The unwelcome gift: Marketing and cross-cultural differences

Jul 20, 2009

Westerner consumers are more receptive to unexpected promotional gifts than their East Asian counterparts, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

People from diverse cultures react differently to the element of surprise, according to authors Ana Valenzuela (Baruch College), Barbara Mellers (University of California, Berkeley), and Judi Strebel (San Francisco State University). The research team explored different cultural responses to promotional gifts, such as cards, mugs, snacks, t-shirts, etc.

The authors conducted four studies in which participants received a gift as a token of appreciation for participating in a survey. Some of the participants knew about the gifts before participating, while others were surprised. Regardless of the gift, participants from the United States enjoyed the surprise more than participants in Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.

"Why does this phenomenon happen? For Westerners, an unexpected gift reinforces feelings of control over their environment. For East Asians, an unexpected gift indicates imbalance and prophesizes bad fortune," the authors write. "Our findings suggest that East Asians' experience of surprise is closely connected to their motivation to seek emotional balance."

The authors suggest that framing surprises as "good luck" or "good fortune" will enhance East Asians' enjoyment of a shifting environment. Their final experiment involved approaching bookstore patrons in California and Hong Kong and asking them to participate in a short survey. People who accepted were told they would be given a gift as a token of appreciation. Half of the participants entered the "Lucky Game" to win the gift. The other half received the gift without participating in the game. East Asians' enjoyment of the gift increased when the gift was attributable to luck.

"Marketers often use pleasant surprises to influence consumers' brand evaluations and purchase decisions," the authors write. "Unexpected marketing activities must accommodate cross-cultural differences."

More information: Ana Valenzuela, Barbara Mellers, and Judi Strebel. "Pleasurable Surprises: A Cross-Cultural Study of Consumer Responses to Unexpected Incentives." : February 2010 (published online July 15, 2009).

Source: University of Chicago (news : web)

Explore further: Less privileged kids shine at university, according to study

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Good date gift: expensive but worthless

Jul 27, 2005

British researchers say if men believe they are frittering away their money wining and dining a girl to win her hand, they should think again.

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

Dec 18, 2014

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

Dec 18, 2014

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

Dec 18, 2014

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.