The Global Marketing Environment
The Importance of Sociocultural Differences
While cultural differences between the U.S. and foreign nations may seem small, those who ignore them risk failure in marketing programs.
Formulate an understanding of social and cultural differences from a global marketing perspective
- Cultural environments consist of the influence of religious, family, educational, and social systems within the marketing system. Various features of a culture can create an illusion of similarity.
- The world has more than 3,000 languages and this can cause marketers many problems in designing advertising campaigns and product labels. Colors have different meanings in different cultures and all cultures have their own unique set of customs and taboos.
- An individual’s personal values arise from moral or religious beliefs learned through experiences. Aesthetics refers to the concepts of beauty and good taste, which can also vary across cultures.
- The value of time and a country’s business norms are important to consider when marketing across borders. Religious beliefs can also affect shopping patterns and products purchased, in addition to the consumers ‘ values.
- aesthetics: The concepts of beauty and good taste; the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as “critical reflection on art, culture, and nature. “
Cultural environments consist of the influence of religious, family, educational, and social systems within the marketing system. Marketers who intend to market products overseas must be sensitive to foreign cultures. While the differences between our cultural background in the United States and those of foreign nations may seem small, marketers who ignore these differences risk failure in implementing marketing programs.
This task is not as easy as it sounds, as various features of a culture can create an illusion of similarity. Even a common language does not guarantee similarity of interpretation. For example, in the U.S. we purchase “cans” of various grocery products, but the British purchase “tins.” The following are a few cultural differences that may cause marketers problems in attempting to market their products overseas.
The importance of language differences cannot be overemphasized, as there are almost 3,000 languages in the world. Language differences cause many problems for marketers in designing advertising campaigns and product labels. Language problems become even more serious once the people of a country speak several languages. For example, in Canada, labels must be in both English and French. In India, there are over 200 different dialects, and a similar situation exists in China.
Colors have different meanings in different cultures. For example, in Egypt, the country’s national color of green is considered unacceptable for packaging, because religious leaders once wore it. In Japan, black and white are colors of mourning and should not be used on a product’s package. Similarly, purple is unacceptable in Hispanic nations because it is associated with death.
Customs and Taboos
All cultures have their own unique set of customs and taboos. It is important for marketers to learn about these customs and taboos so that they will know what is acceptable and what is not for their marketing programs.
An individual’s personal values arise from his/her moral or religious beliefs and are learned through experiences. For example, in America we place a very high value on material well-being, and are more likely to purchase status symbols than people in India. Similarly, in India, the Hindu religion forbids the consumption of beef, and fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King would encounter tremendous difficulties without product modification. Additionally, Americans spend large amounts of money on soap, deodorant, and mouthwash because of the value placed on personal cleanliness.
The phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a very appropriate description for the differences in aesthetics that exist between cultures. For example, Americans believe that suntans are attractive, youthful, and healthy; however, the Japanese do not.
Americans seem to be fanatical about time when compared to other cultures. Punctuality and deadlines are routine business practices in the U.S. However, salespeople who set definite appointments for sales calls in the Middle East and Latin America will have a lot of time on their hands, as business people from both of these cultures are far less bound by time constraints. To many of these cultures, setting a deadline such as “I have to know next week” is considered pushy and rude.
Business norms also vary from one country to the next and may present challenges to foreigners not used to operating within the particular norms of the host country
Religion can affect shopping patterns and products purchased, in addition to the consumers’ values, as discussed earlier. In the United States and other Christian nations, Christmas time is a major sales period. But for other religions, religious holidays do not serve as popular times for purchasing products. Women do not participate in household buying decisions in countries whose religion serves as opposition to women’s rights.
Every culture has a social structure, but some seem less widely defined than others. That is, it is more difficult to move upward in a social structure that is rigid. For example, in the U.S., the two-wage-earner family has led to the development of a more affluent set of consumers. But in other cultures, it is considered unacceptable for women to work outside the home.