On my radar this week

Alain Giguère

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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.

Social division in Canada: An increasingly disturbing rift! – And Das Rheingold by Wagner

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 10-30-18 at 2:56 p.m.

It will probably seem obvious to anyone who reads my columns, even occasionally, that one of my constant concerns is the ability of society and individuals to live with the changes that our current era inflicts upon us. Most of the indicators we use to measure the values and mentalities of the consumers and citizens in our country indicate that there is a widening rift in society between those who consider our present era a source of opportunity for personal growth and those who believe that they are living in a cruel social jungle where more and more people are being left behind.

While much of our work has pointed to this sad trend, we have only recently become aware of its full extent through a process of synthesis.

We performed this synthesis for a study on the social division in the country on behalf of Louis Audet, Executive Chairman of COGECO's board of directors. Our study became the topic of his speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations (CORIM ) on October 17.

The goal of this study was to combine all the indicators of values and worldviews that underlie the current social division in order to provide an overall perspective on the issue. We grouped the country's citizens into large groups ("segments") based on their personal values, their view of life today, the opportunities they see there and their attitude toward change.

The country is clearly divided into five large "families" - groups with attitudes, values and worldviews that are radically different from one other. As the graph below illustrates, these "segments" line up perfectly on an "axis" that extends from feeling comfortable with the present world to feeling overwhelmed by it.

From optimism about the era's possibilities to feelings of exclusion!

Whereas in the past society tended to be differentiated primarily along income or generational lines, today, personal values and mentalities are infinitely more important social-demarcation factors. Most of the consumer brands and products we study are differentiated primarily on consumer values rather than on socio-demographic characteristics (even if the particularities of Millennials are attracting a lot of attention at the moment).

These five large segments divide society into almost equal parts, from the Optimists to the Left-behind, which demonstrates the high degree of social division in the Canadian population. This division extends from a vision of today's world as a lever of fulfilment due to its exciting possibilities to a view of the world as pre-apocalyptic and deeply threatening.

Technological and social change are at the heart of this division. Innovation, ethnic and gender diversity, gender identity, gender equality, globalization, increased competitiveness and the financialization of the economy are seen by some as stepping-stones to self-actualization and freedom and by others as threats, even perversions.

Moreover, all these "factors" are at work simultaneously and, as such, are transforming society at a pace unique in the history of mankind. From prehistory to Antiquity, to the Middle Ages and the Industrial Age, history has been speeding up, but never at the exponential rate we are witnessing now.

Technological innovation continues to escalate and its pace will only accelerate. The migration of people, already an important factor, will become even more acute. Individual freedom is front and centre, giving free rein to all forms of personal expression and lifestyles far beyond traditional norms.

But it is people's worldview, their attitude toward this whirlwind, that most divides and segments the population today; and that is causing all the social and political upheavals that we are experiencing. Income and education are important factors in feeding this division but they do not account for everything. Our personal values, those inherited from our cultural heritage and from previous generations, which we have adopted over the years and on which we fall back on over time, and the vision and energy with which we approach life are infinitely more determinant.

Five segments of Canadians, five different mentalities

These five major families of citizens, for which there is no significant regional variation in the country, can be summarized as follows ...

Optimists (18%):

A unique connection to their individual potential, a strong sense of control over their lives, great enthusiasm for technological and social change, a strong ability to navigate through uncertainty, very respectful of differences and the environment: life today is a great source of excitement and opportunity for them (a higher percentage of people with higher incomes and education, and people 55 and older);

Idealists (19%):

They aspire to a society of sharing and respect, while still being very concerned about the future of the planet and their own financial future. Their worldview is apocalyptic and ecologically alarmist, leading them to reject corporations and our capitalist society (a higher percentage of young people under 35, women, office workers and low-income individuals);

Opportunists (21%):

People very focused on success, but who feel potentially excluded and disoriented and who are willing to do anything to win or regain an enviable social status; a large capacity for adaptation combined with a high degree of social conservatism; strong ethnic intolerance, even though there are many immigrants among their ranks (a higher percentage people aged 25 to 44 and ethnic communities - they are intolerant of ethnic communities except their own!);

Darwinists (24%):

Individuals haunted by a very Darwinist view of today's society, comparing it to a ruthless jungle from which anyone can be ejected at any moment; they believe that the only way to adapt to it, individually and socially, is to return to very conservative values in which roles (male/female, in particular) are very well defined and determined by tradition (a higher percentage of men, people aged 45 and up and high-income individuals);

Left-behind (18%):

People very anxious about their financial prospects; they feel socially excluded, fail to set goals and put the blame on the elites, immigrants and the new social models (a higher percentage of people aged 45 and up , low income and educational levels, as well as people living in the regions).

When pessimism and conservatism prevail over optimism and sociocultural modernity!

Optimists and Idealists combined total 37% of the population, compared with 42% for Darwinists and the Left-behind. The former are driven by projects and thrive on change, while the latter fight to maintain their position in a world in turmoil. Opportunists are a hybrid, fearful of exclusion while expending their energy in madly climbing the traditional social ladder.

The transformations in society and the economy do not offer the same opportunities to everyone. The dream of self-actualization is shared in a very unequal way. As we have seen, income and education partly explain this divergence (Idealists have low incomes, while Darwinists have high incomes) but not entirely. Fuelling this division is a growing cynicism toward elites and a view that future prospects are blocked.

The question is: In what direction will this dynamic evolve? If waves of innovation powered by artificial intelligence erase more jobs than they create, cynicism could continue to grow along with sharper social divisions. However, let's stay optimistic.

In the meantime, this social divide could pose a real threat to our democracy. Feelings of exclusion and cynicism pave the way for populism and demagogic leaders who exploit these feelings. Our institutions need a minimum of social cohesion and commitment to function properly. Without them, the future does not bode well.

Nevertheless, Canada has a relatively healthy social, civic and democratic life compared to many other countries in the world. Let's hope that we can maintain this somewhat fragile cohesion.

Das Rheingold by Wagner

My lyrical clip of the week is from Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner, an opera that will be performed by the Opéra de Montréal in November. There is a certain parallel between the Opportunists and the gods in Wagner's tetralogy, his cycle of four operas that make up Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). This musical excerpt is the finale from Das Rheingold, where the gods go up to their fortress built with the gold that Wotan, ruler of the gods, stole from the Rhine maidens (who we hear claiming it). We see these gods, so sure of themselves, heading for their ruin. This version, produced by Robert Lepage, will be performed again at the Met in the spring of 2019.


Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold, Terfel, Croft, Owens, Blythe, The Metropolitan Orchestra and Chorus, Levine (Cond.), Lepage (Prod.), Deutsche Grammophon, New York, 2010.

Cities, metropolises and regions - And Manon by Massenet

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 10-16-18 at 1:16 p.m.

When projected against the geographical map of the province, what the results of the recent general elections in Quebec show is nothing short of astounding:  a red island (with a few scatterings of orange) in a sea of blue!  This is a perfect expression of the gap that is growing wider throughout the world, particularly in the West, between cities, metropolises and their regions.

Coastal cities in the US versus the middle of the country, Toronto versus the rest of Ontario (that just elected Doug Ford), London versus the English countryside (Brexit), Istanbul versus the Turkish Hinterland (Erdogan), in Germany, France, etc.  Many countries throughout the world are seeing a widening chasm between their metropolises and their regions, and Quebec is no exception.

Despite of this, the future will, undoubtedly, be urban.  It will be urban and will favor the metropolises.  It will be multicultural, open to the world, agile, complex, constantly changing and driven by technology that is smart, omnipotent and perpetually transforming (Blade Runner?). The march towards this  destination is on, and nothing will stop it.  And Montreal is following suit.  Perhaps slightly more slowly than San Francisco or Palo Alto, but it's heading in the same direction all the same.

However, while cities and their residents are adapting fairly well to these transformations - in fact, they are where these transformations originate and the very incarnations of these trends - when it comes to regions, the story is an entirely different one.

Regions are less exposed to these changes and see them as a threat, particularly now that they are occurring at accelerating velocity.  While urbanites see in them an opportunity for personal development and accomplishment, residents of regions perceive them as an obstacle to their lifestyles and identities.  The dispersion of Quebec's major regions on our sociocultural map speaks to this phenomenon with great eloquence. ...

Mental postures in stark opposition!

The metropolis/region "chasm" is manifested most prominently along a certain number of mental postures that illustrate the difficulty regions have in transitioning towards the new world being thrust upon us...

• A feeling of lack of control over one's life (which we call Control of destiny);
• The capacity (or lack thereof) to adapt to a world that is complex and uncertain;
• A need for comforting territorial anchors (regional identity);
• A certain degree of ethnic intolerance (a perceived threat based on identity and region);
• Closed attitudes when it comes to social and technological change;
• Conservativism and nostalgia for better defined points of reference.

On each of these vectors, we observe a continuum of notable differences between Quebec's regions and the Island of Montreal.  Montreal residents feel more in control of their lives and their destiny, better able to adapt to life today, more open to ethnic diversity and to change and more socio-culturally "modern" (i.e., less conservative, as measured here by gender equality).

The table below seems to me to be particularly revealing.  It lists penetration rates, in proportion to the overall Quebec population (indexed at 100) of some of these indicators by region, from the Island of Montreal to the regions of Quebec, through 450 area code and the Greater Quebec City region.  The table shows that the Island of Montreal is, by far, that region that is the most in step with current times, that the 450 area code region lies somewhere in the middle and that the Quebec City region is by far the most "conservative" part of the province!

Immigration is at the center of the metropolis/region divide

Throughout the world, big cities are exploding and immigration is THE driving factor.  We are seeing intra-national migration from the regions to the cities, but also an acceleration in international migration driven by wars, misery, climate change and people dreaming of a better life.

Migrants stand out as the most visible sign of the rapid transformation in the world.  Globalization and technological change are discreet.  Migrants, on the other hand, show up in full flesh, with their values, customs, cultural heritage and "art de vivre".  They often incarnate a significant cultural difference when contrasted against local mores.  Which worries the natives. And leaves them with the impression that their cultural heritage and local identity are at risk, especially if opportunities to intermingle are limited.  (It's in the regions that we find the fewest immigrants and the highest rates of ethnic intolerance).  They see them as symbols before knowing them as human beings.

So this is how these city/region, openness to change/worry, sociocultural modernity/conservatism schisms have found their way into the center of national politics in most Western and/or democratic nations in the past few years.  The CAQ presented itself as a force for change (at least on the policy level), but it was mainly perceived as a defense against change (at least social).

Obviously, not everything is explained by this trend.  There was definitely a level of "fatigue" with the Liberals and the CAQ ran a better "oiled" machine on the ground.  But it cannot be denied: this campaign was won, in part, on the back of immigration.

As many other observers have remarked, we can only hope that, now that they are in power, the CAQ will govern further to the center than their campaign lead us to believe.  We'll see.

Manon by Massenet

My operatic nod this week goes to Manon by Jules Massenet.  It's the story of a young woman from the countryside, who, while on her way to the convent, finds herself being seduced by a handsome suitor who promises her love and all the excitement of life in the city...  "We'll live in Paris, the two of us..."

Jules Massenet : Manon, Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Alfredo Daza, Christof Fischesser, Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboïm (Dir.), Vincent Paterson (Prod.), Deutsche Grammophon, Berlin, 2008.

The pollsters’ mea-culpa?

Categories: CROP in the news

Posted on 10-02-18 at 2:53 p.m.

Many will no doubt tell us that we, the pollsters, got it wrong, and we will have to accept their verdict.

In our defence, we can always cite the particularly low voter turnout (66% versus 71% in 2014), the fact that Liberal supporters stayed home, and so forth ... which wouldn't be entirely untrue.

But could we really have predicted such an unpredictable about-face? Polls are snapshots taken at a specific time and especially in a specific context. You have to be wary of their predictive value. A few days later, by the time voters arrive at the ballot box, the dynamics can be very different.

We are forced to trust what people tell us. Perhaps they do not always reveal their true feelings.

Former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa coined a now historic expression, "la prime à l'urne" (the ballot-box effect), arguing that Liberal voters were more discreet with polling firms; that they were reluctant to reveal their true voting intentions.

When Bourassa coined this expression, it was "cool" to vote for the Parti Québécois - a young, liberating, trendy, Montreal (but not elitist) party. In contrast to this image of the PQ, the Liberal Party was perceived as more "conservative." People were somewhat embarrassed to admit in a poll that they were voting Liberal. I am not saying that people outright lie to us, but some tell us that they are undecided while others act differently in the privacy of the voting booth.

In such a context, political analysts in Quebec have always criticized us for underestimating the Liberal support. Even until recently, they were advising us to allocate 50% of our undecideds to the Liberals in our distribution process in order to account for this anticipated boost at the ballot box. Imagine where we would be if we had done that for this last campaign!

However, if the fact that a party is perceived as "conservative" makes voters slightly embarrassed to admit that they will vote for it and pollsters consequently underestimate the support for that party, the CAQ may well have borne the brunt of this trend in this campaign.

In my last text for L'actualité and my blog, I pointed out that CAQ supporters clearly display a certain degree of ethnic intolerance. This party has forged an image of ethnic intolerance (remember the burkini ban proposed by Nathalie Roy, who was re-elected last night). One shouldn't forget that the campaign focused largely on immigration and that the CAQ has certainly appeared intolerant on this subject.

This party is undoubtedly perceived as a right wing, conservative party. In Quebec, such conservatism may be circumspect yet freely expressed in the privacy of the voting booth.

In hindsight, we can now conclude that the about-face at the ballot box, the so-called prime à l'urne, led pollsters to underestimate the CAQ support and overestimate the Liberal support, while properly estimating support for the two other parties.

The polling industry will assuredly be pondering these results but, at this point, it is not entirely clear how to proceed.

The solution for properly allocating "discreet" and undecided voters in this new context is not obvious. To have correctly predicted last night's election results would have required manipulations that are difficult to imagine!

CROP has invested in artificial intelligence to better predict consumer behaviour. But we do so by merging transactional data with attitudinal and declarative data. In the case of an election poll, however, our only data source is what people tell us, and we are forced to rely solely on that.

This election has changed things. We will have to be very creative in the coming years to get around what appears to be a new boost at the ballot box!

Alain Giguère
President, CROP Inc.