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.