The problem begins with the moniker. Asian Americans are less likely to identify with a pan-Asian identity vs. their countries of origin. This is partly due to their, on average, more recent immigration status and a dearth of Asian-American role models. Marketers still need a better-defined target in order to finally focus the resources on the Asian-American market that it deserves.
20 Countries, One Identity?
Is it even possible for Asian Americans to forge a Pan-Asian American culture that can be leveraged as a consumer, cultural and political block? There are 20 million Asian Americans from 20 countries in East & Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and Pacific Islands. Most Asian Americans, however, trace their ancestry to one of five countries.
Twenty-four percent of the Asian-American population comes from China; 20% from India; 19% from the Philippines; 10% from Vietnam; and 9% from Korea.
So much of what we currently call Asian marketing is country-specific marketing to Asian Americans who trace their ancestry to one of these five groups.
Income & Education
One of the most commonly cited statistics related to the Asian-American market is that they’re high-income. On the high end, Indian Americans have median household incomes of $100,000, while Chinese Americans come in at $70,000 — but many other Asian groups have incomes well below the median. If we are talking about the five largest groups, however, they are indeed affluent, with an average $77,500 median household income.
Also, about half of Asians ages 25 and older (51%) have a bachelor’s degree or more, compared with 30% of all Americans this age. India has the highest number of professional H-1B Visa holders in the U.S., a program that tends to skew Asian immigrants toward higher levels of education. Once in the U.S., however, college-educated parents produce college-educated children — so perhaps education is on its way to becoming a defining Asian American value.
What then do we use to segment Asian Americans as a group for marketing and communication purposes? Scholarly articles on Asian values generally focus on Asian values within Asian countries, not Asian Americans.
One study of Asian American will focus on similarities and differences among Asian American sub-groups to try to find the overarching values that can be used to underpin communication to this growing group of Americans.
In the meantime, enjoy “Crazy Rich Asians.” Who knows, maybe by the time the sequel comes out there will be more than one Asian-inspired food option at the theater, and you’ll be able to order a Thai iced tea and wasabi-covered soybeans instead of popcorn and Coke.