Understand the cultural differences

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Prior working on our poster presentation inspired myself and my colleague to produce a good plan with appropriate dates. We decided what to do? When to do it? But that went nowhere as our instructed counterparts (French group) were struggling to meet us. So instead of in- house search we opted to interact with our French people outside. As per our plans our first objective was to understand the cultural differences related to products and services that we were going to choose for marketing in France. After a couple of brain storming sessions and referring theories on cross- cultural analysis (Hofstede) me and my colleague decided to choose the United Kingdom as our source country between India and the UK. During our Initial research we started to list the products and services which were not at all being seen in France but are very well established in our source country. For achieving good results on and also for eliminating the non-required products and services, we also did brain storming sessions with our French group. We did some questionnaire interviews with them on product and services via telephone and email. We also did research on France and the likes and dislikes of people living there. Our research also involved P.E.S.T. analysis information from France as to establish a comprehensive and fair idea about growing trends, market stability, new business opportunities and how well our product and service is likely to do in the future.

Finally we arrived with two Unique products i.e. Barter Card and Wheat Bags which can be marketed in France and have potential to become global products in the world.

Learning about Cross-cultural Analysis

Our initial objective was to do the cross-cultural analysis and learn what culture was currently prevailing in France, then the focus became ‘how to approach and conduct cross-cultural analysis?' and ‘how do these cultural relationships influence and affect the consumers needs and behaviour?' people living in France generally tended to go for products or services which have high level of values which may or may not be visible (The ‘Iceberg Model' of culture).

“The collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another... culture, in a sense, includes systems of values; and values are among the building blocks of culture” Hofstede (1980)

“The Sum total of learned beliefs, values and customs that serves to direct customer behaviour in particular country market” Doole and Lowe (2004).

The first dimension (high context Vs low context) suggest the way in which information is transmitted or communicated. All information transactions were categorised in high, middle and low context. High context transactions contain pre-planned information which is transacted with minimum information in the message and are implicit. In contrast, the information transacted in low context contains all the missing information while transmitting the messages and the information in the messages are explicit.(Hofstede 1980).

From the first dimension theory we understood that the context of information transacted between the United Kingdom and France are characterised under middle context which suggest that context is neither high nor low and the information transaction is less explicit as well as being less implicit (the contextual continuum of culture)

The second dimension i.e. Monochronic V/s Polychronic time orientation deals with the ways in which cultures are structured in time orientation in relation to interpersonal relations, activity coordination, personal time and organisations. The findings suggested that French people are of Monochronic time orientation as they preferred to concentrate on one thing at a time, which is more structured and rigid.

The fourth dimension of culture consists of four categories:

  1. Power distance : Considering France, it comes under high power distance as they have more hierarchical structure and accept inequality in wealth and power so the attitudes towards fear of expressing disagreement with managers or authority is greater.
  2. Uncertainty Avoidance: Culture which exists in France comes under high Uncertainty Avoidance as they tend to be less risk taking and there is high need of written and unwritten rules.
  3. Individualism V/s collectivism: The degree to take appropriate decisions dependence on individuals upon the group. France has a high individualism score culture, as individual decisions are taken by consumers.
  4. Masculinity - Femininity: The degree to which society describes to the typical group of which is associated with males and females. Frances culture consist of masculine culture as they stress making money and they pursuit of visible achievements.

Emotional culture v/s Neutral cultures: France has adopted neutral cultures as people living in France emphasise more on objectivity and reserved detachment in relationships.

Universalism V/s Particularism : France has inculcated universalist culture as they prefer clear rules and believe that personal relationships should not interfere in business decisions.

Specific v/s diffuse relationship: France has diffuse relationships as they are concerned with keeping and maintaining social equilibrium. This is why in diffuse cultures it takes long time to prove one point. It is a way of avoiding private arguments or disagreements so that others won't feel offended and should not take personally.

Key cultural questions/challenges

During this research, we came across difficulties such as whether the product and services we had chosen were not sold in France with different names as there are various products which are similar in practical use but are sold with different brand names which in turn depend on culture adopted by France. A notable example; ‘pampered chefs service' (UK) are called ‘Catering service' in France, both of which have a similar business concept. But our group and our French team did an exceptional job in helping and finding out the availability of any other similar products in the French market which provides and fulfils the needs of the consumers in France. So our next challenge was to make sure we were able to effectively communicate with our French group and make them understand what we actually wanted from them, which we then did effectively.

To be an absolute winner in the French Market, it is highly recommended that a group should convert all marketing aspects into French language. So our intention was to market and sell our product and services in local areas to get better advantage over the competitors. we were aware that English is the universal language used globally for doing business. But the people living in their home country would feel more at ease in reading and speaking in their local language instead of other languages. We also thought the business executives living in france and speaking good English will also prefer to go with their first language and will be more comfortable in interacting during business plan. We also wanted our buyers to feel comfortable and have good understanding of our products and services which in turn will make our product and services different from the competitors. Our idea behind this was to fill the communication gap between the customer and the product and services we are offering which will again help in eliminating the misunderstandings. After the detail discussion with our French group over language issues, we came to the conclusion that though mostly the international business are conducted in English language but it is very much important to consider host country's culture and language which plays a vital role in success of the products and services in that country(host country). With regards to this key cultural challenge we did questionnaire session with our French group for marketing our products and services in the local language, the results were shocking as 65% wanted all the products and services should be sold and branded in host country's language. These findings helped us in targeting our segments related to bartercard as we were targeting Industries, small-scale industries and other community groups, but it really helped in targeting our segments i.e. elderly people and sports professional for our second product i.e. Wheat bags.

So these were key cultural challenges for us to overcome while targeting our segments and we did well to consider all other cultural factors affecting our product and services, this was only possible with the help of our language counterparts.

Benefits from cross-cultural exercises in class

To begin this Chapter, our professor gave us a task to portray any culture individually that we are aware of on chart paper and present it in the class. This workshop experience helped us to gain knowledge of different culture existing in different countries. From this exercise we benefited in quite different ways. Cross culture analysis helped me in understanding the communication and interpersonal relationship between different countries. We were exposed to facts and information of our own culture, mentalities and worldviews. Cross cultural differences helped us to learn more about ourselves (our culture) through learning about others. It builds and encourages confidence among individuals and groups to overcome the challenges faced by them while working together or in the work place. Subsequently it also breaks cultural barriers through building trust and motivating individuals or groups to perform well.

For me, the most important aspect of this exercise was that it also helped in improving my interpersonal and listening skills, which in turn helped in improving my effective communication skills and developing my international professional skills. Apart from this I also learned how to do poster presentation effectively as this was my first experience to share my poster presentation ability with others. For doing this we also did lots of research and findings on how to present information's with diagrams on poster with relevant theories and we did quite well in presenting our poster with appropriate information. In reference to improving this exercise in future I would recommend that students must be given some more and extra time to show their culture with physical evidence which also would include poster presentation. That means either they can enact, dance or wear the actual clothes which will exposed their culture in depth and will create better understanding of their culture to others. This will not only help in understanding the cultural difference but also make students participate in effective way and in systematic manner.

Ultimately, our goal to understand the Cross-cultural analysis related to product and services for marketing in France were successfully achieved. But this task would have been even more successful if we would have interviewed more French people to be and get more competitive and successful in France market. While working on this assignments I came across with wonderful quotes, which provides an in-depth and relevant knowledge of how to market the products and services in different cultural environment and to achieve success within the competitive ennviornment.

Bibliography and References


Isobel Doole and Robin lowe (2008),International Marketing Strategy: analysis, development and implementation.

Usunier,J-C. And lee, J.A. (2005), Marketing Across Cultures, 4th edition, Harlow: FT Prentice Hall.

Prof. Lee,Keifer (week 11) Class room notes: Understanding Cultures


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