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Ousts Ethnic Barbies: International Market Research Guidelines
(Marketing Memo, June, 2003)
international market research is daunting as foreign companies disclose
even less information than U.S. companies. Nonetheless, many start-ups
rush to introduce their products internationally. By first researching
the issues and opportunities, companies can reduce the risk associated
with engaging in international business. Here are some guidelines for
international market researchers:
your assumptions about foreign markets. Rapunzel, Mattel's newest
Barbie Doll, has been a runaway success with foreign children, eclipsing
more ethnic- looking dolls. Researchers found that American movies
and TV shows influence children's preferences, making the doll with
flowing blond locks a universal favorite.
differences in history, culture, and business practices when conducting
research in Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere. Canada is not the fifty-first
introducing technology products, contact standards associations or
government agencies in each country before selecting target countries.
A particular telecommunications protocol may have as many as seven
layers, and standards for individual layers may differ for each country.
Compare the effort to comply with local standards with the size of
the opportunity in a particular country and the riskiness of the endeavor.
careful when comparing financial data from companies in different
countries as accounting and reporting practices differ. Call or email
investor relation managers and CFOs, and ask what the numbers mean
before comparing companies from different countries. Ask which currency
conversion rates apply. Compare non-financial indicators of corporate
health in addition to comparing financials.
get around language barriers when researching foreign companies, look
on company web sites for U.S. branch offices. A U.S.-based employee
of the company may be able to answer your questions or call the home
office for you. Google and other search engines translate Web content,
but with varying success.
help from in-country resources, such as distributors, U.S. Chambers
of Commerce, and U.S. Consulates, and exploit their country – and
industry – expertise.
extra time to complete your research. Much of France shuts down for
vacation in August. Easter Monday and May Day are holidays in many
countries. Use email and fax capabilities to minimize time zone differences
and language barriers.
email to firstname.lastname@example.org
to request a free list of international information sources.