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I remember a story from my International Business class in Grad school. I believe it was Whirlpool who started selling their washers and dryers in Mainland China. These were traditional white goods tailored to fit the electrical output for Chinese homes. Sales were not near what they had expected. After doing more research, they discovered that it wasn’t the function of the product; it was the color. In traditional China, white is a funeral color and considered bad luck. Once they introduced different color appliances (red, blue, green) sales picked up. You can’t underestimate cultural traditions. The company is now expanding their business in China though acquisitions (see the article below).
Some companies do minimal research and use established companies already set up in the particular country. For example, when Coke and Pepsi first entered China, they discarded their preferred mode of going it alone and embraced the commonly accepted notion that joint ventures are the way to go in China. By the late-1990’s, after years of struggling, they finally found it smarter to jettison their partners. Coke is now the clear leader in the soft drink market. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, 80% of Coke’s growth will come from overseas markets.
How is Coke performing domestically and internationally?