Cross Cultural Marketing Communications



This report addresses a project that elaborates Cross Cultural Marketing Communications with reference to Global perspective. It also includes an extensive study done on HSBC Pakistan enabling readers to closely understand the "Think Global Act Local". A major programme of market research was carried out to assess the same.

The main aim of this study was to explore the factors and considerations which give rise to local strategies development in marketing communications. In order to achieve the above mentioned primary & secondary both researches were carried out. In primary research qualitative research was carried out which includes interviewing marketing officials of HSBC bank. The data collected was analysed closely to produce valuable findings.

The research revealed that it is extremely important to have knowledge of local cultures and customs when entering in global business. The research identified substantial factors which matters while entering in a different cultured place. This confirmed that a general service like banking can also be moulded for customers in such a way that they will give preference to a service which cares about their local values.


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Of all the business trends spilling over from the 20th  to 21st  centuries, that of globalization is the one most likely not to be labelled as a "fad" after several years.  The emergence of the global marketplace inevitably advances, bringing with it revolutionary change in the ways that many organizations do business.  Harvard's Theodore Levitt said more than a generation ago that the purpose of any business was to first attract, and then keep, a customer; globalization brings a wide range of possibilities to the process of attracting those customers.

In the process of attracting customers in international markets it of course is necessary for businesses to enter those nations where the markets exist.  We can talk all around the cultural differences that exist among the world's people, but the bottom line is that people with different cultural backgrounds have different perspectives.  The purpose here is to evaluate the statement.

The language of comparative management seeks to represent the management systems of the other. It pretends to be an objective representation of those systems, but it can only talk about them in a language informed by its own localized and historically situated ontologies, epistemologies and moralities (Westwood, 2001, 242).

And to examine the case of HSBC "World's Local Bank" the practices of HSBC will be explored in context with the local culture of Pakistan and what changes were made in their Marketing and Advertising program exclusively for Pakistan, as Pakistan is one of important and emerging  countries of Asia.

Since cross-cultural marketing is of great importance in this era of globalization many researches have been carried out in this field. Previous researches have not provided sufficient explanation for the cultural factors and practices of HSBC Bank Pakistan. This paper attempts to fill the gap by finding and studying the local practices of HSBC bank and how did they manage to cater the needs of local public.

This paper starts examining the importance of cross cultural marketing efforts and the differences found in inter cultural markets. In chapter two consumers and the perception process is discussed with reference to cross cultural aspects. There are several issues which are to be explored in cross cultural marketing which will be discussed in chapter three. The case of HSBC bank and its claim of being world's local bank will be explored in chapter 4. At the end of this paper recommendations and conclusion will be given based on the research and literature review.


1.1Cross cultural marketing and its importance

Futurists, marketing gurus, demographers, even social scientists generally agree that virtually all research, but especially marketing research, depends on the population involved, specifically the consumer. Books on the weekly best sellers list and the most popular television programs provide directional signals to the future. Trend expert and futurist, Faith Popcorn regularly asks her clients whether or not they know what their customers ate for breakfast, how many kids they have, what are they thinking about and what their the three biggest concerns in life.

"If the answer is no, you don't know how to sell to them," Popcorn (1996) says. "To understand consumers, you have to know what they are eating, how they are living and how they are shopping. Listening to the customer, understanding what he or she is all about, will help you future fit your company" (pp. 7D). Generalities, Popcorn says, are what ultimately gives most companies grief. "Mass market is over--the future is about individualization," she explains. "We have entered a time of one-on-one or customized marketing" (7D).

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It is simple commonsense to realize that such must also be the case in the process of cross-cultural marketing. To make assumptions about a particular target audience or market is flirting with marketing disaster. This is of even greater importance when the marketing is taking place across cultural barriers that might include language barriers, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, or other forms of restrictions that neglect to include the important component of who people are and what are the circumstances that have made them the way they are. The smart marketing professional fully researches and plans for cultural differences. Without that knowledge or without the understanding associated with such knowledge, the likelihood of a successful marketing campaign or product launch become increasingly more discouraging.

No single aspect of product and service customization is more important, or more obvious, than that of the unique differences encapsulated within the cultural differences and particular influences based on larger issues associated with the society in which the consumer is born, raised, and educated. Certainly, a consumer's preferences are developed in light of his or her opinions and experiences that are then influenced by the realm in which that consumer's own personality and preferences are shaped.

It is always important to remember, especially when looking at the larger product development framework that encompasses marketing that purchases are not necessarily about the item or service purchased. Of far greater interest to the consumer are the costs, the utility, and the popularity of any given item and not necessarily in that order. Shopping and consumption have become tied up with far more factors than need, utility, or amusement. Complicated issues such as sexuality, status, and self-esteem are connected to the purchases of everything from cars to handbags. Regardless of whether such a statement is accurate for any single individual or particular group of individual .It is a fact of life in retailing, in marketing, in all aspects of human interaction for most consumers, especially those most influenced by the commercialism of Western societies.

As people across the globe gain better understanding of one another, it seems especially arrogant of an organization launching a marketing campaign without thorough research into the markets' characteristics and features. It is obvious why the best companies are often those with the best access to the best information. The Information Age has drawn the world together, in at least one way. The fact that people around the industrialized world are well-aware of the products and services that are desirable and exist in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, those selling the products, whether those are industrial machines or women's lingerie are less aware of their consumers than the consumer is of then. As long as that lack of equilibrium is in place, the marketer faces an uphill battle.

According to Ryan (1996), all too often, consumer research has been preoccupied with empirical issues and neglects the experiential perspective of consumers as individuals influenced by their cultures, upbringing, and lifestyle. This reflects a fundamental difficulty in consumer research that them leads to a lack of understanding of the context of the consumer's cultural bias, preference, and understanding. The marketing specialist must always ask who or what is the consumer? However, the marketer must also be well aware of what factors have made the consumer think and act in the way he or she does. Without such an understanding of cultural issues, a product or service enters a market with a definite disadvantage.

Malhotra, Agarwal and Peterson (1996) also warn that methodological issues have had the historical tendency of restricting the most positive and forward-thinking progress of cross-cultural marketing research. Cross-cultural research is best addressed through specialized analytical methods such as structural equation modelling and conjoint analysis. New methods, however, should be based on validated theories to benefit cross-cultural research. Researchers are encouraged to develop new methods and theories that are based on the cultural circumstances they are dealing with, as well as the information that makes such cultural concerns different or in need of modification from any other marketing process.

The persuasiveness of any communication can be increased much more easily and dramatically by paying attention to the content (and the relation of that content to the dependent target variable) than by manipulation of credibility, attractiveness, fear, self-esteem, distraction, or any of the other myriad factors that have captured the attention of researchers in the area of marketing communication. Keeping these factors in mind, specific, qualitative research methodology must be employed in order to assure that the unique concerns of this equally unique culturally specific demographic are addressed. Recognizing that such a segment of the population requires a multi-faceted approach in terms of any meaningful research, the first baseline data should be gathered from a cross-national diffusion analysis since basic cross-national or cross-cultural diffusion analysis plays an integral role in determining the success of newly-introduced products in the market.

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According to Kumar, Ganesh, Echambadi (1998), evaluating cross-national/cultural factors does not only help firms determine market trends but also help them ascertain the period of time by which products are adopted in different parts of the country. However, it is safe to say that three key factors for successful cross-cultural business will always play a part in that atmosphere: recognition of the other party's difference, the need to remain culturally neutral, and respect for the cultural norms and/or behaviours regardless of potential emotional stress and discomfort. Marketing strategies must be sensitized according to the cultural norms and taboos of other societies, while considering their culture's languages, work schedules, tastes, religious beliefs and lifestyles. In most parts of Latin America, for example, social relationships must be established before the process of engaging in business.

1.2 Inter cultural marketing differences

Every society as a cultural heritage that prescribes certain broad patterns of behaviour.  These patterns extend to such diverse areas as sexual roles, dress, food habits, recreation, patterns of authority, status symbols, artefacts, attitudes, motivation, and use of space and meaning of language. We are accustomed to the practices and configurations of our own culture and, when deprived of them, are often unable to deal effectively with our environment. (Kenneth & Runyon). Alvin Toffler refers the phenomenon of culture shock as the psychological effect of suddenly finding ourselves without our accustomed cultural support.

Customs and culture can be even stronger than laws. When advertising to children age 12 or over was approved in Germany, local customs were so strong that companies risked customers revolt by continuing to advertise. (W Wells, Burnett J & Moraity S)

Every society has different set of cultures which companies and organizations have to keep in mind while developing their marketing and advertising strategies.

Companies that are starting to do business in the Middle East have to learn new selling methods because the region is so devoutly religious. There are major restrictions on how women are presented in advertising. Many Asian cultures emphasize relationships and context. To be effective, the advertising message must recognize these cultural differences. (W Wells, Burnett J & Moraity S)

Values in a society continually change and are sometimes dichotomous. For example, as the median age of the population increases (the aging of baby boom generation), modifications in values are readily evident. While being tolerant of sexuality and other more "liberal" concepts, millions of Americans are, at the same time, returning to more "traditional" values and embracing some form of religion or spirituality. After decades of materialism and self-indulgence, many baby boomers are searching for meaning. Even younger members of society are changing. Many have embraced greater levels of temperance in terms of drugs, alcohol and sex.

The restructuring of values in society presents three challenges for marketing experts. The first is to monitor for changes so that the company is aware of what is happening in the society. The second is to create products and services compatible with changing values. The third is to design marketing messages that reflect and build on the value target markets and individual customers hold. (Kenneth Clow & Donald Baack).


2.1 Consumer behaviour to cross cultural marketing

The development of any product or service will be dependant on the behavioural attitudes of the buy consumers. These may influence the development, demand change or impact on the way in which marketing takes place. The development of many different products and services can be seen to demonstrate these changes.

The way in which a purchase decision is made can be seen to encompass the different attitudes of a purchaser, and as such it will impact on the way the product is perceived and the need for companies to satisfy consumer needs or appeal to their desires.

Research into this area has identified that the process that goes on in this 'black box' is usually undertaken in one of two ways. This may be by the category-based evaluation or piecemeal processing (Hadjimarcou et al, 1999).

Category based decision making is a method of evaluating a product (Hadjimarcou et al, 1999). For example a consumer may be in a supermarket considering which brand of coffee to buy. The category based process will involve the consumer will make use of the existing knowledge or memories that they already have regarding the product (Hadjimarcou et al, 1999). They may remember that a particular brand of coffee was associated with fair Trade, or received a good review in a food and drink magazine. It is worth noting that this will also reflect political changes and different fashions or trends.

Advertising plays a part in this process as it gives the consumer a knowledge or perception of the product prior to the consumer arriving at the supermarket (Kahn, 1998). Even though this may not be remembered consciously the consumer may have this clue or memory stimulated when they see the packaging of a make, or make the association (Hadjimarcou et al, 1999). The advertising may be to associate with the product the company name or the brand.

One example of the way advertising may be used is that of Chevron, who probably spent five times the cost of its' environmental initiatives on publicity (Dadd and Carothers 1993,483), many of which were legal requirements. Other companies, such as Body Shop (Bartlett C, 1991), or Ben and Jerry's (Zinkhan and Carlson, 1995), have embraced environmentalism more sincerely approaching it in differing ways and as such create a more positive image that may be remembered when making a purchase decision. These have been as a result of the increase public awareness of the need for care of the environment, which has been propagated by non governmental organisations as well as the government.

This shows how consumer states and behaviour change the way products are developed. If we consider the Bodyshop as an example, although the reputation was one of environmental policies and good practice, it was developed this way due to a perceived gap in the market, not out of an altruistic concern for the way business took place. Therefore, business follows the consumer demands. Likewise, Chevron cynically used the steps it was legally obliged to take to give an impression of an environmental business in order to increase its reputation and increase sales.

There are also other trends that we can see take place, one only has to look in a UK supermarket during a dispute with France to see the way that the impression given by French products and the association with the dispute will decrease the demand for them. Here we see that there is also a strong indication that stereotyping may play a role in the consumer choices (Hadjimarcou et al, 1999).  This may be seen as a strange kind or justice, after all the advertising companies have been stereotyping consumers for long enough.

The second process is the piecemeal process, this may be seen as a more thoughtful approach, but it is still prone to influence form consumer behaviour (Hadjimarcou et al, 1999). In this process the consumer takes into account the different characteristics of the different products (Hadjimarcou et al, 1999). Our consumer looking for coffee may therefore look to see if it is decaffeinated, what the flavour strength and type is described as and possibly even the usefulness of the jar after the coffee is used.

Today it is popular for a shopper to look to buy tuna with a dolphin friendly label indicating that dolphins were not harmed in the catching of the fish. The increased awareness of environmental factors has informed the consumers and increased the demand (Kotler, 2003).

The same may be said of many other product, hence the increased appearance of low fat foods and low sugar foods, emblazoned with labels to tell the consumer that they have the characteristics which the consumer may find as desirable.

The same is also true of health food, increased government and health advertising has emphasised the role of diet and health, as such there has been increased demand for products that are high in fibre, free of artificial preservatives and 'natural'.

The development of new ranges have also reflected changed consumer behaviour. A good example of this is the luxury food sold in supermarkets. These were once small lines with only a little interest shown in them. However, when the economy suffered a surprising event took place that indicated these were not ordinary goods but giffen goods.

Normal goods will see sales drop when either their price rises or there is a decrease in disposable income and the relative price can be seen as increasing (Nellis and Parker, 2000). When the economy took a downward trend these good increased in sales, with demand for a better selection. The pattern was seen as a result of a reduction in visits by the consumers to a restaurant, this was seen as an acceptable substitute, good quality food, already prepared, but cheaper as it was bought and then cooked at home.

This was a piecemeal decision as in many cases the prices were compared either form memory and the purchase was considered, The change in behaviour also instigated new ranged and developments of increased provision of these luxury brands. For example in the UK, each supermarket now has its own luxury brand, such as Tesco with their finest range.

The aspect of price will also be seen as part of the process, this may be due to the perception of the brand as an expensive or cheap brand (stereotyping), as will the image of the product gained from the packaging and the advertising (Kahn, 1998).  This was also a part of the rise of the luxury food market.

The need for information and the way this is acted upon can also influence markets. A good example of this may be seen as the Dyson vacuum cleaner. This was the first vacuum cleaner to be patented with a bagless system. Turned down by major companies such as Electrolux the company started up producing the vacuums in a shoestring, with straightforward advertising the took pace by way of an explanation of what the product was. This become a popular product, so much so that competitors, such as Hoover broke the patent to start supplying similar products due to the change in consumer tastes and their demand for this type of vacuum after understanding exactly what it was and how it worked.

These different decision methods may be seen as not mutually exclusive, they may interact with each other, and the decision maybe based on both, especially if the purchase is a large single purchase such as a television or a washing machine. However, they also embody the different behavioural attitudes of the consumer which manifest n the different purchase decisions. It is only when understanding this complex interaction of values beliefs and trends that a company can develop products that will sell and market them in the right way to the right target audience. The change is often seen as driven by new products, but the real change can be seen in the way that the consumer behaves, after all, if a new product is developed, but does not succeed it will not impact on the overall market, whereas changing attitudes will force change in the suppliers.

2.2 Perception based on cultural backgrounds

"Perception is important in communication because perception affects the way we understand events, others and ourselves.  Our perceptions are unique because of physiological factors, past experiences, culture and co-culture, and present feelings and circumstances."

Two computer programmers, each of the same race and from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, are likely to communicate with each other differently than if either was addressing a member of another culture or presenting a project report to a committee overseeing a project of which the programmers' work was a part.  Communication can be complicated when those involved are merely from different regions of the United States.  When they are from totally different countries, then often it is wise to adopt highly formal speech and manner so as not to inadvertently offend the other party.

We have found in recent years just how far the East is from the West in so many respects, including the manner in which different cultures go about conducting business.  Following are examples from Germany and Japan.

German fortunes have risen and fallen throughout the 20th century, but Germany remains the wealthiest and most highly populated of all the European nations.  Despite its former political divisions, Germany consistently has been known for more than a century for its precision engineering.  Whether the product is Daimler or BMW cars, photographic equipment or Siemens Medical equipment and applications, German engineering has been and remains an envy of much of the Western world.

Germany's approach to engineering is not to reserve expertise only for the most promising or profitable industries, but to steep all of German industry in excellence.  This tradition extends to textile machinery as well; Germany both imports and exports such machinery, commonly regarded as some of the best available in the entire world.

Business travellers would do well to equate the precision of German engineering to the manner in which Germans prefer to conduct their business transactions.  They are precise in information and punctuality, and a business meeting is just that.  It is not a social occasion; the issue of "small talk" is one foreign to them.  Whereas zeroing in on the point of a meeting would be bad form in Japan or China, it is expected in Germany (Sabath, 1999).

Morrison, Conaway and Borden (1994) urge business people to remember that Germany's superlative engineering is not instantaneous, but is the product of a long, laborious process that literally can go on for years.  "The German reputation for quality is based (in part) on slow, methodical planning.  Every aspect of the deal you propose will be pored over by many executives.  Do not anticipate being able to speed up this process.  This slowness extends through all business affairs.  Germans believe that it takes time to do a job properly" (Morrison, Conaway and Borden, 1994; p. 130).

There is a vast difference between the business culture of today's Japan and that which first set Detroit on its ear in the early 1970s.  Then, quality was paramount, and Japanese businessmen were inscrutable.  They spoke of quality, honour and courtesy, and they required any foreign business entity wishing to do business with them to convert to their approach, or at least adopt their approach in soliciting them.

Japan's business culture is in a state of flux at the current time.  Traditional values still hold great influence, but they are gradually being shoved aside by the realities of the state of Japan's economy.  Some things apparently never change, however.  "'Managers in Japan think that if people don't know about something, then the best thing to do is cover it up,' says Shuji Oida, a specialist in crisis management with Cosmo Public Relations in Tokyo" (Butler and Hadfield, 2000; p. 36).

Despite all of these changes, however, the traditional Asian perspective still is paramount in Japan.  As stated earlier, the Japanese regard silence as a useful tool and not a reason for any discomfort.  Perhaps the most problematic aspect of the Japanese personality is the reluctance to be negative at all.  The statement, "I'll consider it" may well be a "no" in disguise (Morrison, Conaway and Borden, 1994).  The Asian character persists in Japan of course, though Japanese business is much more "Western" than in the past.  Connections are important, as is relative rank.

Traditions seem to fall away with each passing year in the US, but other areas of the world are far more committed to their own traditions.  Whether springing from their long histories or their own views of their systems' superiority makes little difference.  The fact of globalization is a stable one, and it will be necessary for anyone hoping to be successful to be fully aware of culturally-based differences in perceptions and how they colour communications between people.


3.1 Language in cross cultural advertising

The second model of international adverting emphasizes the cultural differences among nations. This school of thought recognizes that people worldwide share certain thoughts, but it also stresses the fact that these needs are met differently from culture to culture although the same emotions are basic to all humanity; the degree to which these emotions are expressed publicly varies. The camaraderie typical in an Australian business office are frowned on in Germany, where co-workers often do not use first names. The ways in which we categorize information and the values we attach to people depend on the things and settings in which we were raised.( William, Jhon & Sandra)

How do cultural differences relate to advertising? According to the high-context/low-context theory, although the function of advertising is the same throughout the world, the mission of its message varies in different cultural settings. The major distinction is because of high context cultures, in which the meaning of a message can be understood in a specific context, and low context cultures, in which the message can be understood as an independent entity. (William, Jhon & Sandra)

This model helps explain the difficulties of advertising in other languages. The difference between Japanese and English are instructive. English is a low-context language. English words have very clearly defined meanings that are not highly dependent on the words preceding them. In Japanese, however, a word can have multiple meanings. Listeners will not understand the exact meaning of a word unless they clearly understand the following sentence that is the context in which words is used. (William, Jhon & Sandra)

Advertising message constructed by writers from high context cultures might be different to understand in low context cultures because they may offer too much detail to come to the point clearly. In contrast, messages authored by writers from low context are less difficult to understand in high context because they omit essential context details. (William, Jhon & Sandra)

Discussing the Japanese way of advertising, Takashi Michioka, president of DYR agency of Young & Rubicam and Dentso, put it this way: in Japan, differences among products, does not consist of explaining this words the point of difference is competing products as in America. Differentiation is achieved by bringing out the appeal in the commercial- the way they talk, the music, the scenery-rather than emphasizing the unique features and dissimilarities of the product itself. (William, Jhon & Sandra)

Companies that want to understand how consumers think and make decisions about products conduct sophisticated consumer behaviour research, to identify their consumers, why they buy, what they buy and how they buy. (William, Jhon & Sandra)

It also is a visual road map for this chapter. We first explore the target market and then examine social, cultural, and physiological influences on the consumer behavior.

3.2 Communication style in cross cultural advertising

The influence of culture on communication is well documented by researchers in many disciplines. One of the most difficult challenges for international marketers is communicating to people of diverse cultures. Cultural differences may exist not only between nations but also within a nation itself. Such cultural and micro cultural differences present a formidable challenge to international marketing and advertising practitioners because the value systems, attitudes, perceptions and communication of individuals and groups are all culturally shaped or influenced (Samover & Porter, 1991; Tan, 1986).

As research indicates, advertising, a form of social communication, is also influenced by various elements of the originating culture (e.g., Frith & Wesson, 1991 ; Hong et al., 1987; Mueller, 1987; Rice & Lu, 1988; Tanseyetal., 1990). On the other hand, cultural values may determine the differential meanings that people derive from advertising messages (Cundiff & Hilger, 1984; Hornik, 1980; McCracken, 1986; Onkvisit & Shaw, 1983). Advertising may also shape or affect the values of its consumers over time (Ewen & Ewen, 1982; Ferguson et al., 1990; Pol lay, 1986, 1987).

In his research reports, Pollay stated that advertising was a "distorted mirror" in that it reflects only certain underlying values and lifestyles. He also noted that advertising was a "distorting mirror" as well, because it strengthened those values by providing reinforcement, and p. 108).

It is well documented in many disciplines (e.g., sociology, cultural anthropology, mass communication, marketing, cultural studies, semiotics) that advertising reflects and reinforces many of the social values, norms and stereotypes of its audiences (Coser et al., 1987; Holbrook, 1987; McQuail, 1994; Mueller, 1987; Vestergaard & Schroder, 1985).   Two well-known semiotic researchers, Fiske and Hartley (1978,1980) noted that advertising does not represent the researchers pointed out that advertising insists on an idealized goal of achieving personal happiness, success and security, and it does this by first depicting a world-overrepresented by young, beautiful, successful, happy, wealthy people, and then creating a desire in the audience to better their lives or to achieve the desirable attributes of the people in the advertisement, and finally it portrays the product (explicitly, implicitly or symbolically) as a bridge toward achieving that goal (Vesterguaard & Schroder, 1985). However, in order to attract and hold the attention of the potential consumers and create a favorable attitude toward the product, advertising must reflect the cultural values and norms of the society. Therefore, it is possible to gain an insight into the current social values and norms (values may change over time) by analyzing the structures of meaning found in advertisements.   Analysis of advertising and other media content is preferred by many quantitative as well as qualitative researchers over surveys of the audience, because people are not always able to identify the cultural values, norms, beliefs and attitudes which they take for granted (Frith & Wesson, 1991; Noth, 1990; Vestergaard & Schroder, 1985).

In the still-new area of cross-cultural advertising research, a few researchers have used analysis of advertising content not only to gain insights into cross-cultural differences and similarities in advertising strategies and expressions, but also to understand what cultural values, norms and stereotypes are manifested in various advertising strategies and expressions across several countries.   Since cross-cultural analysis of advertising is a new research area, many of the previous researchers developed their conceptual framework by borrowing concepts and theories from disciplines such as sociology, cultural anthropology, social psychology and cultural studies.

3.2.1 Advertising and Semiotics

An examination of the existing semiotic methods indicates that various schools of semiotics have developed quite different approaches to the study of advertising, and yet there are common aspects in these approaches: the extension of analysis from the verbal to the visual and the non-verbal messages is a central focus in all semiotic analysis of advertising (Noth, 1990).

Barthes (1964,1977) identified three kinds of elements in an illustrated advertisement: linguistic message, uncoded iconic message (visual) and coded iconic or symbolic message (visual). The linguistic message relies on the code of language. The uncoded iconic message, symbolic message includes the connotations of the picture and the verbal message which form Eco (1977, 79) divided advertising codes into verbal codification and visual codification. He identified several levels of visual codification including the iconic level, which is similar to on cultural and historical traditions and genre conventions.

Semiotic researchers to the study of visual content of advertising (e.g., Noth, 1988; Vestergaard of relations between a sign and its object (what it represents). Iconic signs communicate through resemblance or similarity, and the relation between sign and object is natural or motivated. For example, the drawing or photographic image of a product or person represents or denotes the real object. The similarity may also be established through convention, such as a circle encompassing three lines and a curve may represent a smiling or a sad face depending on whether the curve turns upwards or downwards. The simplest form of advertising illustration is a picture of the product against a neutral background. Iconic relation may also be found in the use of language. For example, in a metaphorical expression, two words have iconic relations in the sense that one word is replaced by another word which is similar to it in meaning, or the meaning has been established by convention. An example of the metaphorical use of language in advertising an indexical sign can be used to represent its object because it usually occurs in close the area of visuals, indexical images are often used in advertising. Advertising illustrations often try to establish an indexical relation between the product and some desirable attributes of a person or situation. This process is also referred to as indexical feature transfer, or indexical value transfer (Noth, 1990). Since it is often impossible to show the special features or use value of the product iconic ally (or because it does not have any differentiating features), the product is associated with persons, objects or situations whose desirable attributes are well by showing an enlarged picture of the ring with a picture of a young couple.   Thus a visual metaphor is used to create an indexical relation: diamond ring=love. Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky advertising often creates an indexical relation by showing the product being used by rich attribute is then transferred to the product. Thus Scotch Whisky becomes associated with high-class people and upscale living. Again, a visual metaphor is used to create an indexical relation: Scotch Whisky = sophistication and elegance=high-class, upscale living.

Symbolic signs communicate by cultural convention and traditions.   Examples of culture-specific symbols include the following: the cross symbolizes Christian faith; the dove symbolizes hope and peace, a meaning derived from the biblical story about the returning of the symbolizes deception in the West because of its cultural meaning derived from the Old Testament (in some Asian cultures the snake is a symbol of rebirth and immortality because it while the colour black is a symbol of death in many cultures; an image of the heart symbolizes love in many cultures. In product packaging and advertising, arbitrary symbols are sometimes used to establish a link between the image and the product (e.g., the symbols of Mercedes Benz, Coca-Cola, Dodge).

3.2.2 Linguistic Codification of Advertising

According to linguistics and semiotics, in communication, language can perform several functions or speech acts (Searle, 1971,1969; Vestergaard & Schroder, 1985).   In the expressive function or expressive speech act, language focuses on the addresser, his or her feelings, attitudes, wishes. In advertising, expressive speech act occurs when the advertiser/company, for caused by faulty parts and the like. In the directive function or directive speech act, language actions. In advertising, directive speech act is often used to call upon the audience to act (directly or indirectly). For example, the targeted consumers are asked to try the product, or get the towards straight, logical facts and information. In advertising, informational speech act is used to describe or inform about the product attributes and features. The poetic function or poetic speech act takes place when the linguistic code is used in a special way to communicate a certain meaning, double meaning or ambiguity. Some poetic devices used in advertising include verbal metaphor, simile and rhyme. The linguistic content of advertising can be classified according to this typology of these speech acts. There may be differential emphasis on different speech acts or functions of language depending on different characteristics of diverse cultures. The following review of the previous studies will illustrate and discuss these concepts.

3.3 High-Context vs. Low-Context Culture Communication

Cultural characteristics (such as low context vs. high context culture, views about the purpose of communication) may be reflected in the way different cultures emphasize different types of information cues or rhetorical devices.

A high-context culture is one in which the context, suggestive or connotative meanings of the message, may be more important than the words themselves (Cundiff & Hilger, 1984; Hall, 1976). In a high-context culture, the audience is likely to derive meaning from the context, reducing the need for explicit verbal messages. A low-context culture is one where explicit verbal messages are direct. In order to communicate effectively, messages must be explicitly and directly stated through words containing most of the information to be sent. For example, France is a comparatively higher context culture than the United States; Americans are direct and pay more attention to details (Cateora, 1983). The French allow their imagination and intuition to make up for the implied meanings, and are more interested in the general effect from an aesthetic perspective. The distinct differences between communication styles of the British and Americans have also been noted. While Americans are characterized by directness in speech, indirectness characterizes interpersonal as well as institutional communication in England, where a considerable emphasis is placed on double meanings, ambiguities and plays on words (Burli-Storz, 1980; Leech, 1966; Rothenberg, 1989).

Within the Eastern cultural environment, Japan is known to be a high- context culture. The Japanese language is very sensitive and emotive and not very directed toward logical exactness; it places more emphasis on referring to emotional and aesthetic statuses of mind. Indirectness, subtlety and symbolism are important characteristics of the Japanese culture (Hong et al., 1987).

Different cultures may also differ on their views about the purpose of communication. For example, Americans supposedly place more emphasis on the persuasive purpose-communication as a means of persuading others, influencing attitudes or behaviour. In contrast, Europeans place less emphasis on the persuasive function of communication, and place more emphasis on the view of communication as a process through which shared culture is created, modified and transmitted (Carey, 1973).

Such cultural differences may be reflected in advertising strategies and expressions as suggested by several researchers. For example, compared to U.S. advertising, French and British advertisements contain more emotional appeals and utilize more indirect and poetic rhetorical devices (poetic speech act), such as metaphors, similes, double meanings and philosophic and euphemistic expressions (Biswas et al., 1992; Cutler & Javalgi, 1992; Hall & Hall, 1990). The U.S. advertising directly, clearly and logically presents information, facts and evidence about product merits and purchase reasons (informational speech act), contains more informational cues than French and British advertising (Biswas et al., 1992; Hong et al., 1987; Weinberger & Spotts, 1989), and utilizes direct rhetorical devices such as an imperative (directive speech act) (Frith & Wesson, 1991).   Within an Eastern cultural context, Japanese advertising uses compared to U.S. advertising (Hong et al., 1987; Mueller, 1987).

Cultural differences may also be reflected in the ways different countries emphasize different types of information cues in their advertising, because consumers may value various attributes differently. For example, Japanese magazine advertising emphasizes price information, while magazine advertisements in the United States use this information cue less often (Hong et al., 1987). Compared to U.S. magazine advertisements, Japanese advertising also places greater emphasis on information about safety features and product packaging (Madden et 30al., 1986).An analysis of Chinese magazine advertising (single-country analysis) revealed that information about product performance and quality was emphasized (Rice & Lu, 1988). Such findings are useful because several surveys indicated that consumers in different cultures value various attributes differently (e.g., Colvin et al., 1980; Green et al., 1975).

From the perspective of international marketing and advertising practitioners, it is useful to understand how a particular culture expresses its advertising messages in terms of linguistic content; what type of speech act it emphasizes (e.g., informational, directive, poetic, expressive); whether it values a high level of information cues or informational speech acts in its advertising; and what types of information cues it emphasizes. The implications are that emphasizing the wrong approach in international advertising would lead to a serious communication failure or ineffectiveness.

In addition to low-context vs. high-context cultural traits, other characteristics such as power distance, and individualistic vs. collectivist culture, may also be reflected in the way advertisements codify the visual elements.

3.3.1 Individualistic vs. Collectivist Culture and Iconic Stance of Characters

It is well documented that cultures vary in terms of degree of individualism and collectivism. Western cultures are more individualistic, while Eastern cultures are more collectivist (Bellah, 1987; Hofstede, 1983; Hong etal., 1987; Rokeach, 1973). In individualistic cultures, individual interests and goals prevail over collective interest and goals; ties between individuals are loose; and the emphasis is on the belief that individual has control of, and is responsible for, his or her own life.

The cultural value of individualism and collectivism may be manifested in the iconic in the highly collectivist cultures of Thailand and South Korea tends to portray characters in a cultures of Germany and the United States.31 Even within different Western countries, the varying degrees of individualism may be indicated that while individualism exists in England, it is notas highly developed a national frequently features people in a group stance.

3.3.2 Cultural Differences and Indexical Feature Transfer

Cultural differences in communication style may also be reflected in indexical codification of visuals in advertising. The previous section on Linguistic Codification revealed that American direct communication style manifests itself in greater use of informational speech act and directive speech act, and lesser use of poetic speech act which utilizes indirect rhetorical devices such as verbal metaphor, simile, double meaning and the like. Indexical Feature Transfer is like a visual metaphor (Vestergaard & Schroder, 1985), but often easier to understand than verbal metaphor. Also, through the use of a visual metaphor it is possible to imply something which cannot be expressed verbally without an obvious absurdity (e.g., the previous example of the diamond ring and love). Therefore, it can be speculated that the Indexical Feature Transfer approach will be used more frequently in U.S. advertising than in advertisements of other countries where indirect rhetorical styles are more dominant. The only study examining this aspect of advertising provides support for such speculation or hypothesis. Cutler and Javalgi (1992) conducted a cross-cultural analysis of magazine advertisements in the United States, France and the United Kingdom. Their analysis of the visual content revealed that the use of association approach or indexical feature transfer was greater in U.S. advertising than in French or British advertising. Comparison between France and Britain indicated that French advertising utilized this approach more often than British advertising. On the other hand, verbal metaphorical approach was used more frequently in France and Britain than in the United States.

3.3.3 Cultural Differences and Iconic Image of Gender

Previous studies also noted that social norms about appropriate roles for women and men manifest themselves in advertising (Courtney & Whipple, 1983), and advertising shapes, reinforces or perpetuates misconceptions or stereotypes about gender roles in society (Ewen & Ewen, 1982; Ferguson etal., 1990; Hawkins & Coney, 1976; Pollay, 1986; Silverstein & Silverstein, 1974).

Several studies in the United States revealed that advertising of the 1980s was still stereotypical in terms of sex role portrayals; however, the margins of difference were less than those of the 1970s (e.g., Courtney & Whipple, 1983; Gilly, 1988; Lysonski, 1983).   A recent study by Klassen, Jasper and Schwartz (1993) also found that U.S. advertising still portrays women in traditional poses relative to advertisements that showed women and men together as equals, but the degree of traditional portrayals has been decreasing since the early 1980s. These studies indicated that although considerable changes have taken place within American society in advertising are not keeping pace with the social change.

The Gilly (1988) study found that Mexican television ads were slightly more stereotypical than U.S. advertisements, and considerably more stereotypical than Australian advertisements.

Mexico, women in Mexico were more traditional than American women (Navarro, 1979; Olson, 1977).

In more general terms, social scientists also noted that in most traditional cultures, the roles or behaviors of men and women are more clearly distinguished and the pressure to maintain that power is more unequally distributed. The Alden et al. (1993) study examined this dimension in humorous television ads of Thailand, South Korea, the United States and Germany, and found 33 that more humorous ads portrayed unequal status between characters in Thailand and South Korea.

3.3.4 Combined Verbal-Visual Codification Individualism vs. Collectivism and the Comparative Approach

In American highly individualistic culture, face-to-face competition is encouraged and U.S. advertising, which more frequently utilizes comparative advertising techniques (verbal and/or visual) that directly attack competitors and present its own product with that of the competitor (Cutler & Javalgi, 1992; Hong et al., 1987).   In Japan, collectivism and cooperation are a socially desirable virtue, face-to-face competition is considered less desirable, and consequently, comparative advertising techniques are less utilized (e.g., Hong et al., 1987).

The foregoing literature review and conceptual analysis indicate that cultural differences are reflected in advertising strategies and expressions of different countries. Cross-cultural differences in advertising strategies and expressions were found between Western and Eastern cultures, and even between Western countries that are believed to be not very different in terms of cultural traits and level of economic development. The two cross-cultural studies which were identified involving developed and developing countries also revealed differences in advertising expressions (Gilly, 1988, Mexico & the United States; and Alden et al., 1993) Thailand, South Chinese magazine advertising with previous studies of Western advertising also revealed significant differences. There has been no specific study of Pakistani advertising. However, in terms of cultural traits, Pakistan can be classified as highly collectivist, high on power distance, and a high-context culture (the researcher is from the Pakistani Subcontinent). This view is also well documented in the literature of sociology, cultural anthropology and international marketing Based on this conceptual discussion of the existing empirical evidence.

However, the focus of this study was not whether advertising strategies and expressions differ, but how they differ, and what elements or aspects are different or similar. The answers to these questions do have important implications for international marketing and advertising practitioners.   The evidence of specific cross-cultural differences will add to the existing research findings that suggest that despite some convergence of values, norms and lifestyles in some segments of affluent consumers in many countries, diverse cultures of the world still differ on numerous points. Any evidence of similarities or differences in manifest cultural values and norms in line with or divergent from those in the West can also be used to address the question of cultural imperialism and the debates over whether and how advertising reflects, reinforces and affects cultural values of its target audience.


4.1 Background of HSBC Bank

HSBC is an international banking and financial services organization headquartered in the United Kingdom.

It is owned by some 200,000 shareholders in about 100 countries and territories. It conducts business in a wide variety of social and business cultures and in a broad range of political environments.

As a commercial organization, their governing objective is to provide a satisfactory return on our shareholders' capital. They do this by having a talented and motivated staff who offers our customers competitive services and products. They meet our financial obligations, they invest to develop our business for the future; they investments are made primarily on a financial basis, but with regard to the principles and values set out in this document.

HSBC has always striven to maintain the highest ethical standards. They articulate our commitment through this Statement of Business Principles and Values and our support for the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Global Compact and the Global Sullivan Principles.

HSBC's policy is not to make contributions to political parties or partisan organisations. HSBC works co-operatively with host governments and regulators while remaining politically neutral in all jurisdictions.

HSBC codifies its key business principles and values in its Group Standards Manual which is in force throughout our operations. The opening page reads as follows:

4.1.1 Group Business Principles and Values

The HSBC Group is committed to five Core Business Principles:

  • outstanding customer service;
  • effective and efficient operations;
  • strong capital and liquidity;
  • prudent lending policy;
  • strict expense discipline;

Through loyal and committed employees who make lasting customer relationships and international teamwork easier to achieve.

HSBC also operates according to certain Key Business Values:

  • the highest personal standards of integrity at all levels;
  • commitment to truth and fair dealing;
  • hands-on management at all levels;
  • openly esteemed commitment to quality and competence;
  • a minimum of bureaucracy;
  • fast decisions and implementation;
  • putting the team's interests ahead of the individual's;
  • the appropriate delegation of authority with accountability;
  • fair and objective employer;
  • a diverse team underpinned by a meritocratic approach to recruitment/selection/promotion;
  • a commitment to complying with the spirit and letter of all laws and regulations wherever we conduct our business;
  • the exercise of corporate social responsibility through detailed assessments of lending proposals and investments, the promotion of good environmental practice and sustainable development, and commitment to the welfare and development of each local community.

HSBC's reputation is founded on adherence to these principles and values. All actions taken by a member of the HSBC Group or staff member on behalf of a Group company should conform to them. (About us)

4.1.2 Customer Care and Business Integrity

Looking after their customers is basic to all our business relationships. They promise only what we can deliver and we strive never to mislead their customers.

They have strict rules against staff accepting from customers any material personal benefits, including gifts, favours, services, loans or fees, and they actively discourage customers from offering any personal benefits to staff. Similarly, staff is not to engage in bribery in any form by offering any gift, money, loan, fee, reward or other advantage as an inducement in connection with the conduct of the Group's business.

In conducting business with due skill, care and diligence, HSBC seeks always to comply with both the letter and the spirit of relevant laws, rules, regulations, codes and standards of good market practice.

They address any irregularities that arise promptly, they seek to resolve them promptly in a way that protects our reputation and minimizes financial loss. They believe in transparency in our financial and regulatory reporting, with swift disclosure of any breaches.

They co-operate with supervisors and regulators to attain and maintain the highest operating standards to safeguard the interests of our customers, our shareholders, our staff and the communities where we operate.

HSBC supports the policies set out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. They have comprehensive and rigorous anti-money laundering standards and controls in place and strict policies and procedures to counter bribery and corruption. They work closely with the appropriate authorities in each of our markets where, in all cases, their controls meet with, or exceed, local requirements.

They are a founding member of the Wolfsberg Group, an association of 12 international banks that aims to develop financial services industry standards for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing policies. They also support the policies and procedures of the Vienna and Strasbourg Conventions against drug-trafficking. (About Us)

4.1.3 Responsible Financing

Wherever they operate, they play a constructive, responsible role in aligning our objectives with those of the local community.

HSBC believes that personal freedom flourishes best in an environment of economic growth and opportunity. They support free trade and investment because they are avenues for the creation of jobs and for the improvement of living standards. Every country and territory where we operate has its own character, history and aspirations; a single standard for their progress would be difficult to devise.

HSBC retains a pioneering spirit, promoting international trade and constructive engagement through its business activities.

Social, ethical and environmental risks are considered as part of our normal credit assessment and approval process for lending.

They avoid undertaking certain types of business, such as the financing of weapons manufacture and sales, dealing with countries subject to international sanctions, and transactions that might be used to evade tax or to launder earnings from crime.They have always taken a cautious approach to the financing of defence equipment and, some time ago, decided to withdraw progressively from this type of business and in a manner which recognized our proper responsibilities to our customers.

In industries with the potential for major adverse social, ethical or environmental impacts, we will advance credit only after an additional and detailed assessment of these impacts to ensure our involvement in any such transaction meets our internal standards and external commitments to sustainability.

They have also adopted the Equator Principles, a set of voluntary guidelines that covers the environmental and social impacts of project financing. They say they will not provide loans directly to projects where the borrower will not, or is unable to, comply with either the Equator Principles or our own environmental guidelines, whichever carries the higher standard. (About Us)

4.1.4 Members of Staff

The welfare of their staff is a fundamental concern. They recruit and promote employees solely on merit and suitability; they encourage staff to realize their full potential. While they recognize and reward individual performance, we foster teamwork in our working environment as well as encouraging initiative and innovation.

Their members of staff receive, and must abide by, Codes of Conduct which call for honesty, integrity, openness and teamwork for the benefit of customers, shareholders and the communities they serve.

They are committed to providing equality of opportunity to all staff, regardless of sex, race, nationality, age, disability, ethnic origin, religion or status, on the basis of merit and suitability.

They believe in maintaining effective employee relations, and they are willing to work with and through recognised staff representative bodies. (About Us)

4.1.5 The Environment

HSBC believes that sound business management should take account of the effects that business has on the environment, with a view to minimising detrimental impact. The pursuit of economic growth and a healthy environment are linked; governments, business and individuals all have a role to play in achieving sustainable development.

HSBC was among the original signatories of the United Nations Environment Programme Statement by Financial Institutions, and they have instituted an environmental management system to minimise the direct impacts of our operations and consumption of resources.They recognise that they also have a role to play in helping to minimise indirect impacts which might result from our lending and we seek to engage with our customers to develop good environmental practices in sensitive areas and industries.

They support environmental projects in different parts of the world, including local scientific research, conservation, recycling and ecological programmes.Their staff is involved as volunteers in some of these programmes. (About Us)

4.1.6 HSBC in the Community

They support the well-being of the communities where we operate through philanthropy and sponsorship.

Education, particularly for those less fortunate in society, and the environment are our two principal causes. Members of the HSBC Group are expected to allocate 75 per cent of their donations and non-commercial sponsorship budgets to these activities, with the greater emphasis on educational initiatives which include:

  • primary and secondaryeducation for the disadvantaged and support for schools in economically deprived areas;
  • programmes to promote international understanding among young people;
  • activities that promote interest in and sensitivity to other cultures;
  • language programmes, particularly the learning of Asian languages;
  • Programmes that encourage youth to have a greater understanding of business and finance.

These activities are supplemented by direct support for other good causes. We encourage our staff to help raise money for charity and to do volunteer work. (About Us)

4.1.7 Implementation

These principles and values, which apply throughout the Group's operations, were affirmed by the Board of Directors of HSBC Holdings plc at its meeting on 26 November 2004. Senior managers of Group companies are responsible for ensuring conformity with these principles and values through employee awareness programmes, Codes of Conduct and operating procedures.

4.2 Image as worlds local Bank

Banks are clamouring for more customers, and most are taking their traditional approach of adding more products intended to tempt customers away from their current financial institutions. Banks generally have a negative equity with their customers, who frequently see their bank either as the lesser of the several evils available to them or as no worse than any other.

Though the face of banking has changed in recent years, the business of it has not. The purpose here is to investigate the proliferation of online banking and how it