New arrivals constitute bulk of community

It is common knowledge that Chinese immigration to Canada has increased rapidly since 1987.According to the 1991 census, Chinese has now become the third most often spoken language at home after English and French.The majority of these immigrants came from Hong...

It is common knowledge that Chinese immigration to Canada has increased rapidly since 1987.

According to the 1991 census, Chinese has now become the third most often spoken language at home after English and French.

The majority of these immigrants came from Hong Kong due to the fact that Hong Kong, with a population of six million, will be returned to Communist China in 1997.

The balance is composed of Chinese from Taiwan and China.

Trend will continue

Immigration Canada states that in 1991, 35,874 Chinese immigrated to Canada. This trend will likely continue if Hong Kong citizens are allowed to emigrate after 1997.

Chinese immigrants tend to choose urban centres such as Toronto and Vancouver.

The 1991 census estimates there are 253,000 Chinese in Toronto and 179,000 in Vancouver, which, together, account for about 75% of the Chinese population in Canada.

Most of the balance chose Montreal, Calgary, or Edmonton as their destination. Large urban centres appeal to them because of investment and employment opportunities, and because of the desire to be close to relatives or friends who have immigrated there earlier.

Generally, they could be classified into three categories: early settlers, foreign student immigrants, and recent immigrants, including business class immigrants.


Recent immigrants constitute the majority of the Chinese population and represent the bulk of the market.

Early settlers and foreign students account for relatively small proportions. Early Chinese settlers came to this country in the 1950s or ’60s.

They tend to be less educated, blue collar, and lead a modest, traditional and frugal lifestyle like that in the old country.

They started the Chinatowns in Toronto. Their lives are often confined to these vicinities. Hence, Chinese is their dominant language.

In terms of consumption, price takes precedence over quality in their concern.

Children born here

This group is most likely to have children born in Canada who are young adults now. These second-generation Chinese grew up here when there were few Chinese around. They are well assimilated and English is their primary language.

Chinese students have started coming to Canadian universities on foreign student visas since the ’70s.

After graduation, many stayed and settled here. They are likely to have above-average income and professional/ managerial occupations or have become entrepreneurs.

This group is fairly well assimilated into the mainstream culture, while keeping their heritage. Quality and value are important in their brand selection.

The influx of recent Chinese immigrants started in 1987. This group tends to be under 40 years old. Many are university-educated with middle or upper incomes, and are reasonably proficient in reading and writing, if not in speaking English.

Business class

Many of the recent immigrants fall into the business class, which is made up of investors (must invest $500,000 in Ontario; amount varies by province), entrepreneurs, and owners of businesses.

They often invest in real estate, hotels, international trading, franchised outlets, shopping centres or large restaurants with banquet halls.

Some continue to conduct business between Southeast Asia and Canada and are frequent travellers to the Pacific Rim. They are likely to own more than one property in Canada.

A recent research study at Carlton University in Ottawa by T. John Samuel prepared for the Canadian Advertising Foundation states that the Chinese, specifically the Hong Kong Chinese are the driving force in the increase in per-capita income and contribution to gnp.

The total assets among the 10,000 Hong Kong Chinese granted business immigrant visas last year is estimated at $5 billion.

Due to the high land values in Hong Kong, most immigrants arrived with a large amount of disposable income after they sold their properties in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong spirit

This new breed of Chinese immigrants brought with them the spirit of contemporary Hong Kong society, for example, a strong work ethic, combined with an entrepreneurial, competitive, and materialistic nature.

They value collective achievement, conformity, efficiency, productivity, education, family honor and social conventions.

They work hard and enjoy the good things in life such as luxury cars, high tech products, dining out, travelling, the performing arts and nightclub entertainment, among other things.

Quality of merchandise and good value are the most important criteria when they decide where to shop and what to buy.

They aspire to brands that bring prestige. Keeping up with the Joneses is always a concern, and peer pressure a life-long influence. Price seems less of a concern.

They represent high consumption power and new market opportunities for marketers. New immigrants need everything.

Successful marketing to the Chinese begins with knowing your consumers.

A marketer must carefully research the consumer’s use and predisposition to a product or service, his or her expectations, habits, needs, and how their values motivate buying behavior.

Through research, a marketer could also determine the attributes or image of its brand or service, and be able to identify which specific product attributes or image appeal to the values of the Chinese consumer.

Ahead of the game

Marketers who already have brand equity in Hong Kong are ahead of the game.

For those who do not have brand equity in Hong Kong, it is a good opportunity to establish it among the immigrants as soon as they arrive.

If possible, it is a good investment to source them in Hong Kong, then reinforce the marketing message through advertising and promotions here.

In general, Chinese immigrants tend to keep strong ties to their culture and heritage even among those who are quite assimilated into the mainstream.

The low incidence of interracial marriage among Chinese, and the 4% divorce rate reflect this pattern of behavior.

Staying power

A question in many marketers’ minds is: how long will this market last? The potential for long-term opportunities in Chinese marketing is immense.

- Recent Chinese immigrants have formed large communities in the northeast, east, and west suburbs of Metro Toronto.

Inside these communities, there are more than 30 Chinese shopping centres, coupled with hundreds of business, cultural, social service, religious and educational organizations to serve the Chinese.

These institutions tend to reinforce their culture and Hong Kong life style by providing everything similar to back home, making assimilation more difficult.

As long as immigrants continue to conduct their social lives within Chinese circles, assimilation will be slow. This applies to adults as well as the children who came with their parents.

Strong ties

- Recent immigrants will continue to send for relatives due to strong ties of extended families. The community will continue to expand based on family reunification and independent immigration.

- Chinese immigrants are inclined to speak their own language with other Chinese no matter how long they have lived in Canada. This tendency reinforces the culture.

- The Chinese marketplace will become more active due to the increase in population and in business and community activities.

- More Canadian companies will market their products to this market, and the ones who capture the market first would likely be in an advantageous position.

- More ethnic media vehicles and major events will be available for advertising, promotions and sponsorship.

Manyee Julie Lui is president of Toronto-based Manyee Lui Market Research.