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"Advertising that evokes emotions is the most effective," he said, blithely.
But maybe there's something to it—the app is the highest trafficked dating resource for Asian-Americans in North America, and, since it launched in December 2013, they've matched more than seventy-thousand singles.
"For us, it's about a much bigger community," Tokioka responded, vaguely.
I asked if the boundary-pushing memes were also part of this vision for reaching a greater community, and Yamazaki, who handles marketing, explained that their strategy was just to make a splash in order to reach Asian-Americans, even if they risked appearing offensive.
Tokioka, a serial entrepreneur in her late thirties, started the company after she found that major dating sites like E-Harmony and Match were limited when it came to Asian candidates.East Meet East's headquarters is located near Bryant Park, in a sleek coworking office with white walls, lots of glass, and little clutter. A range of startups, from design agencies to burgeoning social media platforms share the space, and the relationships between members of the small staff are collegial and warm. In other words: less Chinese-Exclusion Act and more Stuff Asian People Like.I'd originally asked for a visit, because I wanted to know who was behind the "That's not Racist" billboard and why, but I quickly learned that the billboard was just one corner of a peculiar and inscrutable (at least to me) branding universe. I asked East Meet East's CEO Mariko Tokioka about the "That's not Racist" billboard and she and Kenji Yamazaki, her cofounder, explained that it was meant to be a response to their online critics, whom they described as non-Asians who call the app racist, for catering exclusively to Asians.—but East Meet East's mission to serve a unified Asian-America is especially tangled, given that the term "Asian-American" assumes unity amongst a minority group that covers a wide diversity of religions and ethnic backgrounds.As if to underscore just how contradictory a belief in an Asian-American monolith is, South Asians are glaringly absent from the app's branding and advertisements, despite the fact that, well, they're Asian, too.
The interface might have been one of any number of popular dating apps. I tapped on handsome faces and sent flirtatious messages and, for a few minutes, felt as though she and I could have been any other girlfriends taking a coffee break on a Monday afternoon, analyzing the faces and biographies of men, who just happened to appear Asian.