All posts by irisyim

WeChat is more than a messaging app, it’s a life style app, an ecosystem and … virtual Chinatown?

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chinese-people-using-wechat

 

Launched in 2011 by Tencent, WeChat has evolved from a social media app to an ecosystem, an indispensable part of most Chinese consumers’ daily life. WeChat hit 1 billion monthly active user in the first quarter of 2018.  According to according to Kimberly Lee, Senior Marketing Manager at Tencent, who presented at the 2018 Asian Marketing Summit on June 6, 2018, in Los Angeles, WeChat has 93% penetration in China’s tier 1 cities and 69% penetration in tier 2 cities. People tend to associate WeChat with social media or think of it as the equivalent of Facebook or Twitter. But it’s Facebook + Twitter + LinkedIn + PayPal + Uber and so much more. You can manage your personal and business communication, personal finances, book hotels and flights, food deliveries, virtually all aspects of your life without ever leaving the app. That’s why it’s so addictive. Accordingly to Kimberly Lee, 50% of WeChat users use the app for more than 90 minutes a day.

 

WeChat’s relevance to U.S. based companies have increased significantly given that Chinese outbound tourists are the world’s top spender and their spending in 2016 ($261 billion)  represents 21% of total receipts in destinations worldwide, according to World Tourism Organization . 2.97M Chinese tourists visited the U.S. in 2016 and spent $33B. U.S. companies are waking up to WeChat’s tremendous power in reaching Chinese consumers in China and abroad, albeit slowly, and Tencent has made it increasingly easier for U.S. companies to target Chinese tourists who visit the U.S. and also Asian Americans of Chinese descent. Tencent set up an ad team inside its Palo Alto office in September 2017 and offers advertising products that help U.S. based clients targeting Chinese outbound tourists when they are in China and also when they reach the U.S. Additionally, according to Kimberly Lee, Tencent also offers ad services targeting Asian Americans via its powerful WeChat platform. The services targeting Asian Americans are currently in beta mode. But Tencent has successfully completed advertising campaigns for Coach, Lexus and Michael Kor targeting Asian Americans, according to Kimberly.

 

WeChat is no doubt a powerful lifestyle app that represents tremendous advertising potential for companies trying to reach Chinese outbound tourists as well as Asian Americans in the U.S. However, a little discussed aspect of WeChat is how the app has been used in activism among Chinese residents in the U.S. and its far reaching effects. This is the focus of another presentation on WeChat at the 2018 Asian Marketing Summit by Karthick Ramakrishnan, Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. Prof. Ramakrishnan argues that given the amount of activism and extreme political views on WeChat, it’s important to monitor activities on WeChat and diversify political views on the platform with mainstream participation so that WeChat doesn’t become a virtual Chinatown. WeChat’s influence in the previous presidential election was well documented in an article on Wire.com, How WeChat Spreads Rumors, Reaffirms Bias and Helped Elect Trump.  A WeChat page named The Voice of Chinese America started by Chinese American Xie Bin and several others 6 months before the presidential election with content pulled from right leaning English websites and news sources gained more than 32,000 followers within months after launch. It published articles with headlines such as  “Why I Will Vote for Trump: The Issue of Illegal Immigrants Must Be Resolved!” and “Obama publicly encourages illegal immigrants to vote in the election; Virginia paroled 60,000 critics to participate in the election!” What started as an experiment by Xie Bin has proved to be a powerful political campaign tool for vocal Chinese Americans influencing political views and voting behaviors. Prof. Ramakrishnan noted that there is no right or wrong about these political views but there needs to be more participation of parties of different political views so that extreme views don’t fester in this exclusive virtual enclosure and lead to unintended results. Frustrated by the indifference and non-participation by non-Chinese organizations, Prof. Ramakrishnan started a WeChat monitoring service called CRW Strategy with two other partners to provide ethnic social media intelligence and strategies.

 

Be it for marketing or civic participation, one thing is clear, WeChat’s tremendous power in engaging and influencing Chinese consumers in China or the U.S. can’t be ignored. Marketers are taking notice. There are a host of agencies that specialize in WeChat marketing that have sprung up over the past few years.

Total market research – how to conduct multicultural research without losing the cultural insights

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glasses_1920

 

The Total Market debate has been going on for a while so much so that it spawned an organization to tackle the issue – Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) under Association of National Advertisers. There are different names for today’s marketing, Total Market, integrated marketing, segmented marketing, multicultural marketing, cross-cultural marketing, all in a way reflect the change in U.S. demographics which are growing more and more diverse. Given the change in demographics, when marketers conduct market research, ideally, the research should reflect the changing demographics and provide a healthy dose of cultural insights so that marketers can decide which campaign execution approach would be most effective in delivering on marketing and business objectives.

 

If you send out a RFP about a market research study that covers several cultural consumer groups (General Market, Hispanic, African American, Asian American), all research companies will say they have the capabilities to handle it. But the reality is that virtually no company has all the researchers with cultural expertise on staff because the market research business fluctuates a lot and research companies have stay lean and mean to survive. So when a research company gets a multicultural research project, they will partner with another company or consultant on the project. When it comes to multicultural research, this model applies to most companies, if not all, regardless of the size of the research company. Depending on your research partner’s staff and capabilities, recruiting, moderation, translation and report writing can be outsourced. Because there are so many moving parts in this complex research supply chain, it’s quite easy for something to fall through the cracks or insights to get lost.

 

There is no quick fix to the status quo of multicultural research because clients are demanding competitive cost with faster delivery and research companies have to stay lean and mean to survive. However, there are a few things marketers and research buyers can do to make sure that you get the cultural insights out of a study you’re paying for:

 

1) Since the moderator may or may not be on staff, ask the moderator questions you have right after the focus groups. Alternatively, when you have a debrief with the marketing, agency and research team, request the moderator to be on the debrief so that you can ask questions and get answers from the moderator. In-culture, in-language moderators can often provide insights and observations that people outside of the culture can’t easily pick up.

2) Ask your research partner who is writing the report. If the moderator is not writing the report, whether the moderator will be involved in the report writing process so that the moderator’s observations and insights will be incorporated into the report.

3) If you’re conducting the quantitative study, ask your research partner whether cultural experts will be involved in the analysis process to provide cultural insights and explain the why behind the numbers.

How to effectively implement total market strategy – taking a chapter from the Pixar new film “Coco”

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Coco

 

The marketing industry has been dominated by the idea of Total Market in the past few years. While the definition of Total Market is still being debated, the gist of the argument goes like this: With the changing demographics (minority consumers becoming the majority in the not-so-distant future), marketers should look at the market as a whole and employ an integrated strategy instead of segmented (by ethnicity) approach in marketing strategy development and implementation.

 

Personally, I think the segmented approach and total market approach can be summarized as follows:

 

Traditional total market strategy

 

 

In the past, companies that conduct various degrees of multicultural marketing would have their General Market agency develop a strategy and positioning, and then agencies with different cultural expertise would be brought in to adapt that General Market positioning for various multicultural segments (Hispanic, African American, Asian American).

 

Ideal total market strategy

 

For Total Market, ideally, cultural insights would be incorporated in the research stage and all the agencies and client team will work on the strategy plan and positioning together, then integrated or segmented execution will be created based on business and marketing objectives.

 

Pixar’s much acclaimed film Coco serves as a perfect example for the second approach. Coco tells the story of Miguel Rivera, a 12-year-old Mexican who dreams of becoming a famous troubadour like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. From early on, the film creators sought input on character design and story from cultural advisors and made field trips to Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guanajuato between 2011 and 2013. The film opened to No.1 spot over the Thanksgiving weekend, grossing $71 million domestically. It became the fourth-highest-grossing Thanksgiving opener of all time, behind its Disney predecessors Frozen ($94 million), Moana ($82 million) and Toy Story 3 ($80 million). In spite of the fact that the Pixar writer and director Lee Unkrich himself doesn’t have any firm connections to Mexico and its traditions, the film won praises from the Hispanic community for its authentic storytelling.

 

For consumer marketing, the Coco production process for cultural accurateness would translate into

 

Market research: make sure the sample is representative, not just including token multicultural consumers. Over-sample a certain multicultural segment if needed based on business and marketing objectives. Hire research suppliers or consultants who are well versed in the culture and implications for target segments.

 

Create cultural awareness through cultural training: periodically conduct cultural training sessions or immersion sessions so that different functional teams will keep cultural relevance in mind in strategy execution.

 

Seek input from cultural experts throughout the process: establish a mechanism to gather cultural input throughout the process of strategy development and implementation. This can be employees, consultants, consumer advisors, agency partners, etc. Having a mechanism like this in place will avoid blunders like the Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner ad that was pulled.

 

In addition to primary consumer research, Sparkle Insights provides cultural training services. Please contact us for details iris@sparkleinsights.com.

Asian American growth in the South – A reflection on the election of Hongbin Guo as Chapel Hill city council member

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News coverage of this November elections has focused on how Democrats fared in the first tests of Trump’s impact. Something else close to home also caught my attention. Hongbin Gu, a UNC associate professor and immigrant from China, was elected as a Chapel Hill town council member with the highest number of votes among the candidates (6116 votes). In fact, more than 50% of those who voted casted a vote for her (voter turnout was 10193, as reported in http://www.orangecountync.gov/departments/board_of_elections/voter_turnout_statistics.php). Her election was a surprise to me, to her, and all her supporters as well. Although Chapel Hill is a college town, it is after all part of the South which is more socially conservative than the rest of the country. Chinese residents account for a mere 2.8% of the Orange County population (3905 out of 138644). Estimate of eligible voters of Chinese origin are 1103 (3905 * 0.73 [% of Orange County population who are adults] *0.79 [% of adult Asians who are foreign born] * 0.49 [% of Asian residents who are naturalized] = 1103). So Hongbin Gu couldn’t have been elected with Chinese voters’ support alone. When I saw her signs while driving, I wondered how voters would embrace a candidate with a foreign sounding name. My concern was apparently not necessary. And Orange County voters proved that they are more open-minded than I thought.

 

For me, Hongbin Gu’s election exemplifies two things: One, the awakening of Asian Americans and their increasing participation in public affairs and advocacy; and secondly, the growing numbers and influence of Asian Americans in the south.

 

For Hongbin Gu’s campaign, the entire Chinese community in Chapel Hill was mobilized to raise funds, distribute flyers door to door, and staff event booths and ballot stops on election day. A WeChat group was created for the campaign to coordinate volunteers. Based on my casual observation, Hongbin Gu’s campaign was more organized and better staffed than other candidates. In addition to her own leadership and capability, I think another very important reason for her win is that Asian Americans increasingly realized the importance of civic participation and having a voice in public affairs, and they threw all their support behind someone who can represent them. Nationwide, AAPI Data counted over 30 AAPI candidates that were newly elected or re-elected to office in this election.

 

Regarding population trends, North Carolina is one of the states with the fastest growth of Asian Americans. Asian population in the state grew 85% from 2000 to 2010. Hmart opened its first NC store in Cary at the end of 2016. In the beginning of 2017, the First Chapel Hill LIGHTUP Lantern Festival drew close to 10,000 in attendance at University Place, a mall at the heart of Chapel Hill. Due to the overwhelming reception of the event, the event is moving to a larger venue, Friday Center, for 2018. Raleigh also saw its first Korean festival at the beginning of 2017.

 

Implications

Here are a few thoughts for marketers interested in the Asian American market:

 

Asian American marketing should go beyond traditional markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. While these markets still have the highest concentration of Asian Americans, they only account for part of the Asian American market.

 

Digital media can be leveraged to geo-target Asian Americans wherever they are. Mainstream platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and more niche platforms such as WeChat (particularly popular among Chinese) and Whatsapp (particularly popular among Indians) offer great opportunities for display ads and content marketing to increase awareness and build relationships. While digital media are powerful platforms, great care needs to be taken in ad placement. I have seen Spanish ads placed in the middle of Chinese language drama on YouTube, which is clearly a waste of money.

 

Lastly, traditional media still important. According to Reaching the Fastest Growing Consumer in a Digital World by the Asian American Advertising Federation (3AF), 80% of Asian Americans watch TV and 52% listen to radio on a daily basis. Newspaper is an importance source for local news. Asian Americans often pick up free in-language newspapers at Asian supermarkets and read in-language news on mobile apps or the Internet.

 

Hongbin Gu announcing her campaign

Challenges and opportunities in Asian American media – a reflection of the 3AF media roundtable discussion

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a media roundtable discussion hosted by the Asian American Advertising Federation and sponsored by AARP at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles on Nov. 2, 2017. Going into the roundtable discussion with the news of the closing of New American Media (a multimedia ethnic news media and a coalition of ethnic media founded in 1996 by the nonprofit Pacific News Service) and the cancellation of international format by LA Channel 18 earlier this year, I was not expecting much. The discussion of challenges facing the Asian American marketing industry reflected broader trends in media and advertising.  These include the decrease in spending in traditional media; ethnic media’s struggle to attract younger, U.S.-born users while at the same time retaining their core first generation immigrant audience; the challenge to fight never ending piracy in video content; and a lack of understanding of the climate of Asian American marketing at the brand level.

 

However, there are some bright spots. Saavn, a digital distributor of Indian music globally, has successfully switched from a free service to a paid subscription service and is now available on iTunes and Alexa. Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based newspaper which expanded to the United States in recent years, is able to garner 20 million unique users and 80 million page views on a daily basis. It distributes news digitally via geo-targeting apps, leveraging on content produced in Hong Kong and Taiwan. It also has a U.S.-based team generating unique domestic content. Thirdly, traditional radio is experiencing a renaissance in the Vietnamese community, so much so that Viet TV recently launched a 24/7 radio station in Houston. Their success suggests that there are opportunities for ethnic media to prosper when they find the right niche and deliver content on an appropriate platform for the target audience.

 

The discussion also touched on the challenge of a lack of standard measurement for Asian media. Only a handful of Asian media subscribe to the Nielsen rating service or can afford an audit. I agree that it would be beneficial to have standard measures to help marketers measure campaign effectiveness and ROI. However, I think it’s only meaningful to a certain extent. Marketers certainly need media measurement to make a business case for their spending. But numbers don’t tell the entire story. I reflect on my own media usage. I use mostly mainstream media such as the Wall Street Journal and Business Week. News from Asia for me comes primarily from Facebook and WeChat forwards and commentary from friends. I only pick up a Chinese newspaper when I visit the local Asian supermarket once or twice a month. Entertainment is a mixed bag of Asian and mainstream content from Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. For me, the use of ethnic media is not about frequency, it’s about emotional and cultural connection.  That’s perhaps why Danny Wong, a Chinese American born in the U.S., decided to launch Sky Link TV (a 24/7 Chinese satellite TV station in the US) in 2015. He said at the media roundtable that although he is a U.S. native, he wants to see programming that reflects his cultural background. That said, further research is needed to evaluate the role of ethnic media and effectiveness of advertising among Asian Americans.

3AF 2017 media roundtable group selfie

 

3AF 2017 media roundtable

Decoding Culture from the 3AF 2017 Asian Marketing Summit

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During the past few years, there has been a lot of debate on various approaches to marketing to today’s multicultural, minority-majority consumers, namely, whether a segmented/targeted approach or a Total Market approach would be more effective. At the heart of the debate is the role of culture and its influence on consumer behaviors. One of the main themes from this year’s Asian Marketing Summit by the Asian American Advertising Federation is culture and its role in marketing. I thought I would share my key takeaways from these insightful presentations.

 

Culture is a very broad term. A Google search of definition of culture yields the following: The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. So it can be anything, be it based on age, gender, generation, era, ethnic background, etc. For the purpose of discussion in this blog, culture referrals to one’s upbringing, and for immigrants, cultural background and identity pertaining to their countries of origin.

 

In Kathy Cheng’s presentation Culture: A Pathway to Unstated Consumer Preferences, she provides ample examples to illustrate cultural DNA of interdependence in Asian culture being the key driver for Asian consumers’ predisposition to seek one-stop shopping or package deals. One of the examples she presented is the comparison between travel site apps Ctrip (a popular Chinese travel app) and Priceline. The Ctrip app includes more than two dozen functions from air fare, lodging to travel visa to local restaurants and 24/7 customer service. In contrast, the Priceline app sports a clean and clear look with three primary functions – hotels, flights and rental cars. (For more information about Kathy’s presentation on cultural DNA, please refer to https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/meet-consumers-where-multicultural-marketing-kathy-cheng)

Comparison of Priceline and Ctrip by Kathy Cheng

(Illustration from Kathy Cheng’s presentation at the 3AF 2017 Asian Marketing Summit)

 

Culture no doubt plays an important role in consumer behaviors. The next question becomes as immigrants and their descendants acculturate, how much of that cultural DNA is retained.

 

In the Asian American Market Report created by Phoenix Marketing International in partnership with ISA, majority of Asian Americans maintain their cultural connection through food, music, TV programming and attending community events regardless of acculturation level.

AAMR cultural connection by acculturation

(Asian American Market Report by Phoenix Marketing International)

 

Ramit Sethi, a New York Times best-selling author of I will Teach You To Be Rich, in fact takes pride in his cultural background in some of his personal/business growth advice. https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/negotiate-like-an-indian-how-to-negotiate-a-salary-increase-video/

 

Asian American’s connection to cultural roots is noteworthy because the influence of one’s identity, culture and passionate points can be amplified effectively in this digital age and have an impact on broader consumer groups.

 

Edwin Wong, VP of Research and Insights of Buzzfeed, in his presentation Decoding Culture elaborated on the end of demographics, segmentation and targeting and the power of one in consumer influence in culture, movement and ultimately purchase behavior.

Edwin Wong at 3AF 2017 Summit

(Edwin Wong, VP of Research and Insights Buzzfeed, speaking at the 2017 3AF Asian Marketing Summit)
Indeed, Markio Carpenter, VP of Strategic Community Alliances at Nielsen, shared in her presentation on the influence of digitally savvy and trendsetting Asian American women whose passion for Korean beauty products has introduced General Market female consumers to a whole new world of beauty products and skincare regimen.

Mariko Carpenter at 3AF 2017 Summit

(Mariko Carpenter, VP of Strategic Community Aliances at Nielsen, speaking at the 3AF 2017 Asian Marketing Summit)

 

The latest 3AF media consumption study (http://www.3af.org/research/index.html) sheds lights on a consumer group that’s bicultural, bilingual and digital savvy. They use mainstream media for information and entertainment but also utilize niche media to stay connected to their cultural roots, the community and their home countries. Technology also makes contents in all forms, whether produced in the U.S. or in home countries, more accessible than ever. Technology tools and Asian American’s digital savviness make it easier to share their passion, authentic stories and amplify their influence as a consumer group.

3AF Asian American media consumption study

(Cover of 3AF’s Asian American media consumption study) 

 

Culture takes many forms, part of it is ingrained, part of it is acquired and may shift based on social norms, trends, education, information and interactions with others.

My husband who is Danish, fluent in Mandarin, well versed in Chinese culture and history once joked with me that he was more Asian American than most of the U.S. born Asian Americans. I posted a quiz about whether my Danish husband, who has obviously acquired a lot of Asian culture and knowledge, can be considered “Asian American” on my Facebook and most of my Asian American friends said “no.” I take that they considered being Asian American a right or identify by birth, not something that can be acquired. And there is pride in that cultural identity.

Uffe Bergeton talking to 2nd graders about Chinese culture

(Dr. Uffe Bergeton, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at UNC, Chapel Hill, talking to 2nd graders about his Chinese seal collection)

 

There are many ways that each of us chooses to identify ourselves be it gender, ideology, religion, or social economics. But at the end of the day, it’s the ingrained cultural DNA, one’s upbringing and cultural roots that plays the most important role in shaping one’s identity. And that’s where marketers can meet consumers where they are, on an emotional level.

 

How Segmented Marketing in the Southeastern US May Be an Advantage

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A band performs during the Ritmo Latino Festival in Cary’s Fred G. Bond Metro Park in 2010. Source of image http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/81b690/picture7143794/ALTERNATES/FREE_960/beaU8.So.156.jpeg
A band performs during the Ritmo Latino Festival in Cary’s Fred G. Bond Metro Park in 2010. Source of image http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/81b690/picture7143794/ALTERNATES/FREE_960/beaU8.So.156.jpeg

 

Over the past two decades, multicultural marketing discussions and strategy have evolved in many aspects.  This can be observed in the US, where marketing has shifted from a segmented approach targeting specifically either the Hispanic, African American, Asian American or General Caucasian populations to what is now labeled a Total Market Approach. The definition of Total Market is loosely defined as an integrated approach that is inclusive and covers all segments of a geographic population.  This shift in marketing strategy was evident in the latest Retail 360 and ANA Multicultural conferences.  Of course, whether a company takes a segmented or integrated approach depends heavily on its products, business strategies and target customers.  However, it is this writer’s belief that certain segments and geographic regions still merit a segmented approach.

 

An example of this is marketing to Hispanics in the Southeastern US.

 

Historically speaking, concentrated populations of Hispanics in the Southeastern US are a relatively new phenomenon. When comparing Hispanics in the southeast to the national statistics, they tend to be foreign born (50% vs. 33%) with less educational background and expendable income. However, there is a growing Hispanic middle class who built flourishing businesses providing products and services to Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities alike.  Examples are witnessed everywhere — supermarkets, restaurants, cleaning services, housekeeping, and credit unions.  Affluence continues to grow as the second generation of bilingual Hispanics acquire higher education levels and better paying job opportunities.  In addition, US born Hispanics from other regions of the country are attracted to the southeast as this ethnic population becomes more established in urban, university and high technology areas.

 

An implication of this socioeconomic shift is that there are business growth opportunities, which can be leveraged through a segmented culturally relevant marketing strategy and targeted advertising.  In other words, as the Hispanic population grows, companies who start building relationships with this community will also enjoy business growth and success.

 

Some variables you may want to consider when thinking through your business, branding and marketing strategy for the southeastern US:

 

In-language communication – given the higher percentage of foreign-born Hispanics in this region, in-language communication can ease the burden of translation for potential customers especially when it comes to financial services and healthcare.

 

Values – many Hispanics are very group oriented and family centric. Children often are the focus of the family that means a lot of decision making is based on this consideration.

 

Leverage passion points such as sports, food and music

Soccer is to Hispanics what football is to Americans and Cricket is to Indians Watching a soccer game is an event for family and friends to get together.

Hispanic’s take their cooking seriously. They create their food with love, taking particular attention to the consideration of flavors.

Music is an essential to Hispanics socially. Where there are Hispanics, there is music. According to Nielsen, the average Hispanic spends $135 on music a year, more than the General Market who spends $105 a year.

 

Establish a consistent presence in the Hispanic community – Hispanics can become loyal customers and appreciate companies that reach out and build positive relationships with their community. Examples of this are having a presence at social events such as fairs and festivals with high Hispanic attendance or visibly initiating / supporting social initiatives such as scholarships and sports/music camps for Hispanic children and young adults.  There are many positive means for outreach; the key is consistency in your presence and offerings.

 

Moon Lovers – Scarlet Heart Ryeo: A Case study of Transcreation

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Korean drama Scarlet Heart Ryeo

 

In my career as a market researcher, I have tested many concepts and taglines transcreated (The process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context) for multicultural audiences. Most of the time, the respondents’ reactions are lukewarm and they bluntedly point out that it’s something translated from English and doesn’t really flow. Admittedly, transcreating a creative concept is a lot more challenging than creating an original concept. It needs to convey the same message as the original concept while at the same time is unique, creative, culturally relevant and authentic in its own way.

 

When I saw Korean drama Scarlet Heart Ryeo recently, I thought it was an excellent sample of transcreation and there are some lessons that could be drawn for agencies that practice the art of transcreating creative concepts for multicultural consumers.

 

Scarlet Heart Ryeo drew my attention because it is the remake of a popular Chinese drama Scarlet Heart (a first for Korean drama). It was recently aired in Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and can be viewed by the rest of world on the video streaming website DramaFever. Having watched the original Scarlet Heart series, I was impressed by the creative adaptation of the Korean version that remained true to the spirit of the original story yet reflected Korean authenticity.

 

Both the original and transcreated versions reflect a creative interpretation of history. The storyline is based on a young 21st century woman being transported back in time where she meets princes of the ruling family. The heroine’s strong character, spirit of freedom and kindness wins her friendship from all of the princes.  She eventually falls in love with the 8th prince and later the 4th prince and finds herself entangled in a power struggle for the throne.

 

Four key elements, which demonstrate this, are described below:

 

Cultural elements

The Korean version is set in Goryeo Dynasty and incorporates many cultural elements and customs of the time.  Scenes depicting the sword dance and ceremony to chase evil spirits from the palace, bathhouses and the rain ritual after a long drought are examples of authentic cultural elements.

 

Creative adaptation of the story

The story is also adapted to be closer to Korean history.  The power struggle comes from the ruling family’s relationship with powerful clans that the king relies on — instead of a struggle within the palace as in the original version.  Another example is how the relationship between the brothers and their roles are depicted.

 

Creative adaptation of main characters

There are also considerable adaptations made to the main characters. Heroine Hae Soo, unlike Zhang Xiao who is well versed in Chinese history, has difficulty remembering historical facts.  She also is portrayed as illiterate since she has not studied the Chinese characters which are used by aristocrats at the time.  However, her expertise in makeup application enables her to cover Wang Soo’s (the 4th prince) facial scar – this ultimately changes his fate.  Wang Soo is also portrayed much more charismatic compared to the cold and calculating 4th prince ,Yin Zhen, in the Chinese version.  Further adaptations are observed by the use of more fight scenes for Wang Soo.  This variation is utilized because the story is set during the medieval period where fighting skills was one of the critical qualities of a capable prince and leader.

 

Korean drama style

The original Chinese period drama is serious and melancholy due to its theme of a royal power struggle and tragic ending.  The Korean version, while still serious in tone, has more light-hearted moments  –exemplifying a key characteristic of Korean story telling.

 

So what does a Korean drama have to do with marketing to multicultural consumers in the U.S.? Advertising agencies are often given the assignment of adapting a General Market concept for various multicultural consumer targets – Hispanic, Asian, and African American. Agencies have taking various approaches, from simply translating the copy, to casting multicultural actors while keeping the English to creatively adapting the concept for their target revamping everything including copy, casting, and production in the process.

 

Under the pressure of maximizing efficiency and profit, it’s tempting to have one creative concept and branding platform and then translating it into different languages with minimal adaptation. But as we can see from the Scarlet Heart Ryeo example above, while one can have an integrated approach, there is room for transcreation to tailor your canpaign story for specific targets. And a transcreation that is orginal and well thought out can have a cross cultural appleal. It was a hit in China (acculmulated more than 1.7 billion views on Chinese streaming site Youku) and the second most popular drama on DramaFever in North and South America.

 

In case you’re interested, the show is available on DramaFever and Viki with English subtitles. Be warned, you may catch the infectious drama fever.

 

Special thanks to Edward Chang of APartnership and Jay Kim of AAAZA for their feedback and input.

 

Chinese drama Scarlet Heart 2011

Asian American business owners represent significant opportunities for business service providers

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ASIAN CAFE OWNER/WORKER BEHIND COUNTER

According to the newly released inaugural annual survey of entrepreneurs by the Census, more than half of the minority-owned firms with paid employees were Asian-owned.

 

This represents great opportunities for companies that provide services to business owners such as financial institutions, shipping, software/cloud, etc.

 

The proposed EB6 startup visa, if passed, will likely accelerate growth of immigration and business ownership for this particular population given that China and India send the highest number of international students to the U.S. annually.

 

A few things that marketers should keep in mind when reaching out to Asian American business owners:

1) 2/3 of Asian Americans are foreign born, they face unique challenges in language barrier, navigating through regulations and healthcare systems, and having credit history to obtain credit lines or loans.

2) Asian Americans are highly concentrated in a few states and metro areas, where share of business ownership exceeds share of population.

3) Asian Americans are relationship oriented, particularly when it comes to business. Marketers need to take the time to understand the target’s unique needs and build relationship with them.

Size + Influence = Power

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The Line Hotel

 

In her presentation about the many dimensions of the South Asian population in the U.S., Esther “ET” Franklin, Head of Americas Experience Strategy, Publicis Media, had a slide titled “size + influence = power.”  This is not only the theme of her presentation, but also the theme of the 3AF 2016 Asian Marketing Summit which just concluded on June 3, 2016 in Los Angeles.  Asian American consumers as a group has not only drawn attention from Fortune 500 marketers, but also flexed its power in entertainment and politics.

 

The fact that Google included Asian American in its multicultural reach and began to provide metrics and services targeting this audience at the request of its customers is a manifestation of the power yielded by Asian American consumers.

 

For years, marketers hesitate to venture into Asian marketing citing the small size of the population and fragmented market. Given recent immigration chance, this will no longer be the case in 50 years.  According to the Pew Research Center, currently at 6%, Asian Americans are projected to be 14% of the total population, slightly more than the African American population, by 2065.

 

Asian Americans are also exerting influence in culture much bigger than its population size.  Take for example, 85% of DramaFever’s subscribers are non-Asians.  Suk Park, founder of DramaFever, shared his vision of Korean pop culture at the 3AF 2016 Asian Marketing Summit, that Korean drama will become mainstream and is “a content class that has the ability to be consumed globally.”  Warner Brother apparently shared that vision and acquired DramaFever earlier this year for undisclosed terms.

 

There is no doubt that the segment is a tough nut to crack given its diversity.  However, marketers and their agency partners have used innovative approaches and multiple platforms to reach the different sub-segments in a cost effective way.  In some cases, the story board can also be used for non-Asian targets.  For example, Western Union partnered Saavn to launch Direct from Bollywood to modernize its brand image and connect with South Asian consumers on digital channels.  Chase connects with Asian Americans culturally in a campaign that features masters in different fields in English.  Verizon successfully drove traffic to stores with its KCON artist collectible card campaign while connecting with millennial consumers on their passion for K pop.  East West Bank leveraged on the passion point of hot sauce and featured the creator of Sriracha sauce, an East West Bank customer, in a commercial that has English and Chinese versions.

 

Tight budget and higher expectations for return have motivated marketers and agencies target Asian American consumers to be innovative, flexible and create campaigns that are effective in targeting multiple consumer segments in a cost effective way while at the same aligned with the brand’s overarching messaging.  Total Market marketers will benefit from taking a chapter from the Asian American marketing playbook because Total Market has been practiced by these marketers since the beginning.