The grade two teacher poses a simple problem, ‘’there are four blackbirds on a tree.  You take a sling shot and shoot at one of them and how many do you have left?  ‘’Three’’ answers the seven year old European boy with certainty. ‘’Zero’’ answers the South Asian boy with equal certainty. ‘’If you shoot at one bird then others will also fly away.’’

The problem, as it turns out, is not that simple. In some ways it gets to the very heart of Canada’s increasing cultural diversity, and the cultural need if we are to compete in the global marketplace and even at home. Furthermore it is critical to recognize this diversity, understand it, value it and finally manage it.

Managing this lucrative market at home and abroad is not easy. In major cities such as Vancouver, many businesses have finally woken up to the concept that ethnic markets cannot be ignored. I can still recall the days during radio advertising in the late 80’s when businesses were reluctant to target any of the ethnic groups,  even the Chinese or South Asian. Often the answer was something like this: perhaps you can air the commercial spots for free and then we will see what happens. Try saying that now!

When it comes to advertising, what works in the mainstream does not necessarily work in the ethnic market. A campaign needs to be specifically targeted to each group individually whether that is the South Asian community or the Chinese.

Even huge corporations have made blunders that cost them dearly in the pocket book. In the 80’s McDonalds conducted a huge campaign selling pork burgers: portraying a Muslim Man dressed in white eating a pork burger. This ad was pulled off  quickly  because Muslims do not eat pork. In another example, was when General Motors spent million on marketing its Nova in South America. Nova in English means new star, however, in Spanish, No Va means no go. Apparently GM did not sell many Novas in South America.

As Canada’s population becomes much more diverse, it is important to do research when targeting the various ethnic communities. One size does not fit all.