Marketing to audiences of a million or more Australians has long been the ambition of many brands. Whether it’s our ice cream makers targeting the 10 million Australians who buy a tub at least once a year, or a youth brand targeting our 5 million Gen Zs, or a brand seeking to align itself with the Sydney Swans’ 1.2 million fans or The Block’s 1 million viewers, there’s something very appealing about marketing to an audience of 1 million-plus.
And marketers can now add Australian Chinese to that list. The 2016 census confirmed there are more than 1.2 million Australians who identify as having Chinese ancestry — a huge increase from the 550,000 who did so in 2001. And of the 1.2 million, fewer than half were born in mainland China or Hong Kong and then moved to Australia.
Just like the other million-plus audiences mentioned, Australian Chinese are a very diverse group that can’t be targeted in a one-size-fits-all approach. But there are some common insights into the segment. Four in 10 have university degrees, which is three times more than the rest of the Australian population; and four in five do not speak English as their first language at home. In fact, a recent Bastion Latitude research report highlighted that half of our Chinese migrants would “like to see more Australian companies communicate in Mandarin”.
Australian Chinese place a high value on trust and gravitate towards aspirational brands. And they are a group that has embraced technology, in particular the social media platform WeChat. There are now more than 3 million Australians using WeChat, and 59 per cent of Australian Chinese are more likely to buy from a shop that offers the WeChat service. It’s no surprise that already more than 10,000 Australian shops and restaurants offer the WeChat Pay system.
Add to this the 1.4 million Chinese tourists to Australia each year, who spent $9.2 billion here in 2016, and it’s not surprising marketers and media companies have moved quickly to make the most of this growing group of consumers.
Outside of WeChat and other social platforms like Weibo and TikTok, there is a huge array of media channels available to marketers to target the Australian-Chinese community. There are daily and weekly newspapers, monthly lifestyle magazines, plus radio, television and streaming video.
There are four daily Chinese newspapers in Australia, and more than 50 other print titles. According to Allan Kaufman, managing director at Leba Ethnic Media, one of Australia’s most experienced ethnic media specialists, this is because “print is still one of the most trusted media environments in this market. There is no clickbait, and the written word is permanent. It’s a media format chosen by luxury brands, grocers such as Coles and Woolworths, governments, banks, telcos and more. It is a solid brand-safe environment that still provides unparalleled engagement with its loyal readers.”
There are also more than 25 Chinese radio stations in Australia, and Chinese digital and email subscription platforms, many of which spin-off these print, TV and radio publishers, and which are linked to the social media platforms. It’s clear that marketers have many media options to consider when promoting their brands.
The other main consideration for marketers is how to best message to them. Melissa Chaw, managing partner of Etcom, an Australian multicultural agency, implores marketers not to underestimate this “as the risk of getting it wrong can have a long-term effect on the brand, particularly when culture, language and also sensitivities around tone exist”.
Many of Australia’s leading brands are getting it right. Westpac tailors its banking services across many of its Australian-Chinese customer touchpoints, from its ATMs to in-branch to its own WeChat account.
Other brands focus on key dates in the Chinese calendar. Jack Watts, CEO of Bastion Collective, an agency group that lists Bastion China as one of its specialist offerings, points out: “Chinese New Year, Singles Day on November 11 and Chinese Valentine’s Day in August all represent significant opportunities to drive sales with the Chinese community.”
Like any good marketing communications strategy, targeting the growing Australian-Chinese audience is all about delivering the right message in the right place at the right time. But even more so it requires a deep understanding of that audience to ensure success. With more than 1 million people in this community, it’s an opportunity that more brands will consider over the next few years.