Geek looking at data


Keeping Up With Marketing To Canada's Diverse Populations

Nov 2, 2011, 09:42 AM by Doug Norris, Ph.D.
These days, most companies have some sort of strategy for marketing to newcomers and immigrants to Canada.

The marketing landscape in Canada is an ever-changing tapestry of young and old, newcomers and longtime residents of the country.  And as marketers develop their understanding of how to communicate to the population, the shifting trends in immigration have the potential to change the rules. Today, organizations in all sectors need to understand the changing cultural diversity of Canada and the challenges it presents in delivering products and services to Canadians.

On November 1, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism presented the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration (  A key part of the report is the announcement of the immigration levels planned for 2012. The report indicated that, for 2012, the overall admissions range for permanent residents will be 240,000 to 265,000. This is the same range as for the last 6 years. So one thing we can be sure of is that there will be about a quarter of a million new consumers in the Canadian marketplace during the course of 2012.

The actual number of immigrants to Canada fluctuated between 221,000 and 262,000 for the period 2001-2009. However, in 2010 total admissions of permanent residents to Canada were 280,681. This exceeded the planned range and was the highest level of immigration in 50 years.

For marketers to truly tap into these new markets, the shift in the type of immigrants coming into Canada is important to note.  It’s not enough to try to market to “new Canadians” as a whole; marketers today need to understand where they are coming from and how they are behaving in the marketplace as they become a part of Canadian society. While Canada receives its immigrant population from over 200 countries, in 2010, just over 50 percent of new immigrants were from 10 source countries. Also in 2010, the Philippines became the top country of origin for immigrants (36,578) surpassing both India (30,252) and China (30,197). Immigration from the Philippines has increased substantially over the decade from a low of 12,928 in 2001 to nearly triple the number today.

The big cities continue to be the largest magnets for immigration, but between them, the pattern of settlement changed substantially over the past decade..  In 2010, one third of all immigrants settled in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), 17% in the Montreal CMA and 13% in the Vancouver CMA. The big change was a drop in the proportion of immigrants going to the Toronto CMA, from 50% in 2001 to 33% in 2010. A further analysis suggests the drop was a result of lower immigration to the City of Toronto (down about 50%) in addition to increased immigration to the suburban 905 area. Most other parts of the country saw their share of new immigrants remain about the same or slightly increase. Being able to understand the needs of these growing suburban immigrant populations will separate those marketers who are successful from the rest of the pack in the next few years.

But it’s not only those who are coming to stay in Canada who represent an opportunity; there are also those who stay for a while, then leave. In addition to the trends in the number of permanent resident immigrants, over the last decade there also has been a substantial increase in the number of temporary workers and students in Canada. As of December 1, 2010, there were 282,771 temporary workers in Canada—up from 96,390 in 2001. In addition, there were 218,161 foreign students in Canada—an increase from 136,495 in 2001.  Being able to see the patterns where these workers are going and which schools these students are selecting will allow the astute marketer to find opportunities and provide services to these itinerant residents.

If CMOs and agencies are to continue to put out relevant and effective marketing to these new Canadians, they need to understand and develop strategies that appeal to the unique tastes and sensibilities of these markets.  The rules are changing all the time. And keeping a finger on the vibrant pulse of the Canadian marketplace will be more important than ever in 2012.

doug-norrisOne of Canada’s leading experts on the Census, Doug Norris, Ph.D., is a Senior Vice President and Chief Demographer at Environics Analytics. He joined EA in 2006 after nearly 30 years with Statistics Canada, where he earned the nickname of “Mr. Census” in his role as Director General of Social and Demographic Statistics. Currently, he assists companies, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations in using census and other statistical information for planning and marketing projects.