Advertisers - don't forget to market to French Canadians
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of Loi 101 (or Bill 101) which enshrined French as the official language of Québec, a province that more than 8 million people call home. At the time it was controversially at odds with then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s attempts to promote bilingualism, however it was a crucial step to preserving the French language in Québec. And to this day for businesses – big and small – which intend to sell in French Canada, an understanding of French Québécois (spoken by 86% of the French-Canadian population) is vital, to avoid annoying both officials and customers.
The bill itself is still viewed as controversial and has seen a number of amendments. While many of these haven’t affected businesses - for example restricting admission to English-speaking schools – some do, such as requiring French on commercial signs. Even this month new signage laws, first announced in May, will come into force requiring businesses with a non-French trademark name to add French words to their signs. At a time when consumers are increasingly buying online, this also raises questions for brands’ online logos and marketing, but it’s far from the only thorny issue for marketers looking to sell in Québec.
Retailers marketing themselves in French Canada – online and offline – are aware of the need to translate into French, but too many make the mistake of assuming they can use Metropolitan French terms. There’s a widespread misunderstanding around just how different the two dialects are.
Whilst there are occasional American English words which have been absorbed into Québécois, such as ‘le tuxedo’ (contrasted with Metropolitan French’s ‘le smoking’), on the whole they avoid Americanisms and Anglicisms. We still see a number of global brands getting this wrong, and this can damage brands in two distinct ways.
Firstly, they potentially open themselves up to complaints, via the Office québécois de la langue française, a public body set up specifically to protect the French language. It monitors much of what transpires in the English-speaking business community, evaluates complaints from citizens and issues requests to website owners to localise their website. It also has the power to issue sanctions, ranging from requests to conform to the law, issuing fines and even blocking a company’s website. Given how protective many Québécois are of the French language, they would react very strongly to companies which don’t comply.
Yet more worryingly, it can put off prospective shoppers, and even lead to them struggling to find the things they want. Online shopping often begins with a search, and if brands are using the wrong terms – and not marketing in a tailored manner to French Canadians – they simply won’t be found.
For example, if a major global retailer is investing in Google AdWords to sell hooded jumpers, they can’t put money behind the search term ‘hoodie’, as that’s not what consumers are searching for. Equally, some may get it wrong by using the Metropolitan French terms ‘pull’, ‘chandail’ or ‘sweat à capuche’, without realising that Québec has its own term for hoodies; ‘coton ouaté’.
Looking at some major retailers’ websites, it’s abundantly clear that their online approach has been white-labelled without consideration for the nuances of Québécois and using high numbers of Americanisms. For example, offering sections on their websites for people to browse ‘fitness et training’ or ‘lifestyle’. Some are even showing the price in US dollars instead of Canadian dollars, a really basic oversight which could easily put off customers.
Localisation is about more than mere translation, it’s about demonstrating a fluency in the culture of different regions. Its benefits are clear; it enables consumers to feel an affinity towards a business, demonstrating that they care about their desires and needs. Businesses that aren’t investing in getting it right are overlooking the basic human desire to feel valued – and consumers are voting with their feet. Research by eMarketer found that a fifth of French-speaking internet users had stopped following a brand or company because it didn’t post enough content in French. As brands increasingly invest in new technologies, such as AI and chat bots, which automate parts of the customer journey, the need to create a positive human connection with customers has never been stronger.
Businesses need to offer customers what they want, when they want it. It may sound obvious, but a large number of businesses are getting it wrong. To counter this, companies need to ensure they’re working with, or hiring, people who understand the marketing nuances of different regions, and not just in Canada. As deploying a chat bot to interact with a customer in a language they don’t speak on a website with prices in foreign currency is a sure-fire way to send them elsewhere.
As Bill 101 nears forty, there’s simply no excuse for companies which fail to respect the linguistic, cultural and behavioural variances in different parts of the world. The internet has created a world where the shops never close, but if businesses in French Canada keep getting it wrong, they might not be open much longer.
Lenny Renshaw, Multilingual Organic Performance Manager at Locaria
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.