Multicultural Canadian Flag Graphic

What every Canadian marketer should take away from the new 2016 StatsCan census data

Statistics Canada released new 2016 Census data last week, and the data indicates immigration accounted for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth from 2011 to 2016. These new figures demonstrate the growing significance of multicultural communications from coast to coast. In fact, multicultural marketing has moved beyond a niche marketing discipline; it is an imperative business strategy for relationship-building among Canadian consumers today.

A deeper look inside the data reveals some hidden, yet critical takeaways for marketers across the country. From a multicultural marketing perspective, here are three important insights to consider:

  1. What language do you think in? Some marketers may think in-language translation in advertising isn’t significant today since 69.9 per cent of Canadians with non-official languages as their mother tongue do speak either English or French at home. However, this statistic can be deceiving for businesses in that, most immigrants continue to “think” in their language of origin for many years. To connect emotionally with this group and increase brand loyalty – in-language communications in their mother tongue often delivers a much greater return-on-investment versus mass communications
  2. “Why I live with my parents…” 47.4 per cent of young Canadians between the ages of 20 to 34 in Toronto still live with their parents. While this is often due to financial constraints and practicality in many mainstream households, among ethnic communities, multi-generational households are quite the norm culturally-speaking. Moreover, immigrant families also tend to stay together to provide support and a safety net, plus they want to pass on language and cultural learnings to their young ones. Interestingly, multi-generational households are now Canada’s fastest growing segment at 2.9 per cent (compared to same-sex unions that represent 0.9 per cent of all couples nationally). This means companies need to better understand the dynamics of multi-generational living to better serve their target audiences.
  3. 200 languages and counting: Did you know there are over 200 languages spoken in Canada? Outside of English and French, Canada has seen a 14.5 per cent increase in speakers of non-official languages from 2011 to 2016. That represents 7.6 million people, or close to 22 per cent of our population. As businesses continue to fight for mind-share in Canada’s highly competitive marketplace, it is worth noting just how large the multicultural segment is within the country’s population. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the census numbers around immigrant languages:
    • The most frequently spoken language at home other than English or French was Mandarin, spoken by 641,100 Canadians. It was followed by Cantonese (594,705), Punjabi (568,375), Spanish (553,495), Tagalog (525,375) and Arabic (514,200).
    • Since the last census, immigration numbers have indicated that the influx from the Philippines has outnumbered those from the previous key countries of origin like China and India, making Tagalog the fastest growing non-official language in Canada at 35 per cent. Still, Persian/Farsi speakers grew by 26.7 per cent, Hindi grew by 26.1 per cent, and Urdu rose by 25 per cent.

Canada’s diversity is not only a point of celebration domestically, it’s a point of global admiration and perhaps a little envy too. In the annual Best Countries Survey released recently, Canada was named the 2nd best country in the world to live in. Canada scored a perfect 10 in the quality of life category based on a number of life factors including freedom of religion and languages spoken.

Canada is in a great place with its growing diversity. For businesses, these changing demographic profiles represent increasing buying power and economic growth – something that all marketers should be noting.