MTV Tunes In to Asian Americana and Imports Global Pop

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Jun 22, 2005
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By Rupa Ranganathan, Ethnic Strategist, Strategic Research Institute

(www.srinstitute.com)

Slowly but surely, Asian culture is building its unique identity in the United States. The sheer plurality of cultures across the “Peoples of Asian Heritage” can be dizzying to marketers, with the myriad different languages, religions and cuisines. Asian art forms are equally diverse, ranging from folk and classical to popular music-dance-drama and exotica. Combining Asian culture with American culture calls for skilful fusion, and the ability to recognize the emergence of a new Asian culture, which is “born in America.”

It is heartening to read about MTV’s foray into three distinct channels aimed at the Asian American market in the United States. MTV Desi, MTV Chi, and MTV K are aimed, respectively, at South Asian American, Chinese American and Korean American consumers. This 12.3 million strong population (not counting Asians of mixed race) is highly educated, affluent and obviously wants to carve out its own unique piece of Americana.

The new stations pull a reversal in strategy relative to MTV’s 42 spin-off channels catering to local populations across the globe. Instead of exporting American culture overseas, MTV will be importing Asian artists and influences to America.

Nusrat Durrani, Senior Vice President and General manager of MTV World’s indefatigable quest to reach this lucrative market, is transparent in the very perceptive feature by Deborah Sontag in the June 19 New York Times Art & Leisure section. According to Durrani, “This country has had the African-American experience, the Hispanic experience, and now it is the time for the third-largest group, the Asian-Americans.”

Urban Latino channels, and the new kid on the block Si TV, reaffirm the unique identities of Latino Americans who speak English and are hungry for distinct programming to match their cultural ethos. These consumers are different from another kind of Latino who prefers to speak Spanish and is more comfortable with the novella genre that has for so long kept the cash registers ringing for Univision, the all powerful Latino network.

Clearly, the advent of specialized channels for the Ethnic-Americans emphasizes the fact that America is no longer a melting pot but a Global Stage.

Moderator’s Comment: Do you think marketers will accelerate their efforts to win Asian-American customers or are they simply overwhelmed by the plethora
of languages and cultural traditions?

MTV’s bold foray into these growing market segments could provide big brands seeking a date with Asian-American consumers an opportunity to come into the
limelight through strategic tie-ins, placement and other innovative marketing investments.

Rupa Ranganathan – Moderator

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5 Comments on "MTV Tunes In to Asian Americana and Imports Global Pop"


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Michael L. Howatt
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Michael L. Howatt
15 years 8 months ago

MTV has no idea what they have gotten into. The amount of money they will spend to target each segment will not provide a very high ROI. The cultural difference between South Asians, Koreans and Chinese is so vast, MTV will be looking at investing in three totally difference formats. What will be the hook to get advertisers interested? Can we look forward to a Real World Beijing sometime soon? Not too sure the time is right for this segment of the population yet.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

I believe what we’re missing here is that these new MTV channels will not just be viewed by Asian-Americans, but very likely by many other kids who will first be curious, and then hooked on the intriguing new music/entertainment. Popular culture needs to change continually, because stagnation is death. These channels could potentially offer a rich new set of influences and could thereby have a sizable impact on mainstream popular music, fashions, etc. If this expansion plan is successful, my guess is that it will because about 75% of the viewing audience will NOT be Asian-American. So what will THAT mean for marketers advertising on these stations? They should probably take the same tact as the station programmers: produce ads with appeal to Asian-Americans, but that also appeal to non Asian-Americans in a kind of cool, Asian-American way. Easy, no?

Jeff Weitzman
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Jeff Weitzman
15 years 8 months ago
MTV goes where the money is, and living out here in the SF Bay Area, I’m surprised it took this long! To the article’s point, not only are there a confusing array of cultures to address, many of them have long been enemies, and more than just missing the mark, you could really offend one culture with an inappropriate reference. For example, using Samurai imagery might be effective with Japanese consumers, but Koreans will not be at all amused. This is fertile ground for interactive marketing, because marketers can use more of a “demand” model for advertising and promotions. Running a TV commercial is an expensive proposition, and if you make a culturally inappropriate mistake, you’re cooked. Using online media, you could simultaneously run a variety of ads with different approaches, and/or run advertising on culturally-specific websites. Those sites will help you tailor the content to their audiences. Track ad interactions and click-paths on the landing sites, and use incentives to ask for and receive information from visiting consumers to learn which demographies respond to… Read more »
Len Lewis
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Len Lewis
15 years 8 months ago

If you think marketers are confused by the Hispanic market, wait until they get a load of the Asian consumers who are just as fragmented in terms of culture and product needs.

Difficult to know what to do, but find out who your customers are. If stores have a large percentage of Indian shoppers, make sure you have the right spices and don’t devote 8 feet to kim chee. If you have Pakistani shoppers, most of whom are Muslim, consider Halal meats to satisfy dietary requirements. Don’t get me started on hair coloring products for Japanese women. That’s a whole different world.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

These would be the same sophisticated marketers that can’t tell the difference between a fourth generation Mexican-American and a newly arrived Puerto Rican? Music marketing provides a very impressive blueprint for dealing with ethnicity. Just check out Spanish language radio in L.A.

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