DMCNY Speaker: Don't Forget Canada

NEW YORK — In the rush to globalize, direct mail marketers need look no further than Canada for a market that is full of consumers ready to hear their pitches, Don Sacks, senior vice president of list services provider Infocore Inc., said yesterday.

Before mailing to Canada, marketers need to learn Canadian culture, Sacks said, speaking before the Direct Marketing Club of New York during its monthly luncheon here. Taking Canadian sensibilities and cultural differences into account is essential to avoiding unintentional offense to potential customers.

“Canadians are very sensitive,” said Sacks, who is responsible for international business at his company. “Living next to this 800-pound gorilla of a country has made them sensitive.”

When looking to expand internationally, many marketers first eye the United Kingdom based on cultural and historical connections between that country and the United States, Sacks said. But they might be better served going first to Canada, which offers important advantages.

Canada's population of 32 million is concentrated and accessible, with 75 percent living in 19 areas with populations of 100,000 or more, Sacks said. Also, 80 percent of Canadians reside within 60 miles of the U.S. border.

“They're watching U.S. television and listening to U.S. radio,” he said. “U.S. culture is very much a part of Canadian culture.”

For such a geographically large nation, Canada has an excellent mail infrastructure thanks to its national postal service, Canada Post, Sacks said. China, for example, is geographically large and has a huge population, but lacks the infrastructure to make mail fully successful.

Nevertheless, though Canada shares many cultural similarities with the United States, differences remain, Sacks said. One of the biggest is Canada's bilingual culture. Canada's province of Quebec has 7.5 million people and is overwhelmingly French speaking. Quebec is almost a separate market from English-speaking Canada, and that should affect marketers' packaging and creative decisions.

When marketing to Canadians, it pays to use a Canadian return address on direct mail sent there, and to use prices in Canadian currency, he said. Such courtesies are appreciated by Canadian consumers.

Canadians are very price sensitive, more so than Americans, Sacks said. It may be necessary to offer slightly lower prices to Canadian consumers.

Surveys have shown that Canadians are highly receptive to direct mail, with Canadians reporting that they read 74 percent of the direct mail they receive, Sacks said. Response rates in Canada tend to be 25 percent higher on average than those in the United States, and average order sizes are generally higher as well.

Most Canadian consumers don't receive many catalogs, Sacks said, so they tend to respond better to catalogs than their U.S. counterparts.

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