3 Winning Diaspora Marketing Tactics That Combat Immigration Reform

4 min read
February 28, 2017

Young couple shopping in a supermarket.jpeg

Diaspora marketing may not be a term you see as part of national headlines or even one that you are that familiar with. However, President Trump's executive order banning travel may vastly impact it, and with it, many of the products and services we consume every day.  For many international brands, Diaspora Marketing is a very important part of their strategy and for those in emerging markets, the president's travel ban is linked to the success of their Diaspora marketing strategy and may determine their survival abroad.  But to understand why it's important, we must first define exactly what it is.  

The Facts

Diaspora Marketing, quite simply, is any marketing activity aimed at attracting an audience transplanted from their country of birth.   In the three decades following the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, more than 18 million legal immigrants entered the United States, more than three times the number admitted over the preceding 30 years.  Whereas in the 1950s, more than half of all immigrants were Europeans, by the 1990s only 16 percent were and 31 percent were of Asian descent. Between 1965 and 2000, 4.3 million immigrants came from Mexico, in addition to 1.4 million more from the Philippines, Korea, the Dominican Republic, India, Cuba and Vietnam.  Today, this ethnic chemistry is not only reflected in the census, but also on retail store shelves.  These immigrants wanted to buy and use the same products they were familiar with back home.  This familiarity has turned into cultural trends as they were passed on to future generations.
According to the OEC, In 2014 the United States imported $2.19T, making it the largest importer in the world.  Many of those very imports are solely consumed by immigrants of the country's that exported them.  Just think, for each and every first or second generation immigrant you know, there are handful of products they use exclusively that aren't produced here but rather their home country.  In 2009, the United States was home to 3.5 million immigrants from the Caribbean, who accounted for 9 percent of the total foreign-born population.  A whopping 19% of those immigrants were from the small 4,200 sq. mile island of Jamaica.  In fact, there are now more Jamaicans in the Diaspora than those living in Jamaica properAs HBR points out, corporations such as Haier, Lenovo, Tata, Mahindra & Mahindra, Embraer, and Natura, have successfully developed innovative products by relying on a Diaspora Marketing strategy to drive their global economic growth.  But could these companies have done the same in the prospective shrinking immigration market? 


I know what you are probably saying, President Trump's travel ban only effects 7 largely Muslim countries. While true, when talking about marketing, we need to consider perception foremost as behavior is driven by the perceived not the factual.  This is what makes the "fake news" phenomenon so impactful and scary.  
For those with intentions on immigrating from countries not on the banned list, the perception is that the U.S. Department of Immigration is closed for business.  This is only compounded by the President's proposed wall along the Mexican border.  Slowed immigration growth affects Diaspora marketers even more as they're reliant on the most recently immigrated to be their most loyal customer as they haven't yet discovered alternatives produced by their new host nation.  So, what must marketers do in the current climate to navigate the tumultuous waters of uncertainty?  Here are three rules of thumb:

1. Consolidate

One common misstep we often is see is marketers make is trying to sell their entire product line to the diaspora.  It's expensive enough to import products abroad, marketing too many and obscure products is actually counterproductive.  Remember your hottest selling product back home, might actually be a best seller in the Diaspora.  Consider availability and saturation of similar products in the same space.  If your brand produces a recipe or formula using ingredients readily available in the home country but scarce in the U.S., you have a competitive advantage and it's probably a good candidate to build a campaign around.  The simple rule of economics applies, supply the demand.   

2. Lead with the Brand

It's important to remember what it is you're marketing.  Buyers already are sold on your product and service.  They've been using it all their lives, they now need convenient options in which to do so.  Any product made available to the Diaspora from a trusted brand is a nostalgic slice of "back home."  Lead with the brand and focus your copy on where they need to go to get their feel good.  Your Calls-To-Action and ad copy should reflect this.  

3. Don't Discount Nationalistic Pride

As a Dominican-American, I was raised to believe there's absolutely a difference between Dominican oregano and the domestic strain.  The intense smell, texture and color not to mention the flavor set it apart.  While I'm sure such oregano could actually be grown here in the United States, its distinctiveness makes it somehow a proprietary product of the island.  Why?  Marketing.  

We buy into certain products because we believe their only made possible because of where they come from.  In this climate, especially, the Diaspora will clamor for products that represent their heritage.  With a world, more divided than it has been since WWII, Nationalism is on the rise.  Capitalize on the inherent connections with the Diaspora by tapping into their sense of pride.  (Where allowed by law) include your flag and country name in product titles and don't discount how people feel when they see those colors.  Use them in your packaging, even if they differ from the domestic brand sold back home. 


For over 60 years, the United States saw rapid growth in immigration especially among countries of Latin and Asian descent.  While new immigration reform legislation isn't directly designed to stem the flow of immigration from those countries, the perceived pulling of the American welcome mat will have a global effect on immigration and the marketing of American imports.  But even in a changing environment, there can be winners with the right strategy.


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