: "Be (and be proud to be) the first". We are creating communities where we promise you will be the first, etc.

Early Majority (22%):

This segment is less passionate about innovation. They are infinitely more practical. For them, innovation has lost its symbolic veneer. It is a part of daily life. Their main motivation is to be in control, to have all the necessary tools to feel fully in control of their capabilities.

Interestingly, this segment has no distinguishing sociodemographic or socio-economic traits (they are Mr. and Mrs. Everyone).

The main value proposition to convince them: Be in control of what you want to accomplish (like Microsoft said, "Where do you want to go today?").

Late Majority (26%):

This segment adopts after everyone else. When the innovation has become commonplace, a part of the majority's daily life, when the innovation is no longer an innovation! In fact, these individuals see innovation as a threat. It incarnates and symbolizes an uncertain, risky world that is changing too fast, one they are barely able to keep up with.

This segment is slightly older than the average for the population.

The main value proposition to convince them: Stress the utilitarian, on teaching the proposed function.

Laggards (24%):

These people are very different from their original counterparts. It is no longer tradition that motivates them, but rather voluntary simplicity, anti-consumerism, anti-business ("No-Logo"), as well as the feeling, or at least the fear, of exclusion.

An over-representation of people 55 and up, and of women.

The main value proposition to convince them: Don't bother!

They will buy only when they are good and ready.

Living with innovation

The coming years will bring us with a flood, a tsunami, of innovations! In all sectors of human activity. It is difficult to predict how this segmentation will evolve. Adoption of these upcoming innovations will no doubt vary, depending on the sector of activity and how much of a threat they represent. But we have no choice but to live with innovation. As with the Late Majority, a teaching approach to innovation will surely be needed, but on a larger scale.

The fact that Innovators are so demanding about the ecological and socially responsible properties of innovations gives us hope for a better world!

Happy Holidays! See you in January.

Lulu by Alban Berg

My musical clip of the week is an exploration of a type of modernity by Alban Berg in his opera, Lulu. Even if it deals with Viennese modernity in the early 20th century, it is radically "disruptive" nonetheless.

This clip presents the hysteria caused by a stock market crash. The diffusion of stock market participation in the 1920s followed Rogers's model. Starting with the elite, the wealthy Innovators, the penetration of the stock and bond markets grew tremendously, advancing to the Early Majority. As we all know, this ended badly, in the historic fiasco of 1929.

Berg illustrates this modernity as depravity, showing us how some of his protagonists struggle with inevitable ruin due to easy credit and the excesses of these markets.

Warning to those with sensitive ears: this is a 12-tone (dodecaphonic) score.

Alban Berg: Lulu, Petibon, Juon, Holland, Groves, Symphony Orchestra of Gran Teatre del Liceu, Boder, 2010.

Food habits of Canadians – And Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 11-28-18 at 3 a.m.

As a follow up to my last two posts on the various ways of dividing the Canadian population into large families (segmented on a societal and consumption level), I thought it would be interesting to add our segmentation of the food habits of Canadians.

We are witnessing a revolution in this arena, with profound changes in our expectations, needs and food habits. New food lifestyles are emerging; our buying criteria are becoming more complex, our requirements more sophisticated. In this arena of continuous transformation, marketing specialists call it "creeping segmentation." It is no exaggeration to say that the sociocultural transformation of society (the evolution in our values) is being expressed unequivocally through our palates!

Four main "megatrends" give structure to this transformation:

1. Sophistication
2. Simplification
3. Health
4. Value

1. Sophistication

For a growing number of us, food has become a source of exploration, of unique, gratifying, and comforting experiences ("comfort food"), of fun and discovery. Eating well has become one of life's greatest pleasures. Even food shopping has become an agreeable pastime. We want to feel more "connected" (symbiosis?) to our food ("slow food"). We cook for pleasure. We experiment with dishes from other countries. Both enjoying and preparing a good meal have become popular rituals.

2. Simplification

The pace of life has also put more demands on us. Our schedules are more difficult to manage. Combining work, family life and extracurricular activities has become more of a challenge. People have less time to cook. They are looking for ways to simplify their meals. They want to spend as little time as possible on meal preparation. They regularly skip meals. They rely on meal substitutes and portable solutions. They snack. The purchase of ready-made meals is on the rise. However, the market has a long way to go to meet the demand (there are far too many simplification offers that do not meet their requirements for sophistication and health).

3. Health

Health is also a purchasing criterion on the rise. As the Beatles sang in Savoy Truffle, "You know that what you eat you are." People have become aware that their food choices can greatly affect their health. They want to reduce or even eliminate the consumption of potentially harmful substances (fat, cholesterol, fried foods, salt, sugar, etc.) and add nutrients with beneficial properties (antioxidants, omega 3, super-foods, etc.). They read the ingredient lists on the products they buy. They are making increasingly healthy food choices

This trend is also associated with the new philosophies of life, which combine food and the art of living with ethical and ecological concerns (veganism, vegan food, etc.).

4. Value

Price is priority for many people when it comes to food, just as it is for many other product categories. They try to pay the lowest possible price for everything they buy. A few years ago, price was the sole criterion. Today, it's all about value. Not so long ago, consumers would accept lower quality for a cheaper price. Today, this equation no longer holds: we want the best for less (what marketers refer to as "value").

Five consumer segments, five very different approaches to food

The synthesis of these trends, and everything associated with them, results in five large families of Canadian consumers ...

Health Sophisticates
(14%) :

A view of health based on limiting or eliminating substances considered to be harmful to health (fat, sugar, salt, etc.). But they still hope to enjoy tasty food experiences. These consumers cook for pleasure, read about cooking and experiment with dishes from other countries. An overrepresentation of women, Quebecers, people aged 45 and over, and people with higher educations.

The value proposition to convince them to buy: very tasty, even without fat, sugar, salt, etc.

Foodies (22%) :

For these consumers, eating well is one of life's greatest pleasures! Every meal should be an occasion for a gratifying festival of flavours. They read about food, recipes and the customs of other cultures. They like to cook, shop, touch, smell, taste, etc. ("polysensoriality"'). They are both gourmand and gourmet. They are experimenters focused on discovering new flavours, as well as rediscovering traditional dishes and recipes. There is a clear majority of women in this consumer segment (its only distinguishing feature).

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: exquisite flavours, exploration and discoveries.

Curious Unstructured
(23%) :

The people in this segment want the pleasure without making any effort. Or, they simply have no time. Given their lifestyle and activities (work, family, recreation), these consumers want to minimize meal-preparation time. Their eating habits are quite unstructured. They skip meals, snack instead of eating a real meal, eat ready-made meals and use portable solutions, etc. But these consumers are also very sophisticated. They are also looking for gratifying, unique and exotic flavours. There is an overrepresentation of English Canadians, men, 18 to 44 year olds, households with children, professionals and administrators, high-income individuals and residents of large cities.

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: delicious, sophisticated, healthy, quick ... and not too expensive (even though they are price flexible).

Casual Gourmands (18%) :

These consumers are not terribly invested in food and have no "appetite" for anything sophisticated. They are perfectly happy with fast food restaurants. They also spend as little time as possible on meal preparation, since food is not an area that they find particularly exciting (whence their indifference). They are also not very concerned about health (they consume a lot of processed ready-to-eat meals). An over-representation of people under 35 and individuals with low levels of education.

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: simple, ready to eat, good but not expensive.

Traditionals (22%) :

These consumers approach food as if none of the recent food trends have reached them. In some food shops, they must feel like they have landed on Mars! They want to eat the same way as always: the same dishes, the same recipes, served the same way. Tradition, the known, the familiar, the unchanging touchstones: these are essential to them. Eating is strictly a response to a physiological need. As a result, price is one of the most important criteria. Being older, they also are somewhat concerned about healthy eating, probably at the urging of their doctor (limiting fat, sugar, salt, etc.).

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: just like the good old days (while following doctor's orders!)

A distinct society

Unlike the other divisions in the population that I analyzed in my earlier posts, this food-habits segmentation is strongly correlated with consumers' socio-demographic and socio-economic characteristics (as clear shown in the description of each segment).


As one might expect, Quebec differs from the other Canadian provinces in this categorization of food expectations and habits. As illustrated in the following table, there are more Health Sophisticates and Foodies in Quebec, thanks to the French tradition and the province's renowned joie de vivre, whereas there are more Curious Unstructured and Casual Gourmands in English Canada, where food is less of a priority in their lives and in "competition" with their other daily activities.

The synthesis of the trends in recent years

We are not always able to follow the evolution of our segments over time (our survey questions are not always identical from one year to the next). But in this case, we used exactly the same tools in 2014 as in 2018, thus enabling us to observe this evolution.

Based on the following table, note that ...

Curious Unstructured are skyrocketing, up 13 points in four years! (This segment combines the trends of sophistication, health and simplification).

Health Sophisticates are in decline. These consumers are less inclined to cut out ingredients that give them pleasure (preferring a certain balance).

Traditionals are in free fall. Their penetration by current trends is causing an inevitable decline.

Foodies are on the rise in Quebec, where joie de vivre is still a factor as is their enthusiasm for good food.

Great market opportunities

Although Quebec is still the poster child for joie de vivre, it is increasingly spreading over into the menus of other Canadians! Consumers' pursuit of pleasure is undoubtedly being expressed through food. Meals are increasingly becoming a moment of highly enjoyable conviviality, of sharing and of gratification. A wonderful balm for all of life's stresses!

These trends offer tremendous market opportunities to all businesses and entrepreneurs able to respond to these rising needs. And in these areas, the door is open equally to both small businesses and industry giants.

Bon appétit!

Don Giovanni by Mozart

For my operatic clip of the week, I looked for a scene with gourmet dining and Don Giovanni fit the bill. This outrageous and unrepentant hedonist indulges in all of life's pleasures, both at the table and with women. We find him here, demanding and relentless, as he dines while complaining that he will never be perfectly satisfied!

A superb production by La Scala in Milan.

Mozart: Don Giovanni, Mattei, Terfel, Netrebko, Frittoli, Filianoti, Prohaska, Coro E Orchestra Del Teatro Alla Scala, Barenboim, Deutsche Grammophon, Milan, 2015.

Quebecers in favour of secularism and a more restricted immigration

Categories: CROP in the news

Posted on 11-27-18 at 5:02 p.m.

A majority of Quebecers support François Legault's proposals to ban public servants in position of authority from wearing visible religious symbols and to reduce the yearly number of immigrants received by Quebec.

Click here for detailed survey results – FRENCH ONLY

Canadian consumers: personal values drive consumption choices today – And Das Rheingold by Wagner

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 11-13-18 at 1:48 p.m.

Similar to the divisions in society, current consumer trends are highly divisive. Gone are the days when we could identify consumers solely by income or age. Value-added is no longer the sole prerogative of the wealthy nor innovation the sole domain of the young (despite the grain of truth there).

To truly understand the choices consumers are making today, you need to understand their personal values. These guide their choice of products, services and brands and inform their decisions. Of course, some correlations with demographic and economic characteristics (age, sex, education, income, etc.) still pertain, but this is because these traits are correlated, to some extent, with people's values. But it is values, above all, that influence consumer choice. In any case, this is what our work has concluded.

Having observed this phenomenon for many years and measuring the rise of very distinct trends, we have synthesized our work by grouping (segmenting) Canadian consumers into large families (segments), each with very different motivations.

Three major trends have been on the rise for the last ten years or so (since the last recession) and point to consumer needs and expectations:

1. A gratification frenzy through consumption (regardless of the category, there is an imperative to buy, shopping is an irrepressible need, a unique pleasure!)

2. A sensitivity to the ecological and social issues of our times (consuming in a sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible way)

3. Pronounced financial concern, leading to a focus on price as the main (if not the sole) purchasing criterion

Given the complexity and social turbulence we have experienced for several years, a need for escape has become increasingly important to people. While the entertainment industry in all its forms has benefited, consumption itself has become a unique source of gratification. Consuming has become a priority value for people-one life's greatest pleasures! (See my article on this specific topic.)

At the same time, some consumers are uneasy about the socio-economic environment. In response, they are very cautious and prioritize price when shopping. For them, pleasure and escape are not motivating factors. They are buying "commodities" out of necessity while adhering strictly to their budgets.

Finally, over the years another cohort of consumers has become very sensitized to social and ecological issues. In response to being constantly bombarded with apocalyptic scenarios for the future of the planet, society, and even life on earth, these consumers increasingly feel that they must take up the challenge and contribute to solutions to these issues, specifically through their choices in the marketplace.

Five segments of consumers, five very different needs

When we synthetize these trends and everything associated with them, we get five large families of consumers in Canada with virtually no regional variation:

The Enthusiasts (18%):

For them, consumption is unquestionably an end in itself. They consume for the sheer pleasure of it, for gratification, to escape, to give meaning to their lives, for the pride of flaunting the most prestigious and innovative products on the market, to express their uniqueness, as a source of inspiration, as a way to feel empowered.

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: innovation.

The Proud (26%):

Here, consumption is all about social status. It is experienced and expressed in a very traditional way: "Keeping up with the Joneses." These individuals tend to be very conservative and define their identity by what they buy, because they buy to show it off to others in a social context.

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: looking good.

The Worried (19%):

An apocalyptic and Darwinist view of life today (the world is a jungle). There are so many threats and risks that extreme caution is called for. Their attitude to the marketplace is primarily determined by this cautious approach. They buy only what they know is a sure thing and at the lowest price.

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: being the cheapest around.

The Idealists (19%):

Here, too, an apocalyptic view of the world informs the choices of these consumers. Ecological alarmism is at the heart of their worldview. But for these consumers, the threats provide the necessary impetus to want to change the world. They dream of social equality, ecological lifestyle choices, social engagement and solidarity, and sincerely believe that where there's a will, there's a way. For these individuals, the apocalypse is a project that guides their choices in life.

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: change the world, one small step at a time!

The Responsible (18%):

Social and ecological responsibility is at the heart of their motivations, but here it is their connection to others that causes them to act-the appeal of helping others, to be a part of a human movement. Our world does not offer the same opportunities to everyone. Species are disappearing. Climate change, wars, the misery that is forcing populations out of their homelands. These consumers want to make a difference to these issues on a human level. They hope that companies and institutions will call on them to take part in initiatives that tackle some of these social or ecological problems.

The main value proposition to convince them to buy: let's get involved together.

Age, a single differentiation criterion

Aside from age, socio-economic and demographic characteristics have little to do with belonging to any of these large families of Canadian consumers (although The Worried tend to have below-average incomes).


However, age is strongly associated with these consumer segments. The majority (57%) of The Enthusiasts and The Proud segments are under 35, 49% of The Worried and The Idealists are 55 or older, whereas The Responsible have a more or less even age and generational distribution. These results are also consistent with our usual findings for consumer trends: young people tend to be driven by a pursuit of pleasure and social recognition through consumption, while a sense of social responsibility tends to grows as one ages.

Opposing social forces driving consumer markets

In this era of ecological threats, when our very way of life is being called in to question (if we want to save our species), having a plurality of consumers who are deeply motivated by a need to "buy" augurs well for the economy, and for the brands and retailers able to reach them in relevant ways. This trend, however, does not bode well for the planet.

On the other hand, The Idealists and The Responsible tend to restrict themselves to more frugal consumption styles, which could be very good for the planet but less so for the economy.

A potentially "sustainable" future might lie with consumers such as The Enthusiasts, who are the youngest in our segmentation. They are certainly very diligent consumers, contributing more than their share to the economy, while still being very sensitive to the ecological and social issues of the times. They are looking for ecologically and socially responsible products - thus creating a demand for them combined with strong pressure on brands, manufacturers and retailers.

In the meantime, those who are able to identify these different segments in their customer databases and reach them with the appropriate messages and products will undoubtedly succeed!

Das Rheingold by Wagner

For my musical clip of the week, forgive me for revisiting Wagner's Das Rheingold, but I was inspired by the daring production by the Opéra de Montréal this month. Projecting the story into a future where science and technology dominate nature instead of into a past of medieval legends was a very audacious move.

An idea that recalls for me the spectacular production by the Valencia Opera, which turned The Ring into science fiction!

The extract here is the theft of the gold at the beginning of the opera, a testament to Man's fierce quest for power and gratification, and a reminder of what underlies consumption today.

Spectacular, and very beautiful!

Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold, Zubin Mehta, La Fura dels Baus, Unitel Classica, Valencia, 2008.