Last year IKEA successfully expanded its brand to the new emerging market of Thailand. The furniture brand established a superstore in Bangkok which is the 5th largest among all it branches. Everything was running smooth until IKEA gets to realized how some of their products were causing fuzz among the consumers. IKEA, being used to naming its products using places in the Europe, has indeed created unique names for its products until they get to realize the implication of such strategy. Take Redalen for example, a bed named after a town in Norway. Well for consumers from the western world, this might not be a problem. This name even sounds very compelling. The problem is that for the new market in Thailand, Redalen sounds the same with an uncomfortable term in the vocabulary of the Thai people.
The Scandinavian tongue-twisting names of IKEA products may have helped establish its brand’s unique and aesthetic value. Nevertheless, this approach actually is putting the furniture company in an awkward situation as they expand their reach to the emerging markets like Thailand. The fact is that the company is now facing a situation as more and more of its hard-to-pronounce product names are turning to be awkward for most consumers of the IKEA ventures around the new markets.
If you are in their Bangkok store, reading an IKEA catalog aloud will bring you troubles as people may get irritated by the words they are hearing. Aside from Redalen bed, another problematic product name is the plant pot Jättebra. This may appear meaningless to you but for the Thai people, this sounds similar to a crude term for sex. This problem is even expanding as the list of problematic words gets to more and more populated.
Studying Product’s Impact on Local Markets
A key strategy for international brands, Business ethnography is becoming a paramount for most companies to be able to understand the relevance of a product to the consumers of a country or region. International brands which are on the verge of penetrating new markets are repeating the same particular mistakes. First is thinking that their product is big enough that it is recognizable making it an instant hit when made available on new markets. Another mistake is the lack of understanding on how their product appeals to the local market and how the brand names may appeal to these new markets.
Studying consumer insight based on questionnaires will only re-affirm old notions. This has become more vivid to more brand executives and now they understand that to have a meaningful market research, a study must be immersive and must combine social behavior and participants-observations.
The methods and implications of such observations above may look time consuming and inefficient to you. Nevertheless, this actually has brought a valuable insight to how consumers take a new product and how this product would mean to them. It entails a deeper and holistic analysis of the consumer based patterns of behavior. More than its market cohesive approach, these techniques gives potential consumers the opportunity to express their thoughts about a brand using their own words.
Corporate Ethnography: Understanding Consumer Culture
IKEA’s problem is not an isolated case. For most International brands, the issue of lacking the fundamental understanding of the local culture is causing difficulties in establishing prominence in emerging markets. For the past years, corporate executives have been searching for efficient methods of getting the scopes of a certain market. The old questionnaire method has been proven inefficient and right now, more and more companies are going into corporate ethnography research.
Anchored mainly on having a full understanding of consumers and appropriate business strategies, corporate ethnography have helped international brands to get a better grasp of the mindset of their consumers (i.e. in emerging markets). Offering better diversified results, ethnographic research are good source of rightful insights about the consumer’s perspective on a certain brand. A good thing about this research is that assumptions are can actually be reduce to the least minimal amount which in turn helps in giving the consumers the skills to shape the brand.
As with IKEA, their initiatives to conduct ethnographic research helped them realize that product names have a great impact to the Thai market. They understand that this is something that must be worked with so they touched up the help of some local linguists to aid in doing transliteration and translations of product names. Understanding consumer culture is the best marketing strategy and to achieve it, corporate ethnography is the key.