The Impact of Culture on Global Brands: A Critique of Toyota
The aim of this essay is to critically analyse a global brand crisis and how it has been impacted by consumer behaviour, cultural factors as well as market research. A global brand can be defined as “a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes one seller’s product from those of other sellers” (Kotler & Keller, 2009, p. 8). In order for a brand to achieve global status, it must be able to appeal to consumers in different cultures, with different values and beliefs. This can be a difficult task for marketers, as what may be seen as acceptable in one culture may be viewed as offensive in another. As a result, it is important for marketers to carry out extensive market research in order to ensure that their product will be well-received in different cultures.
2. Consumer behavior towards global brands:
There are a number of factors that influence consumer behavior and this includes market research, subculture and personal factors.
2. 1 Market research:
Carrying out market research is important for understanding consumer needs and wants. It helps businesses to determine what consumers are looking for in a product and how to best appeal to them. Additionally, it can help businesses to avoid any potential cultural pitfalls that could result in a negative reaction from consumers. For example, when Coca Cola launched its “New Coke” product in 1985, they failed to realize that the taste was too different from the original Coke and that consumers in the US were not ready for such a change. As a result, the product was met with a lot of backlash and Coca Cola had to quickly reintroduce the original Coke formula (Schwartz, 2009). If they had carried out adequate market research, they would have been able to avoid this situation.
2. 2 Subculture:
Subcultures can be defined as “a group of people within a larger culture who share distinctive patterns of behaviour and beliefs” (Szmigin & Carrigan, 2000, p.151). There are many different types of subcultures and each one has its own set of values and beliefs. For example, some subcultures might value independence and individualism while others might place more emphasis on community and cooperation. When marketing to subcultures, it is important for businesses to take into account their values and beliefs in order to avoid any potential conflict. For instance, if a business was marketing its products to a subculture that values independence, then emphasizing the community aspect of the product may not be the best approach.
2. 3 Personal factors:
Personal factors refer to the individual characteristics of consumers that can influence their buying decisions (Kotler & Keller, 2009). Some examples of personal factors include age, occupation and lifestyle. These factors can all play a role in determining what kind of products or services consumers are interested in. For instance, younger consumers tend to be more interested in new trends and fads than older consumers who may be more conservative in their choices. Additionally, occupation can also influence consumer behavior as people who have busy careers might not have the time or inclination to follow latest trends. Lifestyle is another important personal factor as it encompasses many different aspects of an individual’s life such as their interests, hobbies and activities. All of these factors can help businesses to better understand their target market and what they are looking for in a product.
3. Culture and its impact on global brands:
Culture can be defined as “the system of shared values, beliefs, behaviours, and artefacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that distinguished one human group from another” (Hofstede, 1980, p. 6). Culture is an important factor to consider when marketing internationally as it can have a big impact on consumer behavior. Additionally, culture can also affect the way a product is perceived by consumers. For instance, in some cultures women may be seen as inferior to men and as a result, products that are marketed towards women may not be well-received. Additionally, cultural differences can also lead to misunderstandings about a product. For example, in some cultures it is common to give gifts that are useful or have a purpose. However, in other cultures it is more common to give gifts that are decorative or have no practical use. If a business was marketing its products in both of these cultures, they would need to take into account the different expectations of consumers in each culture.
3. 1 Product quality:
One way in which culture can affect global brands is through product quality. In some cultures, products are expected to be of a certain quality in order to be considered acceptable. For example, in Japan there is a saying that “the nail that sticks out will be hammered down” which means that people are expected to conform to social norms and not stand out from the crowd (Alden, Steenkamp & Batra, 1999). As a result, Japanese consumers tend to be very critical of products and only those that meet their high standards are likely to be successful. Additionally, in some cultures products are expected to last for a long time while in others it is more acceptable for them to break down after a short period of use. This can be seen in the difference between Western and Japanese cars where Western cars are designed for durability while Japanese cars are designed for performance (Alden et al., 1999).
3. 2 Rescheduling:
Another way in which culture can influence global brands is through rescheduling. In some cultures it is acceptable to reschedule appointments or meeting while in others it is seen as rude or disrespectful. For example, in America it is common for people to reschedule appointments if they are running late or if something else comes up. However, in Japan it is considered rude to do this as it shows a lack of respect for the other person’s time (Alden et al., 1999). As a result, businesses need to take into account the cultural expectations of their target market when making decisions about rescheduling.
4. A recent global brand crisis: Toyota
In recent years, Toyota has been embroiled in a number of scandals that have damaged its reputation as a global brand. In 2009, the company was hit by allegations of “unintended acceleration” which led to a number of deaths and injuries. The company was forced to recall over 10 million vehicles worldwide and pay out over $1 billion in damages (Newman, 2009). Additionally, the company has also been accused of covering up safety defects and sacrificing quality in order to meet production targets (Newman, 2009). As a result of these scandals, Toyota’s sales have declined sharply and it has beenforced to close factories and lay off workers. The company is still trying to recover from these scandals and it remains to be seen if it will be able to regain its position as a global brand.
Global brands are increasingly becoming more important in today’s globalized world. However, marketing to different cultures can be a difficult task for businesses as what may be seen as acceptable in one culture may be viewed as offensive in another. Additionally, culture can also have a big impact on consumer behavior and the way products are perceived by consumers. As a result, businesses need to carry out extensive market research in order to ensure that their product will be well-received in different cultures. A recent global brand crisis that has been affected by these factors is Toyota which has been embroiled in a number of scandals in recent years. The company is still trying to recover from these scandals and it remains to be seen if it will be able to regain its position as a global brand.