Asian Societies

Three important factors to consider when doing marketing research in South- East Asia

As more companies are doing business in the growing Asian market, there is a need to conduct market research studies to find out how product and service offerings can be adapted to the differing cultures and subcultures that exist in each country in this dynamic region. Grace Chin, managing director of Asian Perspectives, a New York research firm, suggests there are three factors which are critical to the success of conducting market research with Asian respondents. They are language, cultural matching and techniques of communication.

In terms of language, interviewers must not just know the correct dialect (there are several versions of Mandarin and Cantonese, for example) but also must use the right phrases and tone of voice to create a proper bond with the respondent: Ms Chin notes that respondents will tend to refuse when scripts are read to them in a flat and unbiased tone of if they feel information is being concealed from them.

For cultural matching, it is important to have “real Asian not western – Asian (such as Asian – American) researchers. That is, researchers must be fluent. In the respondent’s culture Asians, she notes, are reserved about their feelings, and therefore are unlikely to disclose this to interviewer a with whom they have nothing in common culturally, even though they speak the same language.

Techniques are also important. Trust is important in many Asian Societies. This means the Asian respondent may actually want to meet the interviewer in their own neighbourhood. Suspicion may be created by telephone call from a stranger from a market research company. Especially since (with the exception of Hong kong, Singapore and Taiwan) market research, telemarketing and direct marketing are not common practices in Asia.


  1. Do an internet search on market research companies in South-East Asia. Do they follow any of these suggestions ? Are techniques used which may not be suitable ?
  2. Are the statements made by Grace Chin true for countries, and ethic and language groups in South-East Asia? Provided evidence to support your opinion.
  3. A New Zealand company wishes to research the Japanese market for the export of meat. Do the same criteria as suggested by Grace Chin apply ? why ? Again, provide some evidence for your answer ?

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