Monday, December 17, 2007

MINI: the pleasure of accessible luxury

Next to the Hummer, the juggernaut I mentioned in several October and November 2007 columns, the MINI is Lilliputian. How can one not love its friendly face; according to surveys conducted by MINI Canada in 2007, its appearance is the most important factor in the purchase decision. Its remarkable sobriety, thanks to its 1.6 litre engine, is also very appealing (Note: Unless otherwise specified, all information about the MINI, slogans and advertising arguments cited are taken from the MINI’s Canadian website, consulted August 16 2007) ; in fact, it’s eligible to a $1,000 rebate from the ecoAUTO rebate program created by the Canadian government in 2006 (ecoAUTO Web site, consulted August 16 2007). This is another advantage, since the MINI buyer is price-sensitive; polls show that this factor is the second in order of importance (Note: this information is taken from survey results obtained from MINI Brossard whom I thank for its collaboration).

However, its sobriety does not prevent it from featuring a sporty behaviour, compared to that of a kart. Having performed a road test, I can vouch that this claim is not misleading; it’s easy for me to compare, since I drive a Honda CB900F, a nervous and agile motorcycle, now renamed the 919. I am not the only one to love the MINI: «Even in its wildest dreams, BMW could not expect any better: 800,000 units of the Mini produced in five years. That’s 700,000 more than the Bavarian manufacturer estimated when launching this model». (É. Lefrançois, « Mini Cooper S, Évoluer sans révolutionner », La Presse, July 16 2007, cahier L’auto, p. 10)

The company has found a market segment, which consists of people from all age groups, as evidenced by the polls, willing to pay slightly more to get a fun car. The manufacturer did not seek to solve a lower revenue problem by selling a more expensive product, but deliberately targeted a slightly higher-end market after having verified its existence. I don’t think we can accuse the company of chasing chimeras. For BMW, owner of the brand, it is a product line descent strategy; this strategy can be harmful for a brand, as selling lower priced products can affect the image of a luxury brand. Such is not the case here, since BMW protects its image by selling the MINI under another banner, with a unique logo and a dealer network independent from BMW’s.

The MINI personality, or «MINI Concept», articulates around driving pleasure: «Never has holding a steering wheel been so much fun». A wide range of accessories, some of which are very inexpensive, allow the buyer to customize his MINI, which in itself is another pleasure, because some form of exclusivity is one the attractions of luxury.

Its selling price starting at more than $ 25000, MINI is a luxury car, popular that is, not upper end. A form of luxury accessible to a large number of middle class people, sufficient to give one pleasure, without making a hole in one’s wallet. Obviously, it is beyond the reach of the poor. Some may accuse me of using the term «accessible» for a car sells for $ 25,900 and more. As absurd as this may seem, $ 25,900 is a price that most vehicles offered to the middle class today can reach, indeed exceed, except for some sub-compacts.

The brand’s personality, its image and its correspondence with the prospective buyer’s self-image may influence the choice of a vehicle. The values of society and the dominant concerns of the moment can also promote the adoption of a vehicle, for instance, the high price of gasoline and the hype surrounding the Kyoto Protocol are positive influences for the purchase of a vehicle featuring lesser consumption and pollution levels, such as MINI.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Boxing Day

In anticipation of my presence on RDI en direct Wednesday, December 26, I perform a mini-quiz on Boxing Day; you may answer up to 6 PM Monday, December 24. I hope many of you will participate. It will be my pleasure to comment on the results with host Louis Lemieux. If you have any comments about this issue, you can send them to me at

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A question of self-image

The existence of a link between a person’s self-image and the image of the vehicle she buys, analyzed in a previous column, shows that the Hummer’s militaristic and aggressive personality fits the image the buyer of this vehicle wants to project. In fact, research conducted by Keith Bradsher at Honda demonstrates that SUV buyers are more concerned about their image in the eyes of others than by practical considerations, something confirmed by Thomas Elliot, executive vice president of Honda’s North American automobile sector and Fred J. Schaafsma, GM’s Senior Engineer for the initial planning stages of new vehicles (K. Bradsher, High and Mighty, SUVs – The world’s most dangerous vehicles and how they got that way, New York, Public Affairs, 2002, p. 103).

However, the warrior image of the Hummer inevitably influences the buyer’s behaviour, especially because, as I said in an earlier column, in some people's instinct prevails over reason and emotions, and that they suffer from a lack of confidence, are selfish and have little concern for others, as demonstrated in studies mentioned by Bradsher. The resulting road domineering, even intimidating, sometimes belligerent, driving behaviour feeds the fear of other drivers and helps create a detestable image of the Hummer. Ultimately, therefore, the reasons why some like the Hummer and other dislike it are the same; the latter’s hatred is nothing but the love of the first thwarted by something. That «something» is the driver’s self-image, constructed by the Hummer, unacceptable to those who do not like this vehicle.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Irresponsible Consumption

On Thursday, November 29, I am pleased to be the guest speaker of the « Groupe de recherche en droit international et comparé de la consommation (Gredicc) » (Research Group on International and Comparative Law of consumption). The theme of my conference is « Modes de consommation irresponsables: Comment en est-on arrivé là? » (Irresponsible consumption: How did we get to this point?)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Interview on RDI live

This morning I had the pleasure of being Louis Lemieux’s guest on « RDI en direct (weekend) » (RDI live week-end edition); it can be viewed on the programme’s website.

We have chatted about my recent book « Consommation et luxe – La voie de l’excès et de l’illusion » (Consumption and luxury – The path of excess and illusion) and about current events reported in three magazines, amongst which a special on perfumes in ELLE Québec, the Airbus 380 in a special issue of Science & Vie and in cell phone packages in Protégez-vous.

My next column will focus on the link between a vehicle and self-image; it will be published Tuesday, November 27.

See you then on my blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Publication of Consumption and luxury

Monopolized by the publication of my book, « Consommation et luxe – La voie de l’excès et de l’illusion » (Consumption and luxury – The path of excess and illusion), planned in the coming days, I will not publish chronicles in the next few weeks; I shall resume in December. To receive word of my chronicles’ resumption, I invite you to subscribe to the RSS feed (

If you want to meet me, come to the « Salon du livre de Montréal » (Montreal Book Fair); I will be at the Dimedia/Liber booth (# 531-532) Friday, November 16 from 6 pm to 7 pm and Saturday, November 17 from 3 pm to 4 pm . It will be a pleasure for me to meet you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why do some people detest the Hummer?

The Hummer’s high fuel consumption and concerns for global warming are the main reasons mentioned by critics of this vehicle. Although these factors are not totally unrelated to this negative sentiment, they are not the real reasons; the truth lies elsewhere. What people detest is not its gluttony for fuel, nor really its size, since other vehicles, such as the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escapade, consume just as much gas and are almost as large. Given the international community’s contempt to the American intervention in Iraq and the opposition of a majority of Americans to it, the military origin of the vehicle is an aggravating factor, yet still insufficient to justify a feeling of hatred; the Jeep is also of military origin and nobody hates it. We thus have to look elsewhere.

Alexander Sutherland Neill tells us that love and hate are in fact one and the same thing: Love and hate are not opposites. The opposite of love is indifference. Hatred is another side of love-a love thwarted. Hatred always contains an element of fear (A. S. Neill, Summerhill, A radical approach to education, Londres, Victor Gollancz, 7e impression, 1973, p. 301). What some people detest has more to do with the Hummer’s personality, most likely because it scares them somewhat, rightly so when one considers the appearance of the vehicle, the advertising slogans and arguments used to sell it, and sometimes even the aggressive behaviour of some Rambo randomly crossed on the road!

Wheels whose size allows the Hummer to “clamber over a 40 cm vertical barrier”, a ground clearance which places its grille at nose level, said grille evoking the gaping mouth of an animal with sharp teeth. Agreeably, those are elements that can intimidate most people. Marketing experts tell us that advertising is designed for a specific market segment; people who are not targeted can be indifferent to it, find it offensive even. Nevertheless, advertising has an impact on them! Do you really that the aggressive advertising arguments quoted in a recent blog, the best example of which being “Move in for the thrill”, can leave people that are not targeted indifferent? On the contrary, they can easily create a sense of instinctive aversion or worry, or even fear in people who are more sensitive than others.

Finally, without maintaining that all Hummer drivers are Rambos of the road, it is impossible to believe that the advertising arguments used have influence over them. The mere fact that they have purchased a Hummer contradicts this hypothesis.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Hummer’s identity

Last February I received an email from an owner of a Cadillac CTS, saying that to buy a vehicle he must “first fall in love” with it. In a PBS interview, Clotaire Rapaille concurs: “The PT Cruiser is a car [that] when people see it, they say, "Wow, I want it." Some people hate it; we don't care. There is enough people that say, "Wow, I want it," to make a big success […] What is it that make[s] the PT Cruiser a reptilian car? First, the car has a strong identity. What people told us is that "We're tired of these cars that have no identity. I have good quality, good gas mileage, good everything else, but when I see the car from a distance, I have to wait till the car gets close to know what it is, and I have to read the name." When you go to see your mother, she doesn't need to read your name to know who you are, you see? We want this reptilian connection. And so this notion of identity, absolutely key, was very reptilian for a car.”

The PT Cruiser is a break (station wagon) type vehicle whose design is somewhat retro; it has pleased a market segment so much, that General Motors felt the need to produce a similar vehicle, the Chevrolet HHR, which GM classifies as an SUV. The Hummer is also a vehicle with a strong personality. Here is what Rapaille thinks of it and of advertising used to promote it: “the Hummer is a car with a strong identity. It's a car in a uniform. I told them, put four stars on the shoulder of the Hummer, you will sell better. If you look at the campaign, brilliant. I have no credit for it, just so you know, but brilliant. They say, "You give us the money, we give you the car, nobody gets hurt." I love it! It's like the mafia speaking to you […] They’re not telling you, "Buy a Hummer because you get better gas mileage." You don't. This is cortex things. They address your reptilian brain.” This is a somewhat special conception of sales and marketing, to which I do not subscribe. However, I must bow before the evidence; this approach works with a segment of the population.

As we have just seen, the fact that some people detest the Hummer does not overly concern General Motors. At most, the managers of this GM subsidiary intend to focus on the H3 model, which has a lesser appetite for gas, and offer a slightly smaller model, the H4, in 2010. (Hummer’s Web site, consulted August 15 2007). However, I se this strategy more as a strategy to lower the product line (B. Duguay, Consommation et luxe, La voie de l’excès et de l’illusion, Montréal: Liber, 2007) rather than an attempt to seduce the Hummer’s opponents, a reaction to the decline in the sales of the H2 model of 22% in 2005 and 27% in 2006 (N. Bérubé, « Le Hummer sur une voie de garage », La Presse, 30 mai 2007, p. A24). Yet, I do not see the H2 disappear because, for some, its gas consumption alone is not sufficient reason to do without it; Gasoline consumption is a rational factor that may discourage some people, but not the true aficionados. Moreover, if the price of gasoline decreases a little, as it appears to be the case in the summer and fall of 2007, I would not be at all surprised to see sales of the H2 bounce back, or at least stop dropping.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SUV buyers

Who are SUV buyers? Based on large scale market surveys performed yearly for the automobile industry, Keith Bradsher describes them as having little self-confidence and being conceited. They are often insecure about their marriage and uncomfortable with parenthood. They often lack assurance in their driving abilities. They are above all “self-centered” and “self-absorbed”, with little interest for their neighbours and communities (K. Bradsher, High and Mighty, SUVs – The world’s most dangerous vehicles and how they got that way, New York, Public Affairs, 2002, p. 101.)

It would thus be the survival instinct and expects for maximum safety without consideration for consequences to others that drive people to prefer SUVs, especially the Hummer whose military origin confers a particularly robust image. The vehicle’s disproportionate size, particularly in the case of the Hummer H2, also allows those driving it to literally and figuratively dominate the road. Now, in « Consommation et luxe, La voie de l’excès et de l’illusion » (Consumption and luxury, The way to excess and illusion - in libraries November 13, in French only for the time being) I mention the fact that one finds in luxury a desire to dominate others, making the Hummer an object of power.

Advertising for the Hummer contributes to create this feeling of domination by putting greater emphasis on the vehicle’s warrior image. Upon entering the Hummer’s home page (Hummer’s English version of the Canadian Web site, consulted August 15 2007), you are presented with a cloud of black smoke very suggestive of a battlefield, behind which hides the new Hummer H3 Limited Edition, and the slogan “Move in for the thrill”; this is a very aggressive pun on the expression “Move in for the kill” , which implies killing an enemy. Another advertising line “48 units are now standing by” reinforces the vehicle’s militaristic image. Advertising being a major cultural influence, should one be surprised to occasionally meet a somewhat aggressive Hummer driver? In such a case, Rapaille may be right; the reptilian brain dominates, wild instinct supersedes reason and emotions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hummer VS MINI

In the following weeks, I invite you to a series of seven chronicles on the theme: Why do we love… or hate a vehicle? To shed light on this question, I will use two vehicles whose philosophies are a world apart: the Hummer and the MINI. Let us begin with the largest one.

The Hummer is in a class of vehicles commonly known as Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), or 4X4; they are derived from the Jeep, a vehicle which has known its hours of glory on all theatres of operations of the Second World War. Originally conceived by the American Bantam Car Company, the US Army signed manufacturing contracts with Willys-Overland and Ford in 1941. After the war, Willys-Overland continued production alone, Ford no longer being interested; the company is sold to Kaiser in 1953, who continued production. Kaiser is bought by AMC in 1970, which got into a partnership with Renault in 1979; in 1987, Renault sold its stake to Chrysler, attracted by AMC’s Jeep division (4wheelz Web Site).

The Hummer leaves no one indifferent; some love it intensely, others hate it just as much. In fact, few vehicles, maybe none, give rise to such passion; have you ever heard someone say that he detests a Jeep, a Land Rover, a Ford Explorer, a Chevy Suburban…? Yet, they are SUV type vehicles! How should one understand these reactions?

First of all, let us consider those who love the hummer. SUVs became very popular in North America in the 1990s. Clotaire Rapaille teaches us that the reason of this popularity rests in the structure of the brain, which comprises three parts: the cortex, the limbic system and the reptilian brain. The first takes care of logic, learning, abstract thought and creativity. The second is the center of our emotions, which often take precedence over reason. The third is a remnant of the reptiles’ brain; this zone harbours the survival and reproduction instincts. Survival being more crucial to our existence than “feeling well” or “making sense” the reptilian brain always prevails. Instinct always wins over logic and emotion. Rapaille maintains that this happens to be the case for personal well-being, purchase decisions and even the choice of leaders (C. Rapaille, The Culture Code, New York, Broadway Books, 2006, p. 74).

I am not quite so definite; I would say rather than in some people, in certain circumstances, instinct prevails over reason and emotions. In others, in a different context, logic or emotions will triumph. In fact, intuition tells me that there is a close link between the predominance of one facet of the brain or another and self-image. Unfortunately, I have no empirical evidence to support my intuitive hypothesis for the moment.

I would like to know what you think of the reptilian brain theory.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Expects revisited

Chapter 3 of my next book, Consommation et luxe (Consumption and luxury), is devoted to the study of expects (this a contraction of expectancies or expectations, a catchy term I have coined to best translate the French notion of «attentes». Here is an excerpt.

The theory of the needs, still used today as the basis of marketing by the vast majority of theorists of this discipline, must be replaced by a theory of expects, which better renders the complexity of purchase behaviour. (See B. Duguay, Consommation et image de soi, Montréal Liber, 2005. Also see R. Rochefort, La société des consommateurs, Paris, Odile Jacob, 1995.) Here is a graphical representation of this concept, which I refer to as the «Ring of expects» (PDF format). To better understanding the notion of expect, let us consider the purchase of a car. One may buy a specific model for various reasons: its low fuel consumption (makes functional expect), its reputation (symbolic expect), the image one wishes to project (aspirational expect), the driving pleasure (sensory expect), its reasonable price (financial expect), the dealer’s or salesman’s warm welcome (relational expect), the use of recycled materials in its construction (societal expect), the unique look of this model (aesthetic expect), the detailed and user-friendly information supplied by the manufacturer (informational expect), the speed of delivery (temporal expect). The final choice will undoubtedly take into account several factors, perhaps even all, each being weighted on a scale unique to each buyer.

An expect must be seen as a requirement the consumer wants to satisfy. It clarifies the hazy notion of need without translating immediately and obligatorily into a desire. If one’s most important expects with regards to a product are satisfied, this person may develop a desire for this good or service, desire which may later materialize in a want followed by a purchase. Contrary to needs, which marketing claim to be inborn and thus firmly anchored in the human being, expects are determined by countless elements; in the very first place, advertising and all other commercial communication actions, but also values of the society to which an individual belongs, his personal evolution, the product of technological development, largely broadcasted by all information channels … in short all stimuli to which a person is exposed. It is essential to understand that to each consumer expect corresponds an element, in the broadest sense, of the product; thus, to answer the functional expect of a durable garment, the product will have to call for a material which will ensure this durability, while communications will have to take part in building an image of durability.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Consumption and luxury

Today, I start publishing my blog anew with the following three paragraphs drawn from a first version of Consommation et luxe (Consumption and luxury), my next book, to be published this fall (in French only for the time being).

« These Romans are crazy! » Many remember Obelix’s trademark phrase in the famed adventures of Asterix the Gaul (Uderzo and Goscinny, Book series, Paris: Dargaud editor). Confronted to the, strange to him, culture of the Roman people, he was thus expressing his dismay. I believe we will soon hear similar words from people to whom the consumer society culture will appear just as strange. « Cute baby » one could read on the front page of La Presse, one of Montreal’s daily French newspapers, on Thursday December 8, 2005. This catchy title referred to a series of articles relating to luxury products for babies, in the « Actuel » section of the day. « Luxury products for babies? », may some say to me. Well, yes! Our little ones have discovered a craving for luxury! The time is over when all babies were content with the same brand of soap, shampoo or powder, Johnson's in Quebec or Mustela in France; although these two brands are still very popular, in some circles the baby’s beauty of baby calls for Anthony, Kiehl's, Klorane and many others.

How did we get to there? Consumption has become an activity of foremost importance for most people in industrialized countries. Moreover, if branding, this business philosophy which emphasizes brand production, allowed said brands to experience stunning growth, it has also democratized, sometimes even damaged, them. Consequently, wearing brands does not allow one to sufficiently distinguish oneself, to project a unique image. What the hell, how can one appear to be different if everyone wears Nike or Tommy Hilfiger? What can people eager for differentiation do when brands no longer suffice? Luxury! Only luxury now allows some to distinguish from others, to rise, so they believe, above masses.

This said, don’t believe that I condemn all luxury goods and services. Luxury is necessary… even for those who are penniless, perhaps even more so for them since they, above all people, need a few pleasures in life. In fact, even Gilles Lipovetsky, famous critic of consumption, writes: « For a long time, the best minds have emphasized the universal, anthropological nature of luxury », supporting his words with this quotation from Shakespeare, « The poorest beggar always has superfluous little things! Reduce nature to the needs of nature and man is an animal », and concludes « Luxury is a dream, that which embellishes life’s decor, perfection made good by human genius. » (G. Lipovetsky, Le luxe éternel, De l’âge du sacré au temps des marques, Paris, éditions Gallimard, 2003, p. 19) If, for a rich person, luxury is the buying a condo in the Bahamas, for a less fortunate person it can be a treat such as an occasional dinner in a prestigious restaurant. To each his own luxury!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Monopolized by the drafting of my book, « Consommation et luxe » (Consumption and luxury), to be published next fall, it is impossible for me to continue publishing a weekly chronicle. I will thus take a short break and begin anew in September. To receive word of my chronicles’ resumption, I invite you to subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you wish to communicate with me, use the email address accessible in my profile; I’ll gladly answer you.

Have a great summer!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Beyond Kyoto

The G8 summit is an occasion for me to make a return on the chronicle «Kyoto and consumption» chronicle, published on April 27, 2007, in which I wrote: «Are those highly virtuous citizens, allegedly worried about the environment, truly willing to make an effort to change their habits and reduce their consumption?»

I was then, and still remain, with good reason, sceptic about the will of Quebecers, like citizens of other provinces and countries, to make an effort to reduce polluting emissions. True, a minority of citizens is willing to radically change their way of life to safeguard the planet, but such is not the case of the majority. Evidence of this can be found in the article « Environnement : oui aux mesures indolores » (Environment: yes to painless measures), published on Wednesday May 30 2007 in La Presse daily newspaper. Journalist François Cardinal wrote: «A very large majority of Quebecers are ready to act to counter climatic changes provided that this action does not require any sacrifice on their part.»

This article is based on the «Changements climatiques au Québec méridional: perceptions de la population générale et suggestions d'adaptations futures» (Climatic changes in southern Quebec: perceptions of the population at large and suggestions for future adaptations) survey from the «Institut national de santé publique du Québec» (Quebec national institute of public health). Here is an eloquent extract (page VIII): «Besides, it would seem that a majority of citizens would support national and international initiatives in as far as they do not require a significant change in their life style or sacrifice of their comfort for collective well being and in as much as that does not cost them a penny. Lastly, the majority would also have a strong attachment to status quo and would risk more to avoid a loss than to obtain a benefit.»

For millennia, the earth has gone through several cycles of warming and cooling; the current one is undoubtedly more pronounced due to human activity. This is not a reason to panic the population, set unattainable objectives and propose impracticable solutions. Obviously, it is imperative to act… intelligently. I favour setting perhaps less ambitious, but realistic objectives. Privileged solutions must be simple to implement and not constitute an obstacle to the population’s way of life, a position supported by Mario Roy.

In an editorial published on Monday February 5 207 in La Presse (page A15) this journalist wrote: «Quebecers talk big about being world champions of the environment. […] Why are Quebecers opposed are to a rise in electricity tariffs and to exploitation of hydraulic power? […] Why have sales of the largest and most luxurious sports utility vehicles (SUV) progressed by 17% and 6% respectively in Canada in 2006?» Amongst other things, he attributes this apparent contradiction to the fact «that the citizen indicates he will not sacrifice comfort and freedom which modernity gives him.» He looks upon technological development as a promising way to find solutions to climate warming: «Like the industrialist, the citizen will put a price on his sacrifices. Better still, he will prefer new clean technologies to them, new green processes, correct ecological behaviours… as long as they are without pain.»

Humans have shown their inventiveness at the time of humanity’s greatest crises; science has the made colossal progress. Think of antibiotics, technologies of communications, data processing and nuclear energy, which have resulted from research undertaken during the Second World War.

The same will be true today, provided that we devote resources and energies needed, rather than remaining locked up us in sterile polemics.

What do you think it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ecology and marketing: beware of scams

Last weekend, wanting to eradicate undesirable weeds that invade our terrace, I went to a gardening centre to buy an herbicide; I accept the fact that dandelion be part of our lawn's ecological balance but refuse to see it invade the patio. On the other hand, concerned to use a weed killer without any toxicity for humans and animals when applied, and which doesn't leave any toxic residue in the environment, I wanted a so called ecological product. The one recommended by the merchant satisfied these criteria; its label mentioned the active element, acetic acid, in a proportion of 62,5 g per litre. I figured that it was an acetic acid solution a little more concentrated than vinegar. I thus bought a one litre spray bottle costing of 7,97 $ Can.

I applied the product; there was indeed a strong vinegar odour. I must admit its effectiveness; after an hour or two, the plants already started to desiccate. On the other hand, curiosity pushed me to search the Internet; I learned that commercial vinegar was usually a 5% acetic acid solution, that is to say 1,01 g per millilitre, therefore 101 g per litre. Vinegar sold in grocery stores is thus a solution 1,6 TIMES more CONCENTRATED than the product I bought. Pursuing my investigation further, I consulted the manufacturer's Web site; the detailed descriptive product leaflet indeed mentions as active ingredients acetic acid mainly (5-10 Wt.%), and in a lesser proportion, citric acid (3-7 Wt.%).

I was surprised, indeed shocked. Would it be a less concentrated solution of vinegar to which a small amount of citric acid was added? Save that the presence of a small proportion of lemon juice is the key of the effectiveness of this product? Being neither a chemist, nor a horticulturist, I cannot pass judgement with certainty on this question. On the other hand, if such is NOT the case, perhaps I was swindled! I bought vinegar at 7,97 $ Can. a litre, when I could have bought 4 litres for 2,59 $ Can. in a supermarket (Loblaws, «no name» brand)! I hate to admit this, but I fear this may be the case. The Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture has tested vinegar, including the household variety, as a weed killer; you can read the results for yourself.

Ecological products are popular. Motivated by easy and quick profit, several companies undoubtedly will try to exploit the consumer with various «environmentally safe» products whose effectiveness is doubtful, or which could be replaced by inexpensive solutions.

Once again, the Latin expression «Caveat emptor», buyer beware, makes a lot of sense. I would very much like that people who have precise information concerning the product mentioned, or ecological products in general, post this information on the blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Consumption and narcissism

Absorbed with grading student papers and exams, I present a shorter than usual chronicle today. While briefer, it will nonetheless be interesting, because I know the subject to be highly controversial and that my comments will leave no one indifferent. Some will applaud my intervention, but others, perhaps a majority, will disagree with me. I nevertheless allow myself this criticism. As I recently wrote a reader of this blog: «If I did not want to be criticized, I need only not publicize my opinions».

Some of us have seen advertising or a newspaper article concerning the «Body Worlds 2» exhibition presented at the Montreal Science Centre, from May 10 to September 16 2007. Thanks to the plastination process, those wishing to do so may now preserve their body indefinitely, and even display it publicly after their death. I agree that it is an innovative and useful technology to train scientists, doctors for instance. However, I have yet to be convinced about the allegedly educational and artistic use proposed; I don't understand why some reporters praise the genius of exhibiting corpses. I see nothing brilliant about exposing artificially preserved human bodies in grotesque postures.

In faculties of Medicine, respect is demanded for bodies donated to science by people wanting to contribute to the advancement of knowledge. Where is respect in such a display of human flesh?

If the consumer society has favoured the emergence of a fundamentally individualistic, indeed selfish, world, we have now reached a summit in narcissism for people who thus display themselves after their death. For those paying to see this gruesome show, it is more appropriate to talk about a voyeurism-like phenomenon. Moreover, it is truly revolting to see some get rich using such dubious methods.

Egocentricity in some, voyeurism or craving for profit in others; it is quite sad to see people thus forgetting human’s divine nature!

I'm eager to read your comments… whether you agree with me or not.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The use of fear in SAAQ’s advertising

Again this year, the SAAQ (Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec) displays a lack of discernment in its choice of advertising theme. Confronted with a degrading road safety record, it chooses to use fear and guilt to induce an attitude change in faulty drivers. The chosen theme for 2007 is «Accidents hurt… a lot of people» and the setting is dramatic not to say plainly morbid. You may watch those ads on the SAAQ Web site.

Now, for a long time, studies show that the use of fear and guilt is not without danger. In fact, this strategy may induce a reaction opposite to the one intended (D. Cohen, Advertising, 1972, p. 418): «However, studies in the communication process have indicated that where people are highly anxious, the fear approach may not be successful, but in fact may boomerang so that the highly anxious individual would not accept the message». Furthermore, studies by Janis and Feshbach (1961) and Terwilliger (1963) have shown that a message calling upon fear, used for already anxious people, stimulates a person’s defences and impedes the change of attitude wished for. This phenomenon is confirmed by recent studies (K. E. Clow et D. Baack, Integrated Advertising, Promotion, & Marketing Communications, 2002, p. 308): «On the other hand, an advertisement with a high level of fear can be detrimental. A message that is too strong causes feelings of anxiety. This leads viewers to avoid watching the ad, by changing the channel or muting the sound».

It is surprising to see the SAAQ use this type of advertising again in 2007, since their use did not succeed in improving the road safety record; on the contrary, based on this organization’s own survey, it has worsened if anything, thus showing the low utility of the concept.

In addition to the risk of seeing those ads not allowing the SAAQ to meet its commendable objectives of reducing accidents and deaths on the roads, one must also consider another perverse effect: that of traumatizing sensitive people, in no way targeted by this advertising.

Completely on the other hand, the CSST (Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail) understands that intense fear and shocking scenes are useless, even harmful. If the 2002 advertising «Do not let death do its work» called upon really gruesome scenes, the 2007 campaign «Do everything so that nothing happens» is on the contrary very positive; it illustrates the benefits of safety, using a subtle level of fear, which suggests dangers without causing negative reactions.

What do you think of SAAQ and CSST advertising?

Do you believe that SAAQ ads are too shocking? Too gruesome?

Do you agree with the use of the fear and the guilt in advertising from governmental or paragovernmental agencies?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Kyoto and societal expects

The media storm surrounding the Kyoto protocol, subsequent to Minister Baird’s announcement of a plan to reduce greenhouse gases, is a wonderful occasion for me to present the notion of societal expects.

A growing number people seem to surround their consumption with concerns based on fundamental values of social equity and environmental safeguard. For example, statistics from Ipsos indicate that, between 2000 and 2002, the proportion of French people «having heard about equitable trade» almost quadrupled, reaching 32% (Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Équitable). In the United Kingdom, the Fairtrade Foundation reports that in 2005 «50% of the adult population can now identify the certification mark, up from 25% in 2003 and 39% last year». In France, fair trade products are already very popular, to the point of finding whole sections offering such products in Leclerc, Carrefour and Champion supermarkets. Thus the appearance of the «Fairtrade» label to certify equitable trade products.

True consumer requirements, societal expects are involved in all sectors and are impossible to ignore by companies. For instance, low consumption vehicles to reduce environmental pollution harmful and preserve oil, a limited resource. Also think of raw material recycling such as paper, glass, etc. Societal expects also concern recovery of dangerous material, those of the information technology industry for instance, whose products contain toxic metals. The service sector is also affected; several stakeholders in tourism have ecological (ecotourism) and social (sustainable tourism) concerns. One can also mention cultural heritage conservation, a major stake for several town planners, architects and other stakeholders in urban planning.

The highly mediated outburst around the Kyoto protocol and the ensuing political hijacking demonstrate that expects, societal and other, can often be emotive rather than strictly rational. Minister Baird’s plan is rational; it proposes a balanced solution between economic and environmental constraints. I’m quite certain that Premier Harper’s government will do more when it CAN. Criticisms are more of an emotive and symbolic nature; Kyoto has become a symbol and the warhorse of irreducible environmentalists. This illustrates particularly well the fact that societal expects may be related to, indeed become themselves, symbolic or aspirational expects.

What do you think?

Is the alarmist talk of some people more emotive than rational?

Must the Kyoto protocol be a statement of principles that guide human activities or a set of constraining environmental norms?

Are you personally satisfied with the plan suggested last week by Minister Baird?

What other concrete and achievable measures would you like to propose to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Kyoto and consumption

In the last couple of weeks, we have been entitled to the professions of faith of citizens, politicians and journalists, towards the dogma of the Kyoto protocol. Hand on the heart, they all proclaim their everlasting support for the norms of this agreement. This is only so much hypocrisy.

It is well known that several interest groups, encouraged by politicians whose good faith can be questioned, succeeded in creating, with the complicity of a few journalists, a psychosis around this question; a Globe and Mail survey reveals that more than 60% of Canadians wish to see the Kyoto objectives respected.

Environmental changes caused by human activity are very alarming; it is essential to take measures to control polluting emissions. Since such is the case, why has nothing been done in the last 10 years? That I know, Mr Harper’s government was not in power in 1998, neither in 2000, nor in 2004… It seems to me that several people who howl today did nothing to ensure the attainment of objectives when they had the capacity to do so.

Are those highly virtuous citizens, allegedly worried about the environment, truly willing to make an effort to change their habits and reduce their consumption? WE have created the consumer society and we all are its accomplices; nobody forces us to consume so much and so badly. Can one ignore the fact that consumption requires production, and that said production causes polluting emissions?

I’ll believe that people are serious about reducing those emissions when I see them consuming less and better. Buying smaller cars, not washing them every Saturday letting water flow for over an hour, not letting the engine idle for ten minutes, often more, in the winter to avoid boarding a cold vehicle, not overheating their houses in the winter and air-conditioning them to excess in the summer, etc.

For the first time, we have a plan and it is realistic. Of course, one can fault Minister Baird for not respecting the letter of the Kyoto protocol; his plan is nevertheless credible and pragmatic. My experience in business taught me that it is preferable to set lower objectives and reach them rather than to have too ambitious a target and miss it. If the opposition parties believe that they can do better, they should overthrow the current government, it is after all a minority government, get elected, propose a better plan and above all that that this plan be more than a theoretical program to get elected, in other words wishful thinking!

I have many other points to develop; I keep them for a forthcoming chronicle. For the moment, I would like to know your opinion on these various questions.

How worried are you about environmental changes?

Are Kyoto objectives attainable?

Are you willing to modify your consumption habits to reduce polluting emissions?

Are you ready to pay more for a product it the company that manufactures it uses more expensive, but less polluting, processes?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Relational expects

Relational expects refer to a consumer’s wish for personal interactions. The most typical example of this type of expects is that of a client expecting advice from a salesperson when purchasing clothing, cosmetics, a car, etc. For that matter, not wanting the assistance of a salesperson is also a form of relational expect, which explains the existence of «warehouse» type stores in which customers help themselves. Even in traditional type stores that offer sales assistance to customer, salespeople must be sufficiently shrewd to detect clients who wish to choose without assistance. In this category of expects, one must also consider personal interactions with other users of a brand, within user groups such as AUG (Apple User Groups – CanadaUnited StatesUnited Kingdom), Miata (Okanagan ValleyWorldwide sites), Mini (VancouverUnited Kingdom) et HOG (Harley Owners Group – CanadaWorldwide sites). These groups are components of a brand; as such, they incite purchase.

Tourism provides many examples of products that appeal to relational expects, home exchange associations for instance. Belonging to such clubs of exchangers allows one to meet new people, to develop friendships and to maintain privileged personal relationships. The various travel classes featured by airlines are also a response to the diversity of expects travellers have regarding their preferred quality of service.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Financial expects

Financial expects refer to the consumer’s demands regarding price, what it costs to purchase and use goods or services. Several factors influence those expects, particularly available financial resources and the consumer’s values. Some prefer to buy the least expensive product; others may be willing to pay a slightly higher price to reduce expenses related to product use. Wanting to pay a higher price may also often relate to image concerns.

There is a very close link between financial expects and those of other categories, particularly functional and symbolic. Thus, one may accept to pay a higher price, if convinced that the product is of a higher quality (functional expect) or for a prestigious brand (symbolic expect); some people systematically buy the most expensive products because they associate price to excellence. Those with a sharp social conscience will also accept to pay a slightly higher price for a product whose production process is respectful of the environment; the same is true of products distributed through fair trade. For example, «Fairtrade Coffee» is a more expensive product, but which «prevents the exploitation of coffee workers and growers. It ensures they earn a decent living and supports environmentally friendly growing practices».

In many cases, financial expects result in a compromise. For example, the buyer who would like to get the top-of-the-line model with all available options, but must be content with a less expensive model featuring fewer options. For that matter, leasing plans offered by manufacturers can be seen as another form of compromise: allowing the consumer to get a luxurious vehicle while avoiding a massive purchase expense. The fact that this type of contract is often more expensive in the long run is of lesser importance for the consumer.

Tourist products are also offered in a wide range of prices corresponding to a variety of functional, symbolic, relational, etc. expects. In my opinion, in the field of tourism, the most interesting phenomenon concerning financial expects is the offer of plane tickets at bargain prices on Internet sites, for last minute reservations; for example, «» in the United Kingdom, «CheapTicketsCanada.Com» in Canada and «» in the United States. If in Canada airlines such as «WestJet» offer low cost regular flights, in Europe, «easyJet» and «Ryanair» offer incredibly low airfares for flights to the United Kingdom and continental Europe. This relatively new distribution network fully answers expects of consumers whose main concern is to pay the minimum price.

What have your financial expects been for your last important purchase?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sensory expects

Sensory expects first relate to the pleasure, or rather the pleasures, of consumption itself, to the satisfaction of getting what one wants. They also express pleasure of the senses driven from the use products purchased. Finally, the pleasure can relate to pleasant memories associated to a product or a brand.

Advertising in general suggests the satisfaction obtained merely from consumption itself; the increasingly frequent use of sensual, even of sexual, images, texts or scenarios, to sell anything and everything, reinforces this aspect. Regarding sensual bliss, one can think of the gustatory pleasure associated with food, the tactile pleasure linked with the feel of a silky fabric, the pleasant sensation of cleanliness experienced using such a body soap, the olfactory pleasure triggered by perfume, etc. To understand the pleasure involving memories, merely think about vacationers or tourists: having returned home, they seek to prolong pleasant memories of their trip by consuming products either imported from the country they visited or whose symbolism evokes their journey.

Hedonism is often used to sell tourist products; in fact, a chain of super vacation resorts chose the name Hedonism II. In 2005, its web site featured devotion to pleasure, particularly pleasure of the senses, «a non-stop flat out party», «an active vacation for the mind, body, spirit and soul». In 2007, the chain created the «Hedonistic Delights» product line, «amenities & services to suit all your guilty pleasures».

Does the search for sensory pleasures influence your purchase decisions?

Does the search for pleasure drive you to consume more?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

IGOR and the law: who’s to blame?

Under the terms of the Consumer Protection Act, the « Office de la protection du consommateur » (Consumer Protection Agency) issues 36 violation reports against Saputo; the company may be subject to fines totalling $60,000. These accusations are made in response to a complaint lodged last month by the « l’Union des consommateurs » (Union of consumers) and the « Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids » (Quebec coalition about problems of the weight); both organizations demanded that Saputo’s promotional campaign for IGOR muffins in day care centres be stopped. The company did not react to these accusations yet; if it decides to dispute them, a judge will ultimately have to decide on their cogency.

Besides the legal aspect of these commercial actions, one must also question the day care centres’ responsibility in this matter. Obviously, their collaboration was necessary to implement this promotional campaign. Now, I don’t hear anybody admonishing in the least the managers of these organizations; yet, they agreed to collaborate in the launching of this product of a questionable health value in return for some compensation, financial or other. Keep in mind that article 5 of the Educational Childcare Act states an obligation to develop healthy eating habits in children.

Do Saputo’s promotional actions for IGOR muffins shock you?

Was the Consumer Protection Agency’s intervention necessary to protect children?

Was the Consumer Protection Agency’s reaction overly severe?

Should Saputo solely bear responsibility?

Is the accommodating stance of day care centres open to criticism?

Should the government intervene with day care centres under the terms of the Educational Childcare Act?

I would really like to know your opinion on these questions!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Aspirational expects

Aspirational expects address another form of symbolism, one which is much more deeply rooted. They reflect the consumer’s fundamental aspirations: personal values, self-image, self-esteem, etc. Aspirational expects are amongst the most influential elements on consumption.

Cosmetics and perfumes offer excellent examples of products that appeal to the consumer’s aspirational expects; the image of femininity, very much apparent in Lancôme’s advertising for its Trésor fragrance, is a response to such an aspiration amongst some women; other perfumes may use the image of a very active professional woman to answer aspirations of a different group. Cosmetics pledge to fulfil the wishes of those aspiring to beauty, and to be a Fountain of Youth for those seeking eternal youth.

In the field of tourism, several products aim to answer aspirational expects. Religious tourism notably: all countries that feature several churches, basilicas, cathedrals, mosques, temples, attract thousands of visitors each year. Some seek spiritual inspiration, others a form of sacred art, others still cultural exoticism.

Various destinations propose a unique experience, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain for instance. Each year, pilgrims journey on foot, cycling or by car, the routes that lead to it, through Spain, France and at time from further still. In fact, it is so popular that associations exist to promote the routes and site: the Société française des amis de Saint Jacques de Compostelle, established in Paris in 1950, and the Confraternity of Saint James, founded in the United Kingdom in 1983. The motives that drive people to live this experience are complex: spiritual, religious, cultural, artistic, physical, etc.

Do you know what your deeply rooted aspirations are?

Do you think that they influence your consumption?

In retrospect, in the light of what precedes, what are the aspirational expects that have influenced your last important purchase?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Symbolic expects

Marketing specialists are very much aware of the fact that goods and services are often purchased more for their symbolic than functional value. Symbolic expects aim at associating the product to a symbol the consumer wants: fashion, status, life style, social class, wealth, power, technological modernity, etc. One seeks an image, a given life style for instance. Thus, the practice of many sports «requires» wearing such and such equipment and clothing that have become symbols, almost fetishes, of this practice; even beginners will want to be thus equipped to meet the standard the image. In very much the same way, many tourists seek prestige products to answer their symbolic expects: luxurious hotels, exclusive destinations, a sporting life style featured by large vacation resorts, etc.

Symbolic expects answer the consumer’s concern regarding the opinion of others about him. Well-known brands of clothing, accessories, cosmetics, perfumes... are then bought as prestige symbols. Symbolism attached to these brands (wealth, prestige, social class, etc.) is often synonym of durability; brand awareness developed by their owners often has an enormous financial value. Conversely, some eccentric clothing fashions are, by nature, short-lived; however, this is often what people are seduced by, because such garments procure exclusiveness to those wearing them. Once a fashion is adopted by a large number of people, it loses its attractiveness.

Some consumers systematically buy only one well-known brand, because it is a symbol of dependability; to some extent, they buy the image of security products of this brand feature. This is especially true with new technologies. A manager may thus want to convey a favourable image to the company. In the event of a problem, he will protect his reputation by maintaining that if the «best» could not fulfill their expectations, no one else could have.

Therefore, in a whole series of cases, symbolic expects largely supersede functionality; however, many will nevertheless seek a compromise between both aspects. In your opinion, does advertising call upon symbolism too much? To what extent do you believe to be influenced by these symbolic appeals?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Functional expects

Functional expects refer to consumer requirements regarding the utilitarian aspects of a product; goods or services must fulfil the function for which one buys them. They express benefits sought by clients: safety, durability, ease of use or maintenance, performance, etc. They influence the physical characteristics of the product, technology used, etc.

Clothing, childrenswear in particular, provide good illustrations of functional expects. In order to satisfy a safety benefit, they must be manufactured with a fireproofed fabric. To offer a durability benefit, the material must also be resistant to wear. A wear-out guarantee, already offered by some manufacturers, is another component related to durability. Fast-drying underwear, advertised by a well-known brand of travel clothing, is another example of product that appeals to functional expects.

In the field of tourism, booklets of various tour operators provide many illustrations of functional expects. For people seeking effortlessness, as much in the choice of destination as in the course of their journey, one finds fixed price, all inclusive, package deals. For those seeking to see much during a short vacation, a benefit related to performance, one finds tours featuring travel by night and visits in the daytime, in several cities or even several countries.

But the best example of formally stated functional expects is without a doubt the request for proposal process based on an often very elaborate statement of work; this document contains numerous characteristics suppliers must respect. This procedure often aims a performance benefit. For instance, with regards to information technology related purchases, respect of specifications insure sufficient storage capacity, a response time lower than an established standard, compatibility with existing equipment or software, etc.

To give rise to new expects, differentiate a product and inflate the unit profit margin, several companies incorporate so many new features in their products that those lose some functionality. Such is the case of several cellular phones and some motor vehicles. It is absolutely impossible to use certain functions or accessories without consulting a user manual often counting hundreds of pages, a daunting and often unfruitful ordeal.

Talk to me about your experience with a product that has lost its functionality.

Friday, March 2, 2007

What is it that really makes you buy?

Contrary to what marketing theoreticians would have us believe, one does not buy to satisfy inborn needs, but to build and maintain an image. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is useful to understand the consumer’s fundamental motivation, why he wants to consume — the human being has limitless desires. However, my field experience in marketing and sales, leads me to conclude to this concept’s uselessness for product development of and the construction of an argumentation aiming to convince customers. Neither does this concept allow us consumers to become aware of the fact that we consume too much and we consume badly. We buy because we believe to be fulfilling a need, without understanding what has driven us to buy.

To supplement the needs concept, as a foundation of consumption, I propose to use the notion of expects (this is a contraction of expectancies or expectations, a catchy term I have coined to best translate the French notion of « attentes »), used by Rochefort to describe the immaterial value the consumer wishes to see built-in a product; this concept allows a better understanding the consumer’s unsatisfied wants, commonly, and wrongly, called needs.

The concept of expects has the advantage of translating well the expression of needs, something marketing researchers achieve using the concept of wants. However, whereas wants convey a will to possess, expects express an expectancy to obtain certain benefits. Thus, expects better renders the idea of requirement to satisfy without adding the dimension of imminence of the decision attached to wants. In other words, if a consumer’s expects with respect to a product are satisfied, he may develop a desire for this product; this desire may then concretize in the form of a want.

The theory of expects takes into account both the product and the consumer, each expect of whom must necessarily correspond to a product component, for the latter to become « desirable ». The term component should not be taken in the strict sense of physical characteristic of the product but in the broader sense of constituent element. Thus, the name of the product, its packaging, the image created around it using advertising, and other elements, are deemed to be product components.

Countless elements influence expects, above all society’s dominant values, significant events, the evolution of a person’s concerns and aspirations, marketing efforts, etc. New expects and even of new categories of expects may thus appear at any moment. Hence, it is relatively easy to generate new expects for the consumer by offering products with original components; in fact, this is the method used by manufacturers to differentiate their respective products. Memory chips, faster, with increased capacity, and less expensive, well illustrate this phenomenon in the case of technology based products.

Consumer expects are multidimensional; a purchase may involve only one, several or all categories of expects. To account for requirements prevailing in a purchase situation I propose a non exhaustive list of ten types of expects — a list obviously subjected to social and historical variations — that can explain in a more detailed manner what the concept of expects covers. I propose a graphical representation of this list, which I refer to as the « Ring of expects » (PDF format).

To better understand the notion of expect, let us consider the purchase of a car. One may buy a specific model because of its low gas consumption (functional expect), because the brand is well rated (symbolic expect), because the vehicle is associated with an image of youth which this person seeks (aspirational expect), because of the pleasure of driving it (sensory expect), because of its reasonable price (financial expect), because the sales person’s warm welcome (relational expect), because construction makes use of recycled materials (societal expect), because the person likes the unique color of this model (aesthetic expect), because the manufacturer’s Web site features detailed and user friendly information (informational expect) and because the car may be delivered within a few days (temporal expect). I will detail each type of expect in forthcoming chronicles.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What do you think of IGOR?

IGOR is a sympathetic mascot, a small gentle gorilla, created by the Vachon Company to sell new Gorilla shaped muffins, obviously intended for children. IGOR even has his own Web site, whose evocative name is « Igor and me ».

To sell its product, Vachon setup a promotional campaign, well described on the Infopresse portal: « The promotional campaign sets Igor the gorilla in the limelight. Over 1000 Early Years Centres in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes are targeted. Those day care centres will receive a CD of Igor’s dance, posters illustrating the mascot’s dance, bags from children containing a booklet relating to the history of Igor and his jungle friends, advocating good nutrition and physical activity, stickers and two Igor muffins from Vachon, as well as rebate coupons.

Also, 20 participating day care centres will win a group daytrip of their choice, a $3000 value, including animation with the gorilla spokesperson. » Promotional bags in question are also distributed to selected households; I got one at home. Perhaps you did too? This is nothing new; this method is often used to launch new products.

The campaign shocked the « l’Union des consommateurs » (Union of consumers) and the « Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids » (Quebec coalition about problems of the weight). In a press release, founding their claim on article 248 of the Consumer Protection Act, these two organizations ask the « Office de la protection du consommateur » (Consumer Protection Agency) to order the withdrawal of the promotional material from day care centres.

Now, at first glance, Vachon’s commercial practices do not seem to contravene article 248 of the Consumer Protection Act, which has historically been applied to advertising in traditional media, mainly television. A stated in article 90 of the Regulation respecting the application of the Consumer Protection Act, the use of advertisement directed at children is allowed on a container, a wrapping or a label. As far as the mascot is concerned, its use is clearly authorized by paragraph « l » of article 91 of said regulation, which states that « a character created expressly to advertise goods or services is not considered a character known to children if it is used for advertising alone ». Companies have been using mascots for ages to sell foodstuff to children. For instance, Tony the Tiger, Snap, Crackle and Pop, and Toucan Sam, mascots which are still used today as depicted in Kellogg’s Canada’s Web site.

On the other hand, one can question the conformity of the booklet relating to IGOR’s history. Indeed, to me, this promotional material seems to be an « advertising insert », under the terms of article 88 of the application regulation; it is stated that advertisement may be exempt from the application of article 248 of the Act if it appears « in a magazine or insert directed at children » (paragraph « a ») AND if this insert is « FOR SALE or inserted in a publication which is FOR SALE » (paragraph « b »), which does not seem to e the case here. However, being neither jurist nor lawyer, I cannot pass judgment with certainty on these questions. We shall see; the « Office de la protection du consommateur » inquires into the matter.

In any case, lets look into the « health » content of the message instead, a must, given the population’s preoccupations in this respect for many years; presenting sweets as healthy food and especially affixing the « Health Check » logo, of the Hearth and Stroke Foundation of Canada, to the packaging and promotional material, amounts to shameless cynicism. One must question the product certification criteria that must be met to display this logo; would our toddlers be threatened of cardiopathy? Perhaps this foundation should be a little more selective with respect to the products on which it authorizes the display of its logo or revise its certification criteria. But again, Vachon is not the only producer of foodstuffs to promote the nutritional aspect of a product, for instance the fact that it contains whole grains, while avoiding granting too much importance to undesirable nutrients, such as sugar, salt and fats. Why then suddenly condemn the IGOR campaign so harshly?

What one should rather question is the opportunism of day care centres participating to the IGOR campaign. There is something shocking about a government sponsored organization accepting advantages, financial or other, in exchange for its help to market a product. This is particularly true when the product is sweets and the organization devoted to the well-being of children. In addition to this moral responsibility of the organization, let us not forget its legal responsibility, since article 5 of the Educational Childcare Act states an obligation to enforce an educational program « providing an environment conducive to the development of a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating habits and behaviour that have a positive effect on the children's health and well-being. »

I am not opposed to the fact that a child may, occasionally, eat sweets; we all did as a child, and most of us still indulge now and then. Besides, I may be wrong; IGOR muffins may be healthy food? But, if such is the case, why is the « Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids » opposed to their promotion in day care centres? Are the group daytrips and animation from which children will benefit sufficient reasons to tolerate the IGOR promotion in day care centres? Does the IGOR campaign shock you? If so, what is it that shocks you, Vachon's promotional actions or the complicity of day care centres? Talk to me! I'm eager to read your comments!