There are some products no amount of marketing will sell, such as trying
to sell pork to Jews and Muslims.
That was the message of Marketing Professor Michel Laroche in his public
lecture on October 31 as one of this years Concordia University
Laroche warned that without cultural understanding, companies can
spend millions of dollars in advertising and not get anywhere. Such
products are referred to as being culturally resistant, and no amount
of marketing will convince a consumer to buy them.
In a study on French-Canadians who moved to Toronto, Laroche found that
although they consumed more convenience food, these people were still
not buying frozen vegetables.
Laroche accounts for this phenomenon by explaining that the French-Canadians
adapted to the English-Canadian lifestyle, but retained certain elements
of their own culture, including their preference for fresh vegetables.
These results are consistent with Laroches conclusions about the
impact of culture on consumption habits. He found that people who acculturate
that is, come into a new culture and acquire the host cultural
traits are more likely to consume the products the host culture
has to offer. According to this model of acculturation, unlike the American
model, the native culture is not necessarily replaced by the host culture.
What he said is true, said Concordia Intensive English student
Dewi Widjojo. A native of Indonesia, Widjojo finds herself eating a lot
more pizza that she did at home, citing its convenience, low cost, and
the influence of her new surroundings.
However, Jimmy Okello, a second-year Diploma in Administration student
from Uganda, did not see his consumption habits change. If ones
mental state is set in a certain way, its hard for that person to
change. I find myself still eating the same basic foods I ate in Uganda.
Many companies are well aware of this phenomenon. Jordan Lebel, a professor
of Marketing at Concordia, said that companies modify their products according
to regional preferences. The frozen yoghurt chain TCBY alters its recipe
to fit the tastes of its consumers.
More and more are trying to act locally, Lebel said. Its
a variable companies have to start paying attention to.
Laroche cited the catastrophic outcome of the Campbells soup companys
attempt to sell canned soup in South America. Laroche describes the attempt
as an utter failure, since canned soup went against South
American culture. Through research, Laroche believes that companies can
avoid entering unreceptive markets: If you know a product is going
to bring a lot of resistance, then go to another market.
Laroche is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and has won many awards
for his work. One of the first Canadian researchers to study the effect
of culture on consumption, he set the foundation of academic market research
by devising scales to measure the degree of acculturation and ethnic identification
in individuals of a variety of ethnic origins.
He found a consistent relationship between the two variables, with acculturation
associated with a loss of ethnic identification. Laroches research
will help companies know when to hold, know when to fold, and most important,
when to walk away.