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Cultural Considerations in Marketing Strategies

Cultural Considerations in Marketing StrategiesIn today’s extremely globalized world, it is imperative to consider any marketing and sales strategy from a cultural perspective. Thomas Friedman, in his book, The World is Flat outlines three stages of globalization. He writes “In Globalization 1.0, which began around 1492, the world went from size large to size medium. In Globalization 2.0, the era that introduced us to multinational companies, it went from size medium to size small. And then around 2000 came Globalization 3.0, in which the world went from being small to tiny.” The world is indeed tiny, and with access to different countries’ consumers with the click of a button, it is more important than ever to consider cultural influences that could affect businesses.

The term “glocalization” is often used to describe the process of global companies deciding to go local. In particular, glocalization is the act of global brands developing products and services that are appealing to local consumers by embracing cultural differences. Keeping glocalization in mind, companies that employ marketing strategies to appeal to large groups of people should work on tailoring these strategies to be culturally relevant. Especially for businesses that operate in more than one place, considering the cultural implications of marketing campaigns is vital to success, in terms of profits and user satisfaction.

Knowing Your Audience

Knowing your users is of utmost importance. I took an International Business course in college, and one of the major takeaways was this: what works for one set of people may not work for others. While this may seem obvious to some, many companies have tried to clone campaigns that were successful in one part of the world in a different country, neglecting to think about cultural considerations.

Take the example of Proctor & Gamble, and their attempt to sell diapers in Japan. They used an image of a stork delivering a baby on their packaging, and while this image appealed to the general population in the US, it left Japanese consumers completely baffled. The reason for this is stories of storks bringing babies are not part of Japanese folklore, and so this image simply came across as a weird bird with a baby.

With the rise of data analytics, it’s easy to make targeted marketing decisions for a certain demographic. In fact, according to experts at Maryville University, data governance is quickly becoming a prioritized issue for many companies, especially larger, global companies. Fifty-four percent of companies using analytics extensively have reported higher profits than average. Knowing your audience, in terms of histories, traditions, and beliefs will influence your marketing strategy and should always be kept in mind while going global.

Paying Attention to the Details

Have you heard the phrase “It’s all in the details”? Well, this couldn’t be truer in terms of marketing campaigns. Cultural considerations should be implemented in all aspects of business — it doesn’t just stop at the ad campaigns. Labelling, branding, and slogans also need to be tailored to suit specific audiences as well.

For example, in 2004, a Nike commercial showing LeBron James in battle with kung-fu masters was banned in China. Chinese authorities stated that this commercial insulted Chinese dignity, and viewers were highly offended by it. In this way, it’s important to consider the four broad cultural factors of values, symbols, rituals, and thought processes in any marketing strategy.

From a consumer standpoint, details matter too. Glocal marketing should not simply be segregated into countries — marketers need to consider more than just national divides, targeting smaller communities within countries too. Within the US, the buying power of multicultural consumers increased from $661 billion in 1990 to $3.4 trillion in 2014. Bringing multicultural insights into marketing decisions and focusing on even minute changes of varying demographics within a single country is integral so that companies can tap into this massive buying power.

Customer service plays an important role in communicating cross-culturally at an individual level. One way to bridge boundaries in terms of customer service is to design a website that can communicate cross-culturally. Having a varied set of landing pages that cater to specific demographics of countries is always a good idea, and most international companies follow this process.

Keeping Current

The world is constantly moving, and current issues change daily. Most of these issues are not even in people’s control, and cannot always be predicted. Marketers need to be quick to adapt to changes, and respond appropriately to local dynamics.

Hongkiat cites the example of a 2003 Hong Kong Tourism Board slogan “Hong Kong will take your breath away.” Unfortunately, this occurred right before the SARS outbreak; shortness of breath is one of the major symptoms of SARS. This example highlights how a badly timed campaign with no backup and inability to respond to local issues ended up being quite detrimental.

Ultimately, a successful marketing strategy must consider cultural influences. Extensive research before a campaign is integral, especially when approaching new and previously untraversed markets. Furthermore, making sure not to get caught up in cultural stereotypes and generalizations will also contribute to the success of any campaign. Accepting and embracing cultural diversity, and using these differences to one’s advantage, is the way forward for businesses in this interconnected world.

photo credit: perzonseo via photopin (license)

This article was first published on Integrated Marketing Association.

Akshata Mehta
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