An Assessment of International Cultural Content Difference (Iccd): an Exploratory Study

ABSTRACT - This paper proposes a method to determine the variation in the culture content of products between countries; the authors term this difference the International Cultural Content Difference (ICCD). The goal is to address the degree of adaptation in the marketing efforts of a firm that may be necessary to introduce successfully into a foreign market a product with some degree of cultural content. A conjoint measurement technique is used to compare the group utilities of two such products between subjects drawn from an Asian culture and a Western culture. Findings indicate that the ICCD measure provides some important insights into the degree of adaptation necessary for a culture-based product versus a technology-based product.



Citation:

Madhukar Angur and Rajan Nataraajan (1996) ,"An Assessment of International Cultural Content Difference (Iccd): an Exploratory Study", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, eds. Russel Belk and Ronald Groves, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 128-132.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1996      Pages 128-132

AN ASSESSMENT OF INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL CONTENT DIFFERENCE (ICCD): AN EXPLORATORY STUDY

Madhukar Angur, University of Michigan-Flint

Rajan Nataraajan, Auburn University

[This project was supported (in part) by a grant from the Research Initiative Fellowship Fund of the University of Michigan-Flint.]

ABSTRACT -

This paper proposes a method to determine the variation in the culture content of products between countries; the authors term this difference the International Cultural Content Difference (ICCD). The goal is to address the degree of adaptation in the marketing efforts of a firm that may be necessary to introduce successfully into a foreign market a product with some degree of cultural content. A conjoint measurement technique is used to compare the group utilities of two such products between subjects drawn from an Asian culture and a Western culture. Findings indicate that the ICCD measure provides some important insights into the degree of adaptation necessary for a culture-based product versus a technology-based product.

INTRODUCTION

The issue of standardization of a marketing strategy across national markets versus adaptation to individual national markets has been discussed frequently in the context of international marketing. However, rather than the either/or situation discussed in the past, in recent years the discussion has centered around the degree of standardization or adaptation that may be needed (e.g., Szymanski, Bharadwaj and Varadarajan 1993). In view of this, this reserch addresses the impact and measurement of product-based social and cultural factors on the degree of standardization desirable in international marketing.

Since culture influences every aspect of business, a marketing-oriented firm should make decisions based on customer perspectives. Customers’ actions are shaped by their lifestyles and behavior patterns, which in turn stem from their society’s culture. The discovery of consumers’ preferences for multiattribute products/services has become possible with the development of conjoint measurement techniques. Conjoint analysis comprises a set of methods used to predict consumer preferences using an individual’s preference ranking or rating of some deliberately manipulated constructs of a product/concept to determine his/her numerically valued preferences for levels of the attributes. Green and Srinivasan (1978 p. 104) have defined conjoint analysis as, "any decompositional method that estimates the structure of a consumer’s preferences (i.e., estimates preference parameters such as part-worths, importance weights, ideal points), given his or her overall evaluations of a set of alternatives that are prespecified in terms of levels of different attributes."

In this research, we propose a measure to determine the variation in cultural content of products between countries based on product-attribute specific aggregate utilities using conjoint analysis. We term this difference measure the International Cultural Content Difference (ICCD). It is apparent that the impact of culture is relatively less for technology-based products (e.g. personal computers, telecommunications equipment, etc.) than it is for culture-based products (e.g. food, apparel etc.). In other words, the marketing strategy for technology-based products can be standardized more readily than for culture-based products. However, many research efforts in this area have primarily focused on understanding cultures at the macro level (e.g., Angur, Bernsten, Nataraajan 1996; Graham 1985; Hall 1977; Rosenberg 1986). Using a technology-based product and a culture-based product, the purpose of this research is to introduce a specific method that can be used to measure variation in cultural content of products between countries. This exploratory research provides insights into the cultural content differences between products, measured at a micro level using the proposed ICCD.

The overall objective of this research is to determine the cultural impact on various product attributes using a conjoint measurement technique. Knowledge of consumer preferences is tremendously valuable whether a firm is designing and promoting new products and services or introducing current products and services in a new national market. A person’s perspectives, lifestyles, behavior patterns and preferences, to a considerable extent, are generated and conditioned by culture. Conjoint measurement techniques provide consumers’ utilities for multiattribute products based on their preference ranking or rating of various attributes of a product or service. This research assesses the aggregate utility function of a sample of respondents from two very different cultures (the U.S.A. and India) for two product categories-technology-based products and culture-based products. In the context of formulating effective multinational marketing strategies, these two product types appear to be at the extreme opposite points of standardization and adaptation. This exploratory assessment of the ICCD measured at the micro level for specific products can benefit companies planning to enter a foreign market by providing an initial assessment of the effort required to introduce products according to their placement on the technology-based product and culture-based product continuum. Further, such a measure can aid multinational companies involved in product modifications in the host country.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

Based on the foregoing discussion, the following researc questions are addressed:

RQ1:  Aggregate attribute level utility functions for the technology-based product will be similar across the two countries (U.S.A. and India), whereas these functions will be different for the culture-based product.

RQ2:  The international cultural content difference (ICCD) for a culture-based product is significantly higher than that for a technology-based product.

METHODOLOGY

This study was carried out in two stages. In the first stage, a convenience sample comprised of a total of 25 students enrolled in the MBA programs at two leading universities in the two countries (U.S.A., 11 students; India, 14 students) were interviewed in-depth in order to identify potential products that would fit into the technology-based category and the culture-based category. Based on these interviews, "personal computer" was chosen as a technology-based product and "coffee consumption" was chosen as a suitable culture-based product aspect for the study. Further, in-depth interviews were conducted on the same sample to unveil attributes and pertinent levels for each attribute for the two product aspects. The attributes and levels determined for the personal computer are shown in Table 1, and those for the coffee consumption product aspects are shown in Table 2.

TABLE 1

PERSONAL COMPUTER ATTRIBUTES AND LEVELS

TABLE 2

COFFEE CONSUMPTION ATTRIBUTES AND LEVELS

TABLE 3

GROUP UTILITIES FOR PERSONAL COMPUTERS

In the second stage, data were collected through personal interviews using a conjoint measurement technique. Students enrolled in the MBA programs at the two major institutions in the two countries were asked to rank order their preferences for a variety of attributes describing the two product aspects-personal computer and coffee consumption. A full profile approach in conjoint analysis using fractional factorial design (Green, Carroll and Carmone 1978) was used to prepare stimulus cards for the two product aspects. For the personal computer, there were 16 cards to be rank-ordered, whereas for coffee consumption 32 cards were required to be rank-ordered. All students in the main sample were enrolled in their final year of the MBA program at their respective university. In the United States, 43 students completed the questionnaire, whereas in India, 52 students completed the questionnaire. It is important to mention that these 95 students were different from the ones who were included in the convenience sample used in stage one.

ANALYSIS AND RESULTS

Conjoint analysis was used to derive aggregate group utility functions for the two samples under investigation. These samples were drawn from two cultures (Western and Asian) for each product aspect. For the personal computer product aspect, results indicate similar preferences (part-worth utilities) between the American and Indian samples. In addition, the importance weights for each attribute appear to be similar across the two cultures.

Based on highest group utilities, both groups appear to prefer a Hard Disk Capacity of 1 GIG or more, a Pentium processor, and a color monitor. The only difference was in Random Access Memory (RAM), where the U.S. group preferred over 8 MB but less than 16 MB, while the Indian group preferred 16 MB or more. Based on importance weights, the processor type was considered the most important attribute, followed by hard disk capacity, monitor type, and RAM size in both cultures.

For the coffee consumption product aspect, however, group utilities appear to be quite different for the samples from the two cultures. For example, based on the highest group utilities, the U.S. sample appears to prefer Ground Caffeinated Coffee (Type), Medium Strong (Strength), with 1 Teaspoon (Sugar Content), Powdered Milk (Cream Content), served Hot (Temperature), and consume 4-6 cups/day (Usage Rate) in the Mornings Only (Primary Usage Occasion).

The importance weights of attributes indicate that coffee strength appears to be the most important attribute of consumption, followed by whether it is taken with cream (Cream Content), the Sugar Content and the type of coffee. On the other hand, the sample in India appears to prefer Instant Decaffeinated Coffee (Type), of Mild Strength, 2 Teaspoons (Sugar Content), Whole Milk (Cream Content), served Hot (Temperature), and consume 7-9 cups/day (Usage Rate), in the Evenings Only (Primary Usage Occasion). Rather than the strength of the coffee, the sample from India appears to consider the type of coffee the most important attribute, followed by the Primary Usage Occasion.

The ICCD was computed for the two product aspects using an additive assumption. The ICCD for the technology-based product (personal computer) was found to be 1.846, computed as the difference between the sum of maximum attribute-level group utilities for the United States sample (e.g., 1.824 + 0.378 + 2.812 + 0.811 = 5.825) and the corresponding group utilities for the Indian sample (1.373 + 0.231 + 2.024 + 0.351 = 3.979). Similarly, the ICCD for the culture-based product was found to be 3.5993 (computed as the difference between 2.6005 for the USA and -0.9988 for India). It is important to recognize that the group utilities for the U.S. sample was held as the base for computing ICCDs. Further, the ICCD for the culture-based product was found to be significantly higher (p<.05) than the ICCD for the technology-based product.

TABLE 4

GROUP UTILITIES FOR COFFEE CONSUMPTION

DISCUSSION

Results indicate that the ICCD measure proposed in this research can be used to determine variation in cultural content of products between countries at a micro level of analysis. International companies need to know the amount of marketing effort they must make, which in turn seems to be based on the nature of their product. Companies can use this method to assess various markets based on the cultural content of their product, forecast the investment in marketing efforts necessary to launch the product and sustain satisfactory sales, and choose their international market entry strategy accordingly. The method proposed in this research also provides insights into the levels of standardization possible for some products and the adaptation that may be necessary for others.

This is an exploratory research. The major limitations of this approach are the sample size and the limited product types that were investigated. In addition, it is important to recognize that intra-country cultures are themselves quite varied. Therefore, application of the results of this research would be limited in terms of its generality. Also, similar studies involving a number of product classes are necessary to further investigate the research questions.

In this research, the culture-based product (coffee) had product and usage attributes whereas the technology-based product (personal computer) had only product attributes. This is because usage attributes are generally more important in understanding culture-based products than in understanding technology-based products. However, future studies should deal with both product and usage attributes for many different product classes using larger samples from the general population (rather than students). Further, based on this research, similar studies can be conducted across many cultures/countries to achieve the long-term objective of developing a conceptual framework for cross-cultural comparison.

REFERENCES

Angur, M.G., Jan Bernsten, and Rajan Nataraajan, "Positioning Culture in the Modern Era: A Business Perspective," American Business Review, 1996, 14(1), 18-24.

Graham, John L., "The Influence of Culture on Business Negotiations," Journal of International Business Studies, Spring 1985, pp. 81-96.

Green, Paul E., J. D. Carroll and F. J. Carmone (1978), "Some New Types of Fractional Factorial Designs for Marketing Experiments," In J. N.Sheth (Ed.), Research in Marketing, Vol. 1, Greenwich, Ct: JAI Press.

Green, Paul E., and V. Srinivasan, "Conjoint Analysis in Marketing: New Developments. With Implications for Research and Practice," Journal of Marketing, 1990, October 3-19.

Green, Paul E., and V. Srinivasan, "Conjoint Analysis in Consumer Research: Issues and Outlook," Journal of Consumer Research, 1978, 5(2), 103-23.

Hall, Edward T., Beyond Culture, Garden City, N.Y., Anchor Books, 1977.

Rosenberg, Larry J., and Gregory J. Thompson, "Deciphering the Japanese Cultural Code," International Marketing Review, Autumn 1986, pp. 55-56.

Szymanski, David M., Sundar G. Bharadwaj, and P. Rajan Varadarajan, "Standardization versus Adaptation of International Marketing Strategy: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Marketing, October 1993, pp. 1-17.

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Authors

Madhukar Angur, University of Michigan-Flint
Rajan Nataraajan, Auburn University



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2 | 1996



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