Asian Americans are the most diverse ethnic group within the United States today. They reflect over fifteen distinct ethnic groups and national origins. These include: Bangladeshi, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese. Marketers must have a clear understanding of Asian Americans in order to successfully advertise products and services to this varied market.
Size of Market
Between 1990 and 2000, the Asian American population grew 48%, which was more than four times the growth rate of the overall U.S. population. According to the U.S. census, 10,242,998 Americans self-identified as being Asian American. Another 1,655,830 identified as being Asian in combination with one or more additional ethnicities. Eighty-seven percent of all Asian Americans come from six countries: China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans are the two biggest groups (Mueller).
As a whole, Asian Americans are the wealthiest segment in the United States. 40% of all Asian and Pacific Islander families have incomes of $75,000 or more. The median household income for Asian Americans in 2004 was $57,518, the highest among all ethnic groups. The high income that is seen within the Asian community reflects the value they place on education.
Asian American consumers’ purchasing power increased 125% between 1990 and 2001. During that same time period, the U.S. as a whole only increased by 71%. Asian Americans are price driven shoppers that are drawn to name brands. A survey of 1,600 Asian Americans showed 72% saying that brand names are important to them. Many Asian Americans are immigrants, and American brand names come with prestige. When it comes to groceries, research showed that 96% of Asian Americans shop at Asian stores (Mueller).
How to Appeal
Communicating to the multicultural consumer can be obvious. For example, changing the language to the specific market you’re targeting is a given. But communicating to diverse backgrounds is difficult. Verbal and nonverbal communication is key in the communication process and they heavily influence the culture. Chinese is the second most spoken language after Spanish (Mueller). There is no blanket Asian American marketing strategy. Language is a huge obstacle. This group brings more languages to the U.S. than any other ethnic group. And seventy percent of Asian Americans are foreign born and research shows that Asian Americans prefer to be marketed to in their own language. Asian Americans can’t be reached through general media – it must be through media in their language.
Eye contact is a powerful force in nonverbal communication. Angelo Americans prefer eye-to-eye contact while Asian and Latin Americans look down or away when being scolded. Most Asians feel it is disrespectful to look someone in their eyes. An example of the importance of eye contact can be seen when an African American community in California felt a Korean store owner was disrespecting them because the store owner did not smile, show eye contact or place the change from a purchase in the African American’s hands. However, in Asian cultures all of those actions were in fact signs of respect (Mueller).
According to Diversitybusiness.com, it was found that 90% of Asian American respondents expressed that the Internet plays a critical role in their lives. 70% of the 90% of this sample of Asian Americans visit ethnic websites. More than half of the respondents shop online. It was also found that 80% of Asian Americans consume ethnic media and print while having the highest penetration followed by TV and radio. This specific study showed that Asian Americans prefer to be targeted through in media in their language while only 17% of the respondents prefer English only advertising.
MTV sought out this influential group and created MTV Chi and MTV K – Chinese and Korean MTV channels. These TV channels had goals of creating more Asian American role models for all diversity groups. The ads as well as content on the channels are targeted towards the Asian American youth. Copy in some of their print advertising read as follows: “Find Your Chi Inside.” The TV spot at the top is an advertisement reflecting the targeted Chinese Americans watching MTV Chi.
Some unifying factors include: group orientation and family, education and saving money. Family roles are highly structured, male dominated and paternally oriented. Strong family bonds require Asian families to provide support to all members. Asian American families also have high expectations for education achievement. Similarly, they are more likely to save and have a prosperous college fund for their children, retirements, and emergency savings funds.
Asian Americans are an educated and affluent market. However, this group is very complex and can not be looked at as a homogeneous group. The language among the various Asian subgroups cannot be overlooked by marketers and advertisers alike.
Mueller, BM. (2008). Communicating with the multicultural consumer: theoretical and practical perspectives. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.