Cultural Factor In International Marketing Cultural Studies Essay

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In an era of relatively immediate contact between organizations across shrinking globe, why should one consider cultural distance at all? Simply because culture affects virtually all of human behavior. For example, culture has been defined as ''the software of the mind''. Hofstede's extensive research on culture has helped conceptualize one of the most popular theories of cultural types, as evidenced by well over 1000 documents from Cultural cost reported in the Social Science documents since 1980. His approach to culture initially identified four underlying value dimensions: (1) individualism vs. collectivism, (2) large vs. small power distance, (3) strong vs. weak uncertainty avoidance, and (4) masculinity vs. femininity (a fifth dimension, long- vs. short-term orientation was added later). It was based on 50,000 cases of managers from multinational and international corporations from over 100 countries. In their approach, cultures differ in the specific solutions they choose to problems. They then identify cultures based on seven fundamental dimensions. Their approach is similar in some respects to Hofstede's dimensions. While the above approaches are relevant to the development of many types of managerial strategies and tactics, this study is concerned specifically with communication issues.

An approach to national culture that was developed by the cultural anthropologist Hall is, thus, appealing in this context. In fact, Hall declared that ''culture is communication''. If a person is to communicate effectively with someone from another culture, he/she must be able to ''decode'' the message properly. Without such a code-breaker, two people from different cultures may see or hear the same message but may screen that message very differently by unconsciously ignoring or increasing the importance of various parts of the message. In addition, one may interpret the message content differently, ''seeing'' or ''hearing'' the message so that it is consistent with his or her cultural norms. The cultural context (HC vs. LC), therefore, may have an impact on how any messages are sent between marketing channel partners to achieve effective communication (frequency of communication) as well as the type, or form, of the messages themselves. To discover the collision of cultural distance on communication in international marketing channels, a cram of communication among US exporters and their distributors in foreign countries was undertaken. Since all of the exporters in the study were US-based, by definition they are all LC. on the other hand, to evaluate the effect of cultural distance on communication in the exporter-distributor marketing channel, foreign distributors from a spacious diversity of countries around the globe were required.

Contacts included senior managers and other qualified personnel most familiar with their firm's foreign distributors. In responding to the questionnaire, managers in the export firms were asked to consider the communication that they have with only one foreign distribution partner and to indicate the country of that foreign distributor. Eighteen nations other than the United States were represented in the study and they included countries on five continents. Communication regularity was assessed by asking the export managers to point toward the regularity of their communication with the foreign dispenser over a era of 4 weeks. They provided in sequence about how commonly they contacted the foreign dispenser via telephone, fax, e-mail, and written letters. A five-point Liker balance ranging from incredibly occasionally to very commonly be used to compute respondents' perceptions of foreign distributors' get in touch with frequency. These respondents also provided in sequence about how habitually they were contacted by the foreign dispenser via telephone, fax, e-mail, and written letters using the same five-point Likert scale ranging from very uncommonly to very regularly.

Based on Hall's classification.

B. Different aspects of culture

In order to supply the highest level of thoughtful talented for measure respondents' discernment of how commonly they required to exchange a few words due to cultural distance, only the very frequently category is reported here. By focusing on the exporters' responses at this very high level of announcement frequency, the chance of including what might be considered ''normal'' everyday communication between the US exporters and their foreign distributors is minimized. The following sections report the findings for communication via fax, telephone, E-mail, and written letters.

Fax communication and cultural distance

When communicating with their foreign distributors, US exporters were much more B. Rosenbloom, T. Larsen / Industrial Marketing Management 32 (2003) 309-315 311 likely to report both initiating and receiving communication via fax at the very frequent level when the cultural distance between them and their foreign distributor was large than when it was small. Specifically, when the cultural distance was large, 77.1% of the US exporters initiated fax communication with their foreign distributors very frequently and 71.4% of the foreign distributors initiated fax communication with the US exporters very frequently. The corresponding percentages for fax communication with their small cultural distance foreign distributors were 29.4% and 41.2%, respectively. Clearly, there was a great deal more faxing back and forth with the foreign distributor when that foreign distributor was from a culturally distant country.

Telephone communication and cultural distance

When examining phone communication, similar results were observed some 40% of the US exporters initiated phone communication with their foreign distributors from culturally distant countries very frequently, while their foreign distributors from culturally distant countries initiated communication by phone 34.4% of the time very frequently. US exporters only initiated phone communication with their small cultural distance foreign distributors very frequently 11.8% of the time, and those foreign distributors initiated phone communication very frequently only 17.6% of the time. Once again, US exporters engaged in very frequent communication back and forth with culturally distant foreign distributors much more so than with culturally close foreign distributors.

E-mail communication and cultural distance

E-mail communication frequency presented a very different picture. Frequency was much higher in the small cultural distance context than in the large cultural distance context. Over 23% of US exporters initiated e-mail communication with small cultural distance foreign distributors very frequently, but less than 6% did so with their large cultural distance counterparts. In addition, 41.2% of small cultural distance foreign distributors initiated e-mail contact at the very frequently level as opposed to only 17.1% of large cultural distance distributors doing so. This seemingly opposite result for e-mail compared with the findings for communication frequency via fax and telephone probably reflects the nature of e-mail as an inherently LC mode of communication. The very terse and abbreviated style typical of e-mail communication allows little room for explanation or nuance. Thus, in the case of large cultural distance, unlike fax or telephone, email is apparently not viewed as an effective medium for augmenting the flow of communication in HC international marketing channels.

Written communication and cultural distance

Written letters were not used very often by US exports or their foreign distributors, apart from of the cultural detachment extrication the two parties. Written letters come into view to be to some extent out of date when compared with the other modes of communication. Only 5.7% of US exporters very regularly initiated communication with their culturally isolated foreign distributors and only 5.9% with their culturally put up the shutters to foreign distributors. Foreign distributors similarly did not commence written communication very commonly with the US exporters. on the other hand, the percentage initiating written communication from culturally close nations was almost twice that of those from culturally distant nations.


Much of the promise of B2B e-commerce on a global scale is dependent upon the efficiency that can theoretically be gained by electronically linked channel participants. Thus, instead of intensive communications between people at all levels of the marketing channel contacting each other to make sure that the right products are moving through international channels at the right place and time, Internet based e-commerce would replace all of these people-centered communication processes. In short, communication among channel participants would be computer-to-computer not person-to-person in the international B2B e-commerce scenario. Once such electronic networks are in place, with the appropriate electronic marketplace architecture and B2B software, smooth and continuous flows of products from any given country to another would occur ''automatically'' based on virtually perfect flows of communication through the electronic networks. In such a world, good communication is dependent solely on having the right technology in place to traverse the distances separating channel participants in different countries. Variations among nations, and their peoples stemming from different cultures would be irrelevant in such a scenario. Cultural distance, if it exists, would be erased by the awesome power of the Internet.

Our exploratory study of communication in international marketing channels suggests that such a scenario may be overly optimistic and naive if substantial ''cultural distance'' exists among international channel participants. Indeed, when the exporters from the LC US culture dealt with foreign distributors from HC cultures, ''old fashioned'' fax and telephone communication took place much more frequently than when the US exporters dealt with foreign distributors from LC cultures. Moreover, the more ''modern'' e-mail communications between US exporters and foreign distributors took place more frequently when both exporter and foreign distributor were from LC cultures, reflecting the limitations of the terse style of e-mail to fill in the gaps in communication between channel members from different cultural contexts. Of course, in this study, the US exporters and their foreign distributors were not yet part of an Internet-based electronic network. They were linked only in the sense of having established trading relationships in conventional channels of distribution. Thus, one might argue that if these same firms were to become part of a B2B e-commerce network their communication patterns would automatically change. Exporters and foreign distributors frequently reaching for the phone or constantly turning to the fax machine to clarify communications when cultural distance is high would, therefore, quickly cease. Frankly, it is doubtful that such would be the case. Indeed, the need to augment the totally impersonal electronic communications flowing over the Internet via ''old fashioned'' but more comfortable modes of communications might be greater than ever in the new electronic marketing channels. The need to ask questions, get clarifications, and reassurances so as to achieve a acceptable comfort level will not suddenly disappear for channel members from HC cultures simply because they are electronically linked to a network.


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