Tom Brokaw Explains Canada To Americans

Tom Brokaw,anchor and managing editor – NBC, explains the relationship between Canada and The United States, in a pre-recorded short film that aired on NBC, prior to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on Feb. 12th, 2010.

I found it interesting because contrary to popular belief of underlying animosity between the Canucks and Americans, this video showcases the similarities and long shared camaraderie the two neighbouring countries share.

I think it would be interesting to see brands build on this friendship between the two nations that are so different yet come together when the situation demands it.

To sum up the relationship between the States and Canada, in the words of JFK:

“Geography has made us neighbours, History has made us friends,Economics has made us partners and Necessity has made us allies”


The Great Indian Middle Class and The Baby Boomers of the West

In marketing to different audiences, the consumer is very often grouped into denominations/sub-sects, and then put under the microscope to figure out their likes,dislikes,demographics, mindsets, what they eat, where they shop, how much they spend, and what have you, right down to when they had sex last. And marketeers are always watching the largest and the core of the demographic pudding like hungry hawks, waiting for opportunities to feed their brands to them.

In India, amongst all the various sub-sects and target groups, the great Indian Middle Class (IMC) is one such denomination. Here in Canada, it is the Baby Boomers.

In understanding cultural nuances and drawing parallels between these two countries, I’ve noticed some interesting similarities between these two target groups, that I think are worth mentioning. Why? Because with Canada being the multi-cultural mosaic that it currently is, maybe it’s time to understand migrant groups on  a deeper level.

A look at who they are – the Indian Middle Class, I believe, is an off-shoot of a class hierachy that existed in ancient India. After a basic class divide was in place due to the cast system, the rich became richer and formed the country’s industrialists,businessmen and head honchos, while the poor became poorer and were the menial labourers, grass-root worker ants. Amongst these two classes, a third class emerged. They were educated and hence not at the bottom of the pyramid, but neither were they born with a silver spoon. They constituted the first traces of what would later be known, as the ‘middle class’. The Indian Middle Class, forms a huge chunk of the nation and is characterised on the basis of earnings, and family size.

Coming to the North American Baby Boomers. These are the post great depression children, who’ve grown up in an era of icecream trucks and white picket fences. Today they are those in the 45+ age bracket; and in Canada, they are one of the largest denominations, and have stolen the spotlight from the under 20’s.

So what is it about these two groups? The IMC to begin with,stand out because they are the never-say-die go-getters. The 9 to 5 workers who toil hard, believe in cultural values and lead simple lives, but plan their once in 2 years family vacations abroad. The Baby Boomers too, come with a never-say-die attitude,quite literally! They refuse to age, push boundaries, are going back to school (huge trend!) and are challenging stereotypes.

The huge difference with these two groups are the fact that Baby Boomers inherently have alot of moolah, while the Indian middle class is working hard for their daily bread. The similarities though, lie in the fact that both these groups know they stand out from the fabric of society. They are the underdogs. They know that they are society’s surprise card. There are endless stories of middle class Indians who shine through tough times. And there are endless stories here in Canada, of grandma wanting to take up a finance course or in recent news, the story of Jaring Timmerman, Canada’s 100year old swimming champion!

It’s interesting to keep track of these two groups for a variety of reasons – for example, What I’d love to know is, amongst the Indian migrant population here in Canada, (and a large chunk is the middle class), are the 45+ learning the ways of native baby boomers? If yes, how does that then change things if they go back to India? Will we see a rising baby boomer mentality in India? Also, are the inherently rich baby boomers reacting to the Indian middle class giving them a run for their money?

One thing’s for sure, while these two groups are as different as chalk and cheese, it is in their inter-mingling that the possibilities are endless,for brands and marketeers alike. I predict exciting times ahead.

A tale of two states

Amongst the different migrant populations in Canada, South Asian is amongst the highest. Statistics Canada says the proportion of foreign-born people from Asian and Middle Eastern countries has long outstripped those of European heritage.

However, while marketing to the Indian/South Asian population, it is important to realise that their as different as chalk and cheese within themselves too. Out of all the Indian states, Punjabi’s and Tamilians account for a vast chunk of the ‘outsourced’ population here in Canada.

In trying to figure them out, it’s important to understand certain cultural and social nuances that undermine their attitudes and behaviours, which would make it possible to take marketing to them beyond mere language translation.

Here;s what I’ve learnt about them, from living amongst them for over 20 years:


-They’re large hearted, happy people and believe life is about celebrating the good times in full swing. Hence, song and dance is a large part of who they are.


-They live to eat and at social occasions, the food will be a large conversation topic.

– They take bold initiatives in business and are strong-willed to see things through till the end. They might not be well educated, but business (over or under the table),runs in their veins.

-Outwardly driven, they like living life kingsize. Hence, their homes will be huge houses with 2 and more cars in the driveway. The clothes they wear too, will have flash value. However, they don’t flaunt this way of living, it’s just a part of who they are. (This also stems from the fact that back home in India, most Punjabi’s originate from Chandigarh, a state with huge  fields, wide roads and ample space)

-Getting Punjabi’s to loosen their purse strings won’t take more than a little cajoling if they know it’ll be worth it.


-A contrast to the Punjabi’s, the Tamilians are a close-guarded, conservative community.

-Education and knowledge is the foundation of their beliefs and lifestyle. Hence, in terms of spending, the acquisition of knowledge is probably the only thing they’ll spend on without remorse.

-Stemming from a heritage that is over 2000 years old, Tamilians were a part of the brahmin class, and were very often the high priests of society. Knowledge and religious scriptures were their forte. Hence, living a righteous life, being vegetarian and visiting the temple often are traits that are instilled in their culture till date.

While the Punjabi’s are the loud, pompous lot and the Tamilians are the reserved intellectuals, they both share alot in common- like pride in motherland, cultural values and a clanish outlook.

This is just a sneak peak into their lives, I’m still discovering how these diverse culture groups behave while living in Canada, amidst an amalgamation of nationalities, thus influencing their perceptions and attitudes and changing the rules of the game.

Whose country is it anyway?

A walk down any major street or a visit to any govt office in Canada will tell you that there really is no such thing as the average Canadian anymore.

I say this, because in the few days that I’ve lived here, I’ve discovered that Canada, much like my hometown Bombay, is a land of immigrants. There’s an amalgamation of skin tones, races, language and nationalities. They seem so alike in their outlook to life, yet are quite literally, worlds apart in terms of cultural and behavioural nuances. So what does this mean to the marketeer? How should brands talk to the masses? Will the rise of multi-cultural specialists mean spreading the brand too thin? Does this culture curry hinder campaign effectiveness or help brands rise taller? 

A closer look at a few general immigrant hot buttons that brands need to take stock of:

1. Reassurance goes a long way: When new to the country, every immigrant wants to feel a sense of belonging. And it is always the host that must make the first move in saying hello. Likewise, brands need to reach out to the immigrant, shake their hand and say we’re here for you- the ones that do this will be passed down through generations, etched into diaries,day planners and happy hearts for a long while.

2. I know my way around, do not patronise me: Immigrants, unlike what many locals might want to believe, find their way around quickly are more strong-willed than they appear to be. They have a streak of determination to make it against all odds and do not like being sympathised with. Hence, mere translations of commercials into ethnic languages cannot pass off as being ‘multi-cultural’.

3. I am secretly very proud of my own country no matter how ‘Canadian’ I may appear to be:  Adaptation is rather fast in this country, however, beneath the fur coats and fake accents, every immigrant holds his country close to heart. The immigrant consumer will latch onto brands that realise and uphold this fact,  almost like a child would to his warm blanket.

& Here is what I think brands need to be aware of, while reaching out to the immigrant:

1. National brands are relevant only when understood at a grassroot level – so while the thought can be ‘Canadian’, the ‘insights’ need to be local, or at least touch upon a common chord with the masses. Although, while grouping/segmenting, a thorough cultural immersion needs to be done before segmenting large clusters together as one. For eg: The entire Asian community does not think/behave alike.

2. Tweak the outer layers of the brand’s personality while speaking to different segments, but never compromise the brand’s core.

3. Immigrants today, form a majority of the youth and working sector of Canada. As the average age of these groups is lower than that of other Canadians, they will constitute a growing share of Canada’s younger consumers. Brands need to conduct youth studies of these groups, as they will form a significant part of the country’s make-up.

4. Think media. While being media-neutral is usually a good starting point for brands, when it comes to reaching out to the immigrant, it is important to understand their media habits to ensure messages intended for them, reach them.

The ethnic landscape in Canada is fast changing, brands that are quick on the uptake are the ones that will survive the ever-changing Canadian culture mosaic.


Canadian marketing association.