Name: Student Id: Gaydit Surmsuk 9804222 Title of Paper: Blending East and West: Can western marketing theory be applied universally? BBS Doctoral Symposium 23rd & 24th March 2009 Blending East and West Can western marketing theory be applied universally? Abstract This conceptual paper will explore the extent that western marketing knowledge can be applied universally to other cultures by examining the level at which western marketing theory can be adapted or transferred, leading to the creation of indigenous knowledge and the blending of East and West. The focus for this research will be on how marketing concepts are being perceived and practice by academics, practitioners, consumers and students set in a Thai cultural context, as Thai markets are uniquely different compared to the West, yet the majority of Thai universities use English textbooks or direct Thai translation of those textbooks. Keywords: Knowledge management, Knowledge transfer, Knowledge creation, Thailand 1.0 Introduction Marketing has become a universal and integrated part of modern society as social institutions and systems increasingly apply marketing principles and tactics originating from the West into different contexts with little or no adaptation to varying degrees of success. Past studies by Cavusigil and Yavas (1984), Fan, Y. (1998), Newell (1999), Siu and Kirby (1995), and many others argue and have questioned the applicability and transferability of marketing knowhow acquired in developed countries being applied to economies of developing countries. Schwenk (1988) stated that for knowledge to be understood valued and accepted there must be some shared mental model. Siu and Kirby (1995) provided evidence of this by investigating small Chinese firm using marketing principles generated from the West were not suitable or applicable in some specific socio-cultural contexts, emphasising the need to adapt marketing knowledge to suit local needs. In the case of Thailand, Thai markets and Thai culture is uniquely different compared to West, however most Thai universities offer marketing programs that are taught using Western (mainly American) academic textbooks or direct Thai translations. This stems from the belief that Western marketing knowledge is considered to be superior and more advance than current available indigenous knowledge. However the relevance and applicability of Western principles and theories are questionable within a Thai cultural context. Cavusgil and Yavas (1984) has identified several external environmental factors, such as education, society, political, legal and economic variables that are believed to impede the transfer of knowledge, raising the issue of how transferable are Western marketing concepts and can they be applied universally? 1.1 Research Question 1. 2. 3. How are marketing concepts being perceived by the various stakeholders? What is the learning process in universities and in businesses? How can the learning process be used to identify opportunities for creating indigenous knowledge? 4. 5. 6. How is marketing being practised in 1-2 sectors? What factors affect the transfer, adaptability, and creation of indigenous knowledge? Can western marketing theory be applied universally? The view of current literature suggests that educators, practitioners, consumers and students each perceive marketing in a different manner depending on the interpretation, application, motive, value, purpose and background of each group. Hence a divide exists, whether it is an academic-practitioner, educator-learner, theory-research-reality, practitionerconsumer or an East versus West divide. Diagram 1.2 outlines the framework for this study and by examining how each group perceives and practices marketing, valuable insight can be gain into the process of how knowledge is adapted and integrated as indicated in diagram 1.3. This research will be of interest to academics or practitioners whom are interested in identifying factors that generates knowledge and understanding of factors that impede the transfer and adoption of knowledge and could be adapted for use in systems involving knowledge management. • • The Divide Academic Theory • • Practitioner Reality KNOWLEDGE INPUT ACADEMIC (Marketing Education) PRACTITIONER (Marketing Practice) Educator Learner Sender Receiver STUDENTS CONSUMERS PUBLIC CREATION OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE Diagram 1.2 Relationships and the flow of knowledge Knowledge Input Knowledge Exploration • • • Sources of knowhow Selection Availability External Constraints: • • • • Educational characteristics Sociological characteristics Political & legal characteristics Economic characteristics Knowledge Transfer • Relevance & Compatibility Knowledge Transfer Constraints: • • • • • • Political instability Economic instability Educational background Social background Negative attitudes towards modern techniques Resistance to new ideas Knowledge Adaptability • • • Conceptual & Contextual Modification Absorbability Cultural Constraints: • • • • Language Societal values/norms Learning approach Learning process Knowledge Integration • Blending East & West Creation of Indigenous Knowledge Knowledge Flow Diagram 1.3 The Learning Process 2.0 Context – Education in Thailand In order to understand the current Thai educational system we must first look into the past. Traditional Thai education dates back to 1292 where the task of education fell upon Buddhist monks who regarded the provision of knowledge as a religious act and prior to 1871 continued to pass on their knowledge of Pali, fine arts, law, medicine, astronomy and arithmetic to others. It wasn’t until 1911 that King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) recognised the importance of education for modernising society, developing economic success and prosperity that lead to the first education reform, creating the basic model for which the modern Thai school system is based upon. The second education reform was brought about by the Thai student uprising in 1973 that created a more democratic and just Thai society which highlighting the need for unity in the administration and management of education, the inequity and inequality of the Thai educational system and the need for a more open and relevant curriculum. The third education reform in the 1990s was due to the challenges of globalisation and internationalisation but the 1997 Asian economic crisis exposed serious weaknesses in the Thai national economy. A significant degree of the blame was placed on the country’s weak human resources base that resulted from an inferior educational system provided by a badly co-ordinated and hierarchical bureaucratic administration. Atagi (2002) inferred that the Thai education system was unresponsive to socio-economic needs, requiring rapid changes and improvement in order to meet with the shortage of human resources in terms of both quantity and quality. This lead to the fourth education reform to be implemented in 1997 in accordance with the Constitution and the National Education Act, with emphasis placed on a better co-ordinated, high-quality education system to improve the country’s competitiveness in the face of globalisation (ONEC 1997). The need for a quick turn around and improvements to the Thai educational system could be one of the reasons why western theories and principles, regarded to be superior and more advance than indigenous knowhow, was quickly adopted with or without careful consideration of the relevance of knowledge to Thai culture. The development of new marketing theories and the transfer of marketing knowhow to other countries are dominated by Western educated marketing educators with most publications on marketing including textbooks and journals being theorised, implemented and tested in Western capitalist markets. Mendelsohn, et al., (1994) states that textbooks are recognized as a primary medium for imparting knowledge in educational institutions defining much of what is taught in the classroom with Katter (1990) suggest that in most Asian cultures, knowledge, textbook ideas, principles, and theories are seen as a set body of rules not to be challenged or questioned with. However Nevett, et al., (1993) argues the relevance of these text books from which the theoretical foundations of marketing are based on American society and culture, containing case studies that assume knowledge of marketing conditions in the United States. Students in other countries may not share these same values and may not have knowledge of U.S. market conditions therefore the validity of the information comes into question when placed in the context of a different cultural setting, proving to be quite meaningless to students. Hence for Thailand to become more competitive on the global stage, it is vital to stop imitating the West whose culture and societal values, economic and political situation are different to Thailand’s and take steps to create a framework that encourages the development of indigenous knowhow that would be a better cultural fit. Parallel examples of this can be seen in industry with Samsung whom used to be a “me too” brand copying Sony, eventually realised that in order to be considered as a serious competitor, it must step out from behind Sony’s shadow and create products that reflected Samsung’s own culture and unique way of doing business. 3.0 Methodology A review of relevant research reports and academic journal articles provide valuable insights into current debates and emerging issues that have been investigated in previous studies. As such Gray et al., (2007) and Helgesen, et al., (2008) study of the academic-practitioner divide, revealed that a questionnaire-based survey was seen as the most appropriate way to gather primary data, allowing for a comparison of the opinions between the representative of each sample group. Zaltman, et al., (1982) proposed using a “theory in use” approach, suggesting that researchers should work alongside managers if they want to study marketing activities. Brooksbank, et al., (1992) pointed out the deficiency of relying entirely on survey data while Curran and Burrows (1987) doubted the effectiveness of survey based research methods in understanding the actions, meanings and intentions of managers. Carson (1990), and Gibb and Davies (1990) recommend researchers to use qualitative research methods to gain in-depth knowledge which is not possible from using quantitative research. Yin (1989) case study approach allows for high quality information to be obtained from the case study approach, permitting processes to be examined in-depth. Milliman and Glinow (1998) inferred that translated questions and scales may not have the same meaning from one country to another. Huo and Glinow (1995) suggest that access to firms for research interview or data collection is significantly influenced by the researcher’s family network. However Woodcock and Chen (2000) argue that even though a researcher may lack positional authority within firms, the academic position could assist the requests for co-operation and participation. In the case of this study, there are three main groups (academics, practitioners, and publics) that will be examined to obtain a holistic approach to the creation of indigenous knowhow, in which a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques will be applied. The main research objective is to investigate how marketing concepts are being perceived by the various stakeholders in order to identify factors that encourages or impedes the flow of knowledge leading to the creation of indigenous knowhow as illustrated in diagram 1.2. Students, consumers, and the public will be the control for this study as this group are the beneficiaries of marketing knowhow and can evaluate the effectiveness of knowledge transfer providing academics and practitioners value feedback as to how to best adapt marketing knowledge to suit local needs. Analysis of how marketing is being taught in Thai universities would reveal the current level of marketing knowledge and topics covered in higher education courses. Secondary data can be gathered by looking at each institution’s web site, reviewing the marketing curriculum. Primary data can be gathered by formulating and distributing questionnaires among business school staff and students to get an overview of how effective the learning and knowledge transfer process is. Using the “theory in use” approach as suggested by Zaltman, et al., (1982) by requesting to sit in on lectures, may yield valuable information on the learning interaction environment. Lecturers or head of departments may be interviewed to gain in-depth knowledge on their thoughts and opinions which may lead some kind of collaboration with either students or learning institutions whom might be researching a similar area. Companies interact with their consumers on a daily basis, proving to be ideal conditions to measure the effectiveness and relevancy of marketing practices because in order for marketing to be effective, practitioners must be in tune with local needs and local customs. Primary data can be gathered by formulating and distributing questionnaires to marketing managers, staff and consumers to get an overview of how marketing is being practised within 1-2 sectors. Analysis of secondary data sources, comprising of annual reports and advertisements will provide information on current strategies and marketing campaigns. Marketing managers or head of departments may be interviewed to gain in-depth knowledge and if a rapport can be established it might be possible to gain access to internal marketing data which the company has collected to date. 4.0 Conclusion The applicability and transferability of marketing knowhow acquired in developed countries being applied to economies of the developing countries have been questioned by many academics such as Cavusigil and Yavas (1984), Fan, Y. (1998), Newell (1999), Siu and Kirby (1995). And now with the opening of marketplaces and economic growth, demand for knowledge has increased, attracting the attention for developing countries to develop their own indigenous knowhow. In this research by examining relationships in diagram 1.2 and how each group perceives and practices marketing, valuable insight can be gain into the process of how knowledge is adapted and integrated as indicated in diagram 1.3, creating the opportunity for the development of indigenous knowhow. This research will hopefully provide a starting point for developing countries to formulate their own system for developing indigenous knowhow. References 1. Atagi, R. (2002). The Thailand Education Reform Project: School Reform Policy. ADB TA 3585-THA, Education Sector Reform, Thailand. 2. Cavusgil, S. T. and Yavas, U. (1984). Transfer of Management Knowhow to Developing Countries: An Empirical Investigation. Journal of Business Research, 12, pp. 35-50. 3. Fan, Y. (1998). The transfer of western management to China. Management Learning, Vol. 29 No. 2 pp. 201-21. 4. Katter, N. A. (1990). Difficulties and Aids in the Study of Law by Overseas Student - A Cultural Perspective. 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