Targeting the Asian-American Market
According to a 2004 study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, since 1990, the buying power of the Asian market in America has increased by 14.8 percentup to $363 billion in 2004. This level of growth is only slightly topped by the much sought-after Hispanic marketup 14.9 percent since 1990and easily outpaces the general population, which only marked an 8 percent increase. And the numbers will continue to climb; according to Geoscape International, a market intelligence consultancy based in Miami, while the total population should experience a 4.2 percent growth over the next five years, the Asian market is expected to grow by 8.6 percent. While Asian-Americans represent just a fraction of the total population, it's a fraction that is rapidly growing in both size and opportunity.
"There's only about 11 million Asians in this country, but look at the strength they have, the amount of spending power they control," states Vince Andaloro, CEO of Asian-Pak, a direct marketing agency that specializes in list services, FSI and door hanger programs, and co-op mailings for niche markets.
Candace Kennedy, national sales and marketing manager for list service company Ethnic Technologies, agrees that the demographics of the Asian-American marketnamely advanced levels of education and high per capita incomemake it rife with opportunity. She also points out that this is a segment that largely has been ignored in the wake of the Hispanic marketing explosion.
But that seems poised to change as the reality of this burgeoning market comes to light. "The trend of mailing more to Asian-Americans is on its way up," states Andaloro, adding that he has seen an increase in database
requests to target Asians, as well as movement in FSI placement, over the last year. Some of the sectors that have begun capitalizing on this trend
include financial services, insurance, travel, cable TV, overseas calling plans and technology, particularly ISP providers. One area that has not seen much movement in the Asian-American marketbut that has great potentialis B-to-B. "More Asians own their own business than any other ethnicity," states Andaloro.
Effectively capitalizing on this opportunity, however, is about more than just buying a list and hiring Asian-American models. Knowing your audience is essential to the success of any direct mail campaign, but cultural differences and language barriers make it even more vital in this market. Creating relevant and effective communications to this elusive market requires dedication, aggressive segmentation and targeted messaging.
Identifying the Target
The biggest challenge of reaching out to the Asian-American market is that, basically, it does not exist. What demographers and market researchers typically refer to as "Asian-American" really is a compilation of a number of ethnic subsets, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian and Indian. Ethnic Technologies segments its Asian Prime Prospects list by the 20 largest ethnic selects, and that represents just a handful of the subgroups out there. These distinctions play an important role in your marketing efforts because, as Kennedy asserts, "one size does not fit all within the Asian community."
Finite list segmentation, recommends T.J. Lindsay, CFO and director of research for Ethnic Technologies, is integral within this market because it allows you to dig into the list and tailor your message for that perfect fit, beginning with ethnicity.
Narrowing your focus within the Asian-American market to one or two specific ethnicities will enable you to create messages that are relevant on both a cultural and consumer-oriented level. Which groups you choose to speak to will depend on your product or service and your goals. At Asian-Pak, Andaloro has found that Chinese is the most popular select because it returns the most hits. Japanese comes in second because although there are fewer names on the file, it offers a higher per capita income.
Cynthia Chan, research manager at market research consultancy Cheskin, agrees that Chinese is a popular select, and also sees great potential in the Vietnamese market because it is experiencing growth both in size and spending power as families expand and more and more members attain higher levels of education. Because its members are more assimilated than other groups, Chan advises that Japanese files will probably perform well with general market campaigns: "The market that is out there now has grown up here, speaks fluent English, and is accustomed to advertising."
Korean lists are seeing more and more movement, according to Lindsay, who also notes a large play recently for Indian lists. In addition, she sees
opportunity in the up-and-coming, but so far untapped, Mongolian market.
With so many viable options, the key is identifying which groups will work best for your product or service. For example, Chan points out that offers for mortgage and educational services will do well with groups that have high numbers of recent immigrants. Chan recommends appealing to their familial ties and their desire to gain a foothold within the American economy. Emphasize how your product or service will enable them to improve both their own lives and the lives of their families. "For example," Chan asserts, "education is important because it will not only bring you personal success, but your family will be happy for you and will benefit."
General market food and beverage brands and automobiles have found success with segments that are more acculturated. Casinos and investment companies also have found success with acculturated groups with higher per capita incomes because, according to Kennedy, Asian men have a propensity to be gamblers with their money. For these groups, Chan suggests
emphasizing the quality and status afforded by your product or service. But, she warns, "proceed with caution when using status as a message because no one wants to admit to that. This message needs to be woven indirectly into your communication."
A note of caution when choosing lists to target within the Asian market: Unless the lists you are using are compiled from self-reported data, proper identification of names can be quite challenging because of the similarity of Asian surnames and the prevalence of multicultural families.
To ensure that the names on your list do in fact belong to the appropriate ethnic group, Lindsay recommends that you make sure the list was compiled using multiple factors, including surname, middle name, first name and geography.
Talk the Talk
Once your target ethnicity has been determined, Kennedy stresses the importance of identifying language preference.
"Language targeting is a growing marketplace within all the different groups," says Kennedy, who points out that about 53 percent of Ethnic's Asian Prime list prefers to be contacted in-language. Within Ethnic's list, these percentages are higher for the Vietnamese community because it has more recent immigrants, and lower in the Chinese segment because its members tend to be later-generation Americans and therefore more assimilated.
But even within second- and third-generations, in-language offers can be effective, says Chan, because Asian families are very culturally oriented, passing language and practices down through generations. Kennedy agrees, pointing to sources that say Asian-American families tend to have multiple generations in the same household and prefer to speak their native language within the home. Many lists will feature data on language preference to give you a better idea of how your prospects would like to be contacted.
Beyond language preference, other popular selects within Asian lists
include: income, age, geography, professionals, presence of children, home-owners and credit cards. Kennedy notes that one area of opportunity marketers are not taking advantage of is mail-order buyers. "There are a lot of different catalogs and products out there that are targeted toward the Asian community," she says. "But people are not utilizing [that]."
Another important thing to assess is your target's level of exposure to and experience with your product or service. "Different cultures will have different levels of understanding of American practices," asserts Chan. For exam-ple, the health insurance industry in China is very different from that of the United States, so you would need to devote more of your message to education when targeting that group.
In this age of personalized communications, generic messages targeted toward the entire Asian community will fall flat. Language preference, level of acculturation and experience are just a few of the factors that will have a strong influence on how your messages are perceived.
If you feel that developing unique campaigns to target the different ethnic groups within the Asian-American market seems cost-prohibitive, Andaloro stresses that this market's buying power and brand loyalty makes the
investment worthwhile. In addition, advances in digital and variable data printing have made targeting a more accessible, more affordable reality for mailers of any size. Maximize the return on your investment by thoroughly researching the preferences, inclinations and values of your target and using the best lists to get the right message to the right people.