Seeing Beyond the Data

How can marketers reach diverse audiences when data has these three critical limitations?

Between 2000 and 2015, the U.S. Asian population grew 72 percent. According to Pew Research, this is the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group. By 2055, Asian Americans are projected to become the largest immigrant group, even surpassing the Hispanic population.

It’s no wonder we’re seeing more and more of this population represented on the big screen. But it’s not just Hollywood recognizing an opportunity in targeting Asian Americans; brands of all sizes are starting to take notice, too.

To engage Asian-American and other multicultural populations, brands need more than statistics and reports. They need real, grounded experience in order to drive effective messaging.

This isn’t just theoretical. Recently, we’ve been tasked with developing experiential ways to inspire Asian consumers to action in major cities. Thanks to our deep experience speaking to Asian-American and other audiences, we’re able to execute high-ROI campaigns for our clients in healthcare, education, and other regulated industries.

Here are three reasons why numbers only go so far when reaching diverse audiences.

Broad Data Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

Broad data about large population samples can provide valuable insights. However, with the ability modern marketers have to reach detailed audience segments, relying solely on broad data just doesn’t work. Grouping respondent data by race isn’t enough to reach multicultural audiences.

For example, one statistic shows multicultural audiences are connected and mobile-savvy. But this isn’t exclusive to ethnic audiences. Mobile usage has outperformed desktop for years. Thus, this data doesn’t tell you anything about your segment that you wouldn’t already know.

Generational Differences Can Skew Results

Multicultural customers may come from the same ethnic background, but success of messaging will vary by generation. You wouldn’t talk to your grandmother the same way you would your sibling or cousin. Boomer-aged Chinese immigrants and their California-born millennial grandchildren are no exception.

Here’s how this would look in action: Nielsen reports that one third of Asian Americans own credit cards that accrue airline miles or travel points. Additionally, 79 percent of Asian Americans are foreign born and have extended family who live in other countries.

The conclusion? It’s likely first generation Asian immigrants will make more travel purchases per year than the average person. Messaging around mileage points and travel rewards would likely gain the attention of this audience segment.

However, a second-generation Asian American might not see the benefit in having that kind of credit card because she or he doesn’t have to go overseas to see family.

Obviously, this is a limited example, but it demonstrates the point: for the most effective messaging, conclusions need to be made on more information than simply “ethnic background.”

Subtle Cultural Cues Don’t Get Reported

In addition to the above limitations of broad data, truly understanding a cultural group requires spending time among its people, soaking up subtle information that can’t be reported.

For example, Chinese and Japanese nationals consider the number 8 to be lucky. In fact, this is the reason why the founders of Toyota Motor Company, named the company “Toyota” instead of the family name. It takes 10 strokes to write “Toyoda” in Japanese, but only eight strokes to write “Toyota.” Similarly, the number 4 is considered unlucky by older generations in the same cultures.

This information isn’t something a typical research study would reveal. But knowing this should determine how you use numbers in marketing campaigns aimed at those with Chinese and Japanese backgrounds.

Adapt Marketing Messaging

We’ve focused this article on Asian American audiences, but the same principles apply to reaching any minority group. With our culture becoming more diverse, the ability to empathically adapt messaging becomes even more critical—especially for non-profits and regulated industries.

As a certified minority-owned business, TRAFFIK can translate cultural nuances into effective marketing campaigns. We’ve empowered our growing roster of clients to reach multicultural audiences, and we can help you, too. Fill out the form below or call us today to discuss how we can help you reach your diverse customers.

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