The name of my webinar was Successfully Landing Brands in French Canada, hosted on the Cision Canada network on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. As part of its marketing efforts for its public relations and media monitoring products, the firm hosts free webinars on marketing and other topics. While I live in a predominantly English area and work for an English-language school board, there are areas near the Quebec border that are predominantly French and that I need to properly market our schools to – areas such as Alfred , Alexandria and Hawkesbury, Ontario . There is also tough competition for students in these areas and many of these areas feature strong separate and public French board schools, meaning marketing tips provided in the webinar will be helpful in my efforts to encourage parents in these areas to enroll in my board’s schools.
Through this webinar, I was virtually introduced to Marie-Josee Gagnon, of Casacom Communications, (see: http://casacom.ca/en/casacom/team/marie-josee-gagnon/) who led the webinar, which showed how US-based arts and crafts giant Michaels (http://canada.michaels.com/) introduced seven stores into Quebec in 2012. The company wanted to avoid problems that another US giant, Wal-Mart, encountered when it came into Canada more than 13 years ago. The webinar was not a great opportunity to interact with others. The one-hour session allowed written questions and did not provide a list of participants. I asked a question seeking ideas for how an English school board could market to French families in a French community in Ontario. However, with only 15 minutes for questions, mine was not addressed. This is not a great platform for building connections, although it is extremely helpful for marketing tips.
There are several ways that Gagnon suggests companies can market to Quebec consumers and Canadian French consumers outside of Quebec. Her tips include:
*Recognize that French consumers have key cultural differences that require different marketing approaches. Marketing in Quebec requires accurate, regionally sensitive translations of English-to-French marketing products such as signage and brochures. Products, as much as possible, should be sourced from Quebec and the French communities you are serving . There is also a strong need for commercials to reflect Quebec and French culture. Surveys also show that Quebec consumers like to see clearer, less-cluttered display areas and do not like products displayed outside a store.
*There is a requirement to introduce your business not just through conventional advertising, but through social media using influence leaders in your target community. As a crafts company, Michaels met with the Quebec Minister of Culture, and the head of the agency which implements Bill 101 regulations, and also enlisted the help of popular Quebec actress and painter Brigitte Lafleur (see: http://www.brigittelafleur.com/). Michaels also enlisted the help of local influencers by having craft days for journalists and their children. These efforts were followed by social media campaigns that featured videos of craft bloggers, people who won craft contests, and promotional videos featuring Lafleur (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6Azg0vttT0) and others.
*New businesses must also send the message that they are not in Quebec or French communities to compete against existing, Quebec or locally based businesses. The key message must be that they are there to co-exist by “growing the market.”
*As a business consultant, Gagnon provided a quote that also stressed a key philosophy of social media marketing in general AND when you are marketing specifically to Quebec consumers: “They must know you would (sic) always tell the truth.”
There are several things that I wish to do in my next kindergarten registration advertising campaign in January 2015 as a result of attending this seminar. These efforts include:
*In the fall of 2014, I will work to get the board involved in our core French communities in the weeks leading up to the campaign. I would like the board to sponsor special events for children – spelling bees, music festivals, children’s fun days, and indoor soccer programs etc. We will video and stream these events to provide a positive experience for parents and connect them with our board.
*I will ask Grades 7 and 8 students in our schools to blog on our behalf about the great things taking place in our schools.
*I will work with local influencers such as local mayors to talk about the value of the Upper Canada District School Board – the board that I work for.
*I will talk more about the caring nature of our board through testimonial videos about our children’s foundation and how it has helped people.
*I will move away from newspapers and on to fully online campaigns and also video and stream events such as our Welcome to Kindergarten Days in French communities – showing the public what the parents and children are experiencing at these days and what they can experience at our schools.
Proof of Attendance
Email from Cision to my personal account on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 1:15 p.m,. from firstname.lastname@example.org
“Thank you for attending “Successfully Landing Brands in French Canada”