Special Report: Multicultural Marketing: Canadian market shows potential

David Bray is senior vice-president of Toronto-based Hennessy & Bray Communications, which includes the ethnic advertising service EthnoWorks. As the new census figures indicate, the face of the Canadian population is rapidly changing - and with it, the range of...

David Bray is senior vice-president of Toronto-based Hennessy & Bray Communications, which includes the ethnic advertising service EthnoWorks.

As the new census figures indicate, the face of the Canadian population is rapidly changing – and with it, the range of marketing opportunities that are open to mainstream advertisers.

With the age of multicultural marketing dawning, it might be instructive to make a comparison of the Canadian and American experiences in this area.

There’s a distinct difference between attitudes toward multiculturalism in Canada and the u.s. Our neighbors south of the border have traditionally sought to create one big happy homogeneous melting pot. Because the War of Independence resonates so loudly in American culture, there is a profound resistance to the idea of being strongly influenced by the ways of any other nation. Hence it is important that all citizens speak ‘American.’ (Some patriots find it irksome to call the language English.)

It is this attitude that prompts so many mainstream American advertisers to persist in creating mass campaigns designed to win over everyone, rather than making an effort to target particular communities.

Some of these segments of u.s. society, however, now have substantial purchasing power. Asian-Americans, for example, represent 4% of the u.s. population, and boast a median income greater than the national average. Hispanics, meanwhile, account for a formidable 12% of the population – and 52.7% of them claim to prefer advertising in Spanish.

As the importance of these emerging cultural groups has become apparent, some major u.s. advertisers – notably in the areas of insurance, telecommunications and banking – have begun to court them more aggressively.

The u.s. scene now also includes a number of high-profile ethnic advertising firms. YAR Communications in New York, for example, has become one of the pre-eminent shops in this field. Young & Rubicam has purchased two top ethnic agencies: Kang & Lee (New York/Los Angeles), which focuses on the Japanese, Chinese and Korean markets, and Bravo (New York), which concentrates on Hispanics. Another major player is Muse, Cordero and Chen of l.a., which combines expertise in the Jewish, Hispanic and Chinese markets.

For all its growth, however, the multicultural marketplace in the u.s. can’t match the unbridled potential of Canada’s.

In Canada, unlike the u.s., people are conditioned to be openly proud of their background and heritage. Avoiding prejudice isn’t a matter of ignoring differences, but rather of openly embracing them. And our segmented society contains pockets of purchasing power that demonstrate a degree of product loyalty heretofore unseen in the so-called ‘mainstream’ Anglo-Saxon market.

In a marketplace like Canada, one mass campaign can’t win over everyone.

To develop effective ethnic-targeted campaigns, it will be essential to bring mainstream mass-marketing expertise to bear, while at the same time finding ways to address the myriad cultural and linguistic preferences of Canada’s vast multicultural mosaic.

One of the major problems that marketers confront in a segmented society is media measurement. A diary methodology such as that utilized by BBM Bureau of Measurement and Arbitron can’t begin to offer an accurate assessment of tuning patterns in homes where English is not the main language spoken. While some proprietary research has been conducted by ComQUEST and DJC Research, the ultimate answer would appear to be passive measurement.

Passive systems are currently under development in Switzerland, Germany and the u.s. Both Radiocontrol and Infratest Burke are preparing to introduce systems in which participants wear watches capable of picking up audible radio broadcasts in the listener’s vicinity. The data is decoded by comparing the captured waveforms with those of broadcasting stations.

One passive system, Mobiltrak, is already up and running, although it is currently available only in Toronto (where it has been tested prior to its rollout into u.s. markets). The Mobiltrak system electronically measures tuning in passing cars. Electronic Measurement Units are placed along busy thoroughfares, where they can monitor tens of thousands of car radios in the course of a single day. Systems like this offer an accurate means of tracking media usage without linguistic prejudice.

Major advertisers who segment their campaigns to address specific ethnic target markets will be rewarded with increased share and superior brand loyalty. Show respect for your consumer, by taking the time to get to know them and speak to them on their own linguistic or cultural terms, and they’ll repay you many times over.

Also in this report:

- A long and winding road: While the numbers suggest Canada’s ethnic communities are well worth wooing, national advertisers are still reluctant to embark on a multicultural mission p.24

- Chinese Canadian Advertising, Marketing and Media Association Awards showcase p.28

- Nike takes it to the streets: Concentrates World Cup outdoor campaign in Toronto’s Portuguese and Italian neighborhoods p.26