Engaging Multi-cultural Canada

I recently had the opportunity to work with an automotive manufacturer interested in learning about how to best engage with multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Canadians. Do we need multiple strategies for dealing with different ethnic groups? Whom do we target? 1st generation, 2nd generation or both? What differentiates the generations? Lots of questions!
Canada’s cultural mosaic is changing. Each new wave of immigration adds to the country’s rich ethnic and cultural composition. Immigration is a substantial driver of Canadian consumer behaviour; that’s why the pattern of change seen in the geographic origin of new immigrants will have a dramatic influence on how marketers develop and execute their marketing strategies. Following recent trends, an increasing number of immigrants will come from non-European countries so that, by 2017, roughly one in five Canadians will be a member of a visible minority – largely due to immigration from South Asia and China – both predicted to drive much of the immigration growth. In just a few years up to 4.4 million Canadians will be of Chinese or South Asian descent.
New immigrants to Canada tend to settle in major urban centres. This means that cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary will see the greatest impact. By 2017, the vast majority (95%) of visible minorities will live in metropolitan areas, according to StatsCan projections from 2005. Toronto, however, always gains the lion’s share of immigration. It is forecasted that, by 2017, Toronto will house nearly half of the visible minority population of Canada, with Vancouver claiming nearly one in five new visible minority immigrants and Montreal one in 10. All together, these three urban areas will account for three-quarters of all of Canada’s visible minorities, with profound impacts on communicating to consumers in these locations.
For first generation Canadians, marketing that appeals to them as individuals holds greater appeal than advertising that appeals to them as Canadian citizens, because they haven’t yet developed a strong sense of identity as Canadians. As a result, communications and tactics that are “spoken” in their native tongue and often, by someone from their community tend to generate greater interest.
In contrast, those who are the second or more generation of their family to live in Canada are more likely to find appealing the marketing campaigns that speak to them as a Canadian. Therefore, marketing to first generation Canadians is much more effective when ethnic heritage is taken into account. Communicating key messages in the mother tongue of the target community and through channels relevant to them are important tactics in an overall multicultural marketing scheme. Successful ethnic marketing strategies are adapted to the cultural nuances of the intended audience.


Look beyond traditional research
Traditional market research asks consumers what they think about product attributes, but does not consider the thought process underlying their choices. Effective marketing understands that the reasons people buy are affected by more intangible factors such as beliefs, attitudes and customs, and that these factors are influenced by a consumer’s heritage and cultural identity.
Don’t translate, create
Companies often make the mistake of simply translating their existing campaign into different languages instead of targeting campaigns to specific ethnic groups. A process of “transcreation,” where the sales copy is adapted with thought to the nuances of the target language so that equivalent idioms and concepts are found.
There cannot be a disconnect between what a marketing department does and the systems in place to support it. Product sheets or other marketing materials should be available in the target audience’s native language, and if there is a call to action in the print, radio or television advertisement the responding frontline staff should be able to answer in those languages.
Do it all the time
One of the common errors that companies make is only advertising in the ethnic media during festive occasions, for instance Chinese New Year. Ethnic groups tend to be very brand loyal, and that an ongoing day-to-day campaign of building trust is required