What Census 2021 Reveals About Multicultural Consumers: Insights for Marketers

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What Census 2021 Reveals About Multicultural Consumers: Insights for Marketers

An oft-repeated truism in the world of “Mad Men” is that brands need to “connect” with their audiences in order to generate awareness, build customer loyalty and ultimately boost their bottom line. Connecting with your target market requires a good understanding of its cultural identity, especially in Canada where multiculturalism is an important part of our social fabric.

Canada’s population is growing 2x the pace of every other G7 country and is also the fastest-growing country in the G20. This increase is mainly driven by Immigration*,  as it is underlined in the results of the 2021 Census. Indeed 80% of the 1.8 million population increase between 2016-2021 was attributable to new arrivals. In addition, more than a quarter (8.3 million people) of the total Canadian population are either landed immigrants or permanent residents. Currently,   the government of Canada aims to welcome 500,000 people a year by 2025. Moreover, Canada will increase the proportion of immigrants to around 34% of the population by 2041**. These ambitious goals can, in large part, be attributed to labor shortages across the nation in several industries, with immigrants accounting for over 80% of the labor-force growth in recent years. 

The positive trend in immigration will likely accelerate into the future as long as immigration policies enacted by governments at the federal and provincial levels continue to encourage newcomers. Canada is not only seen as one of the safest and best countries to live in but it is also known to be open to immigration thanks to its celebration of cultural and religious diversity. These immigration trends have significant implications for multicultural marketers who want to reach and engage with diverse audiences across Canada. An important characteristic of multicultural communities is their cultural identity and sense of belonging. This means that multicultural marketers need to understand and respect the values, traditions, and preferences of different cultural groups and avoid stereotypes or assumptions that may offend or alienate them.

What are the main sources of immigration?

Since 2000, Asia has been the dominant source of immigrants to Canada. Today, roughly one in five Canadians are of Asian origin. From 2016 to 2021, Canada saw an influx of 1.44 million people, which contributed to a population increase of 4%. This rise was mainly due to Indian immigrants who represented 18.6% of all newcomers (268,487 approximately), followed by Filipinos (11.4%) and Chinese (8.9%) – the latter having significantly decreased compared to previous years due to a ban on non-essential overseas travel put in place by the Chinese government during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While Asia has been the main source of immigration in recent years, and in particular India, 2022 was an outlier in that Canada welcomed a record number of Ukrainian refugees who have settled here under a special visa which allows them to work, study and stay in Canada during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict .  As of January 2023, over 150,000 Ukrainian refugees had already arrived in Canada as a result of the war that began less than twelve months prior, and an additional 270,000 applications through the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) had been approved.

Don’t get lost in translation.

One of the most important characteristics of multicultural communities is their language diversity. According to the 2021 Census, over one-fifth (21%) of Canadians reported speaking a language other than English or French at home. The most common languages spoken at home were Mandarin (2%), Cantonese (1.7%), Punjabi (1.5%), Spanish (1.5%) and Tagalog (Filipino) (1.3%). The census also revealed that more than half (54%) of recent immigrants spoke neither English nor French as their first official language learned.

These language preferences indicate that multicultural marketers need to tailor their messages and channels to reach their target audiences effectively. For example, using bilingual or multilingual content on websites, social media platforms and print materials can help increase awareness and trust among multicultural consumers who may prefer or rely on their mother tongue for information and decision making.

A Rejuvenation effect

Another outturn of immigration has been a rejuvenation effect on Canada’s population. Indeed,  most newcomers are in the younger age brackets, 10.9% were youth and young adults aged 15-24, while 64.2% were in the core working age (25-54). 

Advertisers should be aware that immigrants in Canada tend to live within larger households, with more than 2 children per family, which translates into a greater potential consumer base. In addition, children of immigrant parents –  especially those coming from Asia – are more likely to obtain a postsecondary certificate or diploma and are more likely to join the highly-skilled workforce in future years, increasing potential loyal consumers with higher purchasing power.

“The vast majority of immigrants, recent or established, live in a major urban center”***. 

In 2021, 92% of immigrants chose to live in urban areas. They moved to the largest cities, where they had established friends, family and religious communities from their home countries to rely on.

Toronto is the urban center with the largest proportion of immigrants overall (46.6%), followed by Vancouver (41.8%). Although the majority tends to establish in these two cities, a new trend is picking up due to unaffordable or unavailable housing, recent immigrants are choosing to settle just outside of the large urban centers of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.

Multicultural advertising plays a key role when working with a diverse audience, especially if companies are looking to maximize their messaging to an audience of different backgrounds.

The role of multicultural agencies is crucial in this process, as they have the expertise, the connections and the creativity to help brands create effective and impactful multicultural campaigns. Multicultural agencies can help brands with market research, strategy development, content creation, media planning and execution, and performance measurement. They can also help brands navigate cultural nuances, avoid pitfalls, and optimize opportunities.

Multicultural agencies are not only service providers but partners for brands who want to succeed in multicultural marketing. They can help brands connect with diverse audiences on a deeper level and deliver value that goes beyond transactions.



* https://www.statcan.gc.ca/o1/en/plus/468-canadas-growing-population-driven-immigration
** https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/221026/dq221026a-eng.htm
*** https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/221026/dq221026a-eng.htm

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