Fulfillment's Neglected Niche; Asian Americans Offer Fantastic Demographics and Strong Spending Power

By Cheah, Gilbert | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, March 15, 1998 | Go to article overview

Fulfillment's Neglected Niche; Asian Americans Offer Fantastic Demographics and Strong Spending Power


Cheah, Gilbert, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Asian Americans offer fantastic demographics and strong spending power So why are there so few lists targeting them?

Direct marketers pride themselves on segmenting the population into microniches. Whether by purchasing habits or Zip Code, occupation or hobby, there are lists available for almost every group. Ever thought of reaching cat-owning investors over 50? There's a list out there. Want to contact alfalfa farmers making over $100,000 a year? You wouldn't have to look too hard.

But even as list brokers segment the population into narrower niches, they've all but ignored a market that Investor's Daily describes as having "demographics from heaven": Asian Americans. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, there are nearly 10 million Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) in America today--one of the nation's fastest-growing, highest-earning, best-educated ethnic groups.

Despite these statistics, and the fact that the APA market commands $110 billion in spending power (according to a study by the University of Georgia and Market Research & Consulting), a Direct Marketing Association of America survey shows that only 17 percent of those who do ethnic marketing had ever targeted Asian Americans, compared with 78 percent who had targeted African Americans and 65 percent who had targeted Hispanics.

Because of low demand, the number of lists of Asian Americans remains small as other ethnic lists continue to grow. Over the past two years, I've dealt with more than a dozen major list managers and agents, looking for Asian American lists and specifically for English-language dominant names. Most list managers reacted to my requests with astonishing bewilderment. One wondered if there were enough English-speaking Asians to put a list together. Another said her agency dealt only with "American" names.

Worse, most available Asian American names are cuffed through a last-name sort, which is no guarantee of Asian ethnicity. When A. Magazine rented 100,000 allegedly Asian names for a direct mail effort, we found that many were not of Asian descent, as some Asian last names, like Lee, Park and Moon, are also prevalent among non-Asians. Using a list with these names leads to more than just lowered response: We received dozens of angry letters and calls from Anglo Americans who were furious for being mistaken as Asian.

The mistakes that arise from simple last-name sorts are well-known at Profile America List Company in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, which offers over 2.6 million Asian American names for rental. Account executive Lois Swaim says last names that might be Asian are further ver-ified by a first-name sort. …

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