Had you asked 20 years ago what Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month meant to me, I’d probably respond with silence. Growing up, I was embarrassed by my cultural and physical differences. I also knew the food I ate at home looked different from what others ate at school, so I’d opt to forgo lunch in order to avoid questions and comments about the rice and chicken adobo leftovers that my mom and dad packed for lunch. My embarrassment grew more as I got older.
That all changed years later when I went to college and met a group of Filipinos through Georgia State University and Georgia Tech’s Filipino Student Association (FSA).
Seeing firsthand how my peers proudly showcased Filipino traditions through folk dances, potlucks and events made me realize how awful it was for me to reject my culture. That being Filipino, in my eyes, made me less than anyone.
Fast forward to when I started my marketing career, it was an exciting time for multicultural marketing. Brands understand that the world is a melting pot of different traditions and cultures, and it’s important to celebrate those differences – from AT&T’s Mobile Movement campaign targeting young Latinos to Coca-Cola’s America is Beautiful campaign.
While there was a big push around marketing to different cultures and ethnicities, at that time, I noticed a lack of engagement with AAPI communities. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed that. A recent study by Morning Consult found that 62% of Asian Americans reported that they rarely, if ever, feel represented in advertising. Truth be told, I’ve only seen one Filipino-American represented in a national ad, and it’s a commercial of Ernesto, a warehouse employee, thanking Amazon for giving him the opportunity to lead him to his true calling – to work in the healthcare industry.
This is even more shocking when you take into consideration the size and opportunity that the AAPI community possesses:
- As of 2020, 25.6 million people identified as Asian or Pacific Islander alone or in combination in the U.S., an 8.16% increase from the year prior.
- The AAPI community has the highest median household income, 25% greater than the next demographic’s income. Further, Nielsen reports that Asian Americans have a $1.2 trillion buying power.
- Asian Americans have led the way with digital adoption. According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, 90% of all Asian American households own internet-connected TV devices, compared with 76% of the total U.S. population.
As tech marketers, how can we ensure that we’re more inclusive of AAPI communities? First, it’s important to understand that “Asian” is a broad term and must be marketed and communicated with care. Asia represents 60% of the global population across 49 countries and three territories. Not only that but there are also 2,300 languages and dialects. In the Philippines alone, there are more than 100 dialects!
So, in order to understand the nuances of the broad AAPI demographic, we need to ensure that there’s representation within the marketing, communications and advertising fields. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to climb the ranks over the years thanks to the help of my peers and mentors, jumping from intern to account executive, global PR manager, and now FinTech practice group director. Here at ARPR, I’m proud to say that inclusivity and respect are two virtues that the company was built on from day one. As a company, we accept everyone, no matter your racial background or beliefs.
Though personally, I don’t feel that there’s broad representation of the AAPI community within my field. Today, Asian Americans make up 5.7% of jobs classified as marketing specialists and marketing analysts. To counter that, a number of organizations are working to create a more inclusive community for Asian Americans within the industry, such as Asians in Advertising and Voices for AAPI, an organization co-founded by my former colleague Soon Mee Kim.
While we’ve come a long way since I entered the marketing field years ago, more work needs to be done. I hope this post is just a tiny spec in the world of difference we can continue to make by working together to strengthen our 25.6 million voices.