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Why Asian Representation Matters for Brands

Representation matters – that much we know. It goes without saying that people would rather consume brands that they can see themselves in. The more they can resonate with these brands, the greater their affinity would be. That being said, there is still a large demographic that has truly been deprived of accurate representation in the media – Asians.

People Diversity Asian American Friends Friendship Happiness Concept

For instance, Asian characters in films are whitewashed, even to this day and age. A couple of years ago, Marvel fans were outraged as the role of the Ancient One in Dr Strange (2016) was controversially given to Tilda Swinton, a white woman, when the original comic material clearly depicts the character as an elderly Tibetan man.

Scarlett Johansson also made it onto the infamous list as she played the lead role in the live-action film of the famous anime, ‘Ghost In The Shell’ (2017), coupled with Emma Stone playing Allison Ng in ‘Aloha’ (2015). Do we need to say more? This Hollywood trend of replacing Asian roles with a white cast shows their lack of conviction in giving Asian actors the recognition they deserve.

Constance Wu at the 91st Annual Academy Awards held at the Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles, USA on February 24, 2019. Crazy Rich Asians

This mindset could not have been more wrong. With ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ dominating the box office in 2018 and scoring two planned sequels, it is safe to say that this huge success has caused a major shift for Asian representation, particularly in the media. Fortunately, more and more movies and TV series featuring Asian leads have taken the world by storm, showing just how vital Asian representation is, especially on screen.

Notable examples of this would be the Asian-casted ‘Minari’ (2020) and Parasite (2019), both of which had soared with international recognition and gained several Oscars nods. Marvel Studios has also jumped on board by having its first-ever Asian superhero with the recent theatrical release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). While also ensuring more diversity in their upcoming Eternals movie by casting Kumail Nanjaini and Gemma Chan as prominent characters.

There is still a lot more to cover as Asia itself is highly diverse and boasts a substantial amount of talents. In particular, so many of the Asian diaspora in the US lack worthy representation in film and media. It is safe to say that there are many initiatives that brands can do to commit to fair and accurate representation.

Lesson for brand marketers

Diverse group of young people celebrating new year's day at the beach. Young asian people having fun with sparklers outdoors at the sea shore.

A study on APAC consumerism by YouGov shows that up to 84% of consumers across the Asia Pacific agreed that they are not represented enough in advertising. This finding, coupled with the fact that over 70% of Asian women do not feel represented in media and advertising, shows that Asian representation is needed now more than ever.

To further cement this statistic, research also shows that 60% of consumers tend to purchase products founded by or represent people such as themselves. Hence, relatability is vital for brand marketers to connect with their audience.

Not only that, but Asian Americans are also among the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the US, with their significantly larger-than-average multigenerational households. Their buying power is also considerably immense, as they possess the highest income among any racial group in the US, with 43% of Asian households earning an income of $100,000 or more.

Asian grandfather and adult son playing with grandchildren. Family spend time together at home. Quality time together, bonding with preschool children. Bright face of retired man gardening. Senior man spending quality time with grandson. Grandfather taking care of plants. Retired adult boy bonding with his grandfather in cosy water park. Quality family time together.

Catering to this specific demographic would not hurt one bit as it shows great potential for brands. It is time for marketers and advertisers alike to notice that they too have a responsibility to give their Asian audience the recognition they deserve.

What we’re doing to make a lasting change

In 123RF, we ensure that the platform is inclusive and accommodating for just about anyone of any racial and ethnic background to submit their work. 123RF guarantees that any community would feel welcomed. We take pride in the vast range of our available contributors from different cultural backgrounds and races.

123RF recognizes the importance of promoting diversity (especially in media and advertising); hence, we encourage it on our platform. We understood that no one would be better suited to visually showcase and represent the Asian community better than Asians themselves. Therefore, we celebrate each submitted photograph that features inclusivity. Below are some more examples of what you can find on 123RF:

We are great team. Laughing asian indian mommy give high five to happy kid son celebrate building of high brick tower. Female babysitter construct from brick set with small boy on floor with heating system

Asian American diversity babies playing together in a play room

Cute Asian children and mother planting young tree on the black soil


If you want to learn more about the topic of inclusiveness, diversity & equality, check this out. Find out more about relating to your customers, especially the younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers, here.

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