KS&R Blogs


When I was in Tokyo last week on a client engagement involving packaging research, I decided to brave the sweltering heat and take a walk through the Oriental Bazaar.

As I was rummaging through stalls looking for a souvenir to bring back home for my nephew, I watched as a young Japanese mother held up a T-shirt featuring the "Jurassic Park" logo for her young son.

Then I looked a little closer, and saw that "Park" had been inadvertently translated as "Bank". The woman, unaware of the error, happily paid for her purchase and departed.

A sobering moment for those of us who conduct cross cultural marketing research.

Companies seeking to ensure that their products and services compete effectively increasingly need to develop business strategies that anticipate and respond to international markets. As a result, market research industry figures show an increase in global market research revenue in the last few years, despite a world-wide recession.

Qualitative research can be a highly effective tool for conducting international research.

  • It is very effective in understanding the context of customers' attitudes and behaviors re: observed cross cultural differences.
  • Another key advantage of qualitative research is that it is unstructured -- not dependent on researchers' terminology.
  • Often observational, and requiring minimal cognitive skills, qualitative research is often the best methodology for emerging markets.

It also presents some unique challenges. Here are a few strategies to help ensure the success of your next international qualitative research project:

  • Consider employing projective techniques photo sorts, mindmaps, grouping, collages are very helpful in researching emotional benefits, and in understanding the cultural characteristics that influence the target market.
  • Create a safe environment which allows respondents express disagreement. The concern for harmony in Asian countries can serve as a barrier to meaningful insights and identifying unmet wants and needs.
  • Use caution when developing stimuli these materials need to be readily understood, and devoid of cultural bias.
  • Thoroughly train recruiters, moderators ... and interpreters!
  • A real-world understanding of, and sensitivity to, differences in each test market's environment is critical, but analysis and reporting also require a broad and balanced interpretation of results beyond the local context.

It's all too easy for "P" to "become "B", or "R" become "N" when conducting research in diverse international environments. Knowledgeable and skillful implementation of these guidelines will help ensure that you obtain the information and insights required to solve your global marketing issues.

All the best,
Lynne Van Dyke