Research – An International Language?

Research – An International Language?

“100m people in China intend playing cricket in the next 12 months”

“International companies offer higher service standards to American customers than French customers”

“Consumers in India are by far the most likely to buy your new products”

Of course we know that isn’t true. Research isn’t that simple.

The reason we see “facts” like this is due to the interpretation of international research at face value. It doesn’t take into account factors such as:

  •      Different response styles (e.g. tendency towards average or extreme responses). A 9 out of 10 response in France is not the same as in the USA


  •      Aspirational response and overclaim (e.g. intended behaviour regarding brands may be overstated in markets such as China and India)


There isn’t a silver bullet approach to international research – there are clever ways of manipulating and normalising data after the event, but the best thing we can do is to get the research design right upfront.

There are a couple of things we all need to do for starters when it comes to running international research:

Speak the right language – Good translation, double-checking and piloting are all advisable. This involves sense checking the meaning as well as the words. Avoiding certain question types can also help remove ambiguity (e.g. does très bien mean very good or extremely good or both?)

Ask the right questions – Certain question types lend themselves better to international comparison than others (e.g. max diff v scales). A good degree of consistency across markets is usually essential, so in research design, the basic rules of thumb are to keep it simple and avoid what can be easily misinterpreted.

With care, knowledge and the right advice, most of the issues with international research can be addressed. At Spark we speak fluent international research – if you want to get in tune with consumers internationally, why not get in touch?


by Peter Kenefick, Research Director

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