Marketing mistakes in Eastern countries the kiss of death

Marketing mistakes made by major brands, because they take a one-fits-all approach when selling in Eastern nations and do not take into account cultural differences, are at considerable risk of failing completely, researchers from the London School of Economics and ESCP Europe Business School found in a new study.

A number of major brands are currently sold within a standard mix of global marketing approaches, and ignore cross-cultural differences between countries in consumer psychology.

According to Dr. Ben Voyer, a visiting fellow in the Psychology Department at the London School of Economics (LSE), the psychology of consumers in Eastern countries is very different to the West.

Companies that do not take these differences into account when marketing products regularly fail in their campaigns.

Messages that are considered to be important to people in Western cultures may have no impact at all with Eastern consumers, and could sometimes even put them off the product completely.

Global marketing mistakes are common

Dr. Voyer said:

Marketing mistakes
The color white signifies death in many Eastern cultures.

“Simple things such as how people perceive the color white can make a huge difference. For example, people in Western cultures associate a white dress with purity, whereas in Eastern cultures white signifies death, so using the color in advertising requires some sensitivity.”

Individuality is less of a focus for people in Eastern cultures, while conformity is greatly valued. In those cultures, your marketing strategy should not concentrate on making products or people ‘stand out from the crowd’, Dr. Voyeur explained.

Eastern consumers value similarity more than uniqueness

The East and West respond to quite different marketing strategies, he added. “When pitching products to the former, particularly luxury goods, the emphasis is very much on promoting products that show they are unique and different. Eastern consumers, on the other hand, value similarity and belonging to groups so they will be looking for products that reflect those values.”

Car advertising, for instance, should display a family enjoying being together in the vehicle. That is very different to the West, where the feeling of driving a special or unique car is the main draw card for customers.”

Major multinationals, such as McDonald’s failed to understand food culture in Bolivia and eventually withdrew from the country completely, and Starbucks had to change its cafes in Italy and France to survive in those countries.

The study – The effect of culture on perception and cognition: A conceptual framework – has been published in the Journal of Business Research and was authored by Dr. Voyer and Dr. Minas Kastanakis from ESCP Europe Business School’s London campus.

Marketing does not just refer to the promotion of products. It begins before the production process, by studying the market and finding out what consumers want.