Emerging Asian market untapped
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 14, 2006

Big leap expected in buying power in Arizona groups

Yvette Armendariz

Asian purchasing power is no small change.

Nationally, it's projected to climb 41 percent to $611 billion by 2010, according to data from MarketResearch.com. In Arizona, where Asians make up
2.2 percent of the population, buying power is estimated to grow 64.9 percent, to $6.42 billion in 2010, according to Selig Center for Economic Growth.

Most marketing to Asians, particularly in the Valley, comes from Asian-owned restaurants, real estate agencies and insurance brokers. The Asian market remains largely overlooked by general-market advertisers. "They haven't realized how important (Asians) are," said Choo Tay, owner of media88.com, which provides Web design and marketing services in the Valley. "The problem is they are a smaller population, but if they do the numbers, they would understand the buying power."

Much of the ethnic advertising fervor has centered on Hispanic buying power, which Selig projects as nearing $1.1 trillion, up 47.7 percent from 2005. In Arizona, Hispanics will wield an estimated $39.2 billion in 2010, about 62 percent more than in 2005.

"There's no doubt that the Hispanic population represents a tremendous opportunity for marketers, given its rapidly increasing numbers and buying power," said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts, which puts out the MarketResearch.com report. "But practically every marketer is battling for its piece of this pie now."

Smart companies, he said, also will see viability in an emerging Asian market.

"The Asian market is still somewhat overlooked, so there's an advantage to being early," he said.

His company's recent report notes that per capita, Asian-Americans are more affluent than any other group in the U.S. population. They are more educated and more likely to hold professional or managerial jobs. "While the numbers are smaller, their dollars may go further," he said.

Higher household income
Census data put median household income for Asians at $57,518 in 2004, compared with $48,977 for non-Hispanic White households, $34,241 for Hispanics and $30,134 for African-Americans.

Stephanie Ribodal, who oversees multicultural public relations for Scottsdale-based Cold Stone Creamery, is well-aware of the group's purchasing power. Right now, she is building relationships with the Asian community and encourages franchisees to do the same. As for spending on specialty advertising, that has yet to come.

"We are really trying to make an effort, but the budget the way it is, it's hard to make an impact," she said. For now, most ads center on the product so it "appeals to everyone."

Few companies seem to be making targeted efforts at Asians, especially in the Valley, Tay said. Exceptions include the Arizona Lottery, which buys ads in many Asian publications, Casino Arizona and Wells Fargo, which stepped up its Asian marketing efforts.

Attorney and Asian community activist Barry Wong recalled two recent efforts to tap Asians in the Valley. One is the recent opening of Asian Bank of Arizona, where the Asian community teamed up with Capitol Bancorp Limited to create a bank serving Asian small and midsize companies. The other is a plan for an Asian retail center in Chandler, next to longtime fixture Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket.

Other efforts, he said, may be thwarted by general marketers' inability to figure out how to tap into such a diverse group, because not all Asians speak the same language or share the same culture. Yet interest is growing slightly.

Rosalind Ong Onodera, president of the Arizona Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said that she occasionally receives calls from companies interested in setting up networking functions with her members. Several corporations that aren't Asian-owned support the chamber.

"The fellow that (recently) contacted me is becoming a member, but he is not Chinese, so I guess you could say he is marketing to us, and (he) is partnering with a Chinese person as well," she said.

"It's hard to determine who is marketing to the Asian community because it's not obvious, like advertising in Chinese," she said. "The Chinese-language newspapers and phone book make it apparent that the Chinese are marketing to each other."

Rarely an Asian face
Thuy Phan, a 26-year-old teacher in Chandler, said she couldn't immediately recall product advertisements with Asian faces. She could only recall local Asian businesses marketing to other Asians in specialty newspapers.

"I do not expect to see an Asian person in a commercial," said Phan, who is Vietnamese and Chinese. That's because the population is small, 4.3 percent nationally and 2.2 percent in Arizona.

She suspects the Asian community isn't complaining because the population is so diverse that it hasn't come together to make an issue of scant marketing efforts.

Stepping up marketing
Asian Bank has stepped up its marketing in Asian and non-Asian publications to get the word out about its services. In its lobby, it promotes the languages tellers speak and features Asian art. The bank opened in April and has 250 customers.

"We opened up this bank because we know the potential and the opportunity is huge," bank President Les Gin said. For now, he thinks the market is vastly underserved.

"We don't have the numbers, but we have the dollars," he said.

Al Yee, 58, president of Samco Financial Services in the Valley, has long focused his efforts on attracting Asian clients in Arizona and overseas because of the population's affluence.

He's noticing others take interest, too, mostly in the overseas markets.

But he has seen more interest in marketing real estate and cars to Asian-Americans, possibly because of their higher incomes.

Still, Tay of media88.com is frustrated that so few companies put any effort into Asian marketing.

"I always wonder why don't these big companies want to reach us," she said.
She made sure she didn't become known solely as an Asian marketing specialist because she wouldn't be able to make a living that way.

Nancy Stephens, an associate professor of marketing at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said data have been available for some time on the affluence of Asians. And marketing in large Asian population centers, such as San Francisco, is likely to be much more sophisticated and noticeable.

Perhaps it's just time for the Asian market to be "discovered," she said.
"If there is nothing new under the sun (for advertisers), rediscovery is something."

Lisa Urias, a multicultural marketing consultant in the Valley, said Asian marketing has taken off in high-population centers, such as in the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles. "I'm sure it's going to come here, too," she said.