What Migrants Told Us About Auckland

[Post updated July 2018] New Zealand has more than one million migrants [28.5% of the population][1]. New migrants are clustered in Auckland, giving it the fourth highest foreign-born population of any world city. With 39% of its population  born overseas[2], Auckland is more diverse than London or New York.

But even now, many marketers and strategists act as if this change isn’t really happening. They treat new migrants as just another ethnic minority – and another – and another. They don’t seem to recognise that migrants have a lot in common.

Auckland’s NZ-born European population now hovers around 55%, so it’s time to stop pretending that nothing has changed. One message no longer fits all, because we don’t all have the same history and social expectations. Simply by being here,  migrants are changing New Zealand’s social and economic environment. Differences in the way they shop, use the transport systems and eat out are just the most visible signs of this transformation.

But What is Changing?

A wellbeing study by HTG and Windshift in 2015 revealed that many migrant families had moved to New Zealand to achieve greater wellbeing and educational opportunities. Often they arrive determined to adopt the ‘Kiwi’ lifestyle. They create new lives for themselves that combine habits from their country of origin and new, distinctively New Zealand, patterns of behaviour.

We wanted to know more. So we brought together a highly experienced research team specialising in social trends, migration and brands to discover what happens to people when they migrate here – and specifically, what happens in Auckland. The result was the 2016 Cultural Diversity Snapshot. 

What We Learned About New Migrants 

The study can still be accessed as  a presentation or an interactive workshop. But it has also been integrated into ongoing work, like our 2018 Lay of the land study. Past presentations helped marketers, insight managers, and others to orient themselves to new migrants and their behaviour as customers. We focused on the brand opportunities and service needs that arise as new migrants settle into New Zealand society.

We identified migrants’ distinctive social and consumer behaviour and attitudes, including their brand and service preferences.  There was a clear relationship between  these indicators and overall  levels of integration . Clients have used this knowledge to unlock opportunities and encourage uptake of their brands, products or services.

The study compared responses from the three largest groups of recent migrants – North Asian, South Asian and European/African. This was based on a substantial qualitative research exercise conducted in Auckland, exclusively amongst migrants. We also ran a national survey with a migrant sample large enough to let us compare their responses with those of New Zealand born citizens.

Empathy is the Critical Success Factor

More than anything, I think we helped to provoke thought amongst marketers as to how to operate in a diverse, cosmopolitan environment.  My proudest moments came when I recognised that lightbulb moment happening amongst an audience.  Until empathy replaces the unconscious preconceptions we all have about groups of people we don’t know very well, marketers are flying blind.

 [1] Source: 2013 Census

[2] Source: World Migration Report 2015, p 39, International Organisation for Migration

[3] Source: HTG:Windshift - Family Wellbeing: Interviews with 50 Families


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