This research proposal is designed to help us better understand the effectiveness of advertising strategies applied across different countries with similar cultures.
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Using a survey consisting of Likert items and corresponding scales, subjects consisting of advertising executives from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom will be asked to rate their responses regarding a number of items relating to the effectiveness of different advertising strategies in their corresponding countries.
It is hypothesized that there will be differences in what constitutes effective advertising materials in different countries with similar cultures. This research builds upon other studies in the field which reveal the differences in advertising strategies employed across different cultures. This study could help the company save significant financial resources on advertising in the future.
The firm under research is a food supply company that operates and advertises in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Understanding how to craft effective strategies for advertising campaigns in these countries is a vital part of its continued success.
In the recent difficult economic times, the firm has faced increased pressure to save money wherever possible and has been encouraged to consolidate operations wherever they have been shown to be feasible.
One of the most significant expenditures in terms of financial resources is the money spent on advertising budgets for the three countries of operation. Individual, localized campaigns have always been the firm’s strategy, because it believed crafting one advertising strategy for use in all three countries would be ineffective considering the differences between the three national markets of operation.
As a multi-national food supply company, understanding how best to adapt strategies of advertising across the different cultures the firm serves is of paramount importance.
While a number of different studies have looked at the effectiveness of advertising between countries and companies, few have examined the subtle nuances of differences with regard to advertising between cultures with more subtle nuanced differences.
It is for this reason that the research should be conducted by the company in order to explore the differences in what works in advertising across different countries with similar cultural contexts. Indeed, while a body of research exists relating to differences in advertising between very different cultures, the company could benefit from a greater understanding of the differences across several countries with similar cultures.
It is proposed that research be conducted to determine the most effective strategies for advertising the company’s business in the different countries of operation.
Review of Related Literature
Research on advertising across different cultures has revealed many important differences in terms of the type of advertising considered to be most influential to customers especially in terms of customer preference.
A number of studies have looked at differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures, contrasting advertising in Western and Eastern countries (Han & Shavitt, 1994; Jeon & Beatty, 2002). Other studies have focused on how different types of advertising are perceived in different cultures, looking at Western and Eastern countries and their reactions to humour in advertising (Alden, Hoyer & Lee, 1993).
In Han and Savitt (1994) research looking at advertising in individualistic and collectivist cultures, data revealed significant differences in what constituted persuasive advertising across individual and collectivist cultures. In this study, the authors looked at cross-cultural differences in advertising materials in Korea and the United States as examples of collectivist and individualistic cultures respectively (Han & Shavitt, 1994).
The researchers conducted a content analysis of magazine advertisements and found that American advertisements focused on appeals to the individual while those in Korea appealed to the collective.
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The findings of these researchers showed that cultural differences played an important part in determining how influential a particular advertisement was at the level of both the society and the individual (Han & Shavitt, 1994).
The research study conducted by Han and Savitt (1994) is relevant to our study because it demonstrates that there are more pronounced differences in what constitutes effective advertising of products used across individual and collectivist cultures.
Because the firm’s products are almost exclusively bought to be used with other products, it helps us to understand whether or not other differences may exist across different countries with similar cultures. In this case, all of the countries the company operates in entail individualistic cultures and Western democracies.
Therefore, the findings of the study especially in the American context have a direct description of the best practices in advertising that can be extended to Canada and the United Kingdom.
Researchers Jeon and Beatty (2002) looked at the effectiveness of three different types of advertising in terms of their ability to persuade audiences across two different cultures. In examining both the United States and South Korea, the researchers compared advertisements that relied on direct comparisons as well as others that relied on indirect comparisons between products.
The findings indicated that indirect comparative advertisements were most effective in the United States, where advertisements employing direct comparisons were most common. Conversely, it was found that the opposite applied in South Korea: direct comparison advertising was most effective while indirect advertising was most common in the country’s media (Jeon & Beatty, 2002).
These findings builds on a body of research that relates to comparative advertising, but it also highlights an important fact regarding the current research study proposed here. The effectiveness of advertising can depend a great deal on the cultural context in which it is viewed. However, this also highlights the fact that we know little about the effectiveness of advertising in similar cultures in different countries.
The findings assist in reflecting on the consequences of specific preferences in advertisements of western cultures as compared to other cultures. They highlight on the perceptions that should be expected from the countries under study towards advertisements.
Finally, a study performed by researchers Alden, Hoyer and Lee (1993) has relevance to the research study being proposed here. In their study, the researchers looked at the use of humour in different television advertisements across four different cultures including the United States, Germany, Thailand and Korea.
The findings of these researchers revealed that while humour in advertising often has universal underlying themes, it can vary in the way it is specifically comprehended across different countries and cultures (Alden, Hoyer & Lee, 1993). While prior research has demonstrated the effectiveness of humour as a component in successful advertising, understanding what worked and what did not across cultures was problematic.
Humour in advertising has been shown to positively affect recall and individual intention to purchase a product when the humour lines up with the overall objectives of the advertisement (Alden, Hoyer & Lee, 1993).
The researchers looked at the inappropriateness of humorous advertising across cultures in order to better identify the contrasts between cultures and ultimately allow for easier standardization for advertising between them. The findings suggested that there were incongruities in these advertisements across different cultures.
The finding of incongruity in advertising across cultures is very relevant to the research proposed here because it suggests that there may be ways we can create advertising strategies which can be more easily adapted across different cultural contexts.
Research into the differences and similarities between effective advertising in the different countries in which the firm operates can build on the information yielded from the study conducted by Alden, Hoyer and Lee (1993) and ultimately allow the firm to design advertising strategies that work effectively across different cultural contexts.
We cannot ignore the fact that a certain level of diversity exist in the countries under study especially due to tourists, foreign students, expatriates and other foreign professional, and the incongruity findings in this study fits best in harmonizing the results expected with such limitations.
For the purposes of this study, it is assumed that the findings of previous researchers were based on advertisements targeted to customers with similar characteristics such as product preference, purchasing behaviour and financial circumstances. This is because the results observed must not have been influenced by other factors expect cultural aspects.
It is also assumed that Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom can be defined as having “similar” cultural contexts. The assumption is made confidently based on a number of different factors. While there are obvious demographic differences between these three nations, they are all Western democracies, comprised of a populous of similar ethnic makeup. They are all individualistic cultures.
There exists significant diversity in all three societies, but both the United States and Canada emerged from United Kingdom society. It is for these reasons that for the purposes of this research study, it is confidently assumed that Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom are three different countries with similar cultural contexts.
There is a difference between what constitutes effective advertising strategies across different countries with similar cultural contexts.
There is not a difference between what constitutes effective advertising strategies across different countries with similar cultural contexts.
The survey will be administered to members of the advertising executive board in each of their different countries of origins. Four advertising executives from the United States will be surveyed as will four executives from the United Kingdom and four executives from Canada. Each of these executives is originally from the country in which their position is located and lives there full time.
Of these 12 subjects, all make budgetary and campaign decisions with regard to advertising within the countries where their positions are located. Among the twelve subjects eight are men, while the remaining four are women. All subjects are between the ages of 46 and 58 years. These subjects are all experts in advertising the company’s food products in their respective countries; they know what works and what does not work.
Of the four subjects from the United Kingdom, three work from the same office in London while one works in a satellite office in Devonshire. All four advertising executives from the United States work from the same New York office.
The four advertising executives from Canadian operations are all based in the same Toronto office, which happens to be the company’s corporate headquarters and original office location. The twelve executives have a diverse cultural makeup; nine of the twelve executives have at least one parent born outside their country of origin.
The instrument that will be used for the research is a survey questionnaire consisting of 19 Likert items with accompanying Likert scales for respondents to rate according to their agreement with the particular item. All of these items reflect specific elements of advertising strategies such as timing, mode of communication, place, content, mood, type, preferences among others.
The 20th item on the survey is a simple question regarding to the advertisements currently employed in the country where individual subjects are located. This survey measures the attitudes and opinions of advertising executives with regard to their experience on what constitutes effective advertising in the country of operation.
Subjects rate their feelings to items on a five-point scale of a range of responses that will be presented as follows: 5 for strongly agree, 4 for agree, 3 for neutral, 2 for disagree and 1 for strongly disagree. This Likert scale survey questionnaire is located in the appendix at the end of this paper.
Data will be obtained by an interviewer asking subjects to rate their feelings on a number of Likert items relating to the effectiveness of advertising in their country. The respondents will fill the questionnaires provided by an interviewer at their convenient time and place. The interviewer will also act as the guide on how to fill the responses on the Likert scales in case a participant is stuck.
The complete role of the interview is given in the appendix. The expectations are that the exercise will take place in the offices during break sessions especially in the evening after work. For every participant, the interviewer might ask some open-ended questions after the session to clarify on the issues directly related to advertising strategies. This is not expected to take more than ten minutes of the entire session.
Once all the data has been collected, its validity will be tested by considering the consistency and relevancy of the responses as reflected in the relevancy of the questions. In fact, this will be achieved by first grouping the questions according to their relatedness in terms of advertising strategies after the exercise. A valid response should not deviate with more than one point in the Likert scale from the response of the next related question.
Once the validity is tested, the items from the Likert scale will be tabulated to allow for comparing ratings of different elements of the advertising strategies the participants think should be employed in the three countries as suggested by them.
If we find a majority > 51% of differences in responses between countries, then the hypothesis will be accepted. Individual items can also be scored and examined to provide a more granular analysis and help the company obtain more specific details, which could prove helpful in operations going forward.
The proposed research study detailed herein does contain a number of limitations. Because of the limited sample size, we must be careful not to make wide generalizations with respect to the findings. Furthermore, because all of the subjects are advertising executives between the ages of 46 and 58, the study is limited in terms of the demographic representation of data we can obtain.
Any data obtained here will not be used to make inferences with regard to the attitudes of younger audiences. Moreover, if future research is conducted, there may be disparities with regard to the attitudes of these executives and the audiences of the countries they operate in. The use of the Likert scale also creates some limitations thus must be considered.
Because each item has a preset scale with predetermined ratings, respondents may see their feelings on particular issues somewhat distorted by conforming to the rating which best matches their feelings on a particular item. It is hoped that the presence of an interviewer to administer the questionnaire can mitigate the damage caused to the findings by this inherent limitation.
The research is expected to find some differences in what constitutes effective advertising across three countries with similar cultures. There are a number of conclusions that could be drawn from such findings which may prove valuable to the company’s operations.
Specifically, the data gleaned from this study could be used to design effective advertising campaigns that work across all countries in which the firm operates, allowing it to save considerable financial resources on advertising strategies. This could effectively reduce the total advertising expenditures by as much as two-thirds.
The implications of this include wider profit margins and a greater ability to take risks in trying out new advertising strategies. Moreover, over the long-term, it may be possible to consolidate advertising operations for the different countries served by the firm based on one centralized location.
This could prove another valuable measure that would allow the company to save even more costs on its overhead expenditures such as rent, heating and related costs from the offices in different countries.
It has long been held that localized operations were vital to advertising success, but research such as this may help the management to move away from this strategy and adopt a more cost effective model. Given the increasingly global market, this may even allow the firm to begin exploring opportunities to expand into other markets. This has been a goal pursued by the firm that has gone unfulfilled heretofore.
This research study will provide the company with valuable data regarding the effectiveness of advertising across different countries with similar cultural contexts, as well as encourage future research on the same subject.
Indeed, this study may provide the impetus for a much larger study to be conducted by an academic institution, using a randomized sample and enough subjects to provide for greater confidence in the results they may obtain.
In addition to helping our company save important and potentially considerable financial resources, this research could also improve the field of study around global advertising and the challenges that similar multi-national companies face.
Alden, D. L., Hoyer, W. D. & Lee, C. (1993). Identifying global and culture-specific dimensions of humor in advertising: A multinational analysis. The Journal of Marketing, 57(2), 64-75.
Han, S. & Shavitt, S. (1994). Persuasion and culture: Advertising appeals in individualistic and collectivistic societies. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 30(4), 326-350.
Jeon, J. O., & Beatty, S. E. (2002). Comparative advertising effectiveness in different national cultures. Journal of Business Research, 55(11), 907-913.