Kim’s Convenience

It has been several months since Crazy Rich Asians burst onto the American movie scene, and it is now on DVD – so we hope you have all had a chance to experience it, or perhaps will be curling up with a hot coco and warm blanket to watch it over the holidays. And a few weeks ago, we analyzed the show “The Rise of the Phoenixes,” a Chinese drama on Netflix, where we looked at how the series that was a collaboration between Netflix and iQiyi (aka the Netflix of China) has broken barriers by showing how a production shot in China, and in Mandarin can also draw an audience here in the US. This week we will shift our view of the impact of Asian entertainment in the US by looking at a newly successful sitcom (and we’re not talking about “Fresh off the boat!”) streaming on Netflix called “Kim’s Convenience”, which has generated a surprising amount of buzz, especially considering it is a show revolving around a primarily Asian cast.

Kim’s Convenience is a laugh-out-loud sitcom that revolves around an immigrant Korean family that showcases distinct cultural differences while also promoting at times surprisingly progressive values. So, what can this show teach us? The series demonstrates many cultural nuances, including pointed, yet effortless commentary on race relations with Whites, Hispanics, Asians, and LGBTQ’s that permit us a peek into what it means to be an Asian immigrant family in North America. Kim’s Convenience deliberately defines the complex realities in how Asian American (or Asian Canadian) individuals really live versus the common stereotypes depicted by Asians in today’s entertainment. The show has been airing in Canada since October of 2016 and was such a hit that it began streaming here in the US on Netflix in July of this year and has quickly gained a loyal following. Let’s take a look at just a few of the cultural nuances of this family sitcom that can help inform us be better marketers. The rest you’ll have to see for yourself!

Asian American Business Owner Power

Kim’s convenience is centered around a Korean family who owns a convenience store. This simple scenario proves a perfect backdrop for the characters and relates quite well with Asian Americans who overindex in business ownership as there are an estimated 2 million businesses in the United States that are owned by Asian Americans, which generate over $700 billion in revenue. Asian small businesses are thriving and often tend to be overlooked by B2B brands and marketers.

Family Dynamics

The family consists of the father Mr. Kim (or “Appa” in Korean), and mother Mrs. Kim (or “Umma”) along with their two adult kids, Janet and Jung. Janet is in college studying photography at an art school and Jung was kicked out of the house as a child after dropping out of high school and works at a car rental agency. After hearing previous ‘Doses’ from us regarding the importance of education in Asian families, this may not be a shocker to you and in fact, Jung and his father do not speak in the show. As a result, there are several episodes that aim to figure out a way of reuniting the family as while there may be strains on the family, we also know from past ‘Doses’ that family is one of the most important values in Asian culture.  The approach of this show to the modern dynamics of family and communication among first and second generation Asian’s is fantastic and is largely what gives the show such strength and staying power. They regularly cover sensitive topics such as racial profiling and stereotypes and do so naturally and effortlessly, so be ready to watch with a constant smile.

For The Success of the Next Generation

Listen between the lines of banter however and it’s clear to see the sacrifices that the parents have made for their kids, which brings additional depth to the characters, and once again connects to the audience. Today, it’s fair to say that the U.S. born children of immigrants are better off than their parents. Among second generation Asian Americans, we see their median household income is 27% higher than their parent’s generation and they have a 13% higher home ownership rate (often thanks to their parents helping with a down payment).

You’re Dating Who?

As with any sitcom, there are going to be love interests involved somewhere in the plot and Kim’s Convenience delivers here as well. Janet is dating her brother’s friend who is neither Korean nor Christian. In fact, he’s Indian and Jung is in love with his Caucasian boss. So how common is interracial dating and marriage in the US? Well, 23% of second-generation Asian Americans have a spouse of different race or ethnicity than themselves compared with 15% of second-generation non-Asian US adults. This can provide an opportunity for brands to show diversity with families of mixed races in marketing materials to connect with an increasingly diverse audience.

Kim’s Convenience works because it makes a direct effort to showcase these differences through humor whilst poking fun at stereotypes along the way. So if you have some time over the holidays, I would encourage you to sit back, grab the remote and check out an episode or two of Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. It’s exciting to see the growth of Asian Americans in entertainment beyond supporting roles, but in leading ones as a result of the continued growth of the segment in the US. We expect to see more great content to come and will continue to share from time to time. And if you have any favorites you’d like for us to dive into, please let us know!

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