Cross-Cultural Chaos

As the world market becomes increasingly competitive (Popovici 2011), it is now imperative that companies market their products to other cultures as well as within their original homeland. There has been a shift in focus from local to global marketing efforts as corporations attempt to become multinational (Schiffman et al 2014). Consumers are becoming more and more assimilated with the rise of globalization, however there is still an inherent need to tailor products and marketing to specific cultures. This requires extensive research and a holistic understanding of what factors influence consumer buying behaviour in other countries.

Marketers need to take into account the numerous cultural characteristics of a country and in most cases, customize products and marketing to suit that particular country’s consumers tastes and needs. These cultural characteristics include language, customs, values and religion. The country of origin can also have a direct effect on the consumer’s willingness to buy the product (Len 2001). To do this successfully, marketers should conduct a cross-cultural analysis to identify how consumers differ and the implication this will have on their strategic marketing plan (Schiffman et al 2014).

As you would expect, a number of corporation’s failure to understand cultural differences have results in some embarrassing marketing mistakes. Companies need to take into account product modifications (to meet local customs and tastes), customized promotion as well as tailor pricing and distribution techniques “to meet local and economic conditions and customs” (Schiffman et al 2014). There are an abundance of company failures to take into account these important cultural factors, particularly when translating company slogans across different cultures. Below are some examples:

-The Dairy Association’s successful ‘Got Milk?’ campaign encouraged the company to expand to Mexico, however the slogan translated to ‘Are you lactating?’ (Qualman 2011)

-KFC’s slogan ‘Finger-lickin’ good’ translated to ‘Eat your finger off’ in Chinese (Fromowitz 2011)

-Pepsi’s slogan ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’ translated in Chinese to ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ (Qualman 2011)

-Scandinavian vacuum cleaner designer Electrolux, used the tag-line ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’ in the US campaign (Qualman, 2011)

-A Schweppes tonic water campaign translated the product name into ‘Schweppes toilet water’ (Fromowitz 2013)

To see more like these, go to:,Cultural+blunders+Brands+gone+wrong.aspx

These examples reiterate the importance of research when marketing to other cultures, particularly when translating slogans which may not work across different cultures.

Although this is quite humorous, as Tian (2010) cautions our first step in cross-cultural consumer behaviour is to recognize that no one culture is superior to any other. He says very elegantly, “It is important for the marketers know that there is no room for ethnocentrism in the 21st Century marketing practice.

Two theories about cultural differences often referenced are those drawn from the models of Geert Hofstede and Edward T. Hall. These theories are nearly three decades old, but their categories for considering differences are still valid. They discuss cultural differences within the framework of “Uncertainity Avoidance,” Individualism vs. Collectivism and “low-context” vs. “high-context” communication.

Although standardized promotion can be more cost-effective, unless countries are extremely cultural similar (for example America and Australia), it is better to customize products and marketing to avoid embarrassing mistakes and loss of revenue.


Fromowitz, M 2013, ‘Cultural Blunders: Brand gone wrong’, Campaign Asia-Pacific (online), 7 October, viewed 3 June 2014,,Cultural+blunders+Brands+gone+wrong.aspx

Len, T.W. 2001, ‘Cross-cultural marketing’, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 527Popovici, S 2011, ‘What do we know about cross-cultural marketing?’, Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov. Economic Series. Series V, vol. 4, iss. 2, pp. 57-64

Schiffman, L, O’Cass, A, Paladino, A & Carlson, J 2014, Consumer Behaviour, 6th edn, Pearson Australia, Frenchs Forest, Australia

Qualman, E 2011, ’13 Marketing Translation Mistakes to Learn from’, ClickZ(online), 30 March, viewed 3 June 2014,

Tian, R.G. & Wang, C.H. 2010, ‘Cross-Cultural Customer Satisfaction at a Chinese Restaurant: The Implications to China Foodservice Marketing’, International Journal of China Marketing, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 60-72.


Consumer Research: don’t think you can get out of it!

It is 2015 (if you did not know) and I don’t understand why companies still think it is okay to make new products or change existing products – especially fast moving consumer goods (things people use everyday!) – without conducting some research on the target market first and seeing if they will actually like the change or new product?


Today’s managers cannot afford to make decisions based solely on intuition and guesswork. There are too many factors in today’s dynamic environment that make it imperative for organisations large and small, to learn how to manage the constant flow of information.

Consumer research, by its very nature is looking at how individuals make decisions to spend their resources (time, money, effort) (Schiffman et al 2001), can provide information that is used to set objectives, control direction, evaluate courses of action and and make an exhaustive search for, and study of facts relevant to any problem in the field of marketing. Banerjee & Soberman (2013) stress that research is a key management tool because it presents an accurate and critical objective investigation of a problem or idea.

Let us look at a very recent case of Glad Wrap; The Australian household staple decided to change the design of their clingwrap cutting tool, where the company changed the sides of the metal cutter from the bottom to the top. The big move sparked a furore in ktchens across the country!

The ‘modification’ was a part of a few changes to the ClingWrap, said Glad. More clingy that ever. Safer than ever. You have to now rip up.

The ‘modification’ was a part of a few changes to the ClingWrap, said Glad. More clingy that ever. Safer than ever. You have to now rip up.

This unexpected change got people all over Australia taking there complaints to social media and talk-back radio. People demanding Glad to change it back to the way it was!



Glad Australia responded, saying almost two-thirds of the consumers who trialed the changes actually preferred the new pack. Interesting. Alas people power has prevailed over the clingwrap battle. Glad Wrap has announced the original cutter will be making its way back to the base of the box in coming months.  Glad Australia marketing director Phil James told The Herald Sun “We have heard the message loud and clear. We are working through this with urgency and our objective is to get the product back as soon as humanly possible”. It is expected it is going to cost the company hundreds of thoushands of dollars to go back!

OH THE ANGER!!! imgae via

There are so many lessons is as to why consumer research is so important, even though Glad indicated they did conduct ‘extensive in home research’, it clearly was not done effectively resulting in exorbitant costs and negative brand reputations.

Of course effective and thorough research does not guarantee correct decision making but it considerably improves the chances of this happening.

Glad could have benefited from more qualitative research methods such as focus groups, in depth interviews. This would have identified the varied feelings, knowledge and behaviors of the consumers about the product change. Furthermore, as Gummesson (2007) suggests observational because it highlights the in-depth understanding about the consumer and the product, especially how they use it!

A quantitative study may then be conducted to corroborate this data found and give it the numerical proof, a way to profile and report the findings. Alternatively, Glad could have conducted more research into the actual advertising and promotion of the new product and try and get the change to appeal to more people.

Consumer researchers need a thorough understanding of the entire market picture before they can start to not only design the research, especially in regards to repackaging fast moving consumer goods (Rampier 2012).

What are your favourite brand fails caused by inadequate market research?


Reference List

Banerjee, S & Soberman, D 2013, ‘Product development capability and marketing strategy for new durable products’, International Journal of Research in Marketing, vol.30, no.3, pp. 276-291.

Gummesson, E 2007, ‘Access to reality: observations on observational methods’, Qualitative Market Research, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 130-134.

Rampier, M 2012, ‘SALES PROMOTION OF FAST MOVING CONSUMER GOODS’, International Journal of Logistics & Supply Chain Management Perspectives, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 59-63.

Schiffman, L 2001, Consumer Behaviour, Prentice Hall, Australia

Same same but different

When I visited the supermarket last week, I was very impressed by the way marketers confuse consumers with new products that look like the leading competitor. According to Schiffman et al, (2011, p. 205) stimulus generalisation, a marketing application of classical conditioning, is making the same response to slightly different stimuli. It demonstrates why manufacturers of private brands make their packaging so similar to national brand leaders. If a product and brand has positive connotations and associations with the general public, private brands will aim to use stimulus generalisation to imitate their product and get the same connotations and associations.


‘Herbals’ copying the market leader ‘Herbal Essences’

For example, Aldi’s ‘Herbals’ imitating ‘Herbal Essences’ packaging with the same shape, logo, placement text and colour to attract customers who want quality shampoo and conditioner (or the smell!), but might not want to pay the price. Being such an established hair care product in the market for many years, ‘Herbals’ hopes that consumers confuse themselves and purchase their brand. You won’t fool me ‘Herbals’!

An example of stimulus generalisation. Woolworths vs Aldi.

This underpins a lot of Aldi’s marketing strategy. Instead of having Rice ‘Bubbles’ they sell Rice ‘Pops’, with a similar look and feel to the category leader. It has the same kind of packaging, colour and so consumers will respond similarly and have the same associations to their pack design.


Me-too products at Aldi

To explain stimulus generalisation within classical conditioning, a good anecdotal example is when John Watson and Rosalie conditioned a 9-month old baby Albert to be afraid of a white rat by pairing the rat with a loud and erratic noise. After conditioning this to Albert, he was not only just afraid of the rat but of a range of similar stimuli, including Watson’s hair, fur coats, rabbits and cotton balls (Domjan, 1993). According to the Psychology and Marketing Journal, (Till, B.D & Priluck R.N, 2000) researchers in the area of marketing believe that classical conditioning is an easy, non cognitive method of low-involvement learning or low-involvement ad message processing.  It is applied to marketing through the product line, form and category extensions, family branding, licensing and generalizing usage situations. It also includes me-too brands- such as the Aldi examples above.

the blue bottles of bottled water– all look the same

I think these brands using stimulus generalisation are encouraged by the short term benefits of such easy success, and these, blind them from the possible legal implications which may include lawsuits, forced re-branding, or corporate embarrassment. How do you guys feel about buying these  brands? I personally tend to steer clear — I think it is a trust thing!

Reference list

Domjan, M, 1993, The Principles of learning and behavior. Brooks/Cole, Pacific Grove, CA. n.a, 2013, How do they get away with this?, Image, WordPress, viewed 19th May 2015 <;

Schiffman L, O’Cass A, Paladino, A, Carlson, J, 2013, Consumer Behaviour, 6thedn, Pearson Australia Group, NSW.

Till, B.D, Priluck, R.L, 2000, ‘Stimulus Generalization in classical conditioning: An Initial Investigation and Extension’, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 55-72.



I did a little recon at Aldi and look what I found!

Just Divine copying Arnott's Tim Tam

Just Divine copying Arnott’s Tim Tam

Mint Creams vs. Mint Slice

The original and the best

Paw Paw Ointment anyone?

Paw Paw Ointment anyone?

The Category Leader

The Best I Ever Had

A pleasant retail experience, I am finding, is harder to come by these days. As technology infiltrates stores at even the most basic level and people’s workloads become heavier, fast-paced and more stressful, I find it is difficult to have a genuine, helpful human experience with retail employees. However, it is not all robotic salespeople and ignorance out there as I found a glimmer of hope, at Dymocks a year or so ago.

The best retail experience I have encountered was around a year ago  at Christmas time- the busiest time. I was looking for a book for my little sister (an absolute bookworm) at Dymocks, it was a book she requested so I was on a mission to find it. When I couldn’t see the book any where in the store, I felt defeated and must have looked it too, as the sales lady asked me what I was looking for. I told her that I had searched the store for the book and couldn’t find it.

image via

After she did a quick search around the store, the woman looked in the computer inventory to see if they had requested the book. It showed there were some in stock, still packed. she went and looked through the packed books (meanwhile the store was extremely busy!) and couldn’t find any evidence of it.

She talked to a manager and found that the next shipment for the book was due indefinitely next week. The woman then called the competing store (ABC Shop) and asked them to see if they had the book in store- they did! She told me to go to the ABC Shop and the book will be waiting for me on the counter.

This was a rare occasion where a retail employee went up and beyond what i expected of her and the store. I feel this service really paid off as keeping me as a customer as when I want to buy a book, Dymocks is always my first port of call (even though online sites are so tempting) and I am still talking about the experience after a year. Safe to say, thanks to that woman, my sister had a much more enjoyable Christmas day with her head buried in that ‘must-have’ book!