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Canada Quebec's psychic profile: A sadomasochist with a reptilian core

Clotaire Rapaille is a New York-based market-research expert that many Fortune 500 companies turn to for advice.

The marketing guru whom Quebec City is paying $300,000 to help with its image makeover has given an early report: Quebeckers, he says, are "completely neurotic" and their "sadomasochist" relationship with "the English" means they will never separate from Canada.

Clotaire Rapaille, the New York-based market-research expert many Fortune 500 companies turn to for advice, has spent the past few months collecting information to help him unlock the code to Quebec City's collective psyche as part of a contract awarded by the city. Mayor Régis Labeaume wants the city to undergo an image makeover he said it needs to give the city a more modern feel after the huge success of its 400th anniversary celebrations in 2008. Mr. Rapaille told a group of communications and marketing specialists Wednesday that "Quebeckers are emotional.

"Now don't get angry when I tell you that you are completely neurotic," he said in his presentation."You are like a sadomasochist couple. The sadist needs the masochist and the masochist needs the sadist. … These types of couples last an eternity, they are the best couples, the most stable. You are with the English a sadomasochist couple and you will be that way forever."Quebeckers' emotional impulses toward the rest of Canada are part of what Mr. Rapaille calls their "primal reptilian core," which he says constitutes the "code" that lies deep in people's subconscious.

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Unravelling that code is, he says, the key to determining how consumers behave toward products. Mr. Rapaille wants to determine how Quebec City residents relate to their city in the same way he helped Dubai and Singapore discover their own particular "code." He has spent the past few months collecting information as part of a $300,000 contract awarded by the city. What Mr. Rapaille has found so far is that residents are passionate about their city, their surroundings, and their sense of belonging.

Yet at the same time they listen heavily to the "destructive" forces generated by the city's popular "trash" talk radio. "You have a strong emotional side and yet a strong critical side that we find in trash radios, a sense of repression and inability to succeed," Mr. Rapaille said in underscoring the contradictions that characterize the city's residents. "You have this balance between the two that we will need to use with parsimony."

He has conducted eight focus groups with 350 residents where participants were invited to "escape" from the cortex portion of the brain that, according to Mr. Rapaille, controls "reason" and slip into their "emotional" side to eventually fall into the "reptilian" mode, or their most primal senses. Canadians, he said, tend to dwell in their "rational" mode, Americans "reptilian" and Quebeckers "emotional." "You are the dimension that is missing in North America and that is very important," he said.

"You are an historic aberration. You didn't have a chance to survive, yet you did. You are role model for the world.…All small cultures in the world can use you as a model." Mr. Rapaille said his work is not complete but should be ready in the spring, just in time for Mr. Labeaume to prepare his campaign to rebrand his city. Mr. Rapaille responded to complaints that his work in other cities was inaccessible, saying it can cost as much as $135,000 to get information contained in the studies he has already done. "I did the codes of these cities for various companies who paid for my work.…I cannot divulge information for which they paid," Mr. Rapaille explained to reporters at a news conference.

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