Biculturalism: The New Multiculturalism

Since the 1970s, multiculturalism has been a part of Canadian culture and law. It’s one of the ways the country sees itself (except for perhaps Quebec on occasion). However, multiculturalism makes better political policy than marketing policy. In fact, how do you truly do multicultural marketing — meaning reach all those groups that represent our multicultural mosaic? I dare say, not a single company in North America truly delivers multicultural marketing. It’s simply not efficient and cost effective.

Asian marketing as an approach works better, but it also has its limitations. Some of the work Hamazaki Wong has done is indeed Asian marketing where campaigns are created targeting Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets. But these rarely have a common creative direction. How can you when each market is so distinct?

Multiculturalism was a nice and convenient perspective when cultural groups were represented in small numbers. In this case, altogether, they could be thought of as multiple cultures. Today, that’s changed where certain cultural communities, such as the Chinese, have come to dominate market regions. And nowhere is that more evident than in cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

Today, Vancouver is bicultural. Citizens have dual identities. They are Chinese learning to adopt Canadian identities, or Chinese-Canadian (two nouns, not one adjective modifying a noun as it was before). Or Punjabi-Canadian, or Portuguese-Canadian, or Korean-Canadian, or Filipino-Canadian, or dare I say, French-Canadian. You get the idea.

From a marketing point-of-view, the consumers in each of these segments see themselves as bicultural. Hence, the way we think of marketing must change to consider bicultural consumers and bicultural sensibilities. The recent spate of controversy in Vancouver about Chinese characters on bus signs is a sign of things to come. We believe that marketers and consumers alike need to prepare themselves for greater bicultural marketing-communications as it just makes sense in a changing world where immigration and human relocation are facts of life. And yes, both English and Chinese in advertising is OK as the two languages in themselves, together in one ad, make a statement. The dissidents need to get over their fears and accept the new reality.

Bicultural marketing can be beautiful. It can be effective and inspire new ideas and ways of marketing we’ve not thought of yet. And Canada can be the crucible where this form of marketing creative innovation can flourish. As an agency, Hamazaki Wong is preparing itself for this new reality. Are you ready?

We welcome your comments. Or contact us to find out more about our perspective on this emerging area. Watch for more thinking on this topic coming soon.

– Sonny

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