Friday, 30 December 2011

Pre-boxing day madness at Pacific Mall

Don't be surprised when you find out Pacific Mall is open on Christmas Day.

"The mall is a certified city tourist attraction, meaning it is exempt from Ontario’s Retail Business Holidays Act, which allows tourist sites to remain open on statutory holidays." - The Toronto Star

Over the holidays, it's a hot spot for (extremely) last minute gifts, an attraction for mainstream consumers, and a place to spend quality family time. According to The Toronto Star, Pacific Mall was "the only major mall open in the GTA". As expected, the shopping centre's parking lot was jam-packed as if it were peak hours during a busy boxing day.

Even I remember years back going to Pacific Mall during a holiday (not Christmas, but definitely a statutory holiday). At the time, the mall itself and the parking lot were like ants. Cars everywhere you look, people fighting for parking spots... people making their own parking spots! It was like a pre-boxing day experience. I could only imagine how Christmas Day would be like.

As crazy as it may sound though, Christmas Day (along with other holidays) brings in thousands of people and it benefits both the businesses and the consumers. Whether people are there shopping with their families or enjoying the cultural experience, Pacific Mall definitely brings everyone together.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Embracing the future! 2012 - we are ready for you!

Welcome to all of our new team members!


THANK YOU & BEST OF LUCK to those who have inspired Sensu's growth and now move on to part deux in their career journey!

As we review the year in a glance, we can certainly say it's been a great year for us (though we are very excited to have an even better year in 2012)! The opportunities gained, people encountered, relationships built, and of course, lessons learned -- are all integral in shaping our culture here at Sensu Communications.

We have many awesome things lined up for 2012 and are very excited to share them all with you as we move into the New Year. And yes, for many of you that are wondering, we are in the process of rebuilding our website and will be relaunching it in January. I promise you all won't be disappointed :)

And as if the parties over the holidays aren't enough to fill your calendars, please join us on January 12th, 2012 at Rosewater (19 Toronto Street) for American Marketing Association's (Toronto) inaugural Multicultural Marketing breakfast round-table event!! We have awesome speakers, great food, and lots of networking opportunities lined up for the marketing community - just in time after you return from the holidays! Find out about "The Emerging Ethnic Markets in Canada" and learn from the pioneers who have been there, done that and continue to enjoy much success in reaching out to ethnic consumers!

Check out our events page for more details:


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Catering to the Needs of Changing Demographics


The South Asian market is emerging just as the Chinese market is in the GTA. Over the past couple of weeks of working with Sensu and searching of related news articles for the blog, I've noticed a number of articles about the Chinese and South Asian markets. Whether it was about the growth of these two markets or the idea of businesses having culturally targeted campaigns, they were definitely mentioned.

An article called, "Langar on Wheels rolls out to Punjabi community" describes an elderly couple who have trouble making home-cooked foods, but are hesistant to sign up for the local Meals on Wheels program. After eating South Asian food for almost their whole lives, changing their preferences would just be too difficult and ultimately, unsatisfying. As the couple stated, they would rather have "roti with some sabzi (vegetables) and dal (lentils)" over the Meals on Wheels choices of shepherd's pie or beef stew.

The cultural gap of Meals on Wheels offerings and prominent increase of immigrants has pushed the program to provide specific meals for the Chinese, Greek, Italian, and Indian market.

With the changing demographics of the city and Canada in general, businesses (for profit) are not the only ones who must incorporate the multicultural aspect into their products or services. From the article, I can see that programs such as Meals on Wheels are gaining a better understanding of their community and refocusing their services. At the end of the day, the objective really is to meet the needs of changing demographics in our communities and Canada as a whole.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

"The whole world wants to do business with China"

...Nothing better than getting straight to the point. When I first came across this quote in an article called, "Telefilm, Canadian movies to tap Chinese Market", I thought it was pretty bold at first, but nonetheless true.

The growing Chinese market in North America has shifted many marketers' eyes and has triggered the makings of Chinese-focused campaigns. While some businesses are just tapping into this prevalent market in Canada, others are already going straight for the homeland, China.

For example, Canadian film makers, Telefilm Canada and the Whistler Film Festival Society (WFFS), are trying to collaborate with film makers in China with goals of creating films that can be released in both countries. By Canada and China working together and targeting both markets, each one can benefit from this partnership. As the article states,

“The China Canada Gateway project would see the Chinese get exposure to Canadian filmmaking expertise – screenwriting, visual effects and post-production in particular” … “[Canadians would] gain access to the huge Chinese market which currently allows only about 20 foreign films into its theatres each year.”

This plan for a Canadian business to work in partner with China is simply an example of whats to come in the future. Be on the lookout for more Canada-China initiatives!


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Ethnic Marketing is Blooming!

The noticeable (and stats proven) rise of minorities in Canada is definitely sparking opportunities for ethnic marketers. Businesses can no longer mass advertise to consumers… they must have different campaigns for specific consumers and in this case, ethnicity is key.

One important point to consider however, marketers cannot just simply stop at ethnicity – there is a further break down within this segmentation process. As Tony Hernandez, director of the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity at Ryerson University, states:

A deeper issue with marketers is they fail to understand generational differences call for different ad strategies. The newcomer requires different treatment from the established family or the Canadian-born children of immigrants.”

Each ethnicity will require a different approach, but within these ethnicities, there requires an even more specific approach. With the differences in generations, it is up to expert ethnic marketers to efficiently target these segments.

Gautam Nath, a partner at Monsoon Communications, also states in the article that the South Asian and Chinese markets are stereotyped. What I would like to know is… who are the ones stereotyping these markets? They must not be of either ethnicity… or so I’m hoping. Ultimately, the ones that know most about these cultures are, in most cases, the ones with the same ethnic backgrounds.

With that said, in regards to the Chinese market… this is exactly where Sensu comes in handy.


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Goodbye Steve Jobs

Cheers to the one of the most accomplished and successful entrepreneurs of our time - Mr. Steve Jobs.

While it is sad that he has left this world and his "followers" behind - his legacy lives on - as a source of inspiration to all. His legacy is more than just the revolution he brought to the way consumers interacting with technology - his legacy is truly about his attitude and way of living - not conforming, following your heart, trusting in your gut feelings, and believing in your intuition.

Not too long ago, I was facing some challenges as a young entrepreneur myself and undoubtedly, I turned to his (now famous) Stanford commencement speech from 2005 for some enlightenment. His words never fail to ignite that fire within me, his journey and experience since the day he dropped out of college never fails to put a sparkle in my eye as I listen on:

People call me silly when I say that I have strong intuition about what I believe I can achieve. They say I am still young. Steve tells me otherwise - he tells me I have to trust that "the dots will somehow connect in my future" and  "to have the courage to follow my heart and intuition".

People call me naive when I tell them that I gave up a potential career at a leading tech firm to go after my entrepreneurial dreams. They say I am impractical. Steve tells me otherwise - he tells me to "never settle" until we find what we are looking for. 

People call me emotional when I say that my work is driven by my passion and love for my business. They say I am not made for business. Steve tells me otherwise - he tells me that "the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do".

People call me arrogant when I don't listen or follow the advice of others. They say I am too self-conceived. Steve tells me otherwise - he tells me not to "let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice".

People call me aggressive when I tell them my career aspirations and that I will make it to become a top 30 under 30 candidate. They say I am too ambitious. Steve tells me otherwise - he tells me to "stay hungry. stay foolish".

Thank you Steve for all your wise words. May you rest in peace.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Home is where the heart is.

The common question for every recent graduate, who came from China, is “to stay or not to stay in Canada”.

Undoubtedly, China, as an emerging market, has attracted so much attention since late 90’s because of its double digit growth. Foreigners always are amazed by how developed those big cities are (i.e. Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen) when they first visit China. When I moved to Toronto from Shanghai in May, 2009, I felt less dynamic in this city. For example, there are three huge LV stores and five Gucci stores in Shanghai. There are a lot more fashion and luxury brands in Shanghai than Toronto. There are more than 12 subway lines in Shanghai alone.

However, as time passes by, I start to appreciate the peaceful life in Toronto. People are so polite and patient and they follow rules and regulations. I would like to stay here as my second home. My Chinese fellows share the same feeling. On one hand, they understand there are more opportunities in China for them; on the other hand, they enjoy the education and health care system here. So where is the balance between career and life? 

Everyone has his own answer. My answer is to enjoy my work and life here and then pursue any opportunity that allows me and Sensu to serve as bridge between China and Canada.

Whatever you choose, remember to chase your dream and follow you heart; because home is where the heart is.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Website Launch!

So it's been quite awhile since we announced the soon-to-be launch of Sensu Communications' website - we know a few have been eagerly waiting for this so here you go folks -

This is only the first phase of our website and we are actively working on throwing some surprises in there for our fellow agency and client friends - so while this wait is over, another wait has now begun :)

Great big thank you to our creative partner - Orangy & Sweet Design and Communications - for the work over the past months, especially kudos to Wilfred Chung, our faithful web designer!

Enjoy and remember to check back for what we may have in store for you next!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Sensu Adds One More!

It is with pleasure that I officially announce the newest addition to our agency team - Ms. Dolly Shao

Dolly is a Partner Consultant here with us at Sensu Communications and we are very happy and fortunate to have her on board with us. Bringing over 10 years of marketing and strategic planning experience from Shanghai, China, Dolly is a strategic individual with an abundance of both industry AND cultural expertise. Canada is now home to Dolly, having been here for about 2 years, she has successfully completed her MBA program at the Schulich School of Business @ York University.

We are very happy to have Dolly join Sensu and did I mention...SUPERR excited for all the innovative work that we are going to bring to the multicultural marketing space as an agency! Dolly be also be a regular contributor to the Sensu blog, so follow closely to see what she has to say about multicultural marketing!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Future of Multicultural Marketing

The recent hype around Western imitations in China (Apple, Ikea, Subway etc.) have stirred up quite the controversy in China's ability to build global brands.


1.) China definitely has the ability to build brands
2.) Western consumers aren't aware of Chinese brands simply because they aren't the target market
3.) In the long run, the Chinese has the ability to not only build brands but INNOVATE brands
4.) China has a high pool of information workers, combined with skilled labour & lower production costs - this will enable them to go to market faster and more effectively than Western firms
5.) It's just a matter of time, the tides are set to change. Perhaps Western brands are reacting because they feel the emerging threat?


A discussion on LinkedIn has led to this thought provoking article:

Here is my response, that can be found on LinkedIn as well:

"I would beg to differ from the author of this article, perhaps the words of 'inability of Chinese business to develop their own brands" and "that's why Chinese brands flip" come too strongly and overgeneralized.

1.) Chinese businesses definitely have the ability to develop their own brands, more than you think they do.

Some of the top Chinese brands enjoy the same successes (if not more) than "western brands", i.e.) China Mobile, China Life, China Construction Bank, ICBC, Bank of China, Ping An, China Merchants Bank, TENCENT, MOUTAI, China Pacific, Lenovo, Tsingtao Beer ... and the list goes on. This is according to a brand value study conducted by Interbrand and Forbes China (really should question the degree of research that was placed into the article of our discussion here).

Many leading Chinese brands are not known to Western consumers simply because they choose not to enter the Western markets. To me, that’s smart business strategy – to focus on building domestic market share and penetration before stepping into someone else’s turf. Wait and watch how the tides will change when these Chinese firms finally decide that “the time is right”.

2.)"A supply side approach to entrepreneurship" - my understanding of this statement is that "Western brands are good at conducting consumer research while Chinese are known for supply of labour/finance, and this fundamental difference is the reason why Western brands succeed while Chinese brands fail."

If I understand correctly, then I must say I disagree with the statement. The success of western brands as they translate to ROI and sales revenue is largely related to the balance between production costs vs. advertising expenditures. Taking advantage of low wages and operation costs in China and other APAC countries enable Western brands to reap profits and hence, allocate more advertising budget towards brand building and research. This is not a matter of chicken vs. egg - it is simple, producing a viable product comes before building a brand, for what good is a brand that does not deliver on its core promise? China helps to lower production costs, which ultimately gives rise to advertising budgets and the ability to actually “build a brand”.

Conversely, if Western brands can take advantage of China's low labour costs and resources - then I dare ask: why is China in the midst of such scrutiny for leveraging the brand expertise of Western countries and customizing it to fit the local markets?

3.) To wrap up my comments, I urge everyone to read another article by Shaun Rein – “Chinese Companies Can’t Build Brands? Think Again.”"

Genius Idea!

Have you heard? There’s a female walking around New York City with four ipads attached to her head! How fascinating and genius of a marketing idea this is. You can watch the YouTube video below. What appears as an image of a female’s head attracts the curiousity of passerbys to get a closer look and here, there’s no doubt they have your attention. Then, the most curious who touch the ipad will then get a chance to interactively preview the pages of a trendy magazine. This is great! A unique but still, very effective way to hook, lure, and reel you in. This is especially rare in bustling cities like New York (we in Toronto can relate) where traditional outdoor advertising is often cluttered and dismissed.

Multicultural marketing is stuck in a limbo of traditional advertising and wanting to move forward to encompass more digital media and this type of creativity will definitely help any brand stand out in the marketplace.

Link to the video:

Friday, 22 July 2011

A better social media strategy or website?

The question rings like the bell of the all-time favourite question, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? It’s almost impossible to imagine the marketplace now without the Internet or popular social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Both have grown to become crucial marketing elements. However, Ed Strapagiel of KubasPrimedia, reminds us that there is yet any “objective, hard number evidence of what this actually does [for brands].”

But really, I don’t think we need objective, hard evidence to prove that social media actually works. Tools such as Facebook and Twitter - whose reach surpasses 750 million people - connect companies and customers. They have improved communication, brand awareness, and program effectiveness. However, I agree that social media tools will always remain supplementary to a company website and furthermore, its necessity will increase as the physical marketing space becomes more cluttered. Social media is not so much “a loop”, as discussed in the article, but more of an information highway. It delivers high level information but it’s real destination is the company website to generate sales.

Without a road (social media network), it’s more difficult to get people to where you want them to go (your website). Without an impressionable destination, there’s no point in building a smooth road. Therefore, the coexistence of both tools seems necessary. However, I reckon that the website should be the primary objective as it is the space where consumers generally make, confirm, and/or execute their purchase decision.

There’s been little research to show that online usage behaviours between groups of the same demographic and geographic area of varying ethnicities and from personal recall, there aren’t any significant differences that come to mind. Thus, companies targeting ethnic minorities may have to tailor their messages to more effectively communicate but the road map to reaching them via the Internet seems to be the same.

So, what do you think? What’s more important – social media or company website in multicultural marketing?


Friday, 15 July 2011

Company Update!!

Hi Everyone!!

Sincere apologies for our blog to be MIA since April, we have been busy putting all sorts of neat stuff together that we will share with all of you down the road! Speaking of which, we have some great news to tell! Sensu Communications has added another Cultural Expert to our roster!

Laurie Ho, who will joining our team as a Partner Consultant, brings a wealth of industry knowledge and cultural expertise of the Asian-Canadian audience. In her own words, she is "an ambitious and results-oriented individual who is driven by her passion to excel in the marketing industry."  Laurie has a diverse portfolio in marketing research, financial planning, and supply chain management, with working experience from organizations such as Research In Motion, Bell Canada, and Ted Rogers School of Management. She is proud to be a second generation Canadian with an ethnic background from Vietnam. 

Laurie will also be a contributor on this blog, so remember to check back for her postings on various multicultural marketing topics, especially in the areas of experiential marketing and brand activation. Welcome to the Sensu Communications, Laurie!

PS: The Sensu website is working hard in progress at the moment, so stay tuned for our official launch coming soon!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Will Your Brand Save The Day?

So it has been reported that many online publishers (i.e. New York Times) will begin to charge users for digital content. On second thought, that makes sense - you pay for your Toronto Star, National Post, Canadian Business etc., so why would that all become free now just because the same (if not more) content is available online? 

THAT is the objective viewpoint spoken with clear rationality and logic.

Unfortunately, the average consumer typically "thinks" with their emotions prior to using rationale. As an Asian Canadian, my genuine first response to any news that involves me ditching out my wallet is -
"What the !#$#%^%*&%?! Are you out of your mind? Since when did we pay for anything over the Internet except for the service itself?" 

So now, imagine thousands of your customers evoking such an emotion to the idea of a paywall for online content. Not good right? Now, further imagine an advertiser walk in and announce that they will "foot the bill" for user subscription fees because they want their consumers  to be able to enjoy this digital content for free. Of course - such offers typically replace the price tag with a call to action and branded tagline. 

Putting my marketing hat on:

As the article suggests, this return model is just merely a form of sponsorship. What is most effective about it is that it manages to grasp the emotion of these bitter online users and then playing on these emotions, solve their problems to position the brand as a hero. 


I love sponsorships - because they are such an effective form of marketing amongst the ethnic markets. When executed as part of an integrated campaign, sponsorships can drive the emotions that you want in your consumers - they show that you care about the audience, know about the events that are important to them and is simply an act of involvement at a very grassroot level.

Perhaps, one of the more notable brands amongst the multicultural audience is TD. The company's branding efforts have been a seamless execution leveraging cross-media implementations and of course, sponsorships & PR. 

Quite truthfully, as an active member of the local Chinese community in Toronto msyelf - I can say that TD's brand has been really well-integrated into both my community as well as my "consumer mind". Whenever an important event occurs within the Chinese community, you typically see TD's brand name plastered everywhere as a title sponsor. Whenever I have a financial service/banking need, I think of TD first. 

As a matter of fact, I even switched all my personal banking from CIBC to TD quite recently (largely influenced by my immediate peers)... But hey! That proves another point: you cannot expect sponsorships to deliver a quantifiable result for your brand as it is a qualitative method after all. It does however, connect you with your consumers at the relevant touch points, generate brand equity and increase top-of-mind impressions; all to ensure that the next time a consumer has to make a purchase decision, they remember you and recall that emotion they experienced with your brand. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Welcome to the official blog of SENSU Communications.

This is the place where conversion happens. 

Let's face the ugly truth (ugly for all diehard marketers and creatives)  Marketing has become a core business function due to its innate ability to drive revenue and improve bottomline figures. Most, if not all, businesses leverage marketing/advertising tactics to either (a) acquire new customers or (b) retain existing ones. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, realistically there is only one element that's key to their success - the customer. 

YES! the customer. Sounds simple and makes you give me a what-the-*beep* face right? The ironic part is that this concept, while utterly simple, seems to be hard to grasp and/or execute in a genuine fashion. The reason I say is this because many clients/marketers are still spending the majority of their time scrutinizing data points measured from the most recent campaign or trying to draw "insightful commentary" from customer analytics. 

While all that stuff is good - it's only useful if you get the starting point correct. And this heavenly starting point that promises eternal greatness and achievement of customer satisfaction can so easily be found just by looking a bit farther and a bit deeper at the cultural roots and origin of your customer. Yes, the answer to this is indeed multicultural marketing.

Ethnicity is perhaps the mother of all other elements that influence consumer behaviour. Clients who are wise will seek to better understand the ethnic origin of all their customers - especially if it is a growing "minority". However, within every ethnicity exists multiple layers of varying sub-cultures that govern the values, thoughts and behaviours of its participants. In other words, it is not merely enough to understand "Asians". Heck, as a matter of fact, it is not even enough to just understand "Chinese" or "South Asians" or "Koreans".

What I am trying to get at, is that the interconnectedness of our world today desperately calls for more genuine multicultural marketing practices that will show the audience that they are truly valued as a person and not just a mechanism to drive unique visits, score impressions or log page views.