Integration without ignoring important cultural differences
10.11.2005

rheingolds cross-cultural approach means that project research managers perform the task of integration and cultural comparison from the beginning to the end of the research process.

International market research is continuously confronted with the challenge of having to understand the diversity of different cultures. The aim is to determine with certainty the influence that cultural conditions have on dealing with and perceiving products, brands, and forms of communication.

At the same time, international research must seek to find common denominators between the markets studied as well as being in a position to elicit possible synergies. The primary objective is to find a psychological common ground among diverse cultures upon which sensible international marketing and communication strategies can be built (heterogeneity management).

Given this background, prerequisites for intercultural research must be established on an empirical basis. The similarities and differences between the different markets and cultures should be investigated in a real exchange. Purely additive ‘multicultural research’, carried out in independent studies of individual countries, cannot meet this challenge.

- Cross-Cultural Approach

rheingold believes that finding common ground between heterogenous international markets should be the main aim of international market and media research. As a result, rheingold consistently uses a cross-cultural approach in international studies. Research is carried out by international teams consisting of rheingold project managers, rheingold moderators, and researchers from the respective countries.

- International teams

The international teams cooperate closely during the studies. There is a joint briefing at the respective research locations. rheingold staff themselves observe explorations and conduct them. On the basis of first observations, the procedure is reviewed early on in the
research process and strategies for further proceedings are thereafter established. At the end of the field phase, a joint analysis takes place.

Our staff actively participate within the research in every country, enhancing the superordinate perspective of the lead agency. As a result, the task of revealing cultural differences and similarities can be performed in a much more targeted way.

- Direct Intercultural Exchange

The decisive advantage of a cross-cultural approach is that the international view of rheingold’s project managers and the local perspective of the researchers from the respective countries complement one another. In the international teams a ‘cultural exchange’ takes place during the research process. As a result, blind spots in perception can be avoided and cultural differences and similarities can be investigated.

For example, a study on toilet cleaners in South America, Asia, and Europe showed that the people living on these continents have very different ways of dealing with these products and very different cleanliness ideals and rituals. Due to the presence of rheingold staff in the different locations in question, cultural differences could be investigated already during the exploration phase. In a direct dialogue between inner and outer views, structural similarities were found, bringing the strategic marketing analysis decisively forward.

- Optimal Comparability of Results

Another decisive factor for international marketing is the question of whether market research from different countries can be interlinked. In rheingold’s experience, it is only possible to achieve valid superordinate statements via a sensible integration of the different national studies. It is therefore eminently important to orient research and analysis to a uniform research approach.

With the cross-cultural approach rheingold ensures that a superordinate research standard is established from the very outset. In the work of the international research teams, rheingold’s perspective is conveyed to the cooperation partners and maintained throughout the research. The findings can only be comparable and compatible if there is a uniform system of reference.

The importance of a superordinate research perspective and the need to link research findings from different countries are especially important in communication studies. In such studies, a collection of spontaneous impressions is often equated with the ‘true’ impact. In reality, however, often only differences are revealed. Structural similarities, on the other hand, can only be revealed if comparable research depth is achieved and if there is a uniform research standard is applied in all of the countries.

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