Kaleidoscope: Beyond Statistics

There’s more to ethnic marketing than looking at a bunch of numbers and crafting a message you think you will sell them.

To really succeed, you have to look beyond the numbers, get inside the heads of the people who make up the statistics and understand what’s important to them, what they think about, their concerns, hopes and dreams.

Thoughts like: Do I bring my family here? How do I see Canada and how do Canadians see me? Is multiculturalism more than a label? What about shopping for things my family and I are used to? How will a move to a foreign country affect me and my family? Will we be able to adapt to the lifestyle of a new country?

That’s where we come in. At Balmoral, we understand it at a gut level. Every member of our multicultural team has lived it – the hopes, the fears and the uncertainties – and can help you develop a strategy that resonates with each target group.

Even on a superficial basis, statistics can be deceiving, says Sharifa Khan, president and CEO of Balmoral Marketing.

The number of Chinese immigrants, for example, has averaged 35,000 a year over the past 10 years. It doesn’t tell all the story. Of this number, only 1,500 a year came from Hong Kong and the balance from China.

“A far cry from the massive influx of Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong prior to 1997, stoked by fears of the impending takeover of Hong Kong by China. These fears evaporated after the handover, which has worked very well. For Hong Kong residents, who found they could still make a good living, there’s no real reason why they would want to leave now.”

The type of immigrant matters in your targeting

It really does make a difference – in terms of the type of person coming to Canada. Hong Kong and China immigrants are essentially skilled workers and professionals. It is also worth noting though that people from Hong Kong still make up a majority of the Chinese population and are a major force of consumption.

In comparison, China is over populated and has a one-child policy, which runs contrary to Chinese cultural tradition of prospering with children. They want to continue their lineage, and the only way out for them is to immigrate to another country that offers this freedom. In addition, there is a huge competition for jobs in China.

Canada is one of the top three countries Chinese favor for immigration. Through their friends, relatives and contacts, they’ve found out just how good the living is in Canada, with its clean environment, a good social network and educational system, as well as the opportunity to further their education and find a good job by working hard.

“They take a big risk in leaving their homeland to come here. It means uprooting themselves and their families and exposing themselves to a new environment and a new language,” she added.

Added to the mix is the increasing number of students coming to Canada from China. After studying here for five or more years, many decide to stay in Canada. These students can apply for a work permit after graduation. “If they like Canada – and can find work – they can apply for immigrant status immediately, without the need to go back to China. It fits in with Canada’s policy of retaining and attracting the brightest and best.”

For South Asians, the reasons for immigrating are somewhat different. In their case, going abroad prior to the 1990s was a kind of status symbol, akin to achieving something meaningful”.

Quality of life driving immigrants today

That, too, has changed. India’s economy, for example, has been growing in recent years and accelerating year after year, with many people are now earning good wages.

“Today,” she adds, “the main reason why people come to Canada is for our lifestyle – to create a better life for their family and children. Even if they’re making a good living today, the quality of life there is missing.

“Once you’re exposed to good things in life, quality of life becomes very important. People today are better educated, read a lot and the Internet has really opened their eyes about the good things money can buy.”

In India, the saving mentality has diminished. It has been replaced by a mindset that says: I’m earning good money and have money now and I want to spend it.

“This trend has accelerated. A lot of people are not just focused on savings for the future anymore. The ones who want to come here are generally better educated and want to make something of themselves. They’re starting afresh from ground zero. They’re experienced and willing to take the risk for their families.”

Now, many South Asians come to Canada from the Middle East, where they’ve been earning very good money but are not able to settle there or apply for citizenship. So they opt for countries like Canada and Australia, where they can enjoy the same privileges they had in the Middle East but can become citizens.

While Chinese and South Asians remain the top immigrant groups, newcomers from the Philippines have risen dramatically in recent years. Many come to Canada on work permits and after two years, are able to apply to become permanent residents. Other groups such as Iranians and Arabs are showing increasing affinity to relocate to Canada because political strife in their respective countries. So do the Koreans because of volatile situation in the Korean peninsula.