Building Brand Trust Is More Than Just Creating Great Ads

Asian-American Consumers Want to Actually See Brand Ambassadors

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Bill Imada Bill Imada
There has been a lot of talk these days about branding. A few of you have written to me about building greater brand equity with consumers of color -- particularly with Asian-American consumers. But connecting with Asian consumers is more than just having that balance of the rational and emotional elements that define your company's brand essence. And for Asian-Americans who are actively engaged in grassroots activities around the country and the constituents who are influenced by them, branding is more about the people who stand behind these brands each and every day.

I'm not talking about the secretary who claims to be bilingual, who is oftentimes pressed into service to translate ad copy into Chinese, Spanish, Russian or some other language for the marketing team. Or, someone who wants to score a few brownie points with the chief executive by agreeing to be that token person of color to represent the company at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center's fundraising dinner. I'm talking about people who go above and beyond the call of duty to serve as a living example of the company and its brand.

For less-acculturated Asian-American consumers, an emotional connection to brands is often stronger than the rational aspects. But in order to forge that emotional connection with these consumers, brands must have strong brand ambassadors. People. People with ties to the community. People who are a mirror reflection of the communities being addressed or have made a visible investment through deeds and actions that positively impact communities --whether regionally or nationally. And people who not only give on behalf of their companies and support their brand portfolios, but also give of themselves -- often selflessly.

Most brands can't achieve that brand equity and trust that is so critical with consumers unless they invest in the people that personify their companies and their brands. And the companies that made my earlier Top 10 list of the best marketers in the Asian-American community have achieved brand trust by recognizing that branding is more than just great ads, savvy PR, corporate sponsorships and an integrated marketing program.

Again, it's about people. The people who add that human touch that resonates so critically well with people of color. The same people who create the trust and the lasting bonds and impressions that even great ads (or PR) can't deliver.

In order to make my Top 10 list for 2009, tell me about your brand ambassadors. Who are they? What are they about? What makes them tick? And how do they give a human touch to your brand? Here are a few that I'd like to highlight.

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Organization of Chinese Americans/New York Chapter Banquet, New York. Far right: June Jee, Verizon Director of Community Affairs.

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Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund Reception, Seattle. Second from right: Asian McDonald's Operators Association National Scholarship Chairman Wai-Ling Eng (second from left) with APIASF President and Executive Director Ted Mashima, former Washington State Governor Gary Locke, and WaMu First VP of Advertising Trish Cox.

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Asian American Justice Center – American Courage Awards Gala, Washington. Right to left: Shantu Roychoudhari, Wal-Mart Manager of Asian & Pacific Islander American Markets, Office of Diversity Relations, with actor Yul Kwon.

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Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics Reception, Chicago. Left to right: Vaneetha Crampton, State Farm Systems Analyst with Southern California Edison Region Manager of Local Public Affairs Tami Bui.

And here are a couple more Asian Lunar New Year ads:

Subaru ad
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Subaru of America
Chinese Headline: "Free and unrestrained; expect to exceed expectations in the New Year!"
Advertising Agency: AdAsia Communications, New York
Creative Director: Paul Ng
Account Supervisor: Julia Kang
Walmart Lunar New Year
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Wal-Mart Stores
Chinese Headline: "We never dreamed that small savings on everyday items could help to bring Mom and Dad over from Hong Kong for the New Year."
Advertising Agency: IW Group, West Hollywood, Calif.
Creative Director: John Leewong
President and COO: Nita Song
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