By Jim Green

Jatinder Rai gets very concerned when clients think a multicultural community is homogenous. Language, values and beliefs can vary significantly within communities and neighbourhoods, explained the founder and president of Response Advertising Inc. Marketers targeting a multicultural audience need to take the time to learn about the nuances within these communities and then use those insights to inform their media, creative and marketing strategies.

Rai built Response Advertising to address this challenge head-on. With offices in Toronto, Ont. and Vancouver, B.C. it steers marketers through the complex multicultural landscape of North America.

Jatinder Rai, founder and president, Response Advertising

“You have to make sure that you are using the right language to connect with your biggest prospective audience,” said Rai. “Building targeted ads written in traditional Chinese offers little value when the population you want to reach speaks Mandarin.”

Understanding differences
Some companies try to get around the language barrier by relying on English language media channels. While this approach may reach second and third generation Canadians, it may not produce the desired results since they sometimes speak a language other than English at home. As Rai explained, consumers are more likely to respond to messages delivered in their mother tongue. Even if the English language media reaches some of this audience, marketers targeting ethnic segments should consider connecting with first generation Canadians in their mother languages, because they represent the bulk of the population in these communities.

Response Advertising needed to use data and analytics to understand the major ethnic populations in detail. With these insights, the agency believed it could help its clients engage their target audiences, regardless of whether they plan to use direct mail, digital or out-of-home ads. With help from Environics Analytics, they developed a customized acculturation tool capable of segmenting the major ethnic communities at the postal code level based on the level of cultural integration.

The key to Response Advertising’s success was its knowledge that using data that classified households by immigration status, period of immigration, mother tongue and the language most often spoken at home, were imperative to understanding these communities. It developed three segments within the acculturation tool—Traditionalists, Fusion and Acculturated—for the major visible minority groups: Chinese, South Asian, West Asian, Arab, Latin, Black, Filipino, Korean, Southeast Asian and Japanese.

Strong ROI
This level of separation enables Response Advertising’s to guide its clients to the right media as well as help craft messaging to engage the desired consumer groups. “The value we saw was for our clients to identify the right target market and match it to media, creative and marketing structures,” said Rai.

A decade ago, identifying acculturation levels within a community with any degree of precision would not have been practical. “We are creating better efficiencies to boost ROI [return on investment],” added Rai. “It helps us as an agency, and it helps our clients.”

Companies across several industries, including telecommunication, consumer packaged goods, financial, education, entertainment and auto sectors, are increasingly factoring in acculturation levels into their marketing decisions. One national brand using Response Advertising’s customized acculturation tool was able to achieve double digit growth in its multicultural base utilizing this approach, explained Rai.

With the success in the Chinese and South Asian populations, Response Advertising is now turning its attention to the rapidly expanding Arabic community, which already represents about a million people in Canada. “It’s a growing opportunity,” said Rai. “Especially in a group as dynamic as theirs.”

Adopting a targeted approach to multicultural marketing is important today and will become even more important to marketers in the coming years as the population becomes more diverse. According to data from Environics Analytics, visible minorities already represent approximately 25% of the Canadian population and are projected to reach 28% by 2029.

“The best way to reach them is to speak their language and appreciate their unique cultural experience and their lifestyle,” said Rai. “With the Environics Analytics’ acculturation tool, it makes what we do every day more efficient and more precise.”

Jim Green is a leader in the media, agency and telecom practice at Environics Analytics. Jatinder Rai is the founder and president of Response Advertising Inc. (

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