Marketing to Asian Americans and Insights from the 3AF Conference

May 21, 2012

By Bill Duggan

I just attended the 3AF (Asian American Advertising Federation) Asian Marketing Summit in Las Vegas and came away with some terrific insights.

Dramatic Growth
The Asian American population is approximately 17 million and in the past ten years grew by double-digits in forty-nine of fifty states.  The Asian population was 5.6% of the total U.S. population in 2010 and is expected to reach 9% in 2050. Asian population growth is fueled by immigration, resulting in millions of new Americans that have not yet been marketed to here.

California currently has the highest Asian population at 5.5 million followed by New York at 1.5 million.  Other top states are Texas and New Jersey.

Asians are Extremely Active Online
This theme came up continually throughout the conference—Asian Americans are more active than any other group online.  Interestingly, because Asian Americans feel under-represented in mainstream media, they are going online for relevant content. 

Importance of “Heavy Voices”
In the opening keynote of the conference, Rishad Tobaccowala declared that “we are at the crossroads of the future” as the future is going Asian, digital, and different than what it was before.  According to Rishad, most companies focus disproportionately on their heavy users – often 20% of users and 80% of volume. When a customer is happy, he smiles.  When a customer is angry, he yells. So it’s also very important that a company focus on distractors too.  It’s not just heavy users, it’s heavy users and heavy voices.

Shopping Preferences for Asian Americans
Nielsen discussed the shopping preferences of Asian Americans and offered these insights.

  1. Asian Americans spend less per trip but shop more often, with total spending above average.
  2. They are more likely to buy on deal or with coupons.
  3.  They are more likely to compare prices and shop online.
  4. They shop less in supercenters, dollar stores or convenience stores; they like Costco.
  5. Asian Americans spend more on fruits, juices, baby items, and personal care.

Ad Drivers
Interesting insights on the ad drivers for multicultural segments, again from Nielsen.

  •  Hispanics react positively to family references.
  • African Americans enjoy humor in advertising.
  • Asians like product features.

Yahoo also offered good perspective for marketing to Asian Americans.

  • Marketers need to be authentic.
  • Pay attention to nuances and details.
  • Be positive as opposed to using humor.

Twenty-seven percent of Asian Americans feel that many ads targeted to them are offensive.  Marketers need to avoid the stereotypes of the nerdy Asian guy who’s unattractive to women and the butt of the joke as well as someone “fresh off the boat.”

Toyota Case Study
A highlight of the conference was a presentation from Toyota, who at the 2011 3AF conference was named “3AF Marketer of the Year.”  Toyota actively targets Hispanics (started that in the 1980s), African Americans, and Asian Americans. Toyota’s Asian American program began in 2003, behind the Sienna mini-van.  Sienna is now the number one mini-van among Asian Americans and Toyota now markets the Camry (since 2005), Corolla (since 2006) and also the Highlander, Prius, and Rav4 to Asians. Toyota actively involves multicultural insights upfront in the process for product research and general market messaging.

The Rise of Mommy Bloggers
The conference offered a panel of “mommy bloggers” who started their blogs because they felt their experiences were not being heard in more mainstream media (a point offered by others at the conference as well). The bloggers offered these insights on how companies and agencies can work with mommy bloggers:

  • Don’t be afraid of the mommy bloggers; they are your customers too.
  • Long-term relationships work best as blogs are not built overnight.
  • The mommy bloggers have editorial calendars so provide adequate lead time when working with them.
  • You need a budget when you reach out to bloggers as it’s a business relationship and not just a PR relationship.

There were about 150 attendees at the conference – a mix of media companies, agencies, and clients. Client side marketers included Brown-Forman, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, McDonald’s, State Farm, Toyota, Verizon Wireless, and Western Union.

Verizon Wireless was named 3AF’s 2012 Marketer of the Year.  Congrats!

On the second day of the conference, USA Today’s primary front page headline was, “Minorities are now a majority of births.”  How perfect! And I will quote, “More than half of all babies born last year were members of minority groups, the first time in U.S. history.  It’s a sign of how swiftly the USA is becoming a nation of younger minorities and older whites. Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other minorities in 2011 accounted for 50.4% of all births.”


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