People do not see the same things in the same way. They respond differently to stimuli. Gender, age, level of education and experience with products affect perceptions and behaviours.
In a large and diverse country such as Canada, area of residence is another critical differentiator. Reactions reflect the specific character of the different parts of Canada.
- In highly multicultural cities, there is heightened sensitivity to diversity in advertising. In a recent ad test, Torontonians were quicker than Montrealers to point out that a Christian cross atop a building might leave members of other religions feeling left out.
- Some areas are well known for environmental awareness. In one automotive study, we found that Vancouverites were more willing than Canadians elsewhere to live with the inconveniences of a low-emission vehicle.
- Of course, cultural references play a major part in how consumers receive a message. Dennis Haysbert does a wonderful job as the voice of Allstate in the US and English Canada but is virtually unknown in French-speaking Quebec, where Gregory Charles is the official spokesperson.
You should never assume that reactions in one area are representative of the entire country.
So should you systematically test products or messages throughout the country? Not necessarily. Where should you focus your research effort? To decide, refer to your marketing plan:
What is the primary target area?
Very often, success in one or two cities is enough to justify a business case. In those instances, it may be wise to focus investigations and tailor marketing efforts to those markets.
Are regional adaptations possible?
If you have the budget and leeway to tweak your product or message to suit various markets then by all means, research those markets! If that is not a possibility, ask yourself: How useful are regional results if you are not able to act upon them?