stand out from the crowd

This year, the world’s largest multi-cultural event will take place in Brazil.  The Summer Olympic Games bring together athletes from many nations.  When the events end, the athletes return to their countries of origin… Well, not quite!  You only have to look at the multi-ethnic face of Team Canada to see that Canada is not the country of origin of many of our athletes.  The multi-ethnic profile of the team mirrors the multi-cultural mix of our country and so many other countries of the world.

Changing demographics in Canada and the emergence of potentially lucrative ethnic markets have brought attention, effort and investment in marketing to ethnic groups, with varying degrees of success.   “Multi-cultural marketing” may be a buzz word for some, or may mean big business for others.  To be successful, marketers should embrace fundamental truths, which, when understood, will dispel some persistent misconceptions and support successful multi-cultural marketing strategies.

3 Myths and 3 fundamental truths

Myth #1 – Ethnic groups are “one big happy family.” 

Fundamental truth #1 – There are sub-groups and cultural differences within ethnic groups.

For example, there are linguistic and cultural differences among Africans, people of colour from the Caribbean and African-Americans.  However, I often wonder what ROI has been achieved on Canada Post’s full-page ads in the Community Contact newspaper for MoneyGram transfers to Africa.  Community Contact is a Montreal-based newspaper that caters primarily to Black Anglophones of Caribbean origin, many of whom are avid cricket fans.  I was quite surprised a few years ago, when Canada Post did not chose to advertise its promotion of the World Cup of Cricket in the Community Contact newspaper, but continued to advertise MoneyGram transfers to Africa – a service used primarily by Québec’s African community, which does not comprise the majority of the newspaper’s readers.  This example illustrates that Canada Post, like many marketers, don’t understand that there are linguistic and cultural sub-groups in ethnic communities with different lifestyles and interests.

Myth #2 – Ethnic consumers always identify with their cultural heritage. 

Fundamental truth #2 – Ethnicity does not always play into consumer choices.  Members of Canada’s various ethnic and cultural groups generally feel a sense of belonging to Canada. 

An Ethnic Diversity Survey conducted by Statistics Canada indicated that half of the population identifies with their ethnic or cultural group.  The study also found that ethnic attachments persist, but weaken over several generations and Canadian identity increases with the number of generations a person’s family had lived in Canada.

It is important for marketers to understand the conditions in which ethnicity and cultural affiliations become relevant to consumer engagement and purchase behaviour.

I do believe that strong ethnic attachments emerge under certain conditions, such as international competitions and cultural and sporting events.  For example, the stellar performance of the Jamaican Olympic team in the track events elicited strong ethnic and cultural affiliations among second and third generation Canadians of Jamaican heritage.

Myth #3 – To appeal to ethnic groups, marketing efforts should be focused only on ethnic products.

Fundamental Truth #3 –There is a higher demand by ethnic groups for some non-ethnic products than among the general population. 

An Environics Multicultural Imperative study found that recent immigrant and second generation members of visible minority groups are highly educated, are interested in status symbols, recognition and appearance and are likely to own their own homes within the first six years of living in Canada.

For this reason, marketers in the banking, retail and home improvement sectors should pay particular attention to ethnic consumers.  It is important to understand when and where to invest in marketing activities geared to this audience and build worthwhile relationships without alienating non-ethnic clients.

That saidthere are needs that are specific to ethnic markets that are not being met through the mainstream supply chain.  A good example is beauty products, particularly hair and skin care products specific to the needs of ethnic groups, are not widely available in the major retail stores… I can personally say that this is my biggest frustration living in Canada!  With the new immigrant and ethnic populations growing at a rate faster than non-visible minority groups in Canada, retail marketers should consider ethnic products as potentially lucrative contributors to their product line-ups.

The BIG picture

Accepting these fundamental truths, I believe, is an essential step in the right direction for successful multi-cultural marketing.  But this is not enough.   Although some marketers may consider multi-cultural marketing as a branch or special practice of mainstream marketing, multi-cultural marketing will play an increasingly important role in understanding overall consumer trends in Canada.   

Statistics Canada predicts that by 2031, roughly one in every three people in the labor force could be foreign born.   The presence, needs and influence of these consumers cannot be ignored, and will have to be addressed in demand surveys and other market research activities, now and in future years.   Multi-cultural marketing in Canada will have to be integrated in the marketing plan of every business that intends to be sustainably successful.  This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Consider the following areas to focus on:

  • Get to know more about ethnic and cultural communities– not just demographic profiles but also research consumer patterns and purchase motivations and how they differ from those of the general population.  (Be aware that most of the available research is on economic and sociological subjects with generalized conclusions and therefore must be read with caution as the disparities in economic and social conditions among ethnic groups could be misleading to marketers.)
  • Poll customers purchasing ethnic products– ‘Did you find what you were looking for?’ ‘If not, can we order for you?’
  • Faith-based centres, ethnic/cultural associations, particularly among the older generation, are important centres of community life and open the door for local marketing activitiessuch as the promotion of services that are discounted when bought/subscribed to by groups.
  • In marketing research surveys,integrate questions that will provide information relating to cultural differences (e.g. alcohol consumption, recreation, consumer purchases).
  • Acknowledge the Canadian identityof ethnic target market segments, while respecting their cultural values and differences in a positive way.

A final word

There is a growing body of research and resources to support multi-cultural marketing.   There may be other resources available.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome.


See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.

This is an updated version of an earlier post.  Although the post was written 4 years ago, the myths about multicultural marketing still persist.


In the nearly five months since the start of 2016, I have opted-out of as many e-mail marketing subscriptions. When I opted in, I was pretty sure that I knew what I signed up for – quality, relevan…

Source: 3 Mistakes e-Mail Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them

E-mail to read in an envelope with an arrow

In the nearly five months since the start of 2016, I have opted-out of as many e-mail marketing subscriptions.

When I opted in, I was pretty sure that I knew what I signed up for – quality, relevant information and marketing resources.  Knowing that at some point I would have to make a purchase decision, I realized that opting-in meant receiving frequent, scheduled e-mails and a few telephone calls from the senders.

But each time I clicked “unsubscribe”, I knew I was doing the right thing.

Experts in e-mail marketing advise marketers to have a robust subscription strategy, segment subscribers according to their needs, provide relevant, useful information and build interaction through strong calls to action.  While it was clear that the e-mailers carefully planned their subscription and content strategies with the intention of using best practice guidelines, they repeatedly committed some fatal errors that just killed my interest in being a subscriber to their e-mail list.

  • Although interesting information was being provided, it wasn’t what was initially expected.
  • The constant upfront sales pitches were overwhelming and untimely.
  • There was no perceived value in some of the calls to action, particularly those which didn’t ask for a purchase.

Here are three mistakes that result from badly used email marketing guidelines:

1.  Sending useful information – but it’s not mapped to the subscriber’s stage in the customer journey.

The classic purchase funnel is used to identify the various stages of the customer journey from awareness, to consideration, preference and then to the purchase decision.  To be effective, e-mail marketing must provide content that is correlated to the customer’s needs and stage in the journey towards the purchase decision.

Consider the following model that maps the customer journey to e-mail content

Customer Journey & Content Map CroppedCustomer Journey & Content Map – Camille Isaacs-Morell 2016©

2.  Having a good initial opt-in strategy – but it fails to build engagement momentum over time

The key to building a robust list of subscribers is to have an opt-in strategy that targets the right subscribers.  Astute marketers know that targeting the right subscribers starts with gathering contact details from various sources which are likely to include prospective clients e.g. industry association member lists, event attendees, direct business contacts – and launching engagement tactics to incite interest – e.g. special offers, landing pages, retargeted digital advertising, SEO… etc.

The mistake that many marketers make is to jump too quickly to make a sales pitch. 

When a subscriber opts-in, it is generally a sign that the initial e-mail has engaged their interest.  Throughout the customer’s journey, there must be on-going tactics to validate needs and purchase intentions.  In this way the engagement momentum can be sustained, increased and propelled toward the purchase decision.

Consider the following ways to build engagement momentum:

  • Ask for feedback – typically at the consideration phase – on the white paper, solution options or other resources offered to the subscriber
  • Request confirmation of the kind of information the subscriber would like to receive in the future – educational material, research results, product-specific material, etc.
  • Most importantly, segment subscribers according to the feedback received and tailor content and frequency of distribution accordingly.


3.  There is a call to action – not necessarily to purchase – but subscribers don’t see what’s in it for them

After opting in, subscribers want value for their response to calls to action. When calls to action solicit information prior to a purchase decision, a mutual exchange of benefits has to take place.

It’s important to understand that e-mail marketing campaigns are most vulnerable to subscriber opt-outs when a call to action appears to benefit the vendor more than the subscriber.  Some real turn-offs include –

  • Long surveys – even with an incentive and a promise to send the subscriber the results
  • Asking for too much information – what’s the motive for gathering additional information?
  • Forms are not mobile-friendly – time consuming and frustrating to complete

Is the call to action intended to get feedback? Is it to gauge interest and engagement?  Is the call to action a precursor to the ask for business?

The answers to all of these questions should drive the content of the e-mail, ensuring that the subscriber understands the vendor’s intention and has all the information required first before being asked to take action.

Let the subscriber derive value from the information provided with the option to follow through with the call to action.

 The BIG picture

E-mail marketing will continue to be an important source of business lead generation and revenues.  While there is ample evidence to prove this, it is important to remember that e-mail connects people.  Building relationships is a natural result of connecting people, who have many and varied needs.

Focus on what’s important

It’s important to gain insights into subscribers’ needs throughout the journey to the purchase decision.  Tailoring content, timing e-mail distribution and providing value throughout the campaign are important tactics that marketers should focus on to prevent well-intentioned strategies from being derailed.



See the BIG picture.   Focus on what’s important


  • What if you knew that half the attendees at an important trade show were first timers?

Wouldn’t you consider this show as an ideal opportunity to reach out to these new attendees and add them to your new business leads list?

  • And what if over three quarters of executive decision-makers said that they asked for a price quotation from at least one supplier at the trade show?

I bet that you would definitely make the business case to invest in a high-profile sponsorship with a range of entitlements that would make your brand so visible that your booth would be a hub for potential customers.

Trade shows have traditionally served as key meeting places for buyers and sellers of all kinds.  Vendors are encouraged to invest thousands of dollars in sponsorship packages offering brand visibility, exhibit space, and various opportunities to connect with potential buyers.

But as Forrester Research points out, in this Age of the Consumer, technology empowers customers, who now control when and where they buy, and increasingly that’s not in a store.  I would add, and maybe that’s not at a trade show.

While I am not suggesting that marketers withdraw support for trade shows, I caution against using three commonly cited reasons to justify investing in trade show sponsorships –

  1.  “We’ll be conspicuous by our absence.”

Ask yourself, “What is the real reason for sponsoring the event?”

What if, as a result of changes in the business environment or your company’s business strategy, your company has shifted its focus to another market segment or has dropped a product line, or has been presenting the same message to the same audience year after year at that show?

If any of these reasons is true, your participation may be irrelevant to the  92% of attendees who go to trade shows to see and learn about what’s new in products and services. 

By reducing or withdrawing your company’s investment in the show, you may in fact be sending the right message to the market about your positioning and business focus, which may not be a good fit for the trade show and its attendees.

  1.  “We get a chance to showcase our expertise and our products.”

Whether the opportunity involves doing a presentation, moderating a panel discussion or doing product demonstrations in a booth on the exhibition floor, chances are that you’ll only be able to reach a subset of the attendee population at the show.

In reality, when podium positions are secured, presenters are prohibited from promoting their solutions or products.  Furthermore, attendees spend very limited time on the show floor, as the time allotted is generally 15-30-minute breaks between conference sessions, possibly two times during the day.

  1.  “We’ll definitely generate sales at the show.”

I’ll be cautious here, as admittedly, there are times when sales are made at trade shows.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research reports that 46% of executive decision-makers made purchase decisions while attending a trade show.  But that’s less than half of the attendees with purchase decision-making authority. It’s not clear what percentage of those purchase decisions leads to sales transactions.

To state that sales will be generated at the show is plausible only if it can be proven that there is a significant proportion of the attendee population comprised of decision-makers and that you know who they are, where they are at in the buying cycle and that you know how to contact them during the event.

Consider these facts

The 2015 Exhibit Survey’s Trade Show Benchmarks indicate that trade shows are still important venues for business development.

  • 38% of attendees indicate that visiting exhibits influences purchase intent
  • Over the past five years, approximately half of all trade show attendees have consistently reported that they plan to buy products, solutions and technologies they see exhibited within 12 months after the event.

These facts also tell us that new business is developed and secured over an extended period of time and not on the trade show floor.  We can conclude that trade shows do have a place in the mix of on-going marketing programmes.

The relative importance of trade shows to the business development process should be the guiding principle that determines whether or not to invest in trade show sponsorships and if so, what the appropriate investment should be. 

Here are three key questions, which, when plausibly answered, can support the business case to invest in trade shows.

  1.  Why attend?

The reason for sponsoring the show is aligned with the company’s business objectives.

This can be done by scoring the company’s agreed on and established trade show selection criteria.

Important selection criteria include the attendee population, conference theme, content, event reputation, uniqueness of the opportunity, cost and value, timing and availability of key staff and attendees.

Each criterion should be assigned a weighted score according to its relative importance to the company’s business objectives and priorities.  For example, if the priority is to enter a niche market segment, higher weights should be assigned to the attendee population and uniqueness of the trade show.

  1.  Who will attend?

The trade show provides the opportunity for direct contact with target clientele who are also in the target audience of the company’s on-going marketing programmes.

The 2015 Exhibit Survey’s Trade Show Benchmarks clearly point to the need to engage in pre-event, on-site and on-going communication and marketing programmes to drive new business.  Investing and participating in trade shows, like any other business investment, should be part of an integrated programme of marketing communications and business development tactics that consistently reach out to a defined target clientele over an extended period of time.  That’s how companies build an engaged, loyal clientele.

  1. What’s really in it for the company?

The sponsorship entitlements create new assets for the company.

To be of value, the sponsorship investment ought to provide the company with assets that can be leveraged to build contacts and relationships so as to generate new business over time.  Some examples include access to attendee lists, bonus distribution of white papers to attendees, on-site opportunities to host or attend invitation-only events.




See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

Source: Why Customer Service is killing your Marketing plan and how to stop it



As marketing continues to evolve, there’s no shortage of articles, research and blogs giving advice on data analytics, engagement tactics, content marketing.  Marketers read voraciously to find solutions to ensure that marketing programs contribute to new and incremental revenues and to the pipeline of qualified leads.  Effective marketing automation and performance metrics are the highly regarded hallmarks of success.

Although performance metrics can tell us about past performance, the single determinant of success is, and has always been, the consistent delivery of the brand promise throughout the customer’s journey. 

Giving the customer what he expects is everything 

One bad customer experience can be amplified in a nanosecond through social media and damage a brand’s reputation, undermining the investment in marketing programs. 

Recent experiences with a fender bender, having my old smart phone replaced and finding my lost luggage, have given me some valuable insights on how companies are either hitting or missing the mark when it comes to delivering on the brand promise.

It came as no surprise when I read in the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s Predicting Routes to Revenue Report that

Only 16 percent of marketers feel that their organizations are delivering customer experiences that truly fulfill their brand promises, while two-thirds (66 percent) say their efforts in this area are hit or miss, and 14 percent say they are completely missing the mark.

Return to marketing fundamentals

The CMO Council’s finding points to the need to return to marketing fundamentals – the why, what and how products and services should meet the needs and expectations of the customer.  Every marketer knows that the brand promise is what the customer can expect in his interaction with the brand.

So why is there a disconnect between the customer experience and the brand promise?

In my view, very often the brand promise is defined by Marketing, but it is not understood by other areas of the business.  The back-office is not configured to support the customer experience; customer-facing teams are ill-equipped to serve customers; budgets don’t get approved for investments in training, IT development and operational processes that ultimately impact the customer experience.

The real answers to the why, what and how questions, can’t be just be statements of Marketing’s pipe dream, nor should they be the responsibility of some other area of the business.

The answers require deep understanding and insight into customers’ needs and their motivation to purchase, which may not be as straightforward or as obvious as is commonly taken for granted. 

Why is there a demand for your product or service?

Like it or not, a well-crafted end-product or service may really only be a means to an end for the customer.  For example, travellers use airlines to get to the family reunion or to the once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation destination.  Delay or lose the passenger’s luggage and the family reunion or the dream vacation is ruined.  Back-office operations that send an automated e-mail promising a response in 3 days, and a CSR who tells the customer that the “system is still searching for your bag” fully discredit the brand promise to “provide the best service possible.”

What is the fundamental problem has to be solved for the customer?

The perceived need that is being fulfilled may in fact be secondary.  The person whose car was damaged obviously needs to have it repaired.  But the real problem is the inconvenience of being without a car and the hassle of making alternative travel arrangements while the car is being repaired.  Armed with this insight, the promise of “personalized service for each guest” translates to a simplified sign-up process and flexible return schedule for the rented car replacement on top of a first-class repair job.  The combined work of the body shop’s Repair Services and Administration teams adds up to an A-grade score from a delighted customer, who then becomes a brand advocate.

How does the client want to be served?

And so what if you have a leading-edge product?  The average consumer doesn’t deeply understand (and doesn’t want to deeply understand) the technical features of many products they use on a daily basis.  Advertising the hi-tech features of smart phones won’t buy customers’ loyalty. The promise to provide the “best possible customer experience…treating the customer the way we would want to be treated” is really about ensuring that the customer’s experience is delivered on the customer’s terms.  What really matters is easy access to personalized service when and where the customer wants and needs it, delivered by tech-savvy customer service professionals.

The BIG picture

Empowered with information, customers are driving the way business is done.  That said, there has to be a common understanding of the brand promise and a common view of how the brand promise will be delivered through interdependent relationships throughout the organization.  This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Focus on what’s important

What’s really important is the consistent gathering of customer insights that is used to validate the brand promise and where necessary, adjust every aspect of business operations ensuring alignment with customer expectations. In practical terms, this means that organizations must do 3 things –

  1. Dedicate specialist resources to gather and analyse data on customer behaviour,
  2. Avoid analysis paralysis by requiring the delivery of actionable recommendations, and
  3. Commit to drive change in every area of the business so that the customer experience matches the brand promise.


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.



Source: 3 Things Airlines Shouldn’t Lose with their Passengers’ Luggage