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Marketing with Purpose: One Asian American marketer’s perspective

“The Asian consumer behaviors seem very similar to other groups; nothing is setting you apart.” That’s what a colleague told me when she was doing research on Marketing with Purpose, a Microsoft Advertising campaign that calls for building trust with customers to grow business results through inclusion. She looked through various sources but could not find any unique data points on Asians.
 
I realized in the race to fit in, the value of Asians and Asian Americans may be lost to marketers. It wasn’t until recently, with the rise in violence against Asians, that more stories about the Asian community are told and can no longer be overlooked.
 
I remember carrying around a dictionary with me in the sixth grade, walking around my middle school in the Midwest, trying to communicate with new classmates. I had just immigrated from China with my family, and the newness was exciting – from food I’ve never tasted before (if you count Twinkies as food) to cultural concepts I’ve never experienced, like the ability to walk around the classroom while the teacher is talking.
 
Given my youth, I assimilated easily. I made friends, I ate hamburgers for dinner, and I laughed at the jokes only someone who understood the cultural references would get. I also joined the cheerleading team and dyed my hair blonde.
 
While my personal experience has been the struggle between the two worlds, there is a diversity to the Asian American identity that expands beyond one experience.

The diversity of Asian Americans

Did you know:
 
  • Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. and are predicted to be the nation’s largest immigrant group in 50 years.
  • Asian Americans have a varied immigration rate in the U.S. depending on the origin group. Nearly 60% were foreign-born in 2015 while only 27% of Japanese Americans were immigrants.
  • While some Asian Americans have higher earnings, there is a disparity within the Asian American grouping. In fact, COVID-19-related hospitality industry shutdowns caused the Asian American unemployment rate to rise from 2.5% in February 2020 to 13.8% in June 2020, a surge of more than 450%.
It’s difficult to find a differentiator that sets Asian Americans apart because Asian Americans are diverse. There are different income and education levels, habits, and values. What is undeniable is that the collective buying power of Asian Americans far outpaced other demographic groups over the past 20 years. In addition, Asian Americans are influencers and are 21% more likely to use social media to support companies and brands. And we want to be understood.

An opportunity for brands to grow with purpose

While an ad with a token Asian model may have been sufficient in the past, there is a need for individual recognition that is bursting through the Asian community. We are Asian immigrants, Asians who were born and raised in America, and Asians who span the spectrum.
 
There is an opportunity for brands not only to recognize the value of the Asian American audience, but to understand the nuances within the Asian American community. For example, in the Marketing with Purpose Playbook, we talk about the importance of identifying shared values. Consider if your brand stands for a new immigrant from China. This could be a need to be recognized, manifested through translated programs. For someone of Asian origin born in America, or those with mixed backgrounds, it could be the dichotomy of eating dumplings at home while sharing a taco with friends.
 
Another example is the consumer value connection. Sometimes playing it safe is riskier than taking a stand. 53% of ethnic minorities have stopped purchasing from a brand because it did not represent their values. Brands that support people and create trust with consumers set up a powerful opportunity to build relationships. It’s about earning permission to be more incorporated into people’s lives, just like a trusted and loved friend who says, “stop the Asian hate.”

Agencies, brands and marketers can shape the future

Just as I have used my voice to write this blog post, I believe agencies, brands, and marketers can help Asian Americans, other ethnic minorities, those with different abilities, people who have different beliefs, and more tell their stories through advertising. The resulting words and images should provide a view into what uniquely define us, and it is that authenticity that will drive trust and purchase intent: 64% of people said they are more trusting of brands that represent diversity in ads; there was a 23-point lift in purchase intent after viewing an ad that was deemed to be inclusive.
 
I know, personally, I cannot wait for the day when I see myself reflected in an ad – one that doesn’t bother to dye my hair blonde anymore, is proud of my ability to speak two languages, and loves a good hamburger.

Marketing with Purpose resources

For more discussion to confront anti-Asian-American and Pacific Islander hate with action, please join us for our next Open Perspectives event on May 12. For more Marketing with Purpose resources, which include actionable insights, thought leadership, customer success stories, and tips and tricks, visit the Marketing with Purpose content hub to download the Marketing with Purpose Playbook and experience the accompanying course.