Top 10 U.S. Asian Marketers of 2008

From State Farm to Farmer's Insurance, These Companies showed a Commitment to the Community

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Bill Imada Bill Imada
Last year, I ranked 10 corporate marketers who demonstrated a strong and visible commitment to the U.S. Asian markets. Their commitment was evaluated using several key indicators, including their advertising and media budgets; their marketing approach; their level of visibility in the media and in the communities they serve; the number of senior level executives and directors of Asian heritage; and their sponsorships of important Asian-American events and programs.

In developing the list of 2008 Top 10 U.S. Asian Marketers, I sought the advice and counsel of more than 50 advertising agency owners, civic and community leaders and ethnic media representatives. The final Top 10 list was created using the results from those conversations and e-mail exchanges. (Full disclosure, my agency works with Farmers, McDonald's, MetLife and Walmart ... and the competition for the other six on the list.)

Here is my list of the Top 10 U.S. Asian Marketers of 2008.

1. State Farm
State Farm clearly demonstrated its ethnic marketing prowess by providing its agents in the field with culturally pertinent branding and advertising messages in English and in Asian languages. To support its marketing initiatives in the competitive world of insurance, State Farm has showcased with pride its top Asian-American leadership team based at its corporate offices in Bloomington, Ill., and from many of its regional offices. State Farm's advertising and marketing efforts in the Asian-American communities around the country is also supported heavily by the company's investment in issues that are critical to the communities it serves. For Asian Americans, that translates to sponsorships and funding support for a number of programs, projects and initiatives covering everything from civic engagement to youth leadership. State Farm has clearly demonstrated that is more than just a good neighbor. They are a strong partner and highly accomplished marketer.

2. Toyota
Toyota isn't like its peers in the U.S. Asian market. The automaker significantly outspent all of its major Asian competitors and advertises more than all of its European and U.S. competitors combined. While the company could do better in placing more of its executives and senior directors on the boards of major pan-Asian organizations, it still does its share of sponsorships and grants to community-based agencies devoted to the arts and the preservation of Asian-American culture. The company has also provided in-kind support to several Asian-American and Japanese-American organizations over the years, demonstrating that it hasn't forgotten its strong ties to Asian consumers. In addition to its corporate marketing efforts, local Toyota dealerships are also engaged with their own campaigns directed to Asian-American consumers.

3. Walmart Stores
Helping its customers save money and live better isn't the only thing that keeps this retailer relevant in so many diverse communities. Walmart also invests in different segments of the U.S. market because it recognizes that its customer base is evolving and changing. In order to keep up with this change, Walmart Stores has a team of marketing professionals who do whatever is possible to recognize, understand and address the needs of its customers. The company also meets with community and civic stakeholders, including Asian-American leaders, who provide the company's senior executives with feedback about its performance in the areas of customer service, workforce diversity and community involvement. Walmart Stores has also stepped up its involvement in the Asian-American community, providing both human and financial capital to support the needs of the communities it serves.

4. McDonald's
This restaurant has its fingers on the pulse of its consumer base, and isn't afraid to test new products in the growing U.S. Asian markets. With a broad-based team that includes an Asian-American market manager in U.S. Marketing; an active association of Asian franchise owners; a dedicated public relations effort; a supplier/workforce diversity effort that includes an Asian-American director; an Asian-focused activation program; and an active and engaged Asian employee association, this quick service restaurant remains at the top of its game with Asian-American consumers. Even the company's regional market teams see opportunities with Asian-American consumers and are engaged in local efforts to reach Asian-American and other diverse consumers.

5. Wells Fargo
While this financial services institution isn't always the biggest advertiser or marketer in the U.S. Asian market, it continues to receive critical advertising acclaim for its sustained marketing activities. Unlike several of its peers, Wells Fargo prudently invested its funds several years ago and didn't suffer heavily from the financial debacle that followed. This same level of prudence also guides Wells Fargo in its support for a number of Asian-American communities throughout the country. Even more noteworthy is the number of senior leaders at Wells Fargo who are of Asian heritage, including several women.

6. Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is a leader in the U.S. Asian market for a reason: because it invests wisely in its advertising, marketing and media initiatives directed to Asian-American consumers. Its advertising spend has been consistent, precise and on-target, and its reputation for great service has also benefited the wireless provider through positive word-of-mouth buzz. Its sister division, Verizon, has also benefited Verizon Wireless through its sponsorship of community and civic events, primarily on the East Coast.

7. New York Life
New York Life continues to be a major force in the U.S. Asian market by consistently advertising and marketing heavily to its core audiences. New York Life agents and managers are also visible fixtures at community events throughout the country, providing a human touch to their branding and marketing initiatives. New York Life does a majority of its advertising and marketing work in-house.

8. Nationwide
Relative newcomer Nationwide Insurance enters a very crowded field with memorable advertising and an advertising budget that says the company is serious about being a major contender in the U.S. Asian market. Nationwide is also throwing some of its marketing and sponsorship muscle behind a handful of visible Asian-American community programs and events.

9. MetLife
MetLife remains a consistent and visible advertiser and marketer in the U.S. Asian Market, and has the strongest base of Asian-American agents in the field. The company has won praise in the community for being one of the longest and most consistent marketers in the U.S. Asian market. And in an effort to keep its messages fresh and relevant, the company enlisted the support of its internal team and external marketing icons to produce some of the most memorable advertising in the U.S. Asian market.

10. Farmers Insurance
Farmers Insurance isn't a newcomer to the U.S. Asian market. For years it has been engaged in community relations and media efforts in the Asian-American community in California. For the past few years, Farmers Insurance has devoted a greater amount of its resources to the growing ethnic markets around the country, including the U.S. Asian market. The company has a multicultural team that has a proven track record of success.

There were several companies such as Bank of America, Comcast, Honda, HSBC, IBM, JC Penney, Southwest Airlines, Subaru, Time Warner and others who were cited by my distinguished colleagues for their marketing initiatives in the U.S. Asian market. Although these companies did not make my list of the Top 10 U.S. Asian Marketers of 2008, they still deserve to be commended for being engaged in Asian-American marketing during these difficult and troubling economic times.

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