Growing Ethnocultural Diversity: Opportunity and Challenge to Marketers

By Milind Shirke, Managing Director – Ethos Communications Inc.

Statistics Canada has released results from the 2016 census with reference to Immigration and ethnocultural diversity across Canada. The results are in line with the trend from previous years with some new twists.

Following are some key findings

  • 21.9% of the population reported they were or had ever been a landed immigrant or permanent resident in Canada.
  • The Visible minority population accounts for 22.3% or 7.6 M people across Canada
  • Number of recent immigrants (landed between 2011 and 2016) stands at 1,212,075
  • For the first time, Africa ranks second, ahead of Europe, as a source continent of recent immigrants to Canada, with a share of 13.4% in 2016
  • Asia (including the Middle East) remains, however, the top source continent of recent immigrants. In 2016, the majority (61.8%) of newcomers were born in Asia

Of the visible minority population, key ethnicities comprise of South Asians (1,924,635), Chinese (1,577,060), African and Caribbean (1,198,545), Filipino (780,130), Latin American (447,320) and Arab (523,235)

Marketers slow to warm up to immigrants and Newcomers

Despite the significant opportunity presented by the arrival of immigrants – most marketers have generally ignored this “niche” segment which now comprises 22.3% of the population.  The fact that major CMA’s like Greater Toronto Area (GTA) or Greater Vancouver Area (GVA) have almost 50% of their population identified as visible minority is still not sufficient to grab the attention of most marketers!

Issues Facing Marketers

  1. Awareness: While immigration has grown steadily over the past decade, the extent of diversity now concentrated in major census metropolitan areas has not yet been fully understood by leadership across organizations. Hence, senior management buy-in and involvement is lacking.
  1. Perceptions: In a society generally dominated by mass mediated marketing and brands, mainstream marketers assume the mass mediated socialization of new Canadian immigrants is a virtual certainty. However, the consumption of mass media by new Canadians is different from those born or living in Canada over longer periods. It can take up to 7 years or more for a new immigrant to start mirroring the mainstream media consumption. Immigrants start off with consuming ethnic media – which bring world class entertainment from their home countries.
  1. Focus: Marketers are hard pressed to prioritize and dedicate time, attention and resources to a “niche” segment.
  1. Lack of Resources: Marketers lack in-house expertise to begin addressing multicultural marketing. As well the fact the immigration is from non-European source countries presents a cultural challenge to most marketers. Mainstream agencies are often in the same situation – leading to a resource vacuum, however they seem to have dropped the ball in finding solutions on behalf of their clients.

Risks of “ignoring” the immigrant opportunity

  1. Lost Generation: Lack of awareness of products, brands, places, – if unchecked rubs off on to the second generation – who too end up not using the brand, as well as are not in a position to guide a newcomer who looks to them for direction and advice (hence the term lost generation).
  1. Lost Revenue: If not for the significant spread between the Canadian $ and the US$ - most immigrants are happy to jet off to the well-known destinations (Brands) in the US – Disney World and NY City and later to Mexico and Cuba, if they are not familiar with Canadian destinations. Many of them buy their cars from the US, with Canadian auto dealers losing out on the opportunity.
  1. Losing leverage of “Canadian Identity” – immigrants and Newcomers are eager to try everything “Canadian” – provided they know that Brand X is Canadian. A perfect example is French’s ketchup – once people got to know the issue of Heinz’s factory closure and the alternative was a Canadian Brand – just like all Canadian’s, immigrants were all out in force buying French’s ketchup.  They say knowledge is power! By the same token, a brand like President’s Choice has never chosen to speak to immigrants and is likely absent from first and second generation kitchen’s as well.
  1. No Loyalty:  When marketers do not reach out and build bridges with consumers and their communities the relationship is purely transactional and it will be easy for competition to move in and take away market share.

The Way Forward

  1. Product Development and Integration: Many Canadian Marketers are showing the way by developing products suited to the growing diversity in Canada. Some examples are:
    1. Royal Canadian Mint – Festival themed coins and stamps
    2. Banks – Royal Bank of Canada, CIBC, TD Bank – with Newcomer welcome packages
    3. Brita Water Filters – with customised festival packaging
    4. Kraft Canada – Recipes on their website – showing how to use their brands to make ethnic dishes
  2. Price Value Strategies – immigrants are sensitive to price and are looking for value for money
  3. Diversity in Workplace – Canadian banks have taken the lead to match branch diversity to the population around the location
  4. Communication – Ethnic media plays a key role in reaching immigrants and needs to be built into media strategies and plans

The 2016 census again highlights the changing face of Canada – its now up to Canadian marketers to recognise, adapt and leverage these opportunities.

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Tags: census, statistics canada, minorities, canadian marketing, immigration, ethnocultural