Marketing in Quebec and the rest of Canada

Photos are from The President’s Choice website.

As it is a law to label products in Canada’s two official languages no matter where in the country they are to be sold, the translations may not be literal such as the examples above. See that they took care not to include “saveur canadienne” in the French version? Yep, the French version simply says “country-style coffee” (the nation, not the countryside). It’s a wordplay so the nationalist Quebecers wouldn’t feel turned off by the word “canadien” and the federalists wouldn’t feel annoyed because it still can refer to Canada if they want to see it that way. Then in the description of the product, it says:

[…] this delightful coffee has been specially blended and roasted to achieve a taste profile beloved by Canadian coffee drinkers.

[…] ce succulent café a été spécialement mélangé et torréfié pour offrir aux amateurs de café de chez nous la saveur qu’ils recherchent.

Basically, the English and French versions say the same thing, except that the French version again avoided saying “amateurs de café canadiens”. Instead it says “de chez nous”, “from around here”. Knowing the mentality of the Quebecers, we supposedly would think of the coffee drinkers from Quebec, not Canada, but it doesn’t stop anyone think of Canada though. I’d say it’s a really interesting way to avoid the hot-button topic and market the product to all groups instead of just a particular one.

Let’s further stretch this topic of what I have observed as a resident of Quebec. I have seen potato sacks with a label “product of Canada / produit du Québec”, Labatt Bleue bottles with a fleur-de-lys symbol, opposed to a maple leaf one, MacDonald cigarettes with the fleur-de-lys and the Quebec parliament building on the blue packs, opposed to red packs with a maple leaf on them (I couldn’t find a photo, but my roommate, who travelled to British Columbia last week, confirms this), “Canadian-style / style québécois” pizza, and even store flyers would take the importance of the Saint-Jean holiday in consideration. Even some well-known stores have a different name in Quebec such as our Shoppers Drug Marts are called Pharmaprix, Staples stores are called Bureau en gros, KFCs are called PFK (Poulet frit Kentucky), etc. Yet, our Canadian Tire, Best Buy, and Future Shop stores still keep their English name, so not every company name is translated here!

I have never lived elsewhere in the country other than Quebec, so my perception is pretty much influenced by it. I did travel all over the country and yes, it does feel a bit strange to be outside the French-speaking “bubble”. For example, when I was in Vancouver a couple summers ago, I thought the Shoppers Drug Mart was neat, yet I had a slight nagginng feeling that I had been there before. So one time, I had to get some toothpaste and I was reading the description on the back and came across the term SHOPPERS DRUG MART / PHARMAPRIX. I was rather surprised and started looking at the store’s decor. Suddenly, everything was so familiar to me! Let’s just say my Vancouverite friend, who never had been to Quebec, had to put up with me going a bit insane.

Even the English language spoken in Quebec can be slightly different, but that’s another topic that I will be working on in the future.


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