Are you a marketer looking to expand your business? If so, no doubt you have considered the opportunities offered by the many ethnic communities of Canada. How can you be successful in developing this unfamiliar market? How can you be sure you are getting the right information?

To get you started, we have compiled a list of five common myths about ethnic marketing:

Myth #1:  Ethnic marketing is not worth the expense

Fact:  Ignoring 20% of Canada’s population is a decision few businesses can afford to make.

According to Statistics Canada’s projections, nearly one in two Canadians could be an immigrant or the child of an immigrant by 2036. Even now, immigrants make up to 50% of some Canadian cities’ population.

Most newcomers to Canada arrive with the dream of buying a home and are very keen to create a successful future for their families. This work ethic often produces highly educated individuals, whom, in some areas, even outspend the general population (as in the case of weddings).

Marketers: With the rapid evolution of Canada’s population, the advertising game is changing quickly. With that in mind, why not give yourself a head start in reaching this important segment of the market?

Ethnic Marketing

Myth #2:  Ethnic marketing in Québec is a small market

Fact:  Québec’s many ethnic communities offer exciting opportunities similar to other Canadian markets.

As of 2011, Montreal was home to more than 1.8 million immigrants – a number which is expected to have increased significantly in the 2016 census. Montreal is one of the top three destinations for immigrants to Canada, along with Toronto and Vancouver. As of 2015, 18% of immigrants to Canada chose Montreal as their new home.

North African countries, Haiti and France make up a large proportion of newcomers to Québec who speak a form of French. Montreal is also home to thriving Arabic, Italian, Hispanic, Chinese and South Asian communities who communicate with their members in their own language through a variety of ethnic media such as newspapers, television and radio shows.

Marketers: Arabic and Spanish are spoken by almost a third of immigrants who have chosen Montreal as their home. This common denominator can help you reach a larger pool of people outside the target demographic. A Spanish language ad in a Peruvian community newspaper can also indirectly reach Mexicans, Colombians and other Latin Americans.  Québec’s rising immigrant population is a highly dynamic market – a golden opportunity for creative and ambitious marketers who want to expand their business.

Ethnic marketing in Québec

Myth #3:  One campaign will appeal to Canadians of all backgrounds – ethnic or not.

Fact:   Campaigns that focus on specific target groups are much more effective than generic ones.

Any campaign must be directed towards a specific group in order to address their specific needs and concerns and to ensure a measurable result. “Canadians” is not a target group, but rather many.

Marketers know very well that something that appeals to teenagers is not likely to attract retirees, and that selling a product to different target audiences requires strategies customized for the needs and cultural perceptions of each group.

That principle applies even more so to ethnic communities who come from different backgrounds and may have values and habits that differ significantly from other Canadians.

Failing to adapt your approach to a variety of audiences may have negative effects.  For example, a mobile phone company advertising to Chinese customers showcased models with partially shaved hairstyles and wearing very trendy clothing that appealed very much to Western audiences, but which provoked this comment from a Chinese woman: “That’s a weird hairdo. Who wants to look like that?” As a result, that company lost market share to others who were better able to create images that the Chinese consumers could easily identify with.

A now-infamous FIAT ad featured actor and activist Richard Gere driving a Lancia Delta from the Hollywood Hills to Tibet. The 45-second commercial enraged Chinese consumers around the world, as Tibet is considered an autonomous region within their country. Timing couldn’t be worse, as Fiat was expanding into the Chinese market. This marketing blunder forced the brand to release a statement distancing itself from Gere’s political views.  Some political topics are trendy in the west, but they can cause create strong opposition in emerging markets. In our globalized world, that’s a mistake few brands can afford.

Marketers: By creating advertising customized for each group of potential customers, your campaign will generate better results – whether you market to ethnic communities or to other Canadians.

To translate our campaign in other languages


Myth #4:  We can copy a campaign done in Asia and use it to target ethnic groups in Canada.

Fact:  There are significant differences between ethnic populations of Canada and those of their home countries.

Social and economic issues
Social and economic issues in developing countries are often quite different from the realities of Canadian life.  Simply duplicating something that was effective in another country might not produce the intended result.

To illustrate: In an Indian television commercial for a popular mobile phone company, children are asked to come up with ideas as to what their smartphone should be able to do.  One little girl’s answer: “It could become my bodyguard to save me and beat up boys that bother me”. This ad might seem somewhat odd to some Canadians who are used to a more neutral tone in business communications, whereas featuring moral and social issues (in this case, women’s safety) in advertising is quite common in India, where popular media has a powerful influence on public opinion.

Cultural Evolution
As a result of adapting to a new environment, most immigrant communities naturally develop their own hybrid culture by integrating Canadian aspects to it.  This is even more evident with second-generation immigrants who have a bicultural identity, integrating elements from their family’s home country with Canadian culture.

On the other hand, many immigrants also feel a sense of nostalgia for their home country and fondly remember its traditions and surroundings – feelings that might not be shared by those who still live there. Since their arrival to Canada, the former country’s culture might have evolved towards Westernization and away from traditional fashion and values that they remember with such fondness – an evolution that has likely produced advertising that no longer appeals to them. Understanding these nostalgic feelings can help you craft a message that will help your brand rise above the competition.

Marketers: Instead of simply duplicating a successful idea, ask yourself why it was successful in the first place. The answer will give you clues to create the same success in a different environment.

Ethnic Marketing in Canada

Myth #5: There is no need to translate our campaign in other languages; ethnic Canadians understand English/French

Fact: Even though many ethnic Canadians do understand English or French, research has shown that they respond better to advertising done in their native tongue.

Linguistic studies have shown that there is a much more powerful link between our emotions and our mother tongue than with any other language we might learn later in life.  Why is that? For most people, learning a new language is likely the result of a functional need, such as shopping, getting around an unfamiliar place or communicating in the workplace – not situations that are typically linked with strong feelings.

This fact was observed in a European study which determined that advertising slogans were judged to be more emotional when the messages were written in a person’s native language rather than in their second language.

Why is emotion a factor in advertising? As Zig Ziglar, iconic salesman and motivational speaker famously said: “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” Although many of us would like to think that we make decisions logically after weighing all the pros and cons, the truth is that most of the time an emotion is the motivating factor behind a purchase.

Marketers: If you want to connect with customers, speak to them in the language of their heart.

Maple Diversity is an agency entirely focused on ethnic communities – we make it our business to know who they are, what they need and how they perceive the world once they settle in Canada. Contact one of our experts to know how you can effectively communicate your products or brand to this growing market.