Marketing pitfall for Starbuck in China

Essay by crywolfUniversity, Master's March 2005

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Marketing Pitfall

In September 2000, the opening of Starbucks in Beijing's Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, brewed storm in China, with the outraged local media reporting that 70 percent of people would rather not sip the American chain's frappucinos in the footsteps of the Son of Heaven.

For many locals, they were incensed by the U.S. chain's opening in the ancient home of China's emperors as an act of American economic and cultural domination in one of their proudest national monuments.

To weary tourists visiting the Palace Museum, Starbucks' tiny store amid the sprawling majesty of the imperial-era Forbidden City is a welcome chance to rest with a frothy latte.

Call it globalization gone crazy, nationalistic nonsense or just a storm in a coffee cup, perhaps the uproar would have been avoided if authorities at Palace Museum and Starbucks franchisee's in Beijing have paid attention to the sensitivity of cultural influences on consumer behavior.

Understanding Culture

Culture is a crucial concept to understanding consumer behavior. It may be thought of as a society's personality. Culture includes both abstract ideas such as values and ethics, material objects and services. Culture can also be defined as the accumulation of shared meanings, rituals, norms, and traditions among the members of an organization or society.

The relationship between consumer behavior and culture is a two-way street. On the one hand, products and services that resonate with the priorities of a culture at any given time have a much better chance of being accepted by consumers. On the other hand, the study of new products and innovations in product design successfully produced by a culture at any point in time provides a window into the dominant cultural ideals of that period.

In the above case of Starbuck's new chain in...