Marketing across cultures worldwide is a thriving business as the world moves closer to a global economy. International companies have been marketing to countries around the world for years and many have had some degree of success without ever taking cultural differences into consideration. Craft your marketing message with host country values in mind and boost your chances of success.
Understanding cultural differences is important to achieve success in any market, let alone on the world business stage. While there are national and local cultures to consider, remember to address political and business cultures, when developing marketing strategies.
Sociologic differences around the world largely outweigh the similarities. People in the global community are influenced and driven by different things. When responding to advertising, some value freedom, reward for effort and an entrepreneurial approach, while others avoid individualism like the plague.
Lack of cultural considerations not only can result in a mediocre response to product promotions, but can even impact the company’s international image. Nestlé suffered significant international criticism when a breast milk substitute marketed in Africa was deemed to be the cause of malnutrition in babies. While there was nothing wrong with their product, Nestlé was at fault because the company didn’t consider the possibility that reduced literacy levels in Africa would result in their breast milk substitute being misused.
Tailor the Message to the Culture
In many national cultures significant accomplishment in life is taken as a measure of success. People who meet these standards of success are regarded highly. Consequently these cultures more readily accept marketing presented to them along the lines of the achievement of their goals. However, the same type of marketing copy presented to people who consider status in life a result of birthplace, social standing and influence (or the lack of it) isn’t acceptable and will get poor marketing results.
There are countries where people fear uncertainty and risk-taking, while in others the “you-too-can-succeed” attitude thrives. Some cultures grimace at the use of terms, symbols or even colors, repugnant in their life experiences. Different colors appeal more in certain countries, particularly in religious societies, than in others. For example, red is very much a color of luck to the Chinese, but a warning sign to many other nationalities. In China, gold is almost always a sign of prosperity and success. The issue of color selection in marketing applies not only to print and media ads, but also to web sites.
Gender is a factor when considering your target market in any country, but in some societies it is more relevant than in others. If you are selling medical supplies in the Russian Republic today you should be aware the vast majority of Russian doctors are women. However in countries like the U.S., Australia and the U.K. men make up the majority of doctors.
Gender esteem also has significant implications in countries like Japan, Austria and in Arab countries where males often command ultimate decision authority over females. In contrast, in Sweden the female population has a much greater say in purchasing decisions.
Political Influences on Business Culture
Political influences past and present can also affect the way people view what they read or hear. Some people have never known, or have only recently had the freedom to choose for themselves. Others rely on their governments or what they consider to be their “betters” to tell them what is good and what should be avoided. A seal of government approval in some countries will increase trust in a particular product, while in others any mention of the government could lead the reader to throw the piece away in disgust.
In societies where individual thought and action has been suppressed for hundreds of years, individuals might not have the experience or capability to go through a rational thought processes. Consequently coming up with a positive and bold action to buy your product may be difficult for them. These people need to have everything explained to them in minute detail every step of the way until they are confident in their decision to buy.
Special Considerations in Emerging Markets
The Chinese and Indian markets in particular front the charge of emerging markets on the global business scene and will represent a significant part of world marketing growth for decades to come.
Family structures in China, Japan and other Asian countries differ greatly from those in many other countries. Family considerations command respect in all matters, including investments and individual actions. Collective considerations are often uppermost in the minds of people who have lived under such conditions all their lives. Because older family members command so much respect and influence they are the logical target audience.
One of the most evident factors in dealing with and selling to Asian cultures is the avoidance of “loss of face,” The Chinese have a business culture based on the social standing and reputation of individuals. To do anything the Chinese consider as demeaning or reducing their personal standing is tantamount to insulting them profusely, which they see as a loss of face. The use of embarrassing terms or causing any unease on social issues will kill marketing copy stone dead.
On the other hand, the Chinese highly respect tradition and longevity and as a result react positively to copy that emphasizes the history and prestige of any company trying to enter their market.
In India collective cultures have been a way of life for hundreds of years. The caste system of social standing is paramount in Indian society and presents particular challenges to avoid causing offence. In business circles Sindhis, Marwaris and Gujratis dominate business houses, many of which were built on (and are still based on) family values and ideals.
Religious beliefs play a significant role in Indian society. Religion influences every aspect of their lives including their response and reaction to marketing copy. Motivational selling techniques are considered crass to many Indians while educational, emotive and informative data is more readily accepted.
Put Yourself in Your Buyer’s Shoes
With careful research of cultural differences you can craft the right words to maximize your message impact in the international market.