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New Zealand companies are failing to properly exploit Asian markets because they don’t understand Asian customers, said a leading New Zealand marketing academic in an interview with Xinhua.

Professor Kim-Shyan Fam said too many New Zealand exporters are also squandering opportunities offered by the free trade agreement with China because they overvalue their products and lack long-term marketing strategies.

“They need to look beyond the attitude that just because the United States buys something, then it will sell anywhere. It doesn t mean the Indians or the Chinese or the Malaysians will want their products,” said Fam, head of the School of Marketing and International Business at Wellington’s Victoria University.

“I often ask exporters, ‘Do you really know what your customers want from you just because they bought your product?’ It doesn’t mean they like it — they might just have bought it because they were curious,” said Fam, who gave his inaugural professorial lecture, “Chopsticks advertising — the art of marketing to Asia”.

Many New Zealand companies were stuck in a “short-term view” of Asian markets, believing New Zealand’s products could be sold as luxury or “exclusive” items to small upper income groups.

“This is just wrong, and it’s unsustainable,” said Fam, who is also founding director of the Marketing in Asia Group of researchers and academics.

“A lot of companies when they start to sell, they make their products too exclusive and too expensive. They have the attitude that they want to mark up the price and think that the product must be good because it comes from New Zealand.”

Fam suggested that many New Zealand exports, such as wine, mussels, dairy products and lamb, should be aimed at mass consumption in China and other Asian markets.

“I think mass consumption has got more appeal. Exporters should be looking at 50% of the population, targeting the middle income group.”

Exporters needed people on the ground, particularly in larger countries like China, where markets could be fragmented “county by county and city by city” as well as among different generations.

However, he debunked the idea that marketing in Asia required a major investment, saying cheaper forms of marketing were more effective.

“They don’t have to spend a lot of money on marketing. They can always use a cheap form of information, looking at supermarket sampling, word of mouth, the Internet.”

Gatherings in the style of Tupperware parties, where sales people could teach customers how to cook or use unfamiliar products, were one of the best forms of communicating, he said.

More at Xinhua news

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