Big Payoff for Committed Ethnic Marketers

Article excerpt

As one who came to the United States as an immigrant and chose it as his new home, I can say, admittedly with some bias, that this is the greatest country in the world. Most Americans would echo that sentiment. But, the abundant degree of self-belief in our own superiority is both a major strength and weakness. Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in our attitude to ethnic citizens, both as a nation and as marketer.

As a nation we are woefully ignorant of most things foreign. From xenophobic politicians to inadequately taught high school students who can't distinguish between Athens, Ga., and Athens, Greece, there seems to exist a cavalier air of disinterest about our ethnic brethren. Case in point, outside of cable's Discovery and Travel channels, media coverage of ethnic cultural activity is sparse.

But ethnic audiences represent massive business opportunities. It is estimated that ethnic spending power totals $500 billion annually. Ignoring for a moment the African-American community, a separate column in its own right, the major ethnic communities in the United States comprise Hispanic (Latin America, Mexico, Cuba), Asia (predominantly China, Korea, Japan), the Indian Sub-Continent (India and Pakistan), the Middle East and Europe (primarily eastern European countries and Russia).

Looking at two particular sectors, Hispanic and Asian, the numbers are startling. The nation's 22 million Hispanic-Americans are responsible for a household growth rate in the 90s that is outpacing the general market by a ratio of 4-to-1. Hispanic disposable income is increasing three times faster than the general market during that same time. In addition, about 7 million Asian-American consumers represent close to $225 billion in purchasing power.

Space prevents the discussion of every ethnic sector, but two examples, Asian-Americans and the Indian and Pakistani communities, will highlight some interesting insights into ethnic marketing.

What do we know about them?

As referenced earlier, they represent incredible buying power, both as a purchasing bloc and as individual consumers. Since many initially came to the United States to study, they're better educated. In fact, education is one of the most highly revered attainments within those cultures. They're exceptionally hard workers and strongly committed to their vision and goals. They also tend to be more honest and ethical than most with a low default rate on business loans, as well as personal financial commitments.

They're also very entrepreneurial. Currently, 55 percent of budget hotels in the United States are owned by Indians. The corner store retail environment, from convenience store to dry cleaner, is now owned, managed and run by Asian, primarily Korean, merchants in most major cities.

Fast-food franchises from Blimpie to Dairy Queen are being gobbled-up by Indians and Pakistanis who are using these entry-level retail opportunities as a way of securing their American Dream.

How do we approach them?

If there is one distinguishing element of the ethnic market, it is brand loyalty. Ethnic consumers tend to be much more brand loyal than mainstream Americans. Once loyalty has been established, the consumer will maintain the relationship with the brand in many instances over a lifetime. …

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