North American society, like most of Western Europe, is mostly composed of nuclear families. However, other parts of the world such as Asia, Africa, and Latin America include a much wider range of relatives in their concept of family. Since most newcomers to Canada come from places where extended families are the norm, what effect does this have on their purchasing decisions? How can marketers better understand how to reach those from an extended family background?

Nuclear vs Extended Families

Cultures that value self-reliance, independence, autonomy and personal achievement generally produce family units composed of parents and children, called the “nuclear” family.

On the other hand, those who place a high value on family cohesion, social norms, cooperation and solidarity naturally include more members within their family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Leaving Home (or Not!)

For non-ethnic Canadians, a child leaving home represents the beginning of a new phase of life for all family members. Parents are happy to help their child build a new life and assert their self-reliance, and this, in turn, may allow parents to enter into a period of increased freedom. A CIBC study recently revealed that 76% of Canadian parents share this attitude and would happily give their grown children a five-figure sum if it meant they would move out and get started in life.

In contrast, extended families often live in multigenerational homes where members are much more involved in each other’s lives and children are encouraged to live at home until marriage ? or even later. A child leaving home is often a painful experience; it is not uncommon for such ones to stay in daily contact with their family even after having moved abroad.

For marketers: Ads showing ways for families to stay connected will resonate strongly with ethnic populations. A popular series of ads by Vodafone India highlights this with warmth and humor by featuring an elderly couple using a mobile phone to connect with their children in a variety of settings.

Decision-Making and the Extended Family

Extended families can have a significant impact on individual members’ decisions relating to education, career, and marriage. Large purchases, such as buying a house, are also a collective process to which all family members contribute.

Individuals from such backgrounds will sometimes compromise on personal preference in order to please other members of the family, such as this Chinese homebuyer who said: “I did not care much about the house direction and Feng Shui, but my father and my sister did care about this factor while choosing a house.”

For marketers: When meeting clients for high involvement transactions such as property purchases or weddings, expect several family members to be part of the negotiation. A little preparation to make everyone feel welcome can make all the difference!


Marketing to Canada’s Extended Families

Be Sensitive to Traditional Values

Ethnic consumers often come from a culture where traditional family values relative to marriage, children, and respect of the elderly are of vital importance. Pay special attention to the way your message is delivered to make sure you are leaving a positive impression.

For marketers: A teenager with a rebellious attitude, such as the boy seen in this ad, might be seen as a positive example of self-reliance by Western consumers. However, such a message could be perceived as a lack of respect by members of some ethnic communities.

Be aware of differences in consumer focus

Immigrant parents work hard to make a success of their children’s future and usually favour a long-term outlook on financial decisions. Education, banking, real estate, marriage, and child-rearing are all areas of interest that rank highly on their list of priorities.

For marketers: Although a “Treat Yourself!” message might appeal to a second-generation ethnic consumer, this approach might not be well received by older members of the family, who may prize financial stability over personal achievements.

Reap the Benefits of Group Decisions

Targeting a family’s decision-makers can lead to more conversions for your business. Word-of-mouth is an important factor in creating new business, and even more so for newly arrived immigrants? One person’s input can often convince the rest of the family to get on board with the same provider.

For marketers: When marketing to young ethnic couples, consider targeting some of your advertising to their parents, who are likely to have a strong influence on their children’s purchasing decisions.

At Maple Diversity, we are not only experts in ethnic marketing,  most of us are also members of ethnic communities ourselves. We understand how deeply family relationships affect every aspect of life for ethnic Canadians and we work hard to enable marketers to understand how to best connect with them. Let us help you communicate your message effectively to extended families across Canada!