Research hones in on North American attitudes

Orlando, Fla. -- Here at the 2014 Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Spring Conference, Sarah Catlett, VP of The Futures Company, took a high-level, continental look at consumer marketing.

Catlett kicked off the HIRI conference with a quick look at Target's disappointing venture into Canada. The Minnesota-based retailer's efforts to change the way Canadians shop has fallen short, she said, partly because the company missed consumer and cultural cues. 

Her presentation, titled "Not Just Another United States: Distinguishing Consumer Attitudes in Canada, Mexico and the United States," included the observation that Canadians don't necessarily share the U.S. appreciation of one-stop shopping. There was also Canadian pride in Zellers stores that didn't transfer to Target following the latter's acquisition of the former. 

"In order to understand how to do business in Canada and Mexico, you have to understand the market forces, and also the consumer and the culture," said Catlett. "Not all North American consumers are created equal." 

Catlett pointed to variations in values north and south of the border. For instance:

• In Canada, 68% say they want to show pride in domestic-made products, compared with 60% in the United States and 66% in Mexico.

• In Canada, 82% of consumers say they are looking out for sales and special offers, compared with 78% in the United States and 66% in Mexico; and

• In Mexico, 75% of consumers are concerned with sexism, compared with 32% in the Unites States and 42% in Canada.

Catlett rolled out the idea of a "Values Frequency Meter," which varies across North American markets. The Futures Group's meter showed Canada higher in secularism and lower in religiosity; and it showed Mexico with a higher interest in societal stimulation and less in societal stability. (In other words, Mexicans were more likely to agree with the statement: "I would prefer to live in a society that readily embraces change and new ideas.") 

"When working across global markets, you need to create a brand that is globally resonant and locally relevant," she said. Cultural values can amplify or distort your brand message, she added.

The Futures Group was one of seven research-oriented presentations on the agenda for the HIRI Spring Conference.