November 20, 2020

By Mario Xavier Carrasco / ThinkNow

America is often described as a “melting pot” of different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. Much to the dismay of Teddy Roosevelt (who in a 1916 speech noted “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism”), Americans have perfected naming each ethnic group within our borders distinctly, and those names have evolved.

 

For example, we dove into the names by which Hispanics prefer to identify. Responses ranged from “Latino/Latina” to country of origin, to the hotly debated yet emerging term “Latinx.”

We see a similar pattern among Black Americans, who do not identify with labels such as “African American” despite its use in the U.S. Census, media, and other databases.

But what about the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S.: Asians? As with Hispanics, marketing to Asians must be nuanced because of the complexity of their demographics. Hispanic audiences span 20 countries of origin.

Similarly, Asians in the U.S. hail from over 40 countries of origin and do not share a common language.

In fact, there are dozens of Asian languages spoken within the Asian diaspora in the U.S. It’s fair to say that Asians living here are not a homogenous group.

Asian Identity

So how do they prefer to be described? We asked a representative sample of 100 Asian respondents the following question: “Which of these names do you prefer that others use to describe you, personally?”

Overall, it is a statistical tie between Asian and Asian American, at 34% and 32% respectively. Twelve percent say “country of origin,” while 9% say “American.”

In fact, there are dozens of Asian languages spoken within the Asian diaspora in the U.S. It’s fair to say that Asians living here are not a homogenous group.

So how do they prefer to be described? We asked a representative sample of 100 Asian respondents the following question: “Which of these names do you prefer that others use to describe you, personally?” Overall, it is a statistical tie between Asian and Asian American, at 34% and 32% respectively. Twelve percent say “country of origin,” while 9% say “American.”

The use of the term “Asian American” reportedly first appeared in 1968 on the University of California Berkeley campus in response to racial injustice and the Vietnam War. But it wasn’t immediately accepted as a way to define Asian identity. It took time to gain broad appeal, even within Asian communities, and didn’t appear on the U.S. Census until 1980.

Conversely, there has been much discussion about who is considered a person of color (POC). Collectively, Asians do not prefer that term. In the study, only 1% of respondents were in favor of being referred to as a person of color.

Millennials are most likely to identify with the term Asian American.

Forty-five percent of millennials prefer this term, in contrast to their Gen Z peers at 23%. At 18%, Gen Z has a statistically significant preference for referring to themselves as “hyphenated Americans”(country of origin + American). Only 5% of millennials and Gen X share that perspective. Why is this relevant? Recent events have put the importance of identity in headlines and social feeds. Ongoing conversations about race and ethnicity that once took place in micro-communities have gone mainstream. And Asians in the U.S., especially younger and more “woke” demographics, are joining those conversations.

For marketers, the ability to demonstrate an understanding of Asian cultural values and norms, which includes how they self-identify and factors like authenticity, is important to developing long-lasting relationships with this consumer group. For example, among Gen Z Asian Americans, when you take a look at individual Asian groups like Gen Z Chinese, Gen Z Filipinos, and Gen Z Asian Indians, they value different things when it comes to brand loyalty.

Gen Z Chinese say they are most loyal to a brand that offers quality products and services, while Gen Z Filipino favors brands with quality products and services and great prices and discounts. Twenty-five percent of Gen Z Chinese, on the other hand, report “authenticity” as an important value, and 24% of Gen Z Asian Indian.

Take the time to research this multifaceted audience so you understand the cultural values shaping their identity and driving brand preferences and loyalties. Doing so could be the difference between winning or losing with this consumer group.

#ThinkNow

 

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