Functional equivalence refers to the role or function that behavior plays in different cultures. One cannot assume that behaviors play the same role or function across cultures; therefore, assumptions made about the function of behavior in a cultural group must be verified. This concept extends to include the differences in people's perceptions about, and responses to, a particular product or activity according to their cultural features. The value that is placed on products or social activities can be culture sensitive and the exact purpose that each serves across national and cultural boundaries should be thoroughly established in marketing research.
To illustrate how perceptions of the sample population may vary across cultural patterns, we can consider two different countries, the Netherlands and the United States, and compare substantial differences in individual interpretations of products such as bicycles.
Not that it's unknown in other countries, but the Netherlands is the country where almost everybody bikes.
Virtually every mile of road is paralleled with its own bike lane. Bicycles are extended the same respect as cars, even having their own designated traffic lights. In the Netherlands, the roads are narrow and parking spaces are hard to come by and usually quite expensive. Whereas in Holland, hundreds of miles of lush green farmlands and shoreline are accessible only by bicycle, making it thus the most valuable mode of transportation among the Dutch, in the United States a bicycle can be said to serve solely as a recreational sport and seldom used as an equally comfortable and reliable means to travel within highways. Consequently, in the Netherlands, competing products would consist of other similar modes of transportation, while in the United States relevant means of recreation would be seen as different products that compete against bicycles.
Another example that demonstrates how people...