U.S. Marketers Aren't Prepared for More Globalized World

Even Fewer Know Anything About Asians and Asian-Pacific Americans

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Bill Imada Bill Imada
As I travel around the country speaking to students from the smallest liberal arts campuses to some of the largest universities, one thing is abundantly clear: College students considering careers in advertising aren't prepared to face an increasingly globalized world. Countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (often referred to as BRIC economies) are quickly reshaping the global economic landscape as more and more companies (and advertisers) see opportunities to build market share by targeting their consumers. But most students seem indifferent to these changes.

Only a few countries share the diversity of the United States; yet despite the strength of our diversity, only a handful of corporate marketers and advertisers see this as a marketing opportunity or as an asset to be tapped in targeted marketing. And even fewer corporate marketers and advertising leaders seem to know anything about Asian-Pacific Americans and the myriad of cultures, languages and ethnicities we represent. Perhaps this is why only a fraction of students are aware of these opportunities themselves.

To prove my point, let's take a moment to see how you do on this short quiz.
  1. What country has the world's second largest population?
  2. What country has a company that created a car named the Nano?
  3. What country realized its independence from the British Empire in 1947?
If you selected India, you're right.

Indians are the largest sub-segment of South Asian consumers here in North America. In addition to Indians, South Asians include people who can trace their heritage to Bangladesh, Bhutan, (parts of) the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There are also South Asians who arrived here from other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Europe and other regions of Asia and the Pacific Rim. Not long ago, South Asians became the second-largest Asian-Pacific American consumer market in the U.S. -- just behind Chinese and Chinese Americans.

In Canada, South Asians have already surpassed the large Chinese and Chinese-Canadian population in size, and is expected to grow even more through expanding immigration and secondary migration. Are there lessons we can learn from our friends up north? And shouldn't college students interested in advertising and marketing be preparing themselves to address these growing populations? The answer is yes.

During my travels, I found more college students studying French, Japanese and Spanish rather than Chinese (Mandarin) or Hindi -- the No. 1 and No. 2 most widely spoken languages in the world. If I were back in school today, I'd be studying one of these languages and I'd be encouraging my children to learn one of these languages, too.

Neeta Bhasin, president of ASB Communications in New York, informed me years ago that corporate marketers should be addressing the large and growing number of South Asians arriving in North America each and every year. According to her research, there are more than 2.4 million Indians living in the U.S., not including the thousands living on and around colleges and universities throughout the country. In total, according to Bhasin, there are more than 4.5 million South Asians in this country, with more than 1.2 million South Asians living in the New York-New Jersey area alone.

Bhasin also notes that there are more than 60,000 physicians of South Asian heritage, treating patients of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds. Indians also own the second-largest number of businesses among Asian-Pacific Americans and have a median household income of $78,315 -- a number that far-exceeds the national average of $48,451.

So why is only a fraction of the Fortune 500 addressing this segment of the population? According to Bhasin and her colleagues in the industry, it is because marketers and advertisers -- like the many college and university students studying for opportunities in ad agencies I have met over the years -- aren't focused on the opportunities in South Asia or on the millions of South Asians that reside in other parts of the world, including North America. Instead, they are focused on preserving their current customer base; which, frankly, isn't always the best strategy to pursue.

There are, however, a few smart marketers out there who recognize that South Asians in North America are an incredible opportunity to learn about a community with rich diversity, time-honored traditions and a history that can be traced back for thousands of years. In order for us to continue to be leaders in advertising, marketing and communications, our college graduates need to learn more about Asians and Asian-Pacific Americans of all backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.

The best place to start learning about diverse markets is right here at home.

Here are a few companies who are doing an excellent job connecting with South Asian consumers. Based on their experience and success here, they are assured to be market leaders abroad as well.

Wells Fargo ad

Wells Fargo
Title: "Diya"
Dae Advertising, San Francisco
Western Union ad

Western Union
K&L Advertising, New York
Western Union ad

Western Union
K&L Advertising, New York

Lufthansa ad

Global Advertising Strategies and Catch 24, New York
Met Life ad

IW Group, West Hollywood, Calif.
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