In the past year, racial equality has emerged as one of the most important social values to consumers in the United States. According to Ipsos research, over half (54%) of consumers expect brands to take a stand on equality issues. Moreover, it is not enough to speak out about racial inequality. While consumers see messages of brand solidarity as important, Ipsos research shows they are rarely effective without concrete actions.
In the midst of rising anti-Asian incidents in the U.S., we set out to understand what authenticity and allyship mean to the AAPI community, and what consumers expect from brands now and in the long term.
Anti-Asian hate crimes top list of concerns along with COVID-19
Ipsos’ recent online community survey among 117 self-identified AAPI respondents examined consumer perceptions during a rise in anti-Asian incidents in the U.S. Respondents shared their current concerns, expectations for AAPI support from brands and their vision for brand allyship.
Among the top concerns was “anti-Asian hate crimes,” named by two in three (68%) respondents and preceded only by COVID-19-related concerns (71%). Furthermore, nearly half (44%) felt their lives were impacted by the rise of anti-Asian hate incidents.
These incidents have left many feeling upset and fearful when out in public. “It’s really difficult for me to witness all these anti-Asian hate crimes,” one respondent said. “It also makes me more afraid and aware of my surroundings whenever I go out or worry about my family and friends.”
People feel brands can be doing more
Only one in three respondents see brands consistently supporting the AAPI community or believe brands are fulfilling their promise of support (34%, respectively). Even fewer feel that support for the AAPI community from brands is meeting their expectations (28%).
In response to anti-Asian incidents, AAPI respondents feel brands should, as one respondent advised, “speak out in support of the Asian community and speak out against hate.” However, only 12% believe these statements of support are “very authentic.”
Others sense the statements are a result of external pressure, not genuine concern for the AAPI community. “It just feels like they're jumping on a bandwagon and have to issue statements of support because of social pressure and not out of real concern for the AAPI community,” one respondent said.
Brands can do more to support the AAPI community and statements should be backed up by concrete actions to signal to consumers that brand support is genuine. Here are a few ways brands can champion change:
Lead initiatives targeted towards diversity, equity and inclusion for all groups
Over half of respondents said it would be meaningful if brands created initiatives to promote a more understanding environment for those of all backgrounds, including other marginalized groups outside the AAPI community. One respondent’s suggestion: “Diversify promotional materials to show support of all communities (not just AAPI, but also BIPOC, LGBTQIA, etc.)”
This sentiment is also reflected in social media conversations tracked through Synthesio, where we see the top trending hashtags associated with #StopAsianHate in 2021 referencing the #BlackLivesMatter movement and calling for increased understanding on a more universal scale, with hashtags including #HateIsAVirus and #SpreadLoveNotFear.
Increase representation in advertising and the boardroom
Only 22% of respondents say they are satisfied with the amount of AAPI representation they see from brands and companies. Over half say they’d like to see more representation in ads (55%) and positions of power (52%). The call “Asian-Americans are Americans” has also echoed throughout the #StopAAPIHate movement. Brands have an opportunity to address this by increasing AAPI representation both in the media and in all levels of the workforce.
“I would like brands and companies to show/choose more Asian Americans in their advertising – to remind everyone we are Americans; we have their support,” one respondent said. “Choose more Asian Americans as brand/company ambassadors. We are American. We are valued. Seen. Heard.”
Donate to causes and promote AAPI businesses
People also see change happening through donating to organizations fighting for the community and providing exposure to AAPI businesses. This support is crucial: AAPI communities have seen a large increase in unemployment due to COVID-19 related reasons.
“They can donate some money to the Asian communities from the sales,” one respondent noted. “It'll be even neater if Asian brands – restaurants and manufacturers – could be showcased for support in TV shows, magazines and papers.”
Demonstrate meaningful allyship through lasting action
People expect lasting commitments from brands in supporting the AAPI community. “I would pay attention to how the companies follow up their statements by their actions and for how long they keep their commitments to their statements of support,” one respondent said.
Through authentic, long-term support and action, brands can shine a spotlight on the AAPI experience and be true champions of change.