Marketing to Canadians of South Asian and Chinese Origin – An Update

One of my first blogs eight years ago was Marketing to Canadians of South Asian and Chinese Origin… a hot trend. I have had many requests to update the blog. So here goes.

Chinese and South Asian Canadians are an increasingly important audience in the market, with populations expected to grow by 80% and 130%, respectively, over the next 15 years.


But according to IPG Mediabrands, marketers have very little resources on the audience’s attitudes towards brands as well as their media consumption habits.

Closing that knowledge gap is the aim of the IPG Mediabrands Multicultural Media Study 2016. The study included 1,250 Chinese and South Asian respondents living in the Toronto and Vancouver area, and were surveyed last July.

According to the results, Chinese and South Asian Canadians have a different relationship with brands than the general Canadian population, believing more strongly that ads help them stay up-to-date with new products. Both groups were also more likely to buy based on quality rather than price and also considered themselves to be very brand loyal in higher numbers than the general Canadian population.

Chinese Canadians were more likely to report feeling closer to brands that use ethnic languages and pay more attention to those ads than South Asians.

Both Chinese and South Asian Canadians are more connected consumers than the general Canadian population, with higher rates of device ownership and time spent online.

The IPG Mediabrands report looks at the attitudes and media habits of two growing audiences, South Asians and Chinese Canadians. The study, which also sourced data from Statistics Canada and Vividata, was first conducted in 2012 to better understand these significant audiences. Stats Canada forecasts that by 2031, the Chinese population will increase by 80% and the South Asian population will increase by 131%.

The study found that 64% of Chinese and 69% of South Asian Canadians believe that ads help them keep up-to-date with new products, compared to 44% of the general population.

In addition, 61% of Chinese and 64% of South Asians tend to buy on quality, not price, compared to 54% of the general population. What’s more, 52% of Chinese and 58% of South Asian consumers consider themselves to be very brand loyal, compared to only 44% of the general population.

There is a significant reliance on advertising amongst these two particular groups, and that’s very likely to turn into a loyal consumer.

51% of Chinese respondents tend to stick to brands that they’re familiar with from their home country, and 46% pay more attention to advertising that’s in their own ethnic language.

“There are, of course, going to be new brands that they don’t recognize when they come over to Canada and that does present challenges for many advertisers. According to the study “One way to get over that is the fact that the Chinese population is more likely to pay attention to advertising in a Chinese language.

While they stick to brands they’re familiar with, that’s just a starting point, “The shorter amount of time that Chinese group has been in Canada, the more likely they are likely to stick to familiar brands. But the longer they spend in the country, the less likely they are.”

South Asians are more likely to be early adopters than Chinese Canadians. In the survey, 58% of South Asians said they are first among friends to try new products, compared to 43% of Chinese consumers. In addition, 59% of South Asians agreed that people expect them to provide good advice about products and services, compared to 51% of Chinese; and 53% of South Asians said they’re more of a spender than a saver, compared to 37% of Chinese consumers.

The study also looked at Chinese and South Asians’ media habits and their different communications preferences.

Chinese consumers are more likely to feel closer to organizations that advertise in their own ethnic language (45%) than South Asians (39%). In addition, 45% of Chinese consumers agreed they have a “strong affiliation” with brands that advertise in their own ethnic language, compared to 36% of South Asians; and 38% of Chinese consumers think ads in their home language are more meaningful to them, compared to 34% of South Asians.


“Chinese Canadians are much more dependent on in-language advertising compared to South Asians, and that’s very heavily tied to the prevalence of the English language in South Asian countries.

The study also found that Chinese and South Asians are very digitally savvy groups compared to the general population. The average number of internet-connected devices owned by the general population is 2.4, compared to 3.6 for Chinese consumers and 3.2 for South Asians.

Citing Vividata figures, the study notes that Chinese consumers spend 24 hours a week online and South Asians spend 19 hours a week online, compared to 17 hours for the general population.

For Chinese consumers, time spent on digital media is about the same in a Chinese language as in English. For example, they spend 12.6 hours a week on Chinese social media sites and 12.8 hours on social media in English. But more time is spent with Chinese online magazines (7.1 hours) and newspapers (7.1 hours) than in English (6.2 hours for each).

Another study by Environics Analytics states that South Asians passed the Chinese as the largest visible minority in Canada almost 10 years ago and over the next five years their population is projected to grow 19% to reach 2.5 million people.


What is less appreciated, analysts will tell you, is that this group – which currently makes up almost 5% of the Canadian population – is becoming “a marketer’s dream,” says Rupen Seoni, vice-president and practice leader at Environics. “They are one of the fastest-growing, more affluent, educated and media-savvy groups.”

Some marketers still know very little about this vibrant consumer group, tending to lump them with other Asians or simply ignoring them altogether but that would be a $46-billion mistake, for that’s the total estimated spending power of Canada’s South Asians.”

For info on the Social Asian market see South Asian Market You can find more info on ethnic marketing here. Also check out




Marketing 101 (for Marketers and Non-Marketers)

March 29, 2017

343 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON,

This workshop will provide participants with an overview of public sector and non-profit marketing. The workshop will teach participants how to develop a marketing  strategy and plan as well as how to transform a government/nonprofit organizations from using the traditional communications approach to an integrated, strategic marketing approach.

The workshop will focus on:

  • An overview of marketing;
  • Systematic processes and strategic elements for developing and implementing an action-oriented strategic marketing plan;
  • How to set realistic, practical marketing objectives and goals;
  • How to evaluate marketing efforts with practical ideas on how to improve execution;
  • How to develop a client-based mindset in a public sector or non-profit organization;
  • How to use market research to support a decision-making framework;
  • How to develop a system for measuring progress and monitoring performance.



Intro to Social Marketing Planning for Attitude and Behaviour Change

March 9, 2017

343 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON,

Awareness.  Are you getting tired of hearing that word? If you want to move your marketing and communications efforts beyond merely public education and awareness campaigns and into the realm of action-oriented attitude and behaviour change then this workshop is for you

The workshop will focus on:

  • How to use a step-by-step structured approach to prepare a social marketing plan that is actionable, has maximum impact, and leads to successful implementation;
  • How to present and “sell” your social marketing strategy to management;
  • How to implement a social marketing program on a very tight budget;
  • How to monitor and evaluate your inputs/outputs, outcomes and impacts;
  • How social marketing gives you a single approach: for mobilizing communities; influencing the media; activating key stakeholders; and building strategic alliances with business.




10 Tips for Changing People’s Behaviours through Social Marketing


10tips-300x300Do not assume that presenting important and compelling facts or information will change people’s attitudes and/or behaviours

The field of social marketing has demonstrated that people are not always logical, rational, or driven by coherent internal motivations. A host of factors influence people’s actions, and knowledge of facts is just one of those factors.

Do not go for big changes initially start small and build

Social Marketers need to break down big changes into bite-sized chunks for people. Start with small steps i.e. specific actions and behaviours that people can sustain over a period of time. Early successes lead to long-term successes.

Seeking to make a change forever, instead of a defined period of time.

A fixed period of time works better than “forever” when it comes to building new behaviours. Because if it sounds doable and achievable, your audience might just give it a try.

Good Communication is not always the key to any behaviour change program

Good communication is certainly important but there is more to social marketing than communications. The most successful behavior change initiatives focus on removing barriers to desired behaviors. This takes more than a good communications campaign. It may involve re-thinking how you interact with your audience, advocating for changes in regulations, or your audience’s environment. Barriers are all those things that stop people from adopting a new behaviour. They take many forms but most are either structural or personal. When doing your marketing research ask your target group what’s stopping them from changing their behaviour?

Most important focus less on aggressive promotion/communications and focus more on aggressive listening as communications is a 2-way process. Many campaigns fail because too much time is spent telling people what they should think or do, rather than asking how they can be helped to do it.

One thing we have learned from social marketing is the importance of listening to the people whose behaviour you want to change. This is the single most important thing, because whatever people do – even when it’s something that seems crazy to you – they have their reasons. The reasons may not be rational. People may not even know what their reasons are. Rarely, however, are they waiting for you – or any other social marketer – to tell them what to do. Even then, if you can get their attention long enough to tell them either the risks they face or the wonderful benefits of something they still may not change their behaviour.

Create an Effective Message Strategy

The average person is exposed to thousands of marketing messages every day. You have very little time to catch someone’s attention. Here are a few tips for effective messages:


  • Specify the desired objective.
  • Specify the desired action required (call to action).
  • Focus on personal relevance of issue to each member of the audience.
  • Adapt creative style to specific audience.
  • Communicate benefits and focus on immediate, high-probability consequences of positive behaviour.
  • Portray people with which members of target group can identify.
  • The messenger in many cases can be much more important than the message.
  • Celebrities and popular spokespersons can be effective to change social norms.
  • Positive reinforcement can be effective.
  • More emphasis is needed in creating a climate conducive to social change.
  • “Blame the victim” approach hurts credibility of social marketing.
  • Upstream approaches and strategies help credibility of social marketing
  • Communicate benefits, rather than features … and most important
  • Keep It Simple


  • Play on emotions.
  • Do not be moralistic. Guilt messages work less well, however can be effective in certain circumstances.
  • Pity and altruistic appeals do not work well.
  • Humour can be difficult. Use it with caution.

             Demonstrate the desired behaviour:

  • Showing the desirable behaviour serves as a guide to appropriate behaviour.
  • Promote alternative behaviours as substitutes for undesirable present behaviours.
  • Examples: designated driver in DWI, physically active (use stairs, not elevator).

             Multi-year consistency in theme

  • Consistency is required to move target audiences through the various “stages of change”.
  • Variety in creative approach from one period to the other and one group to the other is required to keep the attention-grabbing power of the campaign (however messages have to be consistent).

Pay attention to social norms

Social norms are people’s beliefs about the attitudes and behaviours that are normal, acceptable, or even expected in a particular social context. In many situations, people’s perception of these norms greatly influence their behaviour. Therefore, when people misperceive the norms of their group—that is, when they inaccurately think an attitude or behaviour is more (or less) common than is actually the case—they may choose to engage in behaviours that are in sync with those false norms.

The social norm process works by collecting data on the actual versus perceived behavioural norms. If there is an over-exaggeration of the norms, then social marketing messages and tactics are developed to communicate the true norms that exist. By continuing to communicate the true norms, the myth that everybody is doing it is slowly eroded away until the group realizes that the majority are doing what’s right. When this positive message is sustained for a year or two, the negative behaviours of the group begin to shift downward to reflect the majority behaviour.

Know exactly who your audience is and look at everything from their point of view

Marketers are consumer-focused. It is crucial that you clearly identify your target audience and that you look at the world from their point of view. Why does a marketer think this way? To motivate people to take an action, you have to understand the world from your target audience’s perspective – what do they want, struggle with, care about, dislike? The people you are talking to will not listen if they sense that you do not understand them.

Need to understand what makes people do what they do

People do not change their behaviours because it is “the right thing to do”. Education alone does not change behaviours. Also, people tend to fib about their behaviours. People do change their behaviours when the benefit to them outweighs the barrier they face.  Finally, do not forget your audience is always asking themselves when told to do something what is in it for me? my family? my community? my city? my region? or my country?

Get influencers involved

Every audience has influencers: people that they look to for direction.  One of the great successes of effective social marketing initiatives is getting a wide range of influencers on board.  When celebrities, business leaders, community leaders, and your most influential and connected friends are participating, it’s hard to resist joining the fray.

Do not assume that behaviour change is difficult

Difficulty is a qualitative judgment of effort required based on task/behaviour requirements versus our capabilities. No matter what’s being asked of people, if it’s rational, desirable, and people are motivated, with a clear and sensible process, behavioural change is possible.



Two workbooks ideal for marketers and communicators working for government departments/agencies, non-profit/volunteer organizations, associations and social enterprises who are responsible for:

  • Marketing programs, products, programs and/or services
  • Social marketing, community outreach and public education programs

Social Marketing Planning to Change Attitudes and Behaviours Workbook

This workbook provides users with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for a successful social marketing program to change attitudes and behaviours. The content is the result of more than 30 years of direct experience in the social marketing arena.  It will assist public sector, non-profit organizations and associations involved in marketing, communications, public awareness/education and outreach.

To purchase workbook, go to

Order Now and You’ll receive a PDF download immediately!

Alternatively, you can register on our MARCOM Conference site to attend an upcoming Introduction to Social Marketing Planning for Behaviour Change Workshop where we offer the workbook as part of 1-day interactive workshop

Marketing 101 for Marketers and Non-Marketers Workbook

This workbook provides users with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for developing a successful public sector or non-profit marketing program.

It also will provide you with an overview of public sector and non-profit marketing and highlight the importance of market research to support a decision-making framework.

To purchase workbook, go to

Order Now and you will receive a PDF download immediately!






B C Health Adapts CEPSM Social Marketing Workbook for British Columbia

In September 2014, I had the opportunity to work with the British Columbia Ministry of Health’s Population and Public Health Division to co-host social marketing sessions in Vancouver and Victoria to explore shared strategic approaches for social marketing and engagement across health promotion and disease/injury prevention partners in British Columbia.

We also conducted train the trainer one day workshops with social marketers across BC using our CEPSM Social Marketing Planning Workbook

I wrote a blog last year after I completed the first phase of my work with the British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Health’s  Population and Public health Division

We are very pleased to announce that an adapted version of our CEPSM Social Marketing Planning Workbook is now the official workbook of the Healthy Families BC program . The work book which is titled Public Health Social Marketing in BC has been adapted for the province of BC and includes changes to some of the examples from our workbook to refer to some campaigns that have been conducted in BC.

In addition, one of our recommendations was to develop a broader, collaborative community of practice to engage all health promotion/disease prevention marketing partners throughout BC – government, health authority and non-government.

As a result in 2015 BC Health formed the Social Marketing Working Group (SMWG) with each of the health authority health promotion reps which has been great for sharing resources and collaborating on health promotion projects.

The newly adapted workbook will be made available to members of the Social Marketing Working Group . The working group comprises of the following groups

  • Health promotion marketing leads for each of the five regional health authorities in BC,
  • First Nations Health Authority
  • Provincial Health Services Authority (including BC Centre for Disease Control).
  • HealthLinkBC and
  • BC Government Communications and Public Engagement group (the Province’s central communications unit).

The workbook will be used by SMWG members to develop social marketing strategies for their specific initiatives as well as social marketing training within their agencies.

The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) is delighted to make this contribution to social marketing in British Columbia and hope that other provinces, territories, municipalities , non profit organizations and other countries will work with CEPSM to develop their version of our social marketing workbook.

If you are interested in talking to us about our adapting our work book for your jurisdiction or organization please contact me : or call me at 613 230 6424 ext 223

We also give public workshops and private tailored workshops in social marketing (in-house or at our facilities), and private coaching and mentoring services.



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Get Certified: Sprott Professional Programs

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