Face of Chinese market is changing

Loretta Lam is managing partner of Focus Communications, a Markham, Ont.-based public relations firm specializing in high technology and Chinese marketing. The face of the Chinese market in Canada is changing dramatically - and marketers interested in targeting this community...

Loretta Lam is managing partner of Focus Communications, a Markham, Ont.-based public relations firm specializing in high technology and Chinese marketing.

The face of the Chinese market in Canada is changing dramatically – and marketers interested in targeting this community are going to have to adapt their approaches accordingly.

A decade ago, most Chinese who came to live in this country were Cantonese-speaking immigrants from Hong Kong. But today, as Strategy readers know, the majority are Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan or Mainland China. (In 1998, for example, Mandarin speakers represented some 85% of the new Chinese immigrants who settled in Toronto.)

These newcomers differ significantly from Hong Kong Chinese. What’s more, Mandarin speakers from Taiwan also differ significantly from their Mainland Chinese counterparts. The two groups come from very different social and political environments, and have very different cultures, beliefs, lifestyles, dialects and social values.

Taiwan is now this country’s number one source of immigrant investors – many of whom run multinational businesses from home and use Canada as a satellite office for doing business in North America and Europe.

Like Hong Kong, Taiwan is economically liberated and has long been exposed to foreign ideas and influences. Half a century of Japanese rule (1895-1945) left a particularly strong imprint on the culture; even today, the Japanese influence can be seen in everything from cuisine to furniture design.

Taiwanese have an entrepreneurial mind-set, and a great fondness for both social and business gatherings. These factors help account for the growing number of Taiwanese-style stores, restaurants and bars one now sees in the Toronto suburbs of Markham and Richmond Hill.

Immigrants from Mainland China tend to be well-educated white-collar professionals such as doctors, engineers, government officials, information technologists, accountants, nurses and teachers. Their work experiences and personal values generally differ from those of Taiwanese immigrants, and they face the challenge of finding their way in an economy quite dissimilar to the one they are used to.

The good news, for marketers, is that both groups of Mandarin-speaking immigrants typically arrive in Canada with large amounts of money. They are, in other words, attractive target groups.

Marketers who target the Chinese-Canadian audience must fine-tune their strategies to take into account changing immigration patterns. What works for Cantonese-speaking immigrants may not be at all effective for Mandarin speakers. The challenge is to find the right media, establish connections with the right professional or social groups, and craft a message tailored specifically to the audience.

Mandarin-speaking immigrants move in their own separate circles. They visit their own grocery stores and restaurants, attend their own business, professional and social gatherings, celebrate their own traditions and holidays and belong to their own associations and clubs.

People from Mainland China are eminently familiar with major American brands such as McDonald’s, General Motors and Coca-Cola that have joint ventures or an established market presence in China. Taiwanese immigrants, for their part, are familiar with both American and European brands. These brands have an obvious advantage, while lesser-known brands must work harder to build profile in the Mandarin-speaking market.

Linguistic issues are of particular importance. The difference between Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese Chinese is analogous to the difference between Quebecois French and Parisian French: Both the written and spoken forms of the language can vary significantly. There are also slight differences between the dialect used in Taiwan and that of Mainland China.

Keep linguistic differences in mind when choosing media. The daily World Journal, for example, is read primarily by Mandarin speakers. That’s reflected both in the writing and in the news coverage, which emphasizes reportage on China and Taiwan. Sing Tao, by contrast, has traditionally served a Cantonese-speaking readership, although the paper has recently adjusted its slant to attract more Mandarin speakers.

When developing marketing and advertising materials, careful thought must be given to headlines and body copy. Most marketers would, naturally, prefer to create ads that work for both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. There are, however, situations that call out for separate creative for both groups – either because the two dialects are not compatible, or because an idea is not effective in both.

Don’t assume that you can simply translate copy from Cantonese to Mandarin. Your Asian marketing agency should have experts who thoroughly understand Mandarin speakers – their needs, beliefs and social values – and can craft advertising materials that reflect their distinct sensibilities.

Marketers who wish to tap the Chinese-Canadian market must do their homework: observe, conduct research and collect data. Before launching a campaign, make sure to consult experts, test the market and evaluate the performance of your creative. Adjust your strategies on an ongoing basis, and – above all – be persistent. Immigration patterns may have changed, but these basic principles hold as true today as they did a decade ago.

Also in this report:

- Marketers overlooking youth audience: Youth ethnic Canadians retain strong ties to their cultures: So why don’t more advertisers target them in their own media? p.29

- South Asian films a hit for AMC p.30

- Telelatino tires more mainstream fare: Hopes to build advertiser base with subtitled movies, music videos p.33

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group