Cracking Representations of the Emerging Markets: It’s Not Just about Affordability

Renee Kuriyan
Kathi Kitner, Scott Mainwaring, and Dawn Nafus

Emerging markets have grown to be a hotbed of technological innovation and use. How do businesses capture the seemingly large market opportunity comprised of what is known as the “emerging middle classes?” In the context of technology adoption, businesses create strategies to capture this market of potential First Time Buyers of PCs based on preconceived notions and representations of what emerging middle class consumers desire. Our research asked: what are the social and cultural forces that mediate technology adoption? What are their impacts on market opportunities? The paper uses the case of netbooks, specifically its slow uptake in emerging markets, to illustrate how using certain representations of these market segments to create strategies on messaging, positioning and communications to consumers can lead to missed market opportunities. We show how ethnographic frameworks to gauge social viability of products can be used to deconstruct these notions and help accelerate growth in emerging markets.