The 2000 U.S. Census counted 10.2 million Asian-Americans. By 2010, this population is expected to grow by 33% (mostly through immigration) resulting in over 14 million Asian-Americans, or 5% of the total U.S. population. In spite of being a small proportion of the population, many financial services and insurance companies consider the Asian-American market to be a very attractive consumer segment.
Demographic factors like a younger age, a higher proportion of households consisting of married couples with children, and a larger household size make the Asian-American population a viable market in terms of need for financial products and services (see Table 1).
In addition, compared to the U.S. as a whole, the Asian-American population has higher household incomes and higher levels of education. Also, Asian-Americans tend to run successful small businesses. The latest data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce indicates that among the various minority-owned businesses, Asian-Americans owned 30% of them, which generated almost 52% of the revenue.
The Asian-American population is extremely diverse–with different countries of origin, different languages and different cultures. Almost 90% of all Asian-Americans belong to six ethnic groups: Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese.
This complexity can be a disadvantage from a marketing point of view. If these Asian-American populations were scattered throughout the country, then companies would be hard-pressed to serve them adequately. However, this is not the case: Different ethnic groups tend to be concentrated in different areas of the country, making it feasible for companies to invest in those strategies (for example, using selective print or cable TV channels) that have a high likelihood of succeeding at the local level. In most cases, companies have been reaching out to these ethnic groups through the use of in-language media.
Targeting Asian Indians
However, Asian Indians, who are a sixth of the total Asian-American population, have not been targeted as a niche market in the past. In part, this was because it was generally assumed that mainstream marketing and branding strategies were effectively reaching this group due to their fluency in English. However, findings from a LIMRA survey on Asian Indians do not appear to confirm this.
The largest proportion of Asian Indians–45%–noted that they mostly spoke a native language of India at home. Even among those who have lived in the U.S. at least 15 years, 4 in 10 spoke a native language at home. This implies that for many, the language they are most comfortable with is often one other than English. It is also likely that in households with low incomes, the proportion of Asian Indians speaking a native language will be higher.
It is important to remember that Asian Indians in the U.S. are linguistically heterogeneous, reflecting the various languages spoken in India (where there are 18 national languages recognized by the Indian Constitution and many more dialects). According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 19% of Asian Indians speak Hindi at home and 14% speak Gujarati while smaller proportions speak a variety of other languages. This means there is no single (non-English) language that would benefit Asian Indians who are more comfortable in their native language.