Asian-American Youth Seek Edgier Image

by , Feb 19, 2007, 5:00 AM
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It's no secret that advertisers and marketers long have actively been courting young Hispanic and African-American consumers, but a recent study released by strategic branding firm SnapDragon Consultants reveals that Asian-American youth feel ignored, excluded and misunderstood by most brands.

The report, "Ten Things Every Brand Should Know About Asian-American Youth," developed in partnership with Asian-American performer and playwright Kate Rigg, outlines key insights derived from Rigg's conversations with hundreds of Asian-American students, ages 14-23, in Amherst, Mass.; Honolulu; New York; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Maine; San Jose, Calif.; San Francisco and Seattle. It outlines key highlights, which marketers should note while planning campaigns targeting the Asian-American market.

Those conversations shed light on aspects of Asian-American culture that have escaped the attention of marketers and advertisers, who kids feel often perpetuate stereotypes of the academically accomplished, assimilated Asian-American.

In particular, they said, "American Idol" insta-celeb William Hung served only to amplify the worst Asian stereotypes, and the media and marketer's embrace of him made students feel like non-Asians were indulging in two years of racial stereotyping.

While some images of an edgier Asian-American kid have emerged, Rigg found the students wanted to see images of themselves that portrayed real street credibility. Yet, contrary to that, Rigg found that Asian-American youth are closet listeners to Lite FM stations--not something that denotes coolness by any standard.

That duality is just one element of the complexity of the identity politics that this diverse group, comprised of Japanese-American, Chinese-American, Korean-American, Southeast Asian-American and Pacific Islanders contend with, posing a hearty challenge for marketers seeking the best way to approach them.

One cross-cultural phenomenon is gambling.

While the American poker craze of the past few years was an overnight sensation, gambling has a long history in Asian culture. Many of Rigg's interview subjects said they are avid online gamblers, with poker being a favorite game.

Another trend is Korea. While Japan was once the source of all things cool, Korea is now super hot, from fashion to food to DJs to online communities like Cyworld.

Mixed-race Asian-American youth are proudly identifying themselves as such, reappropriating a once-derogatory Hawaiian term, Hapa, which means "half," instead of using terms Amerasian, bi-racial and blasian.

There are some ways in which Asian-American youth and African-American youth are similar. They both refer to white people as "white people," and they both idolize Martin Luther King, Jr. In general, Rigg found there is a "hero gap" among Asian-American kids, which they tend to fill with heroes from other cultures, as in this instance.

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