Marketing to South Asians in Vancouver: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Are you looking to expand your business? Of course, you are. Who isn’t? In a market beleaguered by advertisers and agencies fighting for your marketing dollars, many businesses are looking towards the South Asian and Chinese markets in Vancouver.

Ethnic marketing has been poo-pooed by many ad agencies who love to claim that mainstream marketing is sufficient for reaching Vancouver’s South Asian and Chinese audiences. But that blanket approach seems strange, if not downright contradictory, in an industry that has otherwise been built around strategically targeting people of different genders, ages, preferences, and lifestyles.

It’s a fact that campaigns that focus on specific groups tend to be more effective than generic ones. The ethnic market is the same. It’s a distinct niche, and ignoring 20% of Canada’s population is an error that few businesses can afford to make today.

Reaching out to new Canadians is good business, too. Arriving with big bags and bigger dreams, these are consumers who need all kinds of products and services to get started and build a successful future. And immigrants, particularly South Asians and Chinese, tend to be successful. With an emphasis on academic education, they accelerate quickly after getting established. For example, South Asians outspend mainstream Canadians in several key areas such as electronics, weddings, food, and jewellery.

Essentially, if you want Canadians of South Asian or Chinese descent to patronize your business, you need to talk to them directly. Advertising campaigns and ads should speak to their ideals and values. For example, a phone ad with a cool hipster in a nightclub might not connect with a South Asian woman who is worrying about her mum back in India.

Campaigns customized for each group of potential customers will generate better results—regardless of whether you’re targeting ethnic Canadians or other groups.

Most interestingly, businesses that simply import a campaign that’s playing overseas can have mixed results. Canadians from overseas generally tend to develop a hybrid culture. This is especially true for second-generation Canadians who have a bicultural identity and gravitate strongly to Canadian culture while still practising their language and customs. Connecting with them means speaking to their dual identities.

In fact, although South Asians excel at English, and more than 90% in Canada can speak the language, multiple studies have shown that advertising done in-language performs better. Both Chinese and South Asians tend to feel that these ads are more relevant to them. This fact was reinforced by a European study published in 2014, which determined that advertising slogans were judged to be more emotionally impactful when the messages were written in a person’s native language rather than their second language. This can be tricky with South Asians, however, as there are multiple languages to address.

Although Punjabi and Hindi are the most prevalent South Asian languages in Canada, Spice Radio in Vancouver broadcasts in ten different languages from the region. They are one of the few avenues that allow advertisers to reach a broad spectrum of South Asians and have curated their own in-house creative team to assist with translations, voice talent, and production.

Connecting with South Asian and Chinese customers means using the right language, expressions, music, experiences, and pop references. After all, this is the key to connecting any market,  so why would they be any different?

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If you want to learn more about the South Asian community, why not download our white paper “Why South Asians are the new Mainstream” to learn how you can communicate with this vibrant community.