Marketing and the AAPI Community: An Interview with Kristie Gong

By May 28, 2021Blog
Camille Saussotte profile photo

head Shot of Camille Saussotte“I wanted to work in TV since I was three years old,” Kristie Gong, Research Director at KCRA-3 and KQCA-58, says. “My Mom and I watched “Days of Our Lives” and we had a giant satellite dish on the top of our 900 square foot house (that only received three channels). My Grandma, who didn’t speak any English, loved to watch “I Love Lucy” with me. Lucille Ball’s antics crossed cultures and generations and I recall the both of us laughing together despite language barriers.”

Kristie Gong spoke with AMASV’s Camille Saussotte about the current state of marketing to the Asian American Pacific Islander community, representation and discrimination, and multi-cultural marketing in the Sacramento region.

Some years later, after the days of watching soaps and sitcoms with her family, Kristie discovered the business and research side of TV while studying at California State University Northridge. With hard work and the help of mentors, she secured internships and jobs with NATPE, Fox Family/ABC Family (now Freeform), Disney Television Networks, and Univision over the past 20 years. Today, Kristie is the Research Director at KCRA-3 (NBC) and KQCA-58 (MyNetwork), Hearst Television. For the past twelve years, she’s provided strategic and analytical guidance to the Sacramento DMA’s top-rated news broadcaster.

Marketing to the AAPI community

A first-generation American Chinese on her Dad’s side, and third-generation on her Mom’s side, Kristie shared her impressions on marketing to the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

“This has been a very, very slow evolution. In 2021 marketers are paying more attention to how – or if – they address our community. They’re looking at whether they’re marketing to Asians, to Asian Americans, or to specific groups within them. When I was growing up, it seemed the marketing was token-ish, including one Asian character in media or ads to “check the box” of representation. You also had roles where Asians were portrayed as stereotypes; women being shown as “dragon ladies” or subservient “lotus blossoms.” There was never anybody in-between representing me. That was dismaying because it was so generalized. Now marketers are slowly beginning to see Asians for who they really are: that they ARE Americans and real people, not characters.”

The Sacramento region’s marketing community

“The sad thing is that there has been so much down-sizing, especially in ad agencies over the past few years. This takes a toll on diversity and different opinions and creativity. I would love to see more local agencies offer more of a local flavor for their clients. Sacramento is a unique market. People want to see a reflection of their own community. For example, here in Sacramento we have a very large Hmong and Vietnamese population, as well as a rich Japanese history. In Yuba City, we have a large Sikh population. A lot of the messaging is done out of New York or Los Angeles for many brands, and its broad reference is not reflected here in the messaging. It hasn’t evolved in terms of diversity.”

A focus on the solutions

“I’m happy to see more AAPI highlights of business owners, media personalities and influencers,” Kristie says when asked about amplifying AAPI perspectives, “but I hope some actual good comes from the headlines. I hope that it just won’t be during the month of May. This is not a contest about who suffers the most, because everyone has a story. Having conversations, and talking about discrimination can be uncomfortable for me and others, because it can feel like whining. However, admitting this vulnerability and speaking from the heart helps people connect and heal.

My Dad, John Gong, was a Brigadier General in the United States Army, and my family has visited every Civil War battlefield, visited 49 of 50 states (Alaska is left), and spent 4th of July holidays at the Statue of Liberty, Freedom Trail, and Washington Monument paying homage to these symbols of freedom. Yet sometimes it felt like we still weren’t “American enough” and that hurts. My family calls ourselves AMERICAN Chinese because I was born here and we identify as Americans first; this label was very important to my father and family.

One of the things that I see is a low ratio of Asian Americans in executive leadership. The “put your head down and work hard” mentality can hold us back. Until we get more diversity in Executive roles, we need to speak up for ourselves. Our perspectives will be able to reflect the communities we serve. To the younger generation: Work hard, demonstrate your worth and speak up.

Although I’m all for having a louder voice, I’m truly interested in solutions. That’s a tough answer, but a good first step for EVERYONE is to take a moment to pause before you speak, and just be empathetic and kind. Pause to address your own racial bias, and the end of the day, just be nice to people.”

Kristie Gong volunteers as Marketing Director for the Sacramento chapter of Girls on the Run, is a Sustaining member of the Junior League of Sacramento Endowment Council doing planned giving, and does Student Outreach for the Sacramento chapter of the Alliance for Women in Media. She is also a marathon runner. Kristie is the mother to a 6-year-old son who is “really into creating his own toys right now” and she states that their “living room is currently covered in tape and pieces of cardboard.” Our interview came to a conclusion so that she could remove a meat thermometer that had been lodged into one of his toys.

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