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

Categories: Alain Giguère

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.