Benefits of Ethnic Marketing: Growth, Untapped Market Segments and Amp – Increased Profitability

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The face of Canada has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. So has ethnic marketing. Statistics Canada reports more than 200 ethnicities are now represented in this country. Immigration accounts for more than 50% of our population’s growth, and will more than likely double by 2025. Entrepreneurs should be pitching the product and service to ethnic markets, if not, your competitors will. On the whole, ethnic markets can represent growth, untapped market segments, and increased profitability.

It has been difficult for companies to find successful ways to target to the various ethnic groups found in Canada. The United Way of Greater Toronto fundraising initiatives city wide in 2000 proved dismal to the diverse multicultural groups within the city. Six years ago fundraising efforts raised anywhere from $20,000 – $25,000 from seven or eight communities. Three prominent groups were targeted instead and last year raised about $700,000 – a 300% increase within a six-year period.

Companies actually hire directors of ethnic markets now, and the message is about communicating to the changing Canadian market, the most effective ways to incorporate a more diverse approach to market your brand.

Today’s consumers are far more sophisticated, have better educations, and have increased spending power than the immigrants of years gone by. Marketers understand the ethnicity of their customers, embrace their customs, and tap into their sensitivities.

Ethnicity is a multidimensional expression of identity that includes race, origin or ancestry, language or religion. Influenced by variables: immigration, blending, and intermarriage, which very often create a strength of ethnic identification. Often associated with a culture are customs and beliefs and sometimes dress and eating habits. A survey conducted in 2002 by Statistics Canada regarding ethnic diversity reveals that three-quarters of Canadians say they are interested in learning more about their ancestry and are familiar with their heritage.

Solutions Research Group conducted a study that examined six major population groups in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. The study included Canadians of Chinese, South Asian, West Asian, Hispanic, Black and Italian backgrounds. A total of 3,000 respondents (age 15+) were interviewed in 9 languages: English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish and Italian. The results were astonishing: among the most vital of media is the Internet with 88% usage. Chinese Canadians are active users spending 2.4 hours/day, followed by TV then radio. Although less time is spent watching TV, ethnic Canadians are more likely than the market benchmark to have digital cable or satellite TV (41% vs. 39%). Black and Chinese Canadians lead on this measure (47% and 44%, respectively).

More than half (52%) of the ethnic groups surveyed agree with the statement: “I rarely see advertising messages intended for me,” suggesting a significant lost opportunity. The trick is to go beyond the status quo, to dig deeper, and the solutions will be found.

Pay attention to the three C’s: caution, care and commitment.


An ethnic market is really comprised of dozens of smaller, distinct segments. What sells in the Southeast Asian community may not sell to the Chinese community. If referring to China, do you target Hong Kong or Taiwan? Marketers must learn to identify communities and focus directly on those. Ethnic identity has little to do with how people buy gas and car repairs. However, it has plenty to do with which groceries or books they buy.


Decisions should be made to pursue different ethnic communities, and along side comes the care that should be taken to learn about them. The size of the market is considered and how you, the marketer, are going to capture it. Direct marketing techniques are the best means for personalizing your message. Companies may already own the information needed to determine the approach.

Example: Financial institutions know where their clients send money. Companies that capture this kind of data (through data mining) can use it to tailor their product and services to the consumer.

Purchase subscriber lists to ethnic newspapers or membership rolls of ethnic associations. Determining your target audience becomes easy, the next task… to craft the marketing materials in the language they understand.


A recent survey of 150 marketers found that only 40% did back-end analysis of their direct marketing programs on a consistent basis. The costs associated to discovering this type of information is expensive. What will be your ROI? Companies more and more are jumping on the ethnic bandwagon. Just go to any Wal-Mart Super Centre and view how their food products are representative of the various ethnicities, and how their ways of “giving back” actually enhance the communities they serve. Last year, the Salvation Army received a $100,000 donation from them. After all, their motto “Wal-Mart Canada is committed to making a difference in the lives of Canadians,” once again, rings true.

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