Constant questions or constant meanings? Assessing intercultural motivations in alcoholic drinks

Date of publication: June 15, 1991

Author: Jim Williams


This paper is in three parts. The first part examines the problem of establishing a common basis of comparison between consumer attitudes and behaviour in different cultures. It discusses the various forces which contribute to cultural differences in consumer behaviour, and shows that altitudinal and behavioural factors are an inadequate basis for comparison. It concludes by putting forward the case for consumer motivations as a better basis for Cross Cultural Consumer Characterisation, and by describing Young & Rubicam's 4C's system of consumer classification. Part 2 reviews the methodological implications of this approach, and reveals the intrinsic inadequacies of the the more familiar statistical approaches to international psychographic segmentation. It illustrates the many reasons why similar answers to similar questions in different cultures should not be treated as being equivalent, and which therefore render these statistical methods invalid. In their place it recommends a procedure which puts greater emphasis on achieving constant meaning of questions in all countries than on employing an identical questionnaire. Finally, using alcoholic drinks as an example, in Part 3 it demonstrates how, by following this approach, it is possible to create a robust framework for analysing cultural similarities and differences in a market, and thereby for co-ordinating the international marketing activities of a brand.

Jim Williams


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