Editorial From poll to poll

The discriminating, ever-more-demanding consumer that marketers are still trying to come to terms with in the 1990s may be even smarter and tougher than they think.A recent study of a cross-section of adult Canadians suggests the judgments Canadians make when they...

The discriminating, ever-more-demanding consumer that marketers are still trying to come to terms with in the 1990s may be even smarter and tougher than they think.

A recent study of a cross-section of adult Canadians suggests the judgments Canadians make when they are out shopping are deep, deliberate and discerning. Canadians are shopping with attitude.

The study, developed by the Toronto firm Market Vision, indicates the typical purchase decision is no longer a simple process of evaluating the product that is being offered. It goes further. The study suggests Canadians are thinking beyond the store shelf or the service desk in front of them to the company responsible for the product.

If the impressions that the company conjures up in the consumer’s mind are negative – if they associate ‘bad’ behavior with that company – chances are the consumer will punish the company by not buying the product. Or, the consumer will go even further and boycott that company’s products, as 26% of Canadians did in the past year, according to the study.

And the opposite is true as well. Canadians will reward companies they feel have exhibited ‘good’ behavior by giving them their business.

Since the study also found that Canadians are finding it more difficult to differentiate among brands in any substantial way, it stands to reason that marketers could win share of mind and sell more product by bringing their corporate activity in sync with Canadians’ personal priorities.

But if such an opportunity really does exist, it remains an unexploited one. The study also found that few companies are seen by Canadians to be doing anything meaningful in the areas in which Canadians are looking for the business community to help. Such as, job creation, protecting or helping to clean up the environment, protecting women from abuse, preventing crime, helping the elderly, funding medical research, and helping to improve education.

In fact, what Canadians would like business to be doing for them, and what they believe business is doing for them often appear in the study to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

For instance, Canadians do not really care whether business supports professional sports. Yet they feel business considers professional sports a top priority, and that is no wonder given the commercial extravagance that accompanies events such as the World Series and the National Football League’s Super Bowl.

Such mass market blow-outs will always serve as an effective means of gaining wide visibility, and even a certain kind of big time allure.

But the Market Vision study suggests business needs to direct its attention deeper than that.

Canadian marketers have a lot to think about if it is true that no matter how good their products or services are – and how well they are recognized by their customers – they are not going to sell if the customer does not have the same good feeling about the company.