Multicultural Research – A special Problem

As companies become global marketers and seek to standardize various parts of the marketing mix cross several countries, multicultural studies become more important. A company needs to determine to what extent adaptation of the marketing mix is appropriate. Thus market characteristics across diverse cultures must be compared for similarities and differences before a company proceeds with standardization on any aspect of marketing strategy. The research difficulties discussed thus far addressed problems of conducting research within a culture. When engaging in multicultural studies, many of these problems further complicate the difficulty of cross cultural comparisons.

Multicultural research involves dealing with countries that have different languages, economies, social structures, behavior, and attitude patterns. When designing multicultural studies it is essential that these differences are taken into account. An important point to keep in mind in designing research to be applied across cultures is to ensure comparability and equivalency of results. Different methods may have varying reliabilities in different countries. These differences must be taken into account in the design of a multicultural survey. Such differences may mean that different research methods are applied in individual countries.

In some cases the entire research design may have to be different between countries to maximize the comparability of the results. For example, in Latin American countries it may be difficult to attract consumers to participate in either focus groups or in depth interviews because of differences in the value for time. And Japanese, compared with American business people, tend to respond to mail surveys. The latter problem was handled in two recent studies by using alternative methods of questionnaire distribution and collection in Japan. In one study, attitudes of retail buyers regarding pioneer brands were sought. In the US setting a sample was drawn from a national list of supermarket buyers and questionnaires were distributed and collected by mail. Alternatively, in Japan questionnaires were distributed through contact people at 16 major supermarket chains and then returned by mail directly to the Japanese researchers. The second study sought to compare the job satisfaction of American and Japanese sales representatives. The questionnaires were delivered and collected via the company mail system for the US firm. For the Japanese firm, participants in a sales training program were asked to complete the questionnaires during the programs. Although the authors of both studies suggest that the use of different methods of data collection in comparative studies they threaten the quality of the results the approaches taken were the best (only) practical methods of conducting the research.
The adaptations necessary to complete these cross national studies serve as examples of the need for resourcefulness in international marketing research. However, they also raise questions about the reliability of data gathered in cross national research. Evidence suggests that often insufficient attention is given not only to non sampling errors and other problems that can exist in improperly conducted multicultural studies, but also to the appropriateness of research measures that have not been tested in multicultural contexts.

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