Landing a whole new customer segment in a recession

Lou Petrolo
By Lou Petrolo | 2 November 2020
Lou Petrolo

Lou Petrolo, managing partner, Etcom

2020’s pandemic has thrown up challenges we could never have foreseen or planned for. The closing of international and state borders, in particular, has had enormous impact that continues to reverberate. By halting the annual intake of 160,000 new migrant arrivals, Australian society and commerce have been dramatically impacted; travel and tourism, international students, temporary and seasonal farm work are just a few significant examples.

The uncertainty has seen many organisations that relied on new arrivals choose to put marketing activities and programs targeting new Australians on hold. Other businesses, wisely, have looked inward and identified the enormous opportunity that Multicultural Australians who are here now represent. It’s critical to remember:

  • The last Census in 2016 identified that 26% of Australians were born overseas.
  • Of these, 820,000 Australians indicated that they spoke English ‘not well or not at all’.

So, the social need to engage these audiences and the economic benefits of reaching them effectively through distinct multicultural media channels is as great as ever – particularly during challenging times.

What brands should know about Multicultural Australians
Australians appreciate those who have a "can-do" attitude. The migrant mindset goes a step further – it’s a "must-do" attitude – a resilience and drive gained through the often harsh experience of settling in a new land. The lessons for brands are:

  • "Pivoting" is what they do - now and long before COVID – migrating to a new country and being displaced from family; moving to a country where their skills and qualifications are often not recognised or able to be applied, so they "pivot" and re-skill, up-skill or evolve to adapt to the opportunity on offer. When Coles and Woolworths were struggling to service customers and stock shelves, it was migrants who answered the call during the worst of the crisis. And it’s not just Santa delivering Christmas presents this year. Australia Post’s army of contracted migrant workers will ensure that your online purchases will be received.
  • Small Business relies on migrants to thrive and they in turn rely on their community small businesses to provide the comforts of home – e.g. the rapid growth of EASI as a food delivery service specialising in delivering authentic local fare to the Asian communities during the pandemic.
  • Fragile Markets – the impact on the property market, real estate (rental markets) and tertiary education (International Students) has shown how fragile many sectors are without the investment from new arrivals and cashed-up migrants. Their property market money has not disappeared – it’s sitting on the sidelines, waiting for savvy brands to reach out to them through targeted communications.
  • Trusted Media Sources – in uncertain times, communities turn to those sources of information they trust – multicultural media, such as SBS, has seen massive surges in digital activity – in-language information downloads, record podcast downloads and increased usage of news services. Partnering with trusted media brands in the multicultural space and placing content and advertising in this environment will provide brands with unique levels of exposure and access to new and relatively untapped markets.

Given these factors, and with migration projected to contribute $1.6 trillion to Australia’s GDP by 2050, now is a good time for brands to redefine their understanding of who their consumer is, and determine how multicultural communications fits in brand planning for the future.

For instance, your brand might be a local leader, but is it connecting with migrants who only know and favour globally recognised competitors? Is it going to be relevant to the Australian consumer in 2030? What’s the true value of this unrealised opportunity and how much is being missed? And is your most valuable consumer spending weekends on
Netflix or iQiyi?

There might be the fear of the unfamiliar or the uncertainty of dealing with foreign languages or cultures, but the opportunity to connect with these audiences provides enormous upside and benefits, particularly during challenging economic times.
Just look no further than those industries and businesses that are currently trying to survive without them.