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When traveling to another country, it is crucial to take notice on legal, political, cultural, and moral differences. Marketers must also take notice in these differences. Before launching a campaign or launching a new product, it is crucial to understand the culture’s consumer behavior. For example, in some places coupons are frowned upon because of the fear of being viewed as a lower social status (Clow & Baack, 2016). Markers are faced with the challenge of adapting to a new culture when considering promotions, advertisement, and sales.
Companies must often modify their marketing strategy when entering an international market. If a company fails to adapt culturally to a target market’s preferred methods, it is likely the project will fail. It is argued that understanding the behavior of the target market is the most important factor when reaching a new cultural market. Per research on cultural differences and marketing, Calabrese, Capece, Costa, and Di Pillo (2015) stated, “It is clear that it is absolutely necessary to have a comprehensive knowledge of the underpinnings and nature of consumer behaviour of the target group” (p. 176). If a company fails to understand major cultural differences, global marketing efforts may fail. For instance, Best Buy failed miserably when attempting to expand in China due to not researching consumer behavior. In contrast, Ostelin succeeded when launching a multicultural campaign by adapting to Muslim woman’s culture.
Best Buy and Ostelin both globally expanded and could have improved promotional efforts by further researching the target market’s culture.
Best Buy is an electronics retail store that sells a variety of products including TVs, cell phones, cameras, radios, and much more. The company is U.S. based and reports that 70% of the American population lives within a fifteen-minute radius of a Best Buy location (Best Buy, 2017). Best Buy is a household name in the United States however, the company has made attempts to expand globally. For example, Best Buy attempted to tackle the Asian region opening stores in China. Unfortunately, their plan plummeted and resulted in first closing nine locations and eventually leading to exiting the China market (Burkitt, 2014). Ultimately, Best Buy’s failure to adapt to the culture and norms of the Chinese market resulted in failure.
Strategy and Mistakes. When Best Buy entered China, there was not much thought about changing up their marketing strategy to fit a different culture. This lead to failure because China does not have the same marketing norms as the United States. For instance, unlike the United States, there is not a large interest in big box stores. Shaun Rein (2011) the Managing Direct of China Market Research Group stated, “While scales of economy have allowed big chain stores in America to offer cheaper prices than niche players, local retailers in China are able to undercut prices because they pay less in salaries, benefits, rent and electricity” (para. 7). Unlike the Unites States, Chinese consumers can purchase products at a valuable price from local stores. Best Buy also failed to take notice on the influence the internet has on marketing efforts. China has the largest online community in the world and is heavily used for marketing efforts. (Sharma, Baoku, Lijuan, 2012). Best Buy failed to adapt to virtual and digital marketing which may be a factor for their failure.
Changes to meet cultural differences. When launching in China, Best Buy should have used promotional efforts in the media to boost brand awareness and generate sales. Media sampling could have been used to improve marketing efforts. For instance, if Best Buy used the popular Chinese social network Second Life, then they may have reached more consumers.
Second Life connects consumers and businesses in a virtual reality world. Consumers can virtually test products and communicate with the company about them. Sharma, Baoku, and Lijuan (2012) stated, “The residents have freedom to socialize, create, explore, and meet other residents and build products and services and create an online marketing environment” (p. 38). In terms of marketing, Second Life is a great tool to use to reach the China market. Best Buy could have utilized this platform to provide a sample virtually. In addition to using the internet as a promotional tool, Best Buy could have considered opening smaller sized stores to fit the needs of consumers. As noted earlier, the average Chinese consumer prefers shopping at smaller sized locations. If Best Buy opened smaller sized locations, it is more likely that they would have more foot traffic because that is what China is used to.
Australian vitamin D Brand Ostelin also decided to globally expand to reach a new market. Ostelin decided they wanted to reach Muslim women and modified their campaign to fit cultural norms. The goals of the campaign were to increase awareness of vitamin D deficiency among Muslim woman and generate sales of the product. The campaign was ultimately successful because it reached a large audience and generated sales (B&T Weekly, 2007). Unlike Best Buy, Ostelin successfully adapted to the norms and cultural differences in their target market.
Strategy and Mistakes. Ostelin’s strategy was to adapt to the marketing efforts that Muslim woman are comfortable with, and channel its products in a culturally accepted manner. Using a 10-day communication strategy, community leaders, translated flyers, question and answer sessions, and hosted workshops Ostelin could successfully market their product (B&T Weekly, 2007). Ostelin was very strategic to gradually reach their market using a combination of marketing efforts. For instance, the company incorporated promotions in a language for theirtarget market to understand and utilized event marketing by having community leaders partner up with the company.
Changes for improvement. Ostelin could have improved by offering their product in translation. For instance, if the label on the vitamins was translated into Arabic in addition to the promotional flyers, the campaign would have been more consistent. The marketing team succeeded to reach the Muslim women market however, it could have been taken to the next level by offering the same product with alternative labeling. The team also could have considered attending an international trade show to boost the brands image. International trade shows have a trend of increasing visitors and can help boost brand awareness (Clow & Baack, 2016). Since part of the goal was to boost awaress of vitamin D deficincy, attending a trade show could have assited with boosting the brands image. This would also be an opportunity for international businesses to learn about the product, cause, and consider partnership.
Marketers must research and become familiar with a country or regions cultural, social, economic, and legal norms before entering a new market. Understanding cultural differences will enable the marketing team to adapt the campaign to fit the needs of society. Best Buy failed to understand major cultural differences between the US and China and led to failure. In contrast, Ostelin was more successful when reaching a new market however, could have improved by being more consistent and utilizing trade shows. Cultural differences must be considered by marketers before launching a product, service, or cause to effectively reach the campaign’s goals.
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