asian’s still not BIG DEAL

October 28, 2006


  LOS ANGELES – Over 11 million Americans trace their roots to Asia. Increasing by an annual rate of 9 percent since 2000, they have the highest growth rate of any ethnic group in the United States.  

LOS ANGELES – Over 11 million Americans trace their roots to Asia. Increasing by an annual rate of 9 percent since 2000, they have the highest growth rate of any ethnic group in the United States.

According to the US Census, Asian Americans now make up 5 percent of the population of the United States. Their number is projected to triple to 34 million in the next 50 years.

Asian Americans have also developed substantial economic clout.

In a recent article, the LA-based Filipino newspaper Asian Journal quoted economist Jeff Humphreys as saying: “Asian buying power is attaining critical mass in a growing number of states.” Humphreys is director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

Six years ago only six states had over $10 billion in Asian buying power. This year 11 states have reached that benchmark; in five years 14 states are projected to do so.

The Selig Center projects that Asian-American spending power will reach $528 billion by 2009, an increase of nearly 347 percent since 1990, when the community’s spending power was recorded at $118 billion.

According to the latest data released by the Selig Center, “Asian consumer annual buying power in the United States has reached $427 billion, representing a 59-percent increase since the beginning of the decade.”

California accounts for 33 percent of the Asian consumer market in the United States. Asian buying power in multicultural California, totaling $140.5 billion, stands out as the only racial minority market at the state level to exceed $100 billion.

Notwithstanding its indisputable progress and growing importance in American society, the Asian community has remained in what a top advertising executive called “invisible mode.”

Julia Huang is founder and CEO of interTrend, an advertising and marketing agency that focuses on Asian communities in the United States.

In an article by Momar G. Visaya, editor in chief of the Asian Journal, Huang noted the almost continuing invisibility of Asian Americans in general and Filipino Americans in particular in the mainstream market.

Filipino Americans have been largely ignored in corporate America, which lumps them in the mainstream because, for one thing, they are thought to speak English fluently. Most US marketers assume that Filipinos have fully assimilated into the American culture.

“When is speaking English ever a bad thing? Use your English language advertising in these markets,” Huang said, addressing advertisers and marketers that cluster Filipino Americans with the English-speaking majority.

Huang advised the Filipino American community to “create infrastructure and synchronize activities” to come up with a concerted effort to show the marketing world the potential of marketing to the community.

“The sheer number of Filipinos in America today makes your community a force to reckon with,” she added.

In contrast to the African American and the Hispanic American communities, Asian Americans remain virtually unrecognized, the Asian Journal noted.

Both the African American and Hispanic American markets have found their common ground, and that is why national marketers have been active in their communities, Huang said.

The Asian-American market is still segregated simply because the countries its constituents originated from are not bound by one culture or one language.

“The segregation is definitely working against us but we must work our way around that and use it not as a weakness but as a strength,” the Asian Journal quoted Huang as saying.

“We have been so polite for the longest time and it is about time that we spoke our mind,” she added. “It’s time for us to get what’s due us. It is all right to have some sense of entitlement. We live here, we pay our taxes.”

Coming from over 15 different cultures, Asian Americans constitute the most diverse ethnic group in the United States.

“There’s a disinterest in the Asian American community. If only they could give us the attention that they are giving our native countries,” said Huang, who is also president of the Asian American Advertising Federation.

This “disinterest” is a just notch higher than the “total ignorance” of the market about 10 or 15 years ago, she said.

While a small amount of national advertisers and marketers have realized the importance of the Asian American market, most have not.

“We are now in a position to be much bigger and we should be able to seize this opportunity. It is very achievable,” Huang added.

“Let’s go beyond uproar. What are we leveraging out of the $427 billion? We must use that in order for them to hear our voice,” Huang said.

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