Targeting Asian Americans, the Fastest Growing Ethnic Group

When you think of ethnic marketing, Hispanics may come to mind first because they are the largest growing ethnic group in the United States, with almost 30 million people living in 7.5 million households. However, if I were to ask what is the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States today, the answer would be Asians.

Though not as large as the Hispanic population, the Asian population is growing at a faster rate. Today, there are 10 million Asians residing in the United States — making up almost 3 million households — and the U.S. Census Bureau projects they will grow to 15.2 million by 2010, 19.6 million by 2020 and 41 million by 2050.

Asian Americans primarily consist of six major ethnic groups: Chinese (24 percent), Filipinos (20 percent), Koreans (12 percent), Japanese (12 percent), Asian Indians (12 percent) and Vietnamese (9 percent). All others make up the balance (11 percent).

What makes this market attractive besides its growth is that Asian Americans are better educated — with many holding managerial, professional and technical positions — and have higher and more disposable incomes than the general market and any of the ethnic markets, according to the Census Bureau. It has been noted that many first-generation Asians or immigrants probably have significant assets overseas as well.

Seventy percent of Asian Americans primarily cluster in eight states, which makes it easier to reach them, especially when doing multimedia campaigns. You also receive large postage discounts because you are mailing into such highly penetrated areas. Thirty-seven percent live in California, 9 percent in New York, 7 percent in Texas, 5 percent in Hawaii, 3.5 percent in Illinois and 3 percent each in Washington, Florida and Massachusetts. When you specifically look at metro areas, almost 40 percent live in five of them: 15 percent in Los Angeles, 8 percent in San Francisco, 8 percent in New York, 5 percent in Honolulu and 3 percent in Chicago.

When trying to reach Asian Americans, it's important to remember the audience is different. They fundamentally require a different approach, and the Asian-American media is different. For one thing, Asian Americans are separate societies with their own languages, culture and media. They have a large immigrant component, often seeking a better way of life and are socially conservative, traditional and family oriented.

A consideration when direct marketing to Asian Americans is that you must think through the front and back ends. Most marketers will address the creative and the media aspects of a promotion but may not adequately address the use of in-language telemarketing or customer service representatives. You may even want to increase the role of telemarketing since recent Asian immigrants and many other Asians actually enjoy speaking on the telephone in their native languages. You also will want to avoid complexity as much as possible. Make things simple, especially your offer and their ability to respond, since direct marketing is a foreign concept to many of them.

The question of whether you should use an English piece, bilingual piece or one in a native language depends on the media or lists you are using. For English language media, of course, you would promote in English, but you would only be reaching those who are assimilated in American society and prefer to speak English at home. However, to reach those who prefer speaking their native languages at home, you receive the best response when promoting in that language because they receive so little in-language mail. If you're not sure of the language preference or the type of list you will be using, you probably will want to mail a bilingual piece.

When it comes to mailing lists, the Asian-American market is where the Hispanic market was 10 years ago — that is, where almost all of the lists on the market are surname generated. Marketers are slow to make available their response generated lists, partly because their customer bases are too small and partly because they're unsure of what will happen. Some direct marketers even have very good in-language lists but think they are proprietary, at least right now. Some of the biggest users of Asian-American lists are catalogers, financial institutions, publishers, telecommunications and fundraisers. One day, many of their lists will be on the market. In time it will come, especially since direct mail marketing to Asian Americans is increasing at a rapid pace.

Nevertheless, about 80 percent of the Asian-American households are now on existing mailing lists and databases, and there are some good ones. There are credit bureau lists and databases, response lists — including catalogs, subscribers and mail-order buyers — and there are compiled lists and databases. Almost all can be segmented by nationality, and some can identify in-language households, including two dialects of Chinese — Mandarin and Cantonese. Most of these lists also come with age, income and other demographics, credit card holders and lifestyle interests, such as do-it-yourself, fitness and computer enthusiasts.

The future of Asian-American direct mail marketing looks bright. Continued immigration assures direct marketers of a fresh audience, something that is highly desired in our business. Every day, more and more marketers are inquiring or entering this market, which eventually will result in more lists — especially in-language — and other media becoming available. As everyone knows, the demographic profile of America is changing, and the rapidly-growing Asian markets should not be ignored.

Rick Blume is general manager of Database Management, a mailing list and

database marketing company and a division of Stevens-Knox & Associates.

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