The perils of treating all Eastern European countries as a single market

Many Western marketers frequently make the mistake of lumping Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Hungary, Croatia, or the Czech Republic, into a single market for the purposes of developing marketing communication campaigns. In some ways, they could be forgiven for believing that these countries would respond to advertising techniques in similar fashions in light of their other similarities:

  • Geographical proximity
  • Controlled for almost fifty years by Russia
  • New to evaluating persuasive advertising appeals
  • New to handling choices in consumer goods

Yet, recent research showed that there are very distinct differences in how consumers in these four countries respond to positively and negatively framed advertisements. In this research study, two products – apples and bottled water – were each given two different ad treatments:

  • In the positively framed ads, the key messages were about how these products brought enjoyment and pleasure to the consumer’s life.
  • In the negatively framed ads, the key messages were about how these products could help prevent illnesses or diseases.

The research examined not only whether positive or negative framing was preferred, but the attitude that the consumer had towards the ad and the brand as well.

Positive framing

Overall, consumers in all four countries preferred positively framed advertisements. However, there were substantial differences in how the respondents felt about the ad and the brand after viewing a positive ad:

  • Cognitive response to ad (ability to later recall the ad): The Czech Republic showed the highest recall rate for positive ads, followed by Hungary, Poland, and then Croatia.
  • Cognitive response to brand (ability to later recall the brand): In this case, Poland had the highest recall rate for the brand, followed by Hungary, Czech Republic, and Croatia.
  • Attitude toward ad: Poland had the highest positive response to positive ads, followed by Hungary, Czech Republic, and Croatia.
  • Attitude toward brand: Poland had the highest positive response to the brand, followed by Hungary, Czech Republic, and Croatia.

Negative framing

While the respondents were less enthusiastic overall with negatively framed ads, they also showed significantly higher cognitive response to the brand (ability to later recall the brand) when they saw a negative ad. There were also substantial differences in how the respondents felt about the ad and the brand after viewing a negative ad:

  • Cognitive response to ad (ability to later recall the ad): The Czech Republic showed the highest recall rate for negative ads, followed by Poland, Hungary, and Croatia.
  • Cognitive response to brand (ability to later recall the brand): In this case, Poland had the highest recall rate for the brand, followed by Hungary, Croatia, and the Czech Republic
  • Attitude toward ad: Poland had the highest negative response to negative ads, followed by Czech Republic, Hungary, and Croatia.
  • Attitude toward brand: Poland had the highest negative response to the brand, followed by Czech Republic, Croatia, and Hungary.

Marketing Implications

Despite other similarities between these four Eastern European countries, it would be a serious mistake to use the same marketing communication campaign in all four countries. For example, Polish consumers reacted very favorably to positive messages, while negative messages severely affected their attitudes to both the ads and the brand. On the other hand, Croatian consumers were lukewarm towards positively framed ads, but showed much greater ability to recall the brand after viewing a negative ad as compared to their recall rates with a positive ad.

So, it could be argued that in the Polish market, a positively framed message would always work best, while a negatively framed message in Croatia would be more effective if the current goal is to build brand awareness.

Marketing Checklist

  1. Has your market research checked consumer reaction to both positively and negatively framed messages?
  2. Have you clearly identified your current goals for the target market, i.e. build brand awareness or establish a favorable image for your product?
  3. Have you identified significant differences between countries that were to receive the same communication campaigns?

References

Orth, U., Koenig, H., Firbasova, Z. (2007) Cross-national differences in consumer response to the framing of advertising messages: an exploratory comparison from Central Europe. European Journal of Marketing. 41: 3. Pp. 327-348.

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