Cross-Cultural Chaos

As the world market becomes increasingly competitive (Popovici 2011), it is now imperative that companies market their products to other cultures as well as within their original homeland. There has been a shift in focus from local to global marketing efforts as corporations attempt to become multinational (Schiffman et al 2014). Consumers are becoming more and more assimilated with the rise of globalization, however there is still an inherent need to tailor products and marketing to specific cultures. This requires extensive research and a holistic understanding of what factors influence consumer buying behaviour in other countries.

Marketers need to take into account the numerous cultural characteristics of a country and in most cases, customize products and marketing to suit that particular country’s consumers tastes and needs. These cultural characteristics include language, customs, values and religion. The country of origin can also have a direct effect on the consumer’s willingness to buy the product (Len 2001). To do this successfully, marketers should conduct a cross-cultural analysis to identify how consumers differ and the implication this will have on their strategic marketing plan (Schiffman et al 2014).

As you would expect, a number of corporation’s failure to understand cultural differences have results in some embarrassing marketing mistakes. Companies need to take into account product modifications (to meet local customs and tastes), customized promotion as well as tailor pricing and distribution techniques “to meet local and economic conditions and customs” (Schiffman et al 2014). There are an abundance of company failures to take into account these important cultural factors, particularly when translating company slogans across different cultures. Below are some examples:

-The Dairy Association’s successful ‘Got Milk?’ campaign encouraged the company to expand to Mexico, however the slogan translated to ‘Are you lactating?’ (Qualman 2011)

-KFC’s slogan ‘Finger-lickin’ good’ translated to ‘Eat your finger off’ in Chinese (Fromowitz 2011)

-Pepsi’s slogan ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’ translated in Chinese to ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ (Qualman 2011)

-Scandinavian vacuum cleaner designer Electrolux, used the tag-line ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’ in the US campaign (Qualman, 2011)

-A Schweppes tonic water campaign translated the product name into ‘Schweppes toilet water’ (Fromowitz 2013)

To see more like these, go to:

http://www.campaignasia.com/BlogEntry/359532,Cultural+blunders+Brands+gone+wrong.aspx

http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2036234/marketing-translation-mistakes-learn

These examples reiterate the importance of research when marketing to other cultures, particularly when translating slogans which may not work across different cultures.

Although this is quite humorous, as Tian (2010) cautions our first step in cross-cultural consumer behaviour is to recognize that no one culture is superior to any other. He says very elegantly, “It is important for the marketers know that there is no room for ethnocentrism in the 21st Century marketing practice.

Two theories about cultural differences often referenced are those drawn from the models of Geert Hofstede and Edward T. Hall. These theories are nearly three decades old, but their categories for considering differences are still valid. They discuss cultural differences within the framework of “Uncertainity Avoidance,” Individualism vs. Collectivism and “low-context” vs. “high-context” communication.

Although standardized promotion can be more cost-effective, unless countries are extremely cultural similar (for example America and Australia), it is better to customize products and marketing to avoid embarrassing mistakes and loss of revenue.

References:

Fromowitz, M 2013, ‘Cultural Blunders: Brand gone wrong’, Campaign Asia-Pacific (online), 7 October, viewed 3 June 2014,http://www.campaignasia.com/BlogEntry/359532,Cultural+blunders+Brands+gone+wrong.aspx

Len, T.W. 2001, ‘Cross-cultural marketing’, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 527Popovici, S 2011, ‘What do we know about cross-cultural marketing?’, Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov. Economic Series. Series V, vol. 4, iss. 2, pp. 57-64

Schiffman, L, O’Cass, A, Paladino, A & Carlson, J 2014, Consumer Behaviour, 6th edn, Pearson Australia, Frenchs Forest, Australia

Qualman, E 2011, ’13 Marketing Translation Mistakes to Learn from’, ClickZ(online), 30 March, viewed 3 June 2014,http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2036234/marketing-translation-mistakes-learn

Tian, R.G. & Wang, C.H. 2010, ‘Cross-Cultural Customer Satisfaction at a Chinese Restaurant: The Implications to China Foodservice Marketing’, International Journal of China Marketing, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 60-72.

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