Canada Post and Canadian Cultural Identity

It is Friday night and that means that it is time for another update on our Canada Post research project. I had hoped that we would be able to debut our postal service survey and interview formats, but I will do that later in the weekend because I want to go over them one more time to be sure that they meet all of the criteria for objectivity and variety of questions.

What I can tell you beforehand about the survey/interview questions is that it was very difficult for me to separate the objective customer research from my subjective valuation of what Canada Post means as a Canadian institution. Personally, I think this abstract ascribed value is what makes these kind of governmental decisions so difficult and the reaction to those decisions will vary from person to person.

As a marketing researcher it is one thing to dispassionately question our customer base about the value of home delivery service, but in the case of a crown corporation that dates back 250 years, there are also additional questions regarding the cultural value of public postal service and what that really means to Canadians. Putting a price on that value is not easy, and in the end I believe that you have to include some questions that directly engage the issue of meaning and cultural identity.

The question that follows is that if you can use research to quantify the cultural value that Canadians ascribe to Canada Post, does that mean that the institution must necessarily be treated different than a younger and less culturally significant brand? For instance, would the decrease of services at a retail outlet like Home Depot be met with countless articles like this one in MacLean’s?

This is the point where what would normally be seen as a business decision crosses into the realm of our public and political lives, which is why I led off this piece with an opinion poll. These are the same kinds of questions that the mainstream media was asking throughout December and into the new year.

Lastly, there are the politicians on the government and opposition sides who have to gauge the mood of their constituencies, often without the aid of an objective research project. How are we who claim to be representatives supposed to intimately know when the cultural value of a service or institution is worth more than dollars and cents?

I don’t have a good answer for that question at this time. The best I can do is to leave you with a clip featuring Canada Post from the Rick Mercer Report from 2007. If it is featured on Rick’s show, doesn’t that mean that the service is already iconic?


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