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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is betting that a new ad campaign in Asian languages will translate into more sales. September 2, 2006

Posted by peterong in Asian American.
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Walmart is kicking it to the Asiatic peoples…so go to Walmart and buy those ramen noodles…
The world’s largest retailer Friday began running newspaper, radio and television advertisements in Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Houston, hoping to lure more Asian American shoppers to its stores. Print advertisements are also running in Taglish, a combination of Tagalog and English spoken by some Filipinos.

“We know they are a fast-growing consumer group … and we can see that Asian Americans are coming to our stores,” spokeswoman Linda Blakley said. “There are signals that are telling us it’s time.”

The ad campaign comes as Wal-Mart struggles with slower sales growth than recorded in previous years, which executives have blamed partly on rising gasoline prices that have cut into shoppers’ spending. In December, Wal-Mart mounted a rare advertising blitz in mainstream newspapers after poor post-Thanksgiving sales.

Asian Americans are coveted consumers, with an estimated buying power of $363 billion a year, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. Such spending will continue to grow, in part because of continued strong immigration and the growing number of Asian-owned businesses, the Selig Center said in a report released last year.

Wal-Mart’s latest marketing effort features actual shoppers speaking in their native languages about why they’re loyal Wal-Mart customers. In the Chinese ad, the Kwong family recounts how its weekly Wal-Mart trip is a family bonding experience.

Wal-Mart, which already advertises in Spanish, sees Asians as a fast-growing consumer group. Some stores in California, which has among the largest Asian populations in the nation, carry products catering to Asian tastes, including powdered miso soup and hot wasabi peas.

The discounter, which has more than 3,600 U.S. stores, also is expanding operations in Asia; of its more than 1,600 stores outside the U.S., 44 are in China and 16 are in South Korea. Wal-Mart also owns 37% of Japanese retailer Seiyu Ltd.

Depending on the success of the campaign, which runs through January, the company may expand it to other languages, such as Korean, spokeswoman Blakley said. She declined to say how much Wal-Mart was spending.

Some Asian shoppers appreciated the Asian language campaign.

“It’s a good idea,” said Vivian Yang, 26, a native Mandarin speaker who was shopping for school supplies with two classmates at the City of Industry Wal-Mart. The three came from Taiwan two weeks ago to study English. “If we come from Taiwan, we like [communicating in] Chinese, right?” she said.

But West Covina resident Kevin Lee, 30, said the store would be wise to go further, such as posting signs in Chinese.

“I can understand, but my mother doesn’t,” Lee said. Blakley said she wasn’t aware of plans to post signs in Asian languages.

Still, the ads probably will make inroads with Asian shoppers, said Wanla Cheng, president of New York-based Asia Link Consulting Group, a market research firm.

Other industries that have advertised heavily in Asian languages have done well — including banks, phone companies, insurance companies and investment firms — because many Asian Americans are foreign born, she said.

“When Asians come to a new country, they want to learn about brands and products,” Cheng said. “When these companies reach out to them [in their native language], they tend to bond with that brand.”

Although U.S. companies are open to advertising in Spanish, they have been more reluctant to advertise in Asian languages, Cheng said, partly because they need to communicate in several languages to reach shoppers of different Asian nationalities.

In Los Angeles, the advertising campaign will include seven Chinese-language TV and cable stations and two Vietnamese TV stations, said Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for IW Group Inc., the West Hollywood agency responsible for the ads. The agency focuses on advertising to Asian Americans, and its clients include McDonald’s Corp. and Washington Mutual Inc.

Such advertising could win the loyalty of some Asian Americans, such as 18-year-old Jessica Sheu’s parents.

“If they see [an ad] on the Chinese channel, then it’s like Wal-Mart supports our ethnicity,” said Sheu, who was working the cash register Thursday night at an Asian bakery in an Arcadia shopping center.

But for Fei Chen, 47, who was selling shoes in a stall nearby, the ad campaign would not make him more likely to go to Wal-Mart. “It doesn’t matter for me,” said Chen, already a Wal-Mart shopper. “Wherever there’s low prices, we’re there.”

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