Explain why it might make sense to vary the attributes of a product from country to country.
A product can be viewed as a bundle of attributes.8 For example, the attributes that make up a car include power, design, quality, performance, fuel consumption, and comfort; the attributes of a hamburger include taste, texture, and size; a hotel’s attributes include atmosphere, quality, comfort, and service. Products sell well when their attributes match consumer needs (and when their prices are appropriate). BMW cars sell well to people who have high needs for luxury, quality, and performance, precisely because BMW builds those attributes into its cars. If consumer needs were the same the world over, a firm could simply sell the same product worldwide. However, consumer needs vary from country to country, depending on culture and the level of economic development. A firm’s ability to sell the same product worldwide is further constrained by countries’ differing product standards. This section reviews each of these issues and discusses how they influence product attributes.
We discussed countries’ cultural differences in Chapter 4. Countries differ along a whole range of dimensions, including social structure, language, religion, and education. These differences have important implications for marketing strategy. For example, “hamburgers” do not sell well in Islamic countries, where the consumption of ham is forbidden by Islamic law (the name is changed). The most important aspect of cultural differences is probably the impact of tradition. Tradition is particularly important in foodstuffs and beverages. For example, reflecting differences in traditional eating habits, the Findus frozen food division of Nestlé, the Swiss food giant, markets fish cakes and fish fingers in Great Britain, but beef bourguignon and coq au vin in France and vitéllo con funghi and braviola in Italy. In addition to its normal range of products, Coca-Cola in Japan markets Georgia, a cold coffee in a can, and Aquarius, a tonic drink, both of which appeal to traditional Japanese tastes.
MANAGEMENT FOCUS Marketing to Black Brazil
Brazil is home to the largest black population outside of Nigeria. Nearly half of the 195 million people in Brazil are of African or mixed race origin. Despite this, until recently businesses have made little effort to target this numerically large segment. Part of the reason is rooted in economics. Black Brazilians have historically been poorer than Brazilians of European origin and thus have not received the same attention as whites. But after a decade of relatively strong economic performance in Brazil, an emerging black middle class is beginning to command the attention of consumer product companies. To take advantage of this, companies such as Unilever have introduced a range of skin care products and cosmetics aimed at black Brazilians, and Brazil’s largest toy company has introduced a black Barbie-like doll, Susi Olodum, sales of which quickly caught up with sales of a similar white doll.
But there is more to the issue than simple economics. Unlike the United States, where a protracted history of racial discrimination gave birth to the civil rights movement, fostered black awareness, and produced an identifiable subculture in U.S. society, the history of blacks in Brazil has been very different. Although Brazil did not abolish slavery until 1888, racism in Brazil has historically been much subtler than in the United States. Brazil has never excluded blacks from voting nor had a tradition of segregating the races. Historically, too, the government encouraged intermarriage between whites and blacks in order to “bleach” society. Partly due to this more benign history, Brazil has not had a black rights movement similar to that in the United States, and racial self-identification is much weaker. Surveys routinely find that African Brazilian consumers decline to categorize themselves as either black or white; instead, they choose one of dozens of skin tones and see themselves as being part of a culture that transcends race. Indeed, only 7.4 percent of Brazil’s population classify themselves as “Afro-Brazilian,” while 42.6 percent classify themselves as “Pardo” or brown Brazilians of mixed-race ancestry including white, African, and Amerindian descent.
This subtler racial dynamic has important implications for market segmentation and tailoring the marketing mix in Brazil. Unilever had to face this issue when launching a Vaseline Intensive Care lotion for black consumers in Brazil. The company learned in focus groups that for the product to resonate with nonwhite women, its promotions had to feature women of different skin tones, excluding neither whites nor blacks. The campaign Unilever devised features three women with different skin shades at a fitness center. The bottle says the lotion is for “tan and black skin,” a description that could include many white women considering that much of the population lives near the beach. Unilever learned that the segment exists, but it is more difficult to define and requires more subtle marketing messages than the African American segment in the United States or middle-class segments in Africa.
Source: M. Jordan, “Marketers Discover Black Brazil,” The Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2000, pp. A11, A14. Copyright 2000 by Dow Jones&Co. Inc. Reproduced with permission from Dow Jones&Co. Inc. in the format textbook by the Copyright Clearance Center.
For historical and idiosyncratic reasons, a range of other cultural differences exist among countries. For example, scent preferences differ from one country to another. SC Johnson, a manufacturer of waxes and polishes, encountered resistance to its lemon-scented Pledge furniture polish among older consumers in Japan. Careful market research revealed the polish smelled similar to a latrine disinfectant used widely in Japan. Sales rose sharply after the scent was adjusted.9 In another example, Cheetos, the bright orange and cheesy-tasting snack from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay unit, do not have a cheese taste in China. Chinese consumers generally do not like the taste of cheese because it has never been part of traditional cuisine and because many Chinese are lactose-intolerant.10
Tastes and preferences vary from country to country. To suit its global customers, Coca-Cola has a wide variety of products, such as Georgia, which is sold in Japan.
There is some evidence of the trends Levitt talked about. Tastes and preferences are becoming more cosmopolitan. Coffee is gaining ground against tea in Japan and Great Britain, while American-style frozen dinners have become popular in Europe (with some fine-tuning to local tastes). Taking advantage of these trends, Nestlé has found that it can market its instant coffee, spaghetti bolognese, and Lean Cuisine frozen dinners in essentially the same manner in both North America and western Europe. However, there is no market for Lean Cuisine dinners in most of the rest of the world, and there may not be for years or decades. Although some cultural convergence has occurred, particularly among the advanced industrial nations of North America and western Europe, Levitt’s global culture characterized by standardized tastes and preferences is still a long way off.