Lyndsay Peck, director of Engage Research, looks at how insights gained from research in different markets should feed into the NPD and marketing plans of FMCG manufacturers looking to launch products on a multinational basis.
The European Union may be a single market of 27 member states with over 500 million citizens, but for marketers in many sectors, not least the FMCG sector, that’s probably where the notion of a single market begins and ends.
Marketing across national borders, whether within Europe or on a more global basis, requires research into the cultural, social, linguistic and habitual differences that, in some cases, can differ widely even between nations in close geographical proximity.
So, where brands are increasingly multinational (and therefore their products have to be similarly marketed on a multinational basis), a careful balance must be struck in both marketing and delivery to ensure that the customer experience reflects the consistency and values of the brand from country to country. This means achieving consistency while still taking into account local preferences, nuances and cultural differences.
Research to identify such differences, particularly as it relates to retailing, purchasing and shopping habits and the consumption of products, will deliver the insights needed to successfully launch or promote products or brands across multiple markets.
The process needs to begin, though, long before the first burger is consumed or the first beer is purchased. The process starts with the research needed to deliver the customer insights necessary to underpin the successful introduction of a product or a brand to market. And for a brand already operating on a pan-European or multinational basis, this is equally important.
An increasing amount of research is now conducted online. Recent estimates have suggested that more than 40% of all survey research carried out last year was conducted online, with the bulk of this being quantitative consumer research, although the use of qualitative research techniques, including online focus groups and panels, is also growing.
With the demand for a fast turnaround in results and economic pressures likely to remain for the foreseeable future, online surveys will remain an important, versatile and affordable way for brands to find out what their potential consumers think.
However, if you’re conducting research online, it’s important to balance the online penetration in one country compared with others in your study. For example, internet penetration by percentage of population differs widely from region to region, ranging from only 15.6% in Africa to 78.6% in North America (source: Internet World Stats).
The difference between countries in Europe, for example, can be similarly wide. Online penetration in Ukraine, Turkey and Greece in June 2012 was comparatively low at 34.1%, 45.7% and 53% respectively compared with the UK, Netherlands and Norway, for example, at 83.6%, 92.9% and 96.9% respectively.
In the countries with lower levels of online penetration, alternative methods or make-up of the sample may need careful consideration.
Then there are more potentially obvious differences to consider. Taste buds and choices simply differ across countries, and what may be well received in one country may not be in another.
The Irish, for example, consume on average 155 litres of beer each per year compared with only 29 litres by the Italians and only 41 litres by the French. However, while the Irish only consume an average of 0.7kg of coffee per person per year, the Norwegians and the Finns consume in excess of 10kg, and while the Americans are the largest consumers at McDonald’s restaurants at 0.433 per 10,000 population, the Belgians come much further down the list at only 0.062 per 10,000 population.
All of this will influence both responses to a potential new product, but also how that product should be marketed in each territory.
There are other behavioural issues to consider. Meal times, for example, can differ from country to country. In Spain, it’s not uncommon to take a light breakfast followed by a mid-morning breakfast, tapas at 1pm with a three-course lunch following at 3pm, tea and pastries 5pm, evening tapas at 8pm or later, and even a three-course dinner at 10pm. Placing your product into that schedule may be very different to how you would place it in Britain, France or Russia.
Having covered all of those bases, the manner of consumer interaction should also be considered. Once again this can differ from country to country and may impact, for example, to whom marketing and promotional activity is targeted.
There are gender differences from country to country on who in the family is responsible for the household’s primary shopping, and there will also be differences over where products are available.
Retailing itself has become more international. In 2006, hypermarkets represented just over a third of the mass grocery retail market in the ’15 key markets’ of central and Eastern Europe, generating around US$39.54bn in sales.
By the end of 2011, it was estimated that hypermarkets would have generated sales of $89.2bn, equating to growth of 125% (source: BMI). Yet, many products will still find themselves on the shelves of independent local stores, where again the pitch and the tone of the marketing may need to be adjusted.
The growth of online is also a consideration. Research by the Centre for Retail Research in the UK, for example, has found that UK shoppers spend more online than anywhere else in Europe. On average, the British spent £1,100 each online last year and are becoming more confident about spending bigger sums on the web.
It’s also essential to test to destruction any potential cultural or language differences that may impact on naming and brand presentation.
During its 1994 launch campaign, for example, Orange was forced to amend its advertising programme in Northern Ireland, where its now iconic ‘The future’s bright … the future’s Orange’ strapline was interpreted as potentially lending support to the province’s Protestant community and risking alienating the Catholic community.
We are all used to grabbing a latte from a coffee shop on our way into work. Latte means milk in Italy. In English, of course, latte is the common name for a leading coffee drink. In Germany, latte is a well known term for an erection. This is when your ‘morning latte’ takes on unexpected connotations.
The former Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Lacocca once said, “Talk to people in their own language. If you do it well, they’ll say, ‘God, he said exactly what I was thinking’.”
That’s the challenge for marketers and brand managers planning campaigns on a cross-border basis.
There is no one-size-fits-all, but the differences themselves, provided they are factored in at an early stage, need not be a barrier to success.
Lyndsay Peck is director of Engage Research.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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