Most brands assume they can make a splash in multicultural market segments with some help from the same agency or boutique that has been handling their promotional needs so far. After all, as humans, we all have similar responses to emotions and biases? Right?

Wrong. So wrong.

And this is probably why your current ethnic marketing plan is going off the rails:

1. You’re missing the forest (opportunities) because you’re fixated on the tree (existing marketing plan): Canada’s ethnic markets present exciting opportunities for brands but most companies are too complacent and stuck in status quo to realize their potential.

Statistics Canada says, one in five Canadians are born outside the country with Asians (20.5 percent) and South Asians (25.1 percent) making up the majority. It’s obvious, mass marketing is not the answer. You need an “M” (multicultural mix) thrown into your 4 Ps (price, product, promotion, and place).

2. You have diversity covered: Well, if by diversity you mean photographs of an Asian woman or a brown man beaming alongside their Caucasian friends, maybe. But multicultural marketing is more than different skin tones. Ethnic marketing creates a direct appeal to the audience. It considers language, religious taboos, tradition, and heritage. It builds trust with the consumer by understanding them and most importantly, by not offending them.

3. Ignoring the cultural sub-texts: An agency specializing in multicultural marketing will likely create a strategy whose tactics are built upon solid research. Research that understands consumer motivation. For instance, do you know the Chinese avoid odd numbers for anything to do with weddings and birthdays? Also, gifting items wrapped in white is a big no-no (colour represents poverty and sorrow)? Or that South Asians will not step on books or paper as they are considered sacred? They will most definitely not wear $8 socks from UrbanOutfitters (UO) featuring the image of Lord Ganesh, the elephant God.

4. Not understanding strategic targeting: How does this work? Are you implying brands should consider launching half-a-dozen campaigns tailored to its Chinese, South Asian, Latino and Black consumers? Well, no, the brilliance of having an ethnic marketer on-board is they can show you where, when and how you can seize the tide of opportunities (pun intended).


During the Indian festival of Holi, South Asian revelers smear coloured powder on each other. Now, if you were a detergent brand, wouldn’t you love to be the one that South Asians reach out to when they are doing their laundry post-Holi celebrations? That’s strategic marketing.

5. Relationships Vs. Acquaintances: “companies pay too much attention to the cost of doing something when they should worry about the cost of not doing it,” notes well-known marketing guru Philip Kotler.

According to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) a U.S.-based organization, most major brands in the U.S. typically utilize 5 percent of their budget on marketing strategies targeting Latinos even though the group makes up some 16.7 percent of the U.S. population.

Sadly, it is probably the same here in Canada when it comes to targeting the South Asian and Asian markets. Companies that want to speak to their ethnic consumers should invest in an ethnic agency that has the resources and insights to develop measurable strategies. In the long run, the profits and ROI (return on investment) will tell their own stories.

If you want to build a relationship with your consumer, we’re here to help. Talk, call or e-mail us.