How does culture affect market research?
23rd September 2014 Cheng-Hsun, Hsieh (Tony) 149005710
As technology continues to develop, the world is becoming increasingly globalized. In this whole new global era, many companies have tried to branch out into one or more specific markets outside the home country. Therefore, the cultural differences become an essential consideration while a company does market research to decide marketing strategies.
A way of market promotion, even determining from the same market research, may change from country to country due to the diverse culture including diets, religions, history and lifestyle. Therefore, a successful marketing strategy, which has been adopted to use in one country, may not succeed in another nation (Keegan & Green, 2005, p. 8).
Though companies operate at a global level, they need to consider disparate cultural features when targeting markets. Firstly, it will examine the differences in consumer behaviour between Eastern and Western cultures and then to what extent cultures influence research methods choice. Finally, it will evaluate local strategies, which can meet consumer’s needs in different countries by looking at some examples. 2. Consumer behaviour between Eastern and Western cultures
Culture can be defined that people share same belief, tradition and attitude in a specific geographic region, as Hofstede says culture is the collective psychological procedures connecting with people in a specific region. Culture is not a Personal characteristics; it gather a number of people who shared similar lifestyle (1991, p. 5).
Consumer behaviour often links with cultural background and thus when companies launch cross-cultural branding they may face a huge cultural differences or even completely different culture. People from different backgrounds of Eastern and Western values due to the different ways of thinking and behaviour often make different brand choices (Doorn, 2014, p. 285). Therefore, the results of market research may not be suitable to consumers from other region. For instance, Westerners often pay more attention to their personal favorite brands as well as the intrinsic value of the product (Doorn, 2014, p. 284).
In contrast, in Eastern cultures, consumers tend to excessive pursuit well known brands for vanity and extrinsic of the product (Doorn, 2014, p. 284). With regards to services, Doorn observes that people from Western cultures focus on substantial service such as 24 hours delivery, while Asian consumers usually take quality of their interactions with employees seriously (2014, p. 284). Furthermore, he (ibid) makes a statement that the best marketing strategy will vary from country to country. For example, The Japanese provide high quality and low price marketing plans; in Europe, high quality with high price product strategy performs successfully. While a low price and quality market programme is suitable in the U.S. market (Doorn, 2014, p. 284). These examples have shown that an effectively marketing strategy is developed from the different cultures.
According to Doorn’s (2014, p. 285) comparison, Chinese are more frightened to experience new things due to the sense of higher uncertainty avoidance than Westerners and thus price would be the only indicator of quality to Chinese people. In addition, Chinese attach importance to long-term relationships that is the reason why they can tolerate of service missing and have higher brand loyalty than Western consumers. Through the above-mentioned research, it has shown that it is important to fully understand the local culture of the different regions to avoid advertising with misunderstanding among nation’s cultural background and social status.
3. Market research limitation in China
Market research is the idea of using systematic method to collect, reorganize and analyze data from target consumers in a specific marketplace (Burns & Bush 2010:36).
With the increasing growth of consumer market, many companies are looking for a suitable research plan in China. However, most of the research method is based on western cultures, which may not appropriate to adapt. For example, Jacques (2006) find that even the most common direct questioning to collect data also seem unable to perform in China since they are less likely to express their opinion straightly. He (ibid) also reports the “Guanxi” aspect, which can be translated literally as a network of relationships, limits Chinese people to provide the in-depth information to other people who are outside from their relationship network.
Furthermore, because China is a communist society, government has considerable power to restrict Internet freedom; companies cannot effectively investigate and advertise their products through the closed Internet. As Yan (2009, p. 1) says the Internet is an alternative way to obtain market feedback, it is more efficient and lower cost to gain the numerous amount of information. Therefore, it is an important part of market research for companies to find out an alternative way to perform their research.
4. Local strategies in different cultural regions
In order to find the match point between different cultures in the spread of cross-cultural advertising, advertisers should fully understand the cultural differences and convey it in a right way, carefully analyze the characteristics of these differences, and then accordingly adjust their mode of transmission so that advertising can adapt to the cultural customs of the target consumers (Cui & Hou, 2011). Therefore, ‘global localization’ is an important step to place an ad into international marketplace.
As Keegan and Green (2005, p. 8) explain the global localization is ability that marketers should have it so as to think globally and act locally at the same time by customizing their products for every region, Coca-Cola is one of the typical examples. Initially, Coca-Cola Company used Atlanta version in Chinese translation, with typical American style, trying to attract Chinese consumers. Near the 20th century, Coca-Cola realized that the brand integration of Chinese culture is the name of the game, and thus a significant number of changes occurred in their advertising and marketing strategies. In 2000, they launched of the “Dragon” TV advertising and also in next year launched the “Chinese New Year” TV advert, with a couplet, firecrackers, paper cutting and other Chinese elements showing strong Chinese local culture. These ads with Chinese characteristics well reflect the “think globally and act locally” (Keegan & Green, 2005, p. 9) strategy and rapidly Coca-Cola becomes a well-known and favorite beverage in China.
McDonald’s is another company completely adopting local strategies. McDonald’s frequently adjust its menu to fit the local tastes. In Asia, for example, fried chicken is often on the menu. Other offerings include soymilk in Hong Kong, chicken porridge in Malaysia and Pineapple in Korea (McDonald's website, 2014). Especially, in some countries with specific religions, McDonald’s will change their ingredients to meet the religious customs. For example, in Singapore and Malaysia, McDonald’s offer the Halal burgers due to the fact that Halal Muslims only eat food, which is processed in a proper way (Keegan & Green, 2005, p. 31). It is obvious that McDonald’s wants to be a symbol of globalization in its field.
The study in this paper presents that various cultural factors mentioned earlier to some extent have an impact on consumers and product marketing survey around the world. Indeed, environmental sensitivity reveals the extent to which product can be properly accepted in a particular national (Keegan & Green, 2005, p. 143). Keegan and Green have therefore argued, “global marketers must have the ability to think globally and act locally” (2005, p. 9).
The necessity of cultural influences recognition has been proposed to be one of the main features to make marketing decision. Although to some extent culture differences may influence the choice of research method, enterprises can develop customized market research method to discover a suitable marketing programmer, which can successfully promote their products. The alternative market research in China market has not yet been discussed in this paper and need to be developed by further researches.
In this two weeks study skill programme, it has actually given me a head start in academic writing. What I have learned is that the process of planning, researching and writing step by step. When I was starting this course, I have realized that the importance of structure of academic writing, the correct use of citation and paraphrasing as well as using other’s ideas to support my own. These writing skills have really helped me to sequentially finish long project, moreover, group discussion has also given a chance to practice speaking skill. However, when I was writing project, it was certainly difficult to follow the topic since I have not fully done research; that is the main problem that I have to overcome in my main academic programme. In the future, I have to get used to reading lots of english journals and papers, and trying to summarize the main point of these articals. It is an essential part of academic writing to demonstrate that I understand what I have read.
7. Reference List
Burns, A. Bush, R. (2010) Marketing research New Jersey: Prentice Hall Cui, S. Hou, J.H. (2011) ‘Analysis of the East-West cross-cultural communication in advertising localization strategy’
Jacques, D. (2006) ‘How Cultural Differences Really Affect Research in China’ Available online at: http://www.customerinput.com/journal/how-cultural-differences-really-affect-research-in-china/ (accessed 23.09.14) Keegan, W.J. Green, M.C. (2005) Global MARKETING United State of America: Pearson Prentice Hall
Luo, Y. (2009) ‘Using Internet Data Collection in Marketing Research’ International business research (Toronto) 2(1)
McDonald's Hong Kong website Available online at:
http://www.mcdonalds.com.hk/ch/food/a-la-carte-explorer-view/beverages-explorer-view.html (accessed 23.09.14)
McDonald's Korea website Available online at:
http://www.mcdonalds.co.kr/www/eng/menu/menu_view.do?cate_cd=150&product_cd=hm04&group_seq=0 (accessed 23.09.14) McDonald's Malaysia website Available online at:
http://www.mcdonalds.com.my/our_food/menu/menu_item.aspx?id=f74722fb-2d56-43d4-8f04-671a5826f520 (accessed 23.09.14) Mooij, M. (2011) Consumer behavior and CULTURE: Consequences for Global Marketing and Advertising California: SAGE
Zhang, S. Doorn, J. & Leeflang, P. (2014) ‘Does the importance of value, brand and relationship equity for customer loyalty differ between Eastern and Western cultures?’ International Business Review 23(1): 284-292