The purpose of the study is to understand the three key global marketing techniques: standardization, adaptation and combination. Through the interviews, this research aims to understand how strategies like adaptation and standardization work and how they are employed. It attempts to look at both the advantages and disadvantages of each of these methods.
This study analyzes six interviews and one depth interview. There is a fixed questionnaire of eight questions that asks the respondents opinion about standardized, adapted and compromised marketing strategies. It then looks at three specific companies; Mc Donald’s, Kellogg’s and HSBC Bank each being representative of the three techniques- standardized, adapted and compromised marketing campaigns. These firms are then put through McCarthy’s marketing mix to assess if this is true.
Three examples of McDonald’s advertising have been identified on www.youtube.com. The three advertisements are Japanese, American and Italian.
The three advertisements are as follows:
The three examples of Kellogg’s advertising were also identified on www.youtube.com The three advertisements were from France, Germany and South America. They can be retrieved on
Similarly, three HSBC examples were used to study compromising strategy of global marketing. These advertisements can be retrieved at :
Determining the Research Methodology
The first step in planning the research design involved clearly determining what would be ‘methodologically appropriate’ (Patton, 1990) Choosing the methodology involved an assessment of the topic, goal and objectives of the research. Primary research and secondary research was conducted. The secondary research involved going through trade journals, publications, marketing reports and annual reports of companies. The observations of these have been incorporated into this research. Primary research decisions are discussed in greater detail below.
The first decision was to focus on qualitative research. This was based on the single motivating goal to understand each of the three global marketing strategies comprehensively and to clearly identify their strengths and weaknesses through discussion and dialogue with the respondents. Qualitative research is best suited when ‘the objective is a fine-textured understanding of beliefs, attitudes, values and motivations in relation to the behavior of people in particular social contexts’ (Gaskell 2000: 39). Its unstructured approach encourages ‘illumination, understanding and extrapolation’ (Hoepfl, 1997:2) of subjective situations that cannot be understood in ‘black and white’ terms (Robson and Foster, 1989). Quantitative research on the other hand is more suitable for research questions that require ‘hard, fixed, objective and value-free’ answers (Halfpenny, 1979).
The best way of understanding each of the three strategies is to talk directly to the consumers and understand what they feel about each of the strategies. Semi-structured depth interviews became imperative because the format allows executives to talk about the research topic ‘in their own terms, their own vocabulary, and frame of reference’ (Deacon et al., 1999: 390). A further advantage is that ‘interviewers are free to follow up ideas, probe responses and ask for clarification or further elaboration’ (Arksey and Knight 1999: 3) during the interview. Although the interviewer ‘retains control of the conversation by using an interview guide’ (Deacon et al., 1999: 65), semi-structured interviews are more flexible and open-ended (Kvale, 1996:124) and facilitate a ‘one-on-one rapport’ (Berger, 1998:55) with the respondent. This allows interviewees to answer questions in a more relaxed and conversational manner (Flick, 1998: 82).
One In Depth Expert Interview
The one in- depth interview that was undertaken as a part of this research allows for “a fuller representation of particular issues and concerns from social ‘insiders’, and thus potentially a richer understanding of the values and viewpoints integral to the integument of ‘insider’ experience” (Deacon et al., 1999: 65). This interview with an expert was very crucial to this research because it helps us gain a more holistic understanding of the marketing decisions as they are made. We get an insiders point of view and this is crucial for effective analysis.
The sampling frame for my research was purely a function of accessibility. The six personal interviewees were selected at random on the basis of availability. The in depth expert interview however was chosen very specifically: there was a clear need to identify someone with sufficient marketing experience and that is why the particular interview was chosen.
In an ideal situation, more than six interviews would have been preferable. Likewise, conducting focus groups would have added to the research but unfortunately practical constraints prevented the focus groups being executed. As Warren observes, no matter what our intentions maybe, in reality we end up recruiting through “snowball or convenience design or particular respondents may be sought out to act as key informants (Warren, 2000:87).”
“The Interview guide is crucial to the role of ‘expert interviews’ not to be seen as an incompetent ‘interlocutor'” (Flick, 1998: 92). The questionnaire consisted of eight questions that ranged from general to specific. The questions were designed in such a way such that each of the questions led into the other and a naturally flowing discussion could be conducted that would flow in a logical sequence. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, no pilot interview with an executive was conducted before hand. “The interview guide lists topics to be covered while leaving the exact wording and order of the questions to the interviewer” (Deacon et al 1999: 66).
Conducting the Interview
For conducting the 6 interviews, I met up with each of the six respondents individually. The two depth interviews were conducted in the same manner. Each interview lasted for about 45-60 minutes. The executives expressed their discomfort at being tape recorded and therefore I politely switched the tape recorder off and took notes throughout the interview. Although an interview guide had been created for the purpose, the questions were not covered in chronological order; instead they were woven into the conversation so that the interview did not turn into an ‘information gathering operation’ or an interrogation (Holstein and Gubrium, 2003: 4).
The semi structured interview allowed for a ‘sequence of themes to be covered’, (Kvale, 1996: 124) in a friendly environment conducive to open discussion and debate. The interviewers often returned to previous questions asked to add their after-thoughts and additional comments they felt they had missed.
These interviews were subsequently transcribed for further analysis. A couple of weeks after the interview, I followed up by thanking all the interviewees for their cooperation.
Limitations of Interviewing
There are several limitations that must be noted here at the very onset. Firstly, the very sample of advertisements for this research cannot be very neatly compartmentalized as adapted or standardized. For example, although all three McDonald’s advertisements follow the universal slogan of ‘I’m loving It so In that sense they can be accepted as Standardized campaign. Yet if we dig closer, then we see that each of the McDonald ads were in some way or the other tailor made for the specific country that they were aired in. A truly global campaign would have the same ad, with the same models and the same context being broadcast across the world. So in that sense.. we need to understand that our subject of analysis are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Secondly, due to time, geographic and of course monetary constraints, all the respondents to these advertisements are either American or European. So in that sense our respondents are constricted to the researchers natural surroundings and therefore the results will not reveal as much about the different cultural nuances of these ads. For example it would have been very exciting to understand how a Japenese or an Israeli respondent reads these particular advertisements and what are the cultural nuances that they believe McDonalds or Kellogs has incorporated.
Lastly of course is the possibility of researcher bias. It is common knowledge that the researcher very often unwittingly wills the results of his research in a particular direction that he/ she is biased towards. This holds true for this research also, though the researcher has made every attempt to keep this study as neutral and objective as possible.
The section below analyzes the interviews of the six respondents an their responses to the three different types of campaigns that they were exposed to: Standardized ( McDonalds), Adapted ( Kellogg’s) and Compromised ( HSBC). We will take each section individually, starting with the McDonald’s advertisements.
The three McDonald advertisements were of three different companies:
The respondents that we interviewed were 4 British, 1 Italian and 1 American. These respondents reacted to the advertisements as follows:
The respondents by and large felt that the Japanese advertisement tried to build a relationship between McDonald’s food and western beauty. Respondent 4 described the advertisement as ‘slick and sexy’. There was a mixed response to the central idea of not eating a McDonald advertisement being described as ‘hell’. Some really liked the association that the advertisement built, while others felt that the ‘hell’ like idea was not realistic and did not make sense.
All the respondents really liked the idea of this campaign and believed that the association of happy memories and McDonald’s food was a really good idea. Respondent 2 described the advertisement as being fresh and edgy. Though others were a little skeptical about the focus on the waitress, they felt that the advertisement had a sexual undertone and was more geared towards a male audience than a female one. The focus on the waitress also gave the idea of a cool and sexy image, which is quite different from McDonald’s usual campaigns which are more family centric.
Almost all the respondents loved the humor of the advertisement. They all found the idea of the McDonalds M spinning in the Ferrari’s wheel extremely witty and clever. They found this idea to be extremely engaging and all the respondents enjoyed this commercial the most.
‘Im loving It’
Each of the advertisements discussed above ended with the current McDonald tagline: ‘I loving it.’ A couple of the respondents did not like this slogan and felt that it was extremely American and catered to an extremely American way of thinking and American lifestyle. However the key question that remains here is does incorporating this slogan make this campaign a totally global standardized campaign?
The second set of advertisements were selling Kellogg’s cereal. These advertisements were specifically adapted to the countries in which they were aired. The first advertisement was French, the second German and the third was South American.
We shall take a closer look at the respondent’s response to each one of these one by one.
Most of the respondents could not identify and understand the commercial, because the commercial tried to sell the idea that Kellogg’s cereal was not just a food to be eaten at breakfast, but could be eaten at any time. This response is perhaps understood in the fact that these respondents are not the actual desired target audience of the advertisement. None of the respondents were French and therefore it is most likely that they missed the cultural significance of the positioning of the Serial. The French culture may for example not believe in breakfast and therefore Kellogg’s is trying to position itself as a ‘ healthy food’ that can be eaten anytime.
The respondents all enjoyed this commercial and fully endorsed the way the advertisement focused on the way that the cereal tasted. Nearly all the respondents believed that the advertisement was aimed at a young, junior audience and this is why the advertisement was fast paced and had bright, vibrant colors. Perhaps because this advertisement spoke to children, the cultural context was more universal and therefore it appealed to all the respondents. Each one of them could see that advertisement working with children.
- Lisa Snowden was an instant hint with the respondents, as most believed that she could sell anything she put her mind to. The advertisement was for Special Kelloggs which is traditionally targeted at women. Respondents enjoyed this advertisement, most saying that this advertisement was the best of the three.
III COMPROMISED CAMPAIGNS
The third sets of advertisements were for HSBC and these ads were shown as instances of compromising global campaign. Traditionally HSBC’s slogan ‘ The worlds local bank’ makes it an ideal example for how companies are focusing on the consumer’s cultural background. Below we analyze the respondents reactions to these commercials:
Overall, respondents felt that all the three advertisements were trying to humorously convey the fact that HSBC knew the smallest details about its customers. The idea is that they know and understand the smallest cultural details about their customer and it is their sensitivity to the customer that they want to highlight by playing up these small cultural traditions that are relatively less known to outside worlds. All the respondents understood the reasoning behind these commercials very clearly, which means that in some way these advertisements have been successful in their purpose. Building associations between trusting someone who knows and understands you well to invest your money is the key positioning of this company and all the respondents were very well tuned to this idea. All the respondents appreciated the humour of these commercials and in fact many felt that it was the humor that made these advertisements memorable.
Part II: Questionnaire
The second part of the interview asked 7-8 questions to the interviewees that they answered briefly. I shall list the questions and their responses alongside each other to facilitate the analysis.
- What do you think about the following advertising strategies?
- What do you think about big American brands?
The respondents felt a little threatened from the big American brands in the sense that they felt that these brands had been aggressively marketed across the world in such a way that they were everywhere. These brands threatened local brands and projected themselves as the only good brands available.
- If you think about American Brand Advertising, which brand comes first to your Mind?
The response to these questions were perhaps in some way colored by the fact that respondents had already viewed the commercials that have been shown in the first half of the research. Therefore a majority of respondents said McDonalds, Coca Cola.
- If you think about European brand advertising, which advert comes to your mind?
Here answers ranged from HSBC, to Reneaut ( car), Duccati, Gucci and so on.
- Do you think children’s adverts are effective?
Most respondents did not know how to respond to this question and gave vague answers, saying perhaps they do.
- If you think about children’s advert, which type of advertisings strategy do you believe is more effective to gain/retain their interest?
There was a clear mix in these respondents, while some said adapted, a few said adapted. Nobody said compromised.
- Regarding the youth market- do you think advertising influences the youth of today?
Most of the respondents ( 4 out o six) said that they felt that advertising did in fact have a strong influence on the youth of today.
- Do you think McDonalds, HSBC and Kellogg’s are successful brands?
This was a unanimous and a predictable answer: all the respondents felt that all three brands, McDonalds, HSBC and Kellogg’s were hugely successful brands as they were all familiar with the products, the brands and what they stood for.
Analysis 2: In- Depth Interview
The In depth interview with Jeremy, the director of a marketing agency was very insightful because it managed to provide the viewpoint of someone who is in the business of marketing products to consumers. His views on the three strategies of standardization,, adaptation and compromise are very interesting and they allow us to see behind the layman’s point of view.
When asked which marketing strategy he found most effective, Jeremy believed that each one of the three strategies had its advantages and disadvantaged and were useful in the correct circumstances. He believes that all advertising and marketing is aspirational in its approach and it is about communicating this message effectively, irrespective of the approach.
Jeremy did not have too much exposure to American advertising and therefore was not able to comment on them too much. However, he felt that advertising in America was a lot harder hitting than European advertising because there was a lot more competition and a lot more effort was required to stay on top of the field.
He was a lot more positive about the influence of advertising on children and the youth : he felt that the youth was still vulnerable although they were rapidly gaining sophistication at an alarming rate. For children, Jeremy felt that standardized advertising was the correct approach because children were not yet defined in any particular context and responded to universal emotions.
Jeremy stressed on the importance of research and felt that it is very important to understand what the client requires, what the desired target audience is and what is the need gap that can be used to sell to them. Advertising campaigns effectiveness are largely monitored through sales which is the ultimate test on the effectiveness of an advertisement. He was not very happy with the way his clients handled the campaigns because he felt that they did not follow the campaign performance effectively to make a proper judgment on the effectiveness of the campaign. Jeremy believes that 80 percent of the new products fail because of lack of marketing research, understanding the market.
Summary: This interview was a very insightful experience, as it helped understand the process of marketing much better and how advertising decisions are being made in the business environment.