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Cultural Differences in International Marketing

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 2536 words Published: 11th Jan 2018

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The past few decades has witnessed a growing number of businesses expanding their operations internationally. This expansion has led to a number of marketing strategies been adopted by international marketing managers regarding marketing internationally. For business to operate an international market successfully, they must understand cultural differences in their target countries respectivey. “Managers need to broaden their perspective,adapt to other cultures,and make decisions that reflect the needs and desires of those cultures.” (Rugman &Hodgetts 2003 p 126). This discussion critically gives an insight into cultural differences, conceptualization

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Culture is a complex term that composes of different definations. Several Authors have given various definations of culture. Hofstede (1980,p87) defined culture as the “collective programming of the mind which distinguishes members of one human group from the other”. Leung et al(2005) also defined culture as the “values,beliefs,norms,and behavioural patterns of a national group”. According to Yapraka (2008), Nakata and Huang’s(2002) definition of culure as “that complex whole which includes knowledge,beliefs, arts, morals and habits acquired by man as a member of a society” defines culture from an international marketing perspective. He further said that this beliefs, customs and habits influences an international marketing managers thinking when adopting marketing strategies and adapting marketing mix.Thus Understanding culture is critical to International marketing mangers when developing marketing policies to suit a particular target market in a country.

Earlier studies on culture research focused on Gert Hofstedes four cultural dimensions and Halls High and low context culture( yakram 2008). According to yakram( 2008) article, Nakata and sivakuman(2001) developed a conceptual framework of how the concept of marketing can be applied in multinationals through hofstedes cultural dimensions.

Similarly, Rutson et al (1997) suggested that national culture plays has a huge impact on work values. He futher stresed that International managers must understand that the determinant of the success or failure of a product depends on how marketing decisions made interact with the culture of a country. For example, Kentuck Fried Chiken must realize that they way it prepares its chiken in USA for instance may not work in Islamic countries due to religious beliefs and customs.


Terpstra & sarathy (2000) stated that Understanding the cultural environment of a country would assist marketers to adapt their marketing strategies if they take the ingredients(elements) of culture into consideration.The elements comprises of language,,religion,values & attitudes, education, social organizations,law &politics, Material culture and aesthetics. This elements are essential ingredients that affects the international marketing managers thinking.

1.21 Language

According to Terpstra& sarathy (2000, p95) Language is a distinct cultural difference that must be dealt with. Therefore for international businesses to interact with employees, onsumers, customers they must understand the local language. (Terpstra& sarathy 2000) Studying a foreign language is an essential tool for obtaining information about a country. If a foreign country that has several spoken languages it therefore has several cultures. In Nigeria, they are 3 main languages, and over 50 local languages. This languages are attributed to different cultures.

However, language could pose a barrier for international marketers if they are several languages spoken in one country. For instance, marketing is highly dependent on communication so it would be difficult for markerters to advertise , brand and package their products. If managers cannot speak and understand the local language it would be difficult for them to promote their products to their target audience. Another problem could arise in wrong interpretation .Taking a look at KFC in china where English is not spoken, Management need to train and employ the locals of china in other successfully establish their market.

1.22 Religion

Religion is another aspect of culture that multinationals handle with caution. Various religions have impacts on consumer behavior and purchasing patterns of a country. In the middle east and Arabic countries Islam is the religion. According to Terpstra & Sarathy (2000) Introducing new products in the an Islamic environment could be difficult. Religious holidays or festivals such as Ramadan are strictly adhered to. Religion is important to Managers because it influences lifestyles, beliefs, values and attitudes. It also affects work and societal customs as well as politics and business in general. According to Wind & Douglas (2007) in thier article on International marketing segmentation,” Difference in beilef systems between cultures may affect consumer behavior and purchasing patterns” Dietry laws associated with one religion could affect marketing of food products and service delivery. (Wind & Douglas 2007) For example, According to Islamic religion, a chiken must be drained of blood before it is cooked or prepared( Halal).It is believed that eating a chiken with blood could affect your spirituality and deeds in islam. This affects the marketing mix of Fastfood companies that are based in Islamic countries because they have to abide by the Islamic law. Hence religion affects international marketing in a number of ways. The economic role of women in Islamic countries could affect advertising.

1.23 Aesthetics

. Acoording to Rugman& Hodget (2003 p.131), Aesthetics refers to artistic taste of a culture. This taste could in forms, colours,music, design or packaging. Aesthetics values vary depending on the country. International companies need to be aware of the different taste in culture. This is because what is generally accepted in one country may be a taboo in another country. Aesthetic values have an impact on the production and packaging designs of manufacturing industries that operate abroad. International managers need to be aware of taste in colors and symbols when packaging and distributing their products. In 2006, KFC was heavily criticized in china for dishonouring culture by adversing an old Taoist surrounded by his followers holding a chiken burger and claiming it as a master piece. This caused KFC to change its advertising method.



1.24 Customs and manners

Customs and manners have a significant impact on consumer behavior, consumption patterns and product packaging.  In the United States and Europe black is used for mourning the dead, while in Japan and the Far East white is the color used for mourning. In countries where status quo is higly regarded, Multinationals have to send a delegation of senior staff to carry out a business negoitation.

Morality is another thing that differentiates cultures.What is viewed as moral in country may be vied as highly immoral in another country. For instane, USA it ispermitted for Man and woman to dress half naked on the beach whereas in Arab countries, women are not permitted to reveal their faces when going out.

1.25 Values and Attitudes

Values are shared beliefs or group norms that have been internalized by individuals.( Czinkota,M et al 2001,p45) An attitude is a persistent tendency to feel and behave in a particular way towards an object( Rugman &Hodgetts 2003,p129). Values and attitutudes vary between and within countries.In that case International markerts need to adjust their promotion methods or brand messages.


Over the last two decades, several researchers discovered different dimensions to culture. Geert Hofstede proposed four dimensions to culture, which comprised of collecting data( questionnaire) from over 40 countries. Halls also developed the high context culure which is characterized by less verbal communication, family ties, long term relationship( collectivism) and the low context culture which is characterized by more interpersonal relationship. (Hall&Hall 1986)

In this discussion, Hofstedes cultural dimensions and Hall’s high and low context will be analyzed in four countries, namely United kingdom, Australia, china and India because of the cultural similarities and differences between this countries.


Geert Hofstede, a dutch scholar discovered four cultural dimensions which is now used as a framework for understanding differences in national culture in different countries of the world today. In my research, I discovered his dimensions to culture had strengths and weaknesses. Hofstedes cultural dimesnsions didn’t focus different cultures that exist within a country. In countries like Italy, Canada, and Nigeria, different norms, values, and languages are present. This dimensions to culture only analzed people of a particular country not people within a country. To further buttress my argument,Galit Alion(2008) critized hofstedes observations. He argued that analyzing and gathering results of research on culture from a single multinational(IBM) cannot be applied to the national level.He further refuted hofsteds methodology by saying it was invalid.Hofsteds research was carried out from an organizational perspective rather than a country level perspective.

Similarly, Professor Benden mcsweeney in the article “Hofstedes model of national cultural differences and their consequences.. A triumph of fate,A faluire of analysis” critized Hofstedes cultural dimensions. He argued that IBM as a micro- location in a nation is not typical of a nation itself. According to him, Surveys are not an appriopate way of determining cultural differences and every individual in a nation cannot share the same national culture.(www.geert-hofstede.international-business-center.com) Regarless of the weakness of Hofstedes models, it is still an important framework in determining cultural differences. We will now look at the five(5) cultural dimensions of hofstede


According to Hofstede (1980) Power distance is the extent to which the powerless members of rganizations and institutions accept that there is inequality in power. In Hofstedes model, he revealed thatin countries characterized by high power distant cultures, social stautus or satus quo is very significant and priveleges are expected for people in authority. On the other hand, In low context cultures,the interdependence between people in power and the less powerful. High power distance includes countries like France, India, Nigeria, china and arab nations while low power distant coutries include USA,UK,Sweden etc

Looking at figure 1.2( Australia) and figure 1.3(UK) . Both countries have a low power distance of 30 which implies that the gap between the those in power or authorithy and the ordinary citizens is little comapered to china (75)and India(72). For example, For KFC an American company to be sucessful in india, They must be a high gap difference in power, respect or authority between Management and surbodinates.


This deals with a socities tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.(www.geert-hofstede.com). This dimension indictes how people in a particular culture are willing to accept change. It also shows the extent to which people of a culture feel in umcormfatabe or comfortable circumstances.

Hofstede (1980) stated that uncertainty avoiding cultures always are not receptive to change and strictly adhere to laws,rules and safety measures. On the otherhand,Uncertainty accepting cultures are more receptive and open to change or new ideas.

In Hofstedes Uncertainty avoidance index(UAI) china scored 60, while UK scored a low score of 30. This implies that International marketing managers in china,will avoid making risky marketing decisions otherwise it might adversely affect their employees. It is therefore expected that Chinese employees work effectively under a formal setting as against an informal setting. In contrast,the UK employees would work better in an informal setting with less strict laws and will readily accept change and risks.

Therefore marketing managers need to be careful not to impose rules or laws unnecessarily when dealing with low UAI countries and Plan ,prepare, and focus on strategic and tactical part of a project.


Masculinity refers to the distribution of roles between men and women and how much a society sticks with gender roles.(www.geert-hofstede.com). His studies further revealed that women roles differ less among socities than mens roles. He also revealed that mens values from various countrues have an assertive approach in business which differentiates it from womens norms and values which is have a caring or modest attitude in work,(www.geert-hofstede.com) In hofstedes Mascuniity index, Australia scored a highscore of 55 while UK sored 60.This means that they share similarities in work values.They both have a moderate masculine culure where men and women work equally in many preferences.


This dimension focuses on the relationships between individuals and groups. Collectivism is the degree or extent to which individuas are integrated into groups while individualism on the other hand focuses on individual taking care of himself.( Hofstede 1980)

In comparing two countries that have high individualism and low individualism, Figure 1.2 and Figure 1.4 we will look at austraia and China.

According to Hofstede, china has a low score of 10 which makes it a highly collectivist country while Australia has a high score of 90 which makes it a highy individualistic society. The former fall under a low context culture while the latter falls under a high context culture. For International managers , this implies that in china(collectivist) society, hiring and promoting an employe must be ingroup based while In Australia, emoployee recruitment and promotion must be based on individual skills. on the one


Figure 1.2 Australia and United Kingdom

Source: http://www.geert-hofstede.com

Figure 1.3 China and India


This discussion has been able to look at how culture could affect International marketing.

For international marketing mangers to succeed in an international market they must

Respect the culture of their target country

Understand that differences exists within each culture

Understand the importance of language when marketing internationally

Acknowlege the differences in religion,


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