Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You Don't Know Jack!

Big drinker that I am (Garland cuts me of the java, because he thinks it goes to my noggin), I read an article about international focus group strategy used by the Jack Daniels distillery to expand its brand and it left me a little troubled.

It assumes that the German, Australian, Japanese and British people studied are one monolithic "culture." Even Britain, made up of several distinct indigenous people (Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, and peoples from the outlying islands) with a host of immigrants (one in five children born in Britain are born to foreign-born mothers. Even in the IPS school system here in Indy, there are over 130 languages spoken in the children's homes (not just English and Spanish!).

Exactly what "culture" were they talking about in this article?

As I travel (5 countries on 5 continents so far), I'm struck by how difficult it is to categorize the people I found. How, exactly could a focus group leader do it?

Of critical importance would be a keen understanding of their home cultures as well as of those of the brand's home country. The article talked about studying their body language and facial movements. I did my graduate work in psychology the first time through and I can tell you that no psychological scientist worth a sprinkle of table salt would assert that they could "read" faces and body language effectively, particularly from those of other cultures and ethnicities.

I remember a college psych class I took. Subjects were to look at pictures of faces and guess what emotion it represented. They did fairly well "reading" the faces of members of their own racial/ethnic/gender group, but didn't fare so well when the face looked different than the ones usually at their kitchen table.

Having a translator who could handle the language is one thing: Having one with a keen understanding of a variety of cultures and of marketing is quite another.