Special Session Summary Cross Culture Understanding of Consumer Research Methodology: Development and Adaptation in D &Amp; E Market


Shannon Lu and Zi Yang (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Cross Culture Understanding of Consumer Research Methodology: Development and Adaptation in D &Amp; E Market", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Paula M. Tidwell and Thomas E. Muller, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 205-206.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 2001      Pages 205-206



Shannon Lu, Unilever Research US, U.S.A.

Zi Yang, Unilever Research US, U.S.A.


Frequently previous work on product research focused mainly on the North American and European countries. However, current marketing research revealed that demanding in D & E market increases rapidly. Accordingly, research attention has been switched to the other areas, to understand consumers in these developing countries.

Different from research conducted in universities, consumer goods companies deal with real product testing and consumer research in the regions where the product will be marketed. Consequently, different approaches are frequently required in order to complete the tasks.

The aim of this session is to show a basic picture of consumer test in industrial, to share our consumer research experience based on cultural understanding.

Based on the objectives, consumer research experiences in dealing with cultural difference are shared. One aspect discussed in the session is about quantitative research design. Language, rating scales and the way the research data should be interpreted were stressed in considering quantitative research design for different culture. On the other hand, a unique experience doing research inChina is discussed in terms of economic situation in China, research agencies in China, etc.



Zi Yang, Unilever Research US, U.S.A.

Cultural psychology differentiate countries of the world. Individulism-collectivism, one of the first dimensions identified (Mead, 1961), has repeatedly been a valid explanation of cultural difference (Hofstede, 1980, 1984). This dimension refers to the degree to which a culture fosters the needs, values, and desires of an autonomous self over those of the group. In individualism culture, words usually used are: certainly, absolutely or positively. On the other hand, however, words such as maybe, perhaps or probably are often used in collectivism culture. It is certain that Individual-Collectivism cultural dimension influences the response to questions in research.

In doing the consumer research, an appropriate research design according to cultural difference is needed.

Cultural dimensions indicate that consumer research in different culture or in different country has to be verified accordingly. Most of consumer goods product corporations are expanding their business to Developing and Emerging (D & E) markets. It is necessary to conduct consumer research in those not well know markets. However, research design or quantitative questionnaire used in one country may not be appropriate in another country. Culture influences research results. Responding to a certain question is based on understanding to the question as well as cultural background. Consequently a real understanding to a specific culture is a pre-condition in designing a good research. Language, rating scale and data interpretation are key issues need to be considered.

Questionnaire design is strongly influenced by language. There are so many languages around the world. Different terms or descriptor are often used even in one language, for example, English in US, UK or Australia. Additionally, direct translation sometimes is not appropriate, as it is not easy to find a same descriptor. As a result we have to pay attention to questionnaires in same language as well as questionnaires in different language.

Scale is also a major issue need to consider cultural difference. A study (Yeh, 1998) revealed that American respondents used more extreme scale categories and tended to avoid the central categories whereas respondents from Taiwan, Korea and Thailand used the central categories more often. Chinese respondents also shown of avoidance of dislike ratings. Keep this research evidence in mind we should be more careful in analysing and interpreting the data from different countries.

Data collected in quantitative research has to be interpreted according to cultural understanding; otherwise, inaccurate conclusion may be made. A detailed data demonstration indicates that data should be analysed with cultural filters. A set of demonstration indicates that data need to be interpreted based on full understanding of cultural influences. Otherwise a serious marketing mistake may be made.

In summary, understanding cultural difference is very important in designing, conducting and interpreting quantitative consumer research.


Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Hofstede, G., Bond, M (1984). Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 15, 417-433.

Mead, M. (1961). Cooperation and competition among primitive people. Boston: Beacon Press.

Yeh, L. et al (1998). Comparison in use of the 9-point hedonic scale between Americans, Chinese, Koreans, and Thais. Food Quality and Preference, Vol. 9, No. 6, P413-419.



Shannon Lu, Unilever Resarch US, U.S.A.

There are lots of directions to go in market research and product evaluation in D&E market especially with established methodologies. The critical point is that we need to understand the culture to know how to apply the methodologies in the right way and to make the right recommendations to guide the business.

As an emerging market, China has been explored to numerous personal products including personal care products, foods, electronic items, etc. Most of the research work is focused on China marketing understanding in a broad sense. Fewer consumer research has been targeted on the response of Chinese consumers towards product attributes and how to understanding the results from the study. Most of the time, the product evaluation questionnaire and methodology was a direct translation from western study design. In short term, this is frequently the easiest the process to go through to get started, however, study design targeted for this marketing has to be tuned for the culture in order to better understand the answers.

An overview of existing market research services in China is given, including service category, study methodologies, types of studies, facilities, and people qualification from the point of view of international corporation. Some important points are recommended when choosing a market research agency in China Market.

The areas of language generation, linking and interpretation on data to understand how Chinese consumer express about product attributes in their own language and convert the message to use in product development are discussed, including what really attracts them, how they evaluate them, etc. Quantitative questionnaire design is another area that we do not understand well, such as scaling, wording, sequence, etc. Another big difference in Chinese consumer test is the field work in quantitative research due to the culture difference.



Shannon Lu, Unilever Research US, U.S.A.
Zi Yang, Unilever Research US, U.S.A.


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 2001

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