Our firm contributed to a recent report by eMarketer on French Canada titled "Using Digital Channels for Marketing in Québec".
The report is available on a subscription basis only but here are a few excerpts.
French-speaking Quebec is too big to ignore for national and international brands seeking relevance in Canada. Consumers in the province make up roughly one-quarter of Canada’s population, and three-quarters of Quebecers only speak French at home.
It’s an easy conclusion for a national or international brand to simply translate content for a local audience. But veterans of this playing field suggest it’s an issue broader than just mother tongue.
Language in social channels is particularly relevant, where customer interaction can be near instantaneous and viewed widely. A common issue among French speakers in Canada is the slow response of brands to customer issues raised in French, likely due to resource skimping related to language.
“Responses are slower in French from national brands than they are for local brands,” said Marie-Claude Ducas, a Quebec journalist and co-author of “Les médias sociaux en entreprise: Les comprendre, les utiliser et en tirer profit,” a business book on social media. “Slow responses, in any language, show less attention or care toward the customer, and this eventually turns an active client away.”
“Consumers in Quebec will reward brands that make a distinct and visible effort in tailoring their story to the Quebec market,” said Eric Blais, president of Headspace Marketing. The “visible” qualifier is especially germane to Quebec. “That’s the difference between a brand that’s acting as a tourist in the market, as opposed to a brand that looks and feels like it’s here to stay.”
In other words, context is as important as content.
Francophone digital habits
How do these general demographic realities translate to digital habits? Between 2008 and 2012, weekly time spent online among French internet users in Canada grew just 16%, or an average of 4% annually, compared with 46% among English speakers in Canada, or around 11% annually, according to a September 2013 report from MediaTechnology Monitor (MTM).
BBM Analytics data collected in fall 2013 confirmed the gap in time spent online. French-speaking adults in Canada 18 and older spent 16.1 hours weekly on the internet, about 18% less than total Canada-wide counterparts who spent 19.7 hours. The gap appears to be narrowing a bit; in 2010, the difference was roughly 20%.
Quebecers value original content specifically curated for them.They seek it out, consume it frequently, share it with friends, and continue to discuss it at length in a variety of forums.