Cross-cultural differences in brand image perception
Abstract: Problem – International companies need to become more aware of differences within cultures and consumer behavior to stay competitive in today’s business environment. Even though international companies aim to communicate the same image of global brands across different cultures, the image of those brands may still be perceived differently due to differences in cultural values.Purpose – The aim of this master thesis is to explore if and how the image of one global brand differs across cultures and between genders. Specifically, the focus is on investigating how individuals from three different countries, namely Sweden, China and the United States perceive the image of the global brand Volvo. In order to indicate differences, Hofstede’s (2001) cultural taxonomy is relied upon, which help explain and understand possible variations.Methodology - To fulfill the purpose of this thesis a qualitative research approach was applied. Twelve in-depth interviews were conducted with participants from Sweden, China and the United States. To facilitate the data analysis, the main steps of thematic analysis was used.Results: The analysis yielded that a global brand can have different meanings for individuals in different countries, and that culture can influence the way individuals perceive a brand. The respondents from Sweden and the United States displayed considerable similarities in brand images portraying Volvo as a high quality car recognized for being safe, reliable, durable and practical as well as delivering high comfort. Moreover, the brand was strongly associated with family, providing value in terms of functional aspects. Similarly, the Chinese respondents conveyed an image of Volvo as a high quality car being safe and reliable; however, emphasized the brand value in terms of propensity to signal high status. Volvo was portrayed as an expensive, upscale and attractive brand, mainly driven by men. Further, the study found that associations differed slightly between the genders within the Chinese sample. The desire and excitement of driving a Volvo as expressed by the Chinese females seems partly to be influenced by the associations to men as main users of the brand. In light of this, Volvo seemed to carry a rather different meaning to the female respondents, perceived as more exciting.In light of this, the study shows that cultural and gender differences are of importance for localized market communications. By identifying differences and similarities in wants and needs between cultures as well as between genders, marketers are able develop local executions for each market’s needs.Conclusion – Overall the research study provides useful insights for businesses and marketers who seek to market their brands in foreign countries. Specifically, it emphasizes the importance of adapting communication strategies and activities in accordance with the cultural specifics in the target market.
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