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Ethnic Audiences: Reach Is In The Details

Ethnic Targeting

Posted by Steven Sheck, President, Infinite Media

May 29, 2019

The U.S. population is a “melting pot” of ethnic audiences that has been simmering for 243 years. Fresh ingredients are being added all the time. As our collective makeup evolves, it’s a mistake to view what is “American” as monolithic.

Direct marketers work hard to refine their campaign targets. Segmentation generally selects for age, income, geography, profession, business ownership, home ownership, religion, political affiliation, family composition, and ethnicity.

When it comes to reaching ethnic audiences, there can be a temptation to treat them as single entities; African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc. As with the broader population, there are risks to such oversimplification. Within any ethnic cohort, demographic distinctions exist that are the result of the circumstances surrounding the arc of a person’s life and work.

Consider the these statistics for the Asian (or Asian-American) population. (Pew Research 2019 Fact Tank):

  • Total – More than 20 million Asians live in the United States.
  • Ethnicity – Six subgroups comprise 85% of the total: Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese.
  • Education (2015) – 51% have bachelor’s degrees, led by India with 72%. Fewer than 20% of Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians and Bhutanese had such credentials.
  • English Speakers – At least 80% of Japanese, Filipinos and Indians speak English proficiently. Bhutanese and Burmese were at 27% and 28% respectively.
  • Asian HH Income versus all U.S. HH – Asian households had a median in come of $73,060 in 2015, against all U.S. households at $53,600.
  • Poverty Rates – Overall Asian poverty rate was 12.1% versus overall U.S. rate of 15.1%. Among specific origin groups, Filipinos and Indians had a rate of only 7.5%, while Bhutanese and Burmese struggled far more at 33.3% and 35% respectively.
  • Naturalization Rate – The wave of Vietnamese and Hmong that arrived in the ’70s has a naturalization rate of 58%. Bhutanese who have mostly arrived in the past 10 or 15 years, are at 6%.
  • Income Inequality – The disparity between the top 10% and bottom 10% of households exceeds that of all other ethnic groups as well as the general U.S. population.

Overall in 2016, Asian immigrants accounted for 27% of all immigrants. This is roughly equal to Mexico at 26%. Other regions include: Europe/Canada (13%), the Caribbean (10%), Central America (8%), South America (7%), the Middle East (4%) and sub-Saharan Africa (4%). (Pew)

These data points demand that direct marketers take a close look at any specific ethnic population being targeted. Who are they? What is the offer? Is it income dependent? Does it assume home ownership? A college degree? Is the target businesses or individuals?

Databases for reference:
Asian American Owned Business Masterfile From D&B
U.S. Consumers Database From Mailinglists.com (Selects>Ethnic/Ethnicity)
Hey Mom! It’s Me! – Mothers to Be – Postal & Email (Selects>Spoken Language)

Broad stroke targeting of an ethnic group or nationality is not sufficient. Direct marketed products and services may be remedial. They may be aspirational. They may be educational or about productivity. To succeed they need to focus on current need, where the target is now. Generalized marketing to ethnic audiences is seldom the way to resonate.

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