In international business, cultural factors could be considered as a core factor because of the strategic role it plays in the sustenance of the firm in the market .Several scholars such as Usunier(1996), Terpstra&Sarathy(2000)etc made their contributions in enlightening cultural relevance in international marketing. There are various cultural issues that will be considered and various ways in which they could be applied into creating policies that will be discussed. Some of these cultural elements include: language, social institution, aesthetics, belief system, education, language etc. The diagram below illustrates various factors as related to culture in international marketing.
To start with, its best to know how culture is defined in this context before building a foundation on its framework. Culture is defined as the way things are done in a particular area . Culture could be based on geographical location, it could relate to a country's national culture or a distinct section of the community which is also known as a sub culture or on the other hand a company's way of doing things which is known as a corporate culture. Culture is not something one is born with, it has to be learned. A good example will be that of a black child that is born and bred in a white man's' cultural background, he or she will definitely grow to know and abide by the culture of where he or she was born. So, culture could be explained with a number of entities such as values and norms, customs and traditions, beliefs and religions, rituals and artefacts etc. In regards to the concept of international marketing, this very important factor needs to be taken into consideration. Because for the market to be successful in any environment the cognizance the local culture of the country or region in which you wish to market is very vital.
Another very important barrier in the trading internationally is the issue of language this is a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols. Language in international marketing is unmistakably a very important tool in the success of the market not only is it a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, but it strengthens friendship bonds, cultural ties, good understanding of terms, and economic relationships. Language, of course, is knowledge, and in our world today, knowledge is one of the key factors in competitiveness. Language could be divided into two basic concept and this includes verbal and non-verbal communication. In a low cultural context, verbal alterations carries the emphasis of the communication i.e. what is said /altered is what is meant. Examples include Australia and the Netherlands. In a higher cultural context verbal communications tend not to carry a direct message i.e. what is said might not be what is meant. So in this kind of environment hidden cultural meaning needs to be considered, as does body language. Examples of a high context cultures include Japan and some Arabic nations, in places like this one word may mean one thing in one Latin American country, but something off-color in another.Â It should also be kept in mind that much information is carried in non-verbal communication.Â In some cultures, nodding signifies a "yes" and some shakes their heads to signify a "no;" in other cultures, the practice is reversed. Also in the context of language speaking slang exists within most languages.Â Again, regional variations are common and not all people in a region where slang is used will necessarily understand this.Â There are often significant generation gaps in the use of slang. And all this must be considered before venturing in international marketing business. Nature of languages may exacerbate this phenomenon,while the German language is very precise, Chinese lacks many grammatical features, and the meaning of words may be somewhat less precise.Â English ranks somewhere in the middle of this continuum. As important as language is in international business marketing so is religion in some areas of the world. In places like the unites kingdom and the united states where religion is not much of a big thing unless the market is focussed on targeted group of people. Like the Muslims or christens or other religious movements. The nature and complexity of the different religions an international marketer could encounter is pretty diverse. The Organization needs to make sure that their products and services are not offensive, unlawful or distasteful to the local nation. This includes marketing promotion and branding. For example, in year 2007,which was china year of the pig, most advertisements were banned all because they included the picture of a pig and the muslims were getting really offended by this. In addition, a roman catholic church in France won a court injunction to ban an advertisement of a clothing firm by clothing designers marithe and francois girbaud just because the advert uses Leonardo da vinci's Christ's last supper. Within the Muslim tradition, the dog is considered a "dirty" animal, so portraying it as "man's best friend" in an advertisement is counter-productive.Â And the above factor coincides the values and attitude of the buyers and the sellers as well. Values and attitudes vary between nations, and even vary within nations. So if a marketer is planning to take a product or service overseas, then a good grasp of the locality has to be grasped before entering into the market. This could mean altering promotional material or subtle branding messages. Problems with managing the local employees might also need to be tackled. For example, in France workers tend to take vacations for the whole of August, whilst in the United States employees may only take a couple of week's vacation in an entire year. Also In 2004, China banned a Nike television commercial showing U.S. basketball star LeBron James in a battle with animated cartoon kung fu masters and two dragons, because it was argued that the ad insults Chinese national dignity. And In 2006, Tourism Australian launched its ad campaign entitled "So where the bloody hell are you?" in Britain. The $130 million (US) campaign was banned by the British Advertising Standards Authority from the United Kingdom. The campaign featured all the standard icons of Australia such as beaches, deserts, and coral reefs, as well as traditional symbols like the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The commentary ran: "We've poured you a beer and we've had the camels shampooed, we've saved you a spot on the beach. We've even got the sharks out of the pool,". Then, from a bikini-clad blonde, come the tag line, "So where the bloody hell are you?" In terms of etiquette, some cultures have more rigid procedures than others.Â In some countries, for example, there are explicit standards as to how a gift should be presented.Â In some cultures, gifts should be presented in private to avoid embarrassing the recipient; in others, the gift should be made publicly to ensure that no perception of secret bribery could be made.
In light of the educational influence on international marketing, the level and nature of education in each environment will be quite different. This may impact the type of message or even the medium that you employ. For example, in countries with low literacy levels, advertisers would avoid communications which depended upon written copy, and would favour radio advertising with an audio message or visual media such as billboards. The labelling of products may also be an issue.
In the People's Republic of China a nationwide system of public education is in place, which includes primary schools, middle schools (lower and upper), and universities. Nine years of education is compulsory for all Chinese students.
In Finland school attendance is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16, the first nine years of education (primary and secondary school) are compulsory, and the pupils go to their local school. The education after primary school is divided to the vocational and academic systems, according to the old German model.
In Uganda schooling includes 7 years of primary education, 6 years of secondary education (divided into 4 years of lower secondary and 2 years of upper secondary school), and 3 to 5 years of post-secondary education.
There are Other factors to put into consideration is also the issue of social organisations and social heirachy. This aspect of Terpstra and Sarathy's Cultural Framework relates to how a national society is organized. For example, what is the role of women in a society? How is the country governed - centralized or devolved? The level influence of class or casts upon a society needs to be considered. For example, India has an established caste system - and many Western countries still have an embedded class system. So social mobility could be restricted where caste and class systems are in place. Whether or not there are strong trade unions will impact upon management decisions if you employ local workers. Whilst other factors are important, the next factor is very crucial. This involves the technology used in the marketing of these businesses. Technology is a term that includes many other elements, such as is there energy to power our products? Is there a transport infrastructure to distribute our goods to consumers? Does the local port have large enough cranes to offload containers from ships? How quickly does innovation diffuse? Also of key importance, do consumers actually buy material goods i.e. are they materialistic?
Trevor Baylis launched the clockwork radio upon the African market. Since batteries were expensive in Africa and power supplies in rural areas are non-existent. The clockwork radio innovation was a huge success.
China's car market grew 25% in 2006 and it has overtaken Japan to be the second-largest car market in the world with sales of 8 million vehicles. With just six car owners per 100 people (6%), compared with 90% car ownership in the US and 80% in the UK, the potential for growth in the Chinese market is immense.
The laws and the politics of the and is also something that should be considered.As with many aspects of Terpstra and Sarathy's Cultural Framework, the social culture will motivate the political and legal landscape. The ideas or policies on which the politics of the society is founded upon will be a deciding factor of the kind of market that can thrive in such a society. For example, in the United Kingdom there is a large market that is driven by democratic society with laws based upon precedent and legislation, and on the other hand in a place like Iran, the political and legal system is based upon the teachings and principles of Islam and the Shari tradition.
This is why it is important for the marketers to be prepared to view the world in new ways; this is referred to as Aesthetics. it s a very important trait in the a successful international business venture because it examines our affective domain response to an object or phenomenon it can help a person venturing into new realms of business to decide what the native of the new environment will like. What will sell and what will not sell. It relates to the senses, and the appreciation of the artistic nature of something, including its smell, taste or ambience. For example, is something beautiful? Does it have a fashionable design? Was an advert delivered in good taste? Do you find the color, music or architecture relating to an experience pleasing? Is everything relating to branding aesthetically pleasing? This are the kind of person that a business person should be asking him or herself. Other relevant issues for example are Art, this may be reflected in the rather arbitrary practice of wearing ties in some countries and wearing turbans in others.Â Morality may be exhibited in the view in the United States that one should not be naked in public.Â In Japan, on the other hand, groups of men and women may take steam baths together without perceived as improper.Â On the other extreme, women in some Arab countries are not even allowed to reveal their faces.Â Notice, by the way, that what at least some countries view as moral may in fact be highly immoral by the standards of another country.Â Subtle cultural differences may make an advertisment that tested well in one country unsuitable in another for example an advertisement that featured a man walking in to join his wife in the bathroom was considered an inappropriate invasion in Japan.Â Symbolism often differs between cultures, and humor, which is based on the contrast to people's experiences, tends not to travel well.Â Values also tend to differ between cultures in the U.S. and Australia, excelling above the group is often desirable, while in Japan, "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."Â In the U.S., "The early bird gets the worm" while in China "The first bird in the flock gets shot down." This just shows how value andintegriy is different form one society to another and this is very important when considering doing businesses in this places. Legal issues will come into play when international trading is invoved. Countries are quite different in regulations, pron and cons when it comes to what can be advertised and what can not be advertised, and some products are banned from advertisement on certain media, for example in a country like franceÂ large supermarket chains are not allowed to advertise on television. Other forms of promotion has also been banned or regulatedÂ in some European countries, for example, it is illegal to price discriminate between consumers, and thus coupons are banned and in some, it is illegal to offer products on sale outside a very narrow seasonal and percentage range. Cateora and Ghauri(2006) states that 'for the inexperienced marketer, the 'similar but different ' aspect of culture creates an illusion of similarity that usually does not exist' what do they mean by this statement? Explain and give specific examples to illustrate the point made. For the inexperienced marketer, the similar but different aspect of culture gives an illusions of similarity that is mosty not real. A whole lot of nationalities speaks the same language and the background may some way or another be similar, but this does not mean that the similarity extends into the depth of each person's cultire on what is accepted to be respectful and what is not. In other words a product acceptable to one culture might not be readily acceptable to the other, neither does it mean that a promotional message that succeeds in one country will succeed in the other. Even though people start with a common idea or approach, as is the case among English speaking Americans and the British, cultural borrowing and assimilation to meet individual needs translate over time into quite distinct cultures. A common language does not guarantee similar interpretation of words or phrases. Both British and Americans speak English, but the cultures are sufficiently different so that a single phrase has different meanings to each and can even be completely misunderstood. In England, one asks for a lift instead of an elevator and an American, when speaking of a bathroom, generally refers to a toilet, whereas in England a bathroom is a place to take a tub bath. Also, the English "Hoover" a carpet whereas Americans vacuum. The movie title The Spy Who Shagged Me means nothing to most Americans but much to British consumers. Indeed, anthropologist Edward Hall warns that Americans and British have a harder time understanding each other because of apparent and assumed cultural similarities.
The growing economic unification of Europe has fostered a tendency to speak of the "European consumer." Many of the obstacles to doing business in Europe have been or will be eliminated as the European Union takes shape, but marketers, eager to enter the market, must not jump to the conclusion that an economically unified Europe means a common set of consumer wants and needs. Cultural differences among the members of the European Union are the product of centuries of history that will take centuries to erase. The United States itself has many subcultures that even today, with mass communication and rapid travel, defy complete homogenization. To suggest that the South is in all respects culturally the same as the north eastern or mid western parts of the United States would be folly, just as it would be folly to assume that the unification of Germany has erased cultural differences that arose from over 40 years of political and social separation.
Marketers must judge each country seriously in terms of the proposed products or services and not just base their trust on an often used axiom that if it sells in one country, it will surely sell in another. As worldwide mass communications and increased economic and social interdependence of countries grow, similarities among countries will increase and common market behaviours, wants, and needs will continue to develop. As this process occurs, the tendency will be rely more on apparent similarities when they may not exist. A marketer is wise to remember that a culture borrows and then adapts and customizes to its own needs an idiosyncrasies thus what may appear to be the same on the surface may be different in its cultural meaning.
The scope of culture is quite wide. It looks into the whole behavioural aspect within a society. The task of foreign marketers is to adjust marketing strategies and plans to the needs of the culture in which they plan to operate. Whether innovations develop internally through invention, experimentation or by accident, or are introduced from outside through a process of borrowing or immigration cultural dynamics always seem to take on both positive and negative aspects.
References.Ghauri, P. and Cateora, P.Â 2006. International Marketing (2nd ed.). London: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.