Making Sense of the Supermarket

Judging from the business press, food industry giants such as Pepsico and Kellogg have met with disappointing returns in emerging markets, regardless of the brand’s prestige in the West, its product benefits, or the scope of its media campaigns. Cultural barriers continue to form barriers to consumer acceptance and loyalty in markets such as China, India, and Africa, because management’s efforts to tailor flavoring or advertising imagery to local tastes fall short of aligning western brands to foreign markets. Consumers around the world assign value to goods and brand experiences based upon their alignment with long-standing rituals, traditions, and lifestyle preferences. Simply adding local flavorings to cold dry cereals will not grow sales in cultures where consumers expect warm wet foods at breakfast. Since semiotic research begins with decoding the cultural environment, it provides proven tools for gaining deep knowledge of the meanings, rituals, and values consumers associate with packaged foods.

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