Canada's only marketing conference developed exclusively for the nonprofit and public sectors - May 30-31, 2017 at the Shaw Centre, Ottawa

Session 1: How an integrated social marketing campaign led to the highest self-response rate ever recorded for the Census of Population

The communications campaign for the 2016 Census in Canada was both ground-breaking and successful. Nearly 9 out of 10 Canadian households completed and returned their questionnaire without any assistance from Statistics Canada staff. A self-response rate of 88.8% would not have been achievable without a considerable increase in self-response rates amongst audiences that have traditionally been harder to enumerate. The Integrated Communications Strategy (ICS) for the 2016 Census of Population was designed as a social marketing campaign. The emphasis was placed on research, segmentation, targeting, and positioning. The Integrated Communications Strategy employed behavioural and socio-demographic segmentation to identify hard-to-enumerate audiences. The goal of the segmentation was to understand which areas were more or less predisposed to self-respond, and what key socio-demographic characteristics had to be considered in the selection and development of communication activities. The Census Communications team also adopted the main tenet of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which outlines the need to leverage both direct and peripheral communication channels to draw an audience’s attention to targeted messaging. The overall targeting strategy consisted of full market coverage, and the use of differentiated marketing to reach audiences that had proven more difficult to enumerate. Segmentation analysis also helped determine whether benefits or constraints messaging would be used when targeting specific audiences. The overarching objective for all marketing activities was also to maximize engagement with all audiences, as awareness to messaging alone offered no guarantee of a completed census questionnaire. This session will offer an outline of all components of the Integrated Communications Strategy for the 2016 Census: paid media, earned media, owned media, PR/outreach, and events. As well, lessons learned and identified best practices to be retained for the 2021 Census will also be shared.

Key takeaways:

  • The wide-ranging benefits of segmentation
  • The importance of leveraging direct and peripheral persuasion routes
  • Using segmentation to better target supporters and partners in the communities
  • The difference between benefits and constraints messaging
  • How promotional tactics were adapted for specific cohorts (e.g. social media)