Multicultural marketing needs more than a tokenistic approach

On UN International Migrants Day, Sheba Nandkeolyar, co-founder and CEO of MultiConnexions, questions if multicultural marketing is simply a blip on the radar, or something more permanent.

It’s the end of the year, and I have worked really hard. It’s time to reward myself with a little gift – a Google Home from Kogan.

I head to the mall to buy my Christmas presents for my family and friends. Chatswood Westfield has an amazing range of shops to choose my gifts from, and it’s packed. It’s almost lunchtime, and I meet a couple of friends. One of them suggests a quick lunch at Oporto. After more shopping, we decide to meet a friend for dinner that evening at his swanky Meriton apartment.

Just a day in my life, but it gets me thinking about how inextricably the Australian lifestyle has become integrated with the migrant story.

My favourite online shopping site was founded by Ruslan Kogan. He was born to Belarusian parents, and moved to Australia in 1989. Kogan had a frugal upbringing living in a housing commission flat, but soon found his entrepreneurial stride and started his first business at the age of ten by finding lost golf balls. His passion for technology and entrepreneurship led him to found Kogan – one of the most popular e-commerce sites in Australia.

My favourite mall was founded by Frank Lowy of Westfield Group. Lowy was born in Czechoslovakia and lived in a ghetto in Hungary during World War II. During Australia’s European immigration boom in the ’50s, Lowy met fellow immigrant John Saunders and the pair founded Westfield Development Corporation.

My favourite chicken place was founded by Antonio Cerqueira, a migrant who left Portugal at the age of 18, and never left his roots. In fact, it was his background that encouraged him to start up his own business. In 1986, he opened his first Oporto in Bondi selling Portuguese chicken with peri-peri– a rarity in Australia at the time, which has since come to be a most sought-after flavouring.

My friend’s apartment was built by Harry Triguboff, the son of Russian Jews who fled to China after the rise of Lenin. He migrated to Australia in 1947 where he ran a taxi fleet among other humble jobs. He bought a piece of land in Roseville to build a house and hired a builder who let him down. Unperturbed, he rolled up his sleeves and built it himself. This year, Triguboff was listed by the Financial Review Rich List, as having a personal net worth of AUD$11.4bn.

These are just a few examples of migrant successes in Australia – migrants whose contributions have changed the landscape of Australia forever.

It is certainly worth remembering and celebrating such successes this UN International Migrants Day.

Indeed, the stupid arguments raised over and over again questioning the validity and contribution of migrants are ringing hollow.

Pope Francis may have unknowingly used marketing jargon when he recently declared: “Immigration is not a threat, but an opportunity.” Although he is not an acknowledged marketer, I think his insight is razor-sharp.

Migration has changed the landscape of Australia from what we eat, to what we read, to where we live, to how we dress, to our purchasing habits and more.

The alarm bell is ringing. Marketers need to wake up to the fact that today one in three Australians were actually born overseas. When you consider that in 2016, nearly half of all Australians were either born overseas or had at least one parent who was born overseas, the true extent our unique and truly remarkable multiculturalism becomes even more impressive.

New migrants bring new ideas, new ways of thinking and unheard-of skills to this great southern land. They bring their unique cuisines, rich culture, art, music, fashion and creative ideas. They bring experiences, hopes, dreams, commitment and passion.

They bring waves of opportunity for Australians.

The question marketers need to ask themselves is: are they still living in an insulated world, pre 1940s where the majority of Australians were Anglo-Saxon? Or are they really in tune with the changing profile of Australia, and the reality of international migration?

For a marketer, this day of international migration holds immense potential and possibilities if they just open their minds to fully understand the marketing implications, potential and possibilities that international migration represents.

With 50 percent of Australia being of a multicultural background, do they question what percentage of their marketing budget is targeted to multicultural Australians?

And what percentage of budget is allocated to grab a piece of the $100bn+ pie that these multicultural audiences command?

While some marketers will certainly be celebrating International Migration Day, for others it will remain a tiny blip on their radar or – at best – a tokenistic approach.

“Just add in a few Asians to your mainstream television ad, and it should take care of your marketing.” Will it really?

Sheba Nandkeolyar is co-founder and CEO of multicultural marketing agency MultiConnexions.


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