Piece Together Your Strategy To Reach Asian-Americans The market has 5 major sub-segments in the U.S.

By Jane Conti

Any marketing strategy designed to reach the U.S. Asian population should think of Asia as one continent made up of 5 major realms.

Massive and diverse, Asias realms include: East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Southwest Asia, and an area comprised of Russia Asia and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Given Asias vast size, Asians represent a broad span of U.S. cultural markets. But while the Asian sub-segments have common characteristics, they are by no means homogeneous.

When reaching out to these markets, companies can employ one general strategy, but to effectively reach Asians domestically, one must understand the diverse sub-segments that exist and be sensitive to the differences among them.

And, as demographics suggest, reaching out to these markets is well worth the effort. The U.S. Asian population is growing. Asians now represent 4% of the population, and this segment is expected to reach 9% by the year 2050, according to 2002 U.S. Census data.

It is also very attractive due to high socioeconomic status that results from high educational attainment rates, high incidence of business ownership, and more workforce participation per household attributable to larger families and an older emancipation age for children.

Overarching Strategy and Objectives

New York Lifes overall strategy for reaching the U.S. Asian market is the same across sub-segments. Reaching means to increase sales of core products, recruit and retain quality agents, and increase brand awareness and loyalty. In order to do this, the company promotes its name in targeted communities. To do this successfully, it developed a business plan for each sub-segment uniquely tailored for its cultural nuances but consistent with overall objectives.

Each sub-segment represents a diverse community whose major commonality is strong adherence to its traditional cultural norms and values. Tightly knit, these sub-segments have established strong resource networks based on shared language, values, interests, concerns and activities. These groups demonstrate propensities toward doing business within their communities or with companies that exhibit an interest and actively participate in the life of their communities.

Marketing Considerations

When determining which Asian sub-segments to focus on and developing plans to reach the specific sub-segment(s), one should first consider the sub-groups demographics. The size of a sub-segment and the geographic areas of highest concentration can influence the direction of ones marketing efforts.

For example, because of continual immigration from mainland China (roughly 70% and the major source), Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of the world (mostly Southeast Asia), the Chinese community is one of the largest and most established segments of the U.S. Asian population. Numbering over 2.9 million as of 2001, the Chinese account for more than 20% of Asian- Americans in this country. Moreover, because of all the favorable demographics and cultural/economic factors, Chinese-Americans always have been one of the first Asian sub-groups that major insurers have chosen to target as they consider growth prospects in the U.S. ethnic markets.

Ethnic Chinese-Americans are made up of 5 distinct groups: the aforementioned immigrant groups plus American-born. They are further segmented by 2 major spoken dialects: Cantonese and Mandarin. However, Chinese feel themselves to be one people, bound by a common heritage and one written language. Their preference for, and accessibility of in-language media provides a natural marketing platform to reach the Chinese community.

A 2002 LIMRA Chinese Market study revealed that approximately 70% of the Chinese residing in the U.S. are foreign-born. Language preference surveys indicate that 90% of Chinese speak their own language at home; approximately three-fourths of foreign-born Chinese do not feel they speak English “very well.” Therefore, a sizable segment of the Chinese-American community prefers, and depends on in-language media for local and international news.

Other Considerations

Projected future population growth as a significant ethnic markets factor should be continually monitored, reevaluated and adjusted within the context of broader demographic fluidity. For example, having increased 135% during the 1980s and 82.7% during the 1990s, the Vietnamese community continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments of the Asian-American community. The 2000 Census reported the U.S. Vietnamese population to be approximately 1.1 million, ranking them as the sixth-largest Asian sub-segment. However, the Vietnamese are expected to surpass all U.S. Asian groups in population numbers and percentages except for the Chinese by 2010.

Due to high socio-economics, the U.S. Asian-Indian market is another Asian sub-segment on which major insurers have focused their cultural marketing efforts. Different surveys portray Asian-Indians as one of the wealthiest Asian segments. This can be directly attributed to this communitys high rates of educational attainment: about 65% of Asian-Indian males and 47% of Asian-Indian females have a bachelors degree or higher. Finally, Asian-Indians are highly entrepreneurial, with significant ownership interests in the hospitality industry, small retail and convenience outlets.

After thorough demographic and socioeconomic assessments convince a company to conclude it should pursue growth in ethnic markets, optimum communication with, and outreach to ethnic sub-groups is the next factor to consider. The language selected for communication may be in the sub-segments respective language, as would be the case of the Chinese based on the preferences of many in the Chinese community. However, English is often the easiest and most efficient means to reach a large and linguistically heterogeneous ethnic community, e.g., Asian-Indians.

Although 75% of Asian-Indians residing in the U.S. are foreign-born, English language usage is not a major obstacle. While there are multitudes of official languages recognized in India, with many more dialects spoken, the majority of Asian-Indians surveyed feel they speak English “very well.” So in this community, English functions as a link-language between Indians from different parts of the Indian subcontinent. Marketers therefore agree that advertising to Asian-Indians is best executed in English with cultural cues woven in seamlessly.

Finally, branding is a key component of all cultural marketing plans, with companies incorporating advertising in their marketing plans as a way to heighten brand awareness in each cultural market they serve. Advertising varies based on outlets availability, cost and audience. In some markets, television is more effective than print and vice-versa. In many cases, a combination of mediums to reach a particular sub-segment makes sense.

It is wise to have an overarching strategy for reaching the U.S. Asian community. To reach this diverse community effectively, one must first determine which sub-segments to focus on and then develop specific approaches that recognize the cultural nuances of those sub-segments.

Jane Conti is a vice president in New York Lifes Agency Department. She oversees the cultural markets, womens markets and college agent recruiting programs.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, November 4, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.