Measuring Global Brands: Considering cultural differences

As businesses expand globally, companies attempt to benchmark their performance across markets.

To do this, most conduct customer satisfaction surveys and compare results... but customers’ perceptions (and expectations) vary significantly depending on cultural background.

Culture influences satisfaction in the sense that:

  • There are different expectations
  • There are different ways of evaluating performance
  • There are different responses to scale formats

At Fizzback, we have analysed customer satisfaction metrics across different markets and found a few general differences:

  • US customers tend to be more benevolent in their customer satisfaction ratings, and generally put a lot of emphasis on staff performance (generally positive) when asked about reasons for ratings (similar results were obtained in Canada).
  • Dutch customers tend to be more strict when asked to provide a customer satisfaction score, and most times would make suggestions on process improvements when asked about reasons for ratings.
  • UK customers tend to be in the “middle of the road” compared to the two examples above (both in terms of customer satisfaction ratings provided and the type of comments provided). Reasons for ratings are generally balanced amongst product, service, company policies, and staff (both in terms of knowledge and in terms of warmth and friendliness):

Considering these differences, global brands may attempt to neutralize for cultural impact, but researchers then face the 'EMIC - ETIC Dilemma':


The EMIC approach measures behaviour within a particular culture, using only concepts employed within that culture. The ETIC approach observes behaviour by imposing a set of universal values onto that culture. Both these approaches are problematic. An EMIC approach may prevent cross‐cultural research because its insular nature inhibits comparisons. An ETIC approach uses generalizations to describe observed behaviour differences, which may not measure cultural differences. This problem is called the 'EMIC‐ETIC Dilemma'.

Highlights of the 'EMIC - ETIC Dilemma':



Adapting each question and
scale to the different cultures
Challenge: Unable to cross compare
Asking the same question across all cultures
Challenge: Allows to cross compare, but oversimplifies results, which may lead to the wrong conclusions

This makes me wonder: Should companies really make any attempts into normalising for cultural differences, or should they just set individual market targets and simply benchmark performance against desired results? 

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