Is Ethnic Marketing a Thing of the Past?

Have you considered how the face of the average Canadian is changing? In Vancouver, multiculturalism is everywhere. It’s reflected in the foods we eat, the music we listen to, and the clothes we buy. The face of Canada is changing, and for marketers that begs the question—who is the typical Canadian? What do they look like?

According to data from the 2011 Census, the country’s population totalled 33.5 million, an increase of almost 6% since the 2006 Census. While that growth rate is highest among all of the G8 countries, Doug Norris, SVP and chief demographer at Environics Analytics, says the growth isn’t because of the country’s birth rate, which has been in free-fall since the 1960s.

To combat the declining population and stave off economic recession, the Canadian Government has welcomed immigrants, particularly those who can bring prosperity and advanced training or education into the country. A strong majority of Canadians (73%) reject the idea that immigrants “take away jobs from other Canadians.” In fact, most Canadians think immigrants help the economy. According to Environics, approximately two-thirds of Canada’s current population growth may be attributed to immigration—and more than one out of three newcomers land in one of the country’s three largest cities: Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal.

In fact, Statistics Canada has forecasted that by 2031, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal will be populated by visible majorities. However, apart from telecom and financial institutions, most Fortune 500 companies have been slow to respond to Canada’s new demographic make-up. But that’s starting to change. For example, automakers like Nissan, Toyota, and Honda have begun dedicating parts of their budget to wooing South Asians, noting the demand for quality vehicles that can cater to extended families—the average South Asian family being 5.6 people.

Other companies are also looking at how to create a long-term, meaningful relationship with these customers. For example, in 2011, Clorox launched a limited-edition red water filter for its Brita brand. The decision was made based on the fact that Brita over-indexes among Chinese consumers and red is associated with good fortune. In the first eight weeks of launch, the red filter became one of the fastest-selling Brita pitchers ever.

As Canada continues to grow by almost 250,000 immigrants each year, it’s important that marketers truly understand the realities and implications, identify major urban centres, and look for opportunities to communicate and connect with these new Canadians. For many, multicultural marketing is no longer some complementary add-on when and if the budget permits. It has become a vital component of every marketing strategy.

Although ethnic marketing has suffered a strange long-term segregation that has kept it separate from the mainstream, smart marketers understand this is no longer an option. Canada’s major cities have been undergoing a slow revolution that will soon result in a new mainstream. As a result, ethnic marketing may well be a thing of the past. In the future, it will simply be called marketing.