Much of the research on international marketing strategy for c-store software solutions has focused on adaptation and standardization options for managing the marketing mix. However, little attention has been paid to product positioning issues for international markets. Just as mix components may need to be customized for particular foreign markets, so may positioning strategies. Furthermore, without a clearly defined positioning strategy, the marketing mix cannot be managed in a goal-directed manner. As such, positioning strategies must be evaluated when considering foreign markets, and should precede marketing mix management.
This research attempts to address this strategic issue by conceptually developing and empirically testing a model to help managers choose brand concepts for international markets. A brand concept specifies the basic needs consumers should perceive a product or service can satisfy, and facilitates product positioning and brand image management. Environmental characteristics of foreign markets are hypothesized to affect the market success of brand concepts. Such characteristics include industrialization, urbanization, and modernity. To limit market heterogeneity effects often found when examining country characteristics, the environmental units of analysis are cities and towns.
Survey and secondary data were used to examine how product performance is affected by brand concept selection given particular foreign market characteristics. Sixty four regions across 11 countries were analyzed using 16 environmental variables. This yielded two environmental constructs: modernity and urbanization. Mail surveys were administered to international marketing managers covering 31 brands of U.S. consumer goods exported to 125 foreign markets. A total of 213 usable responses were received for the blue jeans and athletic shoe product categories for an effective response rate of 57%. Informants provided performance data for each region within the country they managed and an assessment of the brand images or concepts used in each market.
Results indicate that modernity strongly moderates the performance of brand concepts. Specifically, when the market is characterized as being low in modernity, brand concepts should have a strong functional emphasis. When the level of market modernity is high, the performance of social and sensory brand concepts improved markedly. To a lesser extent, the same moderating effect was found for urbanization. In addition, modernity’s moderating effect was evident even when urbanization was found to be low. Hence marketing managers should pay special attention to a market’s level of modernity, and to a lesser extent the degree of urbanization, for developing brand concept strategies in foreign markets.