Research Trends in Cross-Cultural Marketing
This year Ogilvy & Mather is launching a unit within its agency that focuses on cross-cultural marketing as opposed to multicultural marketing. This is an important shift in how to think about multiple markets and segmentation, and consistent with what we at Versta have been seeing in our research for quite some time.
For decades, marketing has focused on demographic segmentation. Research in particular has focused on understanding the unique needs and specific messages that appeal to women, for example, or to Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or gay or lesbian consumers. For many companies, this has fragmented their marketing and messaging even when trying to offer the same goods and services that offer the same consumer benefits.
From the perspective of marketing research, one problem has been that analysts tend to rely on “statistically significant” differences to guide them when presenting findings rather than thinking more broadly about substantively important differences. In our view, statistically significant differences should only be highlighted if they matter within the larger context of the questions being asked and how the data might be used.
Suppose that your consumer study shows that women are significantly more likely than men to focus on customer service as a reason to purchase, whereas men are significantly more likely to focus on the warranty. Does this gender difference matter? It depends, and no test of statistical significance can answer that question. If you find that 93% of women are focused on service versus just 87% of men, it may be statistically significant, but who cares? You better focus on service no matter what gender your customers are. Likewise, if you find that 8% of men care a lot about warranties versus 3% of women, does that mean you should begin targeting men with messages about warranties? Probably not.
While it is critical to segment your customers and understand important differences among them, market research that focuses narrowly on reporting statistically significant differences is doing a disservice. It may be leading you towards marketing fragmentation rather than truly effective segmentation.
Wondering whether differences among subgroups in your data really matter, or whether an approach focused on commonalities is more appropriate? Versta Research can help. We do not supply reports that look like banner tabs, but rather reports that focus broadly and deeply on what the data mean and how it answers your key business questions.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.