Cracking a $32b Consumer Segment

Cracking a $32b Consumer Segment

Sean Zhu, Identity Communication’s business analyst shines a spotlight on a potential audience that’s worth $32b. 

If you’re a marketer, I can recommend a group in Australia that is over 626,000 in size and contributes $32 billion to the Australian economy. They’re easy to reach as they’re concentrated in major cities. They’re young, most are between 18-26 years of age, are tech savvy, enjoy entertainment and travelling and embrace new experiences. They should be a marketer’s dream. But this group maintains a strong connection with the homeland and homeland media channels, so your ‘mainstream’ media may not get through to this large and lucrative group.

You’ve probably guessed, they’re International Students, a potential multicultural marketing segment for Australian brands.

International Student

The numbers are up….

International Student enrolment includes those studying in the Higher Education, VET, Secondary Schooling, English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS).

In 2017, there were 796,529 enrolments. This represents a 12% increase on 2016 and compares with an average annual enrolments growth rate of 4% per year over the preceding ten years.

Higher education a greater contributor

44% of international enrolments in 2017 are in higher education and 27% in vocational education (VET) out of the total number, with China and India being the two largest contributing countries.

VET: The VET sector accounted for 27.2% of total enrolments, India contributed the largest share of in the sector. China was the next largest source country followed by the Republic of Korea and Thailand.3

ELICOS: The English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) sector accounted for 19.4% of total enrollments in 2017. China was the largest ELICOS market followed by Brazil, Colombia and Thailand.

Higher education: The higher education sector had the largest share in 2017. China and India accounted for 53% of enrolment.
The larger proportion of Higher education means two things:
– Longer time spent in Australia which brings more opportunities for brands
– But they maintain their home networks including social channels, knowing they will return

Tuition Fees
International Students are not eligible for most of the scholarships or student loans and need to pay each semester in advance. Typically, the costs are:

  • ELICOS: $250 – $350 per week, 10-60 weeks
  • VET: $1,000- $20,000 depends on the degree and institution
  • Higher education: The average tuition fee for undergraduate students is around $29,000 per year; Master’s degree ranges from $20,000 to $37,000.
    For example, an International Student studying a Bachelor degree of Marketing and Media (3 years full time) in Macquarie University, the estimated annual fee is $36,450. These fees tend to increase each year.

Geographically concentrated on NSW & VIC

NSW and VIC is home to nearly 70% of international students. And in NSW and VIC, International Students make up one in three students at many universities.


  • This is a young group of consumers, perfect for entertainment, travel, banking, FMCG, food & beverage and beauty brands
  • Reach these audiences via their preferred channels, such as WeChat, Weibo, YouKu, to name a few
Hong Kong’s neon signs might be fading but not my memory of them…

Hong Kong’s neon signs might be fading but not my memory of them…

IDENTITY Communications might be the intelligent multicultural marketing agency, but our team also has heart. As Hong Kong’s neon lights fade, Brenda Leung, IDENTITY’s Insights Manager reflects on her childhood memories of the Pearl of the Orient.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of evenings at Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island with my family. Hong Kong at night is breathtaking. Looking down to Victoria Harbour, all my attention was captured by the vibrant, warm and inviting hue of Hong Kong’s iconic neon lights – glowing and blinking on skyscrapers that reflected on the harbour. It is this view that leaves a lasting impression for the 27m overnight tourists who visit Hong Kong every year. It is this view that gives Hong Kong its nickname of the “Pearl of the Orient”.

Hong Kong neon

Walking through the city of Hong Kong, the city’s lights are spectacular. Neon’s brilliant blaze has always been used by businesses to attract customers. Big neon light boards are found on the façade of commercial buildings, department stores, shopping centres, restaurants, clubs, with those colourful lights shining, sparkling and twinkling into people’s eyes. It is a city that embraces neon. I have no idea who made those neon lights and how they are made, but they are definitely the representative of the dynamic, bustling, fast pacing and never stopping lifestyle of Hong Kong. There is so much ambient light that you can even read a book at 2am if you sit by the window of an apartment in Mongkok, Tsimshatsui or Wanchai.

Hong Kong

The neon lights in Hong Kong also mark the beginning of the fun of its exciting nightlife, where retailers open until midnight and restaurants until the early hours of the morning. Other than the nickname of “Pearl of the Orient”, Hong Kong is also known as “Shoppers’ Paradise” because the shops stay open until late, with the purpose of entertaining the residents and tourists alike. When you have finished a movie at 1am, you can still make your way to a nice eatery where you can stuff your belly to recharge for the next day. Hong Kong is truly a city that never gets dark or comes to a stop.

Hong Kong

Light is an important part in celebrations in Hong Kong. Occasions or festivals like Chinese New Year, Hong Kong Establishment Day and Chinese National Day are times to celebrate with fireworks. Breathtaking fireworks glow over the Harbour with crowds of people lining the harbour on both sides to witness the spectacular display.

I read that recently, Hong Kong has shifted from neon lights to LED for cost effectiveness, safety and other technical reasons (watch the video above for the full explanation). That’s a shame, neon lights can be handcrafted to create different shapes and unique characters. When compared with LED, neons are brighter, glow with a larger variety of colours to help sign boards stand out.

Whatever happens to the lights of Hong Kong, in my heart nothing will stop the vitality of the city I love. In my heart, Hong Kong will still always be a city of energy and intense lights, and its sparkle is eternally vibrant.

English language proficiency as a criterion in audience selection

English language proficiency as a criterion in audience selection

Audience size and English language proficiency are often the two most critical selection criteria for multicultural marketing campaigns. IDENTITY Communications, the intelligent multicultural marketing agency agrees, and disagrees. Here’s why…

The audience selection for multicultural campaigns can be a little formulaic. Pick the largest language population for a particular demographic (age, gender etc), then consider their English proficiency as a way of further ranking them. For example, if the campaign targets all people 18yo+ then multicultural marketers might pick the largest 20 language groups in Australia, then they’d rank them by the proportion with low English language proficiency (those who claimed to speak English “poorly” or “not at all” when they answered the 2016 Census).

Use the table below to rank/sort languages by the respective columns – currently it’s ranked by groups with the lowest ratio of English proficiency.  On top that is Marra, an Australian Aboriginal language spoken in the Northern Territory around the Roper, Towns and Limmen Bight Rivers. Of eight people who speak Marra at home, 75% claimed to have low English language proficiency. Rounding out the top 3 are Zomi and Rohingya, mainly spoken by migrants from Myanmar.

[table id=18 /]

When English proficiency is used, language groups such as Hindi, Punjabi and Tagalog/Filipino are often excluded. This makes sense for mass awareness campaigns because these groups are able to access information via ‘mainstream’ comms. In Australia, cultural media are relatively limited compared to mainstream options, so these groups are more likely to be exposed to campaign messaging via mainstream channels.

But what if we wanted to go beyond driving awareness? What if we wanted to drive consideration and action?

Even  groups with very high English language proficiency, advertising in-language, in either ethnic media or mainstream media, has a positive effect in terms of awareness, trust and likelihood to buy, according to a new US study by the Cultural Marketing Council (CMC). Their report, Digital Lives 2018: A World of Digital “Everything” Through a Cultural Lense found “ads placed on platforms with cultural content have more power across ages and languages… Spanish-language ads – even in mainstream sites – create more engagement with Hispanics. The CMC conducted an online quantitative study of 3,500 total 13 to 49-year-old respondents with equal representation of non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic African-Americans (NHAA) and Hispanics (HISP), as well as in-home qualitative among 15 respondents.

Culture Marketing Council 2018 Digital Lives Whitepaper

As can be seen in the image above, placing Spanish-language advertising on sites with content for the Hispanic community will lead to this audience paying more attention to the product, trust that brand more and ultimately more likely to buy that product. The results were similar regardless of whether the language on that site was in Spanish or English. Similarly, placing advertising on a site with African-Americans content, although the site is in English, dramatically increases the likelihood of purchase.

What does this all means? Well, if it’s a simple information campaign which doesn’t involve consideration and behaviour change, and you’re spending a decent budget on ‘mainstream’ channels, then translated advertising placed in cultural media may not be essential for groups with high English language proficiency such as those born in India and the Philippines.

But… if you are a car brand who want to stand out in a competitive market, it makes a lot of sense (and dollars) to use cultural media to build awareness, trust and consideration for your brand.

And that’s why our media planners used Indian media for the Sonata campaign for client, Hyundai.

Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.

Have questions? Send us an email, we’d love to hear from you. 

Super Saturday Federal By-Election 2018 – Top Languages

Super Saturday Federal By-Election 2018 – Top Languages

IDENTITY Communications, the intelligent multicultural marketing agency takes a quick look at the cultural diversity in these electorates.

July 28 is when voters in five federal electorates go to the polls in what’s being billed as “Super Saturday”. We’re staying away from the politics, but we can give you an idea of the cultural diversity of these seats that are in play.

Actually, in terms of cultural diversity at least, they’re not that diverse. This is particularly true for Mayo and Braddon where 91% of residents speak English at home, followed by Longman (88%), Fremantle (74%) and Perth (67%).

Italian speakers are shaping up as the largest cultural group in particularly in the West; Fremantle and Perth. Mandarin is second when you combine all five electorates, followed by Vietnamese.

Go for it, play with our table below and sort and search to your heart’s content!

[table id=14 /]

Photo credit: Australian Electoral Commission.

Go beyond cliches and go places

Go beyond cliches and go places

If this story resonates with you, I think you have a career with Identity Communications – the intelligent multicultural marketing agency. Read on and you’ll see what I mean…

Over six years ago, way before Gangnam Style, I thought Australia needed an Asian pop music show on free-to-air TV. People scoffed. Today, SBS PopAsia is going strong on TV, online, mobile and digital radio, with over 1.3m followers on their Facebook page.

Fastastic Baby - Big Bang

Sure these songs are ultra pop with incredible talent, dancing and over the top production value. If you’ve watched Big Bang’s Fantastic Baby music video (images above and video below) you’ll be impressed by the big budget, epic production.

The naysayers had their doubts:

There just wasn’t enough Korean teenagers for a feasible audience.
WRONG. While there were a few thousand Korean teenagers in Australia back in 2011, Korean Pop (Kpop) was a phenomenon that was spreading across Asia, particularly South East Asia, China and Japan. The Kpop wave was infectious. So the potential audience in Australia includes local Koreans, Asian-Australian teenagers and also local teens.

It’s in Korean limiting the audience base.
The doubters warned that local teens wouldn’t get Kpop because the lyrics are in Korean. When I asked a local youth in Phnom Penh why Kpop was so popular in Cambodia when the songs are Korean, he shrugged and said “we don’t understand that much English and we like American pop. Kpop shows that Asians can be cool and sexy too”. A quick scan of SBS PopAsia’s facebook page today shows the diversity of the show’s fan base

These clips were available free on YouTube so why would this audience tune into a TV show?
On the surface, this objection made a lot of sense. I was confident the show would work because SBS PopAsia wasn’t just a two-hour TV show, it was a community. The avid fans of Kpop at the time thought they were the only ones in Australia who loved Big Bang, 2NE1, 2PM, Girl’s Generation and other Kpop groups. They were watching it on their own, on their laptop in the isolation of their bedroom. SBS PopAsia was the first Asian pop music show on free to air TV. It wasn’t a secret. To build engagement, for the first 6 weeks of the show, I managed the twitter account while other members of the team managed the Facebook page. Our purpose was to engage with the fans and encourage them to engage with each other, to build a thriving, exciting community. They also had a chance to interact with the show with selected viewer tweets and Facebook comments appearing on TV.

The other reason the fans told us they loved tuning in was that they could watch their favourite show on the big TV screen, in glorious hi-definition and pump the music loud through the lounge room audio system.

SBS doesn’t have a budget to pay for these music videos.
At the time, Australia was the #3 country in terms of illegal Kpop music downloading. In negotiation with the Korean music labels, we argued that SBS could build the Kpop market further via our TV show and they could commercialise it by setting up Australian iTunes stores. I had no real negotiation experience, but the logic was compelling enough for these music labels to agree to supply SBS with their music clips.

What’s the moral of this story?

At a superficial level, some may see challenges and it’s easy to find reasons to say ‘no’. Others can’t see past the surface. At Identity, we’re about insights not anecdotes. We believe a multicultural marketing agency shouldn’t speak in shallow cliches. Our team looks beyond to understand the real reasons that motivates our audience. Our recommendations come from considered strategy that have been built on available data and insights. 

Join Us

Due to a string of new business wins, we’re looking for a strategy/channel planner. Starting a pop music TV show isn’t a prerequisite, but a wide-eye curiosity and desire to understand “why” is a great start.

Our core behaviours, the ones we encourage you to employ daily, are also the ones you will be rewarded for. We’d love you to be:

  • Open-minded
  • Collaborative
  • Positive
  • Knowledgeable
  • Good

If this is of interest, call a taxi, Mr Taxi (watch the clip below) and submit your application here. It’s a great role and one that doesn’t come along everyday!