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5.2 Measuring Market Attractiveness

Four key factors in selecting global markets are (a) a market’s size and growth rate, (b) a particular country or region’s institutional contexts, (c) a region’s competitive environment, and (d) a market’s culturaladministrative, geographic, and economic distance from other markets the company serves.

Market Size and Growth Rate

There is no shortage of country information for making market portfolio decisions. A wealth of country-level economic and demographic data are available from a variety of sources including governments, multinational organizations such as the United Nations or the World Bank, and consulting firms specializing in economic intelligence or risk assessment. However, while valuable from an overall investment perspective, such data often reveal little about the prospects for selling products or services in foreign markets to local partners and end users or about the challenges associated with overcoming other elements of distance. Yet many companies still use this information as their primary guide to market assessment simply because country market statistics are readily available, whereas real product market information is often difficult and costly to obtain.

What is more, a country or regional approach to market selection may not always be the best. Even though Theodore Levitt’s vision of a global market for uniform products and services has not come to pass, and global strategies exclusively focused on the “economics of simplicity” and the selling of standardized products all over the world rarely pay off, research increasingly supports an alternative “global segmentation” approach to the issue of market selection, especially for branded products. In particular, surveys show that a growing number of consumers, especially in emerging markets, base their consumption decisions on attributes beyond direct product benefits, such as their perception of the global brands behind the offerings.

Specifically, research by John Quelch and others suggests that consumers increasingly evaluate global brands in “cultural” terms and factor three global brand attributes into their purchase decisions: (a) what a global brand signals about quality, (b) what a brand symbolizes in terms of cultural ideals, and (c) what a brand signals about a company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. This creates opportunities for global companies with the right values and the savvy to exploit them to define and develop target markets across geographical boundaries and create strategies for “global segments” of consumers. Specifically, consumers who perceive global brands in the same way appear to fall into one of four groups:

  1. Global citizens rely on the global success of a company as a signal of quality and innovation. At the same time, they worry whether a company behaves responsibly on issues like consumer health, the environment, and worker rights.

  2. Global dreamers are less discerning about, but more ardent in their admiration of, transnational companies. They view global brands as quality products and readily buy into the myths they portray. They also are less concerned with companies’ social responsibilities than global citizens.

  3. Antiglobals are skeptical that global companies deliver higher-quality goods. They particularly dislike brands that preach American values and often do not trust global companies to behave responsibly. Given a choice, they prefer to avoid doing business with global firms.

  4. Global agnostics do not base purchase decisions on a brand’s global attributes. Instead, they judge a global product by the same criteria they use for local brands. [1]

Companies that use a “global segment” approach to market selection, such as Coca-Cola, Sony, or Microsoft, to name a few, therefore must manage two dimensions for their brands. They must strive for superiority on basics like the brand’s price, performance, features, and imagery, and, at the same time, they must learn to manage brands’ global characteristics, which often separate winners from losers. A good example is provided by Samsung, the South Korean electronics maker. In the late 1990s, Samsung launched a global advertising campaign that showed the South Korean giant excelling, time after time, in engineering, design, and aesthetics. By doing so, Samsung convinced consumers that it successfully competed directly with technology leaders across the world, such as Nokia and Sony. As a result, Samsung was able to change the perception that it was a down-market brand, and it became known as a global provider of leading-edge technologies. This brand strategy, in turn, allowed Samsung to use a global segmentation approach to making market selection and entry decisions.

Institutional Contexts [2]

Khanna and others developed a five-dimensional framework to map a particular country or region’s institutional contexts. Specifically, they suggest careful analysis of a country’s (a) political and social systems, (b) openness, (c)product markets, (d) labor markets, and (e) capital markets.

A country’s political system affects its product, labor, and capital markets. In socialist societies like China, for instance, workers cannot form independent trade unions in the labor market, which affects wage levels. A country’s social environment is also important. In South Africa, for example, the government’s support for the transfer of assets to the historically disenfranchised native African community has affected the development of the capital market.

The more open a country’s economy, the more likely it is that global intermediaries can freely operate there, which helps multinationals function more effectively. From a strategic perspective, however, openness can be a double-edged sword: a government that allows local companies to access the global capital market neutralizes one of the key advantages of foreign companies.

Even though developing countries have opened up their markets and grown rapidly during the past decade, multinational companies struggle to get reliable information about consumers. Market research and advertising are often less sophisticated and, because there are no well-developed consumer courts and advocacy groups in these countries, people can feel they are at the mercy of big companies.

Recruiting local managers and other skilled workers in developing countries can be difficult. The quality of local credentials can be hard to verify, there are relatively few search firms and recruiting agencies, and the high-quality firms that do exist focus on top-level searches, so companies scramble to identify middle-level managers, engineers, or floor supervisors.

Capital and financial markets in developing countries often lack sophistication. Reliable intermediaries like credit-rating agencies, investment analysts, merchant bankers, or venture capital firms may not exist, and multinationals cannot count on raising debt or equity capital locally to finance their operations.

Emerging economies present unique challenges. Capital markets are often relatively inefficient and dependable sources of information, scarce while the cost of capital is high and venture capital is virtually nonexistent. Because of a lack of high-quality educational institutions, labor markets may lack well-trained people requiring companies to fill the void. Because of an underdeveloped communications infrastructure, building a brand name can be difficult just when good brands are highly valued because of lower product quality of the alternatives. Finally, nurturing strong relationships with government officials often is necessary to succeed. Even then, contracts may not be well enforced by the legal system.

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