Conducting Global Research
By Tom Dougherty
The Stakes Are High
When a company makes the strategic decision to globalize one of its brands, it is forced to look anew at the brand and to evaluate it with fresh eyes. It needs to make sure that the brand definition translates into the new culture in a meaningful way. After all, there is a great deal at stake and the market is littered with locally robust brands that failed in their attempt at be globally important. There is no doubt that market research is necessary when it comes to evaluating, not just market opportunity, but brand permissions. Too often, companies spend a small fortune on research that reveals “opportunity” based on successful focus groups and U&A (Usage and Attitude) studies, only to find that when the brand hits the ground, it hits with a deafening thud and not with the sweet sounds of fleet footed patting that indicates the brand has “hit the ground running”. Why is this? The research indicated that the customer was looking for this sort of product and the usage patters also pointed to an ease of acceptance that was never realized. The problem was no doubt, the research itself. (Read about Resultant Research, the highly specialized research division of Stealing Share)
Round Up The Usual Suspects
Here is the usual failed formula for global market research:
First, the brand conducts a broad U&A study of the market, making sure that the sampling is projectable and that the survey was not leading in any way. The study sheds light on the current problem, shows the brands that are currently in the solution set, shows the awareness and imagery for those brands, and projects usage in terms of volume. Based on demographic questions, the brand managers are able to segment the market to find the best opportunity.
- The brand then holds a series of focus groups in the new “foreign market” to better understand the language of the consumer and to test some packaging and identity themes that the U&A study indicated might be strategically meaningful.
- If the product is a consumer product, no doubt the brand team visited the homes of potential users and witnessed the routine “first hand” that utilizes this category of brands.
- The ad agency is then brought into the loop, a campaign is developed based on the learnings, and the ads are then produced, costing millions of dollars. A test market is chosen and the product is launched. Many times, it falls flat and a great deal of capital was wasted.
Do It Different And Better
At Resultant Research (the research arm of Stealing Share), a fundamentally different process is used to uncover opportunity and ensure market share growth. It is a process that is designed not only to understand the usage and attitudes of the target culture, but also to uncover the belief systems that make each culture distinct.
A Better Process For Conducting Global Research For Global Brands
- First, we believe strongly in-home visits. Watching product usage in a new environment is most enlightening. However, we utilize this process with one of our research anthropologists rather than the client brand management in order to witness the interactions without brand bias that those with a vested interest in the brand may have. This is ethnographic research.
- Before we go into the field for a quantitative study and after the in-home visits, we model the cultural behaviors using our Preceptive Behavioral Model. This is this process that illuminates the probable belief motivators that are unique to specific cultures. It also helps identify the preceptive belief systems that form the culturally distinct fabric of each market segment. This modeling allows us to formulate a series of questions that are asked in the quantitative study. The modeling allows us to graphically see the relationships between the actions (processes) that we want the target market to take and the needs and wants (purposes) that drive those actions. It then uncovers the cultural beliefs (precepts) that control these (processes and purposes). Such modeling eliminates many global missteps (see “Globalizing a Brand Requires Different Thinking” to see an example of such a costly miscalculation).
- We then conduct a projectable quantitative study of the market, looking at many of the same usage and attitudinal issues that are part-and-parcel of traditional U&A studies but expand the scope by testing the preceptive queries that came from the behavior modeling. The information gained from testing these preceptive questions defines the core belief systems that differentiate one culture from another and allows us to identify and align the brand with those cultural currents. This positions the brand for broad acceptance within the new culture and propels it to increases in market share.
- Focus groups are never part of the Resultant process. We believe that all research should be projectable (or it is not research). We utilize a broad sample of one-on-one surveys so that the usage language and brand positioning can be tested and understood — but in a format that is scientifically projectable and useful, not simply as a “CYA” experiment.
A Better Outcome From Global Research
The end-result forms the foundation of a brand strategy that is unique within the culture it is destined to influence. A brand definition and resulting brand strategy is based on the needs and wants of the potential customer and not the self-serving desires of the corporation that often dictates the strategy. Effective global marketing research is dependent, not just on the methodology used, but the questions asked.
Culture Is Defining
Simply learning what a potential customer does without knowing why he/she does it is akin to discovering that a particular target market enjoys color without finding out which color they like best. The ability to ask the right questions is dependent on the clarity of vision needed to project the correct answers. Behavior Modeling provides such a tool and the tool is invaluable when branding products and developing marketing strategies in a new cultural environment.
The Stealing Share family of companies work in unison to develop global brand strategies and communications that propel brands to steal market share.