Canada welcomed more than 321,065 newcomers in 2018. By 2031, it’s expected almost half of Canadians aged 15 and older will be foreign-born. To a marketer, this is a lucrative pie, one with both potential and promise.

Given these numbers, it’s easy to understand how everyone from banks to mainstream grocery stores are eager to flaunt their products and services to the newcomers.

Just recently, Burger King had to hastily pull out a commercial after it managed to offend its Asian customers. The video in question showed diners attempting to eat BK’s new Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Tendercrisp burgers with giant red chopsticks. The tagline said, “take your taste buds all the way to Ho Chi Minh City.”

In a blog few years ago, Dr. Doug Norris, one of Canada’s leading experts of Census and senior vice president at Environics Analytics observed, “It’s not enough to try to market to ‘new Canadians’ as a whole; marketers today need to understand where they are coming from and how they are behaving in the marketplace as they become a part of Canadian society.” Makes complete sense. Canada is a preferred destination for newcomers from more than 200 countries but more than 50 percent of immigrant makeup comes from less than two dozen nations.

For instance, Philippines, China and India remain the top three countries and these account for more than 37 percent of all newcomer population arriving. Brands however tend to mistakenly assume that the Asians (Filipinos and Chinese) are one demographic group, and the Indians and Pakistanis are the other. This lazy effort has known to backfire spectacularly.


Countries of origin

Statistics Canada reports, Filipinos account for some 15 percent of the total number of newcomers Canada welcomes to its fold annually. India (12.1 percent), China (10.6 percent), Iran (3.5 percent) and Pakistan (3.4 percent) are among the top five.

Some 90 percent of newcomers settle in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec and prefer the cosmopolitan experience of the big cities.

Did you know in 2016-2017, international students and visitors contributed over $31 billion to the Canadian economy? Other than the financial institutions, most brands have to yet to capitalize on these consumers. Point to note is that a sizable portion of the students opt to become permanent residents. 

So, if you’re a CMO, what’s your game plan?

It’s quite obvious really, CMOs and agencies seeking to build a relationship with newcomers must for starters have a deep understanding of customs and preferences of the newcomers’ countries of origin. Case in point, the Burger King snafu.

Different ethnicities mandate brands and agencies look beyond the surface-deep markers. The one-dimensional, heterogenous marketing tactics of the past will not work with the digital and literate newcomers of today. Unlike their predecessors, immigrants these days are fluent in English or French, and are just as avid fans of Avengers:Endgame or the Game of Thrones.

So, does this mean, you can axe your multicultural marketing campaign? On the contrary, you may have to amplify your efforts with snazzy and creative multicultural campaigns.

The derivative and generic approach taken by so many is yawn inducing. But before you do that, identify how ethnic identification among Canada’s newcomers is connected to other parametres such as age, education, gender and familiarity with culture of the host country. Rather than consider it in isolation, brands need to delve deep and understand the situations where ethnicity becomes relevant to the newcomer consumer.

Sounds bit too much? Relax, we’re here to help. Contact us.