“Building an Effective and Authentic Newcomer Strategy”, Q&A with Hua Yu, Managing Partner of Level5 Strategy

Roughly 300,000 immigrants come to Canada each year, with that number expected to rise to 350,000 by 2021. By 2036, over 1 in 3 Canadians will belong to a visible minority group. Is your company prepared to reach out to this growing segment?

Level5 has worked with some iconic Canadian brands to help them adjust their strategy to better attract new Canadians. In this post, Hua Yu, Managing Partner of Level5 Strategy, discusses how the strategy geared to new immigrants differs from other strategies and why The Value of a Promise Consistently Kept™ still resonates.


What are the first steps organisations need to take if they want to attract new Canadians?

The very first step is uncovering behavioural patterns within the community they’re targeting. New immigrants don’t know a lot of people, which makes them susceptible to being tricked by companies. Newcomers are aware of their vulnerable position.  To protect themselves, they usually lean towards trusted resources within their community, such as real estate and life insurance brokers, close friends, family members, community leaders, etc. Companies must understand this social behaviour before they can use it to their advantage.

The second step is to develop authentic connections with the community’s pillars. Organizations can achieve this by positioning themselves as value-added friends of the neighbourhood that are there to help. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to immerse themselves in the community and build the emotional connections with these newcomers.  “Serve before ask”, this applies to any organizations including banking, non-for-profit, retail, telecommunications, etc.

In what ways should the newcomer journey be related to the company’s strategy?

When Level5 was working with one of the Schedule 1 banks, my team spent a lot of time studying the settlement journey of newcomers with a specific emphasis on their home countries. Banks are usually very good at getting people into their doors, but with newcomers, they need to roll out the welcome mat before they arrive, that is while they’re still in their home country. For example, a few banks invite people to open a checking or a savings account 75 days before they get on an airplane. This offer can really open up the newcomer’s journey, create a sense of positive urgency, and make people feel more supported. In some countries, banks don’t differentiate between a checking and a savings account; early offers are great opportunities to start an informed dialogue and build a relationship. One bank offers newcomers a safety deposit box because, what’s at the top of their mind? Their family’s wellbeing. They need to protect their valuables while leveraging their experience to find a job and build a home.

What is important to newcomers and how can companies harness that importance?

Companies should understand that newcomers are proud of their cultural identity. This understanding should resonate at every touchpoint because newcomers are seeking companies that mirror their values and culture. An interesting factor here is that newcomers also want to be part of the western culture, so it’s important to appreciate these sensitivities. I emphasize this because it’s often hard for companies to recognize these nuances. Many professionals, even on my own team, are second-generation Canadians and it can be difficult for them to grasp what their parents or grandparents experienced when they were settling here.

Another thing companies should be mindful of when communicating with new immigrants is how much they care about their children’s education. The Immigration Department report obtained by the Toronto Star has shown that 36% of the children of immigrants aged 25 to 35 held university degrees, compared to 24% of their peers with Canadian-born parents. For Chinese and Indian parents, education is a revered investment: more than 50% of the children born to Chinese and Indian immigrants in Canada graduated from university. Taking into account that India and China represent the biggest immigration cohorts, companies can’t afford to ignore these educational aspirations. Attracting new Canadians isn’t just about the product/service that you sell, it’s about helping them honour things they consider sacred.

It is also crucial that all of a company’s applications, documents and marketing materials are written in the newcomers’ native language (not direct translation). Language fosters a climate of comfort, inclusion and trust. When companies are able to achieve these things, they will win newcomers’ business as well.


“Taking into account that India and China represent the biggest immigration cohorts, companies can’t afford to ignore these educational aspirations. Attracting new Canadians isn’t just about the product/service that you sell, it’s about helping them honour things they consider sacred.”


Not all immigrant stories are the same. How can companies avoid a cookie-cutter approach?

There are a lot of subcategories. One large group of newcomers that brands need to think of as potential customers are those who come to Canada for education. According to the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, nearly 54,000 of the ~721,000 international students who studied in Canada became permanent residents in 2018. Many of these students feel isolated because their families are in their home country. These are very young people who are still finding their path in life. Mental health is a big talking point for this group because they need assistance navigating solitude and alienation, but they often can’t express themselves properly in English.

Being authentic, empathetic, and understanding of what new Canadians experience as young people in a new environment is critical for organizations who are serious about reaching this growing segment. If companies pay attention to how they can help new Canadians, they will win their trust and build great brand reputation among this group.

Where do companies fail when trying to build their base of newcomers?

Companies tend to fail if they refuse to accept that this is a long-term investment. There’s no quick ROI. Attracting newcomers will be achieved through an authentic experience that says, “We get it.” Not just on their first day of settlement, or the second, but over the course of the entire newcomer journey. The brands that understand the value of a promise and consistently keep it will succeed, those that don’t will lose. Winning newcomers over isn’t going to be accomplished in a flash.

We can expect that between 25%-28% of Canada’s population will be made up of foreign-born individuals by 2031, according to demographic projections made by Statistics Canada. Almost 60% of those individuals will come from China and India. If companies want to remain relevant, they need to face these facts, adapt to these changes, and make long-term commitments to this segment.


“Attracting newcomers will be achieved through an authentic experience that says, “We get it.” Not just on their first day of settlement, or the second, but over the course of the entire newcomer journey. The brands that understand the value of a promise and consistently keep it will succeed, those that don’t will lose.”


What’s the most important thing that companies need to do in order to win newcomers?

The most important thing comes down to 1) understanding newcomers’ unique behaviors, needs and wants, and 2) making an investment in the community.

Let me focus on making an investment.  It’s not just about finding a distribution channel for the brand’s marketing communications. It’s about making a genuine effort in all the key places to show that they care. It’s about having a conversation from the branding perspective all the way down to the sales channel, community partnerships, customized products, etc. Winning the market isn’t an isolated event – it’s a chain reaction that requires dedication at all levels.

As consultants, we talk a lot about strategy and the importance of leadership at the top. Strategy may be executed at the top, but sales campaigns are won at the local level. Leadership teams needs to learn from the ground up because that’s where relationships are formed and change is activated. These could be simple things. Leaders can start by rethinking their existing action plan so that it engages people who don’t look like their existing clients and staff members. They should ask themselves “What is it like to get off an airplane and not be able to speak English?” Companies tend to ignore these problems because the government has many hotlines for newcomers, and also because they lack the experience of reframing these problems as opportunities. In the end, establishing presence in a way that’s meaningful for the community should take precedence before anything else.


Level5 has a proven ability to help organizations better attract new Canadians. To leverage our expertise and build a customized strategy for today’s multicultural segments, connect with us here.

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