1. Understanding Bill 101

If you’re thinking of doing business in Canada, you already know about the country’s official languages: English and French. But did you know that the province of Quebec is where most of Canada’s 7.5 Million French-speakers live?

If you’ve invested in meeting Canada’s language requirements for your labels and packaging, it makes sense to go the extra mile and localize your marketing strategy for Quebec and make the most of this important market.

2. Reaching Quebec customers, in French

If you’re looking to sell in Canada, Quebec’s unique linguistic and cultural characteristics can be your best advantage. If you invest a bit of time and effort into a well localized marketing strategy, you’ll find that doing business in Quebec pays off.

Think of it this way: if you’re trying to expand to Canada, ignoring Quebec would be like marketing in the U.S. but ignoring California, New York and Florida, which together constitute a similar percentage of the overall population.

With 25% of the Canadian population, the province includes one of North America’s largest, most vibrant markets (Montreal); world-class universities; a high standard of living; cutting-edge technology; and a diverse, highly-educated workforce.

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have localized their marketing strategies to reach Quebec audiences: Coca-Cola has tied into the province’s love of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, using the familiar “Go Habs Go” chant used by both Francophones and Anglophones. Pepsi sponsored a series of shows and events throughout the province in the summer of 2014, using the “Ici” (“Here”) tagline, on a map of Quebec.

3. Language is extremely important in Canada & Quebec

In general, Canadians are proud of their country’s bilingualism, even if not everyone speaks both languages. While English is the first language of a larger percentage of Canadians, French is not a “secondary” or “lesser” language. All products are required to have packaging and instructions in both official languages, regardless of where they are sold.

doing business in Quebec
All products sold in Canada must give equal weight to the French language on their packaging. While some products will have the French text on the same side as the English side, General Mills uses a French-language “clone” on the reverse side of its Honey Nut Cheerios box.

When dealing with the federal government, service is available in either language. But depending on the extent of your involvement in Quebec, there’s a good chance you will have to deal with the provincial government at some point. The Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) states that French is the official language of Quebec, and government documents will often only be available in this language. Some provincial government offices will have web sites and services in English available; others won’t.

Regulations under Bill 101 are complex, wide-ranging and enforced[1]. If you have a place of business in Quebec, you’re required to have a French name, and signage must be in French. If you have a business or e-commerce page which sells products to Quebecers, this must be in French as well.

4. “Vive la différence!”
French-speaking vs. English-speaking Canadians

While English and French-speaking Canadians share certain characteristics, they also have many cultural differences, meaning they can’t be marketed to identically. It’s worth the effort to learn about these differences and adapt your marketing approach accordingly.

Check back next week for part two, to learn about these crucial differences to consider in your marketing strategy.

[1] This page from EducaLoi gives a good overview, and this document from the Quebec government (in English) goes more in-depth.