ETHNIC GROUPS SEEN REACHING THEIR PRIME YEARS FOR BUYING

CHICAGO -- As mainstream baby boomers age, they will be buying differently and buying less. Ethnic consumers, on the other hand, will be reaching their prime buying years, said Andrew Erlich, president of Erlich Transcultural Consultants, Woodland Hills, Calif.But brand marketers aiming toward the ethnic consumer of the future will face hurdles, he added.For example, there are segments within segments.

CHICAGO -- As mainstream baby boomers age, they will be buying differently and buying less. Ethnic consumers, on the other hand, will be reaching their prime buying years, said Andrew Erlich, president of Erlich Transcultural Consultants, Woodland Hills, Calif.

But brand marketers aiming toward the ethnic consumer of the future will face hurdles, he added.

For example, there are segments within segments. The Hispanic population includes Mexican, Central and South American, and Cuban consumers. The makeup of the Asian population living in the United States includes Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Asian Indian and Korean, said Erlich, speaking here at a conference sponsored by the Marketing Institute, a division of the Institute for International Research, New York.

"Needs" marketing also is a hurdle. This type of marketing focuses on what the product does and what needs it fulfills as opposed to the product itself. It is expected to be heavily used in the future, but needs manifest themselves differently across cultures, Erlich explained.

Among Hispanic consumers, the family is key. The concepts of sharing and togetherness are valued. They also have strong aspirations for upward mobility, he said.

Personal relationships are also key to reaching Hispanic businessmen and consumers, so a well-trained sales staff that can establish and maintain relationships will be important, Erlich said.

Koreans are a hierarchical society that places value on formality. Titles are important. Trust has to be developed over time, he said.

"The dramatic growth in Korean small businesses in this country is because of the glass ceiling. Very highly educated and highly competent Koreans have not been accepted so they have gone into small business. Conspicuous consumption can be important to these people to show they are secure and successful," he said.

The Chinese have proverbs about hard work and frugality and the importance of savings. They are very price-driven, he said.

"Quality is important, but price is image and image is price. They will drive a great distance to get quality at a good price. Getting a good price is an indication of wisdom. It becomes a matter of pride," Erlich said.

The basic marketing rule -- know your consumer -- is especially important when marketing to an ethnic group, according to Erlich.