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

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.