INTERNATIONAL MARKETING: HERBAL MEDICINE
SELLING HERBAL MEDICINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Herbology is a Chinese traditional medicine of treating illness and promoting well-being using herbs, animal parts and other natural supplements. The practice necessitates these ingredients to balance their interaction affirming to Yin Yang which existed in Confucianism (). It is said to deal with the root of disease and obtain body harmony ( 2000). However, even though benefits are assured by its millennia old usage in which Mainland China deemed it as part of the healthcare system, knowledge and consultation about herbal medicines are necessary (, 1996). Also, initial acquaintance may not equate to optimal benefits as the body needs adaptation. Side-effects are likely when used with other medication simultaneously ( ). For the part of the user, cooperation with the practitioner is a must ( 2004) where discipline and dedication to be healed are integral to herbal medication. It usually accompanied by acupuncture and custom–made prescriptions for better results (, 2000).
In Hong Kong, every district sells herbal medicine (). On the other hand, only the United Kingdom’s cancer-inflicted niche is the significant segment that uses in what west called alternative or complementary form of medicine (). Although these two countries regulates the use of herbal medicine because of its empirical indications of adverse effects, English consumption to them is in the restrictive infancy wherein the segment mostly dealt with herbal medication are chronic diseases or those that are too costly to treat with modern methods. In this respect, a Chinese merchant who would like to be successful to sell licensed herbal medicine could face cultural and social barriers that require deeper strategy aside from UK government’s approval of its herbal imports.
The Cultural and Social Significance
Perhaps, the most significant dividing force between the two countries is their extreme roles in herbal medicine. Ninety percent of the Hong Kong population is Chinese ( ) while at the same level UK counterpart is populated with whites (). China is where the practice is developed and evolved while western countries are limited in exposure and practical experience and it is in introductory stage. Another, Hong Kong housed most ancestor worshipers () extracted from the teachings of Confucius while UK is 70% Christian ( ). As a result, the belief and benefits of Yin Yang concept basic to herbal mixture could not be fully realized and institutionalized by western counterpart.
The monogamy and one child policy rule in Mainland China can post greater influence of the family to children (, 2000). Divorce rates are high while second marriages are discouraged with the right of the legal wife to property of the mistresses. These factors tend to stimulate family cohesion. On the other hand, UK family is headed by 70% married couple (), almost fifty percent of them do not have children and at least 50% of them do not have children living at their homes. These statistics could be indicative that both countries exhibit monogamy and small family size. However, UK children impliedly characterize more independence from Chinese and this could impact their choice behavior.
Urban Chinese societies are stratified between economic and political perspectives ( , 2005). This undermines the UK’s prominent social division in terms of occupational status (). Thus, the identification process of ability to distribute resources and opportunities are more complex in Urban China than UK. The latter showed significant positive relationship between the economic statuses of parents in relation to their children’s mental capability. Higher income earners also lived longer, have advantageous condition of employment, likely to have personal computers and have more slack time to do other things. On the other hand, there is limited information to Chinese elite class and social class in general as adjustments to its society in the process.
Recommendation to Herbologist Merchant
When doing business, he could divert the attention of English prospects from the religious concepts of herbal medicine into an essential health concept. This means that adaptation to the English religion is needed. Diversion of religious perspective of Yin Yang could be upheld by minimizing the use of such term when talking or advertising to prospects. The latter may feel cultural imperialism on the move that could adversely affect purchase. He could use general terms such as strong and weak ingredients as an option. However, such alternative could demise the healing power of the practice. Healing through herbal medicine necessitates harmony and it could not be attained if dishonesty lurks in the communication process.
Therefore, adaptation does not strictly require the practitioner to deemphasize the origin of herbal medicine which is China. There should only be a greater emphasis to concentrate advertising to the health aspects of the product not in its inherent Yin Yang concepts. The product specifications should be written comprehensively in the package which should include cautions, benefits and other educational facts. Leaflets about herbal medicine can also be helpful accompanied by seminar for closer customer communication.
Diversity marketing, the process of customizing marketing programs to a specific market segment, could be tapped to cater the economic class stratification of UK. A more sophisticated and well-package product should be distributed to the upper class, the relative reverse could be distributed to the lower class and the middle features can be allotted to the working class. As a strategy, it can be more realistic to generate income if the merchant will initially focus on the middle and lower class as they are characterized with cost-cutting while most of their income is allocated to food and education.
Herbal medicine could be characterized by high involvement in buying behavior and significant differences between other forms of mainstream Western medicine (, 2003). As a result, the merchant can fight in terms of cheaper price and non-toxic characteristic of herbal medicines. It can initially gain market in cases of simple viral- or bacterium- based sickness like colds and flu. It could be advertised as natural forms of medicine that simple disease could not only be treated in the short-run but continuous consumption can lead to long-term benefits. In doing this, marketing should highlight not only the breakthrough accomplishments, but more importantly, educate the consumers about the risks and researches. By emphasizing its cost-and-benefit features, it can be differentiated with other modern medicines as non-biased and customer-friendly alternative.
The small size of English family connotes great influence in the consumer behavior of children. However, it is not typical for English family to stay in their parents’ house which can limit the mobility and content of information about the product. As a result, the merchant should identify opinion leaders ( 2003) like the health department that can certify its claims about the product and that it can compete with the modern medicines. As an alternative opinion leader are fitness instructor associations and personalities that can be effective medium to entice the market to try the product. The role of these opinion leaders is to situate the status of the product to awareness set to be able to qualify to successive sets in which consumer decision making will undergo like consideration set, choice set and the final decision. The number of products as the stages are reached becomes smaller due to elimination process.
As the product is new, at best peculiar, to the English customers, it is likely that the five-stage model ( 2003) of consumer buying process will be applied to herbal medicine. In triggering the need for customers to arrive at recognizing a problem (, 2003), herbal medicine’s cost-advantages and being natural medicine could be compared to the modern medicine that are mostly characterized by a commercial prices and toxic characteristics that are left in the body. Second, it is time to select the best information source ( 2003) for an active information searcher which is experiential source. Although this is the core determinant for a consumer to test effectiveness in sensitive healthcare aspect, there is a need for a strong approval from a medical practitioner who is known and widely-acknowledge to affect this product challenge.
In the third process, after the actual experience with the product, the merchant should understand what attributes and in what level customers develop product beliefs (, 2003). In this way, he can adjust advertising or promotional mix he initially conducted. The merchant, in addition, should remind that the body needs adaptation to herbal medicine to obtain results. Fourth and fifth stage which is purchase decision and post purchase behavior (, 2003) will largely depend in the first three stages and how the merchant adapted to the needs of the customers. Due to this fact, retention of customers requires the merchant to be a licensed medical practitioner himself, at best, a member of medical association in order for customers to feel safe in dealing with such first three stages.
Finally, the merchant needs a lot of researches to do in a pluralistic society of United Kingdom and its adherence to modern form of medicine. It should be satisfied with slow and gradual piling of demand and prevent too much advertising as it can develop to large number of people frustrated of the results due to unguided intake and accompanying change of habits. A small number of initial participants could join the testing stages and completion of the first three stages of the buying process that the small merchant’s company can handle. When it is already established and familiar to the preferences and establish a learning curve from mistakes, it can be more aggressive in marketing and mass-distribution of its products.
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