Is That Multinational Research Project Multinational Enough?

Question: What percent of market
research projects conducted for multinational companies, are conducted with a multinational

It’s kind of a trick question. After all, how many countries is required to be ‘multinational’ in scope? Is three countries sufficient? Four? Or does it really need to be ten or more for truly global company?

The brutal reality is that most companies selling in numerous countries can only afford to do research in a subset of them. How does a market researcher deliver appropriate insights with this obstacle? Here are three steps that help mitigate the risk:

  • State the obvious. What’s obvious to you is often less
    so to the client. Even if you think the geographic scope is clear, state
    it clearly and multiple times. What is the geographic scope of the
    research? A specific country? Region? How many languages were involved? I have seen it happen many times;
    the audience assumes that since their company is ‘global’ the
    research is as well’when in fact the research may have been based on just 2
    or 3 countries.
  • Break with convention. Too often, researchers select
    countries based on past projects (‘We always do our research in the U.S., Canada
    and France.’). Challenge old assumptions! What mix of countries will give
    you the insights you need to inform current business initiatives?
  • Illustrate the importance. Educate the audience on how
    geographic variations impact customer behavior and attitudes. Here are a
    couple of examples that help increase sensitivity to the importance of
    geographic variations:
    • Different colors have different associations by
      geography. Red is ‘positive’ in some cultures but negative in others.
      This can impact reactions to ads and product packaging.
    • The role of male versus female heads of households as
      relates to purchase decisions for certain categories varies by country.
      Thus, research about purchase intent or product attribute preferences
      based on one country cannot be assumed for all.
Multinational brands don’t always have the time or budget
for truly multinational
.  So the onus is on the
researcher to make sure that market research is understood and interpreted
correctly. And perhaps by raising client awareness of how important geographic differences
can be, budget for broader geographic scopes will be allocated next time
This post is by guest blogger Kathryn Korostoff of Research Rockstar LLC (