Culture Factors In International Marketing Management Cultural Studies Essay

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According to Usunier (1996), Cultural factors are considered as "central core" of marketing policy. There are few words based on this sentence that we may focus to; such as Culture, Elements of culture, Cultural factors, Sources of culture and International marketing policy. We will demonstrate the reason and illustrate the points with relevant examples why cultural factors are considered as "central core" of marketing policy. Because of modern technology and advantage of global communications today's worlds become so small and seems everything just around the corner. Modernism although changed the world rapidly there is deep cultural difference often remain.

What is culture?

According to Ralph Linton (1945, p. 21), '' A culture is the configuration of learned behaviour and results of behaviour whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society". Linton put emphasis on the limits of cultural programming that society can impose on an individual (1945, pp 14-15)"

(Ref: Marketing Across Cultures, Jean- Claude Usunier, Julie Lee- 4th edition)

According to Goodenough (1971), ''culture is a set of beliefs or standards, shared by a group of people, which help the individual decide what is, what can be, how top feel, what to do an how to go about doing it."

(Ref: Marketing Across Cultures, Jean- Claude Usunier, Julie Lee- 4th edition)

According to Lars Parner (Professor of Clinical Marketing

Department of Marketing, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California)

"Culture is part of the external influences that impact the consumer. That is, culture represents influences that are imposed on the consumer by other individuals."

(Ref: http:/HYPERLINK "", visited February 17th 2010, 19:35)

Cultures are between static and dynamic depending on how quickly they get used to and want to accept the change.  For example, American culture has changed a great deal since the 1950s, while the culture of Saudi Arabia has changed much less.

Elements of culture

According to John J. Macionis there are 2 key elements of culture; (1) Language and (2) Belief


Tylor (1913) describes "culture as a complex and interrelated set of elements, comprising knowledge, beliefs and values, arts, law, manners and morals and all other kinds of skills and habits acquired by a human being as a member of a particular society."

These elements are acquired and also reinforced by our biological foundations which are the major significant elements of culture. The four essential elements of culture are Language, Institutions, Material productions and Symbolic Productions.

(Ref: Marketing Across Cultures, Jean- Claude Usunier, Julie Lee- 4th edition)


Language is an essential element of culture. It's the way, in which we select issues, solves problems and finally we do act.

According to by Emily Monaco, "The culture/language question is comparable in some ways to the eternal chicken/egg conundrum: perhaps if we knew that one came before the other, it would be easier to say how much one influenced the other. However, because it is fairly obvious that language and culture must have, to some extent, evolved together, each of the two has influences on the other."

Culture's influences on language and language's influences on culture are difficult to untwine: the proof of the mutual influences is available always as we speak, we may don't always focus on it.

(Ref:, visited on February 22nd 2010)


Institutional elements are the "backbone" of the cultural process. These elements include a person to the group or the society. They can make the link to family or a political institutions or any other social network that as a individual need to comply with rules in exchange for various rewards like loved, paid, being fed and so on.

According to Malinowski (1944) there are seven universal values around which institutions are created across culture.

The principle of reproduction integrates people around blood relationships and marriage as an established contractual structure. It covers all kinds of relationship patterns where the family is the basic institution form by parents and their children, as well as the extended family. The reproduction principle also integrates the ways courtship and marriages are legally controlled.

The principle of territoriality integrates people around common interests dictated by neighbourhood and vicinity. This type of institution may range from a horde of nomads to a village, a small town community, a region, a province or at the largest level of all the people sharing the same nationality.

The principle of totality integrates diver's fundamentals into a reasonably coherent whole. The political process, whatever it may be (democratic, dictatorial etc.) expresses the need for totality.

The principle of hierarchy Integrate people around rank and status including the nobility, the middle class and slaves or more generally and kind of social class system or caste system. The social hierarchy may follow a variety or criteria, including ethnicity, education, wealth, etc.

The principle of physiology integrates people around their sex, age and physical traits or defects. This includes institutions such as the sexual division of labour, sex roles, and the relationship patterns between age groups and the way minority members of the community are treated, e.g. special homes for the disable.

The principle of occupational and skilled activities combines people around labour divisions and the kinds of proficiency that have been developed. In modern societies, this includes industry organizations, trade unions, courts, the police, the army, educational institutions and spiritual bodies. In fact it includes all those institutions that maintain the fabric of a culture.

The principle of spontaneous inclination to join collectively integrates people around common goals. This includes diverse kinds of associations, such as primitive secret societies, clubs, artistic societies etc.

Material productions

Productions transmit, reproduce, update and continuously attempt to improve the knowledge and skills in the community. These range from physical productions as well as productions of intellect, artistry and service. Productions are diverse. They include tools, machines, factories, paper, books, instruments and media of communication, food, clothing, ornaments etc. As a result, we often confuse an influential civilization (which corresponds the German word Kulture) with a cultural community that successful produces many goods and services. But material consumption or wealth orientation is not definitive proof of cultural sophistication. There is no hierarchy, apart from the purely subjective, between world cultures. As such there are many different cultural attitudes to the material world, which in community resource allocation, includes the priority given to productions and material achievements. For example, Kumar (2000) discusses the differing world- views in India and China.

The Indian world -view based Brahmanism has the goal of inner spirituality. It emphasize ascription over achievement and does not place a high value on wealth, acquisition or production. Conversely, the Chinese world-view is based on Confucian Pragmatism with the goal being harmonious social order. It emphasizes meritocracy and hard work, focusing on action in the material, rather the spiritual world.

Symbolic productions

Symbolic and sacred elements are the basis for the description (and therefore management) of the relations between the physical and the metaphysical world. Cultures range from those where the existence of any kind of metaphysical world is completely denied, to those where symbolic representations of the metaphysical world are present in every day life. A central preoccupation of cultural communities is to define, through religious and moral beliefs, whether there is life after death, and if so of what kind. The scientific movement, especially at the end of the nineteenth century, seemed close to eliminating these questions by pushing back the boundaries of the metaphysical world. Nowadays, most scientists recognise that the metaphysical question will never be resolved fully by scientific knowledge. What is in face of interest to us is not the answer to these questions, but rather the consequences of moral and religious assumptions on individual and collective behaviours, which differ widely across cultures. Productions of culture cannot be described only by their physical attributes, as they always contain a symbolic or sacred dimension. Mircea Eliade (1956, p79) describes how the Blacksmith and the alchemist, the forerunners of modern metallurgy and chemistry, hold a powerful symbolic dimension.

Numerous illustrations of the strength of the symbolic dimension are given throughout the book. In the area of marketing communication, symbolic dimension is of the utmost importance. That is, products and their advertising communicate through the symbolism of colour, shape, label, brand name and so on, but the interpretation of symbols is strongly culture bound.

Symbols are not only related to religious and metaphysical matters; they also extend into everyday life. It is a common mistake to believe that symbolic dimension has largely disappeared in modern life. That it has been forgotten by modern people who have progressed along the road towards science and knowledge and pushed back the boundaries of the metaphysical world. The illusion of the pre-eminence of science, generated by technological breakthroughs in the nineteenth century, is now largely abandoned by today's top scientists. As Stepen Hawking points out (1988, p 13): ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from.

There is no bar to a particular cultural item from belonging to above four essential elements of culture simultaneously, which then appear as different layers. For example, music is at once a language, at the same time it's an institution, it's an artistic production and also a symbolic element.

Sources of culture

The national element is not always the main source of culture when regarded from an "operational culture" perspective (Goodenough 1971). Figure shows the basic sources of cultural background at the level of the individual.

Figure: Source of culture

(Ref: Marketing Across Cultures, Jean- Claude Usunier, Julie Lee- 4th edition)

Cultural factors

Cultural factors have a significant impact on customer behavior.

Culture is the most basic cause of a person's wants and behavior. Growing up, children learn basic values, perception and wants from the family and other important groups.

Marketing are always trying to spot "cultural shifts" which might point to new products that might be wanted by customers or to increased demand. For example, the cultural shift towards greater concern about health and fitness has created opportunities (and now industries) servicing customers who wish to buy:

Ø Low calorie foods

Ø Health club memberships

Ø Exercise equipment

Ø Activity or health-related holidays, etc.

Similarly the increased desire for "leisure time" has resulted in increased demand for convenience products and services such as microwave ovens, ready meals and direct marketing service businesses such as telephone banking and insurance.

Each culture contains "sub-cultures" - groups of people with share values. Sub-cultures can include nationalities, religions, racial groups, or groups of people sharing the same geographical location. Sometimes a sub-culture will create a substantial and distinctive market segment of its own.