7 Insights Brands Should Know About Connecting With Asian Americans

Filed Under: Multicultural


Shaili Bhatt

Alum, Online Qualitative Research

In a world that historically prioritizes conformity, many individuals grapple with a deep discomfort when it comes to revealing every aspect of their cultural identity. Among the newest of groups of immigrants, this is true for Asian Americans. A recent Pew Research Center survey reveals that 1 in 5 Asian American adults has hidden aspects of their heritage such as cultural customs, food, clothing, or religious practices from non-Asians at some point in their lives. The primary reasons cited for this concealment are fear of ridicule and a desire to fit in.

  • U.S.-born Asian adults, particularly second-generation individuals with at least one immigrant parent, are more likely to hide their heritage compared to immigrants and third- or higher-generation Asian Americans.
  • Korean Americans are the most likely to have hidden their heritage among different Asian-origin groups.
  • Younger Asian Americans, Democrats, and English-dominant speakers are also more prone to concealing their culture.

Understanding Asian American Cultural Dynamics for Effective Marketing

  1. Generational Differences. Marketers targeting Asian American consumers should recognize generational differences. U.S.-born, second-generation Asian Americans are more likely to have hidden their heritage to assimilate into a predominantly White-raced society. This suggests that they may have unique cultural dynamics and preferences that marketers should consider and study when developing campaigns.

  2. Cultural Sensitivity. The fear of ridicule and the desire to fit in are common reasons for concealing heritage. Marketers should prioritize cultural sensitivity in their advertising to avoid inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes or alienating potential customers.

  3. Ethnic Variation. Different Asian-origin groups exhibit varying tendencies towards heritage representation: for instance, Korean Americans are often more inclined to downplay their heritage. Marketers need to recognize and respect these unique cultural nuances. C+R emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between East Asian and South Asian ethnicities. These regions encompass a rich tapestry of cultures that seek recognition. Oversimplifying them as a singular ‘Asian American’ group can overlook these distinctions, leading to missed opportunities in marketing strategies.

  4. Age and Language. Younger Asian Americans and those who primarily speak English are more prone to concealing aspects of their culture. Marketers should understand the preferences and identities of these demographics to engage with them effectively.

  5. Multiracial Identity. Some multiracial Asian Americans and those with more distant immigrant roots hide their heritage to pass as White. This highlights the complexity of Asian American identity and the need for marketers to acknowledge and respect the diversity within the community.

  6. Cultural Pride. Despite some challenges, many second-generation Asian Americans express pride in their cultural background and a desire to share it with others. Marketers can tap into this cultural pride by promoting inclusivity and celebrating diversity in their campaigns.

  7. Balancing Act. Asian Americans often face a delicate balance between maintaining their cultural practices and adapting to mainstream American society. Marketers should be mindful of this dual identity and strive to create content that respects and embraces both aspects.

How Brands Can Connect with Asian Americans by Embracing Cultural Duality

Asian Americans, especially those born in the U.S., contend with the challenges of a dual identity. On the one hand, there’s a desire to integrate and be seen as “American” and on the other, there’s a deep-rooted pride and connection to their cultural heritage.

Brands have a unique opportunity here. By crafting campaigns that acknowledge and celebrate this dual identity, they can endear themselves to a segment of the population that often feels unseen. It’s not just about token representation; it’s about authentically understanding and valuing the cultural complexities that shape consumer choices.

In conclusion, this article offers a treasure trove of insights for market researchers and brands. The Asian American experience, with its rich tapestry of cultural nuances, presents a unique opportunity for brands to resonate on a deeper, more emotional level. By embracing these insights and their underlying emotions, brands can forge stronger, more lasting connections with their consumers.

In piloting this Asian American research, Shaili Bhatt, C+R Research, Senior Research Director, Online Qualitative, moderated some of the South Asian focus groups on behalf of GC GLOBAL Research, the multi-faceted Asian research team whom Pew Research has acknowledged, among many others, for contributing their talents to this project.


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