What Marketers Can Learn From the Rise in AAPI Cultural Appreciation

There are numerous opportunities to not only engage with consumers, but also to drive culture

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In the past few years, the entertainment spotlight has turned to the AAPI community, and momentum is continuing to build for Asian-centric stories, films, music and entertainment. We have seen Everything Everywhere All at Once, Nomadland and Parasite win the Academy Award for Best Picture. We have also witnessed the growing influence and popularity of K-pop music, K-dramas and Asian films across the globe.

This is an incredibly exciting time for brand marketers. We have numerous opportunities to engage with consumers, as well as drive culture. Diversity adds to the rich cultural fabric of America; different communities interact and impact one another to shape our world. And by supporting cultural expression, we drive society toward a more equitable future.

As Toyota’s agency of record for AAPI consumer segments, we are always on the lookout for emerging cultural trends. When we started work for Toyota back in 2004, K-pop and K-drama were still niche subcultures in America. But we began to integrate them into our brand efforts and continue to do so today in other multicultural segments.

Today’s robust appreciation of AAPI culture offers brand marketers an excellent opportunity to leverage cultural phenomena to establish even deeper connections with consumers. Here are five ways to do just that.

Embrace cultural events

Brands can embrace the rich and multifaceted cultures that surround us today. Take, for instance, KCon, America’s largest K-pop event. It draws 40% Asian participants and 60% non-Asian attendees.

We saw the opportunity when Hallyu—translated to Korean Wave, it’s the rise in interest around Korean culture, television and music—began in the early 2010s and jumped onto the platform. Through an integrated approach of event activations, content, and artist and influencer collaborations, we have been engaging the fans to build brand affinity and connection.

Nowadays we are seeing more Asian influence in pop culture. Anime, drifting and esports all have their roots in Asia but have now become mainstream cultural phenomena. As brand marketers, we must recognize these as opportunities to remain relevant and resonate with our consumers.

Dig for deep cultural understanding

It may seem obvious but can be easily overlooked: Deep understanding of the consumer is key, as well as consistency.

We carry out extensive research to identify not only what drives consumers, but also why. This goes beyond traditional research to include first-hand immersion in trends and subcultures to help us really understand fans’ behaviors and motivations.

Asian consumers’ passion for music, food and entertainment allows them to share their identity with others, forging deeper connections. By understanding this motivation, we are able to create authentic brand opportunities.

Account for cultural nuance

It’s important to keep in mind that each multicultural segment is not a monolith and has different subcultures and nuances that need to be approached separately.

For example, we’ve shown our support through initiatives including 88Rising, the South Asian Film Festival, Minor League Cricket, Make Noise Today and more. We have partnered with Disney’s Turning Red and influencers such as Tan France to showcase their talents and our support for the community.

For our latest brand campaign work for Toyota, we took it further with the understanding that Asian American consumers’ deepest motivation is to be free to pursue their goals and dreams. We developed a campaign to demonstrate that Toyota understands and empowers them to take action to start their “day one” in pursuing their aspirations.

With overarching brand messaging, we deployed multiple platforms including social media, events and media partnerships to ensure we are reaching all diverse subgroups in an authentic and meaningful way.

Stay consistent

Toyota has invested in the Asian American segment since 2004. The brand has evolved with our consumers over the years while maintaining a consistent brand voice. This increases credibility, affinity and sales, which is invaluable and also allows us to continue to expand our efforts.

Be your best authentic brand self

In the world of marketing, the word “authentic” is to 2023 what “viral” was to 2012. And as tough as it is to go viral, it shares the same similarities as being authentic in a campaign.

It’s to have your audience feel truly connected to your brand and what it stands for without feeling like they’re being sold to. Now, more than ever, consumers are looking for brands with quality products because there are so many options to choose from. So, what makes your brand different from the competition?

Consumers are looking for values and passion points that align with theirs to better understand the “why” behind a brand’s story. They are looking for a real connection. Similar to any other relationship, there needs to be consistent presence and effort to maintain and elevate that relationship.

We’re glad to see the rise in AAPI appreciation is not something we have encountered along the road; it’s the destination itself. Driving culture is the roadmap to both societal and brand success.