How cultural authenticity can drive business impact

How cultural authenticity can drive business impact
Chase Manhattan Chinatown Branch
Vivian Young
March 1, 2024
I’ve spent a majority of my life — over three decades — in New York City. While New York is often referred to as the “melting pot of the world,” growing up as a Filipino immigrant I didn’t see myself or my culture reflected in brand marketing or retail storefronts across the city. 
But that’s changed in recent years. This year, as I pass the Lunar New Year storefront displays on my commute to JPMorgan Chase’s Midtown New York office to my role as the global head of Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs, I can’t help but think to myself, “This is inclusion in action.” Some may say that brands recognizing a culturally significant moment like Lunar New Year is no different than the “pinkwashing” many call out in June during Pride Month. Though virtue signaling may be the motive for some, I know for certain it’s not the case for all. Compared to five years ago, I’ve witnessed an influx in brands celebrating Lunar New Year — a holiday celebrated by more than 2 billion people around the world. 
I’m encouraged by this trend for two reasons. First, access to culture is easier than ever, whether that be through food, music, art or retail. Retail and consumer brands are intentionally creating experiences to connect with the diverse consumer base they aim to attract and retain. Second, representation matters, and as demographics in the United States continue to evolve, this trend is reflected in leadership positions and decision-makers who develop campaigns. Diverse management can boost innovation and lead to sustained growth and profitability.

The ever-growing Asian diaspora
Asian Americans comprise 6.2% of America’s population or 21.1 million according the 2020 U.S. Census, and represent one of the fastest growing segments, up 103% between 2000-2023. What’s more, Asian Americans had a combined buying power of $1.3 trillion in 2020. Simply put, we are a demographic that cannot be ignored.  
Strategically incorporating cultural moments like Lunar New Year into mainstream channels enables brands to connect to consumers in an authentic way.  I’ve seen this done particularly well in several categories including food, clothing and household goods. Even the United States Postal Service has followed suit by unveiling a Year of the Dragon Forever stamp for the 2024 Lunar New Year designed by artist Camille Chew. We’re going places – literally.
A seat at the table
As decision-making rooms become more diverse, new, innovative ideas arise. As a Boston Consulting Group study indicated, companies that reported above average diversity in their management teams reported innovation revenue that was 19% higher than that of companies with below average leadership diversity.
Earlier this month Sprinkles Cupcakes ran a limited edition Lunar New Year Box Bundle, in a collaboration between Sprinkles x Bruce Lee Foundation x Gold House complete with festive red envelopes iconic to Lunar New Year and a call-to-action to give back to the community. The company’s CMO, Michelle Wong, spoke to the significance of collaborations like this in a LinkedIn post: “This launch means so much more because it’s also a reflection of our internal teams and our guests. What stronger connection can we make as brands than to show our audience that we see them, that a part of themselves can be authentically represented in the brands and products they love.”
Lorraine Chow Hansen, Chase’s chief marketing officer, has stated time and time again that her culture makes her a better decision maker. Lorraine has led her team in delivering red envelopes and special Lunar New Year calendars to Chase customers in branches across the U.S. This year, branches planned to distribute 2.7 million red envelopes and approximately 250,000 calendars, which were designed by Intertrend Communications, an API- and women-owned, small business. The bank is likely to surpass that number in years to come.
These are just two examples of embracing culture with a genuine appreciation, shaped not by external consultants but by voices within the organization. Employees and leaders with intimate knowledge of cultural nuances and traditions have the potential to play a pivotal role in creating products, campaigns and services which go beyond tokenism to truly resonate with customers and clients.
What’s more, when done successfully, this embrace not only benefits the brand and the end consumer, but can also lead to a transformation of the greater business ecosystem. Through partnerships between Sprinkles and Gold House and Chase and Intertrend, we see new and innovative pathways being built. Opportunities for diverse-owned businesses to grow and scale arise and, slowly but surely, those who have historically been left out can find their footing in traditionally exclusive spaces.
Asian voices are getting louder in our workforce and in our media – a reflection of a more inclusive and culturally aware business environment. And while it’s imperative that businesses continue to authentically celebrate culture, but we also must look beyond engagement and invest in the very fabric of the communities we aim to reach. As brands consider their next campaign, I also encourage them to partner with nonprofits and initiatives that provide direct support and economic empowerment to Asian communities. This approach goes a long way in building authentic relationships and trust with our customers and clients, transcending traditional marketing to make a tangible difference in people’s lives.
As I walk down Fifth Avenue, I don’t just see my culture represented on a billboard. I see a powerful example of brands steering their business toward a future where representation is not just a checkbox, but a driving force for a more inclusive and vibrant society.
About the author: Vivian Young is the global head of Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs at JPMorgan Chase.
 
Share this Article
NextShark.com
© 2024 NextShark, Inc. All rights reserved.