Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

Festival Season: A Handshake to South Asian Consumers

Posted by Vanessa Vachet | 03.08.17
QEQ team members learning Muslim 101 at a local mosque

QEQ team members learning Muslim 101 at a local mosque

The dreary end of Winter is often a hard time to convince people to get out, put on their snow boots and trudge to their local businesses. But, good news! Spring is around the corner. And what does that mean other than flowers, Easter eggs and fewer layers of clothes? Spring time is the start of festival season for many cultures, including Iranians, Filipinos, and South Asians. That means there will be thousands of people out and about, attending events, socialising, shopping and purchasing special foods for their family celebrations.

It’s also a great opportunity for marketers and local businesses to connect with a whole new group of customers. As reconnecting and sharing is often the focus for these communities during festival season, it’s natural to put yourself out there, to share your brand with new markets and to introduce yourself to households who may not know what you can offer, but might find value in what you bring.


Think of festival season as a handshake. It gets you noticed. It gets your foot in the door. But it must be backed with a year-long marketing plan to gain traction with consumers. It’s fine and well to say hello during festive events, to send out a generic holiday greeting or culturally-themed poster, however it’s not enough if you want to see an actual increase in sales. That takes steady engagement throughout the year. Multicultural customers want to be heard and understood, they want their lifestyle and traditions to be reflected in your marketing and if you only send out a greeting once a year, it just won’t register, let alone hold their interest.

200,000+ visitors attend the Vancouver and Surrey Vaisakhi Parades!

200,000+ visitors attend the Vancouver and Surrey Vaisakhi Parades


For corporations wanting to attract Canada’s cultural communities, this might be the perfect time to introduce yourself. In fact, with Holi and Vaisakhi occurring in the Spring, South Asians could be a consumer segment you might want to try investing in instead of the Chinese market.

There’s a good reason to do so. They’re a market that represents 1.6 million consumers across Canada and this demographic is growing. A study by Environics Analytics shows that South Asians have surpassed the Chinese as the largest visible minority in Canada. Over the next five years, their population is projected to grow 19% to reach 2.5 million people!

Compare the following infographics to see how South Asian consumers differ from Chinese consumers in Canada.


Infographic showing South Asians as Active Consumers


To make your brand a household name in the still relatively untapped South Asian markets, you need to understand the subtleties of culture. This will help you to engage them in a meaningful way. Because, as we know, cultural values, nuanes in lifestyle, and media consumption patterns often influence consumer behaviour. That’s why marketers must do their homework — and why our company invests so much time and effort into cultural market research and staying on top of trends.


Infographic showing South Asians as being early adopters

If you love the idea of first reaching out to the South Asian community during festival season, there are many events that take place all throughout Canada. You can build brand awareness on many different levels from corporate sponsorships and advertising, to creating brand activations at the events and/or participating in them. Note that some festivals cater to different faiths, or cultural sub-groups, and some have more significance than others. For instance, there are Hindi festivalsSikh festivalsIslamic ones and ones that are linked to Jainism.

One important cultural insight to keep in mind: the diversity within diversity. Just like there are sub-segments within the Chinese community, there are also sub-segments within the South Asian community.We’ve compiled a few other cultural insights in what we like to call our Cultural Primer. It’s a great place to start.


CULTURAL PRIMER – Insights into the Canadian South Asian Consumer Segment:


  • South Asians tend to be early adopters. They try new products before their friends do.
  • When it comes to purchasing decisions, they are often influenced by their friends and family, even sometimes by their extended family and the community at large.
  • They tend to be spenders versus savers. 53% admitted they’re more of a spender than a saver, compared to 37% of Chinese consumers.
  • When it comes to groceries, flyers are the No. 1 media source for purchasing decisions for South Asians (34%). Followed by the internet (23%), TV (17%), social media (9%) and daily newspapers (15%).
  • 39% of South Asian consumers say they feel closer to companies that advertise in their own ethnic language and 36% have a “strong affiliation” with brands that do so.
  • South Asians are very digitally savvy. Compared to the general population that owns 2.4 devices, the average number of internet-connected devices owned by South Asians is 3.2
  • South Asians spend 19 hours a week online, compared to 17 hours for the general population.


Infographic showing South Asians as being Purchase Influencers


Some Cultural Differences to keep in mind and some Common Cultural Blunders:


  • Hindi is a language, Hindu is a religion.
  • Holi and Maha Shivaratri are Hindu festivals.
  • Hola Mohalla is a Sikh festival. So is Vaisakhi.
  • Diwali is celebrated by both Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.
  • Punjab is a state in India. Punjabi is the name of their people and the common language.
  • Punjab used to include the land that’s now Pakistan. Urdu is a national language in Pakistan and one of the official languages of India.
  • In Canada, most Pakistanis follow Islam.
  • Urdu is written right to left and Punjabi is written left to right.
  • Some followers of Sikhism wear turbans
  • South Asians have a cultural heritage that includes the regions of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives. They can come from any of those regions and each has their own local cultural celebrations and traditions.

 But, remember: A festival-themed campaign should only be one part of an overall engagement strategy that extends throughout the year. And it’s worth it for Canadian businesses. South Asians are extremely loyal consumer groups, and once they love and trust your brand, it’s hard to them tear away.

 They’re also the best PR for your brand. Per the IPG Mediabrands 2016 Multicultural Media Study report, 58% of South Asians surveyed said they are the first among friends to try new products and 59% of South Asians agree that people expect them to provide good advice about products and services.

 So, maybe festival season is your perfect time to step into the scene, but once you’ve done the handshake, the real work begins and your long-term success depends on a solid long-term outreach strategy.

 Do you have a multicultural consumer segment you’d like to reach?

Let us know if these cultural insights were helpful or if you want to learn more. We’re ready to assist in developing marketing strategies for your organization with our vast array of cultural insights, research and marketing resources.

Contact alisa@quoteendquote.ca for a free consultation. We’d love to chat!


All images courtesy of QEQ