Targeting Asians & South Asians Online – Diversity Marketing as Strategy

Over the past few weeks, we discussed the lucrative New Canadian market, segmenting by tenure and ethnicities, and understanding different cultural nuances. This week we will discuss where to connect with different ethnic groups.

There are many ethnic media channels that businesses can use to target customers –TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites, e-zines, etc.  The number of ethnic-specific media channels grew so much in the past few years that there are now multiple ethnic councils or associations just for ethnic media alone.  With all the channels available in Canada – specifically in Toronto – how should a business owner choose to spend their marketing dollars?

From the 2006 census, we know that there are 1.26 million South Asians and 1.22 million Chinese in Canada, and they’re the fastest growing segments in the country.  There are also 1.8 million Torontonians speaking an immigrant language at home.  The most spoken unofficial languages in Toronto are Cantonese (9%), Punjabi (8%), Chinese (7%), Urdu (6%) and Tamil (6%); however there are no studies on ability to read and write text from an unofficial language.

If we focus closely on the South Asian and Chinese population – top two in growth rates –  we find that they’re both over-indexed on PC ownership and internet usage:

  • For Chinese immigrants, 9 in 10 used the internet last week – for 2.6 hours as compared to 1.6 hours of TV, and less than an hour for radio.

  • For South Asian immigrants, 89% of 15-29 year olds and 71% of 30-49 year olds use the Internet on a weekly basis.

After conducting research to understand a target ethnic group, business owners may decide to connect with these ethnic groups through online advertisements or social media campaigns.

Here are some quick facts about these two segments that will help with online placement:

  • 80% of Chinese and 78% of South Asian consumers find ads in their first language useful

  • Google is the top search engine used by both segments

  • Yahoo! and MSN instant messenger are most popular with Chinese Canadians

  • Facebook and YouTube were the top portals among both segments

By combining research insight about your target ethnic group (needs, wants, values, decision making processes, preferences and other attributes), and a channel that they frequent, you are maximizing your ethnic marketing budget.

Some benefits and drawbacks to online campaigns for small businesses include:


  • Affordable – It levels the playing field against large corporations as online campaigns are smaller compared to other traditional media.

  • Flexible – Online campaigns allow for more flexibility in making changes, it could be a combination of images, text, or video.

  • Responsive – Results can be viewed instantly, often with the ability to make changes right away to ensure cost effectiveness.

  • Specific – Many online platforms allow for specific targeting.  For example, you may want to use Facebook to target a group of customers who speak a specific language.

  • Viral - Immigrants are more likely to make and stay friends with those within their ethnic group, so a well-executed campaign can be very successful quickly.


  • Viral – The downside of going viral is negative word-of-mouth.  If your business doesn’t have the infrastructure to support this new group of customers, your company’s reputation may be tarnished very quickly.

Once your business has the infrastructure and research it needs, your online campaign could be your winning recipe to growth!

Bernice Cheung

Bernice Cheung

Bernice Cheung is the Senior Consultant of Altus Strategy Group, a consulting firm that helps businesses solve their marketing and strategy issues.  She leads the Ethnic Marketing practice – helping clients understand and target this lucrative population through listening to the consumer’s authentic voice.  She received her MBA from Richard Ivey School of Business, and an Honours B Commerce degree from DeGroote School of Business.

E-mail: Bernice.Cheung@AltusStrategy.com

Website: www.AltusStrategy.com

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