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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.

Differences between the East and the West

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Chinese designer Liu Yang used images to illustrate the differences between the East and the West in her book “Differences between the East and the West” after living 13 years in China and in Germany respectively.  I thought these illustrations are very insightful and explain the cultural differences in a concise and humorous way and are helpful for those of us who are in the space of multicultural/cross-cultural marketing.

 

Attitudes

Self Image

Self image

Impression of the Other

Impression of the other

Perception of Beauty

Perception of beauty

Attitudes towards Something New

Attitudes towards something new

Impact of Weather on Mood

Impact of weather

Anger Management

Anger management

 

Communication

Communication of Opinions

Communication of opinions

Communication of Ideas

Communication of ideas

 

Family and Relationship

Relationship

Relationship

Children

Children

Senior’s Life

Senior's life

 

Work

Boss

Boss

Problem Solving

Problem solving

 

Lifestyle

Lifestyle

Life style

Get Together

Get together

In a Restaurant

In a restaurant

Street Scene on the Weekend

Street scene on the weekend

Food

Food

Fashion

Fashion

Sun

The Sun

Shower Time

Shower time

Transportation

Transportation

When They Travel

When they travel

Relationship with Animals (Companion or Food)

Relationship with animals (companion or food)

Why WeChat should be part of your social media strategy and marketing mix, and why you should care

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By Iris Yim

 

Although WeChat is relatively unknown in the U.S., it has close to 550 million actively monthly users and has become the default social media and a cultural and social phenomenon in China in the short amount of time since its launch in 2011.

 

WeChat is a messaging app developed and owned by Tencent which also owns another popular messaging service in China – QQ.  It’s essentially a messaging app with which you can make free voice and video calls and leave voice and text messages but it also has “Moments” which is similar to a Facebook wall where you can see the updates of your contacts and the content they share.  So it’s like a combination of Whatsapp + Facebook.  It’s easy to set up a group chat to interact with friends and family or a group of people with similar interests.

 

Here are some interesting statistics of WeChat:

– Percentage of Internet users in China that use WeChat – 65%

– Number of registered WeChat accounts – 1.1 billion

– Average amount of time Chinese adults spend on WeChat daily – over 40 minutes

– Percentage of users that open it more than 10 times a day – 55.2%

 

So WeChat is the default social media in China, so what?  Why and how does it concern marketers in the U.S?  You may ask.  It’s true with all its marketing efforts to expand in the U.S., WeChat has barely made a dent in the social media market in this country which is dominated by Facebook.  Latest statistics suggest only 2% mobile Internet users in the US that use WeChat on a monthly basis.  However, if you’re targeting Asian Americans, you will need to pay attention to WeChat and here is why.

 

– Chinese is the largest segment of the Asian American population and 70% of them are foreign born.  They have friends and family in China who all use WeChat and the immigrant himself will be enticed to sign up as well.

– There are 274,439 Chinese international students in the U.S. for the school year of 2013-2014 who all use WeChat to keep in touch with friends and family at home and fellow Chinese international students in the U.S.

– Then not to mention the tens of thousands of Chinese tourists who visit the U.S. and shopping is an essential item on the itinerary.  Last year, 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited America and spent a whopping $21.1 billion. The number of visitors from China to the U.S. is expected to rise to 3.1 million in 2019.  And they use WeChat to share information on merchandise, deals and brands with friends and family.  Many of them are on a shopping mission to not only shop for themselves but also shop for friends and family.

 

For Chinese who live in the U.S., WeChat provides a platform to bring the community together to share news, interests, concerns and bond with each other.  Some large group chats have hundreds of active participants.  News travels fast among these group chats and the community will be galvanized into action in a very short amount of time.

 

On May 15, 2015, when a coalition of Asian American groups announced a complaint against Harvard on discriminating Asian Americans for admission at a press conference, one of the attendees sent pictures, videos and reporting of the press conference to his WeChat group chat and these messages, pictures and videos were redistributed to the numerous group chat across the U.S.  The Chinese community learnt about the news of the complaint hours before mainstream media’s report on the complaint against Harvard.

 

Given WeChat’s influence on the Chinese community in the U.S., politicians and community organizations are taking notes.  I have seen Hilary Clinton’s ad on WeChat recruiting Chinese staff and volunteers for her campaign.  Recently, a police department in Flushing, NY, established a public WeChat account to communicate with and better serve the Chinese community in the area.  However, brands in the U.S. are largely missing in action.

 

Given that China is the number one source of new immigrants, the number one source of international students to the U.S. and the whopping spending power of Chinese tourists, WeChat is an effective way to reach these target groups and should part of your social media strategy and marketing mix.

 

Here is an example of the marketing power of WeChat

A friend of mine shared a blog post on “Moments” by an entertainment news blogger about the shoes the female lead wears in the latest Jurassic Park movie.  It has an interesting and humorous twist to it.  It comments on how the female lead miraculously outruns the dinosaurs in those shoes and why every girl should have a pair of shoes like that so that they can win the race of life.  It goes on to talk about the brand and designer of the shoes.  The result?  I went on Amazon.com to order a pair for myself!!

 

WeChat Bazaar blog Jurassic World WeChat Bazaar blog Jurassic World 2 WeChat Bazaar blog Sam Edelman shoes  WeChat Bazaar blog Sam Edelman shoes 2