Consumer Behavior

Consumer Behavior

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A large percentage of the international consumer behavior and market segmentation literature has focused on the most effective means by which consumers in multiple markets can be understood and those markets organized for successful operations. One of the assumptions in much of this literature is the existence, and increasing influence, of global consumers whose social and cultural differences are overshadowed by their similarities in terms of psychological consumer tendencies. This paper will explore the notion that consumers around the globe are becoming more similar in terms of psychological consumer tendencies. By showing that individuals in diverse markets may be demonstrating tendencies that suggest similar patterns of thinking in their roles as consumers, it should be possible to begin establishing empirical evidence for the existence of global consumers as well as insights into how this might affect both future research and managerial decision making in nondomestic operations.
International marketing refers to a company operating in more than one country whose marketing strategy in each has been chosen deliberately – from being very diverse to being rigidly standardized between countries. Global marketing is a particular form of international marketing which – in its purest form – does not exist. (van Mesdag, 1999) Its essence is that it covers a broad spread of the world’s countries and that it strives consciously to standardize its marketing strategy between those countries. The majority of international marketing approaches today are still based predominantly on culture-sensitive adaptation as each new foreign market is entered. This paper will also explore the notion proposed by Kapferer in 1992 that “It is time to realize that the majority of brands operating across Europe are neither global nor local, but ‘glocal.”
The differences in language; distribution facilities; retail structure; topography; climate; regulations governing marketing, cultural features (color, taboos, history political make-up, religion, education) between countries are so great that pure, comprehensive standardization of marketing mixes is not feasible. Yet, the main characteristic of global marketing is the attempt to standardize all elements of the marketing mix as much as possible. (van Mesdaq, 1999) A study on emerging positioning strategies in global marketing says:
“The first step is to establish the product as a world brand by establishing name, feature and image standardization worldwide. The second is to identify global segments that seek the same product benefits and/or share similar psychological characteristics. The third strategy is to position the world brand toward either the high-tech or high-touch spectrum.

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This paper will discuss that although the above-mentioned three steps sound great on paper, they do not mention the gigantic and costly tasks that each of these three steps would entail.
Cracking an international market is a goal for most growing corporations, yet the misuse of simple words can sabotage even the best global marketing efforts. For example, when Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. Instead, the ads said, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.” Obviously, the need for meticulous language experts is crucial in any global marketing campaign. This paper will give examples of other amusing but disastrous mistakes in foreign ad campaigns.
Consumer travel and multinational service corporations have increased the opportunity for service failures where consumers from one culture experience service problems in another cultural setting. With eating being equally required of all travelers, restaurants are a logical starting point for researching issues surrounding intercultural service failures. While a service provider can act locally, the influx of non-locals can upset such a strategy. For example, Winsted (1997) found that consumers in Japan and America have different expectations of service encounters. This can lead to a clear mismatch between expectations and experiences. The ultimate goal of a service provider is to retain customers, which is less costly than attracting new customers (Reicheld, 1996; Sellers, 1989). Retaining customers’ goodwill avoids bad word of mouth that can quickly have negative impact both locally and internationally. (Warden, et. al, 2002)
While all services are characterized by inseparability (customers are part of the product), intercultural encounters complicate this by introducing customers to a foreign culture. Seen from another perspective, the service provider must attempt to understand foreign expectations if the customer is to be satisfied. A service failure may occur when expectations of the customer are not met.
When expectations of service are not met, the resulting gap leads to dissatisfaction, and when expectations are surpassed, the result is satisfaction (Zeithaml et al., 1990) Zeithsml and Bitner (1996) refer to this difference between adequate service and perceived service as measure of service adequacy (MSA). More serious service failures will have increasingly negative MSA scores and make it difficult for a customer to trust the seller. Trust is valuable because it plays a role in reducing transaction costs (Noordewier et. al, 1990) and is a prerequisite for even being considered as a product source when a consumer searches for alternatives.
This paper then, will explore global consumer tendencies, discussing the effects of macrosegmentation, or the grouping of national markets, which generally involves characteristics associated with the market itself rather than the individual consumers who comprise any given market (Choi & Rajan, 1997) Given that the objective of marketing activities is to facilitate exchange, it seems apparent that any chances for success in non-domestic operations will be greatly improved if attention is directed at consumer, rather than country characteristics.
I will also discuss the failures of a standardized international marketing strategy in individual countries and the seven postulations put forth by van Mesdag in 1999 which establish a frame of reference for global and international marketing discussions, beginning with the first and most important:
“It is no easier to build a given volume of profitable business in a foreign market than it is to do so in the domestic market, In fact, it tends to be a little more difficult and expensive.”
Disastrous and sometimes amusing international marketing mistakes caused by lack of proper linguistic and cultural knowledge and sensitivity will also be cited. Just as one size doesn’t fit all in global marketing, one word doesn’t fit for all cultures. In fact, if used erroneously, it can cripple the most promising of deals.
Finally, I will explore how the seriousness of intercultural service failures can be reduced if companies embrace recovery strategies, which are well documented as playing an important role in consumer’s final level of satisfaction. (Bitner, 1990)

Aspects of International Marketing
Much has been written regarding the consumer-behavior tendencies of various groups from the perspective of cultural, social, economic, and other market environment elements. The objective of these types of studies is to better understand individual human differences that may or may not exist and the impact these differences may have on marketing activities. Another substantial body of literature addressed means by which the nondomestic marketplace can be effectively organized, through market-segmentation strategies, to maximize market potential. Increasingly there is the assumption that global
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