To most marketers, multicultural marketing is like gym workouts. You know it’d be good for you. You’ve heard it plenty of times. But like most gym memberships, the idea is attractive in January and starts gathering dust by the time Lunar New Year rolls around in February.

And that’s a mistake.

 

Brands can’t afford to ignore multicultural markets

If we were to run an ethnic campaign in Richmond, BC, Cupertino, California, or Markham, Ontario, the campaign would be in English.

Major urban centres are quickly becoming more Asian. The 2016 Census showed that over 46% of Metro Vancouver residents are of Asian origin. That number should make any marketer bolt upright and reflect on budget allocation. To not take into account cultural sensitivities when creating marketing plans is inefficient and not fully rational. If almost half of the population of a major urban centre is of Asian origin, it does beg the question: is your target market more Asian than you think?

 

Think your prime prospect isn’t Asian?

You might want to reconsider that.

The area general manager of OpenRoad Auto Group in Burnaby told VanMag last year that 60 per cent of dealership’s customer base speaks Mandarin. China is now the second-largest source of tourists in Vancouver, after the United States. Reliable market research on North America’s multicultural market is spotty, but the findings are in plain sight. At Holt Renfrew on any given day, Chinese customers fill the store, examining four-hundred-dollar flip-flops and leafing through racks of Gucci. The salesperson at the door of the Canada Goose flagship store repeatedly welcomes young Chinese shoppers eager to browse the selection of thousand-dollar jackets. Two years ago, over 3,000 vehicles worth more than $150,000 were insured in BC. Car dealers anecdotally credit Chinese buyers. A brand should be strategic about the allocation of its marketing dollars, and if their customer bases look similar to that of OpenRoad Auto Group’s, a smart choice would be to invest over half of its marketing dollars in the multicultural market.

 

Canada is becoming more Asian

The old Canada is fast disappearing, but marketers don’t fully realise that yet. The old Canada is the country where being bilingual means speaking both English and French, with an economy focused on natural resources, where ‘foreign powers’ meant our on-and-off friend down south and those across the Atlantic, and a place where power and money was concentrated in Eastern Canada.

The new Canada is different. It’s still influenced by old Canada-the population is centered in the East, Toronto is the Canadian home of most corporate headquarters, and French is still the lingua franca of important regions of the country. But the focal point of Canada’s economy is shifting westward. Property values are so much higher in Vancouver that it now takes more than three times longer for an average resident to save for a downpayment for a Vancouver home versus for a Toronto home. In 2017, Vancouver’s GDP per capita had grown quicker than the national average every year since 2005, and there’s no reason to believe that 2018 was any different. The Vancouver Board of Trade attributes the region’s strong economic performance to the region being Canada’s gateway to the Pacific. And that status is clearly important; in 2010, the Asia-Pacific became a larger trading partner to Canada than Europe.

Our focus is shifting towards the Pacific. India, China, and the Philippines consistently rank as the top three sources of immigration to Canada. In 2017, 43 per cent of all immigrants to Canada were from those three countries.

Numbers aside, it doesn’t take long to spot Teslas, BMWs, Mercedes, and Lamborghinis on the streets of Vancouver.

 

Losing competitive space before you blink

One of my many vices is binging on Chinese period dramas. On my WeChat feed today, Telus pushed out a notification about how with Optik Essentials, I can stream them to my heart’s content as for as long as I can ward off sleep deprivation. CIBC signed an exclusive deal with Toronto’s airport to be the only bank allowed to advertise within the airport, giving CIBC the chance to sign newcomers up even before they step outside the walls of Pearson International. Political parties win majorities or have to make do with minority governments based on how well they court newcomer segments. The battle for multicultural audiences is silent but fierce. If brands are not winning multicultural segments, they are losing overall market share.

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