Ethnocentrism in International Marketing

International marketing activities are interlinked with a firm’s corporate goals, objectives and strategy. The overall aims, objectives and strategy of a firm has a great impact on international marketing decisions e.g, whether to enter new uncertain markets and how maximum would be risk that the firm is ready to take or the level of control required over international operations.

There is no denying in fact that a person’s self reference criterion (SRC) and an associated ethnocentrism are a two primary obstacles to success in international marketing. Self reference criteria is defined as an unconscious reference to one’s own cultural values, experiences and knowledge as a basis for decisions. Ethnocentrism is closely connected to self reference criterion. Ethnocentrism can be defined as the nations that one’s own culture or company knows best how to do things. Ethnocentrism has been seen particularly a problem in the American managers at the beginning of the 21st century just because of America’s dominance in the world economy during the late 1990’s.

Ethnocentrism exists in the firm’s where the managers from affluent countries work with managers and markets which are less affluent. Understanding and dealing with the self reference criteria are two of the most important facets in international marketing. Even though self reference criteria and ethnocentrism provides the ability to firm to understand better a foreign markets in its true light. It is essential for eastern and western marketers to have a knowledge of their cross cultures because if any one from these is not aware, they may evaluate a marketing mix on their respective market experiences (their self reference criterion) without knowing and fully appreciating the cultural differences attaining adaptation. Appropriateness of a domestically designed marketing for a international markets is also of vital importance because its evaluation can be badly effected by self reference criterion. For example, ESSO, that is the brand name of gasoline was a successful name in the united states and apparently it would be considered less harmful enough for other foreign countries but if we see in Japan, the name phonetically means “stalled car” which is strange and is considered as undesirable image of petrol.

For marketers to be successful in foreign markets, it is necessary for them to take time and they must know about culture, norms, tastes, traits and behavior of other markets (countries) and also to look beyond their own self reference criteria because this advantage will give them an golden opportunity to make their products or activities successful in cross-cultural or foreign markets. One of the best example of this is given below.

A British chocolate biscuits (Mc vitie’s) manufacturer (cookies in American English) used the same approach and got the positive result. The company wanted to introduced the chocolate biscuits (Mc vitie’s) in Japan .So, the company ignored its self reference criteria and introduced the biscuits in different attractive packaging to accommodate the Japanese market, inspite of its real packaging. Thus, in Japan Mc vitie’s were wrapped individually and packed in presentation card board boxes and they were sold in price three times higher than in UK. The cookies are used as special gifts in Japan.

Being a international company Unilever used the same approach in Brazil to introduced its soap which was cheaper enough for Brazilians to buy and more convenient to use. Unilever repackaged and reformulated its detergent for Brazilians, one of the main reason was the lack of washing machines among poorer Brazilian also they washed their clothes in rivers, and the powder was packaged in plastic bag instead of paper which get soggy immediately. Another reason is that the people of Brazil are price conscious and they buy in small quantities. For their convenience and their affordability the soap was packaged in small, low price packages.

McDonald being internationally famous modifies its traditional big mac in India, where it is named as the Maharaja Mac. The burger features the two mutton patties. The reason to modify its meals was a beef. Cow is considered sacred in India and Indians don’t eat beef.

Individual person’s reference criteria can prevent that marketer from being aware of cross cultural differences but also from recognizing the importance of those differences, hence the result is failure. There should be clear awareness among the marketers that not every activity within a marketing program is different from one country to another county and most probably are more similar than differences. The apparent similarities together with one’s self reference criteria often become the cause of international marketing problems. Such a problem can be seen when the “Vicks” was introduced in Germany. The pharmaceutical companies in Europe introduce their products throughout the whole Europe simultaneously instead of country by country. The reason is that the pharmaceutical companies are familiar with the fact that there are deep-rooted national differences in how people think about health, diseases and their cure. It is the normal practice in United Kingdom and Holland that people prefer tablets when taking medicine, in Germany the injections are preferred. Same is the case with the causes of illness, Germans are more conscious and Obsessive about the heart and circulations and that’s why the Germans are the Europe’s largest consumers of heart medicines. In UK, the doctors prefer to look for external agents and then they prescribes antibiotics while on other hand the people in central European countries first give preference to herbal treatments and hot and cold baths considering the antibiotics only as remedies of last resort.

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