On my radar this week

Alain Giguère

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La Presse is Publishing My Blog!

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-28-17 at 1:54 p.m.

A few weeks ago, I launched a weekly blog on societal and market trends, which I associate with pieces of opera or classical music. Many of you have been following my blog, and I thank you for that. Your enthusiasm is greatly appreciated.

Following the launch of my new blog, I reached an agreement with La Presse, which has kindly agreed to publish my blog every two weeks, starting on April 4. Therefore, I will synchronise with La Presse's schedule and publish my blog posts on the same dates (and on the same topics). The La Presse version will be slightly shorter than the one appearing on the CROP website, which will have more detail, including statistical tables as well as a summary of the values and hot buttons that explain the blog topic-and, of course, the opera or classical music clips.

Looking forward to reconnecting on April 4!

Alain Giguère
President of CROP
March 28, 2017

34% of Canadians are less concerned that the news they read or watch is true or false than whether it strikes an emotional cord! (And the lie in Mozart’s Don Giovanni)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-20-17 at 4:33 p.m.

Are we prepared for a Donald Trump to lead our country?

During his election campaign, Donald Trump admitted to having lied a few times when unable to sufficiently hold his audiences' interest. When he felt that people were getting bored, he would launch some trial balloons and then retract them when the false information no longer proved useful. None of which prevented him from being elected President of the United States. One might have thought that a politician who admitted to lying would be toast. But, no. By telling people what they wanted to hear, true or false, he charmed the crowds!

We have also witnessed the explosion of "fake news," which Mr. Trump has unquestionably exploited and continues to exploit-a case in point: the alleged wiretapping by President Obama.

There is something deeply disturbing about this phenomenon. You can lie to people, yet they don't care! Are there a significant number of Canadians who would react the same way, I wondered. With no expectations of coming up with any meaningful results, we nevertheless asked this question in our last survey on the values of Canadians: "When I read, hear or watch the news, it doesn't matter if it's absolutely true or not; what's more important to me is that it affects me emotionally, that it touches something deep inside me."

To our utter stupefaction, 34% of Canadians said they agree with this statement! Two out of five in Québec (37%), the province with the highest proportion, compared to 30% in British Columbia and the Prairie Provinces, with the lowest proportion.

It is true that three times as many people say they "somewhat agree" than "totally agree" with this assertion-26% versus 8%-but even so, they still don't mind being lied to as long as they get an emotional hit!

Also astonishing is that one in three in the country (32% in Canada) only "somewhat disagree" with the notion in question. How is it possible not to totally disagree with this statement (34% in Canada)?

The most vulnerable groups

Those who agree with the said statement are found among people with the lowest incomes and education in the country, among immigrants and blue-collar workers. Most surprising are the youth: 43% of Canadians 18 to 24 years of age agree with the statement; and 39% of those aged 25 to 34.

It's as if, when suffering from certain socioeconomic disadvantages, taking comfort in having one's perceptions validated, experiencing some emotional gratification, being touched on an emotional level, is more important than getting the facts straight. Just as with authoritarian regimes, whether soviet or communist, where what counts is the effectiveness, the utility of the information, not its accuracy; in this case, effectiveness is the ability to touch people's emotional hot buttons.

Click here for detailed results

Is this where the current wave of populism across Western democracies is leading us? Is the tradition of truth losing its relevance in our new, complex and uncertain world?

The values and mentalities behind the acceptance of lies

The sociocultural profile of these "willingly credulous" individuals helps us understand why they express such an attitude. First and foremost, they are profoundly cynical. They simply believe that all the elites are lying to them! That the media, politicians, business people, even scientists, all have an agenda and are lying to the public to get what they want!

They also feel more or less excluded within society. They feel disconnected from what's going on in the world and from what the media is telling them. They believe that there is no (or no longer a) place for people like them in society. They are fatalistic, expecting bad things to happen to them. They feel that they have little control over their lives, while at the same time believing that they will eventually adapt to current conditions, notably through civil disobedience-desperate times, desperate measures!

They also highly regard strong leadership, which they see as the way to redress the exclusion they feel in today's world.

And so we come full circle, to Mr. Trump, or to his eventual Canadian counterpart!

Click here to consult values profile

The opportunities for companies and organisations

Whenever we identify societal and market phenomena, I enjoy finding their implications and opportunities for organisations, companies and brands. In this case, I would never recommend lying to the public or to consumers while manipulating their emotions to promote a cause. However, people do need to feel moved, to be comforted and mobilized via their hot buttons. Today, more than ever, the communications opportunity for organizations and brands is to find ways to touch people emotionally. Informing them is necessary but insufficient.

Of course, one must be doubly vigilant to root out fake news and expose its authors. We must call on the media, the press and social media platforms to do their part. I consider the efforts of Facebook and other platforms rather paltry given the magnitude of the phenomenon.

The lie in Don Giovanni!

In the history of opera, one of the greatest liars-if not the greatest liar-is undoubtedly Don Giovanni. He doesn't lie to achieve political power; he lies to seduce women! I have chosen a clip in which his valet, Leporello, attempts to "console" a conquest abandoned by his boss. He explains to the unhappy woman that she is but one of his boss's many conquests to whom he has promised the sun and the moon (notably marriage) to take advantage of them. Known as the "Catalogue Aria," it is, in my estimation, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Here, it is performed in a modern production at La Scala in Milan (December 2011).

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni – Peter Mattei, Bryn Terfel, Anna Netrebko, Barbara Frittoli, Giuseppe Filianoti, Anna Prohaska, Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Daniel Barenboim, Production: Robert Carsen, Milano, release 06 Nov. 2015, Deutsche Grammophon.

26% of Canadians believe that men are superior to woman! (And the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-10-17 at 5:32 p.m.

Sexual equality isn't here yet!

International Women's Day on March 8 inspired me to put a survey question that has always intrigued me into perspective: "Whatever people say, men have a certain natural superiority over women, and nothing can change this." One in four Canadians (26%) agree with this statement. Almost one in three people in Québec (31%) agree with this statement, the province with the highest level of agreement, while the Atlantic region has the lowest level of agreement (at 20%).

What I find most curious is that young people, the Millennials, are the most in agreement with this statement (32%, or one in three). Could this be this due to the influence of Hollywood? Immigrants (people born outside Canada) and technical and blue-collar workers also stand out in being particularly in agreement with this statement.

Over the many years that we have been following the results of this question, the proportions have remained virtually unchanged (23% of the country in 2000), suggesting an entrenched background sentiment of male superiority.

We should also point out that very similar proportions of women agree with this statement (24%), leading us to conclude that Tarzan will have no trouble finding his Jane here!

Superiority or difference? The values and hot buttons underlying this view

It has already been pointed out that to any chauvinist interpretation of the results of this question, you can object that men's physical strength confers a "certain superiority" (men and women compete separately in the Olympics, for example). Others who share a feminist or less chauvinistic point of view consider physical strength more of a difference than a proof of superiority. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy and even in traditionally male jobs, women are performing as well as their male colleagues.

Click here for detailed results

Most telling in this debate is the value profile of the individuals who agree with the above-mentioned statement: they could not be more conservative.

They also express great difficulty living in today's world: they feel they have little control over their lives; they have trouble living with the change and complexity of life today. For them, society no longer has guideposts, standards, morality; people's roles have become unstructured. Women's emancipation beyond their traditional roles is proof positive for them that our society is losing its way!

Status is also an issue, along with a great deal of social-psychological nostalgia-for an era where men played the dominate roles and had the highest status in society. These individuals still crave an enviable social status, which underlies their interest in traditional roles where men and woman have clearly defined functions (corresponding to antiquated stereotypes).

We also find a significant proportion of immigrants among the people in agreement with this statement. Immigrants often come from societies espousing more traditional values and that continue to impose highly predetermined roles on men and women.

In short, we can conclude that those in agreement with this question truly see the statement as expressing the social superiority of men versus women, in the traditional, stereotypical roles they believe in!

The opportunities for businesses and organisations

I do not pretend to have the solution to the problem of sexual equality in our society; others have taken up that banner. However, given my strong concern for corporate responsibility (I sincerely believe that companies need to take this on), I see this issue as providing some very promising avenues.

All companies and organisations are founded on values. In 2017, I'm sure Justin Trudeau would agree that equality and equal opportunity must inform the fundamental values of every organization, and that concrete practices must be put in place to ensure that this value is incorporated into organizational cultures. In companies with technical jobs, and with young and immigrant employees, in particular, promoting an organizational culture based on sexual equality would surely help the situation evolve-especially since the results of our question have barely moved in 20 years.

For brands, too, promoting sexual equality can only be beneficial in today's marketplace. One example is the delightful ad run by Audi during the last Super Bowl (http://www.superbowlcommercials.co/audi/), surely one of the least feminist media placement venues around. The ad highlights the company's commitment to equal pay for equal work: "Progress is for everyone."

Click here to consult values profile

The mad scene in the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor

To illustrate just how far women have come over the centuries, I have chosen a clip from the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, by Gaetano Donizetti. Italian opera in the 19th century usually depicted women as hysterical, neurotic and unstable. In this excerpt, Lucia has effectively lost her mind! Her brother has forced her to marry a "good catch" to raise the family's social standing. The evening of the wedding, Lucia, in a deranged state of madness, kills her new husband and sings her joy at soon being reunited with her former lover! Known as the "mad scene," it is a melodic jewel.

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor / Netrebko, Beczala, Kwiecien, The Metropolitan Opera, New York, 2009, Deutsche Grammophon.

45% of Canadians consider consumption one of life’s greatest pleasures! (Plus “The Jewel Song” sung by Bianca Castafiore)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-03-17 at 1:17 p.m.

Consumption as a unique source of gratification!

Whether it's a new 4K TV, a designer handbag or pair of shoes, the newest smartphone on the market, or something as simple as the latest recording by a popular artist or a great bottle of wine-whatever the purchase, when you dig a little deeper into people's psyche, you find that they get a significant amount of gratification from the experience (to various degrees, of course).

What's more, the marketplace constantly-and at an increasingly frenetic pace-floods us with new offers, innovations and gadgets, improved products, new services, new designs, all promising us a new experience, etc. In short, a continual bombardment of stimulation.

The consumer marketplace is proving to be tremendously resilient. Given the continuing rise in consumer debt, strict economic logic would dictate a weakening in household consumption (given the aging population, fairly flat income growth and rising debt levels, etc.). But no, the marketplace is holding its own; retail sales (including all forms of distributions) are not doing too badly at all.

It is precisely because other factors (beyond simple economics) are at work that the consumption of goods and services is so robust: consumer values, consumer motivations and hot button are playing a leading role.

The joy of consumption-one of the most influential consumer motivations

Beyond the strictly utilitarian function of consumption, a strong desire for gratification is motivating the purchase and use of goods and services. One of our studies found that 45% of Canadians agree with the notion that spending, buying themselves something new, is one of life's greatest pleasures! That's almost one in every two consumers in the country!

The Province of Québec, with its legendary joie de vivre, ranks in first place with 52%, while Alberta comes in last with 35%. Millennials (18 to 34 years of age) have the highest proportion of enthusiastic consumers (54%).

Underlying this enthusiastic desire to consume is an impressive cocktail of values and hot buttons. While they can vary by product category, some are universal, particularly the need for status experiences ("Because you're worth it," says L'Oréal). The product, the service, the brand and the experience serve to enhance the self-worth of the person buying it, owning it, "wearing" it. This is what is really underlies today's enthusiasm for consumption. People want to prove to themselves and to others that they are indeed "worth it." Their identity is predicated on these products, services and brands; they feel that others see them as more important because of these products/brands. And since new products are always arriving, they have to constantly keep up with their acquisitions to maintain their status.

Click here for detailed results

Another motivator is undoubtedly the "game" aspect, particularly with technology. People are looking for playful devices, interfaces and experiences. They want to transform the smallest daily ritual into a game, an entertainment opportunity ("gamification").

Social and ecological responsibility is also becoming a key purchasing criterion for consumers (at comparable value and price points).

Finally, several other hot buttons motivate consumption but they tend to be associated with specific product categories, so I will not discuss them here.

Branding opportunities

First and most importantly, you need to incorporate status into the brand experience: privileges, prestige and other experiential elements that make consumers feel proud to associate themselves with the brand, to "wear" it, to associate their personal identity with it and project it to others. Loyalty programs, when properly designed, can play an important role here by offering unique privileges based on customer loyalty. The more prestige you can associate with the brand experience, the more you are playing to this consumer hot button.

The challenge is also to make it fun, playful. Every brand has the possibility of becoming a "media" so think about entertaining while informing. The interfaces and technology that frame the brand experience must be playful and fun.

Finally, the brand as well as the company it represents must be socially and ecologically responsible. These criteria must be part of the brand promise.

Click here to consult values profile

"The Jewel Song" from Gounod's Faust

One of the most beautiful operatic examples of enhancing a person's image through the products she "wears" is "The Jewel Song" (L'Air des bijoux) from the opera Faust, by French composer Charles-François Gounod. Anyone familiar with The Adventures of Tintin from their youth will recognize it as the aria sung by the diva Bianca Castafiore in The Calculus Affair (L'Affaire Tournesol), which so annoyed Captain Haddock. The words could not be more evocative: "Ah! I laugh to see myself so beautiful in this mirror. Is it you, Marguerite? ... No! it's no longer you! ... It's the daughter of a king ..."

We all dream-don't we?-that what we buy will make us look like the daughter or son of a king!

Faust, Charles Gounod: Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Marina Poplavskaya, Orchestra & Chorus of The Metropolitan Opera, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, New York, 2014, Decca.

82% of Canadians would like a more intense connection with nature (A shout out to Mahler's Symphony No. 3!)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 02-24-17 at 5:03 p.m.

May the force be with you!

The idea for this post came to me while grocery shopping. As I strolled the aisles of a "health food" (or so the banner promised) store, I was struck by the number of products claiming to be "superfoods": chia seeds high in Omega 3s, calcium and iron; Maca root bursting with antioxidants (an aphrodisiac to boot, it seems); Goji berries, another source of antioxidants long associated with than eternal life no less, in Oriental lore. The products on these shelves promised to make you (or rather, me!) 20 again.

Far be it for me to discredit the claims of these alternative products, although the scientific jury is still out on many of them (check them out on Google). But the appeal of these products derives from a strong trend in the marketplace and in popular culture. We are clearly seeing an increase in people's desire for a more intense connection with nature, to its still poorly understood virtues, in the hope of attaining greater harmony with all living things.

This reminds me of an article I read recently on the BBC website on the health benefits of feeling closer to nature. Scientifically conducted studies have concluded that exposure to nature confers physical and mental health benefits, such as lowering high blood pressure, improving chronic fatigue, anxiety, attention deficit, and much more.

To experience these benefits, you don't need to move to the country. Simply being in contact with nature is enough (with parks, trees, gardens, animals, etc.). But even more so, the crucial factor appears to be one's attitude or mentality: the desire to feel a part of nature, believing in something like a cosmic force in nature to which we all belong without being entirely conscious of it.

Biomanism: a fascinating and promising phenomenon

In Canada, 27% of the population passionately shares this biomanism mentality-wanting to be in a symbiotic relationship with nature, with all living things-while another 55% are biomanism enthusiasts; hence, a total of 82% of the population! This mentality, which we have been measuring for several years, is about mankind's not dominating but being a part of nature, living in symbiosis with it.

We find little demographic variation in this phenomenon. Women, lower-income individuals, people with teens living at home, and residents of towns or rural areas are slightly stronger on biomanism, but the differences, even if significant, are nevertheless slight. Even on a regional and provincial level, there is little variation of note beyond the Maritimes being slightly stronger on biomanism.

Click here for detailed results

What sets biomanists apart are their values, motivations and hot buttons. Their connection with nature is synonymous with potential. They share the belief that there is something unrealized in them and that a greater symbiosis with nature, with the best that nature has to offer (the ecosystem, the natural environment, foods, etc.), would help bring out the best in them, aid their personal development, help them become more creative, have more control over their lives. Such beliefs seem consistent with the results of the studies cited in the BBC article mentioned above.

Branding opportunities

I see a vast marketing opportunity here! If we take only the most fervent biomanists into account, or 27% of the approximately 28 million adult Canadians, that's almost 7.6 million consumers! Products and services, foods, clothing (natural fibres and wearable technologies), applications, sports equipment, tourism, architectural projects, a new, reinvented urbanism: the possibilities are endless! The key, across all these categories, is to offer consumers (branded) experiences that reconnect them with nature, with symbiosis. In our current hyper-urbanised lives, this is more than an opportunity; it's a necessity, for reconnecting with life! These days, everyone is talking of smart cities; in my opinion, it would be equally opportune to promote "greener" cities.

Click here to consult values profile

Mahler's Third Symphony-a celebration of our union with nature

Many musical and lyrical works could illustrate symbiosis with nature but my choice is Gustave Mahler's Symphony No. 3-one of the jewels in the crown of Western music, a monumental pantheistic celebration of our relationship to nature! From an initial narrative structure evoking the biblical course of creation-"creationist," one might say-the musical framework seems totally devoid of any Eucharistic unction.

The final movement, in particular, celebrates the place of mankind in the cosmos. A symphonic fury bursts upon us, a wave of sound denoting the expansion of the universe, an orchestral flood, a wild force that catapults us into the cosmos, as if to remind us that our relationship with nature should inspire humility!

For you, I have selected the symphony's finale, under the direction of Claudio Abbado at the 2008 Lucerne Festival-a finale that moves us to consider our place in the universe.

Gustave Mahler, Symphonie No. 3, Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, 2008 Lucerne Festival, EuroArts.