On my radar this week

Alain Giguère

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Do you need to feel recognized and admired by the people around you? 43% of Canadians admit they do (and La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 12-04-17 at 4:51 p.m.

A very intriguing trend seems to be emerging in the social and consumer psychology of Canadians: a marked decline in the need for status recognition and personal pride. Although we can use several indicators to measure this driver and its impact on consumption, one of the most reliable indicators, according to our analyses, is the need to feel admired by other people-an indicator in dramatic decline since 2014. A large critical mass of people still continue to be motivated by this "hot button," particularly in Quebec, but overall this driver seems to be falling, at least since 2014.

We normally prefer to draw conclusions about trends from data collected over longer periods of time, but the sharp drop in this indicator since 2014 is certainly striking. Prior to 2014, our indicators for this motivation were unchanged. Hence, this trend seems to be relatively new.

In fact, the proportion of Canadians who crave status recognition and admiration from other people has fallen from 54% to 43% since 2014, a 12-point drop. Even in Quebec, which has been and continues to be the country's "proudest" province, the proportion of recognition-seekers has dropped from 64% to 52% over the same period.

Surprisingly, even the younger generation, the 18- to 34-year-olds (the proudest cohort we measure), display a similar decline in their need to feel recognized and admired. Since 2014, their agreement with our question fell from 63% to 57% (from 74% to 62% in Quebec!).

Market segmentation more crucial than ever

We find this trend particularly intriguing because most of the brands and market segments we work on for our clients are positioned on a "sociocultural map" where status recognition (pride) is a very important motivator, one that drives consumption and consumer choices.

Pride in owning a sought-after product, showing off a prestige brand ("masstige" or mass-market luxury): these are extremely important drivers, motivating consumption by large segments of consumers (buying the latest iPhone, a pair of Ferragamo shoes, etc.). Given that we often work with consumers who expect the brands they buy to deliver a status boost (or an experience that makes them feel proud), we find it very surprising that this motivation is trending downward.

This development suggests that brands and companies need to do much more to segment their markets and target their customers. If the need for status recognition is indeed on the wane, it may be necessary to exploit other hot buttons to promote their products, based on the type of consumer being targeted (unless you're targeting only the consumers who want products and services that confer a sense of pride and status). Businesses, must properly segment their markets and target clientele in order to send the right message to the right people.

It should also be noted that, along with the younger generation, employed individuals and professionals display a markedly strong need for pride and social recognition. However, they too are showing a diminished need for this kind of validation, in line with the general population.

The energy of personal achievement vs. a keen need for authentic connections with others

When we analyze the values and hot buttons associated with a desire for status recognition and those associated with its decline, we get a very clear picture of what is happening.

On the one hand, the most "status-driven" individuals are charged with a strong need to excel, to realize their potential, display their creativity and their uniqueness. Status recognition is their "reward" for achievement.

This kind of motivation has a very dynamic effect on society and the economy. The more people there are in the workforce who have this keen desire to excel and take pride in their accomplishments, the better shape the economy will be in, since they will inevitably bring some of this dynamism to their work.

On the other hand, those less motivated by this need for status recognition, whose numbers have steadily increased since 2014, express a keen need for authentic connections with others, a desire for personal fulfillment based on a symbiotic relationship with their environment (people, nature, life). Rather than being concerned with status, they are interested in more meaningful and authentic relationships with others-and equate pride with vanity.

What our society loses in economic vitality due to a diminished desire for status recognition it gains in authenticity. However, for the time being, young people are the primary drivers of our dynamic new digital economy, and their desire for achievement and status recognition, even if less strong than before, is still sufficiently vibrant to keep the economic boat afloat!

An aging society

These findings makes sense in the context of an aging population. When we reach a certain age, we tend to have less to prove to ourselves, and authentic relationships with those close to us takes precedence over jockeying for social status. Moreover, a less frenzied contribution to the economy can still create value, while encouraging greater humanism, which can only benefit society. Although innovation is spawned by a demographically small number of individuals, we fully expect a flood of innovation over the next few years!

Historically, when economic conditions are good (Canada hasn't done too badly in recent years), authenticity can thrive. Conversely, in more perilous times, people are afraid of moving downward on the social ladder (or on Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid), which exacerbates their concern for social status and recognition.

Given the foreseeable technological and economic disruptions in the medium term, the country's future economic conditions may well put a strain on this emerging movement of authenticity! Only time will tell.

Verdi's La Traviata

When we refer to this opera or to Alexandre Dumas' novel, La Dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), which inspired it, we are normally referring to the heartbreaking story of love thwarted by the heroine's immanent death and the inflexible class structure of 19th-century French society.

However, a crucial element of the story that is often overlooked is the frantic desire for social recognition by the main character (Violetta, la Traviata). She is a marvelous incarnation of a social climber with her craving for prestige and admiration-for the kind of social mobility that could only prove exceedingly difficult for a courtesan in Parisian society at that time.

This excerpt magnificently expresses the heroine's dismay at the impossibility of her love and the futility of her social-climbing ambitions. (Gentlemen, calm down. Netrebko may take off her dress, but there's nothing erotic about it: she is throwing off her life as a courtesan.)

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata - Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Thomas Hampson, Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor, Wiener Philharmoniker, Carlo Rizzi (Dir.), Willy Decker (Prod.), Salzbourg Festival, 2005, Deutsche Grammophon.

Are you in favour of same-sex marriage? 74% of Canadians and 80% of Quebecers support it (and Death in Venice by Benjamin Britten)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 11-20-17 at 4:19 p.m.

Within the last year, CROP conducted the largest study ever done in Canada on sexual minorities and the LGBT community. We concluded that, although the community is much more accepted today, we still have a long way to go before achieving true social equality.

Our study clearly highlighted the emotional distress that this community faces at times and the lack of resources with which it has to contend.

In hindsight, without minimizing the challenges facing these individuals, I believe that our conclusions might not have sufficiently stressed just how rapidly Canadians have changed their mindset in recent years, with Quebec leading the way.

We have been tracking the attitude of Canadians toward same-sex marriage since the 1990s. Since then, their openness to this phenomenon has grown at a rapid pace. Despite the road ahead, we are seeing a real movement toward the social legitimization of homosexuality.

From 1997 to 2017, we went from 41% of Canadians in favour of same-sex marriage to 74% (from 43% to 80% in Quebec, the most supportive province in the country).

Since 1997, for comparison purposes, we had been using the same question we asked before the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. In 2017, we modified the question slightly to reflect today's statutory environment, without compromising the comparability of the data.

The future of homosexuality's legitimacy

We are undoubtedly witnessing a social phenomenon, a "sociocultural trend" of substance-a unique, historical process of social change. As individuals, we no longer accept the imposition of life choices by our society and its institutions, be it on our relationships as a couple, our sexuality or on any aspect of our lifestyle. These choices now belong to the individual. Individuals convey this legitimacy to themselves and to others around them. Humanism is on the rise; people are applying it to themselves and to others.

In 1967, Pierre Trudeau, prime minister said commenting his Omnibus Bill that “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”. Today we could say that there’s no place for the society in the bedrooms of the nation.

The younger generation is by far the demographic group with the highest level of acceptance of same-sex marriage. While 45% of Canadians "totally agree" with same-sex marriage, such agreement is 61% among 18-24 year olds and 58% among 25-34 year olds (all agreement totals 82% and 86%, respectively). We can therefore postulate that as the demographic weight of these younger generations increases, the legitimacy of same-sex marriage-and consequently, homosexuality-will also grow.

Unfortunately, the databases we use to track the changes in values over the years contain no information about sexual minorities other than gays and lesbians. Hence, our tools do not permit us to draw exact conclusions about the evolution of Canadians' attitudes toward other sexual minorities. However, we can assume that these attitudes are probably correlated.

For example, in the last Quebec municipal elections, the citizens of a small village in Montérégie elected the first transsexual mayor in the province (in Très-Saint-Rédempteur near Rigaud on the Ontario border: a stunning redemption after so many years of intolerance!). Proof positive that the times are changing.

Note: while 74% of Canadians and 80% of Quebecers (the highest percentage in the country) are in favour of same-sex marriage, Albertans, at 68%, are the least in favour

A holistic connection with life or an ardent nostalgic traditionalism

When we look at people's values based on their attitudes toward same-sex marriage, we find a sociocultural divide!

Those most in favour have a deep desire for personal fulfillment, to express their uniqueness and individuality-all of which they wish to extend beyond their own account to society at large. They embrace diversity, be it ethnocultural, sexual or lifestyle. Diversity "nourishes" their development. They also feel deeply connected to nature, to life and to the people around them.

Those most opposed to same-sex marriage see our society as morally depraved. They espouse an extremely traditional view of society, where God, religion, morality and strict social codes predominate. They consider non-traditional sexual mores to be against nature, an aberration. They vehemently oppose any kind of modernity that they deem amoral, and from which they feel excluded in any case. They express a fundamentally nostalgic traditionalism, from a time when conservative morality prevailed. Obviously, there is no place in this conservative worldview for homosexuality and sexual minorities!

Social diversity as the backbone of the societies of the future

While we must be cautious about predicting the future, we can assume that tomorrow's society will be even more urban, multicultural and populated by individuals with customized identities. Diversity will undoubtedly be at the heart of the social fabric. The real question is whether this diversity will be "ghettoized" or generalized throughout a social mosaic (in Blade Runner, it is ghettoized!).

Whichever scenario prevails will certainly depend on the way wealth is distributed. The more egalitarian a society, the more it tends to be humanistic, less conservative and more open to diversity, both multicultural and sexual. We shall see.

In the meantime, Canadian society appears to be on the path of openness and increased sensitivity to sexual minorities, although much remains to be done to improve their daily lives.

Death in Venice by Benjamin Britten

To my knowledge, few operas address the themes of homosexuality and sexual minorities. Consequently, my lyrical clip of the week turns to Britten's operatic adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella, Death in Venice.

The story deals with a theme that is certainly taboo in our society: the homosexual fantasies of an old man for an adolescent boy. (Note that in this opera, it is all fantasy; there is no actual "sexual misconduct," to use the current buzzword).

The musical excerpt depicts the moment when this mature homosexual man recognizes his passion for a young boy, which inspires his work as a writer. It is all expressed with unbridled lyricism!

Benjamin Britten: Death in Venice, English National Opera Orchestra, Edward Gardner, Deborah Warner, John Graham-Hall, 2014.

CROP’s Radio-Canada poll and the Montreal municipal elections

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 11-06-17 at 2:50 p.m.

I don't mean to boast but I would like to point out how close our polling results for Radio-Canada (which we made public last week) were to the results of yesterday's elections in Montreal. The table below makes that clear.

Because ... every time we are told that pollsters got an election wrong, every time there are discrepancies between the last polls before an election and the final results somewhere in the world-it takes me a whole week to defend our industry. For once, my phone is blissfully silent.

Do you believe that technological innovation is a threat to your job or career? 26% of working people think it is (and Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 11-03-17 at 5:06 p.m.

"Disruption," a highly charged buzzword that is untranslatable in French-carries a hint of scorched earth and sectorial apocalypse.

One example of disruption is how the "new media" has undermined the entire traditional media industry, especially newspapers, leaving the players in a desperate fight to maintain their advertising revenues.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has also inserted itself into this dynamic of economic and technological restructuring. The economy is "digitizing" and "automating" at a faster and faster rate, and this acceleration is not about to stop. The rate is exponential. According to the law coined by Intel's Greg Moore, microprocessor capacity doubles every two years. As such, we can also expect an exponential explosion in applications.

Given this prospect of accelerating technological change and its accompanying economic disruption, we asked Canadians how they are reacting to this development: whether they see it as a threat or an opportunity.

More than two out of five (45%) employed individuals see this as an opportunity for advancement and training, 26% consider it a threat to their career or professional future, and 29% have no idea how they will be affected by these innovations. Note that we have observed no significant regional or provincial variations in these results.

Professionals and younger people are the most optimistic

Interestingly, professionals are the most enthusiastic occupational category in terms of seeing upcoming technological changes as an opportunity for them, whereas labourers and technicians feel the most at risk. The under-45s are especially optimistic about technological progress, whereas older people are more worried about it.

It's not surprising that labourers and technicians feel particularly threatened by technological progress. Robotization and the automation of industrial processes have already made many jobs in these occupational categories obsolete over the years. But what's different today is that AR is putting even professional jobs in jeopardy. "Deep learning" can automate many of the tasks that professionals handle now, especially younger professionals. But these are precisely the two most optimistic economic and demographic categories. It appears that people are not truly aware of what AR has in store for the economy in coming years, especially for the job market and young professionals.

Lawyers, accountants, engineers, and even certain categories of doctors (radiologists, in particular), are the type of professionals whose work to a large degree can be automated by AR, thus potentially threatening a great many jobs. So far, none of this seems to have entered the consciousness of professionals.

Innovation-professional development or the threat of exclusion?

 When we analyze the personal values and hot buttons of the people active in the job market based on their impressions of how the next wave of technological change will impact their job or career, we find that innovation plays a very important symbolic role in their attitudes.

Optimists see innovation and technological progress as a lever, a springboard, to help them reach their full potential and explore the limits of their possibilities. These individuals feel they have a great deal of ability and control over their lives. They see innovation as the way to assert this control, to realize their professional and personal potential-as the ultimate tool to get them where they want to go. Similarly, they see AR in the same light.

The greatest pessimists, those who believe that innovation is a threat, see technical progress as a source of social exclusion. Every time a major innovation is introduced, they've seen entire sectors of the workforce lose their jobs, with little chance of finding another job. Like many other segments of the population that I have dealt with in my columns, these pessimists have a rather apocalyptic view of society's future. Ultimately, innovation represents the end of work, at least for them. They believe that robots and computers will one day be able to do the work of almost the entire workforce. They feel potentially excluded and are worried about their financial future.

Apocalypse or resilience?

Technological progress has always transformed industrial and professional processes. Even though large sectors of the workforce have been negatively impacted at certain times, the unemployment rate in affected countries is still very positive today. There have been many predictions of apocalypse over the years, yet, despite everything, the job market continues to perform quite well in terms of job creation, displaying remarkable resilience. Perhaps the same will obtain with AR and deep learning, with the labor market enjoying another boost of resilience through the creation of new types of jobs. Perhaps the professionals are right in thinking that these innovations will present opportunities for new training experiences and new career challenges. We shall see.

Dialogues des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc

Over the centuries, history has recorded many economic, social and political disruptions, including the transformation of agrarian economies by the industrial revolution, which threw serfs and farmers off the land to supply the labour for fledgling industries at starvation wages. Political revolutions have also wreaked havoc and disruption on people's lives.

Which leads me to my lyrical clip this week: Dialogues des Carmélites (Dialogues of the Carmelites), an opera by Francis Poulenc. During the French Revolution, religious orders were abolished, and anyone wanting to maintain their affiliation in an order was sentenced to death. In this excerpt, Carmelite nuns refuse to hide their devotion to their god, at the cost of their lives. We can hear the guillotine slice off their heads in this sad and beautiful piece.

Francis Poulenc: Dialogues of the Carmelites, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Jan Latham-Koenig (dir.), 2001.

Do you like to watch violent movies and TV shows? 42% of Canadians admit that they do (and Die Walküre by Richard Wagner)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 10-23-17 at 11:38 a.m.

One of the most fascinating phenomena we've observed over the years has been the steady rise in the number of people who answer this question in the affirmative. When we asked Canadians if they agreed with the statement "I like to watch movies and television programs in which there is violence," 26% of the population did in 2004. By 2017, that percentage had risen to 42%!

From one year to the next, the hikes may be modest, but they add up over time. The upward trend is almost perfectly linear!

To meet the demand, the supply of violent entertainment has been growing apace. Hollywood and even our local television networks are constantly offering us new content in this genre. Not to mention the video games of the same ilk!

When I stand back and reflect on this trend, I can't help thinking there may exist some relationship between the steady rise in people's interest in violent media content and the declining crime rate across the country, including violent crime (Statistics Canada: Canada's crime rate: Two decades of decline). It's as if violence has become "virtualized." It may have abandoned the streets, but it has found a home on our screens!

Far be it from me to suggest a causal link between the two phenomena, but some kind of social dynamic around violence appears to be at work here. The media is providing a fantasy outlet for our aggressions, at the same time as the civilizing effects of empathy make us less violent as a society. (The aging of the population also plays a role.)

It is true that violent dramas regularly make headlines but, overall, "real" violence is declining in society, while interest in "virtual violence" continues to rise. There may be a few suggestible individuals who can be inspired by violent media content to commit violent acts, admittedly with often catastrophic results, but in society as a whole, we are witnessing a decline in "real" violence as violent content proliferates!

Lovers of violent media content present a very characteristic sociodemographic profile. They are over-represented among men, people under 45 and, interestingly, couples with children under 12 (understandable given the age of the parents). It seems that interest in this type of content starts young!

Note that Quebec is the only province that stands apart on this question, with only 36% of its population expressing interest in this type of content, compared to 43% in English Canada.

A desire for chills and thrills

Violent media content probably touches something deep within these viewers and gamers. Their values and hot buttons express a strong need for escape, for chills and thrills, for strong emotions and intensity. They want to flee the real world momentarily and be transported to a thrilling, fantastical universe.

This type of desire is on the rise in society and is accompanied by an apocalyptic view of life: a fatalistic and Darwinist vision of today's world, along with the feeling of loss of control over one's life. This kind of "mindset" is typical of the lovers of violent media content, whose numbers are on the rise in the country.

Violent content frequently deals with the adventures of a hero, who risks his life for a cause, often to save the world. The hero fights against "evil-doers" who bring disaster, even apocalypse. He may lose his way for a time but he eventually triumphs (and gains total control over the elements).

Violent media content acts as a metaphor in the imagination of the lovers of violence. It offers them a sublimated version of their apocalyptic vision and their lack of control over their lives. Violent content lets them fantasize about an quasi-supernatural ideal (or totally supernatural, like Superman, etc.), which helps them transcend the vicissitudes of their lives.

Interestingly, this type of "fantasy" is less prevalent in Quebec than in English Canada (although it does affect more than one in three Quebecers). The need for escape is just as present in Quebec, but it tends to express itself more as sensuality and conviviality.

Finally, one can hypothesize that this trend will continue over the long term, since the underlying motivations (need for escape, lack of control, etc.) show no signs of abating, and a whole new generation is being exposed to this content. (Recall that the lovers of violent content are over-represented among people with young children).

Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner

This week, my clips present two variations of the same musical theme: "Ride of the Valkyries," the overture to the third act of Wagner's opera, Die Walküre. This music is the perfect accompaniment to the topic of this post. In ancient Germanic, Nordic and Viking mythology, the Valkyries were flying maidens whose mission was to take worthy warriors killed on the battlefield to Valhalla, the paradise in these mythologies.

My first clip is from the opera, staged in Valencia in 2007. The music is also well-known because it was used in the soundtrack for the movie, Apocalypse Now, by Francis Ford Coppola. My second clip is therefore the epic scene from the movie, where a Vietcong village is attacked by U.S. Army helicopters.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Zubin Mehta, La Fura dels Baus, Valencia, 2007, Unitel Classica.

Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola, 1979.