No business can claim to deliver products and services that are all things to all people although most marketing campaigns are targeted to a general audience in the hope of generating leads from mass exposure. All marketing campaigns are oriented towards communicating products or services to an audience with the aim of matching needs or desire as of the audience to the product. There are a number of key characteristics that define today’s consumer:

  • Conservative – consumers aren’t bursting with confidence
  • Bargain Hunters – consumers know it’s a buyers market and drive a hard bargain; 
  • Patient – Consumers don’t have the sense of missing out if they don’t move quickly. 

This, of course is a generalisation, as there are some markets or products that consumers compete for, based on desire and fear of missing out. One of the great examples of this is product releases for Apple that often have people camping out to secure the latest gadget. So how does this apply to boating products and services? All successful small to medium sized businesses have created some form of market niche. In our industry this is often geographic as businesses on the waterfront often have a geographic monopoly or are clustered with other marine businesses that create a critical mass of attraction for customers. Beyond geography, there are a wide range of other niches that are worthy of consideration. One of these is targeted marketing to specific ethnic groups which we will explore further in this article.

There has been a lot of talk in the politic and media about the “Asian Century” and the changing economic dynamics of the Asia- Pacific region of which we are a part. This is relevant for consideration for a number of reasons. The population mass of the region is enormous, the rise of wealth of the middle classes and consumerism is relentless and the aspirations of these new consumers need to be satisfied. This looks like great long term opportunities for exporters but what about domestic demand? In Australia, around 25 per cent of the population was born overseas. Whilst the dominant group amongst these are from New Zealand and European countries there are is strong growth in immigrants from Asian and Middle Eastern countries looking to make a new life in Australia. So how, as an industry, do we engage with these communities? The first question to be answered is whether a particular ethnic group has a cultural affinity with the water and, if so, how does this manifest itself?

Research indicates that 80 per cent of people who purchase a boat have an intention to fish and research into a wide range of ethnic groups highlight fishing as a preferred pastime shared across the cultural diversity of Australia. This significant, and not surprising, affinity provides an obvious platform for targeted marketing. But what about other lifestyle elements like swimming, watersports, sailing and socialising with friends and family? These all need to factored into targeted marketing. So what are the key factors to be considered when marketing to specific ethnic groups? First and foremost is understanding the target audience as this is the key to delivering and ethical and sensitive campaign that connects with that target audience. Other issues to be considered include:

  • Placing value cultural beliefs and protocols;
  • Looking for opportunities to build a bridge between the community and the boating lifestyle;
  • Connecting with community leaders or drivers of change within the community;
  • Valuing the power of word of mouth within tight knit communities.

The most common mistake in approaching niche markets is to assume that within a target market that the group is an undifferentiated mass to which the use of symbolic ethnic representation can create the connection. All communities are clearly more diverse and sophisticated than that so any strategy needs to build affinity over time and be community based.   

Social media remains an excellent channel for targeted marketing as on-line communities are often built around ethnic and social demographic lines. Most communities also have specific language media including print media which have proven to be successful channels for communication. As an example, the property market has for many years successfully used various ethnic media channels like Chinese Language Newspapers to market directly to local Chinese buyers.  

Marketing targeted towards specific ethic groups presents a number of challenges and opportunities and cannot be approached simplistically or superficially. It requires a deep understanding of the cultural beliefs and protocols and aspirational drivers. The long term rewards domestically and internationally are potentially significant and impossible to ignore for any business looking to develop a diverse customer base for the future.

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