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. …