Chinese community marketing: Bridging the gap with goodwill

During the past few years, more and more mainstream marketers have begun to recognize the potential of the prospering Chinese-Canadian market.Many of them are jumping on the bandwagon without realizing this market has to be tackled differently from the mainstream market.In...

During the past few years, more and more mainstream marketers have begun to recognize the potential of the prospering Chinese-Canadian market.

Many of them are jumping on the bandwagon without realizing this market has to be tackled differently from the mainstream market.

In our experience, big-budget advertising is no guarantee of success in the Chinese-Canadian community.

Good mix

The key to success not only depends on a good mix of advertising, public relations, direct marketing, sales promotion and community and event involvement, but also on reaching out, building goodwill and being able to work cultural elements effectively into a campaign.

For our client, North American Life Assurance, involvement in the community was vital since buying life insurance is considered taboo and ‘betting against oneself.’

The company has been successful after sponsoring a community fundraising campaign and launching a series of print ads that positioned the company as a provider of financial security and financial planning services, thereby showing the company is interested in the here and now, not the hereafter.

Beyond selling

The Chinese community is accustomed to business having a presence beyond the selling of wares, from good works such as participation in fundraising efforts to a wide range of public relations activities.

Without community involvement, companies are often viewed as an unknown quantity, and even the biggest advertising campaign runs the risk of falling flat.

North American Life felt Dragon Ball ’94, a night consisting of a gala reception, food, fun, costumes and dance, was the right event to kick off its Chinese-Canadian marketing campaign.

They chose this event because it serves as an annual fundraising effort for the Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation, a Chinese nursing home in Toronto, and is one of the community’s most visible social events.

As well, Chinese culture places great importance on caring for the elderly, who are regarded as having paved the way for younger generations. This event is close to their hearts.

Being associated with the Dragon Ball is, to the Chinese community, like being an official sponsor of the Olympics or associating one’s company with the United Way or Red Cross.

More than a dozen corporate sponsors participated.

Such events not only offer tremendous visibility, but also establish goodwill among the target audiences.

Seizing the momentum generated by the Dragon Ball, North American Life launched an integrated sales promotion and direct marketing campaign to reach Chinese-Canadian households and to encourage trial of their new products and services.

This strategy was selected because the Chinese, especially newly landed immigrants, tend to rely on friends and relatives when making decisions about what to buy and which companies to deal with.

Word of mouth and customer-to-customer campaigns work well in areas such as financial services.

With 1997 drawing closer, more affluent immigrants to Canada are expected from Hong Kong.

Marketing to the Chinese-Canadian community will continue to grow, and companies which approach the market properly can reap the rewards.

However, advertisers must understand their Chinese audience.

The best way to start is to get involved in community events.

Terry O’Connor is president of Terry O Communications, a Toronto-based company that provides corporate and marketing communications services to Canadian businesses.