Product Considerations

Each country has a different mix of consumption. Therefore, the types of products that are salable in each culture vary. Table illustrates how the per capita spending index for a variety of consumption categories differs markedly among twelve European countries. For example, household appliance ownership data for nations show appliance ownership data for several neighboring western European nations show quite differing consumption patterns even though these countries are at similar levels of economic development. Such a pattern of consumer behavior can be attributed more to cultural differences than to economic differences. One European study finds differences among its young people to be subsiding as their tastes in music sports and cultural activities becomes more similar. In addition, wealthier highly educated Europeans share cross border similarities. They end to value autonomy, reject consumer stereotypes and appreciate exclusive products Basic products such as detergents and households cleaners, have potential for marketing as a single brand across Europe. Consequently, Procter & Gamble Unilever and others increasingly roll out more pan European products. However advertising for such items may need to avoid slice of life approaches that refer too directly to specific cultures and, instead take a more symbolic approach. For example a campaign for Johnson & Johnson’s Silhouette brand sanitary napkin featured origami birds that turn from to blue, instead of words, to convey a message about the product’s absorbency.

A product being considered for marketing in a foreign country should be assessed for its fit with that country’s value system. Sometimes the fit may be with physiques rather than values. Levi’s was sensitive to local tastes in Brazil here it developed the Feminina line of women’s jeans exclusively for the Brazilian market. The cut provides a better fit for Brazilian women, who traditionally favor ultra-tight jeans. One study indicates that 80 percent of imported products requre some adaptation. Even with the unification of the European Community in 1992, language and cultural barriers remain that can influence the transferability of products. Products can be categorized and ranked on almost to least culturally bound continuum as follows:

1) Consumer products are most culture bound, industrial products the least
2) Established product categories are most culture bound; new product categories the least.
3) Simple technology is most culture bound; complex technology the last.
4) Kitchen based items are most culture bound, followed in descending odder by such item categories as bath an bedroom., living room, garden and garage, and items for use away from the home.

There are numerous examples in the history of international business of products that succeeded here yet sputtered abroad because they failed to take account of differences between American and other countries value systems. The following examples are representatives:

Mr Donut’s entry into the Japanese market encountered a host of problems such as counters that people said were too high pastry that was too big, cups that were too heavy, and donuts that had too much nutmeg. But the company succeeded by making the necessary cultural adaptations.

A Japanese toy maker selling Barbie dolls had near zero sales for decades until he persuaded Mattel, Inc., to allow a change in the westernized look of the doll. When the toy maker reduced the doll’s bosom changed her blue eyes to brown and darkened her blond hair, sales zoomed.

Even such seemingly simple elements as product package design and color have played havoc with many international marketers. For example, color preferences are every culture bound. Black is the color for mourning in some countries, while in some it is white. Green is a popular color in Muslim countries because it is the color of Islam. Benetton’s label is a deep cool forest green that is said to convey a sense of global togetherness, a fortuitous choice in association with the world environmental movement.

Package symbols can be effective or a hindrance. For example, Mercedes’ three point star logo is an archetypal symbol of integrity and strength. However, a soft drink marketer got in trouble in Arab markets because one of its product’s label has a series of six pointed stars which were felt to be too suggestive of Israel’s Star of David.