Strong public relationships help Canada’s grocers survive a price-fixing scandal
The greatest businesses and brands are known for their resilience — a quality more prized than ever in an era when so much of a company’s value lies in its reputation and other intangible assets.
The Canadian grocery industry is a case study of this type of resilience, according to Argyle’s annual study, with Leger Research, into the relationships between brands and their publics. Even after serious and widely reported allegations — and some admissions — about manufacturers and retailers colluding to fix the price of bread, Canadians give their grocers high marks for satisfaction, trust and other key indicators of relationship health.
According to the Argyle Public Relationships Index™, 86 percent of Canadians are very or somewhat satisfied with the grocery retailer they use the most, and 79 percent trust their retailer. When asked specifically about the bread price-fixing issue, 47 percent say it has had no impact on their views; and while 33 percent say their view has worsened, only 9 percent say it has worsened significantly. 13 percent say the issue has actually improved their opinion of their retailer — suggesting either that they give their retailer the benefit of the doubt, or that they have handled the issue responsibly. The survey is entirely independent of the grocery industry or any individual retailer.
Canadians and their grocers: A strong, enduring relationship
Canadians’ overall relationships with their grocers are stronger than those with brands in any category surveyed by Argyle and Leger since 2016 — including banks, credit cards, airlines, insurance companies, communications providers and professional sports teams.
Canadians also think highly of grocery retailers as corporate citizens. 78 percent agree their main grocer “takes care of people who are likely to shop there.” 77 per cent believe their grocer is “committed to meeting my expectations,” and 69 per cent think the brand is “concerned about people like me.” However, when asked if they believe the public can “influence the decisions or direction” of their main grocer, only 45 per cent agree.
The legacy of trust in the category suggests Canadians will give these relationships a second chance, allowing grocers to deal with executive misbehaviour and do the right thing. Still, given the strong correlation between relationships, sales and recommendations, brands need to take great care of their ‘public relationships.’
The secret of relationships — and resilience
Public relations research suggests there are six dimensions of relationships between brands and their publics:
- Perceived commitment to meet expectations
- Perception that the brand cares for its customers (a.k.a. ‘exchange relationship’)
- Perception that the brand is concerned about ‘people like me’ (a.k.a. ‘communal relationship’)
- Perception of the brand’s responsiveness to public influence
Canada’s grocers have built these relationships over time. As noted above, they earn impressive scores on four of the six dimensions — the exceptions being concern about ‘people like me’ (still an above-average score of 69 percent) and the public’s perceived ability to influence the brand (45 per cent).
Interestingly, there is little difference in the health of the major chains’ relationships with their publics. The Argyle Public Relationship Index™ averages public ratings of how the brand they know best in each sector performs on the six dimensions. Most grocers are clustered within the 70-74 range on a 100-point scale:
Why does this matter? Relationships drive business, recommendations
The survey also shows that just over two-thirds of Canadians (67 per cent) are interested in having relationships with the brands they buy and the service providers with which they do business, down from 73 per cent a year ago. 79 per cent are more likely to do business with a brand that builds a relationship with them, and 80 per cent are more likely to recommend the brand to their friends. That means more sales in the short term — and a more valuable, resilient business for the long term.
About the study:
This edition of the Argyle Public Relationships Index™ is based on a survey of more than 1,500 Canadians, completed in two waves between January 22-25, and February 12-15, 2018, using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. The margin of error for the study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90%. Argyle expresses its appreciation to Dr. Alex Sevigny, Director of McMaster University’s Master of Communications Management (MCM) program, for his counsel in the development of the study.
About the Author:
Daniel Tisch is the President and CEO for Argyle Public Relationships. He is one of Canada’s best-known communicators, having worked at senior levels in government before embarking on a 20-year consulting career in which he has advised CEOs, boards, government leaders and marketers for some of the world’s biggest brands.