Recently, well-known Asian-Canadian artist Rick Tae, talked about the perceptible difference between Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians.

“There is a much louder expression of race and culture in the U.S., likely all the way down to branding and marketing for lack of a better way to explain it,” noted the actor who has produced and acted in several projects in Canada and the U.S.  “Asians in America are also sandwiched between ‘black’ and ‘white’ and are sometimes lost in identity between those two extremes. Asian-Canadians, I find, are more integrated within the workplace and more independent in their personal lives.”

Brands unaware of the diasporic tinges of race in North America mistakenly lump all Asians into one demographic cluster without considering the diasporic differences. This explains why there’s such an obvious disconnect in marketing plans when it comes to multicultural marketing from some top brands.

Canada’s home to approximately 9.3 million immigrants with Asians and South-Asians constituting two of the most dominant groups. Each group has a complex sub-cultural context. Here’s a piece of advice for brands attempting to make a foray into the ethnic consumer segment: do your homework, first.

So, who’s this Asian-Canadian consumer everyone wants to target-market to?

The Asian identity

For starters, the complexity of Asian sub-cultural identity cannot be explained through a blog alone. It needs ethnic marketing experts like the ones at Maple Diversity Communications, to untangle the layers.

The Asian and South Asian population in Canada (mostly in Vancouver and Toronto) are among most tech-savvy consumers in Canada. They are educated, home-owners, financially savvy, and deeply rooted in culture and tradition.

More than 89 percent Mandarin-speaking Canadians use the Internet to spend more than three hours spent online surfing social media platforms, scouring bargains and keeping in touch with the world in general.

Cantonese-speakers in Toronto preferred Fairchild TV, while their Mandarin counterparts opted for Citytv, Fairchild/Talentvision, CBC and Omni networks. When it comes to reading habits, Asian-Canadians in Vancouver and Toronto, prefer Sing Tao, a leading ethnic newspaper.

Offline habits

New Asian immigrants shop based on geographic location, quality and deals they can wrangle. The Filipino-Canadian shopper (a whole different demographic) values location, price and hours of service when choosing a store for their groceries as opposed to their Chinese counterparts who prefer ethnic stores as well as others like Costco.

Food and beverage habits of Asians are not homogeneous either. Chinese consumers prefer traditional herbal drinks and bubble teas, whereas the Filipinos love coffee, not the freshly brewed variety but the all-in-one type with cream, sugar and coffee packaged together in individual sachets.

Young millennial Asians are a whole different sub-species. They straddle two identities—Asian and Canadian— with ease. They shop at Gap, listen to Drake as well as Awkwafina, subscribe to YouTube channels of well-known Asian celebrities such as Vanoss Gaming (Evan Fong), JeffreyFever (Jeffrey Chang) and RocketJump (Freddie Wong and others) as well as Superwoman aka Lily Singh.


The millennials will tuck into a bucket of KFC and just as easily wait in queues to get their hands on some Dagu rice noodles, mochi-wrapped brownies or Jollibee’s Chickenjoy.

Marketing for the ethnic consumer

An Ipsos Reid survey from few years ago reveals the Asians and South-Asians are a disparate socio-demographic group with markedly unique consumer habits as compared to mainstream Canadians. The poll says 60-70 percent of the Asians surveyed said they preferred marketing and communication campaigns that reached out to them via their mother tongue. 65 percent of the people (Asians from China) said they paid more attention to an advertisement or campaign if it was in one of their languages.

There are several read-between-the-line insights when it comes to ethnic marketing. Maple Diversity Communications will be happy to demystify some of these. Call, visit or email us.