Brands are missing the mark when it comes to engaging with the Asian community, worth approximately $1.3 trillion in buying power in the United States.
Since the 1980s, Asians have immigrated to the United States in large groups. Asian Americans are some of the highest per capita spenders, savers and products and services users in this nation. They have changed from originally accepting the market to defining it through sheer volume and consumption capability.
But because Asians have been considered the “model minority” in the U.S., brands haven’t made much of an effort to appeal to them. Advertisers lack Asian representation in their leadership, which can diversify their understanding of this consumer group.
Here are 6 insights into the Asian audience that will help brands to connect with them the right way.
1. Moving through life stages faster than their peers
Whether it is the age they get married or have kids, or how their careers develop, Asian Americans tend to “mature” through life faster than their peers.
It’s no coincidence, then, that Chinese consumers are top buyers of luxury goods, spending more than $12 billion globally and $9 billion domestically on the category in 2020. This could be due to rapid maturity, or rapidly maturing tendencies. Life milestones are opportunities for brands, especially in luxury, to target Asian American consumers at younger ages and establish brand loyalty early.
2. Appeal to needs, not wants
Due to historical circumstances, cultures throughout Asia temper wants to place a higher focus on needs. This is a long horizon, multigenerational mindset that places emphasis on durable purchases. Asian cultures are typically collectivist, as opposed to the individualist culture in the U.S. In collectivist cultures, “wanting” something steps out of group norms.
This doesn’t mean that Asian Americans don’t spend. In fact, Asian households are among the highest spending in America, with the group’s buying power rising 314% to $1.2 trillion in 2020. For advertisers, it just means that brands need to justify and identify a need for their product before pitching it to Asian consumers.
3. Speak to immigrants and second-generation Asians differently
Today, campaigns are directed across multiple Asian cultures and are completely undifferentiated for different groups. But Asians exist on a spectrum relative to when they immigrated to the U.S.
Newer immigrants may identify more with their country of origin, whereas second-generation Asians carry dual influences. Brands should identify communication channels, platforms and slang brought by immigrants vs. the second generation to speak appropriately to each audience.
4. Asians don’t just like red things
Most Asian Americans consider the color red lucky, but only during some festivals, such as the Lunar New Year, Mid Autumn Festival, Winter Solstice, and Summer Solstice.
Other Asian groups consider different colors lucky. In Japan, for instance, green is lucky, whereas gold and blue are lucky among Koreans. Brands shouldn’t use red on everything and anything and expect it to have the same impact on all Asian communities.
5. Cater to Asian holidays
Brands need to market around Asian holidays to reach Asian audiences, as well as American holidays.
Asian holidays fall during lower sales periods on the American calendar, such as in June (the End Festival) November 1 (Single’s Day), April (Children’s Day in Japan and South Asia). By utilizing both, brands increase the number of moments they can interact with their community.
6. Be specific about the people you represent
More than 30 ethnic groups are defined as “Asian” by the U.S. Census Bureau. Showing Asian faces without regard for their heritage can be offensive. A Japanese face is not a Korean face, or Chinese or any other Asian face.
There is no central Asian race. Diverse brands seeking to appeal to multiple cultures should know who their demographic is and represent them accurately. In specific advertising campaigns, also make sure that the language is correct and source ethnically specific talent.
Humphrey Ho is managing partner at Hylink Digital.