The money of colour

A recent Marketing Magazine issue interviewed research maven Kaan Yigit on how the increase in our multicultural population will affect banks and their marketing.

“The growth of major ethnic cultural groups has been quite rapid in the past 10 years and it will continue for the next 10,” said Kaan, director of Solutions Research Group’s new Diversity in Canada study. “Every 10 years, you’re looking at 2.5 million new immigrants. That’s a lot of people with no brand preference–they don’t know one bank from the next."

Think about it. 2.5 million people.
A population the size of Toronto, every ten years. A population that will need to borrow to finance a new life.

That's a whole lot of new homes, new cars, new kids in school.
That's a whole lot of money in the pipeline.
Mortgages. Car loans. RESPs. Student loans.

The immigrant class Canada attracts is well-educated, professional, equipped with a strong work ethic and a fairly sophisticated world view. For immigrants, bad debts have a cultural stigma associated with them. In other words, to a bank, immigration provides a tide of well-behaved, low-risk customers.

So are Canada's banks making their presence felt among new Canadians?
Actually, the silence is deafening.

Name one bank RESP campaign that is based on the insight that South Asians and Chinese place a very high value on education. Or name an ad that leverages the cultural tendency to save and invest.

One thing banks seem to execute effectively enough is what I call the "insert-visible-minority-here" (IVMH to friends) strategy. It's better than nothing I suppose. IVMH is itself a relatively new phenomenon, accounting for the sudden appearance (c. 2002) of multiple ethnicities in bank advertising. Advertising that until then, had been - how to say this delicately? - colourless.

And now? Surely they've learned?
Oh no. Banks continue to offer the same insipid generic products.
Bank multicultural communications seem to be limited to meaningless sponsorships at random cultural events.
And the absence of cultural insight in bank advertising means that when anything is said, it is sans resonance, sans relevance, and alas, absolutely sans colour.

“Whoever reaches a little bit more deeply, with a little bit more enthusiasm, and perhaps makes sense of (immigrants’) life stages or cultural context, is going to have a bit of an edge.” said Mr Yigit to Marketing Magazine.

I said something very similar to Strategy Magazine when it came out with a multicultural issue - a full five years ago.
I guess the banks just can't understand our accents Mr Yigit.

copyright 2006 Gavin Barrett All rights reserved

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