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It is easy to presume that the Asian market in Canada is made up of Chinese-speaking new Canadians.When you look deeper beneath the stereotypes, however, it is clear there are a number of key segments that should attract considerable interest by...

It is easy to presume that the Asian market in Canada is made up of Chinese-speaking new Canadians.

When you look deeper beneath the stereotypes, however, it is clear there are a number of key segments that should attract considerable interest by marketers.

In Vancouver, we see three primary Chinese segments of the population.

Traditional

First, there are the traditional Chinese-Canadians, many of whom have been in Canada longer than my Polish ancestors. Some may speak English and no Chinese at all.

This segment shops downtown, as well as the traditional ‘Chinatown’ area of Vancouver, especially on Saturday and Sunday market day.

Second, there are the recent new immigrants from Hong Kong. Many of these are professionals, with children, who have arrived in Canada within the last five years.

The third segment of the Chinese market is the Taiwanese who speak Mandarin and are among the most recent immigrants to Canada, choosing to settle mainly in Vancouver and Toronto.

The Taiwanese-based World Journal even publishes a successful daily newspaper in Vancouver.

Growing interest

It is the second segment that is attracting growing interest. A look at the Chinese media shows such leading advertisers as Hongkong Bank, the cibc, Royal Bank and other financial institutions; car manufacturers Volvo, bmw, and Mercedes; lotteries and the race track; high fashion firms; and hotels and restaurants.

All are taking the language of this target audience and pitching premium quality and brand awareness.

Research shows these Cantonese-speaking consumers are fairly well off, often with young families. They prefer brand name products and could be described as conspicuous consumers.

They have become used to a wide selection of international, u.s. and European brand names available in Hong Kong. And they are often willing to pay a premium for the image of having a leading brand.

Key values

In my experience, there are some key values worth knowing: the importance of family ties in business and social settings; the high value placed on education and accomplishment; respect for elders; and the importance of forming a ‘relationship’ before enough trust is established to do business.

Richmond, a fast-growing Vancouver suburb, is popular with these newcomers with its proximity to the airport and the relatively inexpensive housing when compared with Hong Kong.

In fact, some English-speaking residents have complained that the preponderance of Chinese-only signs in some shopping areas makes it hard for them to shop and do business in their changing community.

Four Chinese shopping centres now compete for the more than 300,000 Chinese-speaking consumers estimated to live in Greater Vancouver.

Aberdeen Centre is the original success story, together with smaller Parker Place.

Yaohan Centre, owned by a Japanese corporation with its headquarters in Hong Kong, just opened an Asian grocery store with strata shops to follow. President Asia Centre is financed by Taiwanese investors and opens soon with a shopping centre and seven-storey hotel.

How best to reach this new Chinese consumer?

This community depends on ethnic media for its news and social gossip.

These media include: three Chinese daily newspapers, Sing Tao, Sing Pao and World Journal; two competing radio stations, Overseas Chinese Voice and Canadian Chinese Radio, which broadcast a range of programming including news, talk and the latest Hong Kong pop music; and two cable tv stations, which provide Cantonese and some Mandarin programs and movies on Cathay TV and Chinavision.

Stay tuned for a new daily newspaper, Ming Pao, which already publishes in Toronto and enters the Vancouver market in August for a second time.

In addition to the growing numbers of consumers, there is a growing Chinese business community and increased influence by these new investors.

The Hong Kong-Canada Business Association has chapters in 11 cities across Canada. It is the largest bilateral trade group in Canada with more than 3,000 members.

Through regular meetings, seminars and business groups, the association offers a chance to connect with the Hong Kong-Canadian business community.

And there is the Chinese-speaking Richmond Business Association, The Taiwan-Canada Business Association and the Canada China Trade Council, too.

And marketers should not forget about the largest Chinese market of all – Hong Kong and China.

Hong Kong hosts some of Asia’s largest and most influential trade shows in food, fashion, electronics, housewares and toys.

In one show, a Canadian business can meet with buyers from around the world and test products in shows that can attract up to 150,000 attendees.

A final truism. Some Hong Kong businesspeople view Canada as a great place to live, but too slow for business. It is time Canadian marketers got more assertive and grabbed for the jade ring.

Jeff Domansky is public relations director for Scali McCabe Sloves (Vancouver), a director of the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association and consultant to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

ue jade ring.

Jeff Domansky is public relations director for Scali McCabe Sloves (Vancouver), a director of the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association and consultant to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council