What you missed at the Ethnic Consumer Marketing Conference

Insights on multicultural marketing from Environics, Scotiabank and more


Speakers at Tuesday’s Ethnic Consumer Marketing Conference in Toronto offered many insights about how marketers can resonate with an increasingly multicultural Canadian audience.

Though many different strategies and facts were discussed, common themes included the inherent complexity of multicultural marketing and the risk that marketers won’t get it right.


Susan Lemieux, a marketing director at Canada Dry Mott’s, said understanding ethnic market demands is vital as visible minorities have increased by 142% in the past 20 years, and will double over the next 20 years to reach 12 million.

The largest ethnic groups are still South Asian and Chinese, said Meghna Srinivas, a director of client services at MacLaren McCann CULTURA. And by 2031, the Canadian Arab population will grow by over 200% and the Filipino population will increase by 150%.

She said it’s important to recognize the minute differences between subcultures. For instance, Chinese from the Mainland and Chinese from Hong Kong use different languages and scripts.

“Sometimes the most basic form of segmentation is sufficient,” Srivinas said. But, “You might need to delve deeper depending on the segment.”

Keynote speaker Eddie Yoon, a principal with the Cambridge Group in Chicago, reminded the audience that demographics don’t always tell the whole story.

“The boxes we put people in don’t match up with what they are,” he said. Instead, marketers should look for behavioural statistics to discover where demand exists and to better understand the consumer.

Rupen Seoni, a vice-president and practice leader with Environics Analytics, said you should bring the data from many sources together to create a lifestyle view of the segment you’re targeting.

“Diversity within diversity is really the new norm in Canada,” he said. “The challenge is making your decision on who you’re going to target up front.”


Pankaj Mehra, co-lead on multicultural banking at Scotiabank, said multicultural marketing is an opportunity you can’t miss. “When you recognize there’s half a million [people] coming into the country each year, it’s no longer a niche ethnic market.”

Even though ethnic segments are growing and are creating a significant market opportunity, one of the biggest barriers multicultural marketers face is creating measurable value with a limited budget, Mehra said.

“I think the challenges are internal instead of external, to influence the people in the bank the value you’re bringing in.”

Alan Hurst, a director of personal and commercial marketing at the Bank of Montreal, said you can save money by first focusing on social campaigns to reach new segments. “What works is getting the social team to recognize the impact it can have. It can’t be halfway through a campaign, it has to be part of the strategy from the start or else you’re not reaching the consumers the right way.”

Keka DasGupta, vice-president of DDB Public Relations, had another suggestion. “Ethnic marketing is an incremental marketing opportunity. It’s showing it not as a cost but as a return. [It helps] if you can speak to the c-suite about how they’ll stand out from competitors.”

In the closing panel, moderator Tony Chapman of Tony Chapman Reactions summarized the main insights about the future of multicultural marketing.

“This is a new consumer group that isn’t treating your brand as a commodity. The second thing is don’t overcomplicate it, because [the company is] so starved for resources and cash. The third thing is that multicultural is your chance to be relevant again. There’s an opportunity to do something unique and different that could cascade over the mass audience.”

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