Le Code Québec: Understanding ourselves better to export ourselves better

Companies are becoming increasingly good at creating strong emotional links with clients. Inspiring some to line up in the rain to get a new iPhone and others to pay extravagant amounts just to own a luxury car. This sense of belonging is what brands have to create. They have to emotionally “connect” with consumers and never forget that they are communicating with humans. Brands also have to understand their values and commit to their vision of the world.
The conference, Le Code Québec, la clé pour ouvrir le portefeuille des Québécois, took place on Tuesday, December 6, as part of activities organized for the launch of Le Code Québec: Les sept différences qui font de nous un peuple unique au monde. Two of the three book authors, Jean-Marc Léger, President of Léger Marketing, and Jacques Nantel, Professor Emeritus at HEC Montréal, were on hand to present the seven major characteristics that define us and try to answer, in a systematic way, the eternal question of, “What does Quebec want?”
In 1978, the publication of Jacques Bouchard’s 36 cordes sensibles des Québécois informed us, that as a people, we were fatalistic, chauvinist and close-minded, but also sentimental, artistic, sensual and pragmatic. This past week, the pollster and the pedagogue, less interested in explaining the historical and cultural forces that shape us, instead addressed how to adjust your offer, marketing and communication of that singularity. And how to effectively reach the Quebecois who is happy, creative and proud, but also, always striving for consensus and protective of our small-town values and laid-back attitude… probably a reaction to that feeling of being a victim? The average Quebecois is, in short, a complex being.

This updating of our cultural code is well-timed, arriving just as a new kind of Quebec inc. is emerging; a new entrepreneurial current that is modern and connected. We are no long as close-minded as we once were, as evidenced by the number of young Quebecois who dream of starting a business. However, our financial literacy and cultural management skills are still lagging. Also, our aversion to risk and tendency to run when things get tough condemn many Quebecois to being “wantrepreneurs”.
Quebec youth are more likely than ever to travel, to be open to the world, and they’re consuming the same media as young Americans and Swedes. The globalization of culture makes these distinctions more subtle, but does not obliterate them entirely. The values embraced by our parents and grandparents will continue to influence our province for many years to come, so companies have to ask some very strategic questions in order to succeed in Quebec. For every Apple store that opens without having to adjust its model, there’s a Loblaws that had to revert to the Provigo brand, a Target that bowed before Canadian Tire.
Le Code Québec will not only be useful to foreign companies that wish to penetrate the Quebec market; it will also help those at home better understand our differences. For local companies that have never done business outside Quebec, it’s the problem of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Understanding our tendency to shy away from risk, to be creative, but also to seek consensus, are key factors that will influence decisions made by managers about brand strategies deployed in the rest of Canada or the world. In understanding ourselves better, we can embrace our singularity and re-evaluate our reflexes when exporting. We love common sense and we are proud of being intuitive. But if we cannot ascertain what markets resemble ours, what markets are different, we are making the same mistakes abroad that hundreds of international brands continue to make when they try to seduce Quebecers...without first breaking the code.

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