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June 17, 2015

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Hear, hear.

I totally agree with your analysis Éric and hope that lawyers would leave it to well mannered--and more strategic--marketers to deal with this issue.

Call it politeness toward, or respect for your customers, or sheer simple good old common sense... If one wants to do business in a foreign territory, in a different language, the least it can do is to adapt to that territory's reality. Politeness would call for this but good marketing would too !

Now to add to the context, let's never forget a key ingredient here, one that heightens the Quebec market's sensitivity to all that is language-touching : that reality is that in Québec 7 million folks want to preserve their French culture amongst a whopping 335 million english-speaking population in North America--a legitimate intent to say the least. Much has been written on this, often referring to it as a battle for survival...

So language in Qc: a hyper-sensitive issue. HYPER. Like it or not.

For a business to present itself in the Qc market as Costco Wholesalers instead of Costco grossistes or L'entrepôt Costco for example --just to name that one; there are so many others-- is a plain lack of respect to me, not to mention as well a very bad read of the market characteristics. Marketers should/can do a much better job...

Let's see now if the PM's angle will lead to a different marketing mind set on the part of foreign companies doing business in Qc. And let's see the market's reaction. (Don't ask me for a to bet.)

Québec's language law, Bill 101, does not force retailers to adopt a French name as it does not apply to trademarks. However, some companies operate under a different name in Quebec; Staples is Bureau en gros, Shoppers Drug Mart is Pharmaprix, Sleep Country Canada is Dormez vous?

The Office québécois de la langue française had indicated that it would force retailers to add a French descriptor to their English trademark. For example, this would have forced Walmart to become Le magasin Walmart or Costco to become L'entrepôt Costco. Some retailers went to court to challenge this and won. It's important to note that several retailers voluntarily choose to add French to their trademark; e.g. Café Starbucks Coffee. The current Liberal government has indicated it would not appeal this decision and would instead use the regulations under the law to force retailers to add French to their trademarks. The details aren't clear yet but, in her press conference yesterday, the minister seemed to indicate that adding a French slogan would meet the requirement. Ironically, Target would likely have met this requirement had it stayed in Canada; its outdoor signage consisted of its name, logo and the line "Trouvez mieux. Payez moins." (Find better. Pay less)

A little history would help me understand the motivation. Is it traditional to append the business type onto the business name in Québec?

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