Asian-American representation today is an investment for tomorrow

When Warner Bros.Pictures released its romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, Asian-American community leaders were elated. Nearly a quarter of a century had passed since Hollywood Pictures, a division of The Walt Disney Company, released the widely acclaimed full-length feature film The Joy Luck Club with a majority Asian-American cast. Crazy Rich Asians, along with a few other Asian-centric films, needed to be successful for a variety of critical reasons. For one, if it became a box-office hit with Asian-American audiences, it would validate the rising economic clout of Asians within the world’s largest economy, the U.S.

Warner Bros. Pictures invested $30 million to produce Crazy Rich Asians and hoped to make a modest profit in the U.S. and other global markets. After Asian-Americans and other movie-goers flocked to box offices to see the movie, it grossed more than $170 million domestically.The popularity of the film demonstrated that a film with a significant Asian-American cast would not only be supported, but championed by Asian-American consumers. It wasn’t long before other studios accelerated their plans to produce movies with Asian actors and themes to secure their share of the lucrative Asian-American market. The entertainment industry recognized the opportunity and hasn’t looked back.

In past years, companies from various industries focused their attention on the growth and economic power of consumers in Asia. American companies opened outposts in major Asian capitals and competed aggressively for highly educated Asian talent. All sights were squarelyon Asia. With all the corporate attention, it only seems logical that more of these companies would also tap Asian-American consumers right here at home. However, only a small fraction of American Fortune 500 companies actively target Asian-American consumers despite some impressive data.

Consider the following statistics:

  • Asian Americans represent seven percent (7%) of the total U.S. population, or approximately 22 million people, which is larger than 48 out of 50 states.  
  • Asian-American spending power exceeds $1 trillion annually, which would position Asian America as the 15th or 16th most prominent economic powers in the world. (This figure rivals the nominal GDPs of countries such as Indonesia, Mexico, and the Nether-lands.) 
  • More than 50% of all Asian-American adults have a college degree, while only about half of the total overall U.S. population has graduated from college;  
  • Average household income for Asian Americans has grown to more than $90K per household — significantly more than the mass market;
  • More than two-thirds of Asian Americans were born outside of the U.S., making these Americans an essential resource for companies wishing to expand their networks to Asia;  
  • By 2065, the population of Asian Americans will surpass the number of Hispanics/Latinx who live in the U.S.

Warner Bros. Pictures found success with Crazy Rich Asians because they planned with purpose. They created an internal team of multicultural experts in the U.S. and also engaged outside experts with proven experience working with Asian-American civic leaders, media, and social influencers. Their attention to the growing Asian-American market and other diverse segments is an exception- al case study for other industries seeking to build revenue with a broader group of American consumers.

No company or organization should sit on the sidelines and simply watch what unfolds. Marketers and communication professionals who wish to remain relevant in the years ahead must take decisive action now since the U.S. population is evolving rapidly. By building cultural competency here at home — especially with the growing Asian-American consumer segments —  U.S. companies can reap substantial dividends in diverse markets throughout the country and in other parts of the world.


To download a full copy of the 2020 Relevance Report, click here.

Bill  Imada  is  founder,  chairman  and  chief  connectivity  officer  of  IW  Group,  a  minority-­‐ owned  and  operated  advertising,  marketing  and  communications  agency  focusing  on   the  growing  multicultural  markets.