More ethnic? There ain't no such thang.

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There has been some discussion in marketing circles about Chinese consumers being closer to their own heritage and culture than South Asians. It's not a defensible argument.

Is Alice, a Mandarin-speaking dollar-store-owning-mum, closer to her own mainland Chinese culture?
Or is Gurpreet - an English-speaking Punjabi-sweets-and-samosa-takeout-owning-mum closer to her roots in Punjab?

Who feels more connected to her homeland or her ethnic origins?

Let's look at Alice, married, with two kids; she celebrates the Chinese New Year, speaks Mandarin at home, reads the Mandarin newspaper, watches Mandarin TV and sends her kids to extra Chinese language classes and ballet, but is Catholic (the largest single religious denomination among Chinese immigrants in the Greater Toronto Area) and hopes her children will find Chinese mates for themselves when they grow up.

And Gurpreet? Also married, with two kids, she celebrates Baisakhi, shares her home with at least one set of in-laws, speaks a combination of Punjabi and English at home, reads the Toronto Star, occasionally picks up a free Indian newspaper, usually in English, watches Omni and English TV, goes to the gurdwara religiously (and takes her kids with her), attends several picnics and Punjabi reunions with her family and is already thinking of what will be the best possible way to arrange a marriage for her kids.

To sum up: It's true that the Chinese simply cannot access mainstream Canadian culture with the same ease that South Asians do. However this does not automatically make the Chinese closer to their own culture than South Asians are to theirs.
It's only true that the Chinese are more isolated from the mainstream by the barrier of language.

Successful marketing to these audiences is a matter of cultural insight, not of language.
(It's the same approach that works in the mainstream after all).
If we connect with them in their own language, sure, they'll hear us.
But if we connect with them on their own wavelength, they'll actually listen to us.

Language may help you get your foot in the door.
Understanding, on the other hand, will get you invited to dinner.
And that, my friends, is where the gravy is.


copyright 2005 Gavin Barrett All rights reserved.


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