Leading the Way for Asian American Marketing


Author: Gracie Singleton

Article Edited by ASA

Nancy Shen, Director of Marketing, presenting at the company’s launch party back in 2019 hosted at Bib Gourmand, Japanese Restaurant, Arami

Did you know that Asian Americans have the highest household income and have seen the highest growth in buying power (which continues to grow year over year)?

42nd Parallel, a nation-wide marketing agency focused on Asian and Asian American consumers is well aware of this fact. As their clients continue to realize and recognize this rich demographic group and untapped market, 42nd Parallel has been at the forefront, leading the way. 

The agency operates as a subsidiary of their parent company, TCG Collective, a collaborative group that has over 20 years of experience in event marketing. The company’s name is the latitude that starts in their hometown, Chicago, goes through the Pacific Ocean and comes back around. The connecting points between the US and Asian Markets. The team is all about connecting brands and people from the two sides of the world. 42nd Parallel creates campaigns that are relevant, touching, cool, and those that understand Asian American culture and lifestyle.

Beyond events, 42nd Parallel helps their clients with media, advertising, creative design, production, execution, strategy, and talent management.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, Nancy Shen, to learn more about the company and their noble goals.

Can you tell us a bit about your participation with the Asian American community?

I have always been an active member of the community and have spent my youth like many young Asian Americans, seeking what that actually means. I went through phases where I was confused about why I was bullied for being different and hating my background to periods where I was incredibly proud of being Asian American and finally realizing that I am the best of both worlds.

Growing up, I went to Chinese School every Sunday for 12 years. It was very important to my parents that I learn about my culture and that I was actively involved. I was put through traditional Chinese folk dancing, Chinese calligraphy courses, painting, history, and language training. Quite a traditional girl! I grew up in a multi generational household and have such a strong appreciation for the Asian ways of understanding life. I want to use this understanding to bridge the gaps between brands and Asian American consumers. 

I remember having to be a camp counselor for a Taiwanese American summer camp and guiding the younger Taiwanese Americans through the cultural activities and realizing that I had a lot of pride when it came to teaching them to love themselves and their culture. This feels very similar, but I am expanding this effort by teaching my team to demonstrate the beauty of this demographic group to national brands.

What are some of the things you have done with 42nd Parallel that you are most proud of?

I built the brand from scratch! I am a natural entrepreneur, so I am always proud when things come to life. I named the company, worked with an amazing Creative Director on our team to develop our logo, and created all of the collateral for the brand. I am so proud that we did so much in such a short period of time despite facing some of the setbacks that came with Covid-19. I am so proud of what we have accomplished so far. I love that we have established such a strong relationship with the New York and Chicago Chinatown Chambers of Commerce. You can see a lot of the fun work with our clients and partners on our website.

42nd Parallel is often producing and assisting in the production of community events.
The photos above are from the Chinatown Chamber’s charity event for the Miss Friendship Ambassador Pageant from 2019.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by stories of Asian Americans and other immigrants who have made their mark in the United States despite the fact that all of the odds are against them. They are so resilient and any time I feel like complaining about something, I think about what those immigrants had to go through to make a life here. I have nothing to be upset about – how fortunate I am to build out something so positive and something that I can be passionate about. I would hope that 42nd Parallel serves as a voice for them as well. We will do more features on everyday people to showcase just who “Asian America” actually is (and the diversity of this group).

I am inspired every day by young Asian American artists and talents that approach us and tell us about their creations and forms of self-expression. I admire those young Asian Americans who are bold enough to put their voice out there. There is some stigma in our communities about pursuing the arts, but I am so proud of the bravery and passion that these young artists have for their craft.

Hailee Steinfeld performed for a crowd at National Cereal Day created by the team. As an Asian American, Hailee Steinfeld was able to represent.

What is unique about 42nd Parallel?

42nd Parallel is a collective of Asian Americans (and some Asian American allies!) that came from the agency world. We have taken all of our learnings and life experiences to create one of the few national Asian American marketing agencies. We have a team that spans many ethnic groups within the Asian American diaspora, and we ensure that our work is culturally relevant, language-specific, and celebratory of Asian American identity.

What is some advice you would give young Asian Americans today?

Be yourself, express yourself. If you are shy, find other artistic ways to express yourself. We are amazing, we are smart, and we are talented. Whether it is in the STEM fields, the art and design fields, or in corporate functions, I believe that Asian American kids should have a lot of confidence in themselves. A lot of us were raised in a way where we are incredibly modest. I would encourage you to be loud, be proud, and stand up for what you believe in. There is so much that we have to be proud of.

During the quarantine, 42nd Parallel has continued to create programming online and engage consumers online as well as generate support for artists.

What are your goals for growing 42nd Parallel?

Since we are a national agency, I want to establish long term relationships with these brands that have already expressed interest in Asian American consumers. They understand the value of speaking to this group and have seen the return on their investments. I want 42 to be a platform that young Asian Americans can use to express themselves in a world where they feel so unheard and underrepresented.

42nd Parallel works with large networks to create exclusive experiences for Asian American influencers; the agency consistently invites social media influencers to exclusive movie premieres and other unique events.

What changes do you want to see in the industry in regard to the Asian American market?

I would love to see more brands that want to speak to Asian Americans in an authentic way. “Asian American” is a pretty broad segment…it is a diverse group of people and seeing brands that speak to and realize those nuances demonstrates that they are putting in the effort to understand the demographic group. Asian Americans are growing in population, buying power, and household income. The concept of “Crazy Rich Asians” is an actual trend that brands must recognize and take advantage of. I encourage brands to do test-and-learns to see the true impact and buying power of the Asian American dollar.

How has being Asian American influenced your career?

Having parents that are immigrant blue collar workers, I understand and know to be appreciative of what I have and how to buckle down and hustle. There is nothing you could throw my way that I cannot handle. I have the work ethic and it has helped me throughout my career. 

In corporate America, I have seen my fair share of discrimination, mistreatment, and unfair practices towards Asian and Asian American employees or applicants.  Because we do not see a lot of Asian Americans in the C suite roles, I want to use this 42nd Parallel platform to encourage young Asian Americans to step out and be daring, bold, and express themselves. I encourage everyone on my team to share their ideas and build their vision. Because of my experiences as an Asian American in corporate America, I am working on building something that I am truly proud of –  something that Asian Americans can look forward to and something that brands can look to as a guiding light.

42nd Parallel is the premier Asian American focused event marketing agency- this photo highlights an event hosted in LA for Midori Melon Liqueur.

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