Emphasize the benefits, study says

An analysis of consumer spending and leisure-time habits reveals that, relative to their Ontario counterparts, Quebecers spend more on products and services that deliver immediate gratification and less on items that are either slow to deliver a benefit or are intended...

An analysis of consumer spending and leisure-time habits reveals that, relative to their Ontario counterparts, Quebecers spend more on products and services that deliver immediate gratification and less on items that are either slow to deliver a benefit or are intended for use later on.

Marketers who want to appeal to Quebecer consumers, therefore, should ensure their advertising emphasizes the benefit, in the case of products that offer immediate gratification, or forcefully conveys the ‘feeling of insecurity’ created now by not buying a product whose pay-off is in the future.

The document, entitled ‘A Report on the Consumption Habits of Quebecers,’ says advertisers of food, beverages and cosmetics should be careful not to overemphasize a product’s characteristics at the expense of its end-benefit.

Drafted by Montreal-based Les Communications Academie-Ogilvy, the report uses data from Statistics Canada’s 1991 Census, its 1990 and 1992 Family Expenditure Surveys and its 1993 Household Facilities and Equipment Survey, as well as 1992 data from PMB Print Measurement Bureau, as the basis of a comparative analysis of Quebec and Ontario consumers.

The study tries to illuminate the nature of the Quebec consumer by exploring how Quebecers allocate their expenditures; what they do with their spare time; what attitudes and values differentiate Quebecers from their Ontario cousins; what historical and contemporary factors may have contributed to that; and how those differences can affect an advertiser’s efforts to communicate successfully in the Quebec marketplace.

The study says Quebec residents are more concerned with the here and now than their Ontario counterparts, and less concerned with the future.

Charts in the report show Quebec spending is relatively weak on long-term expenditures such as shelter, household operations, education and gifts and contributions, but comparatively stronger on food, clothing, healthcare and tobacco and alcohol products.

The report says the ‘here and now’ theory is further supported by the fact that Quebec residents consistently spend more, relative to their income, than residents of Ontario.

Between 1984 and 1992, for example, Quebec residents spent between 97.6% and 101% of their incomes, compared with Ontarians, who spent just 94.2% to 98.4% of their pay.

(In 1992, Quebec family expenditures averaged $41,362 out of a total income of $41,784, a difference of only $422.)

As well, Quebecers tend to buy products that deliver now, such as instant coffee, instant rice, dry soup mixes, dry sauces and ready-to-serve oatmeal, in favor of products that deliver later, such as regular ground coffee and regular oatmeal.

The same principle applies to spending on cars and dentists: relative to Ontario, more money is spent in these categories on repairs than on maintenance.

Similarly, single copy magazine purchases and single admissions to sports facilities tend to do better in Quebec than magazine subscriptions and club memberships.

Even in the recreation category, spending on above-ground pools – those that can be installed and enjoyed almost immediately – far outweighs spending on in-ground pools.

The root of Quebecers’ preoccupation with the present can be traced as far back as the 18th century, says the report, which quotes Jesuit historian Pierre-Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix, who wrote in the 1740s:

‘The English colonist amasses means and makes no superfluous expense; the French enjoys what he has and often parades what he has not.

‘The former works for his heirs; the latter leaves his in the need in which he is himself to get along as best he can.’

Leisure time

With respect to leisure time activities, the report says Quebecers prefer sports in which the environment is a key part of the challenge.

According to pmb statistics, sports such as snowmobiling, skiing, cycling and swimming are far stronger in Quebec than sports in which there is a competitive element involved.

As such, says the report, environment-driven activities offer ‘relevant and credible situational themes’ in advertising, while advertising which portrays a winner and a loser may be less appealing to the Quebec consumer.

As well, Quebecers are strong supporters of made-in-Quebec media, such as community newspapers, local variety shows and Quebec-produced television series.

Advertisers who want to appeal to Quebec consumers, therefore, should exploit local sponsorship and promotional opportunities, says the report, and consider advertising ‘which clearly portrays Quebecers.’

Despite the differences between Quebec and Ontario consumers, the Quebec market is largely homogenous, says the report, and, thus, ‘surprisingly responsive to good marketing communication programs.’

In many cases, ‘executional fine-tuning’ is all that is needed to make a campaign work in both markets.

This is the fifth year Academie-Ogilvy has issued such a report in an attempt to improve client understanding of the Quebec marketplace and contribute to the development of Quebec-directed marketing and advertising programs.

The report is the basis of a two-hour live presentation in which examples of television commercials and excerpts from television programs are used to underline key findings.