Magazine article Marketing

Market Shares: The Fast Approaching 1992 Presents New Challenges for Market Research but How Can Differing Techniques of National Surveys Be Combined to Gain Real Understanding of an Overseas Market?

Magazine article Marketing

Market Shares: The Fast Approaching 1992 Presents New Challenges for Market Research but How Can Differing Techniques of National Surveys Be Combined to Gain Real Understanding of an Overseas Market?

Article excerpt

MARKET SHARES

The fast approaching 1992 presents new challenges for market research but how can differing techniques of national surveys be combined to gain real understanding of an overseas market? Robin Cobb investigates The people who chart and interpret such phenomena as baby booms are experiencing one themselves. The volume of pan-European market research being commissioned is growing by leaps and bounds. Interestingly, this is not necessarily a result of feverish anticipation of post-1992.

Growth, it is argued, arose naturally from such factors as the evolution of market strategies by multinationals and the increasing internationalisation of trade. There is also the "because it is there" factor--in other words, ready availability of research facilities coupled with a more aggressive marketing of services by research companies.

Ancillary to this, some aspects of research have become much cheaper than they were a decade or so ago. In the UK, government grants are available towards the cost of overseas market research. And the number-crunching element which once called for expensive time on a mainframe computer can now be processed through off-the-shelf programs via a PC.

Says Christine Restall, a director of The Research Business International (TRBI): "The costs of data analysis on a mainframe were enormous and it wasn't possible to afford the type analyses that are commonplace today."

Few, if any, client companies are naive enough to believe that the onset of 1992 will herald a "single" market in marketing terms. Frontiers within the EC may no longer constitute barriers, but the people living within them will retain their own languages, cultures and other characteristics.

The main multinationals have long developed their pan-European markets. For them harmonisation implies changes in logistics and tactics rather than an overhaul of marketing strategies.

"Most of our clients have been operating on a truly European basis for years," comments Peter Hayes, chairman of Research International UK. His company's international business increased by a third last year, over an already buoyant 1988.

One area of increase comes from US-based multinationals, refining their thinking on the siting of European headquarters and manufacturing units. Many projects represent second- and third-wave updating research. Then there is research for new product development, particularly in the groceries area.

Restall confirms the growth pattern observed by Hayes and says: "Right through to 1993 there are bound to be more companies which want to get more alignment on their brands in Europe."

She points to an upsurge in enquiries from overseas. "This applies particularly to speciality products -- what was known as niche marketing until it became a dirty word -- and this is definitely going to hot up as people see the opportunity to find similar people in other countries without much change to the core product mix."

Transfer to another market can be difficult for some culturally-rooted products. For others, such rooting can be a real asset. "There are opportunities which express the values of one country in a way that is recognisable and acceptable in another," says Restall. "Burberry has already done it. It applies particularly to fashion items and luxury goods. Frenchness is a virtue in the world of fragrances."

She sees the existence of three broad levels of products. There are those which are culturally unique and not acceptable elsewhere. Then there are those which have a recognisable root culture but which are nevertheless acceptable in other countries. And finally the "cultural universals".

But these are not necessarily permanent strata. It is often possible to develop marketing methods or product refinement which enable goods in the first two categories to be raised to a higher one.

Similarly: "We haven't found any research techniques that don't transfer with a bit of care and thought. …

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