Due to an unprecedented boom in immigration across Canada, the marketing landscape has undergone and will continue to experience many significant changes. In 2006, the Canadian Marketing Association published an article entitled “Ethnic Marketing in Canada: The Challenges Ahead”. In it, author Jack Jedwab states that the population of Canada will grow by ten percent between 2006 and 2017. That’s a jump from 32 to 35 million. He specifies that the Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Arab and other visible minority groups will account for more than 80 percent of that growth. In fact, he adds that visible minorities will represent the majority of the population of Vancouver by 2017. Toronto won’t be too far behind.
With changing demographics come changing opinions, begging the question of whether your real estate company is prepared to market your rental units to our country’s newcomers. Profitguide.com’s Kim Hart MacNeill explains that 2010 saw a whopping 281,000 immigrants in Canada—the most we’ve seen in nearly a century. Her article, “Selling to Canada’s New Immigrants”, also insists that the nation’s combination of a low birth rate and an aging population leaves the newcomer audience a market too large to overlook.
In its 2009 Consumerology Report, Toronto-based veteran advertising agency Bensimon Byrne revealed that a significant portion of first-generation immigrants feel strongly disconnected from marketing efforts. Findings reveal, “Almost a third of new Canadians feel strongly that most television advertising does not reflect them, not because of visible minorities or language but because of the advertising’s lack of relevance to their own life experience.” The report continues to explain that first- and second-generation immigrants are also likely to read newspapers in both English and their mother tongue. Such being the case, when your apartment rental company designs a media plan targeting new immigrants, are your advertising dollars being spent as effectively as possible?
Customize by Custom
There’s more to ethnic marketing than copy-pasting your ads to fit into generalizations of a particular group, explains Charlotte Riley in a 2005 Canadian Business Online article. “Companies often make the mistake of simply translating their existing campaign into different languages instead of targeting campaigns to specific ethnic groups,” she says, adding that today’s newcomers are more sophisticated and better educated than their predecessors, making them all-around savvy consumers.
In other words, if you’re considering a print ad campaign, go beyond “ethnicizing” or basic translations and address specific cultures respectfully but distinctively. Bensimon’s recommendation is to “incorporate diverse life situations into…ads, rather than focus on ethnic casting and translations to create relevance.” When you do advertise your available apartments for rent in a foreign newspaper, ask the person responsible for placement to ensure your company’s promotion isn’t compartmentalized into an ethnic section.
Think Inside the Box
Does your rental property have a community immigration contact person? Is your rental agent well versed in the surrounding neighbourhood’s services for newcomers? Are you prepared to point immigrants to reliable job agencies? Is your staff trained to be culturally sensitive regarding holidays and dietary customs? Forming relationships with multicultural contacts in and around your complex is key to obtaining insider information regarding these and many other questions that may arise when catering to an immigrant rental population.
Encourage your staff to conduct some field research and environmental scans by talking to store owners, finding out what kinds of restaurants are in the neighbourhood. As well, ask whether agencies will allow your company to promote rental units on their bulletin boards. Since immigrant communities tend to be tightly knit, opportunities for a powerful word-of-mouth network abound. Position yourself as a community supporter by offering superior services and taking that “extra step” and you could build loyalty for life.
Follow the Leaders
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Magazines like Canadian Newcomer are the go-to resource for hundreds of thousands of new immigrants. Known as “The How-To Magazine for New Immigrants”, Canadian Newcomer is distributed free of charge in more than 100 towns and cities across Canada with an estimated readership of more than 170,000. Believe it or not, this figure doesn’t even include online readership (www.cnmag.ca) and a hefty Twitter following (@canadianewcomer). Talking about real-life issues affecting new Canadians today, their experts discuss everything from employment and education to pets and finances. Ask your site staff to get familiar with the topics and tips featured as a way to get the discussion rolling with prospective renters.
Design a Community Marketing Plan
Bensimon’s survey uncovered that 72 percent of first-generation Canadians would rather live in diverse surroundings. Moreover, findings showed that newer Canadians are interested in activities like community theatre and symphonies. Pinpointing and understanding these kinds of insights via environmental scans can offer landlords a remarkable advantage over the competition: they will separate you from the masses and convey a distinct and appealing message of what your community has to offer.
After learning the specific likes and dislikes of your target audience, you can then design a marketing plan that perhaps includes staff members to run events for community development. Posting signs throughout the rental complex will keep prospective residents intrigued and current residents in the loop—a great retention tool! Using the information collected in your field research, your company can then explore marketing collateral that highlights your property’s advantages. Some promotional tools include a site-specific website, orientation guides and brochures outlining nearby services. It’s a game of trial and error, but once you’ve found your niche, the rental prospects will flow.
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(written for the February edition of the Great Toronto Apartment Association’s Building Blocks Publication for Toronto based apartment owners and landlords)
– The RentSeeker.ca Team