BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores here is so committed to its first-ever Asian-language advertising campaign that it may expand it to additional geographic markets and population segments, according to the agency that helped develop the ads.
Radio, television and print ads currently target Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese groups in Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco. The markets were chosen based on population sizes and the prevalence of Wal-Mart stores.
Depending on its budget and growth plans, Wal-Mart may add other cities, including New York, next year, according to Betty Kao, account director, IW Group, Los Angeles, Wal-Mart's Asian-American advertising and marketing company.
At the same time, additional Asian populations are being eyed, including Korean, Thai and Cambodian.
Launched in April, the ads show Asian Americans discussing in their native languages why Wal-Mart is their retailer of choice. One commercial features three generations of the Kwongs, a Chinese family, describing how Wal-Mart has products and services that appeal to the whole family.
The campaign is well-received in the Asian-American community, Linda Blakley, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, told SN. Blakley attributes this to the fact that the campaign respects Asian-American languages and cultures. The ads run in Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and English.
"We've found that when we use relevant communications, we connect with the customer much more strongly," Blakley said.
Blakley confirmed that Wal-Mart hopes to add new markets and nationalities, but stressed that the company has not made any decisions yet.
Wal-Mart's focus on Asian Americans comes at a time when the population segment is a growing force in the U.S. marketplace. By 2009, the group is expected to be 14.1 million strong, or 4.6% of the country's population, up from 3.8% in 2000, according to the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth, Athens, Ga.
The Selig Center predicts that Asian spending power will soar to $528 billion by 2009, up from $363 billion in 2004, $269 billion in 2000 and $118 billion in 1990. Selig attributes the population's robust economic clout to the fact that Asians are better educated and hold more top-level jobs in management and professional specialties.
"The group's fast-paced growth in buying power demonstrates the increasing importance of Asian consumers and should create great opportunities for business that pay attention to their needs," according to the Selig Center's 2004 minority economy report.
Wal-Mart's emphasis on Asian-American marketing sends an important message to the food-retailing industry, said Bill Sloan, vice president and general manager of the Bentonville, Ark., office of Ryan Partnership, Wilton, Conn., a marketing services firm.
"It shows that no one who does business in the retail market can ignore this group," he said.
Wal-Mart is not alone in showing its commitment to the influential segment. H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, started researching and targeting the Asian community several years ago in the Texas market, said Terry Soto, president and chief executive officer, About Marketing Solutions, Burbank, Calif., a market research firm.
Other retailers should follow suit by identifying which ethnic groups exist in their trading areas, and taking actions to understand their shopping behavior and preferences, Soto said.
"Wal-Mart has clearly done its homework in identifying that there are large Asian communities within its trading areas, and that share growth and retention is dependent on being inclusive of these populations in advertising," Soto said.