Four Myths About the Asian-American Market

What Competitors Might Not Want You to Know

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Bill Imada Bill Imada
To all who have written to me, either publicly or privately -- thank you. I encourage all of you to write to me publicly via this blog and not be worried about disagreeing with me. Several of you have chosen to write to me directly with issues, concerns and/or suggested topics. Please, by all means, share your thoughts with me and all of my fellow bloggers. We have day jobs, but we're passionate about what we do for Advertising Age. And despite being experts in our respective areas, we don't always know everything. So bring it on and let's have a broader discussion about multiculturalism.

Today I want to talk about myths. Ah, myths, those often preconceived ideas or notions about people, places, products, etc. Or stereotypes, steeped heavily in commonly held beliefs about cultures, communities, religions, and groups of people. And even a few urban legends that none of us can really figure out quite where they originated and how.

Here are a few that some readers have asked me about:

Myth #1: All Filipinos (aka Pilipinos) and South Asians speak English; hence, there is no need for in-language or in-culture advertising to these consumers.

Reality: While it is true that many Filipinos and South Asians are more exposed to English and are often proficient in the English language, a vast majority of Filipinos and South Asians continue to speak languages and dialects other than English at home and in many social settings. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to find that the most effective ads addressing Filipino and South Asian consumers are in a hybrid form of their language and English, such as Tagalog (Filipino) and English, which is affectively known as Taglish. Advertising directed to Asian Americans -- especially less-acculturated Asian consumers -- should always be in-culture.

Myth #2: The Asian-American media, like their counterparts in the mass market, are dying.

Reality: From 1990 to 2007, media organizations addressing the information needs of Asian-American communities throughout the country grew by more than 300%. Today, there are more than 640 Asian media outlets in the United States (not including new media). A vast majority of these publications and broadcast media organizations are in languages other than English. However, we should not discount the rise in English-dominant and bilingual media, including well-established publications such as Asian Week in San Francisco; the Rafu Shimpo in Los Angeles; and broadcast organizations such as AZN Television (Comcast) and ImaginAsian TV.

Myth #3: The Asian-American consumer market is just over 4% of the total U.S. population. It is too diverse and too small to even consider a viable market to most corporate marketers.

Reality: AT&T, Kraft, MetLife, State Farm, Toyota, Wal-Mart Stores, Wells Fargo and many other corporate marketers would love to have their competitors believe that this is a small, insignificant market. That "just over 4%" of the total population is approximately 15 million people. And, if your corporate clients are already marketing their products and services in Europe, then it doesn't make any sense for them not to be engaged in the U.S. Asian markets, too. With spending clout that already exceeds $427 billion per annum, the 15 million Asian-American consumers in the U.S. represent a population that is larger and more prosperous than most European states, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and many more.

Myth #4: Nielsen doesn't even measure Asian media in the United States.

Reality: Oh really. Nielsen is measuring consumers of every background, ethnicity, culture and language ability, and is working to improve its reach daily. KTSF Television (Channel 26) in Brisbane, Calif., covers the rapidly growing and evolving Asian-American communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its ratings among Asian consumers routinely beat a number of the mass-market and Hispanic networks in prime time each and every week.

Since I have a limit on the number of words I can write for this blog, I'll end my list of myths here. I would, however, like the readers to add a few of their own.
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